Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Reach Out Chapter 2

Athena must have considered it a fluke because she never mentioned it again, nor gave Dafyd any more respect. The next week Mav spread the word of Dafyd’s rescue flight until one single look from Nubia stopped the celebrations.

For himself, Dafyd went over the event in his head. His simulator training had paid off, he would keep it up.
“Apa says it’s time for dinner.”

Athena stuck her head in Dafyd’s room. He was of course on the simulator. He made his way to the dining room where the rest of his family waited.

David and Athena were the only children in their home. The other five members were their grandmother, who was their apa until this year when Dafyd was old enough; their other two grand parents and a young couple bonded to the home.

“Where are you kids blasting to this year?” Apa asked them as she ladled out stew. Apa looked exactly like Mrs. Santa Claus. Her real name was Yumi Iglesias-Popov.Wilford or YIP.W.

“We’re sailing to L4 again.” Athena said. “The ‘Whippin Post’ is a sail ship Apa.”

“I know that dear. I was just using blasting as a figure of speech.”

“What’s a sail ship?” The young woman asked.

“It’s a type of cargo ship Roesa.” Her husband, Jeri, said. His name was Jeri O’Chciuk-Bernardy.Daniel. He was a short, thick Refiner who worked in the factories outside New Virginia.

“Actually it was a cargo ship. Troop 881 added two housing modules and now it’s our troop’s ship. We use it for our annual cruise.” Athena said.

“I don’t understand. Why is it called a sail ship?” Roesa said. She had qualified as a citizen through the Civil Service as a model for safety pamphlets and become the famous ROD. She was THE genetically engineered blond bombshell. Now she was retired as Roesa O’Candy-Daniel.Bernardy.

“It has sails. It uses the solar wind to drive it.” Jeri said patting her hand.

“The little particles of light push against the sail and make it go.” Athena said.

“What other kinds of ships are there?”

“Most ships are nuclear powered. They use the push of a nuclear explosion to push them. Sometimes in the Outer System they use mass drivers to push the ships. Those ships use mag guns to shoot pieces of rock behind them to move the ship forward. Finally there are magnetohydrodynamic, MHD engines; but they’re only for the military.”

“That’s the kind of ship I was on.”

“We know Granddad.” Dafyd said.

Granddad was Dafyd O’Doul-Montomery.Suzuki, the original DOM and he didn’t look like a granddad. He and Nana, Selina Olsen-Suzuki.Montgomery, were still working. They had both had most of their organs cloned and replaced the old ones so they looked like they were somewhere in middle age. Granddad loved to act like an old grandfather at home though and even talked a little like he was missing some teeth and hair, even though he wasn’t.

“We fought pirates when I was in the Corps. We had one of the newest MHDs. Boy that thing was fast.”
Nana looked up from the financial pages only long enough to roll her eyes at Granddad.

“MHDs use magnets to supercharge nuke engines.” Athena said.

“But MY granddad fought in the Revolution.”

He began telling his old stories of the war to give the space worlds independence from their Earth countries.
“Don’t you two have to get ready for the game?” Apa asked.

Athena had a Ring game that night and she was the captain. Dafyd had been debating whether he wanted to try to skip out of the game, but he realized that their Apa was giving them both a reason not to suffer a death by boredom.

“Yes.” They both said in unison. They gobbled up their stew and bounded off.

“We’ll meet you at the Zggym.” Apa said, not pronouncing the z. She kissed them goodbye when they were dressed.

“I don’t know why you’re coming now squirt.” Athena said as they settled into their tram seats.
Dafyd shot her an angry look. “You wouldn’t be such a good flyer if Mom and Dad hadn’t gotten you genetically engineered.”

Athena did seem GE. She was a star athlete and a straight A student. Nobody could be both on their own; at least that’s what Dafyd thought.

Athena took a swing at him. She missed and he ducked.

“I am not GE. I’ve told you a thousand times.”

“Then why are you a jock and a brain?”

“I study hard and train hard. You’d be good at something if you worked hard at it too.” She grunted and moved to another seat, far from him.

Dafyd sat and thought about what she said. The only thing he even felt partially competent at was flying, but only in the simulator and that one time in the voidcart.

At the Zggym Athena went to the locker room and Dafyd went to the Flockball / Ring stands. They were in the part of the Zggym that had one sixth gee. Flockball and Ring had been invented on Luna and lunar gravity was the standard for flockball throughout the system.

He got himself a drink and some popcorn to wait for the Varsity game. When he took his seat he was surprised to see that the Second Year Team was playing. Nubia hadn’t spoken to him since the near accident so he never knew about the game. They were winning seventeen to eleven and it was already the bottom of the eighth and final round.

The Ring court was an oval about as big as a football field and on each end were two landings. They were called Perches. The field was a very soft mat painted with a huge bull’s-eye. Dafyd’s school colors were orange and blue. His team was on the right. Dafyd noticed that one of the players was Nubia. She looked great in her tight fitting uniform and the ankle to arm wings.

They were on defense. Nubia and the other three players climbed to the lower perch. On the referee’s whistle both teams jumped off their perches and spread their wings.

The team on offense had a foam ring. They carried it on hook-toed shoes. The player with the ring was a tall boy. As soon as he left the Perch he did a kind of flip and the ring flicked off his shoe in a high arc our over the court. Another player was up high in the air. She caught it on her shoe and did the same flip. A third player caught it, still higher and further onto the court.

This tactic was called the “Escalator.” The fourth player had gotten above the third, but dove down and instead of flipping the ring up, the third player flipped it out for the fourth to snatch at high speed, going down. That player was a small boy who held it not on his shoe, but on the end of one wing.

Nubia and her teammates had come out in a wide line formation. The rules said that the offense couldn’t go below the height of the Defensive Perch, but they also said the Defense couldn’t go above the Offensive Perch.
Nubia was on the end and she recognized and reacted to the Offense’s move first. She dove to match the speed of the Offensive player, but she had less room and was getting very close to the floor. Dafyd was on the edge of his seat.

The Offensive player was over the ten-point bull’s-eye. If he made the shot they would win.

At his lowest possible point he threw the ring down. Nubia was so low that she couldn’t flap her wings without touching the floor. She was still meters away from the ring.

Nubia tucked her wings in and flipped onto her back. She dropped right down to the floor and slid onto the bull’s-eye. Dafyd shot to his feet. She had placed her body between the ring and the floor, but f she were on the floor she would not be able to play the ring. The score would count. She spread her wings and just barely came off the floor. Just as she was clear of the floor the ring hit her on the stomach. She dropped back down to the floor, but she held on tight to the ring. They had won.

Dafyd cheered until he was hoarse. The rest of Nubia’s team dropped down out of the air and onto her.
Dafyd made his was to the door of the locker room, but when Nubia came out and saw him her smile vanished. She just walked past him and growled. “That’s flying.”

Dafyd went back up to the stands. He found his apa and his other two grandparents sitting about where he had for Nubia’s game. He sat down and leaned over.

“Apa, was Athena genetically engineered?”

She didn’t even look at him. “I’ve told you before. Your parents didn’t GE either of you.”

“She is just so good at school and at sports.”

“There you go. You can’t get GE for more than one super talent. Even if she was GE, and she isn’t, she would have had to earn one of the other skills. Believe me, if you applied yourself as much as she does you’d be just as successful.”

The Varsity team came out then and the game began. Athena was good, and the captain of the team, but she wasn’t the best.

There was a young dark haired boy no older than Dafyd who had a huge chest and arms. He flew like he didn’t need the fabric wings and he could feel the ball, the other players and the floor without looking.

“Now that number four, he’s GE.” Apa said.

Dafyd made no reply.

“We have a woman at work who is GE.” Granddad said. Nana rolled her eyes. “She’s telepathic.”

“Telepathic?” Dafyd said.

“Pay no attention to your grandfather.” Nana said.

“She is. She has foresight. She is our best analyst and she can tell which way the market is going the day before.”

“That’s because she’s a woman.” Nana said. Apa snorted.

“Fiddle sticks. It stands to reason. Enhanced cognition leads to extra sensory perception. Their psychic.”

“What’s enhanced is their ability to recognize patterns using chaos theory and to more accurately calculate the odds, that’s all. It’s not ESP it’s math.”

“Math isn’t sexy SOS.M-san, telepathy is.”

“Especially if you saw her do it.” Granddad laughed until he saw the look Nana was giving him. Then he shut up and sat with his hands between his legs.

The Varsity team was miles better than the Second Years, but Dafyd didn’t even pay much attention.
Athena’s team won easily. It was over by the fourth round. Athena had played well, but she led even better. Dafyd noticed how much effort and concentration she put in and he wanted to complement her. She was his sister and he felt bad.

His grandparents knew better than to try to talk to Athena after a match. She had a boyfriend and her teammates. They would party and then would come the family celebration.

Dafyd went down to the locker-room doors anyway, but when Athena came out she walked right past him. She went to the massive arms of Joman O’Wilbur-Frank, a big Flockball GE jock and her boyfriend. Joman looked like one of those idealized Teutonic Knights the Nazis used in posters or a blond crewcut version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, only bigger. Dafyd nodded to himself and watch them go off with the Varsity Ring team.

That month they spent several days each week working on the Whippin Post. It got so that even the Recruits knew every inch of her. At least they had been to every interior inch, even if they really didn’t know it. Only the Grays were allowed to do eva.

The Recruits traveled to and from the ship and did any eva in a voidcart. Even when they were allowed to pilot the craft they were under the close guidance of Wyly. Even Nubia got in the pilot’s seat a few times. They all became reasonably competent.

The Whippin Post was a very old sail ship. Her sails consisted of eight strips of a very thin, very shiny material Dafyd could never remember the name of. The sails were at the end of the main body of the ship. They rotated slowly to stay ridged when under way.

In port the ship just looked like the girder system for high-tension wires with boxes, wires, cables and barrels attached. On the end opposite the sails were two large barrels the size of houses. These were the habitat modules.

En-route the massive cables that had originally been for attaching cargo would extend the habitats three hundred meters in either direction and spin them counter to the sails. That would provide about one sixth gee. One module was a work area and the other was the galley, head and billets. Between them a tram capsule would run back and forth. This would get those who were not doing evas either to one of the two modules or to the main axis.

The bridge, power panels, main supplies and the antenna array were all along the main axis. The bridge was halfway along the length of the main axis. The bridge crew consisted of the Senior Officer, Pilot, Navcoms, Flight Engineer and Life Support Engineer. These would all be manned by Explorers. Unless there was an emergency none of the adults would occupy any of the crew positions. Physically the positions were sections of the wall with computer inputs and displays.

There was enough room on the bridge for double the people needed to occupy the positions. That was just what they would do. The Blues would shadow Grays for the first few days. When the Grays become confident in the Blues’ capabilities they allow the Blues to “sit” a watch. The second and third year Blues had specific assignments. The Recruits did a round robin of all the positions.

The only positions excluded to Blues were senior officer and pilot. At any given time at least three of the five bridge crew were Grays. There was also always an adult Observer present on the bridge.There were other jobs on the ship. There was an engineer team, maintenance team, research team and mess team. There were actually Explorers that preferred these teams and every slot was filled. It was a rather crowded and busy ship.

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