Sci-fi readathon Last four days

Aloha – I discounted all four of the current Demeter series books to 99 cents on Amazon in e-book format.  The intent was to encourage some fun summer reading.  The prices on the Demeter series will return to normal on August 1st, so enjoy the last few days before the Dog Days of Summer start in August.

Start with Demeter

Usually being beaten up and hospitalized by the school bully isn’t considered to be a great turning point in your life. Fifteen year old Ryder faces some of the common challenges of any young man his age: isolation, sibling rivalry, first love, and bullying. Life takes a sudden change when he is invited, along with his sister and five classmates to spend a year abroad.
Read the contract! Instead of going to Europe on Earth Ryder and his friends are conscripted for a year of service in Demeter, an asteroid over a hundred light years from Earth.
The good news is that Ryder gets closer to his classmate Cynthia Flores and he gets to develop his talent at gaming with systems that deal with real life scenarios including saving Demeter itself from invasion. The bad news is that his reckless younger sister has a talent for mischief and disaster. And now, she and Cynthia have been kidnapped and it’s up to Ryder to figure out how to save them before someone kills them all.*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Then on to Return to Demeter

After surviving two kidnappings the year before Ryder and his friends think they are done with Demeter. But when a mysterious illness starts manifesting in Ryder’s little sister Debbie the team knows they have to find a way to return to Demeter before its to late. But not all is safe the mysterious planners of the nefarious plots last year are still unknown and the group must survive more attempts on their lives. Will they survive another adventure on Demeter?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Next, the Demeter trilogy completes with Defending Demeter

All is quiet, or is it? What looks to be a large PerSian invasion fleet is on the edge of Demeter space and the Saggitarian Armada that is supposed to defend Demeter leaves port. This leaves Ryder and his team in a struggle to find a way of defending Demeter with the scraps left behind by the armada.
Meanwhile a secret lurks in the inner tunnels of Demeter that could either save or destroy the planet, and explain the attempts on the team’s lives. Will the team be able to find the answers it needs and resources in time to save Demeter from complete Destruction?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

The fourth book in the series takes Ryder and his friends further into Orion’s Spur and efforts to unite the worlds of the Spur to end the 10,000 years war in Haumeah

Ryder is faced with new dilemmas on every hand. Things are going well with Cynthia, but now he must meet her father. Also to bring peace to the Orion’s Spur he must entrust his life to Debbie, who will be flying him through an asteroid field only so Ryder can attempt to negotiate with the pirates of Haumeah to convince them to have a show down with the Sagittarius league.*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Be looking for the conclusion of the series this fall with the release of Vodot.  Meanwhile, enjoy the summer reading fun.


Bring Dogsled for exploring Pluto

Conditions on Pluto: Incredibly Hazy With Flowing Ice

Aloha – Among the surprises from Pluto is the Earth-like Terra forming that has occurred on the dwarf planet.  Mountains comparable to the Rockies, and moving glacier ice on the surface are all part of the equation.  But if you do bring your dogs and sled to Pluto be careful, don’t drink the ice, it is made up of frozen nitrogen.  Doc

“Antman” Pleasant surprise

Aloha – The last time I was this surprised was when my daughter dragged me off to see Ironman, really how interesting can it be to see a guy fly around in a metal suit?  Since then I have come to expect a lot from the world of Marvel.  I’ve liked some of the films better than other Guardians of the Galaxy for example.  Antman?  Really?  With nothing else of interest playing I talked my wife into going to yet another Marvel release.  What a surprise; what a delight.  I keep wondering about the selection of actors for the superhero roles, Paul Rudd?  Then I remember, most of these superheros were Joe Everyman before their transition.  Paul Rudd made an excellent choice.  I did find it a bit distracting that they tried to make the daughter of Michael Douglas, played by Evangeline Lilly, look like Douglas’ real wife: Catherine Zeta-Jones.  I kept wondering if that did that on purpose.  It really was the only distraction in the film.  The Marvel world was everything you would expect, it had a reasonable plotline for a summer popcorn movie, but the surprise and the delight was in the writing and humor.  When we lft the theater my wife said, “That was my favorite movie of the year so far.”  I have to agree with her.  Doc

Sci Fi Novel – Arlo – Chapter 22 Stormy Weather

Aloha – My first round of proofreading is catching up with what I’m sharing so you shouldn’t see quite so many typos ;o)  As always, earlier chapters are available in the Blog archives.  Enjoy, Doc

Chapter 22  Stormy Weather

“Where in the world are they?” Arthur Salt growled at his CFO,

“They’re not in the world,” Roberto Trujillo smiled.

“Damn!  You know what I mean?” Arthur growled.

Roberto looked down at his notes, then back up at his friend, “They’re in the middle of nowhere,” then adding before Arthur could respond, “Twenty-three days out, puts them in the void between Earth and Mars.  We really can’t even use Mars as much of a landmark, as they won’t even get a flyby.  There’s not much to observe until they get into the Asteroid Belt itself, and other than dust, there isn’t much to see there either.”

“I’m not concerned about sightseeing,” Arthur spat.  It’s this solar storm I’m worried about.”

“There have already been two others,” Roberto soothed.  “If the emission isn’t aimed in their direction it’s not relevant.”

“Well the one that Houston reports this morning is headed into their region.  That’s why I want to know where they are.”

“Oh,” Roberto hesitated.  “I’ll find out.  They should have included that in the information when they contacted you.”

“Actually, Houston didn’t give me the information.  It’s tied to an app on my phone.”

“We’ll find out,” Roberto advised.

“Do that.  What else is happening this morning?  Any word on the dock strike in Oakland?  That’s gumming up our transportation, and certainly has to be messing with your cash flow.”

“No good news there,” Roberto sat up straight.

“Go on,” Arthur sensed a problem.

“That’s actually why I came into your office this morning,” Roberto hesitated.  “We have another problem brewing in Chile.  Looks like Contreras may have won the election.”

“Great!” Arthur snapped.  “With her platform, we could potentially lose the copper mine there.  Where’s Graham?”

“You trust him on this?” Roberto’s eyebrows rose.

“More than on anything involving the U.S. government right now,” Arthur’s voice lowered in exasperation.  “I want him on a flight to Santiago today.  I also want to know who we have in Contreras’ camp.”

“I wouldn’t think anyone, they’re hard core socialist,” Roberto replied.

Arthur smiled, “Tate has been running the whole southern hemisphere region for what now… ten years?  If he doesn’t have fingers on someone in Contreras’ employ I’ll buy you dinner… after I fire him.”

“You know it’s not good for morale when you say stuff like that,” Roberto frowned.

“What?  Offering to take you to dinner,” Arthur chuckled.

“You know what I mean.  You think you’re joking, but when people overhear you saying stuff like that the 82th floor buzzes with gossip.”

“Well I better not have to buy you dinner,” Arthur laughed.  “Let me know what you find out about that solar storm… and send Janice in.  I’ll have her take care of the arrangements for Graham and Tate.”


“Five hours, Kristin,” Sally Warren pronounced.

“Better get Doctor Hilst down to engineering,” Commander Channing ordered.  “Also, let Captain Salt know; he’ll probably want to be on the bridge.”

Henrietta Graham was dressed in dungarees wearing an earth tone t-shirt underneath.  Her hair was back in a bun and her head was covered with a broad brimmed straw hat.  “The hydroponics is working fine.  We’ve already started to harvest radishes and water cress for the canteen.  Some of the asteracea family will be ready for early harvest in a couple of weeks.”

“That’s excellent news,” Marshall tried to hide a yawn.

“The composting operation is going extremely well,” Henrietta pointed toward several planter boxes in Central Park, now filled with soil.  “Although we can grow tubers hydroponically, I believe we’ll be happier with the plants in real soil.  It has been quite a challenge balancing the acidity levels, but the quality of the soil itself is top notch,” she leaned in toward Marshall and Naomi expectantly.

“Yes, yes, well done,” Marshall tried to sound impressed.

“How are we doing on the oxygen balance?” Naomi asked.

Marshall noticed that Naomi was wearing a bright colored sundress.  She has nice shoulders, he thought.

“We’ll still be surplus Carbon Dioxide for several weeks.  We’ll need much more mature plants combined with mature algae beds to provide adequate air recycling within our eco-system.” Henrietta straightened and turned toward Naomi.

“How many weeks?” Marshall asked.

“It depends on how we balance the usage for the Canteen, and the growth of the plants themselves,” Henrietta turned didactic.  “For example, if I let the radishes grow without harvesting they’ll produce significantly more oxygen.  But if you’d rather eat the radish, then I have to start the cycle over again.”

“How many weeks?” Marshall restated his question.

“With planned harvest cycles?  Six weeks if the algae beds grow uninterrupted,” Henrietta stated.

“How does that affect our oxygen reserves?” Marshall continued.

“You’d have to ask Engineering,” Henrietta replied defensively.

Naomi noticed that Marshall’s cheeks were starting to redden, “Yes, we’ll do that,” she grabbed Marshall’s hand and started to pull him away.  “She doesn’t know,” she whispered to Marshall.  “She’s a botanist.  You’re asking her for information that she only has moderate interest in.”

“Well she damn well ought to have an interest in whether or not we have enough oxygen,” Marshall blustered.

“Just like she has interest in whether or not we have enough fuel,” Naomi smiled.  “She only knows part of the equation.  I’ve talked with her before.  If you want someone who knows plants and will do the near impossible to keep them healthy she’s the person you want to talk to.  But even though she knows the aggregate mix that is intended to balance oxygen in our eco-system, she couldn’t tell you where the mix is at the moment relative to requirements.”

“All right,” the redness was leaving Marshall’s cheeks.  Then he suddenly grew alert.  “Hang on,” he paused listening.  “We’ll be right up,” he replied loudly.

“What’s going on?” Naomi quizzed as Marshall led her toward the Command Center.

“Looks like we’re going to find out how good Blake’s artificial electromagnetic field is sooner than expected,” Marshall’s voice tightened.

“What do you mean?  I thought it was working perfectly.” Naomi looked around at nothing in particular scanning Central Park.

“A solar flare is sending a solar storm our way,” Marshall reported.  “We knew sooner or later we’d get hit like this, but really didn’t want to test Blake’s system with this level of radiation blast.”

Blake, Marshall, and Naomi reached the command center at the same time.  “How concentrated is the coronal mass ejection?” Blake blurted as he moved to an open work station.

“No data on that yet,” Sally Warren’s voice was shaking.

“Can we avoid it?” Marshall turned to Commander Channing.

Channing responded coolly, “It’s too broad a track.  We’ve already shifted course to try to miss the center of the burst, but it is massive.

“Ten to the 30th ergs per second,” Sally interrupted.

Blake moved over next to the communications officer and started analyzing data that was now pouring in from Houston Mission Control.  His head popped up from the screens to report, “M classification, between an M4 and M5.  I’ve tested through the C Class; I really didn’t think we’d have to face off against an M peak flux.”

“So will your artificial field be adequate?” Marshall’s voice now sounded to Naomi more like a curious scientist than a man who might be overdosed on protons and radiation to a point of a short and painful death.

“I’m not sure,” Blake blanched.  If the field works without overloading it will be fine.  But if it overloads the system?”  He looked around the room running calculations in his head, “Aluminum and plastic shielding is intact, defusing 500 rem down to perhaps fifty maybe seventy-five rems?  It is iffy if we overload; if we don’t, then no worries.”

“Looks like we’re going to have to improvise,” Marshall folded his arms tightly.  “How fast can we make a bomb shelter?”

“A what?” everyone turned and stared.

“A shelter to further defuse the rem count.  If we can get it down to 35 rem we’ll be okay for a period of time,” Marshall turned back to Commander Channing, “Kristin.  How long to get us out of the storms channel?”

“It depends?” Kristin ran her own calculations.  We could turn 90 degrees to the storm and take a bigger hit, but I could have us out of the channel in eight hours.  Angling like we are now, it is more like ten.”

“Make the turn,” Marshall ordered.  Turning back to Naomi, he continued.   You need to track down Justin and Ada.  Tell them I need a temporary shelter up in Central Park within four hours.”

Sci Fi – Arlo Chapter 21 – Cowboy

Aloha – Good news!  I finished the first draft of the novel.  It clocked out at nearly 150,000 words and sixty six chapters.  The following is first draft of chapter 21, previous chapters are available in the blog.  Doc

Chapter 21  Cowboy

Cheers rang out in the command center, where Commander Channing had successfully coordinated speed and trajectory so that the twelve member EVA team spanning the three kilometer width of the outer framework of the Arlo, had fed the makeshift drift net behind the ship.

Justin Nelson had worked with Blake and Ada to do the calculations for not only capturing the wayward drills, but to design the capture technique that would avoid damaging the packed drills while the Arlo was still traveling over 5,000 kilometers per hour.  As Justin put it, “It will take a soft touch at that speed.”

“I’m leading the team,” Justin announced.

“You?…. You can’t hold down your cookies in zero gravity,” Blake teased.

Justin blushed, “That was in those air transport simulations.  I think it was more the fuel fumes that made me sick.  I’ve been fine working in the tunnel repairs.  That’s zero gravity.”

Ada interjected, “Justin, you really don’t need to do this.  We have some team members that have more hours and seem more attuned to this type of work.

“It is my job,” Justin choked.  “The fact that we lost them in the first place is my fault.  It was my responsibility to get them secured properly in the first place.”

“Let’s get real,” Blake grew serious.  “You couldn’t account for the detached framework in your calculations.  Frankly, we’re lucky it wasn’t more than just three drills.  That’s on my head.”

“Great!” Ada mocked.  “I’ve learned in over ten years in the mining industry it’s not really a matter of who made a mistake, it is a question of whether or not the leadership learned from the mistakes they make.  If they do, you take your lumps then move on.  Let’s move on.  It happened, we fix it.  That is the end of the story as far as I’m concerned.”

In the end, Justin led the team to snag the crates containing the drill units.  He was assisted by Red Eddington and Jake Rockwell, who anchored the other eleven members of the EVA team.

The first two crates were textbook captures, but it looked like they were going to miss the third drill by a couple of hundred yards.  “Be sure to pull me back in,” Justin yelled, as he launched with a corner of the netting away from the ship.

Red relayed to Jake, and the entire team shifted left across the surface of the exterior of the ship to provide more range for Justin’s solo flight.

Justin barely missed ramming into the third crate, which started tumbling down the inside of the capture net range.  A tear formed at it’s second contact with the net.  The rip began to spread and it looked for a moment like they might lose all three of the drills and Justin along with it.  But the net held deeper into the rings of the central purse.

“What were you thinking? Ada grabbed Justin when he got back into the Yankee Hotel, shaking him by the light jacket he had donned.  “Don’t you ever do that to me again.”

“What she said!” Blake laughed.  Watching you float away from the ship was surreal, like watching a calf roper at a rodeo, or someone flying off a brahma bull.”  Blake grinned, “Yeah, that’s it.  No more Doctor Nelson for you.  From now on you’re Cowboy.”

“Not funny,” Justin complained, looking at his friend, while tightly embraced by Ada.

Ada pushed Justin away, “You do something like that again, and I’ll…. I’ll…”  She didn’t finish her sentence as Marshall and Naomi approached.

“Good catch,” Marshall congratulated Justin with a warm handshake.  “I didn’t see that last maneuver in your plan.”

“It wasn’t exactly a plan,” Justin admitted.  “I could see we were going to miss it if I didn’t do something, and jumping was the only thing that came to mind.”

“Well congratulations on a job well done,” Marshall smiled.

Naomi’s face was set as she exchanged glances with Ada.

Marshall turned to Blake, “Is everything secure?”

“Red and Jake are finishing securing the load, and directing the retrieval of the net itself.  We may want to use it in the future.  That will actually take the most time.  Probably three or four hours.” Justin interrupted.

“Any reason not to start accelerating now, or do we need to wait for the materials to be secured?” Marshall turned back to Justin.

Blake and Justin looked at each other, and Blake finally spoke up.  “If we begin acceleration now, we would be up to about 8,000 kilometers per hour in about four hours.  I think if we proceed on our measured acceleration strategy it will have little or no impact on the team securing the materials.  Actually I don’t even think they’ll notice.”

“Justin?  Ada?” Marshall asked.

“We’re fine with it as long as we don’t accelerate like a dragster,” Ada stated and Justin nodded.

“The we’ll let Commander Channing know,” Marshall turned to leave, then paused.

“Blake, when are you planning to deploy the solar sail?”

“We’re clear of all the space junk around Earth’s orbit,” Blake’s brow rose  and his eyes lit up.  “Really, the only thing hold us up now is making sure everyone is fresh.  I think Commander Channing should be at the helm, and she’s been on duty for how long now?”

Marshall checked his wrist band computer unit, “About twelve hours.  I think any of the pilots could handle it, but I know Channing would be disappointed if she slept through the coming out party.  I’ll confer with her and let you know.  But let’s plan on tomorrow.  Are you sure the framework is intact?”

“As intact as it is going to be for now,” Blake grinned.  We’ll be working on it for weeks to finish up, but it shouldn’t drift apart again.”

Everyone wanted to watch the deployment of the solar sail.  The canteen team, were busy for hours before preparing a spread to celebrate.  The tables were crowded with food and beverages, and crew members had found walls to lean against planter boxes to sit on, much to the chagrin of Henrietta Graham, or simply sat on the floor.  The external camera systems was shifting from camera to camera, displaying empty space at one moment, a section of the external framework of the ship at another moment, and even a corner of the boxy propulsion system in rotation.

Commander Channing opened the channel between the flight crew and Engineering, and announced, “We are all clear to begin the deployment Doctor Hilst.”

“Roger that,” Blake responded.

Naomi and Marshall were sitting on a blanket with a good view of the display monitor on the ceiling of Central Park, sharing a sandwich and bottled water.   “Blake’s been watching war movies again obviously,” he snickered.

The monitor began shifting back and forth between two cameras.  One showed a close up of the boom arm that was beginning to extend from the exterior of the front right side of the life support environment pod, or the Yankee Hotel.

Marshall wasn’t sure, but he thought he could feel the slightest vibration in the floor as the arm began to extend.

The arm seemed to move in slow motion as it continued to expand outward 3500 meters.  By the time the arm was fully extended, Marshall and Naomi were sharing a pudding with crunchy caramel topping that the cooks were calling crème brulee.

Marshall leaned forward intently as the sail itself began to extend from the boom.  The material the sail was made of was extremely delicate and thin.  Sometime in the previous hour he had tuned out the dialog between Blake and Commander Channing.  “Hold it, hold it,” Blake exclaimed in a loud voice.

“Say again,” Channing responded.  “We are doing anything.”

“I wasn’t talking to you,” Blake’s voice rose.

Over the next several minutes it became apparent that something was stuck.

“Maybe we’ll have to have Cowboy go out and fix it,” someone could be heard saying, who was apparently standing next to Blake in Engineering.

“Not funny,” Blake snapped.  “Reel it back in and try again.”

A moan could be felt from the crew members watching from Central Park.

Minutes passed, then an hour, as Blake and his team tried to tease the sail free.

“Maybe I better go check on them,” Marshall started to rise.

“Marshall, this is Blake’s show.  I don’t think you going to Engineering and hovering will help.” Naomi pulled him back down.  “She leaned in and kissed Marshall,” then pulling away for breath she smiled, “I think you need a distraction.”

Nearby some of the crew members chuckled.

“Looks like we are the distraction,” Marshall whispered, as he noticed that Naomi was wearing knee length cut offs and a V-necked white sweater.  Her hair was back and her face was shining without makeup.  “You look great,” the words slipped out.

Naomi looked around at several staring faces, “Well, it looks like we’ll be the water cooler topic of the week.”

“Gotcha!” Blake’s voice rose and octave over the communications system.

Those next to Marshall and Naomi broke out laughing, as both Marshall and Naomi blushed.

Meanwhile, whatever had been holding up the deployment and been worked loose and the sail began to expand slow and steady.

A cheer went up around the atrium.

10 Things we did not know about Pluto


Aloha – In reading some of the accounts about the recent fly by of Pluto by New Dawn I started gathering interesting things that we learned that we didn’t know before.  Enjoy, Doc

  1. Exactly 9 1/2 years ago today that New Horizons lifted off for Pluto
  2. Unexpected vast plains
  3. Mountain ranges with peaks 11,000 feet high
  4. Heart Shaped Area (now named for discoverer Clyde Tombaugh)
  5. It has a new nickname “King of the Kuper Belt”
  6. Mountains of frozen water two miles high, covered in nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide
  7. Activity within the planet that has resurfaced the planet in relatively recent times (within the last hundred million years)
  8. Charon, the largest of four moons of Pluto has huge cliffs and troughs stretching hundreds of miles
  9. Another moon, Hydra, suggests “more water ice covering an irregular banana-shaped body”
  10. A reddish polar region exists on Charon that been nicknamed Mordor

Pluto – Surprises at the end of the Solar System

THESE images provided by Nasa show Pluto 9 (left) and its largest moon Charon as seen from the New Horizons spacecraft.—AP

Aloha – Tons of surprises at the far end of the Solar System, at least the far end if we think of Pluto as the end.  We of course do have the Kuiper Asteroid and Ice Belt beyond Pluto that is massive.  Probably the biggest surprise (one of many) is the lack of impact craters on Pluto.  It has a relative smooth surface.  Granted, Pluto nor any of its moons (Charon shown with Pluto) are places I’d want a time share, still… plenty of news.  Doc

Sci Fi Novel first draft – Chapter 20 of Arlo

Aloha – Chapter 20 is available in rough draft form for your pleasure.  Remember Chapters 1-19 are available in the Blog archives.  Also, if you’re interested in already published works, the first four volumes of the Demeter series are available in e-book for at

Chapter 20  Fishing

Tuesday morning Communications Officer Warren reported, “Weather is within acceptable ranges, with solar winds at 420 to 460 kilometers per second; particle density is ranging between ten and twelve.  No indications of solar flares.  We’re good to go.”

“Well, what are we waiting for?  Let’s get moving,” Blake was fidgeting from one foot to the other.

“Chief Pilot Channing,” Marshall looked across at this command crew.  All eight members of the flight crew were present, but Kristin Channing was at the helm, “We’ve been orbiting, at least in parts, for over a year; I think it is time to see some new scenery.  You are authorized to launch.”

The departure from orbit was less than dramatic.  The electromagnetic field was engaged and the Arlo made one last swing around the planet, using the gravity well itself to gain some momentum as the ship broke orbit with Earth.  Over the next several hours the Arlo gradually increased its speed to 20,000 kilometers per hour.

Central Park was a popular area for lunch, with garden tables scattered about what the crew decided was the south end of the atrium.  Marshall was having lunch with Pastor Stoeber, Naomi, and Justin.  “Can you imagine what the Apollo astronauts would have thought of this?” Stoeber was smiling.

Marshall was still looking pasty, as Naomi described it.  Leaning back in his chair, he asked, “Thought of what?”

“They were all crammed up in that flying coffin with less than comfortable legroom for starters,” Stoeber reflected.  “And it took them three days to make the trip.”

“It will take us two days before we pass by the Moon,” Marshall replied simply.

“Two days?” Stoeber queried.  “That would mean…. It would take us a couple of years to reach the Asteroid Belt.”

Marshall leaned forward with a quizzical look on his face, and then smiled, “Oh yes, you went through the accelerated training didn’t you.  You obviously missed some of the back story.”

Justin interjected, “We’re increasing speed gradually as we check out systems and look for problems,” moving his head around dramatically he added, “You don’t see Blake anywhere do you?”

“No,” Stoeber looked around the plaza.  “In fact, I haven’t seen him since we launched.  Where is he?”

“Fixing things,” Marshall answered.  “The good news is that the EM drive is working fine.  The bad news is that Blake’s tinker toy design for putting the ship together is….” He hesitated.

Naomi finished Marshall’s sentence, “… is having a few challenges.”

“Falling apart is more like it,” Justin laughed.

Stoeber’s face had shifted from curious, to worried, to panic stricken.  “Are we going to be able to get back to Earth?”

“We’re not going back to Earth,” Marshall replied simply.  “At least not until we’re done.  This is a minor setback, and a great training opportunity for the engineering and mining staff.  They are getting lots of practice putting the puzzle pieces back together.  Quadrant 4, where Ada was complaining about rattling noises was the worst.  A whole section became partially disconnected and was starting to drift away from the ship.  I understand they have the passageway secured now.  But if you want to go for a walk, you may want to avoid some of the side passageways, just in case.”

“Just in case what?” Stoeber’s face reddened as he took the bait.

Justin pounced, “Just in case a hallway becomes totally disconnected and drifts away.  It would probably still get grabbed by Earth’s gravity at this distance, and eventually take you back to Earth.  It would be a pretty exciting reentry if you hadn’t run out of oxygen/nitrogen a few weeks earlier.”

Stoeber began to stand, but Marshall reached over and took his hand gently, pulling him back down.  “Not to worry Pastor.  We were expecting some of these problems.  This happens when you launch six months before you’re done with construction; you miss some things.  Blake knows what he’s doing.  He’ll have it under control in a day or two.  Meanwhile, we’ll enjoy a leisurely cruise past the moon.  Starting on night cycle, we’re darkening the lights in Central Park and using the ceiling display to project the moon and stars as they appear outside the ship.”

Stoeber sat back down.

“Ice cream?” Justin queried.

“I’m not really hungry right now,” Stoeber replied.  “I think I’ll go back to my quarters and start working on my sermon.”

“Done any counseling today?” Marshall asked.

“Nothing serious,” Pastor Stoeber replied.  “just a couple of early cases of homesickness.  The Communications Center is still busy keeping live messaging going.  They’re already starting to notice the delay, although it is more like choppiness when the delay is only a second.  I suspect things will get worse as the delays expand.  When I dealt with freshmen students away from home for the first time, the homesickness issue seemed to exacerbate for a few weeks then dissipate completely for most of the students.  I’m seeing a similar pattern already with a half dozen crew members.”

“We’ll need to find something to keep them too busy to be homesick,” Marshall observed.  “Maybe training on EVAs and then putting them to work holding the ship together would help.”

Pastor Stoeber excused himself and walked briskly toward the living quarters.

Sighing and leaning back precariously Marshall commented, “We probably shouldn’t tease him that way.”

“He’s a bit of a stuffed shirt if you ask me,” Justin grinned as Stoeber passed out of sight.

“Considering that he didn’t want to come, I think we should make allowances,” Naomi rebuked Justin.

“Oh, he wanted to come,” Marshall paused.  “He just needed some arm twisting to convince him that this is really where he wanted to be; helped him overcome the guilt of leaving his congregation behind.”

“Well, you better make sure he has a good showing for his Sunday services then,” Naomi smiled malevolently at Marshall, then bent over in concern, “Are you okay?”

“A little tired,” Marshall admitted.  “Meredith warned me I’d be light headed for a day or two.  Maybe I’ll…..” he hesitated looking across the plaza, “oh-oh”.

Naomi and Justin turned in the direction Marshall was looking.

Blake and Ada Martinez were marching rapidly toward them, clearly arguing as they came.

“We have to go back!” Ada insisted.

“We can’t go back!” Blake argued as they reached the table together.

“Marshall…” Blake began

“Captain Salt…” Ada’s voice rose over Blake’s rising tone.  “We have to circle back.”

“We aren’t going to circle back,” Blake replied loudly.  “We can’t go back.  It would take us three days to make the loop, and for what?  A couple of drills.  You have over 350 more.”

Marshall sat up straight, “What are you two bickering about?”

They both started to talk at once.

“Stop.” Marshall commanded, and they actually did hesitate.

“Ada.  You first,” Marshall offered.

“We’ve lost three drills.  They’re adrift about 3,000 or maybe 4,000 kilometers behind us by now.”

Marshall looked at Justin who shrugged in denial of any knowledge.

“So you want to go back and get them?” Marshall stated more than asked.

“That is exactly what I want to do,” Ada almost yelled.  “And this moron won’t let me.”

“Well actually, if someone won’t let you, it would be me,” Marshall replied.  “Doctor Hilst would recommend, not decide.  So Blake, why not go back for them?”

“Time for starters.  We’d have to make a 360 degree sweeping turn that would probably take the better part of a day to perform.  We’d have to decelerate rather than accelerate.  Coming to a complete stop for pickup, ties up another half day.  I calculate three days for the maneuver?  Blake scowled, “Besides, she has plenty of drills for the operation without three units.”

“What are the long-term fuel costs?” Marshall asked in a tired voice, and added, “and supplies implications?

“Fuel costs are incidental at this point,” Blake admitted.  “Supplies?  That depends on Dr. Graham’s crops.  We should have plenty of surplus with the gardens.  Water is more likely to be an issue.  This will begin to eat into the reserves.”

“Well,” Marshall spoke softly, “three drills cost us a potential of fifty billion dollars, unless we increase our planned operation.  We already know that we will start losing equipment to breakdown to use toward the end of the drilling operation, so you’d probably lose three days on the other end if we don’t go back.  At this point, I’d have to say going back is the best decision.  I think you can cut the return time in half though.”

“How so?” Blake queried.

“Are they drifting together or apart?” Marshall asked.

“They’re in close proximity.  One stop should work to get them if we have to go back.”

“Then don’t stop,” Marshall smiled.  “Go fishing.  Snag them.  Oh, you’ll have to slow down I’m sure, and we still have to make the loop, but I think you folks ought to be able to figure out how to net some salmon.  Just think about the last time we went fishing in Alaska.”

Justin jumped in, “We have riggings we could fit into a net.  I think it could work.”

“You’re not messing with my solar sail riggings,” Blake’s voice rose.

“No, we got backing materials galore from the thousands of boxes shipped up,” Justin started walking to the commissary area.  “I’ll show you.”

Blake and Justin, followed by Ada disappeared discussing how they could create a net.

Naomi stared at Marshall for a moment, “I guess it may be a good thing you did smuggle yourself aboard.  How many more of these arguments do you think you’ll have to resolve over the next few months?”

“Hundreds,” Marshall smiled weakly.

“We’re getting you back to your room for a nap,” Naomi looked hard at Marshall’s face.  “That or back to the clinic.”

“A nap sounds fine,” Marshall surrendered.