Sci Fi Novel first draft – Chapter 19 of Arlo

Aloha – I’m closing in on the finish (Chapter 57) of the first draft of Arlo.  I suspect that the chapter I’m sharing today will be revised quite a bit with additional detail and the picture I had in my mind of the ship when I started writing this book has expanded much like additions to a house :o)  In any event, Chapter 19.  Doc

PS – Remember that the earlier chapters are in the blog, and if you want to read some of the early middle school sci-fi novels I’ve written, the Demeter series is available at Amazon.

Chapter 19 The Arlo

By the time Naomi and crew members had removed Marshall from his suit, a gurney had arrived, with Doctor Black in tow.

“What were you thinking?” Naomi hissed as she applied pressure to Marshall’s neck where his wound had reopened.

Marshall laughed, almost giddy, but his voice was erratic, “Figured you wouldn’t let me get away with it if you stayed…. I miss you…. my ship.”

The red haired physician has adapted easily to the Arlo, Naomi thought.  Doctor Black quickly slid down next to Naomi, easing Naomi to the side so that she could assess her new patient.

“Ah, Mr. Salt.  I was beginning to think you wouldn’t make it,” Meredith Black commented, as she reached into the med kit under the gurney for an ugly looking needle.  “This is going to hurt,” she smiled.

“Can you make sure it hurts a little extra,” Naomi exclaimed in exasperation.

Dr. Black’s voice went clinical as she talked, “The sutures in Marshall’s neck popped, I’m guessing  from the three g pressure of the launch.  It looks like he has lost…” she glanced at the floor and blood dripping out of his suit.  Then she looked back at Marshall’s face, “about three pints of blood.  He’s lucky to be conscious at all.”  She slapped Marshall hard in the face, “Stay with me.  Why didn’t you call in when the ship docked you idiot?”

“Ouch.  I like you too,” Marshall’s voice had a dreamy quality to it.

“Lift him onto the gurney,” Doctor Black ordered four of the crew members.  “Don’t lift too fast, this isn’t Earth you know.”

“Is he going to be all right?” Naomi asked as she ran beside Doctor Black.

“Coming through,” Doctor Meredith yelled as she approached one of three intersections of the Yankee Hotel.

“The spray I applied with block the bleeding temporarily.  The lower gravity helps, sort of.  I need to get him a transfusion,” Doctor Black replied.  “I’m worried about internal hemorrhaging, but don’t see any external signs.”

“I feel fine,” Marshall slurred, trying to sit up.

“You’re not fine,” Doctor Black snapped.  “Lie still and shut up.”

Marshall stopped struggling.

An hour later, Meredith Black emerged to a group of four people sitting on the edge of two benches just outside the clinic.  “He’ll be all right,” she reported.

“See I told you he’d be fine.  I once saw him fall out of a tree when we were ten, no eleven and he got right back up,” Blake Hilst began chattering.

Naomi and Justin said nothing, but the worry lines disappeared.

“Has anyone contacted his father?” Ada Martinez queried.

“His new bodyguard will have hell to pay,” Naomi blew out her breath slowly.

“Can we see him?” Justin asked.

“You could look at him,” Doctor Black announced, but it won’t do much good.  He’ll be out cold for several hours.”

The group stood silently, then Ada Martinez looked away, “I better get back to work.  I’m still worried about how secure some of those drill units are on the aft part of the framework.”  Turning to Blake she asked, “Are you sure the main framework is secure in that section.  I feel the whole thing rattling whenever I go down that hallway.”

“We can check again,” Blake chirped, “But we’ve gone over that section three times now.  We can’t find a problem.”

“Well that’s your problem,” Ada advised.  I want to take a team outside to check on those last eight drill units.”

“I’ll go with you,” Justin piped in.

“Great!” Ada smiled.  Let’s pull in Eddington and Rockwell.  Those two take to EVAs like dolphins to water.”

They turned and started walking across the open plaza of the Yankee Hotel.

Blake’s names seemed to stick wherever he applied them.  The life support environment, LSE, or Yankee Hotel as everyone referred to it now, was no great architectural wonder from the exterior.  It was literally a four story donut.  It was just over eighty meters in diameter, and was dwarfed by the ship itself.    It was attached to a frame at two points opposite each other.  From the interior it looked like two twelve foot arched exits from the hotel that led into a sealed foyer that had air locks facing each other in the protected area.  From the exterior it was a pair of twenty feet in diameter pipe fittings that attached to an outer frame that allowed the entire Yankee Hotel to spin and create a gravity field.  The spin was already scheduled to increase at a rate of one percent per hour, as soon as the last supply ship was away.  The spin would continue to accelerate until it created an eighty percent gravity field.

The design of the Yankee Hotel was originally half its current size, with no open space. Naomi Katsuki suggested and was later supported by a number of psychologists and designers working together to create an open area in the center of the Life Support Environment.  The atrium, or Central Park, as Blake tagged it, was a 40 meter wide plaza. It rose fifty meters upward.  The walls, the stairs, and the floor were made of a lightweight composite plastic.  All but the floor was white.  It had been a late addition to the design to break up white on white by staining the flooring with a brown earthtone coloring.

The walkways that bordered each of the four floors above the main plaza were molded to function as planter boxes for the hydroponic gardens.  In the center of the plaza was a fountain that would remain dormant until 80 percent gravity had been achieved.  The water would be fed into the fountain through a molded trench that led to a far wall, where another indented molding broke the surface of the wall where the walkways on each floor ended.

The fountain was the brainchild of Doctor Hilst.  He had to recycle all forms of water and waste through a treatment process.  The treatment process was mostly hidden near the propulsion system, as the methane gas was being converted to energy to supplement the solar panels and nuclear fuel in order to provide propulsion to the drive system, and power to the Yankee Hotel.  The liquid being recycled into potable water would aerate through the fountain system Blake had developed.

Eventually the planter boxes in the plaza would replace hydroponics with processed waste that would allow a broader array of crops.  Even with hydroponics a wide variety of plants would soon be supplementing the crew’s diet including kale, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and asparagus, and leeks.

Doctor Henrietta Graham, the team botanist was a mousy woman with cropped brown hair and oversized glasses.  She refused to wear contacts.  She was anxious to start planting, and for three weeks, since she arrived on the Arlo, had asked Blake if he could just increase the gravity “a smidgeon”.  Every day Blake had informed her that she would have to wait until a couple of days after the last supply ship departed.  It had reached the point where Blake would disappear into the depths of engineering whenever she appeared.

Pollination and housekeeping had merged with another of Doctor Hilst’s ideas.  He had designed robotic ants or r’ants to assist with cross pollination.  The rumor was that when he found out that his cross duty assignment was kitchen clean-up, he modified the design so that the r’ants could also do cleanup in the Canteen.  Wandering into the dining area after midnight, ships time, could the frightening as hoards of small units picked up residue on tables, chairs and the floors.

The Yankee Hotel was literally a ship within a ship.  In addition to the life support environment, a framework of plastic tunnels ran out in all directions from the LSE hub.  The pipe sections were double thick with a six foot internal diameter and an eight foot external diameter.  The double tubing was critical to both power and Doctor Hilst’s artificial electromagnetic field.  With the outside of the first lining being thin copper foil, and the outside of the external layer being wrapped in aluminum foil.    The legs dissected a three kilometer square of space into eight segments.

Ninety degree cross hallways intersected every 1000 meters, creating four cross hallways in each direction.  Realizing that it would be difficult to keep a sense of direction in zero gravity of the framework, the main corridors leading back to the Yankee Hotel were red.  The red darkened as the corridor approached the LSE, and lightened as the passageway led to the extreme of the framework.

Horizontal corridors were yellow, vertical corridors were yellow.  Of course, vertical and horizontal were arbitrary terms once the material was assembled in zero gravity.

The forward facing framework would eventually have 320 drill units supported by 24 control centers, located at the various intersections of the corridors.  Two-thirds of the units were now installed, with another 107 to install during the voyage.  The rear facing side of the framework presently was sealed off.  All of the synthetic polymer bags that would be used for storing processed minerals were awaiting installation and testing.

The third component of the Arlo was the drive unit itself.  The main drive was hidden behind the LSE and supported by a framework that crossed the first set of intersections of the tunnel system.  This placed the drive outside the framework that created the spin for the Yankee Hotel.  The drive utilized a combination of energy sources, including a small nuclear power plant.  The propulsion itself would be invisible to the naked eye as it looked more like a microwave oven than a torch ship.  The most impressive element of the drive was the solar sails that in full array would dwarf the rest of the ship, extending nearly ten kilometers absorbing radiation from the sun, and other cosmic sources.

In space, the structure of the Arlo made sense, but the Arlo would never wind up in the Smithsonian on display.  It was a space to space ship, and was not constructed in a manner that would allow entry into any planetary system without disintegrating.  Reentry issues had been a major concern of Arthur Salt during the final negotiations for the Salt Industries commitment,  “Great!  You get the wealth of a world mined, then you can’t get it back to Earth.”

“The ship can’t return, but the mineral’s can,” Blake laughed.  The bags are built for rentry in a very traditional twentieth century system.  All you have to do is have some ships waiting, and the loads will reenter, then parachute to your general location.”

“How general?” Arthur snipped.

“We’ll wait for good weather, then we can hit a target within 20 square kilometers,” Blake smiled broadly.

“That’s still a lot of water,” Arthur replied.

“So get a lot of ships.  You’ll need them,” Marshall interrupted.


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