The Road to the Stars – Chapter EIGHT

You’ve been listening to me long enough now to know I’m not dramatic for the sake of being dramatic, right? Well: the conversation we had here saved our lives.

Adam doesn’t want me to say more, because spoilers, but I’m dead serious. If we hadn’t had this particular talk, we would be dead and there’d be no Terran Federation, no colonies, nothing.

The things that come about because of dinner conversations!

Now. Lots of news!

First, A Quiet Revolution is now available on AUDIOBOOK! Pick up your copy today with this button:

Second, Triumph’s Ashes is in PRE-ORDER! Find out how the Artemis War ended. (Yes, past tense; it’s my past, dammit!) Click this button to order:

Third, if you’re tired of waiting around for the Next Chapter, click on ANY IMAGE to purchase the book today. Or you can click this button to order:

That’s it from here! Enjoy the chapter!

Chapter Eight

“How’d it go in Mobile?”

Kendra, Cass, and the girls were eating dinner. Usually they didn’t discuss work or projects while eating, but the call from Jillian Marie, making excuses for why the fleet was still sitting on the bottom of the Bay, had thrown off the entire day. Cass had dropped everything in Kendra’s lap, called for one of the new MOVs, and flown to the site to straighten it out in person.

“Not as bad as I thought.”

“What happened?”

“Well, Dogfish showed me –”

“Who’s Dogfish, Mom?” said Mikki.

“Dogfish is a man I worked with today,” answered Cass.

“Dogfish is a funny name for a person,” said Lisa.

“It’s his nickname.”

“What’s a nickname?”

“It’s a name that people are given by others.”

“Oh, so like the way you call Mama Ken-Doll?”

Cass giggled. “Something like that. Finish your dinner while I tell Ken-Doll what happened next.”

“Yes, Mom.” The girls returned to their meals.

“Where was I?”

“Dogfish.”

“Right. He’s the dive master and pretty well runs the operation on the water. The CEO basically sits on her…behind in an office and complains.”

“Maybe it’s time for a change?”

“Maybe. After this is done. Anyways, when they went to pump in the SurFoam, more ended up in the Bay than in the hulls. I think the office queen was –”

“Is she really a queen?”

“No, she’s not a queen.”

“So that’s a nickname?”

“Um. Sort of. Eat!” She shared a wry look with Kendra before continuing. “She was worried about her completion bonus. I decided to skip the courtesy call and headed right out to the salvage vessels, and nearly ended up tossed into the Bay for my troubles!”

“You don’t say.” The menace in Kendra’s tone made it clear that she still regarded herself as Cass’s protector.

“Relax, sweetheart. Once he knew why I was there, he was much more open to discussion.”

“Hmm.”

“He had one of the leaking seals ready to pull up, so I hung around to see what I could see.”

“And?”

“It was really a simple problem. The ships have been down there long enough to have gotten a really solid layer of gunk on them, mostly biological detritus and compressed silt. Since the usual MO with the SurFoam is to attach the injection pipe to the lowest available opening, that’s what the crew did.”

“Seems reasonable.”

“The problem was that they sealed it onto the compressed silt. When they tried to force the SurFoam down, the pressure looked for a weak link and found it.”

“The silt.”

“Exactly. Boom, SurFoam everywhere.”

“Why didn’t they figure that out when they were making the connections?”

“It’s a mess down there. You have a half-dozen rivers dumping muddy water into a really shallow body of water. That churns up enough crud so it looks like Lisa’s chocolate milk.” That got a giggle from the girls. “There’s a pretty good current which keeps it all floating along. The divers are pretty well working blind.”

“So what’s the fix?”

“Now that they know the problem, it’ll be easy enough to clear away the crud on the surface. Then they’ll do a quick spot weld between the collar and the hull, and slap sealant over it. They tried it before I left today and it worked fine; Dogfish said they’d have the first hull on the surface by tomorrow.”

“We’re back on track?”

“We weren’t that far off, but yes. Sorry about running out this morning –”

“No worries, babe. Now, let’s get these two little monkeys cleaned up and into bed.”

Forty minutes later, the girls in their beds and promising to go to sleep, Cass and Ken returned to their comfortable mish-mash office and library to continue their talk.

“Like I said, sorry about running off.”

“And like I said, no worries. But I have had a few thoughts.”

“That’s always dangerous, Kendra.”

“Look who’s talking, Ms. ‘I’m Going To Revolutionize Transit In My Spare Time!’”

“Fair point. Okay, what were you thinking?”

“Well, with Kim taking over so you can spend more time learning how to Science Officer –”

“She’s doing really well.”

“Hush, Mama’s talking. You’re spending more time in orbit and less on the ground. Fair?”

“Fair.”

“And with Enterprise on flight test, and construction of Endeavour underway, I’m spending time at Diana.”

“Also true.”

“I think we should look at staying aboard the habitat, at least part-time, maybe more.”

Cass arched an eyebrow but said nothing.

“And when I say we, I mean you, me, and the girls. Anyone else in this circus we call a home who might have talents we can use. Maybe even the Chief if she’s willing to take leave from OutLook. Mac, too, if Cris will spare her.”

“Cris will let her go if you tell her to, but I’m not sure she’s going to be happy about it,” mused Cass. “Wait, wait. Back up. You want to move our ohana to space?”

“Not in so many words, but yes.”

“Are you out of your – no, you’re not crazy, at least no more crazy than me. If you’re not crazy, then explain. Convince me.”

“First, it’ll be easier to get home for dinner if we’re all in one place, instead of having to commute from L5.”

“It doesn’t take that long, not in a Wolf.”

“No, it doesn’t, but then we’re tying up a Wolf.”

“True.”

“Second, you and I both believe that this whole Terran Federation idea is the way to the future, and that’s something we want our kids to believe too. What better way than to get them right in the heart of it all?”

“You’re making sense. Go on.”

“Third, eventually there are going to be other families facing the same problem; hell, I know there are some couples who are doing the same thing we are now. If we essentially move into Diana, it’ll encourage them to make the same leap of faith. Get enough families up there and we’re on our way to creating a self-sustaining society.”

“Is there enough room on Diana?”

“If there isn’t now, there certainly can be soon enough. We proved that when we added Spacedock to her frame. We can ask Diana, actually.”

“Let’s deal with our family, first.”

“Okay. My final point is that message we got from the Union on launch day.”

“They sounded pissed.”

“They did. And unlike most of the other people we’ve pissed off over the years, they’re in a position to do something very terminal to us if they really wanted to. SARAH and the guards might be good protection against a ground attack, but eighty tons of KEW coming in from Luna? We’ll be plasma.”

Cass’s eyes shadowed. “That is probably the most important point.” Her eyes darkened further as the implications hit. “We’re going to have to decentralize as much as possible. If the Union does start dropping rocks, we don’t want to lose time to decapitation strikes.”

“One thing at a time. So you think we should? Pack up and head out?”

“I think we should, and very soon.” Cass thought some more. “Most of the girls’ friends’ parents work for HLC, in one position or another. It’ll take some doing, but if we check their skills against needs aboard Diana, we can offer transfers and raises. That’ll solve two problems, maybe more,” she continued, seeing possibilities. “We get qualified people in position to move the Federation forward, we get their families out of harm’s way, and we normalize the idea of people from Earth living in space.”

“But the Union –”

“Exactly, the average person doesn’t think of the Union as from Earth, mostly because they’re not anymore. They’re second-, third-, fourth-generation emigrants. In any case, yes. Let’s start getting them used to the idea. I have to be aboard ship tomorrow for another test; you could bring them aboard Diana.”

“Sounds like a plan, but let’s hold off until maybe next week. I’ve got a million and one items on my plate for tomorrow.”

“Fair enough. I’ll want to warn Alley, too.”

“Seems good. Who else are we going to tell?”

Cass pondered that. “I’m not sure just yet. It’s got to be need-to-know at first, so we’ll keep it quiet, for a while. Won’t empty the house, or shut it down.”

“I should think not!” sniffed SARAH indignantly.

“SARAH, what have we told you about private conversations?” admonished Kendra.

“I’m not to listen in. But I wasn’t until you said my name; you know that wakes me.”

Kendra sighed. “My bad, I forgot. No, SARAH, we won’t shut you down.”

“And you’re not taking the girls away for good, are you?”

“No, SARAH. They’ll just spend time with us at Diana. You can still talk to them on the Q-Net if you want.”

“That’s good. Mikki and I have been trading knock-knock jokes.”

Cass laughed. “We wouldn’t dare interfere with that!”

The Road to the Stars – Book 2 – Chapter 8

Published by gaffen620

Author of The Cassidy Chronicles. Lives in Colorado with many dogs, cats, and one very patient wife.

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