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Saturday, February 18, 2017

X-Plus Bun - Retrofire, Pt. 11

It took us much longer than we expected to nail down the numbers for inserting our training craft into Saturn's orbit. We had to find a time window far ahead to give us some space to prepare our evacuation. Then we had to double-check the results. I really missed having a team on the ground to offer assistance at such a moment. By the time we got done, we were all jittery. It's been so long since any of us had to calculate trajectories that we felt like beginners. At least Hopper and Mel were freshly graduated from training, so they handled the pressure well. I, on the other paw, felt completely humbled.
Mr. Toes and Mel
Maybe it wasn't the calculations that got us all wobbly. In a roundabout way, the math implied the finality of our stay at our present space-time coordinates.
Afterward, we feasted on all the fresh supplies that we had left. There was no sense in trying to preserve anything. If we didn't eat it then, it would just go waste. Our moods lifted a little, and I dispensed sleeping aids again. Even after that, I felt restless and anxious in my improvised burrow. I could hear Hopper and Mel tossing and turning uneasily.
Mr. Toes and Mel, backup system
The next day, Hopper suggested it would be a good idea to bring the flight data recorders with us, and maybe engineering would be able to make sense of what happened to us. We started to dismantle a part of the aft storage bay to gain access to the recorders. It took us most of the day because those parts were never meant to be accessed the way we had to get to them. Of course, if those recorders got wiped clean when our incident occurred, this was just a huge waste of time and effort.
The physical workout helped us all to steady our nerves. I realized how much I missed the workout equipment available on larger ships. We should have improvised some resistance training contraption to minimize the loss of strength, but for now, I would have to leave it in the "lessons learned" rubric. We were about to bail out of here anyway.
Hopper and EBA suit
While Hopper got busy preparing our suits, I helped Mel with the primary computer system. We had to repurpose one of the backup units to act as a flight recorder. Without that, the proper data recorder module would not release from its seating. Or to be more precise, the main computer would not release the latches on the module. We had the recorder out of the bay and in the airlock in no time.
Next, Mel started crafting the SOS, or the "here's what happened to us" story for broadcast. It ended with something to the effect "If you are listening to this message, we've been locked up somewhere in government facilities, and we sure could use a rescue." Would that signal ever be picked up by anybun? I hope I never have to find out. Our craft had very limited possibilities for broadcasting, so I didn't put too much faith in a regular radio and microwave transmissions getting picked up. But the pods from the Behemoth, on the other paw, would transmit on frequencies in the range of 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz. That ought to be interesting. We had hoped radio telescopes on the ground and orbit would notice it.
Hopper still working on the EBA suit
Of course, the hope of our craft still being semi-functional so far in the future was overly optimistic, but we had to do our due diligence. Hopper giggled that if anything happened to us, the pods from the Behemoth would do some wonders to x-ray scanners and other machines of that sort. "Imagine, you go to your dentist for a filling, and your bill contains a misfortune cookie: Help me, I'm held hostage in a lab," quipped Mel.
We had one more thing to improvise before we could leave. The extended life support system. We needed the means of recharging our suits. We had to be able to replenish the breathable oxygen and to change out the carbon monoxide scrubbers. The scrubbers were easy to replace. We grabbed whatever scrubbers we had left in the emergency supply bay. The oxygen system was a bit more tricky. We removed the lining from a small cold storage compartment to make a thermo-insulated container. We put a couple of liquid oxygen bottles in it and added a heating system. We cannibalized a spare EBA suit to make a charging adapter to be able to transfer the oxygen from the support unit into oxygen system of the suits. We gathered all the spare batteries to run the pressure pumps. It worked, but barely. The support system could produce enough pressure to charge the suits fully only once, but it was better than nothing. The big question was, would we need it?
Mr. Toes
If our scheme to get back home worked, we would only need enough air to leave our craft and to give the Behemoth new destination coordinates. After that, at least in our hopeful theory, we should be able to stick out our noses from the Behemoth and get picked up by somebun. Something like the Behemoth parking itself on Earth's low orbit had to stir a ton of curiosity. As long as nobun would try to blast us out of the orbit, we might have a chance. However, imagine we missed the golden window of opportunity. Imagine that we arrived before bunkind started space exploration or after they stopped it for some unfathomable reason.
Well, I didn't want to think about that. Somehow, I still had an appetite. I called on Hopper and Mel to take a break and eat something. As we nommed the last of our fresh hay and dug into the 3-D printed meal biscuits, fatigue took the better of us. We either worked our tails off or were getting tired more quickly. I welcomed it; maybe tonight would be restful. We sure could use some good z's.

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