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 Outside - Communications from Beyond

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PostSubject: Outside - Communications from Beyond   February 14th 2010, 8:15 am

Outside - Story Five
Communications from Beyond

Part 1

Hi, my name is Darlene. When I am on duty it is nighttime aboard the Menlo Park. There is, of course, no day or night in space, but you will find the ship generally quiet when I on duty.

Just to make sure that there are no hard feelings, it isn't a sexist thing with Thor. Rachel makes certain that the men have it no better than us ladies. The truth is that Malcolm and Thor once worked together on Mars. They both started in construction. When Thor is awake, he is very active in what is going on in his ship, and I find him rather harassing. Malcolm however works well with Thor and does not mind getting up to let the captain have his seat. When I take charge I like to be in charge however, so it is just best if I handle the night shift.

A number of people say that I gossip. I don't consider being interested in people a fault. I thus do not gossip, but simply talk about people. There is a difference. On this night we were discussing Clover.

"I don't know what our young rich man has figured out, but I say that he is definitely intending to marry Naomi."

"I hope that he just does not feel obligated. That is not the proper reason to get married."

That voice was Indigo. She is one of our point pilots. We normally call her Sharon, but she does like her log name. There is nothing wrong with a person's real name, but in the early days the voice transmissions might get garbled so it was best to use a name that was unique and easily recognized. Some pilots get log names that fit them, and others do not. Sharon likes her log name, and will use it in preference to her real name, but it really does not fit her. I don't use it.

"What gets me, Sharon, is that no one has really nailed Clover to the carpet on why he is going through with it. I know the other shift has to be curious, but they are giving him too much space. Marriage is too big of a step. They need to get the man to speak his mind."

"Excuse me, ladies," that voice was Diamond, "but I have to support Clover. Out here in space, we men need to grab the girl that makes the offer. I had a couple of chances when I was Clover's age, but space was new then and I did not want to be tied down."

Sharon returned, "He likes you, Diamond. You think that you might have said that around Clover, so he is not letting the opportunity pass."

"I would hope you youngsters would listen to me."

I said, "That has to be it. Clover is just afraid to tell Naomi, 'No.'" A light flashed on my panel, so I announced, "It is change of shift time on Mars. Who do we now have to speak with at Outside Control?"

It was Nachez's voice that answered, "You are still Inside, Menlo Park. However, we are running a little sluggish here. Lichen is in the building, but she is not at the desk yet."

Nachez is actually Wayne's last name. He is thus very comfortable using his log name. There is No Nope, who is David Melton. The guy once ran an independent freighter that he claims to have been constantly harassed by government vessels looking for contraband. If somebody gets sick there is Unborn that once worked as a military policeman tracking slavery operations, and is now a supervisor at Outside Control. His name came from a statement he once heard from some people he rescued. Luckily, of the three guys the next shift would be handled by the only female voice of Outside Control. Lichen is Lisa Chen, and she actually gets confused using her log name. When she is on duty she generally uses her real name.

I said, "Ooh, good, another lady. We might actually be able to solve Clover's problem."

"Since I am about to go home to my wife, let me ask the question that I know she is going to ask me. None of you ladies of the Menlo Park are jealous of Naomi for getting Clover?"

Sharon replied, "Clover is too young, and not really good at small talk. He is willing to learn, and works hard to satisfy, but not really what I want in a man. Naomi wants him, and should enjoy being with him after teaching him a few things."

I was quick to ask, "So you have spent time with Clover?"

"He is a good pilot, so I treat him no different than the other guys."

"How does Sharon treat you, Diamond?"

"I told you, out here in space a man needs to grab the girl that makes the offer. I have never refused Indigo, and I am glad that she occasionally comes back."

Sharon replied, "For the record, I would rather Diamond to Clover."

A new female voice came over the speaker, "Oh, yes, the Menlo Park love connection is on the air. I am showing the Menlo Park as still being Inside, but we all know that is not where their heart is at. It's all good. Nachez is leaving with a smile on his face, and this is now Lisa keeping everyone together."

I returned, "The topic under discussion is Clover and his new lady. We are just making certain that the couple is right for each other before they tie the knot."

"Let me say that the media here is not reacting well to Neosalem's refusal to admit that Naomi exists."

Just for the record, I don't have a log name and neither does Malcolm. We are not technically pilots. Thor, whose log name is Thor, and Rachel, who has the log name Black Dove behind which is a long story, are the actual pilots of the Menlo Park. Malcolm and I are only helmspeople. There is not much of a difference, even in our pay, but Malcolm and I don't have log names.

"The girl is having problems with that as well. She knows why she was exiled, but still considers her situation extreme. Naomi and Clover might be a good match, but the way they were matched is not right."

"Oh, hold it, Menlo Park, just handed a message from our military. It says, blah, blah, blah, space aliens are still on your tail. If you come out of tachy, expect visitors."

"What did you say about us being Inside, Lisa? The military knew who to send the message to."

Sharon interjected, "It was probably Lichen's boyfriend that delivered the message."

Lisa growled, "You got that right. The military makes their boys exercise, and I like the hard tight body on my man."

Thor's voice came over the internal speaker, "I just got buzzed, Darlene. A transmission from the military came through."

"Talking to Outside Control, Thor. Those in the saucers are back on our tail."

"Oh, good, Stanley is going to sell them my fuel at twenty percent profit. Life is fair. You don't hear them chattering?"

"No, those guys are probably talking to Inside Control."

"No, I doubt that…damn, you got me thinking Darlene. I will be going down to communications."

I suddenly became curious about what Thor might be up to, so I asked the person who had the experience to give me a man's perspective, "Diamond, what could Thor want in communications?"

"He is probably going to set up a private link with our shadow. I would bet that he and Rachel already researched that ship and found that it has gone through a number of buyers. I believe the thing was originally a movie prop, so the fact that it is now considered worthy of deep space travel is a mystery. He is thus probably unsure who the idiots are that are presently flying the thing, and their actual level of sanity."

A voice from the unknown suddenly provided information, "X-Files Regeneration II. Certain scenes that the director wanted just could not be done properly with computer graphics, so he convinced the studio to allow the building of the craft under the assumption that it could also be used for promotional purposes. Using a Kert Field in atmosphere eats fuel however, and it became too expensive to operate except on the really big venues."

Another voice chimed in with more facts, "Avondale had the thing on Earth’s moon, and I believe that they redid the insides to be used as an excursion vessel to impress certain people."

Someone else had more data, "I helped build the point saucers. Some astrological conjunction was going to be celebrated as a major holiday, and the smaller saucers were to be part of a parade. In fact, I believe the Rastafarians bought all three saucers sometimes afterwards."

Thor broke into the conversation, "Great, I have Clover's Amish presenting me with problems, now I have another religious group to deal with. Has anyone figured out whether the fact that religions won't die is proof that God does or does not exists?" He really did not give anyone time to reply before adding, "Darlene, I don't mind if you listen in."

I guess that Thor had already found the proper wavelength, because he went ahead and started talking, "Sorry to butt in on your conversation, but deciding which characters to be in your next role-playing game I did not consider important. What do you idiots hope to accomplish?"

A soft curse was heard before a computerized voice returned, "We are here to oversee the momentous event where your species meets with another advanced species."

"Cut the crap. You are flying a damn movie prop turned into a promotional device. You might have thought you were using a private channel, but you are talking on a tachyon beam. We switch to focused electromagnetic wavelengths when we want to be private. Being ahead of you I can catch your general transmissions very easily. I don't need fuel at Stanley's, and I didn't need it at the military base either. I got enough fuel for ten years of operation. How long can your vehicle last?"

The voice was still computerized as it said, "We have a reprocessing plant. All that we need is a hydrogen source."

"Oh, so you have tons of electrolytic chemicals to formulate the proper gas for your Kert Field? If making fuel was so easy, why do you think we buy it?"

"We are beyond needing tons of chemicals."

Thor kept his voice even as he replied, "Oh, well you might want to do efficiency checks on that ship."

"Space is free, we can go where we want."

"You can go where you like; that is true. It is the stops along the way that will cost you. We had to secure mining claims to our destinations in order to assure a profit on what we found. Jumping anyone’s claim to get your fuel can thus cost you in fines as well as expenses."

"You can't do that!"

I don’t know how Thor kept his voice from displaying emotion as he said in return, "I most certainly can. I might have the luckiest guy alive as one of my pilots, but he would not be a member of my crew if he did not take the time to dot his 'I's and cross his 'T's. I don't believe you guys know how to sign your name."

The ship behind us must have turned off its communication, because Thor now spoke to us. "I should have Indigo and Diamond riding point." The two pilots confirmed, then the captain went on, "So that leaves Felix sitting around the ship."

Diamond broke in before Thor could say more, "Don't claim our free time. There is no reason that those of us on duty cannot monitor the signals from our rear."

"They might start playing with their frequencies however, so it will force Darlene to watch her board and Harley's."

I interjected, "I play enough with communications when I am on duty anyway, Thor."

Diamond supported me, "Yeah, and if Darlene gets busy and misses a signal change, just how important of a conversation do you think we will miss?"

Thor had to agree. "Yeah, I cannot argue with that. Still, I am putting the added detail on the list of requirements for second shift."

I responded, "You got it, Captain." I then spoke to my other listeners, "You hear that, Outside? We of the Menlo Park have two dramas unfolding. One is a budding romance and the other is a territorial dispute."

Lisa returned, "Just keep your transmissions coming, Menlo Park, because we are listening."

"You had better be, as I don't see either topic reducing in intensity."

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Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Part 2   February 19th 2010, 7:54 am

Outside - Story Five
Communications from Beyond

Part 2

Everyone aboard the vessel does not keep a regular schedule. Without a sun constantly rising and setting, most kept the hours that they felt was best. The ship was set for two twelve-hour shifts, although no rules were laid down about how a crewmember was to adjust.

The pilots were the worse about maintaining a rhythm to their lives. They worked twelve, rested twelve, worked twelve, then had thirty-six free. The off day was supposedly for them to work on their boats, and occasionally used for that, but most of the time they goofed off. When we came into a solar system however, they would almost work until they could no longer think, get what sleep their bodies demanded, then worked some more. Just because I was on station thus did not mean that the day pilots were sleeping.

I heard Castle come into the kitchen. The man mumbles almost all of the time, and when he comes looking for food there would be a constant low chatter from him about what he expects to find, what he does find, what he would really like to have, and what he decides he will have. If one continued to listen, or walked into the kitchen, a private conversation could then be heard as he prepared his meal. I am normally glad when he starts filling his mouth, or goes elsewhere, but tonight I called him over to give some information on Clover.

"Lincoln, come in here. I need to ask you some things about your trip home."

Castle's real name is Lincoln Heath. He got his log name from the phrase, 'a man's home is his castle,' as he built each of his spacecraft to be lived in. He is a tidy person, and considerate, so I can admit that I do not mind occasionally taking an invitation to retreat to his boat. His mumbling is actually entertaining in certain moments, and since I like to talk too we get along pretty well.

"What do you want, Darlene?" He walked in and looked at my board. "We are not Outside."

"Well, I am not going to talk to Inside."

He smiled as he asked, "What is the topic?"

"Clover. He didn't say anything about getting married on his visit to your home?"

"No. We did talk about Neosalem, but nothing about …"

Lisa broke into the conversation, "Sorry, Castle, but I have a transmission for the Menlo Park."

The voice that suddenly blared from the speakers did not sound right, although I did recognize it, "Clover! I need to speak to Clover!"

I responded even as I brought up the communications board, "Give me a second, Douglas." A second is about all the time that I took, as I quickly noticed that Clover's room was off but Harley's room was activated. "Harley, is Clover and Naomi with you?"

"Yes. Clover meant to tell his lady, 'Good night,' but I got them talking some more. What do you need?"

"Clover, it is Douglas."

Douglas Grafton has never officially been declared a pilot. He was a reporter sent into space as the vessels with Kert Fields were just becoming accessible to the public. Some say that he won his boat in a gambling game. Others say that it was given to him by Arnold Kert himself. However he originally got the vessel, he took it out into space and is one of those who has never returned. He still reports, and his pictures of distant space are legendary. On one of his rare trips close enough to civilization to refill his tank and pantry he was given a gravity plate by Clover's father. Douglas claims that it was the gravity plate that helped restore enough bone structure to keep his body healthy in spite of advancing age, and his gratitude has been evident in his concern for the now orphaned Stirgam children, and Clover in particular.

"Doug? Where are you?"

"Oh, I am far out, Clover. I however wanted to make it back in for your wedding. I thought that I had a star, but I was among a ring of moons and my activation of my drive took me in the wrong direction. I think that I broke something, Clover. I'm not going to make it."

Clover might be our youngest pilot, but he had enough years of experience to take the words in stride. "That is all right, Doug. I am taking Naomi Outside. I thus won't be the easiest person to reach."

"I never got married, Clover. I have been out here all my life. You are doing it right, Clover. I send you my best."

"I can send you a picture, Doug."

"Don't you worry about it, Clover."

"What? Doug?" Clover was sending a priority code to Thor even as he demanded, "Doug, send me a picture. Come on, Doug."

"No pictures, Clover. No more pictures."

"Come on, Doug. You're a photographer. Insiders worship the pictures that you send them. Send me a picture."

Another voice broke into the conversation, "Hey, Doug, Thor here. Where in your ship are you?"

"I was trying to get to the engine reactor. I think that I got a leak."

"Those things are supposed to be fool proof, you know?"

"Yeah, well I am too far out, and too old.” He sounded old as his voice dropped in volume while he began to reminisce. “Clover's father would be over fifty now, and he was still in his twenties when we met."

"Come on, Doug. We travel faster than light, so we are supposed to be getting younger."

"Yeah, tell that to my heart."

Another voice broke into conversation, "Doug, this is Cabin. I fly the same ship you do. I am trying to match your acoustics. Are you in the hallway where it tees?"

"Yeah, they have an intercom here for those times when the crew compartments need to be sealed from the rest of the ship. I am supposed to do something here, but I forgot. Computer won't respond. I don’t believe it likes the fact that I removed the doors to my cabins."

"Can you hear me all over the ship? Do you have general intercom? It should be the red button."

Doug’s voice gained in volume as he made the strident retort, "I don't need your echo all in my head."

"Yes, you do, Doug. We cannot have you standing still, but we need to stay talking to each other. That ship has two crew cabins. I know that you probably use one as a store room, but surely by now you have used up enough stuff to enter the room easily."

"That is my photo lab. I still take pictures the old fashioned way."

"I know. We have all seen reproductions. Earth keeps the originals you turn in when you refuel. Damn Insiders. You do good work, Doug. I need you to go into that room."

Everyone heard the strained sounds of movement. I saw Harley's room go private. I expected those in the room to rush to communications, but instead the young couple soon entered the bridge.

Clover came up to my board, and made a request, "Turn on the main screen."

I replied, "It's not off, Clover. There is just no signal."

"Harley, did you hear that?"

I noticed that she had gone to her communications desk as Harley replied, "Thor already had it set up, Clover. He wanted a picture as well."

We generally do not send pictures. That is one piece of fiction that the media maintains, but they have the problem of working with actors who want to be seen. We have more important things to watch for, and often do not take the time to put on make-up, comb our hair, or otherwise put ourselves in a condition where we want to be seen. Talking is one proven method of holding onto one's sanity however, and those of us in space are often eager to hear new voices and speak to anyone. We train our ears to work independent of our eyes, so do not need a visual to go with a conversation.

Clover spoke to his distant mentor, "Come on, Doug. Why aren't you there yet?"

"I don't have gravity. I didn't grab the doorway in time, so floated on and banged into the door to the bridge."

"Why wasn't that door open, Doug?"

"The ship shut it. I had to override to leave it after the accident, but it did not like me doing that and shut it after I left. I'm in trouble, Clover. I wanted to make it to your wedding."

I saw look of concern on the young lady’s face as she moved to almost put her face against my console as she said, "Calm down, Doug. This is Naomi. I would like to have you for our wedding as well. My life, Clover's life, and it seems that your life has not gone as expected. You need to move to the room that has your photography equipment."

"Darling, I am an old man. I am not a pretty sight."

"I received numerous messages the other day. It seems that everyone Outside wanted me to feel at home out here. Clover searched through the files to find yours and make certain I recognized your voice. He told me who you were. My reply saying that I accepted everyone might have been sent to everyone, but I was hoping that you would have taken it personally."

"Oh, darling, I wanted to come."

Doug's voice started to break. My face and those with me worked to hold back tears as we could tell that the voice on the other end was crying. Another voice however clearly spoke.

"Pull yourself together, Mr. Grafton. This is Captain Owens of the YOU ship Castro. This ship has met with you before, Mr. Grafton. We will do our best to come to your aid again."

Doug cleared his throat, then said, "Okay, I am in the photography room. What am I supposed to do?"

Cabin's voice again spoke, "Shut the door to the bathroom."

"I took it off. I rerouted the water to my photography equipment."

"Then you need to go your cabin. You will have to disconnect your photography equipment to take a bath."

"You sure that you fly my ship? I don't have gravity. My water is all contained."

Water will kill you in space. Too little is bad, and too much can be bad. The first priority in any emergency is to assure one's water supply. Some ships have plumbing with a central filter, so flooding the bathroom to create a water supply is a method of securing a private supply of clean liquid. Having each compartment keep its own water was one solution to that problem, but created a problem of having to manage a number of filtering units.

"I fly your ship, but you are correct that I have updated my internals. I apologize. Truthfully, it makes the job easier and more difficult. How do you stand on water?"

"There are still the standard elements out here, and water is there if you care to look. Since I am a photographer, I tend to look."

"Good. Go back to where you were."

"I knew that was where I needed to be."

Clover recognized an optimistic opening, "See Doug, you are all right."

"I am doing my best here, Clover. I want to meet your lady."

Naomi knew when to speak, "I want to meet you as well. Cabin has his bearings. Listen to him."

"Cabin is married, Naomi. What is her name, Cabin? Isn't it Shower?"

A female voice said, "It is Charles and April Fever, Naomi. Our log names come from Cabin Fever and April Shower."

Clover's lady replied, "It seems that I will need another name."

"Naomi is fine. I don't know of another out here."

Everyone went quiet as Doug again started crying, although Cabin quickly exclaimed, "Doug, talk to me! What is your problem Doug?"

Between sobs came the reply. "I remembered what I was to do."

"What is that, Doug?"

"You want me to seal the engine room, and I cannot. The damage is to that hull, and the door will no longer shut. That is why I know I am going to die."

_________________
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Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Part 3   February 24th 2010, 7:57 am

Outside - Story Five
Communications from Beyond

Part 3

Cabin worked to keep the elderly man in the ruined spaceship thinking clearly. "Hold it, Doug, don't despair. You have sealant?"

"I cannot use sealant."

"Yes, you can use sealant. You are just going to have to be careful. The pressure is going to be inside the engine room. You thus want to inject the sealant."

"Air pressure and water pressure are two different things."

Cabin’s voice sounded as if he had not heard any chastising tones from the elder explorer. "Glad that you are thinking, Doug. Now, let us solve this problem. Do you have an emergency habitat?"

"Yes."

"Yes?"

"I even use it. That is how I kept some strength in my body before Clover's father gave me the gravity plate. I would settle on a planet and exercise in its gravity. Using an emergency habitat actually made me feel closer to being in an unknown land."

With his voice still sounding as if he disbelieved the man, Cabin asked, "Where is it?"

"Underneath the ship."

"It cannot be underneath the ship, Doug. The Kert Field won't develop around an emergency habitat."

"There is a storage compartment down there."

"Yes, there is, and getting to it is a bitch." Cabin gave the man a few seconds to chuckle, then spoke some more. "Okay, that was a dead end, but I was just checking our options. All that is left is closing that door. The door is still there?"

"Yes, Cabin, the door is there. It popped open in the accident, but is still on its hinges. The problem with it is that it just won't shut."

"Where is your sealant?"

Some knocking and cursing was heard, then Doug said, "I have some here."

"Okay, Doug, you need to step in the engine room and put sealant all around the door frame, step out, then pull the door shut."

"I am going to die from the radiation."

"You are already going to die from the radiation. Let us get that door shut, then we can work on your health. You are an old man, Doug. If the military can do anything, they can handle the radiation. None of us are going to promise you anything, but if you hang on you can meet Naomi. Get that door sealed."

"Naomi?"

The lady quickly reacted to her name, but again she showed her inexperience with our technology by putting her face close to the console. "Yes, Mr. Grafton?"

"You have to promise me two boys. The first one is for Stewart. Clover's dad deserves his heir. The second one is for me."

Clover was about to agree, but Naomi hushed him to speak her own words. "I have a family too, Mr. Grafton. They might not want me at the moment, but they are still my family. It is my brother's wife who should pass along the name, but I want to meet the man who gets the name of one of my sons."

Doug started crying again, but before anyone could command him, he coughed, then said, "That is what I am trying to do."

Cabin jumped back in, "I believe that we have agreement, Doug. So get that sealant around that door frame and shut that door."

The voice of Captain Owens again came over the speaker, "Mr. Grafton, you need to keep working. Hopefully, you are not getting alpha radiation, but that is a possibility. What we are presently fearing is gamma. You won't feel it, Mr. Grafton. You will just feel sicker and sicker, just like we believe you are feeling now. You cannot stop. To stop would only prolong your exposure."

Sounds of Doug moving could be heard as he said, "Give me the lecture, Captain Owens."

"Sir?"

"Talk to me. Give me the lecture."

Another voice broke into the conversation. "Mr. Grafton, this is Dr. Stinton, chief medical officer of the YOU ship Castro. I don't want you to work all the way through this lecture. If you stop to listen to me completely, you could be dead. I am going to start into my classroom discourse, but for once in my life I hope to be told to shut up."

Naomi could not hold back her tears as Dr. Stinton's voice started describing the types of radiation and their effects upon the human body. Clover had the lady move to another place in the room. I suspected he wanted to give her some privacy, but instead I saw him move some cushions to open up a separate computer console. Having control of the ship, I brought up a duplicate of his panel on my console. I found myself interested to see the schematics to Doug’s type of ship. Naomi continued to weep, but she did gain some control of her emotions by sitting on Clover’s lap and diverting her attention to the drawing.

All eyes lifted when Doug finally said, "Okay, I am getting out to shut the door."

Cabin again spoke, "Are you sure that you have plenty of sealant?"

"Yes, I wasted the whole container."

"Good, now all you need is a solid seal. The water will actually force the door to stay shut, but you need to make sure that it is a good seal."

There were some sounds, then Doug again started to cry as he screamed, "I cannot do it! I am a weak old man!"

Clover was quick to say, "Doug, where is the gravity plate?"

"What?"

"Your gravity plate. The one my father gave you. It can apply over three g's of force."

"It is in my cabin under my exercise equipment."

"Go get it, Doug."

Cabin, Captain Owens, and a few other voices that had not spoken before suddenly agreed with Clover. As the man moved through his ship, he was quizzed on what type of plate it was. No one liked the fact that it was a very early basic model, but they told Doug how to use it.

No one liked the noises as he moved with the gravity plate, but they tolerated them. While there was no gravity in Doug's ship, everything still had mass. Doug was obviously having trouble getting the plate to move, then used a wall to stop the plate from moving before having it move in another direction. Clover and Naomi found others in the room circle around them as they watched fingers point out Doug's movement through his ship.

There were cheers as a strange sound was heard. How most recognized the noise as that of the door squeezing towards its ruined frame cannot be said, but it certainly was not identifiable as some other acoustic phenomena. It however did help assure the proper assumption when Doug asked his next question.

"Now, you want me to flood the room?"

Cabin responded, "Yes, Doug. You should have three tanks of water. The reactor is based off the old submarine plans. It has a dual chamber, but there is a third chamber because we don’t travel through water. Truthfully, that extra amount of water has a lot of practical uses. Its actual purpose is to be a backup in case of a rupture like what you had."

"Save the lecture; the room is flooded. Ship has returned authority to open the bridge."

Dr. Stinton said, "Mr. Grafton, you might not like this, but I need to look at you. We got to keep you healthy."

"I know the drill, but I ain't going to do it."

Clover was quick to say, "Doug …"

"Here me out. That doctor is going to put me out. I don't want treatment. I want to go to Naomi. Does everyone hear me? I am not going Inside to some medical facility. My body has been in zero-g for too long. Yes, Stewart's gift has kept some fight in this body, but I know better than to put myself back into any worthwhile gravity field.

"Clover, I am sending you my overrides. Do you hear me Outside? This signal is for Clover! I don't care what those Inside people say, threaten, or pay. This signal is strictly for Clover."

"This is Lichen of Outside Control, Doug. The signal is on lock to the Menlo Park."

Clover moved to toss away some padding on a wall to reveal not just another computer terminal, but one of the research stations. It took him some moments to get the computer running along with associated processes, but Harley worked with the young man to isolate the signal and set up the necessary screens. It seemed that everyone held their breath while everything was made ready. Finally, all were able to again breathe as Clover stated that he had control of Doug's ship.

The voice of the old man asked, "Where am I going, Clover?"

"You are very far out, Doug. You are going to miss the wedding. Our next stop is a claim jump set up by Felix."

"I like stories of claim jumps. They are one of the most interesting things about space. You took off and found Neosalem on a claim jump."

"I know Doug. That is why I went ahead and told you that you were going to miss one. I don't want you getting mad at me for withholding information. We will be in the middle of a new system when you finally arrive."

The man sounded as if he was again about to cry as he asked, "You will be there?"

"What part of what I told you do you not believe?"

"I am just an old man, Clover. It gets hard to believe in tomorrow."

Naomi pressed her head against the back of the young man as he worked at the terminal, and with her crying I don’t know how he managed to keep his voice even. "I have your ship locked down, Doug. It is now time to get yourself locked down. If you don't, there won't be a meeting. Dr. Stinton, I am putting you in control."

"Give me video, Clover."

Naomi gasped and turned her head, but she was not the only one. Without the tug of gravity, the body had elongated. Without knowledge of where or when he would again get supplies, he had obviously been rationing his food for some time. Without anyone to force certain habits, his hygiene had been allowed to deteriorate. With the presence of dangerous levels of radiation, his body was not a pleasant sight.

Dr. Stinton kept his voice even. "You are right, Mr. Grafton. I am going to put you out. That however is not your problem. You aren't going to like me waking you up, but you are too far out for my nurses to reach you. You are going to have eat, take baths, and get some exercise. Only if you wake up to do those things will your arrival with Clover not be a funeral. Do you understand, Mr. Grafton?"

"I hear you."

"I assume that you do have medical supplies." Doug held up a syringe, to which the doctor replied, "That will be the last thing, Mr. Grafton. Right now, let us apply some ointment over that body. It needs to heal, and it will need help resisting infection."

Thor walked into the room and said, "All right, everyone, let the old man have some privacy. Darlene, kill the screen. Clover, you have his flight plan worked out?"

"Yes, although I know to keep checking it. He is too far out to trust the maps."

"Good. Okay, Darlene, tell Outside that we are listening."

Lisa replied, "We have been listening, Menlo Park. Now you have three dramas unfolding: a budding romance, a mysterious tag along, and now an eventual meeting with a legendary person who should be dead. I don't care if you are presently still Inside, you better keep talking to us Outside."

Clover said in return, "By the way, Cabin, those of the Castro, and everyone else who butted into the situation, thanks." After a number of voices responded, he said, "Okay, Darlene, you again have control."

I had it the whole time.

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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