Wherein we finally hear them name their destination. A little back-and-forth between Les and Min (swidt) tells the read the why of this mission. And we get a tiny lesson in Roman mythology.
I find the mental image of the non-existent Mission Control to be hilarious.
In other news, now that I’ve stuck a fork in this story, I took copious notes today about my next. Not even tentative title yet, but I am trying to not only tie up one loose thread, but tie it to the rest of my tapestry of Machine Civilization. That is, [SPOILERS] at the end of “Foes & Rivals,” Nicole 5 pushes her two friends together and runs away. These friends become a couple and settle around Tillamook, former Oregon. That’s the first thread. The second is just over twenty years later when, out on his little commercial fishing boat, Gil Haven gets pointedly invited aboard a Guided Missile Destroyer of the Russian Empire, who are systematically taking one region after another (Alaska, British Columbia, and looking at the Kingdom of Columbia) into their hegemony.
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Two hours later, from the navigation camera extended on a boom, the image of their destination was on their screens and in their minds.
“Ceres,” Minerva said. “Dwarf planet. Nearly spherical and just over nine hundred kilometers in diameter. Gravity negligible, about zero point zero three G.”
“The largest object in the asteroid belt,” Les agreed with her. “And it would make a fantastic base as a halfway point to the outer planets.”
“Incredibly and oddly rich in carbon, nearly twenty percent of its mass.” She paused to look over at Les. “I am inclined to believe that this object was from outside our system, captured by Jupiter’s gravity.”
“And,” he ignored her speculation, “reports say maybe ten percent water ice in the polar latitudes and a brine layer which can be drilled to with our current technology. Critical for human habitation.”
“I am her niece,” Minerva said softly.
“What’s that?” Laszlo asked.
“In mythology. Minerva is the niece of Ceres.” She grew quiet before startling him. “Kah, kah! Hello, my aunt!”
She’s evolving, Les. You’re the one who wanted to see this. Keep your mouth shut.
Another hour saw Lionheart drift smoothly into an orbit parallel to Ceres but five thousand kilometers away.
“The collection of survey equipment in the armored hold can work at one thousand klicks but is best around five hundred,” he began. “Any concerns as I take us down to that elevation, leftenant?”
“None, sir,” was her quick reply. “With most of your attention on that maneuver, I shall continue to monitor the arrays for objects which might intercept us.”
The reactionless motor of the T4, now Lionheart, was nearly useless for fine course adjustments and he did not want to deplete their store of thrusting gas. In a move that would have had mission control engineers howling like monkeys and tearing their hair out, Les simply pointed the ship at the dwarf planet and dove slowly at it. Reaching the halfway point, he flipped them over and decelerated.
“Five hundred and two kilometers,” Minerva announced once she saw the captain sit back and wipe the sweat off of his forehead. “You are very good at this for such limited experience.”
“Thank you.” He saw her continue to stare at him. “Yes?”
“You are tired and need to use the toilet,” Minerva announced. “The scans of my aunt will take eighteen to thirty hours, depending on what we find, in comparison to the images taken by Dawn, before the Change. That is tedious work. Tedious work is why you people made machines. Go, use the toilet, write emails to your family, rest. I shall complete this part of our mission.”