Following on Laszlo’s idea, the “PR stunt,” our two explorers step carefully out onto the dwarf planet. After Les alleviates a point of concern for him.
The next entry, part 10, shall be the conclusion of this story. I am pleased to know Minerva a little better as she, per se, had only a few lines toward the end of “Obligations of Rank.” And even Les seems to be starting to heal from his emotional damage of coming to terms with and rejecting his past deviant behavior.
Yesterday I began my next short, “Tillamook.” For a moment I considered a working title of “Mac & Cheese” (the main character’s wife is named Mackenzie and Tillamook is famous for its cheese) but that was too trite even for me. Look for that to debut early next week.
Forty hours later, Lionheart was just resting on Ceres’ surface.
No landing gear at all, Les thought. Need to update this and the other scout ships when we get back. Titan, Europa, and the others await us.
Just before the empty airlock opened, a thought occurred to him.
Min? I know you go into the center and aft of the ship for checks, so your, um, organic parts can stand some vacuum. Out there? I don’t want you in danger.
Thank you, Captain, but in here or out there, I can go about ten minutes, twelve if I must, although that may lead to frostbite and tissue loss, she replied.
Then let’s get this done, leftenant!
Ten meters away from the ship’s hull, Laszlo controlled two external cameras and Minerva two more, to give two different perspectives of what they were doing.
I really do not think I should be in this image, Minerva tried again, mind to mind, as she wore no suit or helmet. Her request again drew a snort from Laszlo.
My cousin forced Mother into showing the world that anyone, even an albino girl, can gain entrance to the imperial family. This serves the same purpose: any loyal subject can contribute and advance the interests of all of our people, he explained again.
I… admit that confuses me.
Just smile for the cameras and aim for the soft spot in the soil we dug out a few minutes ago, he laughed.
With no wind, Her Majesty’s Standard would be an unrecognizable curtain of scarlet and purple cloth. Recalling his history lessons, Les applied the solution the Americans had on the Moon: stiff wires to hold it up, as if in a heavy breeze. They stabbed the pole into Ceres’ surface as they both cried, “Deus vult!”
The cameras off, Les saw Minerva stop just as the outside of the airlock and look up.
It is so beautiful out here, she said.
I am glad you have developed a sense of beauty. Perhaps you should try some creative art? Music, painting… that sort of thing, he suggested.
You, you have been my everything until now, Captain. Les. Shall I open my mind and be older? She stepped next to him and the outer door closed. The inner immediately opened to the central part of Lionheart not under pressure. They made their way forward in was what not quite freefall to the lock to the bridge. Laszlo carefully removed his suit, leaving only the helmet attached to the emergency tank, and closed it into a locker. Minerva again took off and tossed her coveralls into the trash.
I must use the Decontamination Shower but that is only feasible under thrust, she thought. Please alert me when you take off, Captain.
Of course. Give me a few minutes, leftenant, he replied before sliding into the airlock. Sound returned and he took off and locked his helmet to the back of his command chair before sitting.
Leaving the surface, he told her, as several puffs of gas lifted them away. Once at a safe distance, he rotated their nose in the general direction of Earth.
Accelerating to one-half G. He instantly was deeper into his chair.
Showering now; thank you.