This week the Kestrel arrives at T’Lon space station and Tabitha explores. To read the book from the beginning, go here. My idea of Tabitha is swimmer Ellie Simmonds, because Tabitha comes from a heavy gravity planet.
Intruders Chapter 15 scenes 1 & 2
Having never been on a space station, Tabitha was a bit nervous when she was told she had free time and could explore if she wanted. She called up a map of the station. It reminded her of a spinning top she’d had as a child. The gravity, created by the station's spin, meant you walked with your head always pointing towards the centre and your feet towards the rim, so all the floors and ceilings were curved. It must feel like constantly walking uphill, she thought. The floors nearer the rim spun faster, so had higher gravity, those nearer the centre, had lower gravity. Earth-normal gravity of 1G was halfway out. The central column’s spin produced just enough gravity to be able to stay upright.
Chambers had to run an errand, so he offered to show her the way onto the station.
‘Ships dock at a non-rotating ring at the base of the station,’ Chambers said, ‘so your first challenge is to negotiate your way to the centre and through the doorway between the stationary ring and the rotating central column.’
‘What? There must be an easier way. What about people with no experience in zero gravity? They don’t just push them out of the airlock do they?’
‘Well, no,’ Chambers laughed. ‘There are pods. You can get someone to push you about like a parcel, but you don’t want that do you?’ He looked at her.
‘Is that a challenge? I suppose experiencing one quarter gravity on Pallas prepared me a bit. I would like to have a go. You’ll be there to rescue me, won’t you?’
Without further ado, Chambers grabbed Tabitha’s arm and they launched themselves out of the airlock. It was like flying. Tabitha had never felt so free, she couldn’t keep the smile from her face. She soon found that any movement affected direction of travel, so she let Chambers do most of the steering. There were rails in the ceiling and floor, so Chambers was able to pull them along and keep them on course. Part way to the centre she noticed large boxes being expertly guided. Most were cargo, but one or two had windows in and carried people. Those who can’t cope with zero gravity, she thought, feeling a surge of pride that she was giving it a go.
As they neared the centre of the ring, Chambers pointed to the doorways labelled IN and OUT, to prevent those arriving from colliding with those launching themselves out into the zero gravity. They waited for the doorways to line up then went through into the rotating central column, and found maps and lifts.
‘I think I’ll head for a cafeteria first,’ Tabitha said. ‘There’s one on the map here, out towards the rim. It would be comforting to be back in my own gravity for a while.’
‘That means you have to go up to the right level and then transfer to a lift going outwards,’ Chambers said, pointing to the map. ‘Gravity will increase as you go.’
Chambers left her when she changed lifts.
* * *
Wow! I feel like I'm on a roller-coaster. It's less than a week since I left Alpha, and things have changed again! I was excited to come, but I thought it would be routine, just on patrol, with plenty of time to settle in. After the mine rescue, we've been diverted to a space station and there's to be a new mission. They haven't told us what yet, but it's going to extend my stay, which is a bit scary, but I wouldn't back out for anything.
The space station is called T'Lon. It's like an interchange point for interstellar travel. It spins to create gravity, so I've now been in zero gravity and 2G, all within minutes! You know what? Zero gravity is great fun! Andrew helped me the first time, on the way onto the station, but coming back, I did it on my own. I loved it!
It was a strange experience, going on the outward lift. I actually felt heavy as I passed the halfway mark. I must be getting used to 1G. I decided to get off when the lift announced they were approaching 2G. The map outside showed the cafeteria down the corridor to the right. Within a few steps, I adjusted to the gravity and felt really comfortable. I didn’t realise how much I missed this, and started to feel homesick. I hesitated, uncertain whether to go on or go back, and a man shouted at me and made me jump.
‘Oh, sorry!’ I said, turning to find a man who was unmistakably Alphan. ‘I wanted a taste of home, but … but now I’m not so sure.’
‘How long have you been away?’
‘Only a few days.’
He looked me up and down. ‘First time?’
‘Look at it this way,’ he smiled, ‘if you don’t go, you’ll regret it. What are you going to do - skulk around the lighter levels?’
‘Since you put it that way, now I have to go!’
He offered me his arm. ‘Permit me to escort you. My name is Vaughan Gibson, I’m the Engineer on the freighter Lincoln.’
I took his arm and introduced myself. I said I was hungry, so we had a meal and then spent a pleasant couple of hours touring the station before it was time for me to return to the Kestrel. Well, I've seen so many alien races, I think I had my mouth open most of the time. I took loads of pictures.
‘Thanks so much for looking after me,' I said. 'I definitely owe you a favour.’
‘Don’t worry, I was new once. Just paying it forward. Now it’s down to you. Best of luck.’
I got in the lift, the lift doors closed and whisked me down to the docking ring. This time there was no Andrew to help me, and I hesitated near the doors.
‘Oh heck,’ I said, ‘go for it!’ and launched myself.
When I came back to the Kestrel I had to go and lie down for a bit, just to take it all in.
This is more like it!
[Next week: Captain Darrow has a surprising meeting with the other Alliance species.]
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