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Meanwhile, back at SRC...

Posted 11-14-2012 at 10:08 AM by PhantomCruiser

The Polygon Space Launch Facility was a hold-over from the cold war, Polygon administrators of the late 1980’s were forward thinking enough to peer into the future and see possibility, where the political masters in Moscow could only see a money pit. Rather than ride out the end of communism and find themselves on the same path the dinosaurs had taken, they chose to evolve. Risking the wrath of the policy makers several thousand kilometers away, they embarked on an ambitious modernization plan and opened up what became the Eastern hemispheres’ most advanced space launch facility. Ideally located along the equator, and capable of hitting a multitude of launch inclinations (including retrograde), the SRC Polygon soon became a premier launch facility. But what made it such a desirable location was also its biggest detractor. Located along the equator in the jungles of Sumatra, SRC was on the official list of places in “the middle of nowhere”. The oppressive heat, humidity, healthy sized mosquitoes and remote location made for a project that could only have been the brainchild of a government official somewhere far away (and in an air-conditioned office). To offset those detractors, special care was made to enhance to once Spartan facility. As commercial contracts brought money in, rather than line their own pockets in the name of new-found capitalism, administrators worked toward improving the “creature comforts” of the base. As a result, while the detractors remained, there existed multiple ways to fend them off and have some semblance of a normal life.

Maria Kolosov made her way over to the treadmill, not looking forward to the next 45 minutes of going nowhere fast. The fitness center (known to locals as the FAC) of Polygon space center wasn’t one of the cathedrals to fitness she’d seen when she’d visited relatives in the United States, but what the FAC lost is quantity was made up for in quality. A fighter pilot (even a civilian one) has to maintain a particular level of physical fitness, and Maria had to spend a regular amount of time keeping herself in shape, not only for her job, but for her own benefit. Picking an empty treadmill facing the western wall of windows, she proceeded to program the machine and started her “run”. The man running beside her was mumbling something nonsensical as he stared out the windows, connected to his I-pod.

Several minutes into her program, she’d already succumbed to boredom. She did note that she was going to be in for a spectacular sunset, the high altitude clouds formed some interesting striations that would give a visually stimulating ripple, and the big puffy cumulonimbus clouds already had some striking definition in their shadows. As she trudged through the routine, she found herself listening to the American next to her; if she concentrated she could almost make sense of his murmurings.

Finally reaching the end of her program, she dismounted the treadmill and proceeded to wipe it down. Determined to see that sunset, she stood near the floor to ceiling window to watch the show. She stood there for several minutes, observing as the blue sky surrendered to various shades of pinks and purple, she failed to notice the now quiet American standing next to her, also enjoying the sunset. It suddenly occurred to her what he’d been murmuring.

“Are you a pilot”? She asked, almost in an accusing tone, startling him.

“No, But I’m learning things”, he replied. “How’d you know?”

She smiled, “It took me a while, but I recognize bold-face procedures when I hear them. What platform are you working on?”
“The MAKS” he answered, almost sheepishly. “Well, not MAKS, it doesn’t really have a name yet. MAKS-2, return-of-MAKS, son-of-MAKS. We nicknamed the spacecraft Maxine though, after a comic strip.”

Maria’s eyes lit up “I flew a chase plane for that the other day!” she exclaimed, “You are one of the Americans working on that I take it?”

“Yes, I guess you could say that. Wait, that was you? In that old SU?” he asked, “I thought that was a man”.

“Yes, that was me” she replied in a very matter-of-fact voice. “In the future I’ll try to fly our rust buckets in a more manly fashion”.

The man, suddenly flustered, held up both hands as if to ward of an attacker. “No, no, no. That’s not how I meant that.”

She laughed and waved him down, “It’s those radios; they make everything sound very mechanical”. As the man relaxed she continued, “And, while all those SU-27’s might be old, they are lovingly maintained”.

After the small talk had continued for several more minutes, Maria found herself starting to warm up to the quirky American. He’d expressed great interest in their maintenance and tool control program and before she left the FAC, she’d invited him to tour the flight line and hangar.

As she made her way from the FAC to her own quarters, she was unaware that she’d subconsciously exaggerated her walk. Not much, just enough…

For his part, the American did his best to not watch Maria's hips sway side-to-side as she disappeared into the distance. Looking down at the scrap of paper she'd given him before she departed, he gave a mental shrug and headed off to his own temporary housing unit.
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  1. Old Comment
    Aeadar's Avatar
    Nice! I liked the brief history of SRC.
    Posted 11-15-2012 at 03:38 AM by Aeadar Aeadar is offline
  2. Old Comment
    PhantomCruiser's Avatar
    Thanks! I'm not sure what Kultch had in mind when he created that spaceport, but I figured it to be an Eastern Bloc version of what we did at Ascension. In my own little "Orbiter World" I thought it made sense.

    I'm working on this same encounter from Kirby's point of view; I figured it was time for him to have a love interest.
    Posted 11-15-2012 at 08:02 AM by PhantomCruiser PhantomCruiser is offline
  3. Old Comment
    PhantomCruiser's Avatar
    And here we go...

    John L. Kirby had always considered himself a nerdy chemist who’d gotten very, very lucky. Bucking a family Annapolis tradition, he’d forged his own path, and through an extraordinary chain of events found himself at the helm of a multinational corporation. With some networking of old friends and a few informal meetings, he’d broken into the market of commercial space applications. He’d rolled the dice on an ambitious project to set up a manned moon base, and despite a few setbacks, had managed to pull it off.

    It still amazed him that he had the ability to look at a person across a desk and ask them, seriously, if they wanted to go into space (or the moon). After a few years of that, a thought started to grow in Kirby’s mind. It wasn’t enough to send people to space, Kirby wanted to go himself. He knew the path wouldn’t be easy, and it would begin with his physical conditioning.

    He’d been on the treadmill for just over 30 minutes when the woman started up the machine next to him. He had his I-pod playing Pink Floyd’s “Run like Hell” on a constant loop to give him a decent pace and he’d been reciting emergency “bold-face” procedures to help him pass the time. But with all that, he was about ready to call it quits. Until, that is, the woman started up the machine next to him. While she wasn’t exactly a “stark-raving-beauty”, Kirby thought that her mixed-Asian features made her very cute. Given the improved change in scenery, Kirby thought he could tough it out a bit longer.

    Kirby continued his litany of emergency procedures as the sun traversed towards the horizon. Shortly after the woman stopped her treadmill, he decided he’d had enough. As he wiped down the console he noticed the woman gazing out the windows, presumably watching the sunset. He did his best not to ogle at her reflection in the glass, choosing instead to focus on, what was admittedly a nice display put on by Mother Nature outside.

    Suddenly the woman turned towards him. “Are you a pilot”? She asked.

    Startled by her British accent Kirby answered, a bit too quickly “No, But I’m learning things. How’d you know?” OK, don’t say anything stupid he told himself.

    She smiled, “It took me a while, but I recognize bold-face procedures when I hear them. What platform are you working on?”

    She’s got a pretty smile, he thought, “The MAKS” he answered, almost sheepishly. “Well, not MAKS, it doesn’t really have a name yet. MAKS-2, return-of-MAKS, son-of-MAKS. We nicknamed the spacecraft Maxine though, after a comic strip.” Maxine?!? You dufus!
    “I flew a chase plane for that the other day.” she exclaimed, “You are one of the Americans working on that I take it?”

    “Yes, I guess you could say that. Wait that was you? In that old SU?” he asked, “I thought that was a man”. Remember that part about not saying anything stupid? Kirby mentally winced at what he hoped wasn’t perceived as an insult.

    “Yes, that was me” her voice taking a rather serious tone. “In the future I’ll try to fly our rust buckets in a more manly fashion”.

    Aw crap! “No, no, no. That’s not how I meant that.” Come on Kirby, why are you fumbling like this? He chided himself. It’s not like you’ve never spoken to a woman before.

    “It’s those radios; they make everything sound very mechanical”. She laughingly replied “And, while all those SU-27’s might be old, they are lovingly maintained”.

    “I’d love to see them up close. I have a fondness for all those old war birds.” Kirby decided to take the safe route and the two spent the next several minutes in deep conversation regarding everything from maintenance cycles to FOD prevention. Before he’d realized it, they’d made their way outside and he had a standing invitation to tour the aircraft hangar and maintenance groups. She’d given him a scrap of paper with several extension numbers written on it.

    Kirby tried not to pay too much attention to her graceful form receeding into the twilight. Wonder where this might go? he thought to himself as he turned towards his own housing unit.
    Posted 11-15-2012 at 09:09 AM by PhantomCruiser PhantomCruiser is offline
    Updated 11-16-2012 at 01:03 AM by PhantomCruiser
  4. Old Comment
    ky's Avatar
    Playin' it cool Kirby , great read
    Posted 11-15-2012 at 11:25 PM by ky ky is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Aeadar's Avatar

    Go Kirby!

    I was re-reading the Phantom installments and had to laugh when I noticed the Red Stripe reference. I don't drink much but I have had Red Stripe, and it has an interesting flavor.
    I liked their commercials, and noticed one day that they had managed to get their product placed into an episode of Stargate SG1. So I bought a six-pack, didn't really care much for the first one, but by the time I'd got to the last bottle a few days later I'd come to (kinda) like it.
    Guess I know what's on the menu this weekend!


    And an early, Happy Thanksgivng, too!
    Posted 11-16-2012 at 04:13 AM by Aeadar Aeadar is offline
 

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