Compiled from original sources.
Shuttle landing. The view from Janies Point.
Painting by Travis
“Thanks ever so much Lar,” Janie said to Captain Monroe as we loaded the last of the items we were taking back with us into the shuttle and finished getting ready to undock and return to Liberty City. “I will even forgive you the final ‘graduation’ sim, as difficult as that one was. Three days worth of work and 70 simulated flight plans and I think I am almost beginning to be able to fly this thing.”
“My pleasure Janie.” Monroe responded, “We aim to please, and if you think you’ve had it hard, just wait till you hear what the next ‘ground pounders’ have to put up with. Seeing some of your, shall we say, ‘ingenious’, flight maneuvers, has given me ideas for about a ton’s worth of new modifications to the training program. I am going to take it as a personal challenged to make sure no other newbie makes it through the full course without crashing and burning at least once on every new lesson.”
Janie laughed and said, “At least don’t blame that on me, I only survived the first time on 20 of them. But do send the updates down to us. I volunteer to be your non-spacer guinea pig. How’s that for aiming to please?”
In a voice of doom imitation, or maybe it was an old time Boris Karloff, Larry replied, “You will come to regret that last statement.” And in a lighter tone, “You really need to take to heart the old prescription about never volunteering. I can say from experience it always comes back to haunt you and in this case Bart will be around as a witness.”
“You’ve stepped in it now girl,” Bartlett concurred, “I crashed so many times in Larry’s sims that I brought a first aid kit into the trainer with me.” And then speaking to Monroe, “Thanks from both of us to all of you Spacers, and especially for the larger mill blade, as soon as we get back down we’ll get it installed and start getting the timbers cutting for your downside building. After that I look forwards to seeing you all much more often.” He turned back to Janie and said, “You’ve got the controls Babe, I’m just a passenger in a hurry.”
Janie Cantarubias, completing her pre-planed descent stage, flew the new shuttle slowly upriver and set down at the Liberty City Spaceport 45 minutes later where a crowd gathered round to admire the first of the soon to be four colony run transports.
When we landed the shuttle at Liberty Port for the first time, as soon as the pad was clear we had a mob waiting to get aboard her for a closer look. Jack and Michelle Seaworth’s daughter Laura headed the waiting line as I exited the port. “Go right in Laura, Bart’s staying aboard and giving tours. And don’t be afraid to ask any question at all, he’ll like that and he always likes talking to pretty young ladies.” Her somewhat somber look brightened as I she heard that and she went on in.
I walked over to Michelle, standing in back but not really with the group that was wanting to get inside for a better look. I felt guilty because I hadn’t found the time to talk to her after her husbands death, but there was just to much else happening.
“Morning,” I said breaking the ice, “it sure looks like Laura’s in love with the lander.”
“She’s always been crazy for anything to do with space travel. Jack and I had no doubt we would be losing her to the deep in one way or another. Now it’s the first interest she’s shown in anything since Jack died. It hit her even harder than it did me.” Michelle looked so sad and lonesome, beyond pain… somewhere else, where mere pain would be a welcome relief.
That’s when inspiration struck, at least it felt like inspiration at the time, “Michelle. I got to run this by Bart, but it looks like in a few days we are going to take the shuttle on a two day trip and shakedown cruise. I think Andy Stuart will be along too but there’s gonna be room for one more. Why not let Laura come with us? Even the anticipation will be bound to get her mind off it’s present course.
Watching Michelle’s expression change so abruptly, almost, set me to crying along with her.
“It has been decided then,” Les Reye said in his rolling oratorical fashion, “Bartlett, Stuart, and Cantarubias, will leave tomorrow in the new shuttle for a two day mapping mission . The purpose being to do first an orbital geological scan and then, depending on indications, a low level flight for verification. Data collected will be sent back to us here at Liberty and Elana Pierce will go over it from this end, and basing her determination and on the list of needed minerals, a one day landing and personal exploration will be made for the purpose of returning samples. The landing site will be no more than two hundred miles distant and if possible in close proximity to our river’s northern reach.”
Andy Stuart in addition to becoming current on the shuttle modifications will get a birds eye overview of the local terrain features and provide additional security at the landing area. Let it be so recorded.”
Burt Buchanan and Jack the Blade got together as soon as the Council session was adjourned.
Burt said to the Blade, “It’s time to do the bastard Stuart in. Give him any more time and even when we take him out of the picture his organization will be up and running and that is something neither of us want to deal with. It‘s a shame we gotta take out that simpleton Bartlett along with him but eggs and omelets and all.”
Jack replied, “So what’s it to be? A shuttle accident?”
“That would be perfect in more ways than one. But how do you arrange it? I know a small explosive device planted next to one of the hydrogen feed lines would do the trick quite nicely but fusing will be a bitch. We don’t know exactly when liftoff happens so a timer wont work, and with Sabbu monitoring all of the time the risk of him detecting the signal to a radio activated device is too great.”
“Just leave it to me,” Jack assured him, “An air bladder with contacts on opposite sides placed inside a vented tube and when she’s high enough the balloon’s expansion completes the circuit and no more Stuart!”
“Very nice Jack, you do have a way with these things. Any problem getting it completed and installed tonight?”
“Piece of cake Burt. By this time tomorrow Stuart and Bartlett are toast.”
“Damn Bart,” That was what Andy Stuart said to me over the com net, “I got one more thing to finish up here at the power plant and I’ve got to do it myself. Just can’t get away. I’m sending Mike Reye along for the ride. He’s shaping up quite nicely considering the gene pool in his background, and a trip like you have in mind will do him a world of good. Wish I were going with you though. Stuart out.”