Release guesstimate and last book in series edited.

Editor says he’ll try to get “Down to Earth” finished by Feb. 1. This is the last book in the April series that is really rough and had no editing.
His goal is to have April number six done my 2/15. We’ll see… He can run optimistic.
My goal and job is to get a cover ready and a title. The cover may be a ‘holder’ because Sarah Hoyt is sick and I can’t bother her right now. She’s trying to get two book deadlines satisfied before going in for surgery.
I’m thinking “And What Goes Around” or “Steady as She Goes” Maybe something else will pop into my head.
And #6 grew to 106K words.

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April #6 – pretty sure it’s done

m4s0n501

99.5K words. A little smaller than usual but it feels right. I may add just a chapter but we’ll see. Not going to post this one until edited.

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A snippet of April 6

“Good evening, Heather.” Mo looked nervous. Why would he fall back into that mode? Was it a mistake to invite him to her private space? She hoped he wasn’t going to start addressing her as Your Majesty or something. He wasn’t sworn to her even though he owned property in her realm. He was Jeff’s hired man and a citizen of Home now. She waved him to a chair in sight of the kitchen. He sat but stiff and tense.
“I made spaghetti. It’s a favorite in my family. I hope you like that OK?” she asked.
“That will be a treat. I haven’t had it in months. Different sorts of restaurants are one of the few things I occasionally miss about Earth. We had a Vietnamese and a Hungarian place we frequented in our old neighborhood.”
“I’m afraid you’re getting canned sauce with a few spices added and pouch meatballs,” Heather said.
“That’s a big step up from the self-heating meals I’ve been having sitting on the edge of my bunk. I don’t want to go to the cafeteria in my suit liner and I’m out of time and energy to get cleaned up and go back out by the time I get in.”
The cafeteria wasn’t much, just six tables and a tiny kitchen. But it served better meals than out of a self-heating can. Between Heather’s own employees and some lot owners still in temporary shelter, there were thirty four people living centrally in connected pressure. Two families living at depth in tunnels under Heather’s land because the modular housing they towed from Armstrong was destroyed or buried in the Chinese attack.
A few others lived in because their work didn’t permit them to live on their own land and commute. Not only did they have no fast elevator system to the depth they were at now, but there still were not small personal vehicles to be had. The traffic system and some vehicles were designed, and the standards issued by royal decree. They would be manufactured when the roads were cleared. They just needed to make a bigger printer to make the structural modules. The hand built bus that had connected them to Armstrong briefly was now sitting waiting on their surface streets to be cleared.
“That’s awful,” Heather said of eating canned meals. She was genuinely concerned. Mo was an asset and anything that wore his morale down was very bad. “We have kids living in pressure who would probably do courier work cheap if they just knew there was a market. They could run a hot meal to your room from the cafeteria. They probably don’t think to ask because they lived under strict North American law in Armstrong. They didn’t ignore it here like we did on M3 even before the revolution. I will drop a hint to some parents,” she promised.
“I never thought to ask either,” Mo admitted. “I guess my brain is stuck on Earth-think a little bit too. My son has turned into quite the entrepreneur on Home, so you’d think I would have adjusted, but it didn’t occur to me.”
“What does he do?” Heather asked.
“He buys old spex and com pads from folks. It seems like most people get new ones often, whenever there’s a new feature they like. Most of the time they aren’t worth the time to try to sell them. But if he’s standing right there offering cash they’ll dig it out of the drawer they tossed it in. People still find it hard to actually throw it away if it still works fine. The new people coming in are shocked at the prices for everything and happy to economize on something. He sells some to Earth because the down leg shipping is cheap.”
“I’m aware your daughter already has quite a reputation as an artist.”
“That’s one we didn’t see coming. She always was sketching stuff. Pictures of fancy clothing mostly. But she was a discipline problem when we lived on Earth. The school never saw her as having any artistic talent. In fact she got poor grades in basic art and then couldn’t get in the more advanced classes. My wife has shown me articles from Earth denouncing her work as simplistic and childish, but people sure seem to be willing to pay serious money for it.”
“On Earth that would be seen as a negative in academic society,” Heather pointed out. “If the great unwashed masses like it then it can’t have any value. Only the pure praise of their scholastic peers.”
“Well, she doesn’t seem to be pining for their approval,” Mo said.
“Good. I’d be disappointed if she paid attention to such foolishness.”
“I have to admit. I haven’t been gone from Earth all that long. But I’m already looking at the news feeds and thinking I can’t believe I used to accept what they said pretty much automatically. Now they sound like they are raving crazies most of the time. But if I said that to the people I used to work with down there I can just see the looks they’d give me.”
“So sad, now you are oppressed under my iron fist,” Heather said.
“Oddly enough I think you are capable of doing the iron fist thing,” he said actually making a fist. “It’s just not scary because from everything I’ve seen you won’t do it for some stupid reason that doesn’t make any sense to anybody. Everybody from Armstrong is very happy you smashed their punitive force with an iron fist and didn’t let them be dragged back to a North American jurisdiction. Even the ones in temporary shelter. They are certain things will get better. They had no such hope at Armstrong. Things were so bad there some of them were near giving up and going back down to the Slum Ball.”
The tension Mo showed when he arrived seemed to have passed.
“That’s the nicest thing anybody has said in awhile. So, if you aren’t scared of me why were you all nervous when you came in?”
“I guess because I’m just a mining engineer and I keep expecting someone to tell me I shouldn’t be doing robotics and civil engineering. Now I’m going to advise you on something and I’m not even sure what discipline to label it. Environmental engineering? Process engineering?”
“All we care is if it works, Mo. We’d take your advice for just about anything if you display general competence. We’re not stupid and we’re going to run any ideas past other on Home and Earth before we undertake any big commitment of time and money. I’d take your advice on making spaghetti if you can show me a better way to do it, and I’m pretty sure you aren’t certified as a chef.”
“Good. I’m encouraged you’ll get other advice. That takes some of the pressure off.”
“Come sit here, it’s ready and no pressure to talk business while we enjoy it.”
“Oh my, you have wine.” There was a plastic carafe of red. Glass was just too heavy to justify lifting it from Earth. She served the pasta separately with a big blob of butter melting on it and the sauce and meatballs in the pan she used to heat it. Her serving dishes and table space were very limited. They had grated cheese in little foil packs and she wouldn’t serve on plastic plates and had metal silverware. Given how she was raised she had limits to her practicality.
“OK, you’re right I’m not a chef,” Mo admitted. “What did you add to make this so good?”
“Commercial sauce, but good stuff, Midi brand from North America. I added a little extra garlic, a tiny bit of anchovy paste, a tad of basil and tarragon, maybe a teaspoon of honey and five of those little dark chocolate chips like they put in cookies.”
“Amazing. Chocolate? Anchovies?”
“Those sort of things you add in moderation. You don’t want them to stand out or take over, but they add to the complexity. A lot of what we buy is intended for the sportsman and camping market. The quality tends to be much better than emergency food. Don’t be shy, take seconds.”
He had another full plate serving and she had just a little more. Eventually he sighed and leaned back in his chair. That was the first she was sure he was over being uncomfortable.
“Now tell me what is so complicated you couldn’t just send me a text,” Heather said.
“I’m aware you had plans to move steadily toward food independence. Jeff made me aware I should start talking with experts at inside cultivation on Earth to know how to lay out chambers and tunnels. Then later he told me to speak with the French who were interested in doing the same thing. We really have it easier in a lot of ways. We don’t have to worry about pests and disease as long as we don’t introduce them. On Earth it’s a struggle to bring in air and water and have workmen in and out without introducing problems.”
“And if we do have contamination we can pump a tunnel back to vacuum,” Heather said.
“Yes, and we can make our own air, water is harder but we have some that can be mined in dark craters. At least enough until we have a regular supply from the outer system,” Mo said.
“But we don’t have biomass. We’re carbon poor and we have no extra lift capacity. Nobody is even taking standby status freight. So we have everything we need but enough carbon dioxide for the plants. Eventually we can recover most of it from sewage and mulching crop waste, but we lack the tons we need to start a large recycling system going. We can’t do hydro or build soil without organics.”
“Exactly,” Mo agreed. “Eventually, long term, we can send ships to bring back hydrocarbons or carbon dioxide from Jupiter or beyond just like they are doing water now.”
Heather thought briefly of reminding him the first snowball wasn’t back yet and that the second expedition was having troubles. After considering it she didn’t see how that would help and it was confidential so she stifled it.
“What I want to propose is a stopgap. We have three million cubic meters of rock and regolith to back fill. There is anywhere from fifty to two hundred parts per million carbon. We should process the material to remove that carbon. You might also consider separating and stockpiling the iron at the same time. It will be a considerable asset in time and cost little to do so.”
“Yes, but the iron is easy to separate magnetically,” Heather said. “How much of a process is getting the carbon out? Is it going to involve milling and chemical extraction?”
“That’s the beauty. All you have to do is heat it and it and the majority of it is released as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane gas.”
“Enough to be worthwhile?” Heather asked.
“It varies from fifty to two hundred parts per million.”
“That doesn’t sound like much to me.”
“But Heather, if our material runs at the median concentration it means three thousand tons of carbon in just our back-fill. Plenty to stock a closed system and buy us time. If we need to we can send a group to set up mining in some of the dark craters. That would give us more water and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same regolith has higher carbon content too.”
“Would we have to divert some of our robots doing back-fill to run a remote mining operation?”
“No, because we will reach a point where we have as many robots working as the road network will support. Then we just replace the obsolete ones that wear out. We wouldn’t send the robots to a dark crater however, we’d send an automated robot maker or two.”
Heather thought about that a bit. “You can handle and convert the carbon monoxide easily? That stuff makes me nervous in a sealed environment.”
“We can burn it to carbon dioxide through a catalyst screen. We’ll do it physically isolated from environmentally controlled cubic,” he assured her. “The carbon dioxide liquefies easily to transport it if we do the dark crater operation. It’s in the ideal form to release for plants.”
“I’ve been speaking with Jeff about this. We also want to have a yeast tank operation. They’ve developed some strains of yeast that can be processed to something people actually want to eat – not just survival food. But without the biomass we weren’t going to be able do it because we had no feedstock.”
“Hydroponic beets are an excellent feed stock for tank yeast,” Mo said.
“You’ve been researching this deeper than you’re admitting,” Heather said.
Mo blushed. “I’m still no expert. But I had to be certain it would work as a package before proposing it.”
“What I’d like you to do is make a couple prototypes. I take it the transport robots won’t each have an extraction apparatus will they?”
“No. We don’t really need to change the design of the scoop and move units. We just add a mill at the edge of the crater to extract the iron and carbon. Then when the bin gets full of processed material it tosses it in the crater so it doesn’t build up a slope and make us periodically move that unit forward to a new lip. The material will be loose and that’s a dangerous operation to do.”
Heather nodded. “We want a prototype, and a unit to transport to a dark crater and test there for carbon iron and water extraction. Build that unit with weight and dimensional limits in mind for transporting it. I’ll need a budget proposal and a short description of the operation for Jeff and whomever he decides to consult. When can you have that for me?”
“I’ll have a basic proposal in a week,” he promised. When Heather lifted a skeptical eyebrow he explained. “I have an outline already and just need to add some drawings and address some of the questions you raised.”
“I’m curious, how do the other moon bases handle waste? Do they recycle and if not how do they dispose of it?” Heather asked.
“I have no idea. But I’ll inquire if you wish,” Mo said
“Yes, I wish. Would you care for some dessert?” Heather offered.
“I thank you, but not after the second helping,” Mo said, putting a hand flat on his stomach.
“Thank you then. If you send me a message about this, title the message with ‘Carbon’ on the header and I’ll know what it’s about.”
It was an obvious dismissal, and Mo stood and said his goodbyes quickly.

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April #6 at 83K+ words

Did over 1K words today. I just don’t see anything to snippet that won’t reveal too much.

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Cleanup on aisle two…

I did a read through Long Voyage of the Little Fleet yesterday and cleaned up a bunch of errors and incomplete sentences. Found a couple misplaced paragraphs in the formatting too. It will get professionally edited sometime but I had been away from it long enough to let me see things as I read. When it’s fresh it’s far too easy to see what you intended to write instead of what is there.

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Finally… Paperback version of “Family Law”

On the same Amazon page – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006GQSZVS/?tag=kindleboards-20
Or at right – link doesn’t want to show active – sorry.

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Editing…

“Long Voyage of the Little Fleet” is being professionally edited right now. I should have it and update my Kindle files in about a month. It will be paper next.
That only leaves “Down to Earth that hasn’t seen the editor’s hand. It will too in time. I hope to never publish another book without editing first.
A paper edition of “Family Law” is ordered to examine and supposedly IN THE MAIL from Createspace.
I have an URL for ordering it but want to see it and approve it before I encourage people to order it. After all, once it is ink on paper I can’t fix it.
April #6 is past 60K words.
And that’s what is going on.

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Another snippet of April 6

There are so many clicks and buzzers and chimes in a spaceship it’s like having a nagging mother. Some, like a com call that isn’t flagged urgent may just be a polite *ding* that repeats every five minutes and then drops to every half hour. After a day the ships computer will even give it up for a lost cause although the call light will keep flashing.
A real emergency gets a much more insistent announcement. Thus Barak found himself standing rattled with no memory of leaving his bunk, heart pounding and breathing raggedly even before the first blast of the emergency klaxon stopped sounding. He staggered to the com board, which fortunately was only three steps away. He only needed two steps today he was so motivated.
He didn’t have to call the lights up. The computer did that for him, emergency lights on top of the regular ones so if it had to switch over there was no pause. It was dazzling to his dark adjusted eyes. The heavy subsonics shook his very bones and he slapped the receive switch before it could repeat.
“Emergency light off,” he commanded. Nothing happened, that was out of his control. “Cabin light five percent,” he tried. That was still under his control and the double lighting eased off.
FIRE IN GALLEY CUPBOARD – read the screen and displayed a graphic pinpointing it. Barak could hear, could feel through his bare feet, the alarm still sounding in other compartments.
“Bridge com,” Barak demanded, and then struggled for a moment to remember who was on watch the XO or the Captain. Oh yeah… Jaabir. “Sir, what do you want us to do?” he asked the Captain. There was no answer.
“What’s going on?” Deloris asked from the bunk. He’d been by the wall and didn’t even remember how he got out over her. There wasn’t all that much room. Normally he thought she was cute, but her hair was a fright wig, her mouth hanging open in shock, and her eyes unfocused still trying to align.
“Fire in the Galley. No answer from the Bridge. I’ll go try to put it out,” Barak told her.
Deloris covered her face with both hands, pert little nose sticking between them. “No! Alice is environmental officer. She’ll go straight to the fire and it’s her job. You get a mask and find out why the hell the Bridge doesn’t answer. A station not reporting is assumed to be a person in danger. That’s anybody’s concern who is free to render aid.”
She might look out of it but she was thinking much clearer than him. “Put on pants and shoes,” she added, since he seemed inclined to rush out the way he was. He did one better, he used the toilet because that simply wasn’t going to wait much longer at all.
By the time he emptied his bladder Deloris had his deck shoes sitting in front of the bunk and was holding a pair of suit liner pants for him. Those would serve as well as anything. From the time the alarm sounded until he was in the corridor was less than four minutes.
There was a cupboard with emergency items at the head of the corridor and he snatched an air mask out of it, not breaking the seal just yet, but he could have it out and on in not much more than thirty seconds. He stuck the thicker seal end in his mouth to free up his hands and then went up the ladder for the control room like a salmon climbing a waterfall to spawn.
The hatch to the Bridge was closed and he stopped and laid his hand on it even though the computer hadn’t said anything about fire there. “Yuki-onna,” he addressed the ship by name, “is there pressure in the control room?”
“Yes, I have three indications of life safe pressure in the control room,” the speakers by the door answered him and the speakers down the corridor echoed it. He stuck his hand in the recess and squeezed the release. It was locked.
“Open the hatch,” he commanded.
“The Captain locked the hatch,” the ship replied. “You do not have authority to release it.”
“The Captain does not respond to com. He may be disabled in the control room and unable to effectively command. Open the hatch,” he ordered again.
The computer was smart, but that was a complex series of statements for it to examine for logic. It probably had a whole series of branching conditions to examine to come to a conclusion. There was a reason most people called Artificial Intelligences Artificial Stupids. At least somebody shut the alarm off and the hull stopped repeatedly ringing with it.
“You must declare a Ship in Danger emergency to override the Captain’s orders,” the ship replied in a calm female voice. It was maddening.
“The damn ship is on fire! Isn’t that enough of a Ship in Danger emergency?” he asked. He was upset or he never would have argued with an A.S. in an emergency. You just tell them what they want to hear, like talking to an insane person or a very little child.
“That is a separate emergency,” the ship informed him after another slight pause to consider the problem. “There are no indications of fire on the Bridge.”
Barak turned at the muted sound of bare feet hitting bulkheads and the Captain advanced up the corridor to him bouncing from side to side. The fastest way to progress since there wasn’t enough traction in their slight gravity to run. It was his turn to have his mouth hang open in surprise since Jaabir was naked with a bundle of clothing clutched in one hand.
“Open the door,” Jaabir shouted like the ship was hard of hearing. “You go back to your cabin,” he snarled at Barak like the whole thing was his fault.
Barak didn’t really think about it. Maybe it would have been the same if he had. He hit Jaabir in the face in a flash of anger feeling his huge nose, his most prominent feature, squash like a piece of ripe fruit under his blow. The adrenaline surge removed any restraint and he connected solidly driving him into the oppose corridor bulkhead and thrust himself back into the Bridge hatch. Then when Jaabir bounced off the bulkhead back to him he hit him again with the hatch at his back anchoring him to put some real heft into it.
The droplets of blood sprayed all over in the slight gravity and Jaabir crumpled slowly in the gentle pull, unconscious and limp. That might not have been a good idea, Barak realized shocked at how bad the fellow looked from just two punches. He’d never struck someone with his fist as an adult.
“Yuki-onna, the Captain is injured and I am taking him to the Infirmary,” Barak announced. “Please advise the ship’s company of that and ask the XO to meet us there to treat him.”
“Done,” the computer replied quickly, “The XO asks what the nature of his injuries are?”
“Blunt force trauma of the face. Probably a broken nose. Perhaps a concussion,” he admitted. Starting to wish he hadn’t hit him the second time. He still didn’t regret the first. “What is the status on the Galley fire?” he asked.
“The environmental officer vented the Galley ready storage to vacuum. Sensors indicate there is no source of heat remaining consistent with continued combustion. The EO now informs the ship’s company that the fire is out and after sufficient cooling the scene will be put back under pressure and examined to determine the cause of the fire, what may be salvaged, and remedial action.”
“Thank you Yuki-onna,” Barak towed Jaabir by an ankle, careful to not bump him where he had to go around a couple corners. Charlotte Dobbs the XO was waiting for him at the Infirmary. Wearing mismatching top and bottom and sticky footies. Her hair was a as bad as Deloris’ even though it was shorter than Barak’s, and he realized she had no eyebrows if they weren’t drawn on.
“What happened to him?” Charlotte asked angrily. She started positioning Jaabir on the treatment table. She didn’t ask Barak’s help and didn’t need it in the slight gravity.
Barak started to open his mouth and then remembered what Happy Lewis, April’s grandfather had told him a dozen times… volunteer nothing. He stopped and took a deep breath.
“I don’t intend to discuss that with you,” he replied, feeling a great calm come over himself. “Your concern right now is to treat him.”
“I’m Commander with Jaabir incapacitated,” she barked at him. Why did everybody have to yell?
“I’m sure God himself is impressed with your promotion to his peerage,” Barak said and smiled. It obviously infuriated her. Jaabir started moving a bit, but didn’t open his eyes. He actually clutched them closed harder, and let out a little moan.
“What I mean is… I order you to answer me.”
“I will only answer an official hearing on the matter,” Barak replied.
“All right… Consider this your damn hearing,” Charlotte yelled at him. “You beat him up!”
“You can’t prove that,” Barak calmly replied.
“No, I can’t, but you did, and we both suspect you had something to do with Harold’s death too, but we haven’t figured out how to prove that yet either. You’re going to be big trouble now with two strikes against you when we do hang them on you.”
Barak was shocked. He’d had no clue his Captain was conspiring with the XO to pin Harold Hanson’s death on him. It took a moment before he could frame a reply.
“You are distraught and embarrassed for your lover. Undoubtedly you are embarrassed you helped him desert his duty station to have sex, although I understand the pressure on you from the Captain. You are not speaking rationally and I won’t expect it of you. You not only can’t prove I beat him up, as you said, but you have no basis to accuse me with Harold. I was in the lock when he had his accident. My suit camera will show I was nowhere near him when we heard his suit lose pressure, and it will document he often abused his suit kicking the ice off.”
“Your suit camera failed, which we found very suspicious,” Charlotte sneered. “And you can’t prove we were having sex either. There’s a camera on the Bridge too that will show what happened with you and Jaabir. The ship won’t allow that one to be erased!”
Barak silently thanked April’s grandfather again and his lessons to a green kid on how things really worked. He wasn’t going to reveal just yet he had his own copies of all his suit recordings.
“Neither of us ever went in the Bridge,” Barak told her. “Jaabir had it locked under his authority. The only thing that camera will show is – he wasn’t there!” He stopped let that idea hang there for her to consider it certainly wasn’t anything to her advantage.
Charlotte looked stricken. She was running on emotion and hadn’t thought it through that far. For some reason she’d assumed they both made it onto the Bridge. Perhaps just the amount of time that had passed. She probably didn’t even know he locked it.
“As for the other. Yes I make a formal accusation. Yuki-onna please copy this conversation to the log. You both neglected duty to have sex on watch. When Jaabir came down the corridor he was naked with his clothing in his hand,” Barak said disgusted.
Charlotte grimaced hard. She would have had the sense to get dressed.
“If you wish to establish your innocence I suggest you have one of the female crew come to the Infirmary. There has to be a rape kit in a sick bay this well equipped. Use it and seal it as evidence and there won’t be any question later,” he challenged.
“That is not the purpose of the kit,” she said angry. “I don’t have to prove anything. As for you, return to your quarters. I’m not sure what I’d trust you to do. I’ll review your duties and your status if Jaabir isn’t fit to resume command soon. I consider you a risk until then.”
“A risk? You aren’t acting like I’m a danger. Which I am not. If you really thought I was a danger and violent enough to have killed Harold and attacked Jaabir you’d be cringing from me. Instead you are standing here alone yelling in my face and haven’t called for anybody to come escort me to my cabin. But I’ll take myself there now,” he said turning to the hatch. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re kind of shorthanded. You might think on how you plan to assign the extra work of keeping me confined to my cabin and who gets to do my work,” he paused to say over his shoulder as he left. Jaabir had a hand up to his face feeling carefully.
“Yuki-onna, please copy my conversation with the XO to my com console,” Barak said in the corridor. Best to get it protected before that too mysteriously disappeared. He’d make sure it went on his private memory chip as soon as he walked in his cabin.

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A short Family Law #3 snippet

“Commander Gordon,” Robert Frost, captain of the Sharp Claws appeared not just on the command audio feed but came up on the video feed to Gordon too. That indicated he had something more than routine to discuss.
“Captain Frost,” Gordon acknowledged and nodded, a human gesture many of them had assimilated.
“We have the first case of an infection from an alien life form. I just finished speaking with my medical officer about it. The crew woman who reported to sick-call tried to treat it herself but it didn’t improve.”
“Well, I guess all those protocols put in place by the Earth powers were not entirely without merit as our recent hosts implied.”
“Oh, we’ve known there are things one can catch already. Thorn has a whole list of them, mostly various amoebas and parasites. The people who keep an embassy open on the Elves’ world just in case they ever want to have anything to do with us get something called Blue Dot. They feel tired and get little blue bumps that go away in about three days. Nobody has ever isolated an organism causing it or documented a human to human transmission. I don’t think they’ve ever had a Derf on world to see if they catch it. The thing Earth worries about isn’t that sort of thing. They are fearful of something deadly like the flu or smallpox.”
“I take it this isn’t such a devastating disease or you’d be more upset?” Gordon prompted him.
“Yes, it another irritating thing that I’m pretty sure we can deal with, but it still seemed worth a word of warning.”
“Good, I’m putting our medial guy on the circuit. He’s our environmental officer too. Would you describe how you became aware of this and we’ll send the recording to our other vessels too.”
“The young Human woman is a previous Fargone missile tech who left their service before we recruited her. She’s twenty seven Fargone years old, a bit more than twenty eight T-years. She got a patch of white and itching to the inside of her little toe on her right foot. Thinking it common Athlete’s Foot she asked our medic for a tube of anti-fungal cream and she prophylactically applied it to the other gaps between her toes with clean hands , and then applied it to the afflicted area last. It didn’t improve, indeed it got worse, appeared on the other foot, and changed color to a yellowish hue. That’s when she returned to medical and sought help.”
“What is this Athlete’s Foot?” Gordon asked, puzzled. It seemed like an athletic foot should be a good thing.
“It’s a common fungal infection in humans. It is often spread in communal areas where people go bare footed. But it is incubated in the dark and moisture between their toes. The more so because shoes and socks keep the foot in the dark and limit drying air circulation. This is a Badger analog of a fungus, but the medical tech was smart enough to scan a swab and see there is alien genetic material present. Indeed it returned an error message because there are sequences not common to any Earth organisms.”
“How did you confirm it is a Badger organism?”
“We have some sequencing of Badger and Badger planet organisms from trading items. There were short sequence matches once the medical scanner was supplied a wider database. But we showed photographs of her foot to Badgers on the Dart and they immediately said: ‘Oh yeah, boot rot.’ It seems it is an occupational hazard to those who have to wear boots for their work such as caring for herd animals and working in industrial settings. Most Badgers avoid wearing an enclosing shoe unless absolutely necessary.”
“Then I assume they know how to treat it?” Thor asked on the audio feed.
“Yes, but their cure is to crush a sort of common weed that looks like a succulent and stuff the sticky mass in the toe of the boot. The other folk remedy is to find a source of mud near a natural body of water and coat the foot liberally with it, getting it between the toes thoroughly, and allow it to remain and dry out for a few days before washing it away. Apparently there are naturally antagonistic organisms in such mud. Since neither cure is available here my medic cut the upper section away from the toes on a pair of cloth shoes. We are coating one foot with a disinfectant wash we use for surgical prep and the other foot with a dilute solution of iodine.”
“Thank you. Keep me appraised if this becomes a bigger problem or doesn’t respond to treatment,” Gordon requested. He appeared ready to end the discussion but Lee spoke up.
“Gordon? Captain Frost? Just a thought here. Most Human laundry is vacuum tumbled. A freeze dried fungus may be dormant but not dead. You might make sure her socks get wet washed in chlorine bleach or something similar or they may just re-infect her.”
“That’s interesting,” Frost said looking surprised. “I’ll mention it to my medic right now.”
“How did you know that?” Gordon asked Lee after Frost was gone.
“When I lived with my relatives in Michigan for awhile their kids got Athlete’s Foot at the community pool and quickly spread it to everybody else at home. I remember my cousin’s wife putting bleach in the wash to get rid of it.”
“So you did learn some practical things on Earth,” Gordon said, amused.
“Just all kinds of skills,” Lee assured him, scowling. “I know how to form a jail gang to keep safe. I know how to get back in line quickly to get a second serving in the jail mess, and I know how to slowly eat a candy bar in tiny little nips and make it fill you up if they have you on lock-down and aren’t feeding you. I learned how to sit in the sun where there is a breeze to keep the mosquitoes from leaving you a mess of welts. I even know how to suck-up to a bureaucratic negative tax official so you get your case moved forward while the angry combative folks don’t get what they need. Doesn’t mean I want to live on a planet where I need those sort of skills,” she said, firmly.
There was a lot Lee still hadn’t told him about her time on Earth Gordon reflected.

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A snippet of April #6

April slouched deep down in the oversized Hardoy chair. She’d bought two in this larger size thinking they would be more comfortable for Gunny and other big men. It turned out she preferred them. The back went up high enough for her to lean her head back and the extra width spread the heavy ballistic cloth flatter than a smaller chair with light rip-stop fabric. It supported her legs clear out to the rolled over padded edge under her knees.
In the half G apparent gravity that her apartment was kept at the chair was as comfortable as a hammock and almost as hard for her to lever herself from its depths. It was low enough she could safely sit her coffee mug on the floor beside her and plenty of room on each side to tuck snacks or reading material. She had her comp-pad laying screen down on her stomach at the moment paused on the newsfeed she was reading while she gazed out her view port.
The commonest size of apartment on Home wasn’t any bigger than a cheap motel room in North America and every square meter had to do double or triple duty. Kitchen tables and beds that folded up against the wall when not needed were common. They used the sort of appliances and fixtures common to travel trailers and motor homes on Earth. She had a huge apartment by local standards. So much so it embarrassed her on occasion as a visitor would freeze for an instant with surprise on their face when they stepped inside the door.
Her bodyguard Gunny had immediately rated it a four-car apartment upon stepping in the first time, since he had an annoying habit of comparing every place he saw in Home to the size of a garage you’d expect on a North American home. He was of the opinion what he called the half-car model might drive people crazy from confinement, but he had a skewed view of things having lived most of his life on Earth. April knew that some of the Japanese found the local accommodations compared very favorably to what they had lived in back home.
She’d been spoiled rotten growing up because her family was relatively well-to-do. Her grandfather had helped in the construction of Mitsubishi 3 and put all his money in both spun residential cubic and zero G industrial space. Also her father was the resident manager for Mitsubishi with a generous housing allowance.
As a child she had her own bedroom that was the size of a walk-in closet on Earth. Even more of a luxury was her own square meter all-in-one unit bath that became a shower stall with the door sealed. By orbital standards that was a palace. So she might have found the very smallest apartment oppressive herself. They were barely more than hot slots, but she’d never admit that to Gunny.
Behind her there were two sofas facing each other across a table on a rug that defined a formal living area. In smaller apartments they would be wall hung fold-downs from the wall. They were IKEA super light hide-a-beds in case she needed to put up guests. She had enough wall space for both a fairly large 32K video monitor and some big pieces of art. There was also room by the cooking area for a real table that could seat six which she left set up. It looked sturdy enough but the legs could be folded inside the drop apron and set to the side if the floor area was needed.
The kitchen against the inside bulkhead had a simple two burner stove and a microwave. April had the luxury of a small refrigerator too. A few folks didn’t bother with even that much, taking all their meals at the cafeteria. It was decent food too. Mitsubishi saw to that. If you had a stove that meant you needed dishes, pans, utensils and things like spices and volume to store them. It soon escalated to the status of a cooking hobby rather than any necessity. You easily could keep a few cans of self heating stuff like soup or stew for when you felt sick or were just too tired to trek down to the cafeteria. The cafeteria also would pack take away and there were cheap courier services to deliver it.
Further from the entry behind the kitchen and dining area the end of her space was divided into two small bedrooms with a bath between them. Each had a private section but a shared shower stall between them with lockout doors so only one side would open at a time. That was all framed off in temporary wall panels that jammed in place between overhead and deck with locking vertical seams.
If she let her body guard, Gunny, go it would be easy to remodel by removing the panels. Neither had brought idea up the idea of him leaving in some months now. His one month gig had turned into open ended employment, although less than full time. His status now was more ‘on call’, especially since Home was further from Earth and trouble now. He could take short security jobs with other associates.
The reason she pulled her chair over by the port was to enjoy the view. Right now the moon was in a thin crescent on the edge to her right. From this side there was no light reflected off the Earth so it was utterly dark on the left portion. You were made aware of it more by the absence of brighter stars than any illumination of the surface at all.
The sun was directly visible to the right of the moon and she had the port darkened until it was bearable. They were at that point in their orbit around the L2 point where the Earth disappeared behind the moon. In a couple hours the thin slice of moon would have the sun just barely shining past the edge of it and the blue marble of the Earth would rise from behind the opposite dark horizon of the moon to the left. It would display a crescent to the same side as the moon but a bigger section. They were much too far away to see the lights of cities in the dark section by eyeball.
Neither were there any lights to be seen from here on the dark portion of the moon. All the settlements of humankind were on the other face of the moon that stayed pointed to the Earth. The few places with any people or surface structures on this side were barely visible with a very good telescope when they were in sunlight. The headlamps of a rover or floods outside a habitat entry were insignificant.
April could still call her friend Heather at Central on the other side of the moon or anywhere on Earth for that matter. There were plenty of satellites in lunar orbit to relay the call. There were now several such systems so you couldn’t be cut off easily. It was on the one hand still conveniently close here. Hardly any further than Low Earth Orbit in terms of propellant cost. Being at L2 only cost about ten percent more it in freight costs over lifting from Earth to LEO. Unless you were in a hurry. On the other hand it was just distant enough from Earth to enhance their safety. The Earthies had never seemed able to resist the occasional pot shot at Home when they had been in LEO and the added distance was sufficient to give them warning of hostile approach.
That was all background however which all slowly turned every few minutes as the habitat rotated. Their current orientation kept the sun in view although it looped back and forth. Dominating the close view that stayed fixed was the nearby strut tapering from the ring in which April’s home was to the hub above. The same ring extended horizontally across the bottom of her view with another spoke extending to the far side of it a third of the way around. The view was dramatic with massive elements one rarely saw in Earth architecture. The only dynamic aspect of the close view was the slow dance of shadows back and forth as Home rotated.
The glass curved from knee level to almost straight overhead, and most of the new ring being built was visible by looking up. The spoke to the new ring were positioned at the same angles off the hub. April had wondered briefly if there was some reason for that but forgot to ask anyone.
There were only a few panels missing from the skin of the new ring and some gaps where ports like her own were not fitted yet. A few places scaffolding hung off the outside of the ring and two bright yellow lines and hand rails temporarily marked the inside limit on which suited workers could walk without danger of sliding down the curved surface. The ring wasn’t a perfectly circular cross section. There were center sections top and bottom that were flat before it started to curve.
Only a couple months ago there had been a lot more machinery, materials, and scooters floating two hundred meters or more back which was the closest safety zone in which material and equipment could be parked that would be used that shift. Construction was winding down.
Some items could be brought in by scooter by matching speed with the ring and side-slipping onto the inside surface. That was fun to watch. Her pilot friend Easy could do that as slick as catching an egg on a plate. Some were too massive and had to be lowered from the hub on a tensioned cable and slowly nudged up to matching rotational speed without over torquing the hub.
There was talk of extending the hub and putting a third ring on, but she’d read that would be the last as after that the calculations said a forth ring would be unstable in too many situations. It would make moving the habitat as they had from LEO an impractically slow operation to avoid over stressing a long thin hub. Nobody wanted to give up their mobility since it had proved so vital to their safety.
If they wanted to build a similar habitat it wouldn’t be difficult to park it in a slightly different halo orbit around L2 such that they both danced around the same point in space but never crossed over the center at the same time. A necessity that had made Gunny smile and explain to her the Earth custom of a figure eight race or demolition derby. She thought he was pulling her leg until she did a net search.
The area behind April had head room to stand but the glass overhead curved down until it met metal shell about knee high. Her chair was pulled forward close enough to the glass she had to be careful standing up. That low area helped make the room feel bigger but was rather limited in how you could use it. She had some storage cabinets made to fit up to the edge of the glass with castors so they could be pulled out of the low overhead. Heather’s mom had a similar lay-out and raised tomatoes and a few herbs in the narrow space along the port. April intended to do that too… someday. Now she just had a few green plants that helped keep the air pure. Most people had one or two even if they didn’t have exterior ports and needed to illuminate them. They were just nice to look at beside making the apartment smell better – something natural for the eye that wasn’t man made.
There was a pattern of light in the corner of the port she hadn’t noticed before, a little dappled splash of light from internal reflections in the port maybe… April squinted at it. But it looked odd. It wasn’t something her mind recognized as a familiar pattern. She levered herself out of the chair to investigate leaning over closer… and jumped back.
“Gunny!” she called out horrified. Gunny appeared from his room looking rattled from her tone with a pistol in hand. He scanned the empty apartment looking hard for something like a Ninja army hidden behind the sofas.
“Not there, here.” She said, pointing at the corner of the port.
He came over and leaned close as she had, but didn’t jump back. Then eased back a couple steps so he didn’t hit his head when he stood straight. He tried to look neutral but didn’t manage it to hide his irritation at alarming him.
“You want him shot? Most folks just pick a spider up in a tissue and flush him down the toilet.”
“I’ve never seen a spider on Home before. Aren’t they venomous?”
“A few. The really bad ones are big hunters and jumpers like tarantulas. Not little web weavers. None of them are deadly unless you have a sensitivity, but I have to admit some of the little house spiders can give you a nasty bite if you roll on them in your sleep. I’ve had a couple nip me but it didn’t even wake me. Down below nobody makes a house air tight to keep everything out. I’m just happy leave the mosquitoes behind on Earth. They really bother me. The filthy little things carry disease.”
“Just do the tissue thing would you? It doesn’t belong here.”
“OK,” Gunny agreed, but stopped after a few steps and pursed his lips, looking back thoughtfully.
“What?” April demanded.
“Nothing, I’ll get rid of him for you. I just have to ask. What has he been living on?”
That question didn’t make April happy at all.

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