This entry precedes Chapter One. This log entry is a bit heavy in exposition and so didn’t make the final revision of the story, but it gives a bit more background on the character of Jephora Cochrane and what they are doing at the point the story starts.
Sometimes as I have looked over these logfiles I have had to remove dates because the sequence of events changed a bit in the final revision.
Jakob Waltz: Neptune L-4 Trojan Cluster:
Personal Log: 2243.104: Jephora Cochrane, CMDR
“Yesterday marked the four year anniversary of our launch. We’ve been out here in the Neptunian L-4 Trojan cluster for over three, and we’ve probably got at least three more before we can head home.
“Nothing ever changes. We’re six days from having pulled up stakes on Payload Four. That puts us about eight million klick from the chunk of frozen crap that was our last target, and maybe twenty-six million to the chunk of frozen crap that’s our next one.
“At this point I have to say, I don’t know why I took this charter. Wait, yes I do. It’s because, even after twenty years spent working my way through FleetCom postings, this was the only command seat they offered me. The command board would deny it, but I know it’s my light-world ectomorph physiology that kept me off the command list for a Multicruiser.
“There’s no place in the big chair for weak bones and muscles, but by now I’m surely qualified to at least captain a hospital ship. And because I always wear my Pressure Support Exosuit I am at least as strong as a Mesomorph, when I’m suited. It’s simple prejudice. Bureaucratic bastages.
“I shouldn’t bitch though, we’re doing a good job. Because we’re the first to ever try ice harvesting this way maybe we’ll end up recorded somewhere in a footnote of history. SourceCartel wants us to succeed and they invested a lot more into the Jakbo Waltz than they do into most ice harvesters, but still six to eight years in the deep is a tough run. It’s good that this is a cushy rig.
“We may have only boosted four icebergs so far, but that means we’ve already moved more water than the last three years of ice hauling from Saturn combined so I am sure the bottom line of the charter will be deep in the black. Twenty years from now, when these icebergs finally make it back to the belt, some fat old flatches down-system will be trying to figure out how to make a swimming pool on an asteroid.
“What we do is bone-numbingly simple work. There’s a little science when we pick a target, but once that’s done it’s all grunt labor from there. We mount a set of thermonuclear steam engines to a cometary iceberg, and then using the ice itself as reaction mass, we slow it down just enough that it falls inward toward the asteroid belt and the receiving station at 107 Camilla in the Cybele Cluster.
“You’d think somebody’d have come up with a better way to find water that was closer to home, but I guess not. At least we didn’t get all the way out here only to find there wasn’t enough to be worth the trip.
“Fortunately they also staffed the charter with a good crew, although I have to wonder how they talked most of them into taking a long run so far from home. We’re a good fit most days and it’s a bit more like being the head of a family than the commander of a crew. Once in a while I have to spank the kids, but most of the time it’s just trying to keep them entertained and out of each other’s hair.
“The problem is, now that we’re almost half way through the mission, we’re in the doldrums. In the mariner days of old-Earth, naval vessels would sometimes find themselves becalmed. Trapped in the middle of nowhere with no air to fill their sails and no hope of getting home unless the waves of wind moved favorably for them. We’re no longer at the whims of nature, so we never face the risk of becoming lost at sea, but the becalming of the soul can be just as terrifying as the fear of never being blown back to land was for them. Out here, there is only monotony, the endless black, and each other.
“It would be nice if something did change once in a while, but maybe I should just be thankful that everything’s still swinging in spec.
“End log. Annotate. Zip and link.”