Testing The Site

Entry by: Alobear

4th December 2020
Drip. Drip. Drip.

Tara’s breath evened out to the rhythm of the coffee machine, the rich dark liquid steadily dripping into the pot. Her morning run complete, she used the coffee’s percolation time to do some stretches. Then she puttered around the tiny kitchen, checking supplies and tidying away the previous night’s crockery.

A pair of shrill beeps told her the coffee pot was full and a smile spread across her face. She crossed to the machine and reached up to snag a pouch from the cupboard above it. Unscrewing the cap, she grabbed the plastic funnel from its place on the counter and fitted its long tube into the pouch’s nozzle. She held the pouch and funnel securely in one hand and picked up the coffee pot in the other, carefully pouring the hot liquid into the funnel’s wide dish. Once the pouch was full, Tara tossed the funnel into the sink, closing the pouch and slotting it into the holder on her belt.

Now she was ready for her rounds, her list of tests and checks memorised from many repetitions.

Tara crossed the kitchen in two short steps and pulled the metal lever to unseal the door. She dragged it open and stepped out onto the walkway beyond. She grasped the sides of the ladder on the opposite wall and climbed up to the hatch in the ceiling. Keeping herself steady on the ladder with one arm slung over the rungs, she reached up to pull the hatch open. The long tunnel leading to the central spoke of the spinning module stretched above her.

At first, the climb was hard work but the effort gradually started to ease. The closer Tara got to the centre, the lighter she felt and the easier it was to pull herself up the ladder. When she reached the end and turned ninety degrees to enter the wider tunnel that led to the main section of the ship, she didn’t need a ladder. All she had to do was push off the hatch and her momentum allowed her to sail through the tunnel in zero gravity.

Tara played a game against herself every day, to see how far down the tunnel she could get without touching the walls. She lined herself up as straight as she could and shoved off the hatch behind her, keeping her body streamlined. She made it past the sixth bulkhead panel before she drifted to the left and bumped into the tunnel wall. Certainly not her best distance, but respectable.

She opened the hatch at the far end and pulled herself into the control room, guiding her feet into the magnetic boots that waited there. They locked in place around her ankles and she put her arms out to the sides to help her balance. Once she felt secure, she pulled one boot free, swung it forwards in an approximation of a normal stride and clunked it down again. Her progress in the boots was ungainly, but it was easier than trying to check readouts and manipulate machinery while free-floating.

Out of the window, space stretched out in its endless blackness. Tara’s little living module spun on its spoke, creating the small pocket of gravity that allowed her some semblance of normality in her daily life. She had run two complete circuits of the ring before making coffee and her time had been one of her best yet.

The hydroponics bay was her first stop. The botanists back on Earth had done an excellent job of engineering a wide range of plants that could grow in zero gravity, and the fresh food they produced to supplement the caretaker’s rations was abundant. The range of vibrant colours brightened the monotony of Tara’s days. Everything looked as it should, so Tara moved on, promising herself another stop to pick up some fruit on her way back to the living module.

Next came the passenger compartment, the largest section of the ship. Tara paused at the entryway to check the readouts on the colonist pods. There was an alarm system hooked up to the screens in her cabin, in case of emergency, but she came to check in person once per day as part of her duties. The bank of ten thousand lights that represented the cryogenically frozen colonists showed green across the board. Power flow was uninterrupted, nutrition provision was steady, everyone was sleeping soundly.

Tara nodded in satisfaction and turned her heavy tread to the smaller crew compartment further along. Her heartbeat sped up as she drew closer, anticipation fuelling her steps. The checks proceeded as they had for the passenger compartment. All looked good. Here, though, Tara unlatched the door and went inside. Two hundred pods lined up before her in ten neat rows. She walked down the third row, past her own empty pod at number forty-two, until she reached pod number fifty-eight.

Looking down through the frosted glass, she beheld the sleeping features beneath. She smiled and reached out one hand to lay her fingers as if stroking the occupant’s cheek.

“Hey, Alice,” she said aloud in the empty air. “How’s it going, love?”

She leaned up against the next pod in line and gazed at Alice’s serene and beautiful face. Pulling her coffee pouch free, she unscrewed the cap and put the nozzle to her mouth, sucking up the still-hot liquid.

“Ah, that hits the spot. So, not much to report on my end, I’m afraid. Same old, same old. Still, it’s good to have a routine, right? I have to say, though, mine’s getting a bit old.”

Tara unhooked a scalpel from her belt and scratched a small mark on the side of Alice’s pod. It completed the twelfth set of tally marks. Day sixty of her six-month stint as caretaker. Four more months and she could hand over to the next crew member and go back to sleep for the rest of the one-hundred year journey, speeding her progress until she could be reunited with Alice on their new home.