The information that the Lizbet was moving to pick-up the ISSS Igasuu was not good news to the Grapevine . They too were in a particle dense part of space. In fact, like so many areas of space the area that the ISSS Igasuu was in arced around so that the Grapevine was actually in the same area.
They had been tracking down another source of broadcast signals. They had come across the ultimate source pretty quickly.That in itself indicated insufficient level of technological development for contact.That was the advice that Lt. Arden sent to the Lizbet .
“Well,” he said after he sent the message, “I am going to get some sleep.” These ships were noted for, among other things, having nothing to do if you were not flying or exploring.Right now they had little to do but wait for further instructions from the mother ship.
“Well there is one thing to be concerned about,” Sgt. Jones reminded him. “There’s this particle rich part of space.”
“Put the alarm on,” Lt. Arden told him. “That will let us know if we got thwacked.That’s about all we can do for now.” In space a pea-sized meteorite was bearing down on them.
Sgt. Jones and Lt. Clearwater stayed on the bridge. The Sgt. took some time to drill the Lt. on what the various lights and alarms were for.“What is that light?” he asked the young man, pointing.“That is the proximity alarm that you just turned on,” the Lt. answered.“Will it tell us that something is close to the ship in time for us to avoid getting thwacked?”
“That depends,” said the young Lt.
“On what?” asked the Sgt.
“On what does thwacked mean?” he asked.
“What do you think it means?” the Sgt. asked.
“I’m begging, sir.” Clearwater responded.
“It means being struck by a natural object hard enough to damage the skin of the ship and possibly corrupt our atmosphere through a loss of breathable atmosphere or a loss of heat or both.” Jabin defined for him.
“In that case the answer would be no,” Clearwater said.
“Will it allow us to stop the corruption of our atmosphere?” the Sgt. asked.
“It should,” Clearwater responded.
“Right,” said the Sgt. “It might be a good idea if you give the procedures the once over again.”He knew Clearwater had been trained in them when he got his basic pilots training.But pilots were constantly undergoing upgrading of their training.“I’ll do that,” Clearwater said.He was as good as his word. Still he was unsure exactly what he would do if they really did get thwacked.
Fortunately all the members of the crew of the Grapevine were awake when she got thwacked. The alarm sounded and Lt. Arden sprang to make sure that the hull was sealed.He was surprised to discover a small rock in the cabin near the bridge.Sgt. Jones sprang to examine any collateral damage to the ship. They could easily be out of control, off course, unable to communicate and with life support in jeopardy.Fortun -ately the damage to the ship was minimal.In all this their reactions were trained over a period of years and were almost automatic.2nd Lt. Clearwater helped wherever he seemed to be needed.“Well, gentlemen,” Lt. Arden said after a few minutes, “we have been thwacked.”All the members of the service knew what that meant.But many who had not had service in space did not know what would have to be done now.
“Paper, Scissors, Rock,” Jabin Jones suggested.
“Pay attention, 2nd Lt. Clearwater,” Lt. Arden told him as he beckoned the man to join them.“This is sometimes how important decisions are made.”The men stood together.Lt. Arden opted for paper, his hand out flat.2nd Lt. Clearwater and Sergeant Jones both opted for rock, their hands balled up.“I’m out,” Arden said.“It’s between you two now.”This time 2nd Lt. Clearwater opted for scissors with his fingers parted at an angle.Sgt. Jones maintained the rock, which smashed the scissors.2nd Lt. Clearwater was considered the looser.
“Now what?” he asked. Alexander Arden put it to him.“You have been given the chance to prove that you are a shipmate indeed,” he said.“We are air tight, but we are not heat tight.The temperature is dropping.The Lizbet has been automatically notified that we are in trouble and the beacon is activated.But she is on her way to pick-up another ship.The temperature is dropping so fast that if we do not do some -thing we will freeze.You have been selected to have a chance to sacrifice your blan -ket so that will not happen.In repayment, you will not have to make any Eva’s for the rest of this trip.You will be allowed to sleep in your uniform, and you will not be con -sidered out of uniform no matter what condition it is in until you return to the Lizbet .”
2nd Lt. Clearwater did recognize that the Grapevine was getting colder. “Alright,” he said.“I’ll do it.But I expect to get seconds on all deserts until we get picked up too.”
“Done,” Alexander said. 2nd Lt. Clearwater returned to his quarters and got his service issued blanket from his bed.Lt. Arden stuffed it in the hole left by the rock.It did not take the whole thing, so he cut off part of it and gave what was left back to the 2nd Lt.At supper that night the 2nd Lt. calmly took two puddings and the others made no objection.
Two days later the Lizbet was able to pick them up. “Who lost?” the General asked.Lt. Arden indicated 2nd Lt. Clearwater.The General looked at his uniform.“Acceptable,” he said.“Boy, what is your favorite color?”
“Red,” the 2nd Lt. said.
The General ordered, “Stores, issue 2nd Lt. Clearwater another blanket, red.”The 2nd Lt. let out a little laugh, “Thank-you sir,” he said.
The Grapevine would have to spend sometime in the repair dock now. While it was there Alexander got to know his roommate a little better.“I was actually born in America,” John Ree said.“I didn’t life there long though before my parents returned to Korea.So I grew up there, not far from Seoul.Since we were so close to the capitol I got to go to school.It was really my mother who got me interested in space and being a pilot.She was a pilot and flew in space before she was married.” John told him one day.Alexander told him something of what it was like growing up with the General for a father.“It is like the Space Service is my home,” Alex said.“I’ve been involved with it since I was born in a Space Service hospital.”