PLEASE NOTE: This is part two of a story. Part one is online here. http://www.republibot.com/content/original-fiction-bob-and-cargo-death-r...
I showed up to the mission briefing early. The crew of about a dozen that I'd met yesterday was all in attendance, with the exception of Thor. Nancy winked at me. I just stared back. Flirting was never my strong suit. And strangely enough, I wanted to see Emily. She was forty when I last saw her a year ago. I didn't really care that at this point that she'd have to be about sixty-five. She was kind to me, once....
I listened to the mission briefing and went through my docs. Boring stuff, really; but boring like seatbelts. Ignore them at your peril. We all went through decontamination, and then put on our shipsuits and boarded a local shuttle to the NPR launch site. There was still no sign of Thor, but Nancy was doing her best to suck up to me. It must've been the celebrity thing- in my prosthetics I was NOT a pretty person.
At this point, I'm probably expected to wax poetic about the appearance of the rocket against the sunset, but to be honest, I never saw the exterior of the thing. We landed the shuttle-plane and were hustled through underground tunnels to an elevator. The elevator dumped us at the boarding tube and the boarding tube had an interior hermetic seal. Nope. Didn't see a thing. I wasn't even really sure that I was on a rocket until we had initial thrust.
I've ridden a couple of pulse rockets in my time. It's not pleasant. A pulse rocket isn't really a rocket as you think of it-- you know, like the big Apollo launches, or those goofy old space shuttles. A Nuclear Pulse Rocket drops a nuclear bomb out the butt-end of the ship which explodes and pushes against a thrust (or pusher) plate. Simple. Not elegant, and responsible for tons of penguin deaths back in the days of the great exodus fifty years ago, but very, very effective. It's extremely efficient for large payloads - we were about to put twenty-two million pounds of cargo in orbit, or the equivalent of more than three-hundred *thousand* old NASA shuttle launches - but passenger comfort is not it's strong suit.
I checked off my boards, and announced that we were ready to go. I heard the pilot call “all clear!” in a vaguely Scandinavian accent, and the first bomb dropped.
KRUMP! A mule kicked me in the chest, and then I felt a distinct falling sensation. KRUMP! There was that damned mule again... and then the fall... and another KRUMP! There's a reason that they starve us for 12 hours before launch. I dry-heaved. KRUMP! It would take about sixteen of these KRUMP to get us into orbit.KRUMP. KRUMP. KRUMP. I was surfing a series of ten-megaton thermonuclear explosions. Even *I* thought this was crazy. Crazier still, I’d done this before.
After seemingly sixteen years, the mule decided to go play somewhere else, and I unstrapped. We were in orbit, weightless. My station was in secondary propulsion, Alex was main propulsion. He unstrapped and used his cameras and remotes to start counting bombs. I checked the pressure inside the caustic fuel lines. Secondary propulsion was all about maneuvering, and the steering rockets used hypergolics. Like the pulse rocket itself, the manuevering jets were all about simplicity. In this case, two pipes go into the thruster, one carries hydrazine, the other carries nitrogen tetroxide. They touch each other and they spontaneously ignite, giving off oodles of heat and thrust in the process. Hypergolic engines don't "hard start”; they're very predictable and easy to control. Turn off the fuel, the reaction stops instantly. Being in charge of secondary propulsion was a breeze.
I sight inspected the holding tanks and the twin tubing for the hypergols. I was not thrilled with the design- I'd rather keep the chemicals very separate before they are combined in the thruster, but this design was less expensive. I'm rather familiar with the tyranny of the lowest bid.
I started to inspect the external lines once Alex was done with the external cameras. While doing so, I snuck a peek at the cargo pod mountings. I was expecting to see a shaped charge or two bolted on the couplings so that the E.E.'s could jettison the cargo. They would have to commit their sabotage in the next twenty minutes or so--- definitely before we resumed thrust and committed our course for Caspian Station.
Alex peered over