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17 September 2015 @ 12:04 am
_Project Dystopia_ part 34  

He walked back inside, silently. It felt almost cold after the heat outside, chilly as his sweaty shirt cooled.

"So. Alone at last. Good thing you're still gorgeous with sweat dripping off your nose."

Paer snickered and wiped her face. "I need a shower." She caught his eye and started grinning. "Maybe after I get a bit more sweaty."

After a shared shower that used way too much water, he felt nearly human. Nice a cool inside the crawler. He touched a window and felt the heat.

Paer looked around and sighed. "We're not going to be going outside very often."

"Heh. Oh dark thirty for our exercises? Otherwise, this could induce cabin fever pretty quickly." Ebsa walked around closing up all the bunks.

Paer picked up a few things left around. "Well, there's the house cleaned in ninety seconds. I hope to hell I've got some good books to read."

"Ah, all the time to catch up on my reading, and I also have this nagging voice in the back of my head saying 'write the report' and 'go over the recordings and practice speaking Elvish' and things like that." Ebsa looked over at Paer. "Why does my subconscious hate me?"

"It's jealous of the excellence of your conscious mind. Hmm. And I've got my anatomy texts along. If I get really masochistic." She glanced out the window. "Tomorrow I'll challenge you to a race."

Ebsa stepped up to the driving deck. The crawler was pointed north, straight at the ring of the missing gate, dim in the night. "So . . . I suppose one of us ought to be awake at all times. In case open one of those permanent gates doesn't cause static?"

"Yeah. Flip for who gets to sleep first?"

"Eh. Hand me my comp. I'll just sit here and read."

She brought it to him, and curled up with her own in the navigator's seat and fell asleep leaning on his shoulder.

They played cards. They spent a lot of time in bed. And slept a lot.

They went outside and exercised before dawn, every day. And spotted not a single bug.

Watched the temperature, creeping higher every day.

They took the bars outside and opened them. Wxxo looked up from his watch and grinned. "Has it actually been a week?"

"Yep. Still getting hotter. Dammit. You didn't notice a temperature change?"

Ocho shook his head. "It actually feels a bit cooler in here."

"Excellent. See you in another week."

Ebsa closed the bars. "Pity we can't open them inside the crawler."

"Well, so long as we keep the opening small, we probably could. I swear I'm going to experiment, once we're home. But I don't want to risk having an edge of the concrete slab slip out and hit the Crawler deck. I suspect the suspension is not up to the weight."

"And this would be an awkward time to ruin the crawler."

She shot a grin his direction. "Again."

He ignored that and stuck the bars back up on the shelf. "Next week we'll ask if it's still getting cooler, well, less One damned hot inside the bubble."

They meditated and practiced magic. It dropped the temps nicely. He tried to learn her medical techniques, she tried to keep up with his metal working. Exercised outside. Generally just before dawn. Until it stayed too hot for that.

Once a week they opened the bubble and stepped through. To let Wxxo know they were all right.

Ebsa looked over his shoulder at the shimmering heat. "You know, if we closed the bubble for four seconds, we could skip the hottest part of every day . . . you wouldn't mind if we missed a gate, would you?"

Wxxo snorted, stepping back from the oven outside. "Need a relief team?"

"No, we'd only get a minute of relatively cool air. We'll tough it out a bit longer."

They stepped back out and closed the bubble.

"A relief team would shorten the wait, wouldn't it?"

"Yeah." Ebsa stared down at the handles. "If you would like to take a day off, or a week . . . "

She bristled. "I'm fine. You're the one who wants out of this mess."

"Oh? And you like it here?"

Scowl. "No. But I'm sticking to doing my job."

"Well, so am I. So sorry about the grousing." Ebsa stalked over to his bunk and flopped down, rolled over and ignored Paer's thumping around the kitchen.

He rolled out at noon and took over. Paer's turn to ignore him while mostly actually sleeping.

He sat and watched the heat shimmers. Swatted the motion detector occasionally when it beeped about it.

He called up the feed on Uhci's instruments. The Sun was ugly on all wavelengths, now with a huge prominence high on one side. What happened to the Sun, in this universe? They say the membranes split mostly because of astronomical events. But how does a star change suddenly? It would swallow up a world, without a burp. Well, maybe not Jupiter . . .

Researching relative sizes of things was interesting. He started making a list of things to ask . . . some one, some time. Is this world in a group with solar disturbances? If so, is the group related to the Hygeia branch? I've heard the theory that "something" hit Hygeia and fractured it, to create the four year comets. But it would have to be so much smaller than anything that would affect the sun . . . chunk of neutronium? Or, how about a brown star with at least a few asteroids in orbit around it. Even the solar system is so empty that it would most likely just pass through, maybe disturb a few orbits, while the sun disturbed its path. The collision of one of its asteroids with Hygeia would have been a rare fluke.

He stared at the pictures of the Sun. Something ten times the mass of Jupiter would still be only one percent of the mass of the Sun. Would even a direct, core-to-core collision do this? He looked blankly at his list and shrugged. "I don't have the math or astrophysical background to even guess."

"Guess about what?" Paer stretched. "Ebsa . . . Sorry to be cranky."

"Yeah, well . . . I started it by grumbling. Look, how about I step into the bubble, count to four, and come out. That should give you a bit of privacy for most of the night. If . . . if that's what you'd like."

She slumped. "I don't like, but I think I need it. I'll swap with you. Make it three seconds, then you can sleep before I take off."


They traded off, every other day for a week.

Kissed and made up.

And stayed alert for any sign of a gate.