As promised, here is some of what I’ve been putting down over the past two days. Obviously, we’re getting into territory now where I could give stuff away that would ruin things, so I’ve had to think pretty hard about what to include. I haven’t edited it yet, so its still just a first draft and you’ll have to forgive any typos. I have taken out a few bits that give stuff away. Hope you enjoy and please let me know what you think, even if it’s bad. Especially if it’s bad as I need to know.
In this scene, Paul and Lucy have to go outside to do some maintenance on the giant solar sails of the X5:
“Can you do it?” I asked her.
“Can you teach me how to do it?”
“Yes. We will fix the damaged sails together and then I will show you the calibrations. You will take a portable computer and that will calculate for you as you go. It is just inputting this into each row of receptors.”
“Okay, good. We’d better get to work then.” We struggled into the suits with Gani’s help. He referred constantly to the computer for instructions on tightening valves and securing fastenings.
“Are you sure everything’s done properly?” I asked when he finally stood back.
“Yes, I think so.”
“Think so?” He just shrugged and raised his eyebrows.
“Well, we’ll soon find out, I suppose.” I went to move towards the inner airlock door but found my feet would not budge. “Wait a minute, I can’t move. I’m stuck.”
“Silly boy. The boots are magnetic. Move your heel up first and this will turn off the magnet in the toe. Just be careful not to stand on your tiptoes. Always have one heel down or you might float off into space.”
“We’ll be tied to the ship, though, right?”
“Oh, yes, I forgot. The tethers are outside the airlock. When the door opens we go outside, hook on and then we can walk.”
I swallowed hard and made my way to the airlock door, which was in the floor. Once we had climbed down inside, we stood together for a moment, clinging on to the rail before pressing the button to purge the air. Opening the outer door, we were gifted a sight for which neither of us were prepared. There, almost as close as you see it in books and on the television, was Saturn. It was as beautiful as anything I’ve seen in my life, perfect rings encircling it as it hung in the stars below us. I couldn’t believe we had come so far and that we could still get home. We had work to do if that was going to happen and, after a few long seconds gazing at the gas giant as it passed away beneath our feet with the rotation of the ship, Lucy nudged me into action.
Climbing down, we swung ourselves onto the outside of the hull. It was a bizarre sensation, like being upside down and the right way up at the same time. We were still clinging tightly to the rail while we hooked the tethers onto our suits. Clipping it on caused me to sigh with relief and Lucy acted out wiping sweat away from her brow. She beckoned me to follow her, turning to show me a button on her glove. I pressed mine and heard her voice coming through headphones in my helmet.
“I forget. We can talk to each other using the button in the glove.”
“That’s good. I have no idea what to do otherwise.”
She smiled and led me across the hull to the first of the solar sails. They were the size of football fields, glistening diamond-like with the receptor cells that covered them. I thought of Mum’s wedding ring and how I used to play with it on her finger, watching the light dance in and out of it. Reaching the sail, Lucy opened up a control box at the foot of its mast and plugged her computer into it.
“Do you see?” she asked, pointing at the readout. “There is no power. The computer will show me which wires to change and where to put them and everything else. You can take yours and do the other sail. I will come when I finish this one.”
I wasn’t particularly happy about being on my own. All I saw above my head were stars and, as it drifted around us, Saturn. Saturn was a God to the Romans, I thought, remembering my History lessons from Year Five. Here I was, sharing the same space as a God. It made me feel very small and very important at the same time. Reaching the second sail, I asked Lucy how to get into the control box and she talked me through it. I hooked in the computer and set to work following its instructions on what to do. It wasn’t that hard, I thought. I just had to concentrate and do things in the time I was given by the computer.
“Temperance is a beautiful girl, yes?”
“What?” Her question shook me out of my work.
“She likes you. I know it is true.”
“Lucy, I’m trying to work here. This is complicated stuff.” I looked over to the first sail expecting to see her there, but she was already making her way towards me. “How did you get done so quickly.”
“Because I am very clever. I was best girl in my class at school in Mathematics and Computing.”
“We never did anything like this in Computing. We just made Elsa from Frozen skate around and pick flowers.”
“I love Frozen.”
“All girls love Frozen.” She was now at my side, peering into the control box to see what I was doing.
“You are nearly finished. Clever boy,” she said. “The power is on. Now all we have to do is the calibrations.”
We started on my sail, hooking our tethers to it and clamping on new ones that were there for sailwalking. We walked up the mast, stopping at each relay to calibrate the receptors. It was a slow, tedious process of lining them up millimetre perfect to catch the maximum amount of available light. The collection points for gases also had to be checked and the collected gases flushed into units attached to our suits. The amount collected seemed so miniscule as to be pointless but she assured me that it was vital to the operation of the ship. We went on for hours, finishing up the first sail and moving on to the next. I began to wonder what all the fuss had been about among the Collection crew. It wasn’t physically demanding work: all it required was concentration . We were tethered to the ship and had magnetic boots so it wasn’t as if anything could happen to us unless we were catastrophically stupid. When we reached the tip of the second sail, what would have been the crow’s nest on an old fashioned ship, Lucy noticed something. She kept repeating her calibrations into the receptor bank but wasn’t getting the desired result and kept turning to the edge of the sail.
“What is it?”
“There is a receptor jammed at the end. It’s stuck and is shifting all the others. I’ll have to go out there and move it myself.”
“No, I’ll go.” I said.
“Because I’m, well… and you’re…” I pointed at her weakly.
“A girl? Silly boy,” she frowned at me and started to make her way out across the sail to the damaged receptor. I watched as she trod carefully between the others until she was almost to the end. She pulled on her tether, which seemed to be at the limit of its reach.
“It’s not long enough.”
I could see she was nearly at the receptor, a matter of feet.
“Leave it then. What difference is one going to make?”
“No, it’s affecting all the others in the row. I just need to unhook for a second and then I’ll be able to reach.”
“What? No. Don’t be stupid. We must be able to fix the tether; extend it.”
“No. It will only take a second if I can just reach it.”
I watched her unhook her tether and clamp it to the sail before taking a final few steps towards the limit of the sail. My heart stopped beating and I stopped breathing, watching her out there with only a couple of magnets keeping her fixed.
“Be careful,” I said, watching her trip on one of the receptors. She bent down and wrestled with the broken one, trying to bring it into line. Suddenly the receptor broke loose in her hands and I watched her stumble forwards, then she went over the edge of the sail.
“Lucy!” I shouted, rushing along the sail after her. I couldn’t see her anymore. All I could hear was her rapid breathing.
“It’s alright.” she said finally. “There’s a handrail on the outside. I just need help getting back up.”
When I reached the edge of the sail I looked down and, sure enough, she was hanging on to a railing. I helped her back up and forced her to come back along with me and tether herself again. She was breathing heavily and looked at me through her visor.
“Silly girl,” she said, breaking a false smile.
“Come on. Let’s get this done and get back inside.”