Lift Ships, a short story of possibilities: Copyright © bf, 2009-2014, All Rights Reserved

We had time for one more hand before getting back to work. I looked at the dealer and ran my glance across the table. To my left, George scowled...he had, at best, a queens-high pair, Ginny had her hat pulled low over her eyes, the ostrich feather waving gently in the air, a sure bluff.
The edge of the Moon appeared in the right porthole, it's white light eerily bathing the table, highlighting the red hair on my arms.
A grey blur appeared in my peripheral vision to the left as the we came about and the porthole passed over the earth, shining blue and gold below.
The GreyBlur growled as it flew through the air, bounced off the bulkhead and slammed into George, shattering his image into pieces, then hitting the table, sending chips and cards into the air.
As he spun and and floated away, Mr. GreyBlur growled "Capt'n says time to 'ring er about....NOW!"
Hey! you son of a female dog! I was winning
GreyBlur snarled ""Capt'n says NOW!"
Stop try be Human!
Go Work Now!
Apes not Card Gam'r.
They never should have given dogs the ability to talk...now these dumb canines think that they control us primates with their teether-than-thou attitude.
Leave it to human scientists to meddle where they should leave well enough alone. Who needs to listen to a dog anyhow!
"Darn. and I was winning..." Oh well, as soon as we dock at the Niland port, I'll grab the shuttle and head out to Vegas for some real money. Tang reached up and hit the switch to turn off the holograms and started stowing the cards and chips.
I barely got everything stowed and headed to my work station as the speaker tube barked "Prepare to bring it about...Ready the net, we're taking on a boost crew!...
Tang: "What a pain, we should just let them float by...now it will take forever to get to Las Vegas!"
Boost Crews are used during the transition from the lift balloon to the Hydrogen engine.
The Boost Crew line up on the compression treadmills and run to the sky to pump the Hydrogen into the jets, which are then blown by the oxygen tubes, ignited to launch the ship high enough to catch the solar wind.
The compressor is connected to a two continuous tracks, each with a team to feed the two engines.
At around 18 miles above the earth, the boost crew gets to work compressing the gas and turning the balloon into solar sail.
It has taken years of trial and error to find the best combination of weight and design in the turn-over phrase to insure successful launches. The early trial involved highspeed electric pumps, but the propensity of Hydrogen to saturate all equipment and catch fire with just a little added Oxygen did not heed well for the early travelers. Switching to non-combustible pumps helped, but they were never as fast as electric pumps.
With the advent of non-human crews and increased communication between the mammals, most Lift Ships have used the Boost dog teams to run the compressors. The teams are used for the launch and pick up a return ride on an one of the incoming Lift Ships. For many canines, it has become the preferred apprenticeship before becoming full crew members on out-going ships. In any case, the pay is based on the risk, and is not just kibbles.
Tang could see the Boost Crew jumping from the upcoming lift ship and were strung out like a line of beads...they floated toward us, but something was not right...A successful pick-up is needs a smooth line of crew, spaced evenly out from the leader in a smooth triangle...but this one was bunched, two of the crew were stuck together and the last one in line was leading the bunch, running in place. This could not be good for energy conservation or travel...oh well.. better extend the catch net a little farther this time, if the captain has to change his speed, there will be hell to pay.
Tang: "Take a look at the Boost Crew...the count looks wrong...."
Jack: ""Count looks OK to me"
The standard jump from the LiftShip is timed to use as few resources as possible. They were charged by the crew master for every cubic milliliter of Hydrogen and Oxygen used for propulsion and breathing and a badly timed jump could eat up all the profit from the lift or result in loss of life. No LiftShip has been know to purposely leave a BoostCrew drifting because of a bad jump, but they will charge for maneuvering resources to catch them.
Tang ""Can't you count?...there are thirteen, not twelve"
Jack: "let see...1,2,3,4: 2, 2, 3,4: 3,2,3,4, 4,2,3,4: 5...maybe one too many?"
Tang: "Yes you moron...13, not twelve...""....Dogs can't count past 4 (5 on a good day) At least us simians can handle big numbers, 20/21 at a time...even humans can understand 10/11 numbers at once..on the same good day
Jack: "Me not moron, I trace my bloodlines to the famous Austrian-shepherd actor 'rin-tin-tin', while you are just a poorly evolved humee."
Tang: "I rest my case..you are an Australian Shepard not Austrian..and Rin Tin Tin was a German Shepard and a girl, to boot!"
Jack: "Don't care, at least I'm proud of my background and not a humee want-to-be!"
"Hey monkee....just cause you can win against 'grams is not the same as humees...I bet you loose your overalls when you have to play for real.'
Tang: "You're just jealous because you have no thumbs...I'll do better in vegas then you will by peeing on trees"
Jack: "Hey...trees need us, without dogs, they wouldn't be as big and strong...Anyhow, Capt'n is taking me with him to the redwoods and I'll be there to make them happy! Next time we come back, I'll get my growth bonus!"
The Boost Crew leader was just reaching the edge of the net. The usual BoostCrew was 12: 2 simians and 10 canines, but who or what was # 13?
Jack ran down to the port rigging ramp and attached the ratchet to his control of the mainsheet, ready to for the captain's order. Tang sat down at his station on the starboard, braced his feet against the wall and pulled up the tension on his line.
Banking hard to the starboard slowed the ship as the Boost Crew closed on the net. The 13th crew member swung its grappling hook and caught the net.
The Boost Crew swung around as the slack was taking out of the line. The two crew members on the trailing edge opened up their air lines to reverse thrust. Even with the thrust assist, Tang heard them hit, hard against the bulkhead. ""That has got to hurt!"
It took a minute for the Boost Crew to scramble up the net and into the airlock, bruised, but able to function.
The Boost Crew was aboard and slowly untangled from their transit lines. The 13th member removed her helmet and immediately apologized for the timing error:
"Sorry, this is a training crew...we should have notified you earlier, but had a hard time getting everyone suited up and ready to go..."
Captn: "Damm..we almost lost our descent window..you should have told us before you started..."
"But I forgot my manners: Captain, on behalf of our Boost Crew, please accept our crew and allow us our return and we would like to honor you with this small token of our appreciation" as she handed the Captain the expected gift of a basket of fresh fruit and a gold coin.
Captn: "Yes...well...My ship is your ship....you are welcome aboard."
The Boost Crew master turned looked at the gibbering simian pair..."You two, where are your 'monkers' give your host his gift!"
The two chimps slowly released their hold on each other and tried to remember the greeting " We honor our simian history, please accept us and allow us to return to earth on your fine ship...please accept this small token of our appreciation." They reached inside of their suits and pulled put a banana and apple, each carefully wrapped in gold foil, for Tang...
Tang: "My station is your station...we accept the gift on behalf of all simians" (and if you touch anything, I'll wring your necks).
The pack leader removed her helmet and glanced at Jack with her deep blue eyes. Jack could readily determine that she was a beautiful, full featured Malmute.
She looked at Jack and cocked her ear...Jack looked at the beautiful malamute and simply melted....
He barely heard her say "For our canine rescuer, please accept us and allow us to return to earth. Please accept this small token of our appreciation."
Jack could smell the sincerity of the response and a few other things that could not be mentioned, but he could readily tell that she was intact and happy to see him......he stammered: "My...my...house is your house...we accept the gift..." The bone she presented floated away from his mouth has a tried to both grab the treat and answer the acceptance speech as he stood looking into her pale blue eyes...his tail slowly wagging...
The simians were gibbering away...hugging each other in fear and relief. The pups were trembling and from the odor emanating from some of the suits, may have had an accident on the way over.
Jack stammered: "I....if you like, I can show you my station during our descent and let you see what our ship can do."""
Malmute: "Why yes. that would be nice...but I need to tend to my charges..but my pupson is here and he will be glad to visit with you."
Jack: "Oh..grumph...ok..." as his tail slowly stopped wagging.
Tang: "Now don't lock the door on your guest room!"
Captn: "Ok enough of the chit chat..prepare for descent..bring in the sails before we melt them!" The crew jumped to the stations..
Jack, with the pup following, and Tang glad to get away from the crowd headed out to their work areas
The prow of the ship cut through the dark as it made it's long sweeping approach to the Niland harbor, highlighted by the glow of the moon over the mainmast and the earth below. Outbound from the belt, carrying live salmon, industrial diamonds and refined platinum, ready for new cargo and a well earned shore leave.
The ship was a standard belt/Mars/Earth transport vessel, with an upswept bow, rounded bottom and oval stern, covered with a midnight black heat resistant skin, 100' from stem to stern, 50' beam and 50' to the top of the deck. Looking nothing more then a black teardrop hurtling through the sky.
Rounding the last incoming buoy, the ship reefed it's solar sail to bring it about for the final approach.
The captain brought the prow of the ship down with a quick release of stored hydrogen and the sky lit up as the ship dropped into the upper atmosphere.
As the Captain barked orders through speaker tube, Jack and Tang headed for their work stations. Jack ran down to the port rigging ramp and attached the ratchet to his control of the mainsheet, ready to for the captain's order. Tang sat down at his station on the starboard, braced his feet against the wall and pulled up the tension on mainsheet.
Banking hard to the starboard released the force of the solar wind on the sail and both crew members jumped to their second stations to haul in the sail. Tang started his hand winch and Jack released to catch on the hamster wheel. With coordinated movements, the sail slowly returned to it's storage in the mainmast.
There are a few ideal launch points and none meet all the crieteria: Where the distance to space is thin (the north and south poles) or the air is stable (Equator), with accessible water,lots of cheap energy and close to transport centers. Based on these factors and the need for stable air, few thunderstorms and available water to process for H2 and O2 results in a limited number of excellent sites. The Niland launch facility has proven to be one of the more reliable lift ports.
Niland, in the California desert is hot in the winter and hotter in the summer, with virtually no rain and rarely a thunderstorm. The spur from the high-speed rail system serving the Port of Los Angeles and Las Vegas to the east insures rapid transport to the rest of the country and world.