Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chapter 18

Chapter Eighteen

Her quarters were quiet, and Jass considered slipping into her hammock for a little extra sleep, but decided that her mind wouldn't stop churning long enough to let her rest. Best to calm the mind, the rest would follow.

She locked the door and began her yoga routine, trying to clear her mind of everything but focusing on her breathing. She pictured herself floating among the stars, inhaling calm and exhaling light. When she'd first tried the exercise, she'd thought it was corny, but there was no question that it worked.

At the end of the routine, with her breathing measured and mind calm, Jass knew how she would spend the day.

But what do you want it for?” Merriam asked, unstrapping a box from a shelf in the back of the science lab.

Well, you know, there are only so many things you can really do with a high-resolution camera, Mr. Stone. I do believe I will be taking pictures with it.” Jass opened the box and inspected the contents. The camera was a compact black model made for carrying aboard ships with minimal cargo space. It was a standard equipment item for all ships, for documenting damage, notable moments, or other official business, but there was no reason that she couldn't use it for other purposes.

Is there a tripod for it?”

Merriam handed her a small metal contraption, a telescoping tripod that was folded into a block of metal arms and latches. “This isn't the best tripod, but it should do. The ends of the legs are magnetic, so they'll stick to the floor. Just don't point them at the computers.”

Jass signed the equipment check-out form and strapped the camera box and tripod to her back with a soft elastic strap. In a few minutes, she was in the main cabin, floating in front of the main window. Dani was strapped into her console for once, and gave her a strange look. “What are you doing?”

If I don't find a way to keep myself busy, I'm gonna be crazy long before we dock with Vesta. The rest of you can do whatever you want, but i'm going to do some photography.” She set up the tripod, smiling as the magnets secured themselves to the cabin floor with a clang. It took a few minutes to get the camera secured to the tripod, but soon she was scanning the motionless star field, looking for a target. She pointed the lens at what she thought was Orion and adjusted the exposure time on the camera. She took a test image, and frowned. Too bright. Another adjustment of the camera. Another image. Better.

Jass flipped through the folder of images she'd taken over the past few weeks. It had taken time to get used to the camera settings, but she had persisted, and her pictures had improved. She pulled up her favorite, a picture of the nebula in Orion, a glowing purple butterfly shape. The nebula had been difficult to capture, due to the long exposure time needed, but she was happy with the final result.

That's amazing,” Kara said, passing behind her. “Is that one of yours?”

Jass nodded. “Orion nebula. It's my favorite one to photograph; I love the colors. It's not professional quality, of course, not even particularly good for an amateur, but it's better than any other picture I've taken, so I'm happy.”

The weeks had passed slowly, and Jass had started a list of ideas for ways to make future trips more interesting for those who weren't occupied with experiments or other tasks. Having millions of digital books and movies didn't make up for the inability to walk out one's own door and experience something directly.

By the way,” Kara continued, buckling herself into her seat, “you might want to take a look at what's going on in the corridor. I'm not sure if you'll want to stop it or join in, but you do need to see it.”

Intrigued, Jass pushed herself away from her chair and made her way to the door. She burst out laughing at the sight that awaited.

Denjiro and Aaron had positioned themselves at either end of the main corridor, and had fashioned rough paddles out of used food pouches. A rubber ball ricocheted off one of the walls and headed for Aaron. He pushed off from the opposite wall and swatted at the ball, sending it tumbling back toward Denjiro. He turned just in time to throw up a hand to keep from crashing into the wall. Denjiro did a mid-air somersault and swatted at the ball but missed. Jass bent and snatched the ball up before it hit her ankle. Den groaned as Aaron cheered, “Ha! I'm up, four to three!”

What the hell are you two doing?” Jass demanded.

I think we're calling it reduced-gravity acrobatic ping-pong by now,” Denjiro said, straightening up. “It started out as just ping-pong, but we kept thinking of modifications to increase the accuracy of the name.” He glanced at a large scuff mark that had been left on the wall by the ball. “I guess we should stop...”

Don't you dare,” Jass said, passing by him to move down the corridor. “You're going to restart the game and I'm going to get you an audience.”

The whole crew was gathered in the corridor to watch the re-match. Denjiro and Aaron had been instructed to wear several layers of clothing to use as padding, and Jass had dropped the temperature in the corridor to compensate. She wore a warm jacket and kept her hands tucked in the pockets. Kara and Kristin each had a small blanket to keep warm, and Martina wore a pair of knitted gloves covered in bright stripes. Merriam hunched over in his coat, keeping his hands thrust deep in the pockets for warmth. He had started to grumble about the chill, but a look from Jass silenced him.

The opponents had chosen their ends of the corridor, and a piece of tape on the wall marked the “net.”

Let the games begin,” shouted Jass, tossing the rubber ball into the corridor and sending it bouncing off the walls.

Aaron lunged forward and gave the ball a swipe with his paddle; as it went careening toward Denjiro, he slammed into the wall and rebounded. Denjiro waited for the ball to approach before swatting it back down the hallway. The exchange continued for a few minutes until a hit from Aaron near the line of the net sent the ball soaring past Denjiro's reach and into the wall behind him. “One-nothing!” The crew cheered and laughed.

That was just not fair,” Aaron said, rubbing his shoulder where he had banged into the corridor harder than intended. Denjiro was somersaulting down the corridor to celebrate his victory. “His paddle was totally over the net on that last hit.”

Oh, be a good sport,” Kristin laughed, handing him a drink pouch. “Everyone had fun, and so did you.”

And you've invented a new sport,” Jass added, “though maybe not a particularly smart new sport, given the bruises you're going to have tomorrow morning.”

The crew dispersed and returned to their tasks; Jass made her way back up to the cabin. There were still lots of boring reports to read, but she could face the tedium now.

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