Sunday writing chat prompts for 25 Apr 2021

Home Forums Just the Place for a Snark Sunday writing chat prompts for 25 Apr 2021

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    • #7258

      just the prompts…

      1. Use the following five words: chord, chain, exercise, smart, album. (10 min)
      2. Use the phrase, “Here’s the plan.” (10 min)
      3. Write about waiting for dinnertime. (10 min)
      • This topic was modified 2 weeks, 3 days ago by TC Community Host. Reason: trying to get anything at all to post
      • This topic was modified 2 weeks, 3 days ago by TC Community Host.
      • This topic was modified 2 weeks, 3 days ago by TC Community Host. Reason: fix date
    • #7262

      Something in Jun’s internal alarm clock woke her in time for her shift, despite the disrupted sleep over the past week or so. Coffee and something to eat on the way to the control room, and she was as put together as she ever was when she sat down in the hot seat and started reading through the logs to find out what had happened since the last time she was there.

      Gin announced over the engineering loop that she had taken over the systems engineering watch, so in a lull a few moments later Jun called in to report she’d done likewise for the Prop group.

      An hour or so into their shift, Gin called a status briefing, and Jun noticed several silent partners from the bridge listening in. It seemed that Attitude had made up their minds how to recover from their gyro anomaly, and so now what remained was to do that proposed exercise, carefully, watching for anything unexpected. “Let’s be smart about this,” Gin said in summary. “Anything at all odd, let me know and we’ll think it through together.”

      The ship was far enough from the normal operation mode that it made sense to tread carefully. Even the junior staff like Jun had months of experience with their systems in nominal operation, plus a solid education on off-nominal procedures and contingencies. But that’s not the same as actually being there, working through a recovery.

      There was a knock at the partition near Jun’s desk. There was Jinny, looking at her hopefully. “Do you have a few minutes? I’d like to talk through this before I send it up the chain,” she said.

      “Sure,” said Jun, mentally rearranging her to-do list for the shift ahead. “Have a sit.”

      “So, right,” said Jenny. She was a little taller than Jun, brown hair, green eyes. They’d known each other at the Academy, but not very well. “I’m in Flight Dynamics, as you know. It’s our job to figure out what that ion engine of yours can do for us, trajectory-wise.”

      “And our job in Prop to keep it in working order. Which it hasn’t been of late, because the Attitude people’s gyros lost their little minds,” said Jun.

      “At Gin’s briefing, it sounds like the engine will be offline for a total of, what?” said Jenny, flicking her eyes to her right, paging through the metaphorical desktop in her head bug. “There it is. Not quite eight days.”

      “If the recovery goes according to plan,” said Jun.

      “Right, we have to start somewhere,” said Jenny. “So the question is how much thrust we can get out of the ion thruster system to make up for lost time.”

      It was Jun’s turn to flip through pages in her head until she found the spec. She read out the number, and for good measure shipped the page address to Jenny.

      “Here’s the plan,” said Jenny. “What we’d like is a little extra performance from the engine, so we can, like, cut across the orbit like this, like a chord on a circle, and catch up with that other version of us in a non-anomaly parallel universe.” Diagrams appeared on a shared screen in front of Jun’s eyes. Yellow for the original trajectory, red for the unpowered version, which notably missed Mars by an alarming amount. Blue for the proposed one, which caught up to the yellow just as they arrived at Mars. “We come in a little hot, as you see.”

      “And,” said Jun, “you’ve pushed the envelope on fuel and performance for the engine. We’ll have to work on this, see what we can do for you,” said Jun. “Can you link me to your album of models, with various assumptions and stuff?” Jun mumbled to herself about the unprofessional and stuff on the end of that.

      “Sure,” said Jenny.

      “We’re having a group meeting tomorrow… right in the middle of my sleep cycle, again,” said Jun. “I’lll work up a proposal to the Prop group and see what they think.”

      “Sounds good,” said Jenny. “It’ll be a couple days before Attitudes are adjusted anyway. The beauty of the gentle ion thruster is that a day here or there doesn’t really hurt that much. Eight in a row is getting to be a problem.”

      Jun’s scribblings were not promising. The plan had been to reload the Xenon fuel tank during their flyby of Mars, so the margin was a little less than it would otherwise be. She calculated how much they’d need to do Jenny’s proposed trajectory, and it wasn’t enough.

      “Well,” Jun muttered, as she stood in line for a sandwich during her lunch break, “What else do we have that we could use for fuel in a pinch? Why are we using Xenon?”

      So she reviewed the intro textbook and what you want is an inert gas with a reasonably high ionization potential, and a nice hefty molecular weight. Zap it with electricity to swipe an electron, and blow it out the nozzle with a high voltage electric field.

      How about Argon? she asked herself. So she looked up the formula and yes, it’d work with some tweaks; you’d have to up the 13 volt limit to 15 or so, which… she was sure was possible? Somehow? She drew an open box in the margin as a reminder to come back to this.

      How much would it take? And how much do they have on board? Normal atmosphere has some argon in it… did they do that on the ship? Aaaand the answer appeared to be no.


      Nitrogen? As molecules it’s pretty inert. The same tweak to the voltage would be needed as for argon. Not as heavy, but we have lots of it on board… Maybe it’ll work. Dunno what I’m overlooking. I don’t even know what I don’t know.

    • #7264

      I smiled as I added the photos from this afternoon to the album dedicated to Jimmy’s sixth year. It was an exercise that I took great pride in. My son would never feel the same way I had while growing up. He was loved. He was cherished. I would do anything in the world for him.

      I had been made to feel a burden. A duty. I would never do that to a child.

      The anger I felt toward my parents burned, but not hot enough to break the chains they’d constructed around me. I continued to do my duty toward them. I took Jimmy to visit at Christmas and Easter, pleading with him to pretend to be what they expected in return for ice cream when we could leave again.

      Jimmy was smart, even at six to understand I didn’t want to be there any more than he did. While we were in my mother’s house, he sat still and patted my hand until it was dinnertime. After that, our visit would finish until the next seasonal obligation.

      I glanced down at the album and smiled. I replayed the events of the last couple of weeks. I still couldn’t believe how things had changed for Jimmy and I.

      Last Wednesday, I’d been furious. The older boys were picking on Jimmy at school and he came home crying. We moved just as the pandemic was shutting down schools, so Jimmy hadn’t had a chance to make any new friends. The first kids he encountered stole his lunch bucket and smashed it.

      I went to the school to demand someone listen when I met Alison. She helped me talk to the principal, and she introduced Jimmy to some kids in his class, including her son Joey. Then she took me under her wing and introduced me to the other parents.

      No one had ever done something like that for me before. Jimmy used to go to a private school, one that his father insisted he attend. After we broke up, I moved and enrolled Jimmy in public school. He’d been as miserable as I was in our old life.

      In the space of an afternoon, Alison did more for me than anyone else. That’s why when she asked me for help last Friday, I jumped at the chance to repay her.

      “Here’s the plan.” she said. “Dave will see you and Joey first in the playground. DJ will be excited to see him and to meet Jimmy.” Alison sighed. “If you can assure Dave you’ll look after the boys and tell him to walk around the building to where I’ll be waiting, I will forever be in your debt.”

      “Absolutely.” I replied. “After this past week, I owe you so much.”

      “No, you don’t.” Alison assured me. “I’m just sorry the pandemic made things difficult to meet you sooner.” She paused. “Oh, and one last thing. Please don’t call me Alison. When you speak to Dave. Refer to me as Al, it’s really important.”

      Turns out. Dave and Alison met in real-life, not realizing they’d already met online. When he found out she was on the same parenting forum as he was, he thought she was someone else. Someone self-absorbed and flighty. Sadly, he thought she was me.

      I want to say it was a rude awakening for me, but really it wasn’t. I’ve spent my entire life trying to be who other people expected. Like that day at the principal’s office, I felt like I needed to shout just to be heard.

      The pictures in the album on my lap showed me the beginning of a good change. Jimmy sat on the grass, smiling between his two new best friends. Alison insisted Dave take a picture of the two of us. I’ve never had a female friend before. At least not one who didn’t want something from me.

      For the first time in my life. I felt settled and eager for the future.

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