(Continued from Part 6)
Kendall and A4 discontinued their inspections and looked up at the momentum stream. “Go ahead, Flight.”
“It occurs at approximately 12 hour intervals over the equator. The last several events were initiated roughly along 120 degrees west longitude.”
“That’s odd, why does that number sound familiar? That’s Santa Barbara isn’t it? Not a bad place to surf!”
“You say it’s always at perigee, at the closest approach to Earth?”
“Ah,…that’s correct, Captain Parker.”
“And why are we feeling it here at the pole?”
“Not sure yet. Either the perturbation propagates through the string from M-Sat to M-Sat…”
“Like whipping a taught rope,” Kendall inserted, “creating a wave moving along the rope that gets smaller as it moves along.”
“Right,” Flight continued, “If the whip were to happen close to one of the stations…“
There was silence for a few seconds.
“Flight, when was the last occurrence?”
“Eleven and a half hours ago. If the next one occurs at the next multiple of 12, ‘Old Faithful’ will erupt in 30 minutes, zero point five hours, when the momentum stream passes over 120 degrees west again.”
Captain Parker thought for a moment, then a memory took his breath away, 120 degrees west, perigee, the equator, the ocean, the Pacific Ocean? SEPA? He then voiced, Flight, what do we know about Space Grapple? Any truth to the classified rumor that the space clean-up tractor beam submarine was commandeered? What about those SEPA extremists that NSA has been tracking? Could they be at the center of this?
“Kendall, you focus on your inspections, and we’ll work on the speculation. Check that. We’ll continue the analysis.”
“Okay, but keep on it. You guys are making me nervous. And this morning I got a strange message on my private comm station. We all know that some of those Space Environmental Protection Agency fanatics had ideas beyond the removal of space debris.”
Flight interrupted. “If it weren’t for DARPA’s Space Grapple program, we wouldn’t have had any chance of selling the M-Sats; too much space debris to operate in.”
“You haven’t answered my question.”
“We’ll include your theory in our investigation,” Flight said.
“Well, anyway, what’s the ETA of my team? When do you expect elevator dock? There’s only one thing that could make this experience more phenomenal. Sharing it with my…”
“Copy that. The rest of the Parker family left the Plesetsk Cosmodrome at 1700 hours and will dock with the elevator at approximately 1830 hours. Unless…”
Kendall looked at his space watch and whispered, “Fifteen minutes. Then it will take them three hours to ascend the elevator.”
“Flight, what did you mean, Unless? Unless what?”
“Unless this anomaly continues. Then…”
“Then what?” he insisted agitatedly.
“If we can’t get an explanation for the anomaly, we may have to delay deployment of the rest of the crew. We can’t afford unnecessary…”
“Negative Flight. This two-year mission was designed for four, not one. A4’s good company, but… Anyway, Let’s get the crew up here. I suggest you pull rank, brush up on your Russian, get all those twenty-second century surveillance satellites, pointed at the Pacific, get the best analytics teams working the problem, and get it solved in the next few hours.”
“Captain Parker, out.” He tried to wipe the sweat from his forehead but his glove hit the helmet glass. “A4, resume briefing playback.”
“I am the correspondent for the Global Times. Can you give us a summary of the stations basic data, such as size, shape, and weight?”
“Tricky A4,” Kendall said. “You didn’t pause during Houston’s interruption.”
“Sorry sir. I was analyzing our situation.”
The NASA director continued by describing the stations size, construction, its weight on Earth, and its reduced weight at altitude. He went on to liken the wing to the upper portion of a roller coaster loop where the momentum of the coaster applies an upward force to the rails as they pass top-dead-center. He responded to reporter questions like, “How fast is each M-Sat moving? Will the Parkers at the north station, or Callahan’s at the south station receive any visitors? And then that persistent reporter from the Globe, “Is it true that Becca Parker and Gregory Callahan fell in love during training at NASA?”
Kendall’s mind drifted to his family. Kendall and Katya met their first year in graduate school at the university in Moscow. Although not in the same department, he found his way regularly into her holographic astronomy demonstrations, and was usually the last one to leave. Adventurous and a bit rogue from some of life’s rules, he grew up examining everything he touched. He barely made it into undergraduate work, but once there, he figured out how it all worked, got acceptable grades and went on to graduate school, the top for mechanical engineering.
“Houston to Captain Parker, Emergency. I repeat, Houston to Polaris Station, we have an emergency.”
(Continue at Part 8)