UES Enterprise. Earth Orbit.
16th April 2161
Where the hell am I?
In near darkness Maria Hernandez awoke with a start. This clearly wasn't her bunk. It was too short and narrow. Whilst hardly luxurious, the bunk in her on-earth quarters was noticeably more comfortable. Yet she couldn't be in space either. She was lying on the bed, not strapped into it, which meant gravity.
Oh, right, Enterprise. Yeah.
She blinked a few times, watched the faintly glowing numbers on her clock coalesce into something readable. Time to get up.
She reached for the wall panel and gradually increased the illumination, so as not to hurt her eyes.
As a senior officer, she warranted a room to herself. It was no larger or more luxurious than any other room, but at least she had it to herself. The second bunk was placed directly above hers, though it was currently folded flat into the bulkhead. Her own bunk could also fold away, to give a bit more room, though not much. The previous night Hernandez had stood arms outstretched, finger tips brushing the side walls.
The room was perhaps three, perhaps four times longer than it was wide. At one end lay the small hatch, currently bolted shut. A small transparent port allowed for views into the corridor: it was treated so as to be opaque from the other side. On entering the room, a small wardrobe was positioned directly to the right. Then came the beds, then the second wardrobe.
On the other side of the room there was a small work desk and recreation centre. As with the beds, everything was designed to fold flush with the wall when not in use. A small stool was provided for working at the desk, though Hernandez thought it likely that most people would sit on the lower bunk when using the games console.
Next to that was a compact fridge, enough for light snacks, or maybe a six-pack, a microwave oven, and tea and coffee making facilities.
As if the room were not cramped enough, a network of pipes and electrical conduits decorated the ceiling. Most were securely out of the way, and all were covered in a soft foam to protect against impacts, but she could imagine there'll be a few people ending up in sickbay with bruises to the forehead.
There was another hatch, with no viewing port, at the far end of the quarters. Like most of the doors on the ship, it was securely fastened with a lever that must be swung from the horizontal to straight down. Strenuos, but on a space ship it was a good idea to keep things airtight.
She opened the hatch, passing through into the bathroom beyond. If the bed room was small, this was tiny. Just enough room for a lavatory, a sink, and a small shower. She cleaned her teeth, then stripped off her regulation underwear and climbed into the shower. One advantage to all this technology, the water was piping hot.
Three minutes, and not a second more, she emerged feeling a lot better. That lasted for as long as it took her to return to the main room.
I'm going to be here for months.
She looked forlornly round the small, cramped, windowless cell. She knew it wasn't as bad as it seemed. She'd been in smaller quarters before. The 'rooms' on Neptune class ships were no larger than this, and had to home five people at a time. But without gravity, crews stayed on for no more than a couple of months before being rotated onto planet side duty.
She dressed, then folded out the desk and computer keyboard. Six external mails, and a couple from inside the ship. She checked the external ones first. All last minute congratulations from friends and colleagues on her posting. She sent back quick messages of thanks.
The internal mail next. The first was a list of all the social and entertainment groups that had already developed on Enterprise, along with times and places for any meetings. She was pleased to see that a small group of Catholics had established itself, and had a regular booking for meetings in one of the briefing rooms. She mailed the contact name on the list, Ensign Hackett, letting him know of her interest and asking for more information.
The other internal mail came from Dr. Philip Locke. She remembered seeing him briefly at the previous nights ceremony, where she had officially accepted her post as first officer. Didn't have much contact with him apart from a quick handshake and a few indistinct words, inaudible over the hubbub in the observation dome. According to his message, however, she'd agreed to come in for a full physical this morning.
She swore, loudly, in Spanish. That helped, so she said the same word, only this time in English. By chance it happened to be one of the few French terms she knew, so she said that as well.
Knowing it was not a good idea to upset the medical staff, she sent a quick acknowledgement. Better have some breakfast first.
After checking through the view port that no one would be hit by the opening hatch, she hit the unlock key, swung the lever, and carefully opened the door. Locking it behind her she set off towards the nearest terminus.
The Declaration class was designed before humanity developed artificial gravity. As prolonged periods of weightlessness are not good for health, it was intended that the secondary hull would rotate, with centrifugal force (or was it centripetal? Centripedal? Hernandez could never remember) simulating gravity in the living quarters. 'Down' would be outwards, away from the primary hull, whilst 'up' was inwards.
Now, gravity generators had been placed through out the ship, and the secondary hull was firmly fixed in place. But one need only look along the corridors to see that the same orientation was still in place. In both directions the corridor curved noticeably upwards. Bulkheads, seeming to lean inwards, blocked her view any further. When she got to one, her own orientation had shifted. It now seemed perfectly upright.
This hatch was more sturdy than her cabin door. A large wheel in the center held the bolts in place. She spun it, passed through, closed it behind her. As a main access corridor, this was quite wide. Three people could walk side by side quite easily. Most corridors were so narrow you go single file, turning side on to let other people pass. Ladders provide deck access, although there were flights of stairs in the busier parts of the primary hull.
And everywhere you went, you had to watch out for low pipes. It was actually worse in the primary hull. Designed as a zero gee enviroment, there were pipes and conduits on what was now the floor. She made a mental note to memorize as many of those as she could. It would be embarrassing to take a tumble in front of the crew.
The terminus stations were the points where the connecting fins met the secondary hull. It was here that one could catch the elevator to the primary hull. Next to the station itself was a relatively open lobby, not large, but significantly less cramped than anywhere else on the secondary hull. Some one had added a few pot plants. A couple of picnic style tables and benches gave a place to sit.
Hernandez found herself tensing slightly. Partridge was already there, in a vivid scarlet version of the outfit she'd worn the other day, signing books for the half dozen or so UESPAs present. There were also, she noticed, a couple of Marines present. One of them, a young woman only just within the minimum height requirement, saw her and snapped off a textbook salute.
"As you were." Hernande called before any one else could respond. "It's too early in the morning for all that jumping up and down business."
She was relieved to see smiles. Perhaps it was not too late to repair some of the previous days damage, and build up some good will amongst the crew.
There were a couple of vending machines in the lobby. She got herself a large black coffee and two all butter croissants. That'd keep her going until she'd had her physical. Afterwards, something from the main mess.
She sat at the unoccupied table, watching the group. Something struck her as odd. Partly it was strange to see so many hard copy books nowadays. Also, some of the things being proffered for signing couldn't be books. They were too wide, and thin.
She beckoned the two marines over, and asked to see what they had. Corporal M'boto, whose insignia marked him out as a technical specialist, carried a thick tome entitled 'How We Know What We Know: How science triumphed over other ways of discovery.'. The front cover was a montage of a telescope, a microscope, the double helix and a formula Hernandez didn't recognise.
The 'About the Author' page carried a head and shoulders picture of Partridge, sensibly dressed and with a serious expression.
She handed the book back with thanks, and turned to Corporal James. James wasn't carrying a book. James was carrying...
"A calender?" Hernandez turned to Partridge. "This is a calender!"
"I should hope so too. That's what I posed for!" Partridge giggled.
Hernandez was perplexed "But why?"
"Well, so you know what day it is, plan events, that sort of thing. Whatever calenders are usually used for. Oh! Do you mean, why did I pose for one?"
"Charity. I do one every year. Back at uni I did a bit of modelling, to pay off the student loan. Still like to do it occasionally. Relaxes the mind after contemplation of the cosmos. Hey, do you reckon Captain Archer will let me do a shoot on Enterprise? There's a couple of fabulous locations!"
If this had been a military ship there'd have been no chance, but Hernandez was rapidly losing track of what was considered appropriate on Enterprise. "You'd have to ask him." she said weakly.
As she finished her croissants and coffee, she thumbed through James' calender. Partridge had signed it on the March page. "To Autumn, from the girl of your dreams, XXX Polly!"
"That's what I asked for." said James, slightly defensively, when Hernandez enquired.
"Yeah, a lot of people like March best." Partridge had finished her autographing, and had caught the conversation.
Hernandez carefully folded the calender and handed it back to James. "You don't think you're maybe sending out the wrong message?"
"I'm not deliberately sending out any sort of message. It's just intended as a bit of fun. That calender, I'm reproducing images from old movies, that's all."
Hernandez thought about this. "Ah. That could explain why a well known pacifist was carrying a big gun."
"Oh yeah, November." She struck a pose, pointing an imaginary gun to her right. "Dodge this! Boom! Yes? Yes, you know that one, right? No? Did you recognize any of the pictures?"
"I'm sorry, I don't really have much time for movies. Especially old ones." she replied, wondering if Partridge was mentally stable.
"Oh, you're no fun. What do you do to wind down?"
Hernandez opened her mouth to answer, and closed it again. The fact was, the service was her life. She really didn't have any outside hobbies or interests. She shrugged.
Partridge regarded her silently for a moment, before asking "Have you ever done any modelling?"
"It's not really my sort of thing!" Hernandez said quickly, before noticing the other womans mischievious grin.
A beep from her watch reminded her she had an appointment. "I have to go. Medical check up."
"I'll come with you. I have to ask the doctor something."
Hernandez said "Sure." whilst thinking, with my luck you get travel sick in elevators too...