Aoraki – Cyanos Space Agency
Thursday – late afternoon
Since it had finally been agreed by all, that the boys would take the lode stones and the remaining stone cairns to the TETs, the last few hours had been a whirlwind of activity. After being whisked to CaSA with a police lights and sirens escort, (best police ride ever – according to Dieter) there had been numerous rapid fire briefings. Protocols, safety and emergencies, along with loads of other things that the boys were quite sure they would never remember even if they tried.
A level of consternation mixed with hilarity was generated when they were being fitted with their flight suits. It had taken some time to find one small enough for Tag. Eventually someone remembered there was a spare suit out the back that had been made when they were still using chimpanzees as test pilots. For Jaak and Dieter, they found this to be absolutely hilarious, with Tag having to endure a certain level of ooh-ooh and ahh-ahh-ing from his friends.
Jaak: So Tag, if you and me are going to be nekonauts then what does that make Dieter?
Tag: A doggy-dough-naut!
Dieter: Oh very funny coming from the chimp suit boy – we can call you Ham Solo!
Tag: Well if I am Ham Solo, then that must make you Chewbarker!
Jaak: Hey Diet, I wonder if the shuttle has wind-down windows, you could stick your head out and laugh at the cow that jumped over the moon!
The friendly banter between the boys was useful in that it helped to keep their minds off some of the more serious aspects of what they were about to do.
Thursday – early evening
Finally, with medical check-ups complete, the CaSA technicians and ground crew must have decided that they had briefed the boys the best they could and that they should try to get some rest before their scheduled blast off early the following morning. After a dinner of burgers and milkshakes (best pre-spaceflight dinner ever according to Dieter) they were shown to a dormitory bunk room where they strangely found themselves to be tired – but not tired all at the same time. Nevertheless, they climbed into their bunks and talked amongst themselves about what the flight was going to be like and what might happen once they got up to the orbiting TETs.
Tag: So, we are all going to go to a different TET right?
Jaak: Yup – that’s right. I’m going to TET-1, Dieter is going to TET-2, that’s where his sister Hanne is stationed, and you’re going to TET-3.
Tag: So that means – that this is gonna to be our last night together until we get back.
There were a few moments of silence. Then a small voice spoke again.
Tag: I’m scared.
Another deeper voice quickly answered.
Dieter: Come here buddy. Sleep with me – I’m a bit scared too.
Friday – very early morning
It seemed like they had only just fallen asleep when one of the CaSA technicians came to wake them for an early breakfast.
It was still dark outside. Very dark.
Dieter: Ugh – what time is it?
Jaak yawned and stretched.
Jaak: Half past sparrow’s fart I reckon.
Tag started to knead at Dieter with his paws to make him get up.
Tag: I’m hungry! What’s for breakfast?
Jaak: I tell ya – you might be the smallest one of us Tag, but you sure do make up for it by eating the most!
Tag was secretly pleased that he could hold his own with anyone when it came to eating, and he feigned modesty with a wicked grin.
Tag: One tries.
After breakfast, they all trooped over to the flight preparation building to get suited up and to meet their pilot.
Jarvis: Good morning young masters!
Dieter: Jarvis! What are you doing here?!
Jarvis: The Hundeerde Government in cooperation with the Cyanos Government, sees to it that I am fully trained for any and all eventualities. Which it would seem now includes piloting lode bearers to TET stations when required.
Tag: Wicked! Did you pack road-trip snacks?
Jarvis: As a matter of fact Master T – I did.
Dieter: You’re the best Jarvis!
Jarvis: Oh no Sir! From what I hear, you and your friends are the best!
Knowing that their pilot was someone they knew and trusted, made them all feel much better and it helped to calm the butterflies that kept trying to take flight every so often inside them. It was still dark as they all got into the van that would take them to the launch pad, the shuttle, and on to the TETs that awaited them.
Fun fact: Read more about Ham the astrochimp here.