Building the COB

The observable universe was something near 100 billion lightyears across and all but half of a hundred-quintillionth of it was empty space, so Leia felt justified when she woke up feeling annoyed about her cramped quarters. When it was complete, the COB—Callisto Orbital Basecamp—would serve as the gateway between the inner system and the as of yet unsettled Jovians. But with budget overruns and one freak accident after another it was starting to feel like construction would go on forever.

As it was now, her accommodations were something between a dorm room and a coffin. Maybe a jail cell. A cube, two meters to a side, with a dry wash station in one corner adjacent to the sanitary waste unit. Stacked storage lockers took up one full side. She opened one and did the first half of her daily dance, removing her well-worn pressure suit and stowing her bedding. Leia’s stomach grumbled. The corridors linking the crew accommodations to the storage modules where the food was kept—the cafeterias were not yet functional—weren’t sealed, and she didn’t have the energy to don and then remove her suit just to choke down a glob of protein muck and suit back up all over again. She’d rather just get to work.

Leia shimmied and squirmed and contorted her way into her suit like a mouse trying to force its way down the throat of a satiated python.

Outside her accommodations she made her way from one module to the next. The independent rotational systems were not all active, so she slipped from zero-g to artificial gravity several times. It was a bit like hopping freight cars, if the trains were doing loop-de-loops. At least she’d acclimated to that; no space sickness for…must be six months now.

The COB construction crews worked in three-shift gangs. The previous shift was floating around doing two things: shit and nothing. The rest of her shift hadn’t arrived yet, probably having breakfast, so she checked in with the gang foreman. There’d been a micrometeorite impact that depleted the argon tank. Couldn’t do anything until the next supply run from Juno brought a replacement. That was still nine days out. Union rules said the workers still had to show up and remain present for their shifts. Stupid.

When the COB was finally completed, it would be a marvel. Functional. Efficient. Luxe, even. And when that day came, Leia would hightail it back to Ceres and never look back.

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