March 02, 2009

Chapter IV - Namaste

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The low yet slightly irritating buzz was effective: Roberto woke up.
As in the last three shifts, he would feel amazingly alive right after that buzz, fully awake, his senses sharp. He then vigorously flew off his sleeping bag, safely strapped onto the wall, and went for the closest window.
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This had become Roberto's routine since the first time he woke up on board the Namaste, and the reasons were obvious. The amazing sight of the Earth hanging in the void of space was one of those reasons; the other reason was that soon he wouldn't have this view anymore.
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From the corner of the eye Roberto noticed someone else leaving the sleeping cubicle next to his.
The other man floated quietly towards the same window, his swollen eyes denouncing the recent deep sleep, yet smiling as he saluted.
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-"Good morning!"
-"Good evening, Sameer! The sun sets in a couple of minutes." - replied the Brazilian, joking with the situation.
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Indeed, they had a sunset and a sunrise every hour and a half as their spaceship orbited Earth.
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-"Yes, it is weird, but we won't stay enough time to get used to it." - said the man bearing India's national flag sewn above his chest pocket.
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-"Thank God!" - Roberto was still looking outside the window - "Sixteen sunsets a day could be quite romantic... if you were on a beach!"
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Sameer smiled at the idea of experiencing several sunsets while enjoying the sea breeze in the company of Dhatri, his adorable wife.
As in a telepathic call, Dhatri Sharma appeared floating from Module 3, the spaceship section also known as Meeting Point. Right behind her came Gabriela Sacchetti, the Brazilian biologist meant to be Roberto's companion in this venture; better put: adventure.
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-"So..." - started the Indian medical doctor - "The boys are enjoying the view while the rest of us work hard?"
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The men laughed, knowing that Dhatri was joking, as both women were initiating their own pre-sleep leisure period.
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-"There isn't much geology to be done right now" - excused himself Roberto -"I'm kind of out of work."
-"So am I!" - cheered Gabriela while embracing her Brazilian mate; they both kissed.
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In a much more subtle way, with only a gentle touch with their hands, the Indian couple expressed their fondness while floating near one another. The Indian biochemist looked outside the window one last time before inviting his wife:
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-"Let's see how many mails we got this time?"
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Dhatri smiled and started the way back to Meeting Point, promptly followed by her husband, while the Brazilian couple stayed behind in the sleeping area.
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-"What about a little romancing above the earthlight, you and I?" - proposed Roberto.
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Gabriela smiled at the "under the moonlight / above the earthlight" word play, while yet another sunset created a wonderful colour display.
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-"As long as we keep it by the rules..." - she smiled back, longing for a more passionate kiss.
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Yes, the rules. The rules that prohibited conception and pregnancy aboard the Namaste; the rules limiting each couple's free time together and working together. In fact, the shift system ran in a complex carousel that allowed a couple to spend one hour of leisure on every twelve hour period. Each astronaut had one hour of free time prior and after a four hour sleep period, followed by six hours for mission tasks; this completed twelve hours, or a cycle.
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Two cycles made a 24 hour "day" full of "sleep periods", "leisure periods" and "task periods".
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Planning a schedule obeying certain rules, as that in any situation could not:
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- more than half the crew be in "sleep period";
- the Mission Commander and the 1st Officer (2nd in command) have coincidental "sleep periods", even partially;
- all crew be either in "sleep" or "leisure periods" (at least one crew member had to be engaged in mission tasks);
- a couple have coincidental "sleep periods", even partially;
- a couple have fully coincidental "task periods",
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It wasn't easy even when only considering the two couples.
But the Namaste had a six member crew.
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The special clock hanging in a Meeting Point's wall was something of a masterpiece, with seven concentric displays - one for each astronaut with every period depicted and an inner display with the hours depicted - all of these displays rotating around a centre that held a static hour hand.
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All six astronauts had spent the last two months on Earth living under these schedules in order to adapt themselves to what would be their reality for the next seven months.
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When Sameer and Dhatri arrived Module 3 they saluted Anshul Singh in the Hindu fashion, but no talk was started as the Indian commander was visibly tired and the clock display indicated where he was going.
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-"In less than an hour I'll be going in that direction too." - said Dhatri - "So let's hurry with the e-mails to leave some quality time for us."
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Sameer kissed her, feeling comfortable with the notion that no one else was there to see this demonstration of love.
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-"Time flies away when I'm with you" - he whispered next to her.
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She smiled back to her husband.
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-"We are flying away, together, my dear."
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4 comments:

Femin Susan said...

Woah !! what an immersing story....simply couldn't wait to know the end...
nice write

Monsal Varga said...

I told you I would start to honour my most faithful reader ;)

I've decided that India would be the other nation to interact with Brazil.

There weren't many options: Russia, China and Iran besides the already mentioned India and Brazil.

But this forced me to change a bit my idea of the story, so the next chapters will have a twist that I'm already loving (evil grin)!

Stay tuned :)

Stanis said...

nice one again! it's funny, the struggle to get quality time together!

Monsal Varga said...

All with a purpose, Stanis, all with a purpose :)