Boy Mechanic

11 July 2020

The Starship Maranger was huge. Timon knew the dimensions by heart. 563 meters long, 110,000 metric tons in mass. But seeing it gave his mind a sense of scale. This was truly an interplanetary ship.

Timon had never been beyond low Earth orbit. Now, as his shuttle approached the L3 point where the Maranger was harbored, he could feel his life changing. He had worked for three years to reach this point, and now it was finally coming true. Assistant Mechanic, third class. He was going to learn to fix starships and travel through the solar system.

The chair straps gripped his shoulders has the shuttle began to decelerate. It was hard to judge distance in space, but they must be within a few hundred klicks of the Maranger if the shuttle was beginning docking maneuvers. Another half-hour or so, and he would be boarding a starship.

When the shuttle finally docked, Timon noticed that the docking port was tiny. Not much bigger than his safety suit. Timon had to line up his duffle bag lengthwise to fit it through the lock. The docks for passengers and cargo were much larger. Several meters across. But this was a service dock, used for work shuttles and maintenance access. The lock felt cramped, but Timon knew he would need to get used to it. He would be using it a lot. A third of engine work was typically done in suit outside of a ship. It simply wasn’t cost-effective to cover it all and surround it with air.

The inner dock opened to reveal a woman. She was short and stocky, with short brown hair in loose curls. She grabbed Timon’s duffel bag and pulled it into the ship. Then she grabbed Timon by the shoulder.

“Welcome aboard, son,” she said loudly.

“P…Permission to board.” Timon stammered.

“Given, granted, done.” the woman replied. “No need for formalities, my boy. We’ve got to get you lodged. Only an hour before thrust.”

“An hour?” Timon asked. “Was the shuttle late?”

“Not at all!” she said cheerfully. “But time is money, as the upfolk say. No time for us to deadfloat.” She looked him over, saw a face of confusion. “Dear me, you are green. But Lords, where are my manners. The name’s Mara. Old Mare if you’ve known me a while, which now you have.”

“You’re the head engineer,” Timon said.

“My, no,” Mara said. “She’s on the bridge. I’m just chief of engines. But I am your boss.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Timon said. Mara chuckled.

“Your manners are adorable. But you’ll lose them soon enough.” She tossed his bag down a long hall and motioned him to follow. She floated down the hall with a simple push. But Timon struggled to move down the hall. He kept bumping into the sides. Half floating, half crawling.

Mara was waiting for him at the end. She looked impatient, but not mad. As Timon reached her, he turned the corner and saw an even longer corridor. He felt so discouraged. Mara looked at him with a smile and placed a hand on his shoulder. She gave a short nod.

“I know it’s overwhelming right now.” She said. Her voice was softer, quieter. “But you’ve earned your place here, Timon. If you just follow three rules, you’ll do just fine.”

“What rules?”

“Pay attention. Do what I tell you when I tell you. And if you are ever lost or in trouble, just tell folk you’re one of Mara’s foals.” She smiled broadly and winked at him.

“Now,” she said, “Keep your body slack, and don’t hang on.” She tightened her grip on his suit and tossed him down the corridor. It was a perfect throw, and he floated down the hall without touching any walls. Timon put his hands up to stop at the end of the corridor. A few moments later his duffel bag bounced against him. Mara was right behind. They had reached a cluster of small rooms. Quarters, Timon assumed.

“Second on the left,” Mara said. “Has your name on it and everything.” She floated past him, opened the door, and tossed in his bag. “Make yourself comfortable, my boy. Stow your bag, and strap in. Old Mare’s got work to do before thrust, but I’ll be back to check on you soon.”

With that, Mara floated back down the hall.