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All the passengers heading for the colony
were concerned about what happened in
In any case, Carmen and Jared were meeting to work on the builders. Their purpose was to decide how to make the platinum. The biggest concern was getting it into a presentable form.
They were using an empty cargo-hold as a workroom. They had a few computers set up along with all the builders and Jared’s tools. The equipment was spread out along an old table they had found in another part of the ship. The chairs were the worst part of the room. They were wood and had no cushioning or even ergonomic design. Just looking at the chairs could make a person uncomfortable. They were a few decks from the galley, where the good chairs were, and neither of them felt it was worth the work to bring better chairs down.
Jared said of the platinum, “We haven’t really done any special shapes besides balls and items we scanned.”
“The shape can’t be two hard. We can plug in the dimensions.”
“It’ll take some time. On top of that, a plain bar might concern them. Most bars have numbers and markings on them. How do we explain the lack of those markings?”
“It shouldn’t matter,” she pointed out. “It’s platinum. They’ll find that out quickly enough.”
“We can’t risk not being prepared for the question.”
“What if we say the place we bought it had no time to stamp it?”
Jared remarked, “What if they think we just had somebody change its shape? Then they’ll think we have a precious metal machine!”
Carmen shook her head. “No. They don’t realize how simple what we are doing is. They probably think the ‘Midas Machine’ took as long to make as one of those diamond-creating machines, in which case a machine to make platinum would take as long. Plus, why bother making a machine for platinum once you have a machine for gold?”
“Platinum is more valuable, so it makes sense to make one.”
“Exactly, so we would never have made a Midas machine in the first place!”
He nodded, “OK, I get what you mean. Therefore, we can make plain bars, but it’ll take time. We still need to make it work faster.”
“How are the hardware changes going?”
“Slow. It’s hard to work in these conditions.”
“What if I changed the code to compensate for physics? It probably won’t solve the issues here on a rocking ship but for movement in one direction we can probably get more accuracy.”
He agreed, “Sounds good! Every bit helps. I’ll still make the hardware changes. Hopefully they’ll be done before we get there.”
“Cool,” she said with a smile. “So now we better get to Kara’s birthday!”
He smacked his forehead, “I forgot about it completely. I was going to make her something.”
“I hadn’t decided yet. I was thinking something with the builder, but I had no time to think about it. What’s Keith giving her?”
She chuckled, “Oh, you’ll see.”
“Hey, no fair, I want to know! As your father I command you to tell me!”
She laughed, “Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Besides, you’ll know soon enough anyway.”
“I hate waiting for surprises.”
“This isn’t even a surprise for you.”
“It’s still a surprise. Plus, it’s a secret. Everybody wants to know secrets!”
“If I told you it wouldn’t be much of a secret!”
They laughed as they got up to go. Carmen powered down the computers and Jared put the builders in a safe spot in case the ship entered a storm. Thus far, they had been lucky and had fair sailing. Neither of them could imagine how rough an Atlantic storm could be.
When they got to the galley everybody else was already there, except for Kara. The captain and some of the crew were also there. Michelle walked over to them and said sarcastically, “I was worried you wouldn’t make it. Do I need to draw maps for you two?”
Jared said, “Maps sound good to me.” Michelle swatted his arm affectionately in response.
The galley was set up with balloons and streamers. There was even a Happy Birthday sign, but it was dog-eared from extensive use to celebrate other birthdays. On the buffet table, lunch was ready, along with a carrot cake that Aaron had made. Beside the table was a small pile of gifts. One of the packages was a huge green box.
Aaron stood and said, “OK, we’re ready. I’ll get her.”
“Get yourselves good hiding spots,” said the captain. Everybody crouched or found a place to hide. Sarah and the captain shut off all the lights as Aaron left. With the portholes covered, it was very dark.
After a few minutes Sarah whispered, “Here they come.”
When Aaron opened the door, Sarah and the captain turned on the main lights and everybody shouted, “Surprise!”
Kara screamed in delight, “You remembered.”
Sarah and Aaron walked over and hugged her. Sarah said, “Of course we remembered. Nine hours of labor are hard to-,” she cut herself short when she realized Michelle was listening.
Michelle laughed, “It’s OK, and I know what’s in store.”
Kara noticed the presents, “How about I open these now!”
Aaron said, “Nope, you know the tradition. Eat first, then gifts.”
“But, Dad, I’m an adult now.”
Sarah said, “You might be 18, but you’ll always be our girl.”
Kara frowned in dismay, “All right.”
Everybody got a plate of food and started eating. Kara was the second to finish. Michelle wasn’t hungry because of the medicine for the nausea, so she ate very little . . . which seemed to concern Jared. Fortunately, it was still early in the pregnancy and the fetus didn’t require much food.
As soon as Kara finished, she waited as patiently as she could for everybody else to finish. While waiting, she noticed how slowly some people ate. Her father, for example, would take small bites so if somebody started to talk to him he could quickly swallow the food to reply politely. Then there was her mother who had bigger bites but had to follow each bite with a long drink followed by a pause. Keith ate his food fast, but his conversation with Carmen took a toll on his speed. Carmen was eating at about the same rate.
Kara noticed that the captain was unconcerned with his appearance while eating. He made loud chewing noises that could be heard a table away. He chewed his food with his mouth open. He would take huge bites, which were usually too much for him to handle at once, so he seemed to chew it for an excruciatingly long time. When he was done, he swallowed it all down at once.
When they were all finally finished, she glared at her father looking for his approval to continue. He nodded his OK. She walked to the pile and picked out the huge green box. She picked it up and read the tag. “This one’s from Keith . . . that explains the color scheme.” Her mother shot her a disapproving look. She shrugged and started to open the box. After unwrapping and opening it she pulled out a slightly smaller box, this time wrapped in red. Inside the red box was a slightly smaller blue box. She continued to find smaller boxes in yellow, orange, brown, black, and finally a box barely a few inches on all sides wrapped in white. Inside it was a folded envelope. She opened the envelope and pulled out a USB flash drive. On its label, it listed two album’s worth of music tracks for a boy band called the Escape Artists. She smiled and said, “This is one of my favorite bands! Thank you, Keith!”
She continued through the gifts. Carmen had got her an electronic book of poetry. Her parents got her a laptop. Michelle gave her a sweater. When she opened it Michelle said, “I’m sure it’s not something you were hoping for, but I’ve gotten into a knitting mood. I hope you like it.”
It was a nice sweater. The sweater was thick enough to keep a person warm on the coldest of days. It was mostly red, but had a pattern with a few other colors. Kara tried it on and said, “It’s nice and warm, thank you!” She kept the sweater on for the rest of the day.
When they were finally done and Kara had thanked everybody, Aaron announced, “It’s time for cake.”
He cut a huge piece for Kara, but Kara said, “Dad, I can’t eat that much.” He cut it in half then lifted his eyebrows asking if it was better. She nodded and took a piece. The cake was very rich and moist. Everybody had a piece.
Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2006 Forest J. Handford