“When did your tracker start working?”
Adelaide looked up at the chief engineer of the Kerwood. Her hair cascaded like a weeping willow, and she was forced to part it with her gloved hands to see the concerned look on Jeremy’s face.
“Hey, ChEng,” Adelaide greeted him when their eyes met. “When I was monkeying with the EXT during our escape last week, I brushed against a fiber optic bundle and burned the slag outta my coveralls. Might’ve jolted it back to life.” Her eyes focused briefly on the piece of equipment she was repairing, and she returned her attention to Jeremy. “Those were my favorite coveralls.”
Jeremy smiled. “You get zapped?”
Adelaide nodded. “Almost bit my slagging tongue off.”
“What’re you working on?”
Adelaide made no attempt to reveal what she was working on. Jeremy tried to peer through greasy locks of hair to see what she hunched over. He squinted and stared at Adelaide through narrowed eyes.
“Fine!” she declared with a huff and a sigh. She swept her hair aside and leaned back to reveal a series of pipes and fiber optics.
Jeremy looked at the amalgamation of technology, and he couldn’t hide the fact that he had no idea what she was working on. “What is it?” he whispered.
“Well,” Adelaide began, and then looked over her shoulder to the open doorway to Main Engineering. “When we burnt the thrusters out-”
“‘We?’” Jeremy retorted.
Adelaide leaned back and crossed her arms over her chest. Jeremy waved his hand for her to continue.
“They burned through the chemical store we, uh, borrowed from the Matsue.”
Jeremy nodded. “We don’t have an easy way to decelerate when we get home.”
“We only depleted our supply of fluorine,” Adelaide explained. “We still have plenty of LOX and LH2.”
“Right,” Jeremy replied, “we can use the liquid oxygen and hydrogen we have for the environment to burn off the last of our acceleration once we get to Earth orbit.”
Adelaide rolled her eyes. “We’d be better off getting someone to kinetically decelerate us. I have another plan for some of our remaining LH2.”
“Better than keeping us from overshooting the Earth and wandering the inner planets until the food we stole from the Matsue runs out?”
“It’s more of an adaptation of an old side project, ChEng.”
“Why are you avoiding the question, Adelaide?”