Thompson gathered his gear and walked over to the changing station, and started the laborious process of suiting up. Kim helped hold the power pack and temperature control up as he shrugged his shoulders to settle the weight. Some awkward work with his hands on the inside, and Kim on the outside, sealed the suit. He trundled into the air lock as Kim slid the ammonia and the toolkit in with him. The outer starboard radiator had been losing pressure, indicative of a micrometeorite hit. He stepped out onto the truss, hooking his safety line up to a handy eyelet, and simply gazed up at the stars.
I feel like a kid again out here. You never see them so bright back home. Too much light to see them. He gazed up at Orion, and remembered the comics and science fiction books that had fired his imagination as a boy. Never fails, every step is like reminiscing. He shook his head and slowly worked his way to the radiator. He reached the long ‘downward’ hanging radiator after ten minutes of careful maneuvering, then began the visual inspection. Normally, things could be pinpointed with a lot more accuracy using the computers to check the pressure fluctuations, but this leak was small and slow enough that the only clue was the pressure drop on the panel.
He shifted his tether to an eyelet at the ‘top’ of the radiator, then slowly worked down the shaded side. Once the tether reached it’s limit, he clipped the second in place then moved to unlock the first, in a slow two-forward-one-back motion that kept one tether locked to an eyelet. Thompson looked over each section and found a leak one third of the way down the radiator. It was a small micrometeorite hit that splattered the aluminum like melted wax, splashing a hole the size of his thumb in the radiator. Thompson checked the panel, turned off the local valves, then pulled the damaged panel, and replaced it with one of the spares. The entire operation took three hours to complete. He turned the local valves back to on, (no need to worry about losing vacuum in space), and once the seals checked out, he returned to the station and activated the pumps on the radiator. The seals held. The system was fully operational. He vented a gallon of ammonia from the ten gallon reserve into the radiator to replace the loss, then made the slow trip back to the airlock.
“How many zpare zections we have left in that pallat?”, asked Ingers.
“I counted six, so we’re pretty flush with spares, plus the eight coming up with the next re-supply in two days. So fourteen, which should last for the next year, if the one-a-month average holds steady.” Ihlen replied with a smile.
“Goot news then. I vill put in the reportz.”
“That works for me, then I don’t have to,” Thompson added. Like the others up here, they all knew meticulous records had to be kept, but hated redundancy, so if one person was turning in a report, they would announce it so others didn’t have to repeat the same information to ground control.
Thompson went to the galley to get a snack. The work had gotten his appetite going. As he floated down the connection section to the galley, he saw Ms Shukla at the window, looking out. Her lips wore a wide grin and small ‘ooohs’ escaped her lips as she enjoyed some view. What the heck, it’d be fun to talk her up. He did a slow glide to end up next to her by the viewport.
“On your left”, he said softly, so as not to surprise her. “What are you seeing, miss?”, he said, and winced internally. God what a lame line, I’ll be surprised if she says anything.
She turned her dark brown eyes to his own, and he found himself transfixed in the gaze. He felt like a deer in a set of headlights, then the eyes turned away back to the viewport.
“The lights. There are so many blinking lights. Do the cities all do that from up here?”, she asked him, her soft Indian accent making her words sound like a cat’s purr. Thompson sat for a moment, taken by her beauty, before he realized she’s asked the question.
“Oh, yeah, umm, let’s see here.” He joined her by the viewport, and looked down. The familiar coast of the United States was fading off to the left of the viewport. Europe was coming into view. The nighttime sky had the major cities lit up like bright spots on the dark surface. As Thompson watched the scene, a flash to his left seemed to brighten, then dim a portion of southern Florida. “Huh, I wonder what that was”, He mumbled, curious.
“I have seen it three times now”, Shali told him. “Mostly it was along the..American east coast, at the middle and lower middle along the edge.”
“Middle and lower middle?”, Thompson asked her.
“Yes”, she replied. “I think your eastern American coast, Washington?” Thompson thought about that.
“I guess we’ll find out on our next pass over the coast. As they watched, there was a bright flare near London, which rapidly faded away, leaving a blacked out are where there used to be lights. “A power outage?”, Thompson mused aloud.
“It got brighter before it went dark. Does that happened with a power outage?”, Ms Shukla asked him.
“Not to my way of thinking. A power loss should just make things go black, not light up and then wink out.” There was a slight movement at the corner of his eye. He turned to see Col. Vyhovsky gliding towards them.
Eugeni Vyhovsky was the Team’s commander. He had made colonel in the Ukrainian military for fighting a stubborn defense against the Russian invasion of his country twelve years ago. The Russians had been turned back by the Ukrainians and by global political sanctions, but Russia’s dream of a new Soviet Union was still very much alive, which is why the Cooperative station had been accelerated in construction. The International Space Station had been decommissioned by the Russians who found that equipment mysteriously failed when they had tried to upgrade the station into a military complex. The station had fallen out of orbit over the pacific and fell apart on re-entry. The incident deepened the new cold war between the Russians and the US, which is why the US was happy to work with China and Japan in a joint construction venture for the new station.
“Good day Ms Shukla, how are you finding your time on the station?”, Vyhovsky asked her. The woman turned and smiled warmly.
“It is very exciting”, she said, then looked back out the viewport. “Such a view will be something I shall never forget. It will be sad to leave so soon. I will miss this amazing place.”
It’ll be good to get back to a normal routine without a tourist, but I’m sure gonna miss the view, Thompson thought. He looked over at Vyhovsky, who seemed to be having similar thoughts. Ms Shukla seemed oblivious to Vyhovsky’s gaze. She’s probably gotten that a lot with her career. She probably has to keep things oblivious so that she’s not flooded with suitors over there. It makes her kind of high-maintenance though she doesn’t seem that way up here.