World’s Eye View – 15

The six crowded back into the control room. “I was doing what Mr. Ingers said to do, and I got a signal!”, Slaila shouted excitedly. “I left it on the channel and turned on the main channel and called you!” Her excitement made her glow in Thompson’s eyes. Oh my god she’s beautiful! Roels, you lucky, lucky bastard! “It was just a buzzing sound, someone’s voice, but it is a signal.” Vyhovsky and Ingers moved to the scanner. Ingers sat down and began to check the system, punching filters to scrub out white noise, and lowering the threshold to compensate for the weak signal. “Koll, what do you think it might be?”, Vyhovsky queried him. “Most likely some HAM operator. We should have been getting military traffic, but nothing’s come through. I can check the antennas. Why didn’t any of you look at them?” Vyhovsky grimaced. “It slipped through the cracks. You think with how important it is…”, He grumbled. Kim’s voice sliced through their chat. “It’s because he didn’t want us to go back home!” Kim floated back from the knot around the scanner.

Don’t you all see it? If we can’t listen, we can’t find out the … status of the world. We don’t know that it’s safe. We don’t know if it’s poisoned beyond saving. He keeps it all to himself like a bloated spider in a web!” Kim was shouting at the end, and Thompson, was alarmed at how changed his friend looked. Kim had lost weight, and looked gaunt. His burly frame had melted back to a hungry lankiness that reminded Thompson of a starving coyote. Ingers glanced at Vyhovsky, then at Kim, then at Vyhovsky again. “What friend Kim is saying, is this true?”, Ingers asked him. Vyhovsky looked at Ingers, and Thompson felt a chill that had nothing to do with the air. “No, it is not true. Why would I hide something so obvious?”

Why did no one look at the antennas?”, Ingers asked him again. “Because it was missed. We had many things to take care of, and that was one that fell out of sight. An oversight, that is simply all it was.” Vyhovsky looked fierce. His position as leader was being questioned directly, and even though Thompson did the same thing, forgetting about the antennas, he still felt doubt creep into his mind. “Hey, how about we talk later, Salilia did Ingers..”, Thomson started to ask, and Kim cut him off. “We will talk about it now! This is important, we need to know why he hid it from us!”

I didn’t hide anything!”, Vyhovsky roared. Everyone seemed to float back involuntarily from him. Kim’s really pushing his buttons. Maybe he forgot. Hell, we all forgot, even Kim. “I forget. We all forget the antennas. Why didn’t you remember, Myung? Huh? You forget too!” Vyhovsky’s accent thickened as his anger did the same. Thompson watched the red creep up his neck and sufuse his cheeks and forehead almost crimson in the artificial lighting. Kim floated back, and then pushed to one side, just behind Ingers. “You made certain we wouldn’t ask, by continuously making drills, and work when we didn’t need to. You used Friend Ingers illness to further your ends. Using him to control all of us up here!”

HEY!”, Thompson yelled as loudly as he could, startling the two men. He saw Roels and Salila flinch from the sounds and reach for each other’s hand. “You forgot, Eugene, and you, Kim, you forgot too.” “DON’T!” He said loudly as Kim opened his mouth. “Just drop it.” He watched Vyhovsky listen, his face still red, his hands clenching so tightly to the handhold that they had turned white. Did I just screw myself here? Are they both going to jump me for butting in? He watched with a great sense of relief as Vyhovsky’s hands slowly loosened on the handhold, and color returned to them. Kim glared at Vyhovsky, and at Thompson in undisguised hatred. Then the mask of hate disappeared behind a bland exterior as Kim in haled then exhaled slowly. “You are right, friend David. We are trying to survive. This could have been resolved more easily if we had followed the voting procedure”, Kim explained. His demeanor chnged completely, being closer to the old Kim. Thompson felt a glimmer of hope that things might resolve quielty.

Again with the voting?!”, Vyhovsky spat. “Is everything a vote?” He gestured to the people in the room. “Are they a vote?” He gestured at the scanner. “Is it a vote?”, he snarled at Kim. “We are not in a position to vote. Voting wastes time needed for repair, and maintenance.” He took a ragged breath. Thompson could hear his voice starting to rasp from all the angry shouting. “We no what we need to do, no voting needed to know the station needs maintenance. We need to hold on until we can find out what we need to do.” He looked up at the ceiling, then to the floor, and finally to Kim once more. “This hamster cage make us all crazy.” Kim gave Vyhovsky a strangled look, and Ingers looked back at him as if he’d heard something. Kim shook his head, and seemed to calm. “You are right, friend Eugeni, all this does change one, if they allow it to.”

Vyhovsky blinked in surprise at Kim’s statement, obviously expecting something more venomous. Thompson watched the two slowly wind down from the near-conflict. He looked carefully at Roels and Salila, watching their reactions. They are the ones who are going to be pushed the hardest in all this. By trying to stay out of the middle, they’re putting themselves square in it. Me and Eugeni on one, Ingers and Kim on the other. They’re the deciding factor regardless of how much they want to be left out. He looked back over to Vyhovsky, who was gliding to the exit. He looked hunched up, as if tired of the whole situation. Kim’s been riding hikm with little things ever since they started arguing about Ingers. How much has that taken out of each of them?

Thompson shrugged, then floated over towards Roels and Salila Shukla, who were at that moment getting food packs out of the storage. Thompson noticed neither ever tried to look around, but concentrated solely on procuring and readying the food. He bumped the table as he used it to brake his drift through the room, which startled both Roels and Salila. Thompson noted Ingers long, calculating glance towards the three of them before he left the galley. Kim waited as Ingers left then launched himself at the trio across the room. Thompson moved to the side to let Kim brake by bumping the table, as he did. He made certain that Kim landed to his right while keeping the others to his left, effectively blocking Kim from speaking directly to them.

We are needing to find a way to deal with our situation. I know small spats occur on all missions, but none really have had to deal with the same conditions as this. There must be an open way to air difficulties”, He stated as Thompson floated across the table to get himself and Kim a food pack. He pulled one out, checked the title, then gave it a slow push towards Kim, who caught it and nodded as he read the pack label. “This is a good one. Thank you, David”, Kim said with a tired smile. “It is your favorite. I swear, if you’d been the one doing the ordering that would be all we’d have in the storage locker”, Thompson teased him. Kim’s face twisted angrily for a moment, then he slapped his hand down on the table and pulled himself to one of the ergo chairs, hooking his feet into it. “You, are right”, he said with a forced smile.

World’s eye view – the origin story

A few years back, I was at our friends place having barbecue, and Lloyd’s friend Dale talked about ‘Gravity’ and how that would be an awesome setting for a horror story.  I’m pretty sure he meant something like space zombies swarming the station, but I liked the idea of delving more into something like ‘Lord of the Flies’.  There seemed to be a lot more interesting potential in psychological horror than a ‘jump in your face’ kind.

The idea was intriguing and it took a few days to come up with the concept.  The general idea is that while the astronauts were in space, a crisis occurred on earth that started a nuclear exchange.  All communication to earth was lost, and now the crew must figure out how to survive, and find a way home before their resources on the station run out.

It was hard finding information on the space station other than the wikipedia stuff.  There are live feeds from the station, so that was easy to observe and get a good feel for the station itself in terms of rooms, corridors, equipment, living spaces, etc.  The trouble was finding out what else was there.  Talking to one of Lloyd’s friends who actually worked at NASA was fun, but ultimately non-informational.  That in itself was information because a neutral response, at least for writers, is a kind of backhanded confirmation of the question.  So I had to go from factual to conceptual and somehow try to make my ideas ‘logical’ enough to feel real.

After that, the idea actually sat for a year before I picked it up again.  By then it had percolated in the subconscious long enough to have a good feel to it.  And here we are, 14 posts in.  I’ll be adding new posts every Tuesday, and doing a more generic blog entry on Thursdays.  Thanks for reading and if you have questions or comments, please leave them.  Commentary is a writer’s best friend  🙂

World’s Eye View – 13

Roels, Kim, are you ready for ignition?”, Vyhovsky barked. The two men nodded as Vyhovsky settled at the controls. The layout of the station’s room meant that two men were needed to run the controls. One to monitor the fuel use, and control flow, the other to time the burn, and monitor engine pressure. Vyhovsky had chosen to perate the engines, and had put Roels on fuel monitoring. Kim was there to assist and monitor the proximity of any space debris. It was highly unlikely that any debris was in the five kilometer window the station typicall occupied, but after wall they had seen, it was more important to be ready, rather than surprised and sorry. “Fuel on, pressure nominal at three hundred psi”, Fuel feed ready”, intoned Roels. “Engine ready. Ignition in three, two, one, ignition.”

Vyhovsky watched the pressure on the engines as Roels monitored the fuel. The burn continued for twelve seconds, enough to slow descent. Two more braking burns would be done, to stabilize the station at zero descent. Another burst would start the push upwards. Two more would create the rise to the new altitude. This burn would go differently though. Instead of a last burn to kill momentum, Vyhovsky was planning on shortening the burn so the station would use its own momentum to eventually kill the ascent. Without telemetry from ground control, there was a good chance they would be in the range they wanted, but there was no means to be certain. It had taken a week of simulation and adjustment to the program to determine a best guess for burn time.

The first burn fired. The structure shuddered with the braking thrust. Thompson and the others could feel the rumble of the rockets when they touched the walls, otherwise the burn was quiet, more like a outdoor ai conditioning unit cutting on. All the members except for the three on the insturments, noticed the change immediately as they drifted to the ‘ceiling’. “Mark burn one”, Vyhovsky droned. “Pressure and flow prop…nominal”, Roels added. “No radar signature”, Kim finished. “Time three minutes until next burn”, Roels said. The lag between burns was to dampen and oscillation from the first braking burn. As the time approached Roels read off the seconds. “Three…two…one…Mark”, he counted, his voice rising in volume like an actor on stage, getting a wry smile from Vyhovsky. “Burn ignition”, he replied in a similar tone. Kim frowned at the two of them and continued his reports in a firm, detached manner, refusing to join in the humor.

The Lifting burn changed the direction of the momentum and Thompson felt weight in his arms for the first time in a while. He held onto the handhold and avoided being ‘dropped’ to the floor. He could hear Ingers grunt as he bounced off the floor, then scrabble for a moment under the acceleration for a handhold. It’d be funny if it was anyone else. Ingers just seems so intense now, we all act like even a smile at the wrong time could set him off, even though he hasn’t. He did chuckle as Salila giggled and landed upright on the ‘deck’. Roels looked over as Vyhovsky monitoered the burn. “Gravity, acceleration versus inertia. What an amazing thing”, he observed drily, bringing a chuckle from Vyhovsky. Kim appeared to smile also, and the sense of tension slowly eased.

The burn finished, and Vyhovsky locked the controls, so no accidental pressing of any commands could occur, and then closed the Lexan case over the machine to further isolate the controls. “Good job everyone, we can call it a day. Roels, when you go through maintenance tomorrow, take Ingers with you. He looks like he can handle himself.” Kim, who had started to leave the control room, spun at Vyhovsky’s statement. “He is not ready, he is still recovering.”

Vyhovsky looked over at Kim, as one might look at a roach scuttling on the floor. “He has been ready for days, it is time to let him pick up where he left off.” Kim looked over at Roels, who seemed to shrink in on himself under Kim’s gaze. “I…think he could use a … few more days. he still doesn’t look, healthy”, Roels quavered. Kim smiled and looked over to Thompson. Greeeeaaat. Just what we need, and power play. Thompson looked back at Kim, then to Roels, and finally to Vyhovsky. He tried to deflect the question by claming ignorance. “Are you asking my opinion? I’m not a psychiatrist.” He looked at Kim again, noting the deepening frown when he didn’t back Kim. Vyhovsky snorted, then stared over to Kim. “I am mission leader, so I am putting Ingers back on active duty.”

I am the one with the expertise in mental health”, Kim shot back. “I say he needs time to adjust still. We have made progress, but not enough to allow him to work. His mind is still disorganized. He could forget what he is doing partway through a critical repair. Do you want such a mind working on a system, knowing that any inattention might cause grievous harm or destruction? I do not think you do.” Kim smiled then continued. “Or perhaps you do. Perhaps you hope that Ingers will fail catastrophically, and the heroic Major Vyhovsky will have to come to the rescue. Perhaps that is what you’re wanting. Gods what bull. Does he expect us to swallow that? Well, he was acting strange around Salila. Maybe he could…no! Screw that. He’s acting odd because he’s got nothing to do. It’s boring up in the hamster house without having to be forced idle. He’s got to be just bored as hell trying to find something to do.

You gave up being mission leader when we had the vote. We are a democracy now. Which means everyone has a vote on what decisions should be made. Or have you forgotten?” Kim smiled again, only this time it was one of predatory triumph. Thompson was the only one that hadn’t voted, and the others back Kim’s idea simply because it was easier to get along than fight, atl least according to Roels and Salila. It’s easy, Vyhovsky and I on one side, kim on the other. Roels will back Vyhovsky. He’s got a head on his shoulders. It was when Kim turned to Roels again, and watched Roels wither under the gaze, that he realized the trap. He’s got Roels in his pocket, and Roels has Salila. With Ingers not voting he’s got 3 of the 5 votes. How can this be finessed? God, if you’re listening, I could really use some help right now.

World’s Eye View – 12

Thompson nodded. “It’s both our faults, so we share the blame, and joke about it over dinner after shift.” Ingers chuckled at the joke. Thompson was chilled to see the laugh didn’t reach his eyes. “I fill go back to the exercise room, friend Kim says I must push myself to counteract all the atrophy I put on my muscles, sleeping. Friend Kim says in two weeks I should be ready to go back on duty.” Thompson nodded, and smiled. “That’s great Koll. We’re gonna be glad for the extra help.” He looked to his left towards the front hatch of the galley. He didn’t know if Salila was inside still. Either way, if she was, or wasn’t keeping Ingers busy a few more minutes wouldn’t hurt. “How much exercise is Kim asking you to do?”, Thompson asked Ingers. “Enough to regain my health”, Ingers replied, shrugging his shoulders. “As long as I have been asleep, my body has weakened. Strengthening the body should strengthen the mind, Friend Kim says.”

That sounds like a plan, though that’s a lot of work just to get back to work. How are you going to take care of the calorie needs? We’re on a pretty strong rationing right now. All the food has to stretch as far as we can make it. We have to stay alive long enough to find a way home.” Ingers growled at the mention of ‘home’. “Yes, I want to go home, then I want to find those who fired the missiles. I want to talk with them very badly.” “So do I, Koll, so do I”, Thompson agreed with him, and this time when Ingers smiled, it seemed genuine as his eyes lit up like the Ingers of old after a bad joke or a good laugh. “I will remember, David. We’ll find those bastards, and have a little, personal, talk with them.” Koll looked down at his hands as he spoke, almost imagining what he would wrap them around if given a chance.

First, we need you back on duty, and then we have to start working on the ‘getting home’ part”, Thompson told Ingers. “I’m going to show Salila how to work the raido and how to sweep for signals. There’s no way bombs like that could wipe everyone off the face of the earth. There are people down there and we need to see if we can get some kind of idea what’s going on.” Ingers face flushed and he looked eagerly at Thompson. “I can show her how. I was a ham operator back in Stockholm. It should be easy to do.” Great, now what do I do? Ingers is crazy to see Salila, and she’s crazy when he’s around. Hell, we’re all crazy when she’s around. He trapped me neatly there. How do I pull the plug on his idea without becoming a target?

I think it’s something to think about”, Thompson hedged. He felt terrible about not shutting the idea down, and couldn’t shake the feeling something terrible was being set in place, but he couldn’t find it in himself to shut Ingers down. Half of it because he didn’t want to hurt the man, the other half because he was concerned what Ingers reaction would be. Ingers smiled like he’d been given the key to the candy store. “Thank you, It will work. I’m certain.” Thompson nodded numbly, and the feeling something was off kept gnawing at him. He forced the sensation away and concentrated on Ingers. “Let’s see what it’s like after everyone has given it some thought. Ms Shukla should be given a choice in things, she’s stuck up here as much as the rest of us.”

Ingers nodded, but it didn’t seem to Thompson he heard anything at all. “Ja, I fill teach her, She is intelligent, and focused. She will learn the basics quickly.” Ingers pushed off away from the corner, and down past the front hatchway to the galley. He glanced over for a moment, then continued on. She must have gotten out. That’s one nice thing about weightlessness, no footsteps to give you away. Though god I wish there was some way to get advance warning. The mirrors are supposed to give a picture around the corner. I wish we had more of them.

A World’s Eye View – 6

He uncurled from the ergo chair, then faced the small group. “I think we’re all tired. I think we need some rest before we go try and vote on anything. Right now we’ve been run ragged from everything that’s happened and no one has had time to deal with any of it.” He turned to Kim. “That’s what I think, now I’m going to bed. See you in the morning.”

He didn’t wait for Kim or Vyhovsky to say anything more, kicking away from the ergo chair and gliding to the hatchway leading back towards the lab and crew quarters. Sleeping on this is the best thing we could do. Thompson did his best to ignore Kim’s shouts as he left.

Thompson unzipped from the hammock bag in the morning, and dressed, then headed to the galley, only to find the chairs and tables scattered as if thrown in a tantrum. All had magnetized ‘feet’ so they would stick in any direction, which made the whole scene look vaguely like an M.C. Escher painting with chairs on every wall. The table leaned at a 45 degrees, with legs on a wall and on the ceiling. He sighed and started to move the furniture back into some semblance of normalcy when Roels floated in.

“You missed all the fun”, he said quietly. Thompson looked over. Roels looked similar to Vyhovsky, with large circles under his eyes, and a listless demeanor of the sleep-deprived.

“This doesn’t look llike it was much fun”, he replied drily. “This looks more like a spoiled kid with a temper tantrum.” Roels chuckled quietly.

“Maybe it was. Mr. Kim is certainly animated when he gets passionate about something.”

Well, what happened?”, Thomspon asked. Roels shrugged.

“Kim got his vote. Salila voted yes, I voted yes, you abstained by leaving Vyhovsky voted no, and with Ingers still sitting in catatonia, we had no reason not to vote yes. Vyhovsky looked like he was relieved. I think he’s waiting for Kim to screw it up. I’m half waiting. The whole reason I voted yes was to shut him up and let him dig his own hole with all the ‘democratic vote’. We’ll be voting on everything, I suppose. Vote on how many showers, how much activity, who does what job on what day.”

Thompson rolled his eyes. He floated over to the table, then hooked his legs into an ergo chair, and settled facing Roels. “So Eugeni just, let, Kim get the vote?”, Thompson asked him. Roels grimaced, and shrugged.

“That’s my opinion. Salila voted for it because I think she’s looking to fit in.” Roels ducked his head sheepishly, and continued. “She’s been spending a lot of time talking with me when I’m not on schedule.” Thompson smiled.

“Sounds like more than talk, Ben.” He chuckled softly as Roels blushed crimson.

“We’ve been talking. Just talking”, he mumbled.

“You sound pretty defensive about just talk”, Thompson teased.

“I can’t help it if it sounds that way. She’s an amazing person. How many people do you know who would come up here to promote a movie stunt?”, Roels mumbled.

“Well, there was that computer game exec what, about five, six years back? He payed his whole ticket himself to come up here. Lord something or other”, Thompson replied.

Okay so not so good example. She came up here because the company she works for wanted to promote the movie, and she did it”, Roels growled. “Talk about a lousy mess. How much karma, do you wonder, gets you marooned as the only woman with no scientific skills, on the International Orbital, with astronauts whose very existence requires science knowledge and engineering skills?” Thompson thought about it, and nodded.

“Yeah, talk about being out of place. Gotta be rough.” Roels shrugged.

“That’s most of what we’re talking about. She’s tough though. She’s got me teaching her about the equipment and duties. She wants to help out and ‘earn’ her way”, Roels told him. He looked down and Thompson could feel a shift in Benoit.

“How are you with it Roels? Really.” Roels looked over, a haunted expression in his eyes.

I’m concerned, for her welfare. A gorgeous woman aboard confined mini-home with horny men. Myself included”, Roels finished with a self-righteous air.

“Humble much?”, Thompson replied drily.

“When humbleness is required, of course”, Roels said with a smile. The smile vanished like magic. “This however, is nothing but misery. We need hope. Any kind of hope.” Thompson leaned back and let his legs uncurl from the chair.

“Everything here is set up to be efficient, and redundant. Our two main bottlenecks are ammonia reserve, and food”, Thompson said slowly. “And god knows what we’re going to do if Ingers doesn’t snap out of it.”

Roels nodded. “That bothers me quite a bit. On one hand, he is one of us, and we are morally obligated to give him every chance to snap out of the catatonia. On the other, pragmatic hand, we have finite supplies and he is a resource sink that will be harder and harder to justify the longer he remains catatonic.”

Thompson nodded. “There’s no clear answer at all right now. And, how much can we spare the time to tend to him?”

Roels sighed, sliding his hand down his face. “For the present, we can only do what we can, and trust to providence.”

The silence between them made Thompson restless. “I’m going to go do a visual check of the panels from the video station. There’ haven’t been any alarms, saying we’re losing ammonia, but that EMP might have messed with the pressure sensors with the way they’re exposed. Better safe than sorry, up here.”

Roels nodded. “I agree. I think a systems check would be a reasonable precaution.” He looked over at the hatchway. Thompson’s gaze followed and he felt his pulse quicken as Salila Shukla floated into the room. She stopped her momentum by slkowly rotating her feet forward and using them as a shock absorber, her legs bending as they touched the handbar on the floor next to the anchored table. Thompson swallowed dryly as she turned to face Roels.

“Good day Ms Shukla”, Roels said as he partly straightened and bowed at the waist, feet hooked on the chair he’d just vacated. Salila smiled and bowed politely to Roels.

“Thank you. Is there any breakfast?”, she said quietly, eyes cast downwards.

Roels unhooked his toes, and gave himeslf a light push. He floated to the cabinet, and pulled out a sealed tray.

“This says, two peeled hard-boiled eggs, one juice tube, one one thousand calorie energy bar, raspberry flavored.” Salila smiled and took the proffered tray, then set it on the table, the magnetized surface holding the tray firmly in place as she opened the leftmost compartment, and removed the power bar. She took a bite, then chewed. She streuggled to swallow it, and managed.

“It is good, Mr. Roels…Benoit. Thank you”, she said, taking another bite.

Thompson excused himself, feeling very awkward in close proximity to her. He launched himself out the hatchway, and towards the video station, to begin his visual sweep of the panels. As he slowed to take the corner, he could hear someone talking softly. The voice seemed to originate from Ingers room. He slowed his momentum and snagged a handhold at the entry, and looked in. He saw Kim, talking softly to the still catatonic Ingers. Kim was reading from one of the Kindles that the station had for books, and coordinating work. His quiet voice working in a sing-cong cadence as he read to Ingers.

He watched the back of his friend shift as he resettled his foot hold and continued to read out loud. I don’t know if what Kim’s doing is going to work. I’ve heard that voices can seem to pull people out of comas on occasion, but Koll? He’s lost more than the rest of us. He’s got children and a wife back home. It had to be more than he could stand, knowing even if they did survive, he couldn’t help them at all. What piece of crappy luck. The dark musings expanded as he listened to kim’s droning, and it seemed to pull him into the cadance, his heart seemed to want to shift and synchronize with Kim’s voice, beating to the unidentified syllables.

How do we even go on? My fiance’ is gone, Roels ex-wives, Vhovsky’s brother and parents, my god how are we going to live, why should we live? It’s all a joke, a fucking joke! It’s… he shook his head and shuddered as he fought back out of the morbid morass of thought. Quit whining, David. Get your act together. We have to pull through so we can get home. We can’t give up, not now, not ever. His hand clenched reflexively, determination settling into his muscles as he pulled himself silently away from the doorway and towards the video room.

A World’s Eye View – 5

He awoke, foggy and disoriented as loud, angry voices jerked him from sleep. Thompson flopped in the hammock net as he tried to orient himself. Scrambling out of the hammock, he missed the handhold and drifted for a few moments as the angry argument continued.

“What do you think I mean! We need order, direction! Our routine! That is what will keep us alive!”

What’s got Vyhovsky all worked up? I’ve never heard him like this. Thompson dressed quickly as the reply came haltingly.

“Yes, order! Imposed by self-serving needs to be in control! Why don’t ask every one, see if, we need this kind of order! This kind of…repressive control!”

 Kim? What’s he arguing about? Control? What now?

Thompson glided quickly towards the galley, where the noise originated. Stopping himself with a hand bar, he hovered at the entry, taking in the scene. Kim floated next to Salila, his face red, body rigid. Vyhovsky held himself with a hand bar next to the other entry. His own face was red from shouting as he tried to wait out Kim’s ongoing tirade. Shakti, Ms Shukla, cringed between the two, and Thomspon had a mental image of the two trying to establish dominance to claim her for their own. He shook his head to clear it and focus on the argument. Both men spotted Thompson at the same time. Vyhovsky looked weary. Kim was enraged.

David”, Vyhovsky said hoarsely, his voice strained from the shouting, “Go signal Roels to come inside. We are having a group meeting. There are things to discuss.”

Thompson looked over at Kim, who nodded curtly, and turned to glare at Vyhovsky.

“The air needs clearing”, Kim agreed. “We do need, discussing.”

Thompson turned, and looked back at the two men. Then his eye moved to Salila. Her dark eyes met his and seemed to swallow him whole. Her gaze pleaded with him not to leave her between the two men. Thompson swallowed drily and forced himself to turn away from her arresting gaze, and floated quickly off to get Roels.

The meeting was held in the galley, one of the few places all six could gather comfortably. The mood was tense, due to the open animosity between Kim and Vyhovsky. This is all we need, some stupid argument to really screw everyone up. Thompson shifted his toes under the handbar, and grumpily waited for the arguing to begin. Vyhovsky looked at the group. Thompson followed his eyes and looked at each person. Roels just looked confused. He’d been out servicing the panels when everything started. Ms Shukla looked anxious. Her presence drew everyone’s eyes. She has to be uncomfortable with all of us staring. Thompson closed his eyes, then opened them as he turned towards Kim, who stared back at him.

Kim’s gaze was a strange sensation of imerpious demand, and an almost desperate pleading. He was hunched over slightly, as if trying to hold onto something inside him. Finally his gaze swept to Vyhovsky. The mission leader had his chin up, and back straight as he sat at a ergo chair, magnetically locked to the floor. Vyhovsky had deep shadows under his eyes as his gaze centered on Kim. Thompson was reminded of a tired lion trying to hold off a younger attacker. His stomach curdled at the vision. We can’t fall apart now. We have to pull together.

“We are splitting at the seams”, Vyhovsky started. “We have had our home, our world taken away. We are trapped in this metal bubble, above our home, and we try to survive.”

Thompson watched Vyhovsky gaze around the table at the group again. He started speaking in a lower, more urgent voice. “We must pull together, and work as a unit. Together. Everyone works. Everyone survives. That is … “, Vyhovsky was interrupted by Kim.

“This is idiocy! Can’t you see it?! Our Russian ‘comrade’ “, Kim spat the last word venomously, “would have you work to run in place like a pet mouse, and keep himself as sole arbiter of our fate! I say we need to all be together, but as equals, not in an ‘elitist’ pyramid with him at the apex! We need to change our way of operation. We need…”, Kim’s rant was cut off by Vyhovsky.

“You will have your say, when I have had mine.” Vyhovsky’s voice was like granite, and his presence seemed to loom in the room, quieting everyone. “What I have said is true. We must all work, to survive. Six people can maintain this station better than five, and five better than four. The more we all work, the less we will have to work. The less time to do work needing done, makes opportunity for work to go home.”

Now, I am finished”, Vyhovsky growled. He then hooked his toes under a ergo chair and pulled himself into a sitting position. Kim drifted away from the edge of the table and halted his momentum with a handhold. He mimicked Vyhovsky by looking at each person in turn.

“This”, he said, and extended his arms. “This is our home now. Until the resources run out, this is our home. We need to maintain our home, yes. But, we also need to use our skills as resources, in order to get the most efficiency from each of us. We must hoard our resources. Use only what we need, save the rest ruthlessly. We do not know how long will be here. What we do know, is that we are under siege, and the more we save our resources, the longer we have to find a way home. We need to vote how to allocate, to create a”, Kim paused a moment, then continued, “A Democratic system where we are all equal in determining how to approach our difficulties.”

What the hell is he driving at? Thompson tried to figure out what Kim was trying to say. It’s the same things Vy did said earlier. Work hard, work smart. Though the democratic system does make sense. With only six of us, it would make sure we’re all heard equally. The last thing we need is any one of us going crazy on the others for some unintended slight. We’ve got eight months to figure out how to get the Xong-Xi crafts out of the locks without damaging them, and drop them where we need to go. Thompson was still mulling over the problems when Kim slapped his hand down on the table with a crack, pulling him out of his reverie. He looked over to Kim, who was staring back at him.

“Well, don’t you agree? A voting system would make certain all our resources would be allocated according to need, not on a singular whim.”

I can see it, but why are we having this argument now? Is he trying to hamstring Vyhovsky? Why is Vyhovsky letting him screw with him this way? He snuck another look at Vyhovsky. The man looked worn out. He hasn’t slept in days. Maybe it’s all wearing on him. He turned his attention back to Kim.

“Uhh, couldn’t we, wait, a little bit? I’m half hazed with sleep. There’s no way I can give you a straight answer without some rest.”

Kim frowned, then looked over to Roels and Salila. “You can see, we’re worn out. David even admits the strain is wearying. We need a system to help us allocate. Allocate time, food, resources. To regulate and distribute what we need. To give us the best chance of escape, of survival.” Kim looked down at the wiry Belgian. “Benoit, you hev been out there, working and seen for yourself, how tenuous we are. You’ve heard the Colonel talk. You are hearing me. You can make a decision. It is a choice.”

Roels looked away from both Vyhovsky and from Kim. “You are putting me at a place where I … “, he sighed. “Yes I can see the need. I thought we had all agreed to things already.”

Kim looked at him. “There is no direct setup. We have opereated on a loose assumption all this time. All I am saying is a vote invests us in the idea. The idea focuses us in a manner that will help more now by codifying our intent, rather than a ‘day to day drudgery’. It helps us. Helps us to be better. Helps us to live. You can see that Benoit, Salila. We all need something that is solid, real. Not a bit of vapor.” He folded his arms, toes hooked under the edge of the table to keep him from floating at random as he spoke animatedly, arms moving with his speech. It’d look comical if this wasn’t such a desperate situation for all of us. He’s making sense, but it just doesn’t feel right. Kim, what the hell is going on?

A World’s Eye View – 4

CHAPTER 2

The shine of the earth made a dramatic backdrop for the lone figure above the number two solar panel. The bright blue contrasting with the deeper gold of the panels as the white figure glided slowly into position over the damaged solar panel. “This one needs a replacement. I’ve got a through-and-through hole as big as my fist”, Thompson said. He tapped the jet button, killing his drift so he was stopped above the panel, his long safety line leading back to the base of the panel.

“If we divert the ammonia flow at the base, we’ll lose some of our reserve power, maybe eight, may ten percent of power reserve. What do you think, boss? Isolate, or repair?”

Vyhovsky ran a hand along his hair, weighing options.

“We have 100 percent capacity, with out the panel. How mush reserve?”

“We’ve got a power reserve of about 40 percent. Losing this individual panel would cut us back to a thirty five percent reserve. Plus we have battery battery backup”, Thompson replied.

“How much reserve material?” Thompson thought for a moment, mentally estimating. “About enough for four full panel repairs. That would be about four years normally. With all the new debris zipping around, it could just as well be four days.”

Understood. Until we know, lock it down and list what’s needed for repair. We will live with the loss of reserve. We may need the pieces later”, Vyhosvsky rumbled into the microphone.

“Okay, Colonel. I’m on my way back”, Thompson replied, the fans in the suit distoring his voice slightly as they worked to keep him cool in the direct sun. Thompson got to the air lock, then Roels opened the door after pressure had equalized.

“We have an interesting day?”, he said with a smile.

“Not too bad, the panel’s kaput, so it’s been cut from ammonia flow. I’ll be going back out again after some rest. We need to turn that panel so it’s edge-on to the sun. You know, thinking about it we could scavenge the pieces and use it as spare parts for the others.”

Roels smiled. “Our Colonel is way ahead of you. He wants you to do that very thing, though he’s of a mind to cut the panel off and scavenge the pieces, rather than just turning it edge-on to the sun.”

Thompson sighed, then gave Roels a smile. “He’s right, cutting would be easier, but maneuvering that piece to the storage? That’s going to be a two-person job. Ingers would be ideal.”

Roels looked down, then back to Thompson with sad eyes. “He’s awake, but Kim and the Colonel feel his mind’s gone. He floats in his room, and doesn’t respond to anything.”

“Ah, crap. That means me and the colonel are going to be out there.” Thompson grimaced. Vyhovsky was a good mission leader, but he lacked a sense of space a good EVA specialist had. “Last time out he ripped the suit on a corner of the panel. This’ll be tricky enough without someone being unluckily clumsy.”

Roels chuckled ruefully. “Yes, he is unlucky, isn’t he?” Thompson nodded, and still smiling, launched himself towards the hatchway, slowing his movement by grabbing a hand bar, and letting his feet rotate to hook under the other bar. He moved his hands to the exterior side bars, and pulled himself into a slow glide down the squarish tube. “Have a boring time with the EVA”, Roels shouted as Thompson left the small room.

The job took longer than expected, as neither men had used the cutter in some time, and it took a few tries to learn how to put effort into the cutter without tiring themselves out quickly. Taking ten minute turns at using the cutter, Thomspn and Vyhovsky managed to cut the damaged panel out and seal the cut with a self-threading cap to hold the ammonia. Special tape went on the threads to help make the seal hermetic. The tricky part was maneuvering the panel to a holdfast so they could dismantle the pieces for storage. A near miss with Vyhovsky misjudging the distance had Thomspon straining to hold Vyhovsky and the panel from bumping into a truss. Once locked in the holdfast, it became a much more routine job with each man deftly unlocking the specialty bolts holding the panel and it’s sub-portions together.

Vyhovsky was sweating as he removed his helmet once they both were back inside the ISS. “I think we need more practice with EVA.”

Thompson smiled at his statement. “Maybe, Just don’t overcompensate and you’ll be fine”, he told the team leader.

“Yes, good advice”, returned the smile, then he frowned. “We have to be finding solutions. Going down right now is not possible. Docking clamps won’t release Xong-Xi capsules. We are working, but no idea why system is not operational.”

Maybe some debris hit?”, Thompson speculated. “ Give me a day’s rest and I can go out, or get Roels to do a check.” He paused. “How do you rate our chances?”

Vyhovsky stared at Thompson. “We are alive, we will be alive. Down is not the problem. Alive here is the problem. As much as we can recycle, we still lose resources. If Kim’s report is accurate. Six of us will run out of food in ten months, we will run out of ammonia in eight months, if we do not have any more major catastrophes.”

Thompson nodded, the worry lines in his face becoming more pronounced. “Ingers, we need him back.”

Vyhovsky nodded. “We also need to talk with the tourist. She”, he emphasized the word, “will be a source of tension. It must be nullified before it becomes a bomb.”

That’s not going to be easy”, Thompson replied slowly. “She’s gorgeous, and we’re all too aware of it.”

Vyhovsky sighed, then replied, “True. She is like very frightened being trapped here.”

Thompson nodded. “I’m going to rest, and get some food. We can talk later.”

Vyhovsky, slipped the helmet into a cargo net by the airlock to secure it, then used the foot magnets to stabilize the suit as he shifted to unseal himelf. He nodded as Thompson floated down the square corridor.

Thompson floated down to Ingers cubicle, then tapped on the edge of the hatchway. He waited for a few moments, and, when there was no answer, floated into the entry, and looked around the small cube. Ingers was in his net hammock, his eyes glazed and unfocused. An IV was placed in his right arm as water was pumped by a triad of rotating wheels to keep the flow toards Ingers body. Without gravity, a peristaltic pump was the most viable option to avoid pumping air into the IV bag and possibly contaminating the contents. He looked over at the ergo desk. Designed to be a seat with the legs angled under in a quasi-kneel, it was made to keep the astronaut stable in front of a computer. The desk had four small, transparent doors above the flat surface. In each, small trinkets and pictures floated. Thompson remembered Ingers dropped five pounds in the last week so he could have that weight for a few things from home on the Xong-Xi. It was a common practice for the astronauts to weigh a little ‘heavy’, then drop some weight to take a few mementos up with them to the station.

Dammit Koll, we need you right now”, Thompson said, then rotated ninety degrees, and pushed away from the cube, floating down to his own small refuge. Once there, he hooked his feet into the holdfast bar, and stripped down for sleep. I hate this. Koll’s out of it. We’re all kind of drifting right now. With all that new debris, how long before we get riddled again by it? I wonder if Vyhovsky will want to move the station higher, try to get above the debris orbit. He closed his eyes and fell into a troubled sleep.

A World’s Eye View – 3

Hey, are we hafing a party in the corridor? If so why wasn’t I invited?” The three looked away from the viewport and towards the speaker. Benoit Roels smiled roguishly at the three of them and floated next to Ms. Shukla. He leaned past the woman and gazed out at the spinning globe below them. “What are we watching? Alien invasion? Planet killer metorite? Flying man in blue and red tights?”, he asked.

No, the lights. Our guest caught sight of some lights that we can’t quite figure out. They show up, then disappear”, Thompson explained. “Interesting”, Roels said

There was a slight movement at the corner of his eye. He turned to see Ingers gliding towards them.

What are you all looking at? The stars are on the other side of the station”, he siad the just a hint of accent. Ingers maneuvered closer to the window, floating expertly behind the three crowding the porthole.

Earth? What is so interesting about our blue marble?”, he asked them as he peered down at the earth from behind the three. “When was the last flash of light?”, Ingers asked the group.

About three minutes ago, along the eastern US, around the Carolinas I think from Ms Shulka’s description”, Thompson said as he continued to peer intently down at ‘home’. The clouds diffused the city lights making them seem almost like small lights on a light table.

The alarms blared as there was a bright flash above the clouds. Shali turned to look at the disappearing mean as they scrambled to their stations to determine the cause of the alert.

Holy mother!”, came Roels voice through the corridors. “The electronics just recorded a major electromagnetic event. We need to do systems check immediately!” The crew began to run diagnostics on all systems. Thmpson checked the pumps, panels, and controls. To his relief they all came back green.

Life support and cooling green!”, he shouted. “Main CPU and backup green!” Ingers voice echoed through the corridors.

Attitude and altitude green!”, Vyhovsky yelled.

Docking is red!”, Kim said.

Telemetry is yellow, no signal!”, came Roels.

They continued through the various checks until the list was exhausted. Vyhovsky downloaded the display to his tablet, then started tapping notes.

Thompson, you Kim will check the telemetry antenna and equipment. The EMP may have burned something out. Ingers, you and I will go check the docking ring and circuits. Roels, take Ms Shulka and have her inventory supplies, and you do a thorough check of the backup systems”, Vyhovsky lowered the tablet then raised a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. He took a deep breath, then lowered his hand, and turned to face the others who were starting to their assignments. “One more thing”, He said. The others stopped and turned to face him once more. “We don’t know what happened down there to start a nuclear exchange. It could have been a mad man with a bomb, a terrorist or some political turmoil. Up here it does not affect us. We must be united if we want to survive. Do not let suspicions or prejudice color your perceptions. We are scientists, not soldiers, not spies. We hold together, we can overcome any troubles.” Once he finished, the crew turned and went to their assignments.

Thompson took a deep breath and slowly worked his way down the outer main panel. The camera lens did a slow sweep across a 4 panel display, and showed no leaks, nor any trouble with maneuvering motors. He slowly panned the camera down to the next 4-panel section, and repeated the process. Kim was feeding in a test diagnostic to the main antenna and computer, re-checking the system for any irregularities. Thompson looked over to his friend as his own camera cycled down the main array to set for another pass. Kim had his feet hooked through one of the many padded blue raised hand and foot bars. He had his heels jammed down against the white deck as he held himself in place. Kim’s face was pale, and Thompson could see drops of perspiration bead his friend’s forehead. He turned back to his monitor, and lifted his left foot to flex it, then hook it back under his own bar, then did the same with the right.

He felt his heart beat steadily in his chest as he watched the monitor scann across the next four panels right to left, then lower to the next set, and scan left to right. He looked away from the screen to rest his eyes a moment, then noticed the camera jostle out of the corner of his eye. He brought his attention back to the screen, searching for the cause. It was then he notice his hands trembling. The trembling continued, and her felt his legs start to shiver. It was then his heart accelerated.

The sensation was like being squeezed by an ever-increasing pressure about him. Breathing became labored. His toes lost their grip, and he drifted from his station, his body beginning to curl into a fetal position as the shock of what he’d witnessed sank into his consciousness. My home, it’s gone. Raleigh’s gone. Jill’s gone. Mom and Dad are gone. Oh, God, what happened!? He heard the others, as if their voices came from far away, down a long tube, faint, and hollow sounding. The edges of his vision started to blacken. He started breathing rapidly, panic beginning to set in. The darkness tightened over his eyes reducing his vision to a mere pinprick as he heard the others shouting. He felt hands push at him, then the darkness claimed his senses.

A World’s Eye View – 1

This is a post of the beginning of ‘A World’s Eye View’, a story that I’ve been working at off and on.  It’s somewhat in the vein of the ‘Last Man on Earth’ idea.

Entry 1:

I can’t believe what just happened. I can’t believe anyone didn’t try to warn us. The first thing any of us up here had a clue about was when the bombs started landing. There’d be this small flash, and then another. They were always around major cities all over the world, and dust would make everything hazy. We could see the dust, spreading out like a funeral shroud from the impact. Our little telescope showed the mushrooms of atomic blasts growing up and out. No warning, nothing on the news, nothing on the internet. What the hell happened?

Roels started screaming when Antwerp was hit. His family was there. Nothing’s there now, and the dust has spread so that the world looks like it’s surrounded by dark streaks that spiral around the planet like ribbons on a maypole. I can’t think about my fiance’ until we know what’s going on, or I’ll lose it too. Worse, we’re trapped up here. Telemetry from home isn’t getting to us. Without it, the capsules here are just inert, with no way to power systems up for launch. The redundancy built in to stop accidental launches keeps us trapped. We don’t have the ability to hack our own systems. None of us is a computer expert. No one answers on the ground. If only the shuttle hadn’t been retired, we could have flown it down somewhere. These Chinese capsules are ground controlled. No flight operators. It’s got emergency controls, but who reads Chinese? None of us. Some of the controls are in English too, just not all of them, and no one here is checked out on them.

Talk about big brother. Six of us stuck in a station a little bigger than a eight bedroom house. We have privacy, but no place to go. We can’t leave, and we can’t stay. The air supply is pretty much recyclable. It’s not the problem. It’s heat, and food. The systems could cook us if the cooling systems fail, and without a re-supply, we’re dead when the food runs out. We’re pretty much dead anyways. Right now I’m just numb. Talking this out on the recorder, in case there’s a rescue or expedition here, in the future. God what a delusion. There’s no way we’re ever seeing earth again. It’s got to be a radioactive husk! Whoever’s still alive down there sure can’t help us. None of us had any idea the world was so tense. My god, we just got up here a week ago. We were supposed to run tests for a Mars longevity mission! That’s just ironic! We’re supposed to stay up here without re-supply for the duration of two mars mission flights, plus two weeks for ground exploration. What were people thinking?! -long pause of ten minutes with the sound of quiet sobbing-

Six hours ago…

David Thompson looked over the charts on his tablet. “Hey Kim? How much ammonia did we get with the last supply? And did you see that babe come up with Vyhovsky yesterday? She was absolutely smoking hot.” Xian-Xing Kim nodded with a smile.

“Very pretty. She is .. big star in Bollywood films.” Thompson nodded, then ran his hand through his shock of black hair.

“If I wasn’t going to be married when I drop, she would be someone to talk to.” He shook his head. I am so glad she’s only up here for a week. Any longer and we’d all be rioting. I wonder how many suitors she’s got back in India. They must be lined up for blocks. He looked over at Kim again. Short and stocky, with yellow-tan skin and a shock of jet black hair, Kim was the first astronaut from North Korea to the new Cooperative Space Station. Thompson found him to be a competent scientist and very willing to lend a hand whenever needed.

Vyhovsky, a Ukrainian, had just come on board to take over day-to-day running of the station. Since Russia had invaded his country years ago, it had been summarily banned from participating in the Space station, and had it’s equipment on the station confiscated. China had stepped in to do the ‘heavy lifting’. The U.S. And others had found it’s space program very inexpensive compared to the Russians.

Probably because of the mafia running things for that wanna-be Stalin. I remember the NASA bigwig chewing his moustache because he had to add a ‘ ten-percent convenience tax’ to the cost. I mean really, one ruble in ten to the mob? Mexico isn’t that corrupt.

Koll Ingers turned the corner and used handholds to float himself to the galley. Thompson saw him talking with his cell-phone. Probably home to his wife. They’ve been having troubles because of something. Wonder if this is a talk, or something more? Ingers chose that moment to slap the phone into it’s holster. The angry scowl on his features told Thompson that now was not the time to be asking any questions, as the big Swede looked ready to burst. I hope they can get it patched up, but him here and her back in Stockholm is not going to make anything easy. Ingers pulled a pair of energy bars from the galley, then heated them in the microwave. They were supposed to soften and texturize like meat, but Thompson thought it was like chewing warm cardboard. It didn’t taste right and sure didn’t have a meat texture.

He turned towards bay three and glided to the air lock. It was time to measure the ammonia levels. Ammonia here was the primary coolant in space. With the station hanging in orbit, and no artmosphere to cut the solar energy, the crew would cook alive without some form of cooling. Water as too volatile. Ammonia happened to be the answer. While there were cameras to check for leaks, Thompson still made the personal spacewalks. The computers were state-of-the-art for fifteen years ago, meaning they were adequate for maintaining the station and running experiments, but not much else. Cameras were set up to cover the panels, but detail was lacking, so a spacewalk was made to check the panels. He had three reservoirs to check, starboard panels, port panels, and station. Even after countless EVA, he still needed help to get into his suit. The entry panels in the back had to be closed properly or he’d leak air and while he had a reserve, a leak could lower his air pressure to where he’d pass out, and possibly asphixiate if rescue wasn’t fast neough.

I’m going to enjoy the quiet this time. It’s always awkward meeting the new crew, and that Shukla woman is just too hot to handle. She’ll be one heck of a distraction for the next five days.

 

A word from the Author

With the third book being released, I’m certain there are a few wondering what all this is leading to. A snarky author would say, a climactic last book! Well, snarky or not it’s true. At some point in the future, this series will finish up and a new one will begin. I expect this series to be five or six books long. ( I know which the publisher would like  )

As it continues, I will be adding more and more about what’s been going on, and back-linking to the earlier books. There is a reason for everything. The bad guys may seem like they’re not motivated by anything other than being bad, I can tell you that’s not true. Each has a reason that they have behaved the way they have. with only two or three books left, it is now my intention to start pulling back the curtain, and showing you what’s behind it. Not fast, mind you, that would spoil the suspense.

And, to all those that have read these books, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m honored you took a chance on me to entertain you, and I appreciate it so very much that I had the chance to make your reading fun and enjoyable. Now, back to NaNo, and stay tuned for more books, more stories, and more fun!