World’s Eye View – 17

What happened”, Kim asked in a flat, angry voice. Thompson noticed Kim was looking at Ingers with a bit of worry. He turned back to Roels, scowling ferociously. “What did you do to him?” Roels straightened up, and his hand found Salila’s. “He grabbed her, and wouldn’t let go when she asked him to. Then he started to try and drag her out of the room.” Roels glared at Ingers, who was now passively watching Kim. Kime sighed and pinched his nose as he turned to face Ingers. “You should not do such things, friend Ingers. It means you’re not in control of yourself.” Kim’s voice was like a schoolteacher chewing out a truant student. Ingers ducked his head guiltily as Kim continued. “This is intolerable. Apologize to them both, friend Ingers. Immediately.”

Ingers shivered and turned to benoit and Salila. “I am sorry for my actions. I am still not fully well. I do apologize.” The words came from his voice sounding like a large child, completely at odds with his previous self. Thompson watched the change. Ingers turned into a scared kid all because Kim said he was unhappy? That’s kind of creepy. “Hey, so what do we do now?”, Thompson said to no one in particular. Roels, Kim, and Salila turned their gazes to Thompson. Oh crud, now what? “What we do now, is hold a meeting, and air this problem”, Kim stated firmly. “We must talk amongst ourselves, and decide what can be done as a course of action.” “You do that, I will say Ingers will be working exclusively with me, where I can keep an eye on him.” Everyone turned to see Vyhovsky holding himself braced in the hatchway as he listened to the discussion.

Kim glared at Vyhovsky as the fragile goodwill well and truly shattered. Thompson could only watch, and wait, as a sense of impending change started to build. Vyhovsky looked at him, nodding slightly. Thompson knew he was looking for support in this latest political maneuver. Roels and Salila floated away from the table and tried to disappear along one wall. Ingers moved to block the exit, and the two huddled miserably back against the wall, reluctant witnesses to whatever might happen. Kim shook his head slowly. “Friend Eugeni, surely you must know that this mission is no longer valid. The world is gone, our families gone, and we have nothing but our desire to return home so that we may mourn in the ashes, and yet you decide that we must survive here, until all supplies run out, just so that the precious mission is completed?”

Vyhovsky snorted, barely holding in a bitter laugh. “You think this is all just for mission? You are fool. The only thing I try to make certain is that we can go home. To go home we need survive to go home. To survie, we need station in good order. That means we all must work.” He stared at Ingers, who returned the stare with a blank one of his own. Thompson’s view of Ingers didn’t allow him to see the man’s face, but he could tell that the big Swede’s body was taut, ready to move. God, don’t let it happen. Please, don’t let it happen. We can’t get in a fight over this. We need each other. Please, help us. Please help. Help me, God, please.

Vyhovsky remained in the doorway, watching Ingers like a man watches a coiled rattlesnake. “This is wrong, Kim. You know it’s wrong. Let it go and we’ll work things out”, Thompson said quietly. Both Kim and Vyhovsky turned their heads his direction, but neither took their attention off of one another. Thompson could feel his words bounce off of both of them like rain off a roof. Neither weas willing to listen. Neither was willing to give up their argument. “Friend, David”, Kim said neutrally, “This is something that must be changed. Our situation is beyond all human experience. So in that, we must ALL have a say. Even those who don’t want to.” Kim’s eyes flicked for a moment over Salila and Benoit, then returned to stare back at Vyhovsky.

Vyhovsky smiled, and Thompson could see that it never reached his eyes. He was reminded of old films where the villain would smile just before killing somone. The sense of building violence was thickening the air, oppressive and ominous. “We do not need your citizen committee, we do not need any committee. We will continue as we are, and we will survive until we have a way to escape this place.” “Ingers, you will meet with me in fifteen minutes. You and I will do systems check on hydroponics, and on computers systems. Then we will…” “No”, Ingers said. Vyhovsky blinked, then straightened holding himself rigid like the soldier he was. “Mr. Ingers. You misunderstand. That was not a request. That is an order as mission leader.”

Ingers looked over at Vyhovsky, biting his lip in indecision. Clearly he was unwilling to force the issue further. Thompson missed the signal between the Swede and Kim, but was certain there had been one to make Ingers stand against Vyhovsky’s directions. He watched Kim, who was in turn watching Ingers. Kim nodded, then said, “Friend Ingers said ‘no’. Is that something you do not understand?”, Kim asked with menace. “Or, friend Eugeni”. Kim growled, “Are you threatening violence to get your way?”

Vyhovsky gazed at Kim in disgust. “I am mission leader, our situation has not changed. We are still on this station. I will do what is necessary to make us all survive. There is no further discussion.” He looked back over to Ingers, his eyes hardening. “Koll, you will come with me”, he said in a voice that brooked no disobedience, “now.”

Ingers gaze swept back and forth from Kim to Vyhovsky, then back, and back again rapidly. Thompson could see his resolve starting to fray badly.

World’s Eye View – 16

Well, now that the cat’s out of the bag, or storage locker as the case may be, what’s next?”, Thompson queried. Kim looked at him like he’d grown a second head. “You see all this, then ask what’s next? Do you not ever process what you see, friend David?” Thompson ducked his head like a man caught with his hand in the cashier’s till. “Oh hell, I don’t know. We’re all on edge, this is getting to us. If there was a way to blow off steam, but there isn’t. We’re caught between the devil and deep black space.” Kim looked at Thompson. That’s right, talk with me, ignore the other two. Keep them out of the conversation. “I think you an Vyhovsky ought to work together doing my job on the panels and in hydroponics. That would really keep you two busy.”

Me? Work with that Ukranian dictator? Friend David, I think you’ve gone crazy if you think that is a good idea.” Thompson smiled. “Is that a professional observation?” “I….no, it is not”, Kim said slowly. He peered at Thompson who looked back at him with a guiless smile. He’s starting to suspect something. I think I overdid the smartass parts. “Look Kim, we all know we have to get along, and right now you and Vyhovsky aren’t. Whatever was simmering between you two has really gone overboard, and we need to fix it. Salila got a signal, people are still alive down there. If we want to get home, we have to work together to make it happen. We can’t just go and do it. We need a plan, and we need teamwork.”

Kim smiled, making Thompson feel like he just put a word very, very wrong. “Of course we do. Any attempt at returning home is going to take much effort on everyone’s part to make it happen. We have the equpiment, just not the data for a proper launch window. And, with our current … political … situation, we are not in any way ready or willing to work completely together.” Kim reached up to an overhead handhold, uncurling himself from the ergo seat. He pulled ‘up’ and maneuvered to avoid bumping the table. “It is why we need the democratic process. It would guarantee proper airing of all our greivances. How can you n ot see that it is the perfect way to deal with others in this emotionally charged system we are living in?” He puffed up a little like Thompson saw Turkeys do on his grandfather’s farm. “Rules to help us deal with the stresses of the day-to-day difficulties.”

Thompson watched Kim Glance past him, and he turned his head to see both Roels and Ms Shukla disappear out the back hatchway. “Excuse me, there are some things I must do, friend David”, Kim said politely. Thompson held up his hand and said, “Wait a second Kim. We need to talk.” Kim looked down at Thompson with narrowed eyes. “What must we discuss now, David?”, Kim all but sneered. “Another random talk of things?” “No, Myung. Just, talk”, Thompson replied quietly.

I just want to sit here and talk, like we all did before all this happened. Like about Botany, or ‘what space means to you’ or just anything except politics, religon, or personal stuff, ’cause we know those are all conversation killers.” Thompson tried to smile, and his lips felt like they were lead. The effort was almost beyond him.

Kim, to his surprise, actually drifted down to the ergo chair and hooked his feet through the pads to face Thompson. “We should, friend David. This place is making us all crazy. What did Eugeni call it, a ‘hamster cage’? I think it more resembles a tube trail cage, but I am not one to quibble about so apt a description.” Thompson chuckled, and was surprised by how that small joke had lifted him from the bone-weariness he felt. “I know, I could just see everyone in one of those Manga comics drawn up as Gerbils screaming ‘we are NOT HAMSTERS!’ and trying to escape.” Myung’s eyes crinkled in humor at the thought, and Thompson felt the tension ease. “That, friend Thompson, is an image to cherish.” Thompson started to feel uncomfortably ‘normal’ that the rest of their plight seemed far away and more a dream than reality. A sudden shout from the hatchway drew them both back to the ugly present.

Thompson was first though the hatch, ricocheting off the corridor wall as he grabbed a handhold to steer and add speed to his glide. He heard Kim thump the wall behind him, muttering in Korean. The argument gathered rapidly in volume as the two men came up on Roels and Ingers facing off in Salila’s cube. Roels was pressed against the wall as Ingers held him in place with one hand as his boot braced on an overhead handhold. Roels was trying to slap the restraining hand away, but Ingers had chosen a place away from all handholds so Roels couldn’t shift his mass enough to break free. Ingers other hand was trying t control one of Roels’s which had a plastic carton in it.

WHAT THE HELL?!”, Thompson screamed, and was caromed into by Kim, who’d missed the handhold in his haste to catch up. “HEY!”, Thompson yelled as both men tumbled weightlessly to impact Ingers and Roels. Roels and Ingers were caught off-guard and the four spun awkwardly in the air across the cube into the far wall with a heavy thump. Ingers cushioned Thompson’s impact, as Kim and Roels somehow managed to land feet first into the wall. Thompson grabbed a handhold and pulled himself away from the stunned Ingers. “Ingers, aare you all right?”, he asked, momentatrily forgetting what had been occurring just moments before. Ingers nodded slightly as he started to drift away from the wall. He looked over at Kim and Roels. The Belgian seemed ready to start all over again with Ingers. Salila drifted next to him, laying a hand on his shoulder as Ingers slowly shook off his disorientation.

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 – 14

Vyhovsky Got the inspiration first, though a brute-force sort. “Thompson, Roels, go check on the panels. I think they need a quick inspection. It would be a wise idea I think, to make certain nothing was jarred out of place by the burn.” Thompson looked over to Roels, who was looking back. Roels seemed distressed, and oddly relieved at being told to go somewhere. The two glided out of the room, then brushed the far wall as they used it to propel themselves down the coridor, sterring by handholds. They helped each other into the bulky space suits, and then Thompson held up 3 fingers, indicating Roels should go to private channel 3.

What do you think they’re, uh, talking about, David?”, Roels asked as soon as the channel popped indicating it was ‘on’ and ‘open’. “Probably who’s got the biggest balls”, Thompson replied. “God, why now. Of all the times in this place why now and why do we have to argue? We got enough troubles without being at each other’s throat for no reason.” Thompson heard the faint pop as Roels condenser mic activated. “I don’t know. Kim wants the votes, and wants that ‘democratic process’. I think he just hates Vyhovsky. The two have been at it since, well, since everything happened.” Roels clipped onto the support beam for the first panel series, a then slowly floated out to conduct the visual inspection. Thompson did the same to the opposite panel.

I don’t get why we have to fight about it. Vy was installed as mission leader since he’d been up here twice before, and the rest of us are just rookies, our first time up. Why not listen to the man who’s been here before?” “I don’t know”, Roels replied, his mic popping as it was activated by Roels voice. “Well, I think we all need to figure out what’s going on and how it affects us”, Thompson shot back, more vehemently than he expected. “Easy, David, easy”, Benoit placated. “I hear you, and I know there’s things you’re upset about. We need to…” , he traid to continue, but Thompson cut him off. “Dammit Benoit, first you roll over because you don’t want to get in a confrontatation, now you’re rolling over because you are doing the same damn thing. Grow a spine!”, he shouted angrily.

Roels visibly flinched as he continued the inspection on the port panel. “I know, David!” Roels coughed, then Thompson heard choking sounds over the mic. “Roels”, he queried. There were more choking sounds. “Roels”, Thompson shouted into the mic, alarmed that Roels was having trouble with his suit. “David, I, I don’t want this confrontation. I just want to get home. Salila, I just want to keep her safe, and it’s like walking a minefiled between you, Eugeni, Koll, and Kim. You all want Salila and I to agree with you and you push and push and push to get us to. Fix it yourself for god’s sake. Leave us out of it. We just want to go home!” Roels choked the words out, like each one was a piece of glass in his throat. Roels, I’m sorry, but I can’t see a way out of all this without you and Salila choosing sides. You’re the two trying to avoid everything, which makes you the neutral parties in all of this. God help me, if I could think of any other way to keep us from tearing ourselves apart, I’d take it. There isn’t, not now. Not any more. Any chance of that disappeared when those missles flew.

Roels”, Thompson quietly replied. “You got to see it. We’re tearing ourselves apart. Kim and Vyhovsky are both wanting to be in charge. And we can’t have two leaders. You have to choose a side. It sucks, and I sympathize with you, but you put yourself in the middle by trying to avoid conflict. You have to see that.” Roels was quiet for a long time. Thompson turned over to look, and Roels was hanging by his tether, slight movements the only thing that indicated he was alive. Thompson was about to call again when Roels voice came over the channel. “I’ll be finished with inspection shortly.” His voice sounded hollow, broken. Dear God, what happened? Is he shutting down to avoid things, or, what? Did I push too hard?

His musings were broken by an announcement from Salila. “I got a channel! I got someone from Earth! They’re alive!”, she choked out excitedly. “They’re alive!”

Another side trip – thoughts and comments

Here we are again with another side trip while I catch up on ‘World’s Eye View’.  I want to discuss a little about writing, and what motivates me.  I love telling stories.  That for me is a part of why I write.  Another part is I want to know what happens next in the story past where I have written.  So I keep writing.  A third is, and maybe one you might disagree or agree with, is that I hate leaving something unfinished.  I am a lazy sort and a lot of things here don’t get done on time, but I can’t just leave things alone, so I have about a half-dozen projects all going at once, not including stories, so that I’m always moving from one thing to another.  For me it helps handle my ADHD, oddly enough.  The other part is I can give myself permission to drop everything to add to a story.  Otherwise I think I’d implode from all the undone stuff around here.   There’s a lot more to writing, and motivation, but for me the three above seem to be the ones that are those the crop up most often as i write.

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.

World’s Eye View – 11

Three hours later, Thompson was keying in the last of the data for the altitude change. Normally, it would be simply a call down to ground control, with both sides confirming current and intended altitude, then the burns would be keyed in by mission control. The ISS would control the firing and duration, with mission control doing monitor duty in case of the ISS computers malfunctioning, which had happened twice before to Thompson’s knowledge. The systems on the station, while robust and triply redundant, were slow by the technology’s standard, having been placed by Russia in the late 1990’s. The systems had been upgraded once, but the trouble was that the backup systems were not modular, but integrated to save weight.

Thus while the primary system had been upgraded, the backups were twenty years older, and much slower. A short or long burn could create troubles by inducing an unwanted rotation to the station, or push the station too high and possibly shift the orbit into a more dangerous position closer to orbiting junk such as discarded bossters, or dead satellites, or debris from any number of launches. The ‘sky’ above earth is jam-packed with floating debris, all of it traveling tens of thousands of kilometers per second in velocity. A two ton booster colliding at speed would turn the ISS into confetti. The altitude had to be extremely precise. And Vyhovsky is saying we need to gain altitude. Our last reading was five weeks ago, and if the drift is correct, we need another five kilometers of altitude to stay out of the atmosphere. Higher and we get to dodge space junk.

Thompson chuckled ruefully, then startled as a shadow cut the brightness in the room. He looked up at Salila Shukla, who was looked at him with a frightened gaze. “May I stay here with you, Mr. David? I don’t want to be alone right now”, she said, her eyes gazing back at the hatchway she’d floated in through. Thompson’s eyes followed her gaze, and thought he saw the last bit of a shadow flit away from the edge of the hatchway. He looked back to Salila. “What’s going on? Is one of us starting to give you trouble, Ms Shukla?” Salila looked down along her body, one hand hanging onto the overhead handhold. Her eyes blinked tears, which beaded on her skin without gravity to draw them down her cheeks.

She looked back at the hatch then gently grabbed Thompson’s arm, pulling herself close. Thompson’s head reeled. Even after the weeks together, or because of it, she smelled exotic, feminine, and he felt his body respond. Awkwardly he shifted his seat, as she leaned in to whisper, “It’s Mr. Ingers. He keeps following me from room to room when I’m awake, and he is in the galley every time I want food. I think…no he is, stalking me.” Her brown eyes seemed to swallow him whole when he glanced up into them. His heart started to race,a nd he swallowed drily.

Umm, M-Ms Salila…Ms Shukla…could you, please, let go of my arm?” Her hand jerked away as if she set it on a hot coal. Her eyes registered hurt as she believed him to be rejecting her. Thompson kept his voice quiet, and swivled his head to glance at all the entrances before turning back to Salila. “It’s not, you”, Thompson hatlingly told her. “It is but it isn’t.” he pinched his nose then ran a hand through his hair. “It’s you’re beautiful, and you’re the only woman here. Us guys, we can’t turn off what we are any more than you can.” He looked towards the near hatch once more, searching for any tell-tale signs of eavesdroppers.

Koll lost his wife and child. We’ve all lost something, and don’t know what we’re going to do. For some of us, we need that comfort. We need something to focus on to keep us sane.” He looked over at Salila, knowing he was rambling. He wondered if his words were for Ingers, or himself. She was close, warm, and her scent filled him. His face felt flushed as he gazed at her, noting in a detached way that her eyes were wide with alarm, like a frightened deer. And like a deer she trembled, fearful of moving too fast that it might alert the predator. Thompson closed his eyes and breathed deep, and slow, working at slwoing his heart rate, and getting his libido under control. Why not do it with her? Why not? Who’d stop you, we all want to have her. It’s the proverbial last woman alive with five men. How would anyone object? NO! I’m not that, I’m not that! I AM NOT A RAPIST! I AM NOT! He bit his tongue, shocking himself out of the internal argument. He gazed over to Salila, who had drifted back away, near the hatch.

I’m “, sorry he wanted to say, but ended up saying, “here.” He smiled as he swallowed some blood from his bleeding tongue. “I’m here, and we’ll figure something out”, he said encouragingly. Salila seemed more alarmed with his calm rationality that she had when he was fighting his own urges. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. I Think we’re all on edge, and I have no clue how we can deal with it.” He thought some more. “You and Roels seem to be close. Stick with him. I keep an eye out too. We’ll do our best to see no one forces anything on you.” He felt her gaze soften at the mention of Roels, and knew she’d chosen him. I hope we get down before this all comes to a head. With Ingers following her everywhere, it could be real trouble if he starts something. How do we handle a situation like that? What do we do? Put him back to sleep? We have some drugs, but the only one who’s checked out as a physician is Kim. Maybe I should talk to him about this.

He nodded to Salila and started for the far hatch, pushing himself in the weightless atmosphere away from the frightened woman. His mind was still trying to get him to turn back, but for now his own will was stonger than the temptation. He floated out the far end, then turned to push down the hall towards Kim’s cubicle. At the corner, a sudden mass moved into him. He grunted at the impact, then again as he smacked into the wall behind him. He looked up into Ingers eyes, who was looking blankly at him. “Hey Koll, sorry about that, I didn’t se you in the mirror. What happened? Everything okay?” He looked at Koll from a distance of a few inches. Ingers blanks stare slowly returned to the gentle smile he usually wore. “David, it’s my fault, I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

World’s Eye View – 10

‘Friend’ Kim”, Vyhovsky almost whispered. “A mind held back never heals.” “So says the great psychologist”, Kim snarled. The two looked about to come to blows again. “HEY!”, Thompson yelled at the top of his lungs. The two looked at him as if ready to attack at the interruption. “How about we get food, and get rest, NOW. Then you two can try to argue this out. We’re stuck here in case you haven’t noticed, and our survival is dependent on STAYING TOGETHER!”, he shouted at them. God, what am I doing? I can’t yell at them, it’ll just make it worse. Pull your head out of your ass, Davey-boy, or we’re all gonna be up shit creek. He looked over at the two. “Besides, I still haven’t had any coffee, I really can’t do anything without the boost.” “Wanna join me, Ingers?” Kolls blank gaze turned to Thaompson. It almost seemed like something of the old Ingers was there. “I vould like dat, friend David”, Ingers said in a deep reumble. “Coffee is good in the morning.”

Huh, just like that, he answers and the other two shut down. Score one for indirect salvo Thompson thought. The tense mood dissipated rapidly as The two were left with each other, rather than being able to argue over Ingers. They floated out and over to Thompson’s cube. Thompson got Ingers a self heating can of coffee, and floated it towards him, giving it a soft push rather than an overhand toss. Ingers caught it cleanly, and popped the heating tab, then waited as the coffee heated up. “Thanks friend Thompson, they were sounding like two fishmarket women at home.”

Thompson smiled. “That’s a hell of a image, Koll.” He chuckled at the the image of Kim and Vyhovsky in old skirts and handkerchiefs on their heads, waving fish at each other and arguing. “Gotta say that really is appropriate.” He glanced over at the cupboard. Got eleven left, maybe I should ration them and stretch them out, for special occasions. He shook his head. No, if I use them up, then they’re gone and no one’s jonesing for one. Keeps the trouble down with nothing to fight over. He looked over at Ingers, who was returning his gaze with a tired speculative look of his own.

So, uh, do you remember anything of what, umm, happened, Koll?” Ingers looked down at the can in his paw-like hand. He took another squeeze of the coffee, then sighed. “I remember everything. The talk, the lights, and the knowledge that … my family’s gone.” He looked up. “There’s nothing down there any more for me. Nothing I want to think about. Right now I am numb. Empty. Friend Kim says that this is part of the process. The mind and body have not totally accepted what’s happened, and this numbness is the process where the mind hides parts of itself until the rest of the mind can handle more information.”

Thompson looked at his own can of coffee. “That sounds a lot like psychobabble, but Kim’s a lot more knowledgeable about that stuff than I am. I think he was supposed to be interviewing us each week or something to see how we all ‘get along’ up here. Lord knows what his government was going to do with the information. Maybe open up to the devil southlanders and ask about unification again.” He shrugged. Thompson watched Koll drift to the cupboard, then glance back Thompson questioningly. He waved his hand at Koll and nodded. Koll smiled and grabbed a second can of coffee, and pulled the heating tab. Ten left, Thompson thought, then chuckled ruefully. Look at it like he’s helping me get rid of a few ‘vices’. Caffeine is addictive, and god I wish we had more up here. “So how do you feel now? Umm, I know that’s kinda trite. I mean, when do you think you’ll be able to get back into the routine?”

Thompson felt Ingers gaze like a sudden weight on his heart. The feeling was totally out of context with the tired smile Ingers had. “Friend Kim says I need a week on exercise. My body atrophied some, according to Friend Kim, and it needs rebuilding.” Thompson nodded, unable to shake the odd feeling. “When is he…are you, going to start?” Thompson watched Ingers finish the second can of coffee, then place it in the small waste bag hovering on a hook by the door. “Friend Kim wants me to start today. He says that the sooner I start doing something, the faster I can help us all.” Thompson nodded once more. “Sounds like a plan. I’m going to take a quick nap, try to catch up on some of my lost rest, and then see what needs doing on the panels.

Ingers smiled and nodded to Thompson. “I will go to the exercise room, Friend Thompson. I fill see you later.” “Sure thing Koll, good to have you back. It wasn’t the same with you in bed all this time.” Ingers features darkened for a moment. Thompson’s guts fluttered. “Hey, I didn’t mean any…”, he started to apologize, and Ingers waved his hand and smiled. “I know Friend Thompson. I’m not angry at you, or anyone. I am angry at them. They trapped us all here with their greed. I want to get home, and let them know what their actions did to us.” Ingers face slowly screwed into a mask of hate as he spoke, alarming Thompson further. “Hey, it’s okay. It’s okay, Koll. We’ll find a way home. We just have to work together to get there.” Thompson watched Ingers features soften as he spoke. The fearful knot in his stomach loosened as Ingers visibly relaxed. “I’m going to the gym. Maybe the exercise will help my mood.” Thompson nodded, not speaking. Keep your mouth shut right now, Davey boy. He’s volatile. Let him work off some steam. Ingers floated to the hatch way and grabbed the overhead handhold, oriented himself, then used his feet to push of the edge of the hatchway down the corridor.

Koll’s so gentle, we’ve all forgotten he was an Olympian in the Pentathlon. He’s in shape with a vengeance, even after all that time sleeping. Thompson shook his head, then looked at the shelf of coffee cans. Nine left he told himself as he grabbed a second one. It wouldn’t help him with the shakes, but it tasted better than the recycled water. He launched himself from his cube, and angled into the hall with a slight push on one of the hand holds, then glided back towards the control center. Vyhovsky has the altitude adjustments done by now.