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 – 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!”

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 – 9

Two days later, Thompson and Roels were working on the port rear panel. Vyhovsky hadn’t boosted the orbit as yet, so they were still in the debris orbit from the missles. He and Roels were replacing an ammonia valve that had stuck open, according to the computer checks, so they were out on the panel to do a full visual. It had simply failed, rather than being disabled by debris. Roels had shut down the ammonia and used it’s own partial pressure to drive the liquid past a second valve, which was shut manually. Thompson had taken thirty minutes to remove the valve, and now he was attaching the new valve. One last slow turn of the tourqeless wrench, and the pipe was locked to the valve. “That’s done. Roels, let’s see if the seal holds. Open your end”, he said, his voice echoing in his ear in static-y bursts. “Opening”, came the reply as Roels used his magnetic boots to anchor himself, and push the long wrench to open the valve. “Done”, Roels said after a few moments. “Nothing here, no visible plumes”, Thompson observed. “How about your end, Roels?” “Nothing here but myself, the station and the Earth peeking over my shoulder”, Roels said with a forced chuckle.

We’re good here”, Thompson said. “Ready for start.” He and Roels wroked slowly back to the airlock, and felt the faint vibration of the pumps. “What do you think about Ingers?”, Roels asked Thompson. “I’m glad he’s awake. Hopefully soon he’ll be able to lend a hand instead of hanging around Kim. Kim’s a good man, but the three of us are not getting a lot of sleep and trying to handle everything without rest is taxing.” Roels looked at his helmet, then set it in the net to keep it from drifting away. “I don’t know, David. He’s changed. There’s nothing of the humor I remember. It’s like, how you Americans put it, ‘The lights are on but no one’s home?’ “ He shrugged, and started unbuttoning the suit. “He watches her like there’s no other person here whenever he sees her. It’s like a drwoning man looking at a life preserver just our of reach.” Thompson helped lift the harness up once Roels had turned around. Evn in space, mass was still difficult to control if it was awkardly balanced. He slipped the harness into a couple pegs then bungeed the harness to the wall. Twelve kilograms of mass was painful to run into, regardlss of it’s shape.

So he’s seen it too. After the last few days, everyone’s probably seen the changes. Maybe Kim can figure it out. We need Ingers all the way back, so we can really get to escaping this hamster cage. He sighed then turned so Roels could help shift his harness off. Once finished it was off to the galley for a tube of protein, some water, and then to his cube and net harness for a nap. Got to remember to talk to Kim. Ask him about Ingers. He’s probably seen it himself. God, if you’re listening, thanks for Koll coming back. Think you could give us a way home? As the fatigue of the spacewalk crept up on him, his last thought of the evening was of fishing up in Canada at McKamuie Lake, with his dad. Thompson woke to angry voices. Loud, angry voices.


He sturggled muzzily in his hammock, then pulled on his coverall to the waist, tying the arms around his stomach. He pushed off the wall, lauching himself in a perfect dive through the open hatchway. He rolled and planted his feet like a swimmer turning a lap, then angled his push past the corner and grabbed a handhold to re-aim himself down the corridor. Moments later he was closing in on the noise, which came from Kim’s cube. He pulled himself to a stop by the hatch.

Kim was hanging onto an overhead handhold as he shouted at Vyhovsky. Vyhovsky hand anchored his toes under another holdfast and was staring icily at Kim, his arms crossed, and waited for the Korean to wind down. Roels and Ms Shukla were nowhere to be seen, and he saw Ingers floating behind Kim. The big Swede seemed to watch the argument with an intensity that made Thompson shiver. He looks like a guy deciding if pounding someone to paste is worth his time. Ingers looked up at Thompson, and the fire in his eyes seemed to burn brighter.

Deciding that maybe they had gotten in too deep, Thompson cleared his throat loudly, then spoke, “What? Did we run out of coffee already?” The absurdity of the statement stalled the argument completely. Both men turned to Thompson. Kim looked outraged at the interruption, Vyhovsky looked angry, but a wry smile formed on his lips. “If it’s not about coffee, what elese could be so important that I could hear you yelling all the way to my cube? It isn’t the Ice Cream is it?”, he said working at humor to defuse things. Kim lost his look of outrage, and slowly forced a smile on his features. “No, friend David, it was about my patient. I am arguing that he needs more time to recover before going on duty, and ‘Comrade’ Vyhovsky feels he should start re-acclimating to the work schedule now.”

Thompson saw Vyhovsky’s normally quiet demeanor undergo a frightening change as Kim spat the word ‘Comrade’. He seemed to harden like rock as his gaze met Kim’s. “’Friend’ Kim”, Vyhovsky said slowly with menace, “I am not saying he jumps off a cliff into water without checking. I am saying he needs to do work, get his mind back into doing work.” “He needs rest, and exercise to help the psyche repair. Mental effort such as you propose will set his recovery back”, Kim countered. “Who of us has the psychology and psychiatric background to deal with this trauma? You, ‘Comarade’?”, Kim said sarcastically. “Your background is engineering, not the mind.”

A World’s Eye View – part 8

Food was a close second at eighteen to twenty-one months, and recyclables such as water, came at a month over two years. Thompson looked at the list. “I’d rather have your estimates.” Vyhovsky gave a tired chuckle. “After seeing your estimates, I feel like a Ukrainian again. This is properly pessimistic.” “It’s conservative. We could probably stretch things out further if we try the changes you suggest.” Thompson looked gloomily at the spreadsheet. “Any idea if we’ll be able to leave the station?” Vyhovsky shrugged. “I think with some work, we can manually unlock the collar. I think our Chinese friends put a virus in the system to lock it closed, just for spite. Or perhaps the Chinese. But in either case, manual unlocking will work.”

Thompson stared at Vyhovsky. “We can go home? We can get out of the hamster house?” Vyhovsky gave a tired shrug. “Yes, it would take time. The manual labor will take days, as we have to disassemble the clamps, which means cutting torches and a lot of nuts and bolts to locate and remove, without losing the Xong-Xi capsule when it comes loose.” Vyhovsky stared at the spreadsheet, but Thompson could see that his thoughts were elsewhere. “If we do this, the capsule will float free, and it will require a untethered spacewalk to enter it.”

Why didn’t you say anything, Vy? We’re all thinking we’re trapped. Thompson heard his voice getting louder as his neck muscles tightened. He glared angrily at Vyhovsky. “What’s the deal? What’s YOUR deal with this?” Thompson uncurled his legs, and grabbed a hand hold to his left, turning and facing the tired mission leader. Vyhovsky looked over to him. He started to speak, then checked himself. He peered at the hatchways, then back at Thompson. “Would you tell anyone of a way home before you knew there was a home to go to?”, he said quietly. The statement brought Thompson up short. IF there’s a home to go to?

He looked back over at Vyhovsky. I want to punch his face in, and I have to agree. What happens if you give hope when there ain’t any? He hated the fact he was agreeing with the mission leader. We have to keep it under wraps, until we can be certain we have a real place to go home to. That means listening and trying to spot possible landing locations. A troubling thought occurred to him as he floated next to the computer. How do we keep people from going crazy? If we’re convinced were stuck, how do we keep from breaking down?

He looked over at Vyhovsky once more. The man was playing with a bomb. One that would kill everyone here if not played with exacting care. The balance between hope and despair was razor thin, and any nudge either way could create the very chaos that he had been keeping in control to now. Being able to go home was on everyone’s mind. But, would it pull us together, or tear us to pieces trying to get home? Is it right to keep this quiet? He looked over to Vyhovsky. “If this was a novel, this would be where one of us would ask the other, “What’s the catch?” Thomspon shrugged his shoulders, and rotated to face Vyhovsky fully. “So, what’s the catch?” Vyhovsky, sighed, running a hand down his face. “How many can the Xong-Xi hold? For each flight up and back from home?” “Three right?”, Thompson guessed. We can get three up and three back, and we have two capsules.

Vyhovsky nodded. “Now, of all of us, who are the best qualified to launch, and control the re-entry of a Xong-Xi?” He looked at Thompson, who was going through the list mentally. “You, and Roels are the ones with the most experience. The best launch pilot though, is Ingers?” Vyhovsky nodded. “Roels can get you down, but his simulations always needed coaching, as did yours and Kim. Ingers, needed none, and I was born in a Xong-Xi with a bottle of Vodka in one hand and the other on the controls.” Thompson smiled tightly. “So you’re saying you don’t trust the rest of us to fly down the second capsule.” Vhovsky waved a hand a t Thompson. “It is not that. In this time, coaching will not be there, and you are motivated. You wouldn’t need the coaching.” Vyhovsky sighed, then continued. “It would be how to place others in the capsules. Our tourist has nothing in the way o practical knowledge in piloting a Xong-Xi, and Ingers is essentially a dead man. Do we leave the dead man behind?”

Thomson felt a chill along his spine. Leave Ingers? Is that what it takes to get home? Can I do that? Leave him here? Can any of us? “Okay so two riders and two crew. Salila in one capsule, Ingers in the other.” Vyhovsky shrugged. “It is a solution, but the second question is where do we land? I can see that question becoming very important to some.” His eyes seemed to bore into Thompson, who swallowed drily as the realization returned that if they left, a landing site had to be chosen. America’s out. I’d be coming down in Europe, where I’d be a total outsider. I could try for America, but that means taking a capsule, hijacking it and leaving people behind, or screwing them over like I’d be in Europe. What’s the solution here? Get two people to defect? That’s a laugh. Gods what do I do? Ingers. What do we do about him? Do we leave him to go home?

Thompson started to get an inkling of all the stress Vyhovsky must be feeling. The mission leader had seen the troubles coming, and like his dossier showed, tried to do the best without rocking the boat, or causing panic. He worked preferentially alone. In this case, alone was the only way to work to keep things from blowing up with crazy schemes to get home, which would jeopardize the true chance of getting home. He pinched his nose, then looked over to Vyhovsky, seeing again the weary features of the mission leader. Keeping this all under wraps. I wonder if I could have done the same in his place. It makes me hate him, even though he’s right.

Thompson drew a hand down his face, composing himself and trying to see things from a different angle. Everything pointed to chaos, shouting and anger. Everyone had the idea of getting to their home, not just down to earth. For Thompson, it was how he kept his sanithy in all of the despair. I can get home, I can see Maggie again. The truth was no one really would get home. They would all just die a few days after landing if they dropped in a hot zone. If not, the wild storms and temperature shifts coming with nuclear winter would probably kill them rather than the radiation. God knows if they used chemical and biological too.

He looked back over to Vyhovsky again, feeling as tired as the Ukranian looked. “What’s the plan, boss?” Vyhovsky smiled and sat down to detail out the next six weeks of routines and required details. As they started to talk, there was a commotion out in the corrido. As they turned at the sound, Thompson caught a glimpse of movement at the hatch. Vyhovsky saw it too. Roels zipped into the room. He looked excited, breathless. “Ingers, he’s awake. Kim was with him when he woke up”, Roels said excitedly. “We’ve got Ingers back.” Vyhovsky fiddled with the computer and bleatedly joined the other two as they launched themselves at the hatchway, and caught handholds to redirect their momentum. “Thank God”, Vyhovsky murmured, behind Roels and Thompson. “We can go to regular shifts again.” The three floated the corridors to Inger’s cube. Inside, the barrel-chested Swede had unzipped the bag he’d been in for two weeks. His body looked pale and emaciated. The slabs of muscle were still there, stretched taut in places due to inactivity. He shook his leonine head and stared blankly at the three men and one woman at the hatchway. Then he turned to Kim, who was floating in the back of the cube, behind Ingers.

Kim’s eyes seemed alight to Thompson. He has to feel great. I don’t know what he did, but he had to have gotten to Ingers somehow. Thank God, we need him to help out. Being down two workers was no picnic. This will give us time to plan around getting the Xong-Xi out of that locked docking ring. We’ve got a good chance of making it after all. “What…happened?”, Ingers said in heavily accented English. His movements Thompson noted, were stiff and jerky, almost random tics. I wonder how bad he is. Being asleep so long has to have done something to his muscles. I wonder how much he remembers of that day. “You have been asleep for two weeks. We were beginning to lose hope you would wake up”, Roels said bluntly. Vyhovsky gave the Belgian a glower, which Roels noted, then shrugged. “I don’t think keeping things right now is going to be hurtful.” “I do”, said Kim. He floated next to Ingers, placing a comforting hand on the big Swede’s shoulder.

Mental trauma like we have gone through, must be approached with care, especially in this case, where other symptoms occur”, Kim said to the assembled group. “He has had a very dificult shock to deal with. It is upon us to help him recover, and recover quickly. As you have all said, his expertise is needed.” Thompson watched Ingers as he seemd to relax as Kim spoke. Ingers looked over at Kim, a strange, glassy gaze in his eyes. Thompson repressed a shiver. I wonder what that’s all about. Maybe it’s because Kim read to him all that time? He looked at Kim as Ingers gave the North Korean a gaze that seemed to border on adoration. Kim, seemed oblivious to the gaze, but Thompson thought he felt it, as he held himself straighter by the handhold as he talked.

Ingers scanned the faces as Kim droned on about the fragile stage Swede was in, and what should be done to assist a full recovery. Thompson noted that Inger continued to look at the group until his eyes met Salila Shukla who’d just arrived at the hatchway. Ingers gaze, changed. The look of a man who has just had a religious epiphany. Thompson shivered at the intensity of the gaze. A quick glance at the others made him think he was the only one to spot the change. He watched Ingers, who seemed oblivious to anything but Ms Shukla. His eyes followed every small movement, every shift. It was so focused that he could see the woman instinctively trying to hide behind Roels. Roels noticed the movement, and Thmpson watched him glance back and give her a reassuring smile.

We got him back, but, what, did we get back? God, I hope this is just part of recovering. His stare’s absolutely creepy. I never remember Ingers being that way. Is this some kind of psychological thing? Maybe Kim can tell me. Gotta ask him when we get the chance. Kim had finished talking, and Thompson struggled to remember what he’d said. Something about being soft voiced and gentle with Ingers until he fully…something. Recovered maybe? Shrugging his shoulders he pulled on the handhold to join the others in welcoming Ingers back.

A World’s Eye View – 7

He found Vyhovsky in the room, drifting in the middle, having fallen asleep and lost his foothold. Normally, this would be something that would amuse Thompson and the others, but right now, it seemed to punctuate how much stress everyone had endured to date, and how much more they might have to in order to survive in this hostile environment. The metal and plastic of the station against the unforgiving vacuum of space and debris of the disaster below. Thompson carefully slid by the sleeping Vyhovsky, settling into an ergo chair, and going over the open command list. He’s calculating the burn needed for a slow rise up another 3 kilometers, trying to get above all this debris before we hit a big cloud of larger pieces. He looked over at another file opened to one side of the screen. What’s this? Hmm, how much maneuvering fuel we have for the station?

He sat down, ducking under Vyhovksy’s slowly rotating legs as he reviewed Vyhovsky’s spreadsheet. Enough to lift us up a total of forty kilometers, then we start to decay into the atmosphere. He’s got an estimate of four years here. So a lot of time, just not enough to stay up here indefinitely, though I guess four years qualifies. He tapped and opened a second sheet, which displayed figures for food, recyclables, electrical reserve, and ammonia reserves. After looking through the sheets, it was clear that the two things that were the true limits were the ammonia, and food. Each was finite, though vegetables could be grown with some effort, as was proven in previous missions to the station. The real kicker, as he’d thought early on, was going to be ammonia for heat dissipation. He’d guessed about six months. Vyhovsky had actually quadrupled that to two years, basing his estimate on reducing the electrical reserve even further, and allowing a ten degree extra rise and fall in onboard temperatures to reduce ammonia use. It all worked out on paper. The trouble with all this is none of it could predict anything about likely micrometeorite strikes or the new large orbital pieces from the exploding EMP warheads.

Thompson bit his lip, depressed by the estimate. It’s one thing to guess, but not have a solid date. Gods I’d rather have it a maybe, than a definite. We’re going to die up here, unless we can get home. Hell, we’ll probably die there. But we’d be home, not in this freakin’ hamster house. God, if you’re out there, we could really use some good news right now. Something, anything. I don’t want to die up here. He pinched his nose, then reached up in surprise as Vyhovsky’s legs rotated into his peripheral vision. His outstrectched hand thumped against Vyhovsky, who awoke with a startled grunt.

Thompson watched him come awake, and groggily take a moment to orient himself. He reached up to a hand hold, helped by a slow push from Thompson. Thompson watched his gaze alight on him, then the open spreadsheet on the computer on the wall behind him. “Reading over someone’s shoulder isn’t proper etiquette.” Thompson found himself smiling as he replied. “And sleeping on the job gets the boss upset”, he replied, which earned a tired smile from Vyhovsky. He grimaced dramatically, then stated, “I’ll keep quiet about the reading, if you keep quiet about the sleeping.” “What sleeping?”, Thompson replied innocently. “…”, Vyhovsky started to reply, then realized the joke, and chuckled softly. “How tired am I that I could not see that coming?”

Seriously? I’d say quite a bit if you end up hovering in the middle of the room”, Thompson answered. “What have you been doing to get to this point?” He looked up at Vyhovsky, then back over to the open spreadsheet. “The Ammonia lasting twenty-two months? Isn’t that optimistic?” Wyhovsky shrugged. “If, we catch all the breaks, then it’s close to realistic. If not, then we’re pretty much dead anyway and there’s no reason for the exercise.” Thompson looked back at Vyhovsky, who gave another tired smile. “I’m Ukrainian, we’re bigger pessimists than the Russians.”

Vyhovsky pushed away from the handhold and floated down to grab the back of the chair Thompson sat at. He peered at the spreadsheet. “What is the rate of consumption for the Ammonia?” Thompson minimized the spread sheet then searched the database for recharge cycles. “We’re using this much here, and this spike is when everything happened back home. We lost a heft chunk from the reservoir.” He shifted in the chair to let Vyhovsky see the chart more easily. Vyhovsky eased himself forward, grasping the edge of the computer mounting to arrest his motion. “So we have what, forty percent of the reservoir left”, he asked Thompson. “More like thirty. Cutting back on the heating and cooling will stretch it, but we may end up having more stuff breaking down because of thermal expansion and contraction in here.”

Thompson popped the spreadsheet open once more. “The trouble is, skrimping one place will hurt in others. Reduce the heating and cooling, that will help, but the equipment isn’t exactly made for temperature cycles. It’s sturdy, and we’ve got triple redundancy and spare equipment, but no telling how long it will last with the thermal changes.” Vyhovsky nodded, intent on the spreadsheet. “So your best estimate of our time here?” Thompson stared at the spreadsheet, then cycled through the other tabs for food, recyclables, and perishables. He changed the formulas used, and then jumped back to the main page to display the estimates. It looked nowhere near as encouraging as Vyhovsky’s. Ammonia was still the major bottleneck, at eleven to fifteen months before reserves ran out, if Vyhovsky’s measures were instituted.

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


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.