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 “Friend Eugeni, surely you must know that this mission is no longer valid.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.

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.

A World’s Eye View – 2

Thompson gathered his gear and walked over to the changing station, and started the laborious process of suiting up. Kim helped hold the power pack and temperature control up as he shrugged his shoulders to settle the weight. Some awkward work with his hands on the inside, and Kim on the outside, sealed the suit. He trundled into the air lock as Kim slid the ammonia and the toolkit in with him. The outer starboard radiator had been losing pressure, indicative of a micrometeorite hit. He stepped out onto the truss, hooking his safety line up to a handy eyelet, and simply gazed up at the stars.

I feel like a kid again out here. You never see them so bright back home. Too much light to see them. He gazed up at Orion, and remembered the comics and science fiction books that had fired his imagination as a boy. Never fails, every step is like reminiscing. He shook his head and slowly worked his way to the radiator. He reached the long ‘downward’ hanging radiator after ten minutes of careful maneuvering, then began the visual inspection. Normally, things could be pinpointed with a lot more accuracy using the computers to check the pressure fluctuations, but this leak was small and slow enough that the only clue was the pressure drop on the panel.

He shifted his tether to an eyelet at the ‘top’ of the radiator, then slowly worked down the shaded side. Once the tether reached it’s limit, he clipped the second in place then moved to unlock the first, in a slow two-forward-one-back motion that kept one tether locked to an eyelet. Thompson looked over each section and found a leak one third of the way down the radiator. It was a small micrometeorite hit that splattered the aluminum like melted wax, splashing a hole the size of his thumb in the radiator. Thompson checked the panel, turned off the local valves, then pulled the damaged panel, and replaced it with one of the spares. The entire operation took three hours to complete. He turned the local valves back to on, (no need to worry about losing vacuum in space), and once the seals checked out, he returned to the station and activated the pumps on the radiator. The seals held. The system was fully operational. He vented a gallon of ammonia from the ten gallon reserve into the radiator to replace the loss, then made the slow trip back to the airlock.

How many zpare zections we have left in that pallat?”, asked Ingers.

I counted six, so we’re pretty flush with spares, plus the eight coming up with the next re-supply in two days. So fourteen, which should last for the next year, if the one-a-month average holds steady.” Ihlen replied with a smile.

Goot news then. I vill put in the reportz.”

That works for me, then I don’t have to,” Thompson added. Like the others up here, they all knew meticulous records had to be kept, but hated redundancy, so if one person was turning in a report, they would announce it so others didn’t have to repeat the same information to ground control.

Thompson went to the galley to get a snack. The work had gotten his appetite going. As he floated down the connection section to the galley, he saw Ms Shukla at the window, looking out. Her lips wore a wide grin and small ‘ooohs’ escaped her lips as she enjoyed some view. What the heck, it’d be fun to talk her up. He did a slow glide to end up next to her by the viewport.

“On your left”, he said softly, so as not to surprise her. “What are you seeing, miss?”, he said, and winced internally. God what a lame line, I’ll be surprised if she says anything.

She turned her dark brown eyes to his own, and he found himself transfixed in the gaze. He felt like a deer in a set of headlights, then the eyes turned away back to the viewport.

“The lights. There are so many blinking lights. Do the cities all do that from up here?”, she asked him, her soft Indian accent making her words sound like a cat’s purr. Thompson sat for a moment, taken by her beauty, before he realized she’s asked the question.

“Oh, yeah, umm, let’s see here.” He joined her by the viewport, and looked down. The familiar coast of the United States was fading off to the left of the viewport. Europe was coming into view. The nighttime sky had the major cities lit up like bright spots on the dark surface. As Thompson watched the scene, a flash to his left seemed to brighten, then dim a portion of southern Florida. “Huh, I wonder what that was”, He mumbled, curious.

“I have seen it three times now”, Shali told him. “Mostly it was along the..American east coast, at the middle and lower middle along the edge.”

Middle and lower middle?”, Thompson asked her.

“Yes”, she replied. “I think your eastern American coast, Washington?” Thompson thought about that.

“I guess we’ll find out on our next pass over the coast. As they watched, there was a bright flare near London, which rapidly faded away, leaving a blacked out are where there used to be lights. “A power outage?”, Thompson mused aloud.

“It got brighter before it went dark. Does that happened with a power outage?”, Ms Shukla asked him.

“Not to my way of thinking. A power loss should just make things go black, not light up and then wink out.” There was a slight movement at the corner of his eye. He turned to see Col. Vyhovsky gliding towards them.

Eugeni Vyhovsky was the Team’s commander. He had made colonel in the Ukrainian military for fighting a stubborn defense against the Russian invasion of his country twelve years ago. The Russians had been turned back by the Ukrainians and by global political sanctions, but Russia’s dream of a new Soviet Union was still very much alive, which is why the Cooperative station had been accelerated in construction. The International Space Station had been decommissioned by the Russians who found that equipment mysteriously failed when they had tried to upgrade the station into a military complex. The station had fallen out of orbit over the pacific and fell apart on re-entry. The incident deepened the new cold war between the Russians and the US, which is why the US was happy to work with China and Japan in a joint construction venture for the new station.

Good day Ms Shukla, how are you finding your time on the station?”, Vyhovsky asked her. The woman turned and smiled warmly.

“It is very exciting”, she said, then looked back out the viewport. “Such a view will be something I shall never forget. It will be sad to leave so soon. I will miss this amazing place.”

It’ll be good to get back to a normal routine without a tourist, but I’m sure gonna miss the view, Thompson thought. He looked over at Vyhovsky, who seemed to be having similar thoughts. Ms Shukla seemed oblivious to Vyhovsky’s gaze. She’s probably gotten that a lot with her career. She probably has to keep things oblivious so that she’s not flooded with suitors over there. It makes her kind of high-maintenance though she doesn’t seem that way up here.