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.”