Monday, June 1, 2015

The Orbitals, Part VIII

This is a story set in a relatively near future in outer space. National governments have built stations on the moon and private companies have started shepherding asteroids into the lunar neighborhood for mining purposes.

This is Part VIII, the fourth part of the third chapter. 

“This is a cowboy spacewalk,” said Spencer, shaking his head. It’s not that he really knew anything about spacewalks, but being a space kid, he felt like he should have an opinion on this sort of thing.

“Well, I guess it’s a cowboy spacewalk for an astronaut fireman,” said Jean-Paul, “What else would you expect?”

Spencer chuckled to himself. “Good point. Hey, Jean-Paul, look at that.”

“Uh-oh,” he pulled up the radio handset and spoke calmly. “Zephyr, we’re reading a little bit of variation on...oh. It looks like your breathing. It seems you’re breathing too fast right now. Can you stop breathing so quickly?”

Spencer burst out laughing, fortunately after Jean-Paul had released the transmit button. Nothing from Zephyr for fifteen seconds then:

“Sure, I can stop breathing so damn quickly when this is over! Where’s the next clip, damn it?!”

“Um, Zephyr, I am seeing this tether called ess tee ar tee two right around your location.”

“Spencer, can you translate that for me?”

“Sure thing, I can do that for you. That’s going to be sierra tango romeo tango dash two, and we’re going to ask you to go ahead and clip in right next to what appears to be your left foot.”

“There it is! Thank you both! I’m so sorry for breathing. Zephyr out.”

Another couple of minutes of relative silence. Jean-Paul seemed to be completely unfazed, both by his responsibility and by the gravity of the current situation. He stared out the cockpit forward window, which offered a fantastic view of a growing gibbous moon. He looked down at the panel. “Hey, the breathing is better. Look, we’re all green.”

A piercing alarm sounded once, then went silent. The synthesized voice said: “Oxygen levels are below nominal. Oxygen levels are below nominal.”

“That’s bad,” said Jean-Paul, and he grabbed his helmet.

“No, don’t put it on yet,” said Spencer. He touched the canister for the breathing mask with his right hand, then looked at his panel. “It’s just barely below the line, and it’s not dropping very quickly. I think we’re still OK. I’ll tell Zephyr.”

“Hello Zephyr, this is Spencer. We’re looking at a very small drop in oxygen levels in the cabin right now. Have you started examining the tank junction yet? We got the ox sub-nominal alert, but it doesn’t seem to be dangerous yet at all.”

“Cabin ox is low? Uh...I can’t tell you why that would be the case. I just got to Junction Tank 1, and was about to call and let you know I’m going in.”

“OK, we’re going to pretend like nothing happened then. Our pressure is still pretty normal. Be safe out there.”

“You too.”