Weekly story post! This one is Sci-Fi (about 13,900 words). Probably also has the longest title of any story I’ve posted thus far. There is an explanation for the title, but you’ll have to read the story to find it out. It’s not a vital story component, but it does help to give some background. Anyway, that’s enough from me, enjoy the story!
Pedro Guerra appears in the doorway. It would be more accurate to call that doorway a hatchway, and he all but fills it as he stands there resting his left arm on the upper section of the oval shaped opening. He raises his right arm subconsciously and runs his open fingers through his lengthening brown fringe to stop it from flopping into his green eyes.
Pedro is an engineer and as such is dressed in the familiar grey jumpsuit that everyone on this space station is clad in. The only difference is that the sections of cloth covering his shoulders are coloured a dark green. It signifies that he’s an engineer to anyone that so much as glances at him. Whether it’s necessary or not, the Spanish born astronaut who is thirty seven years old, cannot say. It’s true that there are more than two hundred people on this station, named Prometheus. Yet, it strikes him that everywhere he goes people know his name. After eleven months in space that isn’t surprising. Especially when there are only a limited number of people you can see and you see them day after day.
In that way Prometheus is unlike any place Pedro has ever been before. Even the training camps back on Earth that he was stationed on, where he learned the necessary skills for these space missions, do not compare. After all, there is a big wide world of more than nine billion people beyond the boundaries of the training grounds. Plus, on top of those being trained for their future missions are the ancillary staff and instructors that help men and women like Pedro to achieve their goals and depart this planet for Prometheus.
The space station spans some fourteen hundred metres across both its x and y axis creating a plus shape that looms like a second moon. The station rests on the opposite side of the third rock from the sun to the planets sole natural satellite. The views are exquisite. At least from the Earth facing side of the station that is. Pedro cannot say the same for the side that faces the black white speckled canvas of the depths of space. And in truth he isn’t comfortable with the thought of delving deeper into the void. But he doesn’t have to worry about such things, at least not for the time being. When that day comes he is rotating out and going back to having his feet on solid, firm ground. Near-Earth orbit is enough of the vacuum for him. He is only up here anyway to help facilitate the scientists and daredevils who are helping to further the science of mankind. One such daredevil, a name Pedro gives them which is not an official title in any way, is Ben Wu. Ben is the thirty two year old Asian-Canadian astronaut who is the sole occupant of the room that Pedro is looming in the hatchway of. Ben is completely oblivious to Pedro’s presence which has in turn left Pedro chuckling to himself with a wide smile carved across his tanned slender features.
Ben Wu has his jumpsuit stripped to his waist and the arms of the clothing tied in place. It’s uncomfortable because it increases the feeling of heat in that area by several times, but it’s necessary to stop the arms getting under his feet. Even if right now Ben is laid out on his back lifting the artificial weights which are mimicking the gravity and resistance he would feel if he were still on Earth. He isn’t and while there is a recreation of gravity on Prometheus, it is significantly lower than he is used to back on the planet of his birth. That’s why sweat is beading down his face. He can feel the sticky feeling of his vest clinging to his skin while the exposed skin of his arms, neck and face are slick with moisture. This is a daily routine for Ben. Not part of his scheduled routine, but something he has instead built in so that the transition back to Earth when this mission is over will be easier. At least, that is what he hopes. He has no way of knowing for sure. Every time he thinks his transition will be a little easier, but it never works out that way. Previously he could have put it down to him not having been prepared enough for the return to natural gravity and air. That won’t be the case this time. This time he’ll be ready. He is sure of it. Yet, this mission is very different from any he’s been on before. This will be the first space walk anyone has done in the new state-of-the-art membrane suits.
Sure Ben’s been part of the trial runs both on Earth and within the confines of Prometheus. But nothing can compare to the realities of taking your first step out into a vacuum without any oxygen tank strapped to your back. He’d be lying if he didn’t say, even if it is to himself, that he’s anxious about it. He’d be a fool not to be. Though, he has every confidence in the suit. It hasn’t failed a single test run up to now. At least, not since he joined the program nearly two years ago. He can’t say if it suffered any failures before that. It’s likely as back then the suit had been a concept and barely working prototype cobbled together in an attempt to secure funding by showing its potential promise. And it had clearly worked otherwise he wouldn’t be here, on Prometheus.
“Somebody looks busy.” Pedro says still smiling.
The Spanish astronaut sees no reason to continue his silent observation.
Ben recognising the voice immediately bursts into a light chuckle before querying, “Have you been spying on me long?”
The Canadian born Asian with thick short black hair and light brown eyes finishes his rep and then with his thumbs deactivates the recreated gravity and resistance made to simulate lifting weight on Earth and then sits up on the bench beneath him.
He soon turns his attention to Pedro who is still in the open hatchway smiling and waits for a response.
“I’m just dropping by to see if you’re ready for your big day. It’s today isn’t it?” Pedro returns with only the occasional hint of a Spanish accent creeping through every so often. It’s barely noticeable and Ben isn’t sure if he’d pick up on it if he didn’t know Pedro had been born in Spain.
“Sure is.” Ben confirms as he puts down the twin metal spindles with magnets and a whole host of electronic tech he doesn’t understand built into them. That isn’t to say that Ben Wu isn’t a smart man. He is. That’s why he’s on this program. But he’s smart in a moment to moment way. Willing to take risks scientists just aren’t. Some might think it cowardly for scientists not to try their own inventions but if they did there’s a good chance they wouldn’t have gotten very far before serious injury or death ruined any chance at serious progress. That was what stunted the space age in the very latter part of the twentieth century and into the early part of the twenty first, in Ben’s eyes. That’s why he’s relieved he had not been alive at that time. He’d have found the over cautious, can’t do anything attitude suffocating. Then again, he’d probably have just done it and hoped for the best.
Thankfully, humanity takes a more even and measured approach these days. A lot of science mixed with a healthy dose of risk. Not recklessness. That’s as pointless as being overcautious, even to a man like Ben who Pedro refers to as a daredevil. Ben doubts Pedro is well versed on some of the, by-comparison, truly insane things that were pulled in the early days of space exploration. Yet, all those men, and the few women that were allowed to take part, are Ben’s heroes. They are the reason he does this. He doesn’t want to be famous, much like they didn’t. No, Ben wants to help further humanity and he has enough of a working knowledge of science and technology in addition to his daring streak to be of actual use.
“How you feeling?” Pedro asks as his face suddenly turns serious with the smile now completely erased.
“Dehydrated.” Ben jokes as he slowly rises to his feet. If he were on Earth he could have leapt to his feet but on Prometheus doing so will result in his head slamming into a bulkhead somewhere or other.
He’d learned that first hand during his maiden mission on Prometheus. It had only been a weeklong stay, much shorter than his current stint. Not that he minds. In many ways Ben prefers being up here on Prometheus. Earth is overcrowded, noisy, polluted and, well he has to admit it, dying. At least, it is from the perspective of humanity anyway. Everyone knows the planet itself will live on long after the human race is gone. It is just the planets current incarnation is coming to an end, that much is clear, and with it all those that call it home. Its part of the reason the membrane suit he’ll be testing in a little while is so important. Humanity can’t cart billions upon billions of litres of oxygen across the solar system or into the depths of space. It just isn’t feasible and even if it somehow was possible there is no way of knowing if it would be enough, or how long it would last. Sure, technology means the air could be endlessly recycled and re-oxygenated, at least in theory, but there will never be enough time to test it and make certain of that on such a grand scale as the starships that will be needed to ferry every man, woman and child away from the only world they’ve ever known. That’s why membrane suits bring so much hope. They have been tested for tens of thousands of hours and they too are capable of re-oxygenating air, and suffer almost no diminishing returns, without a single point of failure. Other than a need to exchange a tiny filter the equivalent of every fifteen years, and filters are much easier to produce and transport in enormous quantities compared to huge containers of gases.
“Can’t you take anything seriously, daredevil?” Pedro asks while letting out a sigh of concern for the Asian-Canadian’s lack of visible anxiety.
If Pedro were in his place he’d be having kittens and trying to claw his way out of Prometheus. Not literally, but figuratively. Then again, he’d never have signed on for such a mission role in the first place. He and Ben are very different, but it works and they’ve got to know each other well over the last eleven months. No surprise when you’re pool of potential friends and associates is limited to just a couple hundred. Especially, when nearly half of those are scientists and many of those scientists care only about whatever project their working on and as such keep to their own little cliques for interaction.
It isn’t a rule, at least not a written one, but it might as well be. Pedro can understand why. It’s easier to chat when you know you have something in common. Thankfully not all the scientists are like that. Some are happy for more victims to indoctrinate to their way of thinking. Again, that is not literally, but just how one scientist explained why he and a decent number of his ilk are more than willing to chat about what they’ve been doing and go into the most intricate of details to explain it. They even make sure that intricate detail is in terminology that someone without two of more doctorates will understand.
“Not if I can help it.” Ben beams back a smile moments before he uses the towel he’s just picked up to wipe his sweat drenched face and then proceed to doing the same across his exposed neck and arms.
“Mind if I walk you down there?” Pedro asks. He’s worried about the test. He has every faith in the team behind it, the genius scientist that came up with the idea, who is still back on Earth, and Ben who has been testing it. Yet, Pedro can’t shake the feeling about the possibility that it could still fail and if it does that could in turn spell the end for Ben Wu. That doesn’t sit right with the station engineer, but he knows better than to try and talk Ben out of it. This is why the slightly younger man is here and by the look on his face there is no way Pedro would be successful even if he did attempt such a feat.
“Sure. Let me just finish trying to dry off.” Ben answers matter-of-factly as he continues to dry off his torso. He’s finished with his exposed flesh and is now dabbing at the sweat stained vest covering his torso, the straps of which run over his broad shoulders yet somehow seem to be bone dry.
“Not stopping by your bunk to change?” Pedro offers in surprise as he blinks rapidly.
“No time. And anyway it’ll help me slip right into the thing.” Ben replies with a chuckle before he finishes dabbing at the material of his vest. He’s convinced that he’s got off about as much of the excess moisture as he’s going to. So quickly unties the arms of his jumpsuit from around his waist and then slips back into the upper section of the one piece outfit and then slides the zip two thirds of the way up. The zip ends at about where the opening would be if he were wearing a collared shirt with the top button unfastened.
“There’s something wrong with you.” Pedro says as he pushes off from the oval hatchway, shaking his head as Ben approaches quickly.
“What was your first clue?” Ben says with a laugh as he steps out through the open oval hatchway into the two metre wide corridor, past Pedro, and begins to stride toward his mission.
“The fact you’re a daredevil.” Pedro replies with a smile as he falls into step beside Ben.
Again Pedro has to sweep his hair back and to the side to keep his fringe from falling into his eyes. Ben catches it and bursts into laughter with a shake of his head leaving Pedro to ask, “What? Am I wrong?”