Friday, August 05, 2005

Scenes from the Future

Astromechanic Bob Schwartzman cursed for the fiftieth time in as many minutes. The dehumidifier in his suit was malfunctioning again, and sweat was stinging his eyes. Considering that just a few centimeters past the end of his nose was hard vacuum, with temperatures that could fluctuate hundreds of degrees in mere seconds he decided he couldn’t complain too much about a little extra moisture, but it sure as hell made a tough job more difficult. The waste disposal unit on Ell-5 Station’s third quadrant habitation ring failed again, and was steadfastly refusing to reclaim the water and minerals needed by the denizens of the station. This was his fourth EVA to fix the unit. He shook his head violently in a vain effort to keep the droplets out of his eyes, but in the micro-gravity environment they just floated around inside his helmet.

“Hey Charlie!” Bob growled into his mic.

“Yeah, what?”

“I thought you fixed this damn suit.”

“I did. Is it my fault you sweat like a 16 year old girl on prom night?”

“Ha fucking ha!” Bob’s tone carried very little amusement. “When are you gonna finish screwing around and get out here and give me hand?”

“I’m almost done here, but you’re not gonna believe the news story I just found in the archives. Remember reading about the first space shuttle program in history class?”

“Yeah, barely. What about it?”

“Well, apparently they weren’t really able to do any repair work on the ship in orbit.”

“What the fuck? Why not?”

“It doesn’t really say. It seems like the ship was too fragile to risk touching it or some shit. Don’t quite follow how it can take micro-meteor strikes but not a screwdriver, but whatever, they couldn’t.”

Bob was wrestling with a stubborn o-ring, and was growing impatient with his shift-mate’s irrelevancies. “So what’s that got to do with anything?”

“So I’m looking at these old news stories from near the end of the program, and I find hundreds of megabytes of video of this guy going EVA to pull out a bit of filler that popped out on the belly of the ship during launch. They spent days watching NASA prepare for the ‘repair’”

The o-ring finally snapped; sending the two halves flying into orbit.

“Shit!” Bob exclaimed.

“What’s wrong?” Charlie asked.

“Damn o-ring tore my glove. Hang on a minute.”

Bob retrieved his tube of stop leak from a pocket on his suit and squirted the gooey substance over the tear in his glove. It sealed instantly. He put the tube away and turned back to the open bulkhead in front of him.

“Ok, I’m fine. Not that I really care about this, but is there some point to your story?”

“Yeah, I just thought you would find it funny that they spent two days preparing to send the guy out, and then it took hours for him to go under the ship, since it was too fragile to touch. Finally, when he gets to the stuff all he does is pull it out with his hands and the world goes fucking nuts! All he did was yank out a bit of foam and they treat him like a goddam hero. Here we are, busting our butts every day doing real work, and we’re lucky to get so much as a thank you. How d’ya like that?”

“It’s a real fucking crime.” Sarcasm dripped from Bob’s voice. “So how ‘bout you play the hero and get your ass out here and help me with this shitbot? Or do I have to pull rank?”

“All right, don’t get your panties in a twist. I just thought you’d find it funny s’all.”

“Sure, I’m laughing my ass off. Now get out here, and bring another number 6 o-ring!”

Charlie sighed and turned off the computer terminal. “Aye aye, sir!” he said in his best, mock military manner.

Bob started removing the restraining bolts holding the waste unit in place. “Kiss my ass.” He muttered under his breath.


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