Bigger Problems

He triple-checked everything, sticking to the official checklist. Alone, on the night side of Viviani—a rocky subsatellite in the Poerava system—was not the time nor place to play cowboy and go off script. As frustrating as that may be.

“Aleksander to base, still ready to make the splice.”

“I said stand by,” came the reply in his headset, short and terse.

He checked his oxygen; plenty left. The real killer out here was boredom. He started the checklist for the fourth time.

There had been comms issues from day one. Inbound messages had been choppy, or delayed, or inexplicably missing. And who knew what the outbound feed was like? They thought they had the solution though, and Aleksander jumped at the chance to suit up, hike a few klicks around the moonlet’s curve, and splice a qubit shunt into the array. It was something to do. But of course, now that he was here it was all hurry up and wait. Typical.

“Aleksander to base, do you have an update?” He waited. “Aleksander to base, copy?” Nothing. That was very unusual. He stood up, walked around a little to keep the blood flowing, made slow circles with his joints. Five long minutes passed. “Aleksander to base, copy?” He counted to ten. Silence. The comms problems were manifesting in new ways. He probably could just make the splice and be done with it. But that’s not what the book said to do. Damnit. He left everything as it was—tools, equipment, miscellaneous supplies; there was no atmosphere here, no weather. It would be fine until he, or someone else, returned.

He marched back to base.

Every quarter-klick or so he’d radio base again, but he never got a response. Still, the process tamped down his displeasure, kept his mind at ease. At last, he circled the crag that stood beside the base, and stood frozen with horror. Every module was blown out like overpressurized tin cans. Tanks of hydrogen and oxygen floated overhead, having been accelerated beyond Viviani’s meager escape velocity. Crystallized atmosphere hung in the vacuum like a sky of shattered glass. How long had it been since he’d heard from anyone? Could someone still be alive in there? No, he knew, but he frantically worked his way up the steep hill anyway. He had to check.

He suddenly had much bigger problems than the comms array.

Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. Image by Karen Papazian, used with permission.

10 thoughts on “Bigger Problems”

      1. I usually come up with my own. I post a writing prompt called 5 Words everyday, but I just discovered the flash fiction challenge. They have a prompt every week where you have to write a story using exactly 99 words.

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  1. Indeed, now Aleksander is the Cowboy and he needs to scout out the area and round up a horse. He is a survivor… smart, creative, and capable to successfully operate off-script in an emergency situation, like this.

    So far, he sees no bodies floating around in the flotsam and if anyone is left alive, he will find them. He has maintenance access to the underground tools and supplies bunker (which was the original base camp before they built the fancy one top-side), and which is a self-contained non-destructible habitat supplied with portable air tanks, back-up comm equipment, ATV exploration rovers, origami construction cranes, and enough stored air and rations to last a guy at least 10 years. He can fall back to that secure location and work outwards from there.

    His plan is simple: access the current damages, search and rescue for survivors, transition to recovery mode for anything useful that he can grab, and then splice that damned qubit shunt into the array so he can order up a pizza.

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  2. Yes…
    and I’m waiting with bated breath to see how Aleksander’s rescue/recovery/recon adventures unfold. I’m especially on the edge of my seat to learn if he finds any evidence of tampering to the Viviani comm system array… as he is beginning to suspect that someone at base didn’t want him to make that splice.

    Liked by 1 person

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