01. Aachoo! | The Bug

August 16, 2020 Sujay Sarma

“Aachoo!” Valteri sneezed hard. “Coming down with something eh?” Dickson laughed, but cringed away. “A case of the space flu may be.” “I am not sure.” Valteri managed to say before another sneeze overtook him. “Aachoo!“ “Let me find something in the medkit.” Dickson suggested and floated away to root around in the stock of…


Aachoo!” Valteri sneezed hard.

“Coming down with something eh?” Dickson laughed, but cringed away. “A case of the space flu may be.”

“I am not sure.” Valteri managed to say before another sneeze overtook him. “Aachoo!

“Let me find something in the medkit.” Dickson suggested and floated away to root around in the stock of standard medicines.

“I don’t think I should do the space walk today.” Valteri sighed blowing his nose into a wad of paper. “Ugh!” He added looking at it.

“Yeah, we don’t want you to sneeze yourself away from the station now, would we!” Dickson laughed.

They were coming to the end of their rotation onboard the Gateway Station. The Soyuz P241 was expected anytime now, with their relief. They were orbiting on the other side of the moon now. With an orbit that was half as slow as the moon itself, it would be two days before they could radio home about any trouble.

“I think I should put myself into the isolation pod.” Valteri suggested.

Dickson nodded. “Yeah, go ahead.”

He could hear his colleague sneezing away as he headed off down the four-pod station to the isolation pod at the other end. Now, he would have to watch over this multi-billion dollar piece of equipment all by himself, for a while. He floated over to the Comm station.

What should I tell them? He wondered.


Adjust vector 2.6

“Copy 2.6”

Negative align.

“Negative align. Copy.”

I can’t see the Red ‘X’!

“Sorry boys, the tape came off again.”

Hope we don’t crash into you then.

Silence.

Dickson felt the gentle bump of the P241 docking. He floated out of the Command Center and to the docking pod. The two relief astronauts were already in their Pressure Transfer Bay when he reached there. They made faces at each other and laughed as they waited for the barometer to register equal pressures on both sides.

“Welcome to the Gateway.” He grinned as he opened the hatch and let them in.

“Welcome back you mean.” Carlton grinned. It was his third time on the Gateway. He was also an International Space Station (ISS) veteran before it had been decommissioned.

“The ship’s all yours.” Dickson laughed and mocked a quick getaway into the P241.

“So, what’s the status of Valteri?” Xi asked. She was also a medical officer. “Has he gotten any more sick?”

“Yeah, he has a fever now. Very hot.”

“Let me go check up on him.” Xi said concerned. She floated away toward the isolation pod. “After that, I’ll be back to check up on you.” She called back to Dickson.


“So you have no idea what happened?” Xi grilled Dickson.

Dickson was aghast. “Honestly, I have no clue.” He repeated. “I haven’t gone there in about a day.”

“When was the last time you gave him his rations?” Carlton quizzed him. “You should have seen him then?”

“Yesterday night.” Dickson said embarrassed. “I had to prep for your arrival and do tasks normally done by two people. So I gave him enough to last him.”

“And he was fine then?”

“Fine and present!”

Carlton had been performing some calculations on a pad of paper. He looked up. “What was your spin before you de-gyro’ed?”

Dickson told him.

Carlton shook his head.

“What’s wrong?” Xi asked.

“I am guessing he would be somewhere around JWT now.”

“WHAT!”

“And well and truly dead.” He sighed.

They sat silently for a while shaking their heads in disbelief. When Xi had gone to check up on Valteri, she had been surprised to see that the Isolation Pod was missing. It was simply not there. There was no sign of it. In an emergency, the pod could be used as an escape vehicle and ejected. But it definitely could not be ejected from inside the pod or from anywhere in that capsule. One had to do that from the Command Center, which was manned by Dickson from the time Valteri put himself into isolation.

“Let’s go there and look around a bit?” Dickson suggested.

“What are you expecting to find?” Carlton asked.

Dickson floated away toward the rear of the station. Curious, but convinced that they would not find anything surprising, Carlton and Xi followed. When they arrived, Dickson was looking at the ejection window. It was a set of four titanium doors that slid away on command. They were tightly shut. There was no sign of any foul play on it or any form of damage.

“How about we go outside and take a look?” He suggested.

“The idea being…?” Xi wondered.

“A meteorite or something could have tapped it somewhere causing the door to open?”

“Okay, we will go and take a look.” Carlton suggested.

Xi and Carlton suited up and headed outside while Dickson went to watch the external cameras.

After a while, the two of them returned.

“Nothing.” Xi said, flatly. “What about the camera tapes?” She asked.

“The Gateway does not store more than a couple of hours worth. Some compressed footage is sent away to Control back on Earth.” Carlton shrugged.

They went into the tape archives anyway. Though the archives held a little over four hours worth of footage, all they could see was nothing. The Pod had already been gone.


About the author:

Sujay Sarma is an IT industry veteran, about 43 years of age. He has spent 25 years in the IT industry and has done it all, and seen it all. Now, his passion is writing [blogs, stories, novels] and music. He has his own YouTube channel called "Sujay Sarma's Musical Adventures" where he posts his covers and originals, and a Podcast named "Interesting People Interesting Stories".
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