02. Where is he? | The Bug

August 16, 2020 Sujay Sarma

Dickson sat glumly in the debriefing room at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. The investigators had dug up five days worth of footage from the Gateway and deduced that since a day before his mysterious disappearance, Valteria had not moved. Even the rations that Dickson had been leaving for him had been untouched. “Did…


Dickson sat glumly in the debriefing room at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. The investigators had dug up five days worth of footage from the Gateway and deduced that since a day before his mysterious disappearance, Valteria had not moved. Even the rations that Dickson had been leaving for him had been untouched.

“Did you not notice that the rations had been lying there untouched?”

Dickson shook his head. He had been so busy pulling double duties on the Gateway that it seems simple things like that had gone unnoticed.

“When was the last time you spoke with Commander Valteri?”

“I was leaving him the rations on the night before P241 arrived.” He stated flatly. That is what he believed. “I asked him if he needed anything else.”

“And what did Commander Valteri say?”

“Nothing.”

“And you didn’t think anything of that?”

“I assumed he was asleep.” He said.

“When was the last time you took his vitals?”

“A few hours before that. I remember he had been too hot to touch.”

An investigator scribbled something onto a pad. “Did you take his temperature? With a thermometer?”

Dickson shook his head.

“Why not?”

“I guess I was too busy.”

With a sigh, the investigators wrapped up their interrogation.

“Please wait here Commander.” They said and left the room.

It was a full hour before he saw another face. This time, it was Mission Commander, Lawley.

“See here, eh?” He said, entering the room with a lit cigar. He offered one to Dickson, who shook his head. “A fine doozy this is.”

He nodded.

“I have no choice.” Lawley said flatly, sitting at the table across. “I think you understand.”

Dickson looked at his commanding officer’s face.

“You are grounded. Suspended. Go home.” He said and left.

“I…” Dickson began and shut his mouth. There was nothing he could say. Nothing he could do to make things better.


Back in space, the Gateway was experiencing problems.

“That’s another system gone offline.” Carlton groaned. “At this rate, this is going to be one helluva costly bucket of metal and wires floating around.”

“What is going on?” Xi wondered.

Over the past three days a lot of their systems had gone offline. Thankfully, these had been non-vital systems. They still had navigation, communication and life-support systems active.

“It won’t be long before we lose them as well.” Xi had pointed out. “We need to put some measures in place…”

“We don’t exactly have an evacuation plan out of this.” Carlton reminded her. “There is no way we can jettison and return to Earth in case of an emergency. And the next Soyuz isn’t due for another three months.”

“What if we use the tail module?”

Carlton wondered if that would work. “A dollar for your thoughts…”

“Well, each of these modules are capsules in their own right. They have their own rockets…”

“What about fuel?”

“Can’t we refuel the pod using the main engines fuel?”

“I suppose that could work. Except, I think those valves are one-way.”

The Gateway was assembled in space. Each capsule was built separately, by different participating nations. They were launched separately. Each of them reached the ISS and was assembled there by the ISS astronauts. When each capsule arrives, its fuel is fed into the Gateway’s main propulsion fuel reserves. However, like Carlton pointed out, the valves that controlled that flow only allowed fuel from the pod to the main tanks and not vice-versa.

“What do we have on board that we can use to reroute?” She asked.

With identical thoughts in their minds, they headed off to the engineering bay where the equipment they would need was stowed. They found all manner of space-tools and smaller sprockets and knick-knacks.

“Maybe we can re-purpose some of the hand rails into pipes.” Xi thought. “They are essentially hollow tubing.”

“Great idea. Let’s head out and find out.”

They suited up and grabbed a few wrenches and bags they would need and headed out of the station.

“That’s a lot of hand-rails!” Xi exclaimed when they saw the sides of the vehicle.

It was true. There were dozens of holding rails and other brackets that were lined up to act like a ladder.

Carlton was examining the pipes that hooked up the individual capsules to the main engines. “Would you look at this?” He called.

Xi floated over. “Good news, I hope?”

“Some.” He grinned through the suit as he pointed to an external toggle valve that could be reversed.


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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