04. Catastrophe | The Bug

August 16, 2020 Sujay Sarma

The depressurization alarms where blaring away. Warning! Depressurization in Capsule 3! Imminent loss of Life Support! Carlton and Xi were working as fast as they could to close the doors and restore pressure. The doors had not been used since the capsule had originally docked with the Gateway during the integration process. Warning! Depressurization in…


The depressurization alarms where blaring away.

Warning! Depressurization in Capsule 3! Imminent loss of Life Support!

Carlton and Xi were working as fast as they could to close the doors and restore pressure. The doors had not been used since the capsule had originally docked with the Gateway during the integration process.

Warning! Depressurization in Capsule 3! Imminent loss of Life Support!

Critical Warning! Oxygen levels at thirty percent and falling!

The hinges were never meant to be used again, especially after such a long time in the cold of space. At last, they got it closed.

Restoring pressure…

They breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly, all of Capsule 4 had disappeared from existence. Just like that. Capsule 3 ended in the emptiness of space. Where had it gone?

Carlton and Xi looked at each other.

“I didn’t do it.” They told each other in almost perfect unison and then laughed nervously.

Communications with Mission Control, Restored.

Carlton immediately got on to the Comms channel.

“Mission. This is Gateway.” He called.

It took three minutes before he heard back.

“Gateway, Mission. We copy.”

“Capsule Three is gone. I repeat, Capsule Three is Bye-Bye.”

There was a moment of awkward silence on the radio.

“Err.. Gateway, say again your last. We copy ‘Capsule Three is gone’.” The communications officer in the Mission Control room back at the Goddard Flight Center said. “What do you mean it is gone?”

“It is just gone. It was there before. Not any more. Just like Commander Valteri and the Isolation Pod.”

There was a moment of silence again.

“Commander Carlton,” Came Lawley’s voice. “We would like you to immediately use the S247 and return home. I repeat, use S247 and return to home. Immediately.”

Carlton and Xi looked at one another. That meant they were essentially abandoning the Gateway Station.

“We copy, Mission.” Carlton replied and switched off comms.

Quickly, they collected important equipment and personal effects and headed into the Soyuz Capsule 247 that had brought their supplies a day before. It was to be returned today with trash from the station, but it will now carry the two astronauts home.

As they strapped into the seat belts located on the now empty sides of the craft, they wondered if the ‘space bug’ had got into the systems of this capsule. And if so, would they last until the ship had safely crashed into the Pacific Ocean?

“Too late now.” Xi shrugged.

This variant of the Soyuz Capsule had no controls of its own. It was meant to be a cargo vessel and had limited life support ability as well. That’s why the two of them were suited up. So if something went wrong, they were truly in trouble. It would be piloted remotely from Mission Control.

“Mission Control, we are go.” Carlton spoke over the radio.

“Copy. Brace yourselves for de-docking and transit to Earth.”

Momentarily, they felt the engines kick in and the ship de-docked from the Gateway Station. The ship began to slowly move away from the Gateway Station that had been their home for the past three months. Both of them craned their necks to peer out of the port hole behind them to look at the orbiter that was now rapidly receding in the distance.

“My God!” Carlton whistled. “Do you see that?”

“More than half of it is gone.” Xi replied sadly. “I think we got out in the nick of time.”

“Mission?” Carlton called over the radio to report it.

Static….

“Mission Control, this is S247R. Come in.”

Static…

“What the hell !” Carlton cried. “Is it us or them?”

“The ship is still working, so may be it is just the Comms?”

“I hope so!”

For the next few minutes, nothing bad happened.

Then suddenly, the domed structure in the front of the capsule that held the portholes and the heat-shielding started to melt away. Giant patches of space, filled their view.

“I hope we have enough momentum to be able to glide in.”

“We won’t survive re-entry.” Carlton said. “Not with that gone.”

Around them, the vehicle began to disappear. The rear was gone too, with their engines. What was left was a small panel of the side walls where they were strapped in. Behind them, the luggage they had brought over from the Gateway were left floating in space.

Finally, it was just them. Set free from the binding straps, they were tumbling away. Xi had had the good sense to link them both at the hip using the tether cable and hook system they used for spacewalks and other EVAs. So at least they had each other for company.

“We don’t have enough oxygen to last us the trip.” Xi gasped.

“Best we stay quiet and breathe as little as possible then.” Carlton whispered. “Control your breathing and don’t panic.”

Xi calculated in her head that they were still tumbling at quite a rate of knots toward the Earth. Because of the absence of friction to slow them down, they had retained the momentum of the capsule at the time the engines had disappeared. They should be able to make it all the way there.

Carlton was looking back toward the moon. He was looking at the rapidly disappearing form of the Gateway Station. Then he saw a flash and it was gone. The orbiter had exploded around the moon. It was gone.

“Did you see that?” He turned to Xi.

Xi was staring at her legs.

Carlton looked down to see.

They weren’t there anymore.

He looked up.

Xi’s eyes were filled with terror. She started to breathe rapidly.

“Look at me.” He cried. “Look at me!”

“You are disappearing too!” She screamed.

The End


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".
Top