The hatch to cartography was shut. I reached down to spin the wheel to open it and it didn’t move. I pressed the intercom button next to the hatch. There was a somewhat muffled clanging noise. “Arie! Charlie! What’s wrong with the door?” I felt stupid after I said it. It was obvious that they were venting atmosphere. I hope they were able to get into the survival suits in time.
Janice was calling the bridge. The captain was trying to calm her down. She was talking so fast I couldn’t follow what she was trying to say and I knew more or less what that was. “Slow down,” I whispered at her. She took a deep breath and started again.
“Captain. This is Janice Fletcher. I’m in the companionway outside of cartography with David Mathews. The Hatch is sealed. We can hear the decompression alarm through the intercom. It is muffled. We need assistance.” Janice finally slowed down enough that she was understood.
“Very good, Janice. We’re sending help now. Both of you find a survival suit and get into it now. Be careful,” the captain said. I found the survival kit half way down the companionway. I drug two suits out and put one on. Janice pulled one on as well. We both decided to wait to pressurize them until it was necessary. They pressurized almost instantly.
I turned on the radio in the helmet. The channel was busy. Apparently a micrometeorite traveling at .8c had gone through cartography entering from the bottom of the module and exiting through the top. Up and down were relative. By convention we normally engaged the artificial gravity on the side closest the object we were orbiting. When we were in space, the aft of the ship was down. Everything was easily adaptable to which way was down at any given time.
It was strange that the meteorite had come from the planet side. It must have just grazed the planet before it struck the ship. It was also more than a little strange that it was travelling at such a high velocity.
The XO and the maintenance chief were climbing up the ladder at the end of the companionway. The XO stopped to fill us in on the plan. He and the chief were wearing EV suits. “You two go down the ladder we just came up and seal the hatch behind you. Pressurize your suits just in case. We’re going to equalize the pressure so we can open the hatch to cartography.”
We both nodded and pressed the button to pressurize our suits. We scrambled down the ladder, Janice first. I closed the hatch and sealed it. “We’re secure sir,” I told the XO over the radio.
“Acknowledged. We’re equalizing pressure now.” We could hear the pumps kick in. It seemed like forever but I had glanced at the suit chronometer and it had only been three minutes. The XO came back over the radio.
“Bridge, this is the XO. Tell doc to get ready to treat two mild cases of hypothermia. Arie and Charlie both got in their suits in plenty of time. It got pretty cold in there before we got to them. Chief says it will take several hours to patch the holes. If that’s what a meteorite the size of a grain of sand will do, we’re lucky it wasn’t any bigger.”
“This is the captain. Acknowledged. Did you get that doc?” the captain asked.
“Acknowledged. We’ll have the thermal stabilization blankets ready for them. Bring them on.” Doc answered.
We heard the pumps re-pressurizing the companionionway above us. After just a few minutes the pumps cut off and the hatch opened. Janice and I helped Arie and Charlie down the ladder. The XO said, “I’m going to go help the chief patch those holes.”
“We’ll take them to sick bay.” Janice said. Both of the patients were shaking. Their teeth were chattering. They could barely put one foot after the other. We helped them to sick bay and into the waiting blankets.
Randy, the nurse, said, “You both did a good job. We’ve got them taken care of now.”
“Thanks, Randy.” I said. Janice and I started back toward cartography but ended up back in the galley. “How about some hot tea?” I asked.
“That sounds good. Didn’t you think it was odd that the meteorite came from planetside?” Janice asked.
“It did seem odd to me. And even odder was the speed it was traveling. What natural object of that size travels at .8c?” We sipped our tea in silence. It was a comfortable silence. I could feel the adrenalin wearing off and I was beginning to feel drained. We checked back with sick bay but Doc said the patients had warmed up and been sent to their quarters to get some sleep. He suggested we do the same.
We got to Janice’s quarters first. “Why don’t you come in a minute?” she suggested.
“Um, well I … I mean, okay.” It wasn’t that I hadn’t dated or had girl friends before. I just had pushed thoughts of such things out of my mind. I had come on this mission to do a job, not take a vacation cruise. But then Janice was a scientist. And a woman. She was definitely a woman. There was no denying that. And I was a heterosexual man. But we were both professionals. Hell, I didn’t know what to do in this situation. I didn’t have any experience to compare this with. I went inside. She closed the hatch.
Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.