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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2245451
An exterior maintenance procedure on a space station goes wrong. 760 Words
Created for The Writer's Cramp 2-28-2021
End your STORY or POEM with this line, bolded -

"She always found a way to laugh."


Hive was not going to put up with her bullshit anymore, he decided, as he clung to the exterior of a rapidly spinning space station, his tether torn, his magnet boots and gloves the only thing keeping him from flying off into the abyss. The spin was enough to simulate almost 1G. Great, for when you’re inside the station. Not so good for exterior maintenance, especially on a day like today. The planet below spun sickeningly over his head, making him almost dizzy. He tried to focus on the cold metal surface in front of his face.

“Where the hell are you?” he screamed through his comm.

“Oh, just hanging out.” came her reply, eerily nonchalant.

“Why do you sound calm. Nothing about this-” he glanced over at where her tether line connected to the station. It was taught, and straining. Was it stretching?

“Are you going to let your anxiety ruin this for me? Really?” her voice was crackling. Was her comm damaged, too? He carefully turned his head to look away from the station to where she was hanging from her tether, 15 meters away. Her form stood out against the alternating backdrop of vacant stars and the blue planet. The shadows from the system’s star drawing intricate patterns against the back of her suit, ever shifting in the spin.

“Ruin what? What are you talking about? We need to get back into a stable position."

“You’re always so worried about everything.”

“Well there’s a lot to fucking worry about right now, isn’t there?” His annoyance was getting more and more intense the longer she made light of this situation. Floating off into space was no small matter. It was literally the worst way to go. The suit would keep your body nice and warm and pressurized, protected from the cruel vacuum of space. The CO2 scrubbers, working hard, would keep O2 levels up. You’d be breathing and warm right up until you died from thirst or starvation, somewhere within that abyss. That is, if a random space rock didn’t put you out of your misery first.

This close to the planet and at this speed, if they detached from the station at the right spot they’d be sucked into the gravity well and burn up in the atmosphere. He supposed that would be a better demise than starving, but who’s to say? None of the options were good.

“Seriously, Hive, you need to work on your calm in crisis. Stress doesn’t look good on you.”

“Lim, please, for the love of god, reel yourself in, and help me with my emergency tether.”

“But my view is just so damn good. Look at all this... space. Why would I want to shut myself back in that cramped shit hole?” His annoyance evaporated into a more severe panic, as if that were possible. She was slipping into her claustrophobia.

“Lim. Please. This isn’t just about you. This is about both of us. I need you to come back, and attach my emergency tether so I can get back inside. So we can both, get back inside. I can’t do this without you. We can’t do any of this without you. Please.”

Maybe appealing to her humanity would help. It was usually the thing that brought her back from these brinks of madness. It’s easier to make yourself do something terrifying when the lives of 35 people depend on you. Or... maybe that’s the pressure that’s been making her episodes worse the last few weeks?

There was nothing but silence from her comm. Was he losing her? She’d had suicidal episodes in the past, but nothing that would endanger anybody else. She had always acted in ways that fully protected the lives of her team, even if those ways didn’t protect her. If she was planning to cut her tether, she would be condemning him, too. What had he done to deserve that? Or was it that she was really, finally, that broken?

He guessed that’s what being the last batch of humans did to you.

An ear splitting cackle ignited within his earbuds. He squinted his eyes as the sound pained his eardrums, his whole head vibrating. The comm connection was spotty. The laughter was coming and going, erratically, almost as if she was getting farther away. He squeezed his eyes open to look at her tether. It wasn’t straining anymore.

He whipped his head around to find her. There she was. Floating off, into the space she always longed for. Laughing.

She always found a way to laugh.
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