(The Silence of Ancient Light, continued)
Launching herself across fifty meters of emptiness between two spacecraft without a tether or a mobility pack, in nothing but an environmental suit not quite rated for hard vacuum, struck Anna as perhaps the most foolhardy thing she had ever done in her life. The moment her boots left contact with the surface of the orbital ring station, she knew two things for certain: first, her instructors at the EASEA academy, thirty-five years earlier, would never have sanctioned such a risky maneuver; and second, it was going to work. Her aim was true, and after twisting around her center of gravity she watched the lander’s airlock grow steadily closer between her boots. Roughly a minute later she landed, absorbing the meter per second momentum with her legs, crouching to soften the impact and grasp the airlock handles.
Moments later she had the outer hatch open and pulled herself and Ca-Tren inside. When she secured the hatch and saw the main status indicator switch from red to yellow, with Englese labels clearly explaining the status meanings, Anna first experienced a brief moment of disorientation and finally a sense of coming home, after the past week of interpreting ancient alien control indicators. No more wondering what pressing a certain switch might do or what a blinking light meant; Anna knew these controls as well as she knew the back of her own hand.
Under normal circumstances, re-pressurizing the airlock following an EVA would be an eight-minute procedure, but time was of the essence here, so Anna mashed the big red emergency button with her palm, then held onto the handle to avoid being blown around the small chamber as oxygen and nitrogen rushed in. Forty-five seconds later, the status indicator turned green, and she opened the inner hatch to the warm, familiar glow of lighting designed for human eyes.
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(2,674 words; 10 min 41 sec reading time)
The lander has arrived under autopilot, and salvation lies a mere fifty meters away. One giant leap, but the consequences of missing are severe indeed. Of course, from the snippet above, you already know that Anna makes it, but she needs to do this trip several more times to get all of her crew to safety. Furthermore, time is rapidly running out, as the shockwave from the severed space elevator races up the tether shaft toward the station.
We explore a few concepts related to microgravity in this scene, including momentum and inertia, and Newton’s third law: for every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction. Leap across the void and miss your target by merely an inch, and even if your motion wouldn’t carry you on past (which it would), no amount of reaching or kicking or twisting will move you closer. Without something to push against, if it’s out of reach, you’re toast. An astronaut in free fall can twist and turn herself around her center of gravity, but she cannot otherwise move herself up, down, forward, back, or sideways.
For those of you just now discovering The Silence of Ancient Light, and hopefully inspired to read more, I encourage you to click that link for an overview that includes links to all the individual chapters and scenes published so far. Each scene also includes links to the scene before and after, so it’s easy to read through without having to return to the table of contents. This is still a work in progress, of course, an unfinished first draft, but I assure you that we are now in the third act, rapidly approaching the dramatic climax, so (hopefully) you will not have to wait too much longer for the exciting conclusion! Also, as it is a first draft, please feel free to comment and critique the work as a beta reader, if you are so moved. Or, if you prefer, just enjoy the story as it is, knowing you are getting a sneak peek before final publication of the finished product.
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header image credit: NASA-Imagery / pixabay.com via Pixabay License