Enrique checked the readouts, wiping the sweat that stuck to his forehead and a lock of his shoulder-length hair that brushed uncomfortably close to his eyes. It was a balmy eighty six degrees Fahrenheit inside of his cramped ship, the waning efficiency of the radiators becoming more apparent by the minute. The limited design of Enrique’s ship meant that the only way to drop the internal temperature, aside from the crappy radiators, would be to vent out some of that hot air into space. Enrique did not have the spare oxygen nor the urge to fancy that idea.
Enrique is twenty seven years old. Raised in the warm climate of Northern California as a first-generation Mexican American, his coffee-with-cream skin sharply contrasting the grey of his coveralls. He could have passed as a member of any ethnic group except white. His mother cleaned houses, his father the manager of a fairly-successful feed store. Enrique can still remember the times when his mother would take him with her from house to house, playing with his toys while his mother worked. Occasionally his father would stop by during his lunch break, bringing tacos and a half-liter of soda to share.
The Yamuna slowly came into view on a large monitor in the cockpit. It belonged to a unique class of spacecraft. It looked like someone had taken apart the ISS and haphazardly put it back together again, except with an absurdly large booster at the end. The Yamuna‘s modular design meant that it could be completely disassembled and reconfigured to meet to the demands of the mission. The crew of the Yamuna were to disassemble the ship, attach the booster to the aft end of the rock, and transfer the living quarters of the ship into the rock itself. They were going to turn the rock into a spaceship.
As he looked over the scanners, Enrique noticed that there was no power signature coming from the Yamuna. The temperature must have been a few degrees warmer than vacuum, and the computers were reporting that the vessel was not pressurized. Anyone inside the ship without an EVA suit was long dead. Enrique wasn’t expecting this to be a rescue mission.
Enrique killed his remaining velocity relative to the Yamuna, the gentle nudge of Delta V pushed him into his restraints. After programming the autopilot so that it would hold its position relative to the Yamuna, Enrique made his way to the airlock. It’d be a short hop to the Yamuna.
Piece by piece, Enrique secured himself into the EVA suit. It was a bone white color, with clear strips of orange around the shoulders and knees. Designed to be easily detectable across the light spectrum. The actual life support systems of the suit were fairly compact; the bulk of the suit came from the heat insulation and radiation protective shell that went around a vacuum-rated jumper. As Enrique put the pieces of the shell together, he began to look less human and more of a scarab beetle. Finally, Enrique clicked his helmet shut, checked his oxygen readouts, and began cycling the airlock.
Once the LED went from red to green, Enrique pressed the release, and the maw slowly began to reveal a dizzying number of stars among the darkness.
The raw, unfiltered Sun shone below him, illuminating the Yamuna and the ominous rock just above it. Enrique shifted his body to orient himself in the airlock so that the rock was in front of him, not above. Now, it looked as though it waited across an infinitely deep chasm. He could have pointed his feet down to the rock, and he would have been above it. It was something Enrique might never get used to.
With a gentle boost from the suit thrusters, Enrique ventured out from the safety of his spacecraft and towards the Yamuna. He went over his objectives.
- Locate the Yamuna. Check.
- Locate the crew and discover their fate.
- Complete repairs and bring the Yamuna into orbit with Navolato station.
It was the last objective that bit at him somewhat. The Yamuna was crewed by 7, and the transformation of the rock-ship would have taken them four months. Depending on how far along they were when they stopped responding, it could take Enrique a lot longer to get the Yamuna in running order. He hoped that the crew of the Yamuna had at least completed the living quarters. The trek to the Yamuna alone had exposed him to enough radiation for two lifetimes on Earth. If he were to spend the next few months repairing the ship, he’d want something more solid between him and the damaging solar rays.
As Enrique approached the Yamuna, a sense of relief washed over him. Maneuvering himself between the Yamuna and the rock, he saw the thin group of tethers holding the Yamuna to the rock. The anchors formed a loose circle around an airlock whose design screamed in situ fabrication. That was a good sign. The booster array was still attached to the ship. Not too surprising, the booster array was supposed to be attached to the rock last.
What was surprising, however, was looking into the cockpit of the Yamuna and seeing a terrified face looking back at him, banging furiously on the window.