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Random Fiction #3 – 112618

The CLANG of the release of the docking module echoed throughout the ship. Dan Cashman jumped out of bed the instant he heard the sound. He hadn't meant to fall asleep.

“Steve, I swear man, I only closed them for a second,” Dan said, frantically pulling his shirt down over his head.

“Guess that's why your shirt was off, huh?” Steve replied, poking fun at the disheveled mess Dan presented as he sat down at the command module.

Dan rubbed a crusty speck of sleep from his eyes, scratching a red line across his face in the process. He looked at a tiny bit stuck to his right index finger before flicking it across the room in disgust. “Sorry about that,” he said as he felt Steve laughing inside. “I guess I was out longer than I thought.”

“It's okay, man,” Steve said. “We both need more than a catnap after all the time we've been cooped up on this tin can. I'm just happy that our relief crew is finally here. They were due in last week but got held up on Mars.”

Before they were assigned to babysit NASA's latest toy along the ISS, the Maru Belle was only the latest in a string of assignments for the duo. They needed relief something fierce even though it had only been a few months.

Dan pulled the joystick controller back gently enough to secure the lander to the coupling device. The sound that woke him from such a deep sleep worried him, though.

“Are we sure everything went right with the docking connection?” Dan asked. “Something sounded off about this one.”

“You were sleeping too hard for it to wake you up like that,” Steve said. “I thought it sounded just fine. Grab that line with the robot arm and secure it down tight. We don't want anything else to happen to it.”

Steve punched in the access codes to complete the docking and stood up from his chair. He stretched his lanky 5'11” frame with his hands on his hips. “I've been sitting too long in that damn chair,” he said. His lower back cracked with several loud pops as he raised his arms up high. He stifled a big yawn with his right hand. “Excuse me,” he said. “Now I'm the one who needs a nap.”

Dan wrapped up his work with the robot arm, securing the line in place that gave the supply ship a direct connection to the Maru Belle'scomputer terminals. NASA needed them to run diagnostics on the supply ship before letting go of the cargo manifest. It was a precautionary measure meant to sandbox the computer info from the supply ship into the mainframe on the Maru Belle. Any anomalies would be zapped back in line.

“Let's go see what we have here and get these new bots in place,” Steve said, pulling his hat down over his head. His St. Louis Cardinals cap had seen better days, the front right side of the bill frayed through to the cardboard underneath. The dirty sweatband resisted any soap that tried to cleanse it of stains. It wasn't regulation, but neither was The Cure t-shirt Dan threw over his head after his nap.

The door from the command room slid aside with a metallic whooshand Dan led the way, eager to make up for his SNAFU of oversleeping. Their heavy work boots thudded along the open metal corridor as vents of steam rose up from the chasm below. Below was the inner workings of the Maru Belle, finely tuned fusion reactor cores nestled up next to each other, letting off a little steam here and there. Dan was happy for the extra warmth. The last ship they crewed was in the depths of space with little more than an atomic reactor powering it. There was so little heat given off that he and Steve were bundled up like Arctic reindeer herders just trying to keep warm. The Maru Bellesustained a temperate 21 degrees, day in and day out.

When he and Steve reached the containment module, they released the gravity assist and floated into the next bay for the final approach to the docking area.

The door closed behind them with another whoosh and they were both weightless and free. “Let's hurry this up,” Dan said, never comfortable with the weightlessness of space.

Copyright © 2018 Chad V. Holtkamp.

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