Author : Asher Wismer
Words cannot describe the light, the heat, the impossible closeness of a star. In this place, even with the best shields science could build, the sheer intense pressure of solar power is more than I can even attempt to explain.
Of course, it was worse outside the flare rooms. I cupped my hands to the comm and hissed, “I can’t open the gates!”
“You have to!” Her voice knifed through me. “There are literally two gates and I’m safe! All you have to do is open them two feet!”
“I can’t take the risk,” I said. “You’ve been out in it too long, and the flare is at its highest peak. If I open the gates we’ll all be bombarded with radiation. I have to save the mission.”
“I AM the mission! And I’m clean, the radiation hasn’t gotten me yet, it’ll be hours before it builds up that much!”
“Kang was with you,” I said. “Where is he?”
“I lost him, I don’t know. Just open the gates! One foot, even just half, I can squeeze through!”
She was so close. I ached to reach through the comm and stroke her hair, tell her everything would be all right, but I couldn’t lie to her or myself. She’d been careless. They both had. To be careless, this close to a star, was death.
The mission was everything. I tried to turn off the comm. I couldn’t.
“Let me in! The shielding is burning away! Just open the gates! You don’t even have to admit to it! I’ll take all the blame, I’ll tell them you were unconscious, let me in!”
Where was Kang?
“I’ll do anything you ask! Anything at all! I know I turned you down before but I’ll do it now! Anything, everything! Just please!”
He’d been with her, down there, outside the flare rooms and closer to the shields than anything in the station. I had taken their last reports, they said they were on their way up… it had never occurred to me that they might not make it. When the flare warnings went off, I sealed the rooms like I did every other time.
“You leave me out here and I’ll leave something for the next crew! Something that tells them what you did! I’ll make sure you never work crew again!”
The shields were very sensitive. Maybe the flare was false, just an artifact from the star.
“Promise me you’ll continue my research? I worked here from the beginning! My name, my legacy!”
Or maybe she killed him. I might never know, if I couldn’t find his body after the flare was over.
She had been quiet for a long time. I tapped the comm. “Sasha?”
“I can feel it now,” she said. “I know it’s silly, but I can feel the radiation eating me away from the inside. You were right. I’m sorry.”
“You and Kang never came back,” I said. “I didn’t know you were still out there.”
“It’s not your fault. I can see it coming through the shields.”
“Sasha, push the button.”
“On your suit, the one you should never ever push? Push it now.”
Silence. If she pushed the button, it would inject a vein with a full gram of morphine. She’d be dead in a few minutes, no pain.
Her mind was going. “It’s ok,” I said, and my voice broke. The flare would be finished in a few days, and then I’d take care of their bodies.
“Just close your eyes. Everything’s ok.”
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
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