Arvidas stared at his radar screen trying to see the clearest path through. But the Kessler Run was Scylla and Charybdis resurrected in space. Unspeakable horror. And no way out without terrible loss.
Still, that was Arvidas’s job. His lot. To pilot the crew through knowing they were going to take hits. Maybe enough to kill them all.
Less than ten years ago, there was no Kessler Run. There were just launches. Still risky, but not ridiculously so. Rockets and satellites went up in droves to blanket the earth with connectivity and convenience. An all-encompassing orbital network: an ethernet for real.
All great. Until it wasn’t.
Until terror and sabotage and the exponential collateral damage satellite warfare produced turned low earth and geosynchronous orbital space into a hypersonic shrapnel cloud. Knives and daggers from horizon to horizon. The ablation cascade of space debris that NASA scientist Donald Kessler in the late 1970s theorized could render spaceflight from earth nearly impossible became harsh reality.
The Kessler Run. A zillion-headed metal monster circling the earth.
And Arvidas was facing it in T-minus ten minutes. He had that much time to plot any last minute changes to the launch plan. Their rocket had been hardened with additional shielding, and their flight suits were reinforced with Kevlar, but even micro particles traveling 17,000 miles an hour could do devastating damage to the ship or crew. And the odds were not good.
His co-pilot Teliva kept telling him the potential number of hits the ship would take and what that would mean for their survival. But survival mattered less to Arvidas than success.
Their ship had to get through. It had supplies for the moon base. It held all hope for humanity not being marooned on Earth for generations.
Yes, human avarice and hubris had made voyages to other worlds much more perilous. Yes, it was a self-inflicted wound. But that did not mean we couldn’t recover and move forward. That’s what this was really about. Moving forward.
To Arvidas, that was the only flight plan that mattered. One small step in front of the other. Even when mankind took giant leaps backward. It was sink or swim in this new ocean of space debris we’d created. These new monsters we had to face. Arvidas was for diving deep back in and taming the new beasts.
“Are we go?” Teliva asked at T-minus sixty seconds.
“We’ve gotta go. Even if we’re goners in sixty seconds.”
Teliva nodded. “I can tell you the odds of that…”
“Let’s just beat ‘em. The damn odds. Our damn beasts,” Arvidas cut in. “Let’s be that one in a million.” He initiated the final launch sequence.
Even gods are wary of the odds. High in orbit, Scylla and Charybdis feasted on Arvidas.