THE WEARING OF THE GREEN: A POWER FANTASY Mar 2, 2009 23:06:36 GMT -5
Post by huronna on Mar 2, 2009 23:06:36 GMT -5
THE WEARING OF THE GREEN: A POWER FANTASY
By Paul E. Jamison
By Paul E. Jamison
ISS Commander Andie Bergstrom looked out of the Cupola and watched the progress of the EVA. Things were going well. Dmitri and Cassandra were going over the DEXTRE robot parked nearby and, from what she'd heard so far, they weren't finding any problems; whatever glitch that had seized up the robot, they ought to be able to find it.
She studied Cassandra's pressure suit. Cassie had her back to the Cupola, and her tail was sticking out behind. It was a pity that ferrets hadn't prehensile tails; a fifth limb would be very useful.
Andie looked up at the S4 solar sail. Stephen was at the end of the Canadarm and was examining the solar cells about halfway up the sail, and his partner Fearless Fosdick –
Fearless Fosdick was nowhere to be seen. Uh-oh.
Andie thumbed her mike on and said, "Foz, I can't see you! Where are you?"
A high-pitched voice came over the radio. "I'm here, Andie!" She could barely see a tiny white figure appear at the very end of the solar sail. "I was on the other side!" She thought she saw Fosdick wave, but she couldn't be sure.
Andie sighed and replied, "Okay, I was worried. Please be careful. You get too far away or out of sight, we might not be able to help you if you get in trouble."
"Sorry, boss. Somebody has to inspect this end of the sails. I'm careful, but I'll keep that in mind."
"Okay, I understand."
There was a faint hissss at her side. Another ferret had floated up beside her. He was strapped into a miniature maneuvering unit, which looked like a cross between an armchair and a backpack.
Max tapped some keys on the arm; his unit's onboard computer would now keep him floating in place with the compressed-air jets. The Sable ferret looked up and smiled. "Hi, Andie. How's the EVA going?"
Andie replied, "Oh, fine. The ferrets are quite competent workers. The big problem I can see is that they're… independent." She pointed. "Fosdick climbed all the way out to the end of the solar sail, and that's way beyond NASA's comfort zone."
"Oh, Foz can take care of himself. He is called Fearless Fosdick, after all. If he's where you can't see him, the guys on Babylon are in a position to keep watch. If something happens, they'll get to him fast."
"Oh, yes. The Babylon. I keep forgetting." Andie looked over at the sleek shape of the orbiter, with the stubby wings and the elegantly curved lower surfaces. Her mind kept telling her it was farther away than it really was; actually, it was scaled to much smaller than human-sized.
Max softly said, "Please don't feel bad, old friend. You humans will build one of your own someday."
Andie nodded. "I hope so. If the bean-counters let us have the money. It is nice to see that it can be done. Right now it's like a carrot dangling in front of us; some folks don't –"
The shout over the radio startled Max and Andie, and they didn't react for a brief moment. Not that they could have done anything; nobody could. It was traveling far too fast.
Less than a quarter of a mile from the Station, a bright yellow fireball shot downward toward the Earth's surface. Had it actually hit, they would never have known what had happened.
They watched as the fireball hit the atmosphere and left an incandescent trail behind it. Then the radio was full of chatter.
"What was –" "Where did that come from?!" "– a bomb?" "– more than one?" "Meteor shower?"
Andie raised her voice and cut through the babble. "Okay, hold it, HOLD IT, people!! Calm down! Now then, is everyone in one piece?"
"I'm fine, boss." "No problem here." I don't see anything else, Andie."
"This is Skippy on the Babylon, Commander. Everything's okay from here. Whatever it was, it didn't pass close enough to either of us to cause any damage. And we're not tracking anything else coming."
"That's good. Thank you, Babylon. Could you track that whatever-it- was after it passed by? Is it going to impact the Earth?"
There was a slight pause. "We can't see it anymore, ISS. I'm guessing that it was going fast enough to reach the ground. The trail's disappeared, so it may have hit already."
Andie looked down. Below them was the Northern coastline of South America. To the South stretched a blanket of green, and to the North was the dark blue of the Caribbean. "Can you tell any more? Any signs of impact – a forest fire, or something?"
There was a brief pause. "Negative, ISS. No smoke or damage readily apparent. Give us a little time and we might spot a crater. As it is, the impact must not have been catastrophic."
"Okay. Guys, get back in. We'll lock down and talk with Ground about this." The four astronauts began to move toward the airlock.
Max looked up at the human. "Andie, how serious do you think this will be?"
"I don't know. Right now it doesn't look like we're in any danger. That must have been a meteor or something similar. It'll probably be awhile before we determine which country it landed in. When we do, we'll see what the local government has to say; we'll give them whatever help they need."
Surprisingly, the government in question didn't want any help. They said that there was no damage to speak of, and that they could handle things just fine on their own, thank you. They managed as well to turn aside any requests by foreign scientists to examine the object and never got around to telling anyone what it actually was.
So the rest of the world forgot about it.
To be continued...