the terraforming expert

The voice comes in distorted over the speakers of my helmet. Rains is concerned that I won’t make it. He could be right. Walking closer, he brings his helmet so close to mine, that the visors meet with a clacking noise. He yells his question.”Can you hold it?”

I manage a “yeah”. My com is badly damaged after the accident. Power supply won’t last long. I see him gesturing wildly to the empty space we’d be supposed to cross. I don’t think he is hallucinating – so, my suit must be- offline… Damn. Bad timing.

I stop and wave the chromatometer in front of me – no particular direction. The display gleams yellow and red. Warning: Oxygen fourteen percent. Carbon monoxide eleven percent. Carbon dioxide at thirty-two percent. Methane, sulfur dioxide, sulfur dichloride, nitrous gases …thirty percent. One breath and any human would drop dead. I’m in serious trouble.

I’m even surprised, I’m alive. I should be grateful though – or maybe not, after all. Suffocating in my own suit isn’t a pretty death. Hypoxy is… Well, I imagined my death to be more peaceful, or sudden – with no time to reflect upon it. Not like this… Confusion, nausea, convulsions… The explosion sent me flying against the landing-pod and the unstable engine off a small cliff. It could have killed me… Maybe I’d be better off…

And that’s what I get for saving Rains. Cracked ribs, minor head trauma, broken air reprocessing unit, an impolite ass as company. The priceless chance to spend my last minutes with someone, who hates me as much as I hate him.

I’m running out of oxygen. Who am I kiddin’? I’m dying… Rains would leave me here, with a cold smile. He’d even toss me after that cursed engine. The display on my arm blinks orange for nearly twenty minutes now. Climbing those godforsaken hills, wasn’t his brightest idea. Anyway. We do need to leave the eruption zone behind, to be able to meet the ship. I’m running low.

Red is the last stage. I know that. He knows that. I can’t go much further… I won’t reach the pick-up point. Not like this. If the nausea comes, I’m done…

“Hey! HEY! Pull yourself together! Don’t throw up.” Rains yells. Even the muffled noise can’t hide, how nervous he is. Don’t panic. Don’t panic.

I nod. After all – I’m the terraforming expert. I should be tough, I’m the leading scientist on this trip… First mission back to Earth. And I get myself nearly killed, right after landing – how pathetic.

“Sit down. Remember hibernation-training!” Far away the captain’s voice crackles some advice. The com! It’s alive!

Hibernation training. Yes.

Slow down breathing and heartbeat. Wreck your brain! What did they teach us? Opiates!
My suit has emergency medication! That’s it! Even if they’re late… This is an option!

„We’ll rendezvous here.” Rains bends over and pushes me down on my knees. “Orders!” He’s still yelling like the idiot that he is.

I try to make it clear to Rains, that I’ll sedate myself now. I won’t be any use in couple of minutes anyway.

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