HORI AKIRA JALINET

Stranded in Space

- 2 -

If this were during outer-space operation . . . I might be without a life belt, but I would never go out without a reaction blaster. And the life support system would be completely different. It would come with an extra air tank -- I can use this as a blaster in an emergency. Moreover, I would have the transceiver to call instantly for help. Even now, there should have been some kind of a signal within to indicate my slight displacement.

There's really no way to let anyone know I got stuck in this mess. I do not have any means of communication -- yet I'm at the center of the ship! -- in a cylindrical sphere five meters in diameter, ten meters long. There is a door at each end of the cylinder. Behind the door above -- the ship's fore -- there are living quarters, communications room, and pilot's cabin. The door below -- the stern -- leads to the cargo cabin and the engine room below that. Hardly anyone except me, an engineer, ever comes as far below as this.

This cargo ship is in its long, inertial flight. The top part of the ship -- beyond the top door -- is rotating slowly, generating gravity. But this cargo cabin and the connecting parts do not rotate. It's a zero-gravity area. This cargo ship, more than five hundred meters long, is moving along the Hohmann orbit through the asteroid belt. The auto-pilot controlled most of its flight. Its control was perfect. Somehow, something -- probably some tiny debris flying by -- caused the auto-pilot to shift the ship just two meters to avoid collision. Just a tiny relocation, considering its size of five hundred meters. But this tiny shift made the distance to the doors remote.

I detected the lowering of pressure in the cylinder connecting the corridor. There seemed to be an air leak. The cylinder was seldom used, and only when there was a need to go to the engine room was it filled with air. Although this leak was on my mind, I had ignored it up till now. The only reason I decided to repair it now was just out of a whim. I entered the cylinder with the light feeling of a person setting out to paint or carve out a sculpture out of boredom. It would take only thirty minutes. There was no need to wear a heavy outer-space suit.


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