HORI AKIRA JALINET

Stranded in Space

- 6 -

I'm getting sweaty. My mind is getting numb. Four meters in three hours . . . a little over a meter per hour, slightly less than 0.5 millimeters per second. Even with my space suit, I won't be weighing more than eighty kilograms. I will only need to lightly throw a ten gram object to get to the walls. The object need not even weigh this much to reach the pipes two meters away. If I can reach the pipes, I can easily move toward the door. But there's nothing I can take off from the spacesuit. If I can catch a small nut or a screw -- but however I stretch, I can't touch the tools. I think about tearing off the air tube. But it's too risky. I'm not sure if I can open and shut the door in just a few seconds with a single hand.

The only possibility, again, is the spanner lying a few centimeters . . . or it may even be lying less than a centimeter away. It's enough just to touch it. I can get sufficient initial speed just by kicking it with my toe. If the spanner bounces off the wall and passes close by again, it's even better. If I can catch it with my hand, that's practically the same as reaching the rails. Now, for the umpteenth time, I stretch myself, and swing my toe in an arc. But there's no sense of touch.

The word "castaway" flickers in my mind. Am I a castaway? Of course, I'm cast away in space, floating several billion kilometers from Earth without any hold. Around me is vacuum. Only, I'll never be found because the walls of the five hundred meter cargo ship are surrounding me. What a silly accident. As an engineer who rose in the ranks, I'm prepared for all sorts of risks -- dangers in vast, empty space where one error could speed you toward infinity. But not in this closed, cylindrical sphere enclosed by the walls of the spaceship. It's like drowning in your own bathtub. It may make no difference whether you drown ten thousand meters under the sea or two meters under inside an aquarium. But the water has a "feel." You can try to swim to resist drowning. Even in air you can make some kind of resistance. In vacuum there's none.


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