AQ – 03 – Clearing Your Head Before a Space Walk

Jonathan was over seeing the production line as ten former members of Al Qaeda were busy sewing.  They were working to create essentially a space suit.  It was extremely ad hoc and currently their primary goal was to insulate it as thoroughly as possible.

If they could make this work, Jonathan would be zipped into a space suit that had no legs.  It would look like a large air tight sleeping bag with two arms and no head.  The material was translucent and this would be the only aid to visibility.

He would have to get in the suit and go hand over hand in the dark to the opposite side and then lever open the door. He would then have to get the distant air lock open, the the module powered up, oxygen flowing and heat working.  This all had to happen in less than twenty-three minutes.

They had not found any space suits, however they had found several emergency oxygen systems, which they were able to cannibalize.  They had taken liners from the deep sleep tanks to create the space suit sleeping bag, iv needles used for sewing with the threat run all the way through the needle and folded over.  The first aid kit had yielded a form of space super glue which they were then administering to the thread lines to further seal the seam.

The sleep liners had tubes designed to maintain heat and circulation.  It was somewhat difficult to remove the actual heater itself and rig it to a battery.  There were some relatively sharp and jagged edges on the heater and these had been covered in tape to prevent them from scraping the suit bag and cutting a hole in the suit.

For the last day and a half Jonathan had practiced breathing through the spare emergency systems and walking hand over hand from what he thought of as the ceiling for three hundred forty paces.  He could do it in as little as seven minutes, but that used up an excessive amount of air, leaving him with only another three minutes of air.  If he forced himself to go slower, he could complete the movement in fourteen minutes and have nine to ten minutes of air left.

The big problem was the size of the oxygen system.  It was huge and awkward.  He would have liked to simply pack a couple extras to use when he got to the other side, but they were too large and awkward.  One would fit in the suit and that was it.  He could drag or trail another on a tether, but there was no telling what that might get tangled in as he went out the door or once outside.  With his limited visibility, lack of gloves and imperfect suit it was too big a risk. Bad enough that he had no safety tether to keep him secured to the space ship.

This was really a do or die situation.  He needed to go today.  He was rapidly losing energy.  They had each reconnected themselves to intravenous tubes, but the solution was too thin. It was designed for a person in hibernation not a person awake, active and metabolizing nutrients at a normal rate.

He watched as the final stitching on the arm was glued into place, and then moved back to the portal.

“Give me ten minutes and then I will go,” he said.  He wanted one last look at the framework.  He wanted to capture the most accurate visualization that he could before he went out into the dark.  He could just barely see the ship on the other side.  Once outside though his own body would block the little bit of light and he would move further and further into darkness, shading the only light that existed this far out in space.

He could not tell where they were in space.  The port hole had no view of the sun, any planets or anything other than stars.  In some ways he felt, hoped and guessed that this was good.  If for example the space ship were in a degenerating orbit heading towards the sun, going out the portal door in a less than adequate space suit could mean sudden searing death.  In reality they had no idea if they were heading on the outward bound part of the trip around the solar system or returning from it, or some other random condition.  This space walk was going to be a huge gamble, but they didn’t have much of a choice.  Die slow or die fast, but slow was just about as fast as fast and fast wasn’t that much faster than slow.

He stared at the handholds. He counted each of them, imagining grabbing them one hand at a time.  One sack like mitten hold at a time.

“Are you ready?” Osama had come up from behind him.

The hairs stood up on the back of Jonathan’s neck.  He almost felt like Osama was trying to sweet talk him.  They were all horny as hell from being in deep sleep for however long and their hormones were out of control.  Jonathan realized that he had accounted for everything that could be controlled or practiced but he hadn’t done anything about his hormones.

“Not quite.  I need an extra five minutes and I need your help.  Follow me.”

Jonathan hand walked past Osama and headed for the back module.  Osama followed.

After they entered, Jonathan shut the door, but did not engage the airlock.  The other Al Qaeda members would soon move into this space to await Jonathan’s all clear.  When Jonathan went out the air lock the oxygen from the hibernation cargo area would be gone and everyone else had to remain in the last area with air in it.

“I almost went out on the space walk without preparing properly.  If I had gone, we would all be dead.  I neglected one critical thing in my preparation and I need to fix that now.” Jonathan said.

“What did you neglect?” Osama asked.

“I almost went out without clearing my head.  I’m not thinking entirely clearly due to the build up of hormones. I’m no doctor, but I’d have to guess that we have been asleep for at least ten years.  I’ve got to clear the pipes, clear my mind and there is only one way to do that if I am to be mentally sharp out there.” Jonathan said as he allowed himself to drift towards Osama.  “You are going to have to help me with this.”

With those last words, Jonathan saw fear in Osama’s eyes for the first time.  Jonathan didn’t give a fuck at this point, but Osama sure was going to, and he reached out grasped Osama’s shoulder and pushed Osama’s head down towards Jonathan’s bulging unitard.

Ten minutes later Jonathan felt a whole lot better.  They emerged from the compartment and Jonathan climbed into space suit sleeping bag.  The remaining members of Al Qaeda sewed him in the final bit and glued the seams.  They waited three minutes for the glue to dry and then moved him towards the lock.

He told them, “I will count to one hundred fifty and then open the lock. You need to be in the other room before that happens.  I will not be able to see you.”

To emphasize his point, he started counting, “One, two, three…”

He could hear noises and grunts of encouragement as they shuffled away from him.  He interrupted his count at forty-five to laugh at the memory of the looks on the faces of the men as he and Osama came out of the room.  One of them had noticed that  Jonathan no longer had a boner.  Without a word said, the knowledge seemed to pass from man to man, each still stuck with their own out of control hormones unchecked by the aid of the leader of Al Qaeda, who himself looked slightly better nourished than he had twelve minutes earlier.

He resumed his count, and even  sped up a bit.  He did need Al Qaeda to survive this trip, but he wasn’t above being a little reckless with their fate.  He had not entirely committed to not killing them all immediately as opposed to totally screwing them over first.

Finally, he said, “one hundred thirty-nine, one hundred forty… Ah Fuck it.” And opened the air lock.

Air sucked out of the pressurized room and pulled at him a bit, but he held steady.  It didn’t take long and then he was out the door.  He turned briefly to shut the door and re-initiate the lock.  Then reached out for his first hand hold.  It was about 6 inches past his reach.

“Shit” he mumbled and then checked himself so as not to increase his heart rate.

He simply pushed off and up. He was in free floating space for less than a second before his hand came in  contact with the bar, but instead of grabbing it.  His hand slipped off.

He flung his other hand at it and his first hand too and manage to grasp both hands around the bar together holding his own hands.

These bars were cold and slippery through the suit mittens!

He calmed himself down and focused on getting his bearings back again.

He took a few seconds to learn how to secure his hand to the bar.  It was cold but not impossible.

He reached out to proceed and his hand hit a wall.

“Shit” he said.  He had gotten turned around during the fumbling around.

He stopped, took another deep breath and started out going the right way.

He was moving at a decent and regular pace.  He had at least thirty-three more bars to go.  His hands were moving but were starting to feel numb.  He could not feel his toes nor feet at all.  There was no gauge for the oxygen tank.  He had no idea how much time had gone by.  He simply kept moving. Three times he had lost his grip and had to stop, pull himself up one handed and try again.

He had two hand holds to go, reached out and hit his hand against another wall.  He was there!

He couldn’t stop himself from taking a big breath.  He visualized where the lock should be.  He reached  out and it wasn’t there.  He remembered that when he first reached up he could not reach the bars from the other door.  Maybe the lever here was also just out of reach.  He was almost completely in the dark now and couldn’t see anything through the opaque lining of the bag.

He kept reaching and fumbling and came up with nothing.  He was almost in a panic when he felt a bit of the door jam. That brought him back.  He traced it up until he found the corner of the door.  That was  the corner on the right and the handle for the air lock was on the right.  He reached down but could not feel it.  He tried to flex his body up so that his feet might scrape the area where the lock handle was. His feet were far too numb though to feel anything.

His feet did kick something though as his body flexed too far and went way to the right.  He remember that there was a bar that ran parallel to the door about two feet to the right of it.  He had felt it or kicked it with his feet.  The bar did not extend up high enough to be in reaching distance.

He didn’t even think at the point just acted as  he lunged for the bar.  His right hand actually slid flat along the wall and beneath the bar wedging his hand with the back of the hand against the bar.  Unfortunately he was physically moving too fast and his body wrenched further and his hand caught in the bar stopped him.

It hurt like hell has his hand twisted too far.  It didn’t feel broken, but something was not right.  He screamed but had the presence of mind to grab the bar with his left hand.

He took a deep breath and pulled his injured hand out.  He could flex his fingers but didn’t trust putting much weight or force on the hand.

In space not a lot of force was needed.  He switched hands and gripped the bar with his right hand now.  He felt around with his left and after what felt like five minutes found the air lock lever.  He pulled it out and twisted it clock wise.  He could hear a clunk and the door popped outward and slid away from him.

The door was open!

He pulled himself up and in, which was extremely awkward. He inched his way up the door jam and found the lever to close the door from the inside.  He twisted it and pushed it in and the door started to shut, lights came to life.  He could just make out the instructions to initiate oxygen and start the life support system.  He opened the panel, twisted the nob for oxygen and punched the button for the other systems.

He let go then and floated into the room while pulling his arms out of the sleeping bag arms.  He reached down to his unitard and pulled out a metal fragment from one of the sleeping chambers.  He then waited and breathed slowly.  He did not know how long it would take for oxygen to flow nor for the heat to kick in.  Eventually he started to feel sleepy and realized that he was running out of air in his space suit bag.  He was breathing in a panting way, very shallow and relatively quick.

With the last of his energy, he sliced through the inner three bags.  He couldn’t quite get through the final bag at first, then managed to cut a slid up as high as his chin before he blacked out.

Continue to Next Chapter - AQ – 04 – First Food, Air Second