An excerpt from my nonexistent 1962 science fiction collection.
The astronaut dances on the edge of the galaxy, his tether line to the rocket spiraling stiffly in the hundred meters separating him from his ride home. His gloves brush against the satellite’s outer hull. Another boost from his back-jet and he gains hold of a utility handle, placed in exactly that spot by Space Agency engineers for precisely this situation.
“Contact,” he says into his communication link.
“Confirmed, confirmed,” Edwin confirms from the rocket. The Southerner has a somewhat annoying habit of repeating himself. “Mind your manners and knock, now, Haskell,” he says with a drawl (a drawl Haskell has become all too familiar with over the last year and a half of travel). “Over, over.”
Haskell laughs at the stars, knocking on the hull of the satellite for luck, just as they’d practiced during training back on Earth. It feels forever ago. He unbolts the access panel and secures it to a holding clip mounted to his left.
“By the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!” Haskell declares nonsensically. He’s about to say something else when Agency Command cuts in with a time-lagged comment.
“Curb the chatter, gentlemen.”
“Acknowledge,” says Haskell.
“Roger, roger,” says Edwin.
Haskell takes a deep breath and focuses on the task before him: swap out a memory block from the navigation co-processor of this disabled satellite before the sun rises from behind a nearby moon and fries him like a hot dog in tin foil.
“You all right, son?” Edwin asks. “Life monitor says your heart rate’s up.”
Haskell frowns. “Fine, I’m fine,” noting that he just repeated himself. He re-positions his magnetic boot on the hull, straightening his posture. “Not now,” he mutters to the universe.
“Nothing,” Haskell says curtly.
“You say so, boss. You say so.”
Haskell calculates the length of the thirty-one minute job and the fourteen minute space-float back to the rocket. Sweat breaks out on the astronaut’s brow. His gloved fingers dance across the circuit boards of the satellite’s exposed innards, dance across the blackness in between galaxies, hurtling in an unseen stillness at thousands of kilometers per hour.
“Not now, damn it,” he whispers, twisting forward, warding off the dull pain deep inside his spacesuit. “Not now.”
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