Walking along the solar panel to an orbiting space station may seem like an adventure to some people, but really, it’s just the path to a shorted panel that needs replacing. My years of training as an astronaut, my degrees in mechanical engineering and information technology… all it made me was an extra-planetary electrician.
I jump at the static of the radio, a small screen appearing on the bottom left of my helmets plastic face cover. “Have you found the problem yet Tubbs?”
I sigh. “I’m closing in on it now sir, I think something just struck the panel and knocked it loose.”
“Well get it fixed and come back inside, we don’t have all damn day to do a simple repair!”
“Yes sir,” I mutter, killing the transmission with a jerk of my wrist, the hi-tech suit taking the hand signal for what it was. Walking along the wide flat platform, careful to remain tethered to the ship and have the magnetic strips of my boots powered to keep me anchored, I finally come to the one panel that’s been registering as a problem child for the past two days.
Looking at it, I curse beneath my breath. Something indeed hit it but stayed lodged near the center of the panel. This won’t be a quick repair job, no matter what Aikman demands of me. Carefully stepping out onto the slick reflective plastic, I take stock of what struck the panel.
Green in color, the asteroid was small, mere two and a half feet in length. Strange, it had a leathery look to it… and growth coming off of it onto the panel, firmly planting it in deeper. The heat from the panel is bleeding off into the space around me as I walk across the plastic coating, looking out into the twinkling void as I try and figure out what exactly it is that I’m looking at. No asteroids, at least to my knowledge, had vegetation on them, especially vegetation that was viable in the vacuum of space.
As I approach the leathery obtrusion, I stop as it wiggles, the lower half pulsing out like the gullet of a frog ready to croak. I take a cautious step back and twitch my wrist, opening the communication channel once more.
“Sir, it’s Tubbs again,” I said into the open channel, hoping Aikman was still listening.
“What is it now Tubbs? What’s the damage report on that solar panel?” Aikman replied, his voice strained by static.
“Significant damage sir, significant. But that’s not what I’m calling in about…”
“What else could you need out there? Do you want us to send a packed lunch?” Aikman sneered over the radio.
“I want you to send one of the biologists, maybe a botanist. Whatever hit the panel is organic, and I think it’s still alive.”
Silence met my ears for a few moments, a few crackling snaps of static telling me the line was still open. After a moment, I grew impatient, as the “asteroid” pulsed once more, this time, a faint light shining from within it.
“Are you saying you think an alien life form struck our solar panel, Tubbs?” Aikman asked, his voice lower than before.
“I’m saying I know an alien life form struck our solar panel, as I’m staring at it now,” I replied, stepping back onto the scaffolding between the panels. “The broken solar panel is bleeding off some serious heat too, so cut electricity to it. I think the life form is reacting to it.”
“That might be what’s keeping it alive,” Aikman replied nastily. “Are you so dense that you would have us turn off the one thing that may be keeping the first sign of organic life outside our small world alive? Really?”
“Really. I don’t like it one bit, and I need someone to come and take it off my hands before I can repair the panel.”
“Right,” Aikman sighed into the channel. “Can’t have you messing with it, you’ll probably lose it into space.”
“Probably.” I agree with him, seeing as I would throw the damned thing away from the platform. I’ve seen enough movies know this isn’t a good thing here. The slick looking mass of strands that stretched out from the pitted leathery pod made it look like the thing was growing. To me that that could only end in bad things.
“Alright, you sit tight. I’m having Salas and Riley suit up to come out and look at your supposed alien.” Aikman said, before ending the transmission.
Salas was an okay guy, a bit bookish for my tastes, but I was more about the practical side of science, whereas he was a biologist that worked on theories and ran tests on the animals we brought up to this station during the early stages of its construction. Riley was more my kind of gal, a real tomboy that loved to drink as much as research. She and I got along great when our breaks lined up and we always ended up playing pool together in the lounge. Still, despite her laid-back attitude she was a botanist of some repute, having discovered at least twelve different species of plant down on earth in the earlier stages of her career.
I didn’t have to wait long, as both scientists emerged from the airlock a mere minute later, taking a moment to attach their tether to the railing along the outside of the station. I waved at them from the football field between us, and I think Riley waves back; she is significantly shorter than Salas. I watch as they both begin lumbering slowly across the scaffolding. With my communications still open, I figure I can try and hail them.
“Transmission, open one, two and three; Salas, Riley, can you hear me?” I said aloud, turning back to stare at the pod; the electricity is still running hot, making the panel a giant heating pad.
“Yeah, we’re on three,” Salas replies, his voice cordial and soft as always.
“Transmission, close one and two,” I said, ordering my suit to close those channels so that I wouldn’t receive anyone else’s private conversation. “Glad to see someone else out here with me for once, wish it was under better conditions.”
“Are you kidding? You said you’ve found alien life! How cool is that?” Riley chirped her voice high and sweet.
“Now Riley you know better than to get your hopes up,” Salas chided, moving into sight with a large tool bag at his side. “This could be anything and Tubbs just got spooked.”
“I didn’t get spooked Salas, this thing ain’t from earth, and it’s growing,” I reply with a nervous laugh. I look back at it and swear I can see a small face pressing through a thin section of membrane.