“Well whatever it is we’re here to take it off your hands,” Riley said. “I’m hoping for space-borne fungus. Theoretically, a fungus could make it as spores through a vacuum, for a time.”
“A small period of time, but they wouldn’t be growing out here.” Salas reminded her, swinging his bag back and forth as he lumbered over the halfway point to the panel in question. “Are the panels running smoothly otherwise Tubbs?”
“The solar panels? Yeah, all working at optimum efficiency save for these few. I come out here at least once a week to fix tears and dings from space debris. The first time I found anything like this, however.”
“I would imagine so, or we’d have come out here months ago. I don’t go on nearly as many spacewalks as I thought I would have, at least for all the training they gave us in Florida.”
“Yeah,” Riley chipped in. “I swear they just did that to punish us or something.”
“Karmic backlash?” I laughed.
“Or something.” Salas sighed, moving a bit closer. “Hey, have you turned on your Geiger counter? Mine was already on and is picking up some readings…”
I reach down to my leg and pull the cord that turns on my own counter and instantly regret it as my suit fills with rapid clicking. I pull the cord again to turn it off. “Yeah, so it’s radioactive. Good thing these suits are insulated.”
“That just means we’ll have to wear suits while examining this thing inside. I suppose we’ll take the airlock on this hemisphere, closer to the biology labs.” Salas reasoned.
“Yeah, turning my counter off. That’s too annoying to listen to.” Riley added with a laugh. “Ooh, I think I can see it.”
I turn to regard them as they come within ten yards of me. I move back, stepping onto another panel to allow them a better gaze at the damned thing. “Pull it out gently if you would, it made a helluva mess breaking up my panel like this.”
Both of them laugh. “We won’t hurt the panel anymore, we promise,” Salas said.
“Poor you, having to fix a panel in outer space while your colleagues get to have boring old terrestrial jobs.”
“At this point I’d take a boring job on Earth over this shit,” I said, looking at Riley. The plastic domes covering our faces are reflective, so I can’t see her face, but I imagine she’s sticking her tongue at me as she so often does.
“Well,” Salas said as he reaches the edge of the scaffolding leading to the damaged panel. “That does indeed look like it’s alive. I’d wager it’s not a plant, though.”
“I have to agree… dammit, that means I owe you a buck.” Riley grouses. “Stupid thing couldn’t have been a plant-based life form. Next one you find better be plant-based Tubbs!”
“Next one I find is being thrown back into the void for damaging my work,” I joke, earning a few chuckles from them.
“Call Aikman and have him clear away a section of the biology lab for us to bring this in. I imagine it’s pretty heavy, so have him get two or three guys in radiations suits ready to help us.” Salas said, slowly walking out towards the embedded pod. “We got a big fella to bring in, don’t we?”
“It almost looks like an egg pod from the spiders of the Amazon,” Riley commented, moving down the panel with Salas, who had stopped by the now pulsating sac and opened up his side satchel to reveal tools. Both he and Riley selected electric saws, small handheld devices that used quartz-tipped saw blades to cut through organic matter quickly and neatly.
I just stood back and watched as they severed the strands that the pod had made, their saws having the slightest bit of difficulty to cut through fibrous tissue. Chunks of green algae drifted away from them as they cut most of the pod free, taking a moment to stop and analyze the pulsing of the pod, Salas taking a pair of microphones and taping them to the side of the pod and plugging it into a jack next to his knee.
“I can hear noises, but nothing resembling a heartbeat…” Salas said.
I remained silent, waiting for them to clear away the alien obstruction. After watching them for a few moments, I opened a third communication line, calling up Aikman.
“What is it now Tubbs?” He answered angrily.
“Riley and Salas are almost ready to bring it in, which they agree is indeed a life form and they need a couple guys in rad-suits to help handle the thing.”
“Radiation suits? It’s radioactive?” Aikman sounded a little surprised at this.
“It appears so though we may just be experiencing some background radiation from the sun, who knows? They just want the biology labs cleared so they can take a look at this thing in peace, y’know?”
“Yes, I can understand that. So they’ll be using Airlock C, near the labs?”
“Yeah, Airlock C seems to be the best bet,” I reply, watching as the two of them lift the now wriggling sac out from the crater it made in the solar panel’s cover. “Oh and boss? I’m going to be out here for another four hours at least, so I’ll come in to resupply my oxygen and get some food in about two. That cool?”
“That’ll be fine Tubbs, that’ll be fine,” Aikman said, seemingly distracted. “I have to go now to set up for this discovery; you stick to the monkey work.”
Aikman cut transmission, leaving me with nothing but static. Flicking my wrist, I cut off that channel and reopen the channel three.
“-said it’s got to be at least a hundred pounds with how dense it is!” Riley shrilly cried, filling my suit with an ear-piercing screech.
“Willing to bet on it?” Salas said a smile evident in his voice.
“Sure, double or nothing.” Riley agreed, hoisting up her half of the alien pod, the fatter end that was wriggling with something on the inside, though it was admittedly wriggling far less now that it was off the heating pad of the solar panel.
“Alright, let’s go then,” Salas said, guiding them up onto the metal scaffolding where their boots could hold them in place. “Tubbs, you get Aikman yet?”
“Yeah, he’s setting up the lab for you, said it might take a couple of minutes.”
“We may not have a couple of minutes, this thing was really lively a few moments ago,” Riley said, shaking her end as if jostling a jug of wine. “Now it’s barely moving at all.”
“I’m sure whatever’s inside is fine Riley, it probably reacts to outside stimuli is all,” Salas explained.
I just moved over to the hole in the panel covering, heaving a sigh. “Yeah, well you two have fun. I’m going to be here, replacing this cover.”
“Ouch, sorry…” Riley said, knowing how annoyed I get with the covering being punctured.
“It’s fine, I’m going to use a molecular mold, this time, should spread out and create a sturdy little bubble,” I said, pulling a thick canister from my side. “The guys in the lab, well the tech lab, cooked it up for me, knowing what I go through on a weekly basis.”
“How kind of them,” Riley replied with a grunt. “Salas, are you even lifting from your end?”
“No, not at all. The thing is weightless out here, at least virtually so. I’ll take hold of it once we get to the airlock. Tubbs, when I get the chance I’m going to unlock our tethers. Can I trust you to gather them up for us?”
I nod within my suit. “Of course, I was actually kind of wondering how you were going to manage the walk to the airlock when you’re tethered to the other side.”