St. Elmo's Fire

It was a dark and blustery night that I arrived. The landing wasn't flawless, and it was nothing by the textbook, but it was OK. I opened my eyes a peek, and was blinded by how bright it actually was outside the mother ship. It was painful, and I was knocked out numb. The weather boys had not warned me to expect this. Another SNAFU, so whats new, but I wasn't complaining. At least not yet.

The pre-EVA checkout came through clean and all systems were go, so I wasn't going to let myself be rattled by one unexpected glitch. I trusted my instinct to figure some way to deal with this new and uncharted situation, which, reassuringly enough, it did. As my pupils rapidly learnt to contract, I found that I could reduce the discomfort to bearable levels till I was finally able to divert some cognitive MIPS to process the visual stimulus that was now pouring in.

My eyes began to acquire objects in the near field of view, and my focus re-calibarated to within nominal. That was when I got the real shock of my life. I was not at the LZ given to me during during pre-flight briefing. This looked much too like Planet Earth, nothing like where I was supposed to be. Hey Mission control, you soggy bureaucrats screwed up again, and screwed up big this time. You blasted me off on the garbage raft or something. Destination inconsistency. Request activation of mission abort and return.

There was no reply in my ear. Just static. I screamed again, and toggled frantically at the PTT, but it was futile, by now I had complete comms failure. I realized then that there really was no point now for me to even pretend to continue the mission for there was no chance I could ever return any data I gathered to the launch base with the umbilical cord broken so early in my first EVA excursion.

It was hopeless, but despite it I surprisingly seemed to have a cool head. I never knew one could retain such clarity of thought in a situation so patently irretrievable. Calmly I proceeded to do the only thing that was left to do; which was to say a prayer for the universe, finish my packed rations and proceed to power down all systems to a clean and orderly shutdown, and then rest in peace. Well I really could skip the part about eating, I laughed to myself as I optimized the improvised procedure.

I said to myself (and I might even have said it out aloud too, so its probably still on the CVR tape) that the least I could do for the guys who might on some later day come across my abandoned craft was to let them know that it had ended in peace. That I had remained collected should be a single note of honour to offset the embarrassing disaster that this entire mission had turned out to be.

Dont ask me how, but I just knew in my heart this was the right thing to do. This wasn't a documented procedure, it was obviously not on any checklist, it had certainly not been practiced on any simulator run earlier and we most definitely did not discuss such things at the bar. But yet somehow it was instantly clear to me that I owed this simple courtesy to my comrades, to give them that last something from me that they could cherish as a proud memory.

Thats when the doctor who was holding me up in the air by my feet gave me the resounding slap on my tender bottom. It smarted real bad. And I tell ya, it still hurts there to this very day.

Over and out.