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Survival Among Stars
Spaceman #21 was disoriented. Having just awoken, he kept his eyes closed. Beginning to get his mind right he recalled his training. Spaceman started self evaluation, checking his major limbs for mobility. Flaring his arms out, Spaceman gathered two sensations. The first, weightlessness. Like a fish in a bowl, it was a feeling Spaceman was all too familiar with from the countless cycles spent aboard his Star Shuttle. He was also in motion. Spaceman’s arms flung out beside his helmet when he began to stretch them out, much to his surprise. He quickly began to attempt to move his lower limbs. He pulled his right knee up and rotated his ankle; once clockwise and once counter clockwise. It was when he tried to pull up his left leg that he felt it violently jerk back down. His ankle wouldn’t move and was stiff, as if tied in a hangman’s noose. The heart rate monitor inside Spaceman’s helmet increased its beep ever so slightly.
He opened his eyes. Although it was might as well he hadn’t due to his pitch-black surroundings. It was as if he were falling through an ancient abyss. Looking through the 7 centimeter screen of his DimaGlass protector, Spaceman saw nothing. However, he knew this wasn’t his immediate problem. Spaceman pulled on his left leg even harder this time and was answered with an even tighter grip. He envisioned the squeeze to be that of an anaconda’s that was slowly working its way up his lower thigh, fangs out, looking to find home in his throat. Lifting his head up to see what had hold of him, the faintest whimper crept out of his mouth as Spaceman met his captor. The brilliant color had struck him first. A bioluminescent blue, too intense for his un-adjusted eyes. Moments passed as Spaceman focused on the unnatural aura. He spotted something more.
Suctioned to his sturdy, yet lightweight space suit were hundreds of small suckers. He could feel each one pulling at it, fighting to breach through the material. The suckers were attached to a frightfully massive tentacle, like an oak branch taking revenge on a lumberer. His eyes followed the ungodly thing to its origin, wanting to discover what was in control of such a monstrous limb.
The numerous courses of zoology and marine biology during Preparatory Space School had allowed Spaceman to identify the creature instantaneously. He was being pulled by a giant, fluorescent blue cephalopod.
While most in his program would not have been, Spaceman felt relief. A student of the deep sea, the cephalopod was familiar sight. It not being a carnivorous creature, Spaceman knew he was in no extreme danger. The only thing that puzzled him was its neon blue light emission, but then again, he had never observed one in person. The sight of the cephalopod had meant another thing. He had made it back to Earth.
Spaceman began to recount the last events he remembered, and to his satisfaction, they came together. Having finished their 3rd and final SpaceTour, Spaceman #21 and his comrade #22 had embarked on their journey home. Being put in cryosleep, it was the shuttle’s autopilots responsibility to bring him and his partner back home to Earth. Spaceman figured that that upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, the Space Shuttle’s navigation function had been broken; a recurring problem with the Type 2 models. He knew that when a Shuttle landed somewhere besides NASA, the built in ejection function would spit out the unconscious passengers in order of safety. Although unaware of his partner’s location, Spaceman was relieved to find himself in what he assumed to be the Pacific Ocean. As he flipped on the homing beacon located on the top of his helmet, he was sure he would be rescued soon.
Spaceman reminded himself of his current predicament. He needed to cut the leash of his deep ocean master. Although not wanting to harm the cephalopod, Spaceman reached down to his right calf and unsheathed his TerraBlade. Gripping the glowing blade in a downward position, he swiftly stroked it across the luminous tentacle attached to his ankle.
His freedom was instant as the cephalopod let go with a low and pained moan. But much to his surprise, bright purple ink, which he could only assume as it’s blood, spewed out of the gash. Rotating his body to avoid the secretion, Spaceman heard a sickening hiss as it landed on his back, directly contacting his oxygen and energy packs. Like acid, the substance began to eat at it as the oxygen display in Spaceman’s helmet began to slowly decline. For the first time in over 40 years of space exploration, Spaceman felt panicked. The beep of his heart rate monitor rose quickly. The cephalopod had fled leaving Spaceman in absolute darkness.
“How ironic”, he thought, “to meet my end on Earth of all planets.”
Spaceman told himself to stop. Reverting again to his training, he searched to find for a way to survive. His oxygen and energy tank showed 72% and decreasing. His only solution would be to find the surface. He had refrained from using his HeadBeam or JetBoots in order to conserve energy, but he was out of options. Following his gut’s sense of direction, Spaceman pushed the small button on his right index finger to activate his JetBoots. In underwater flight, Spaceman was being propelled through the water.
What felt like hours were merely minutes, and it wasn’t until Spaceman’s energy pack hit 37% that he found light. And it was natural. Relief washed over him like a famine ending flood as what he knew to be as sunlight grew ever so strong.
Spaceman triumphantly breached the ocean's surface with a gasp of achievement. Powering off his JetBoots, he looked out at the horizon. It was dawn as the royal Sun was coming up from the west. The Sun had never looked so beautiful. Spaceman had never noticed it so stoic and had never felt it’s warmth as much as he did then. As it rose from its slumber, it was as if the Sun had moved from its place in the Solar System just to be closer to him. The sky was painted pink and orange as longed to breathe fresh air. It was as he started to take off his helmet that Spaceman witnessed something that made his soul sink back to the depths of the sea.
Still looking to the west, another smaller and even brighter sun arose from the ocean line. What the hell another sun? How could this be possible? Spaceman felt dread spread within him from the inside out as he realized the terrible truth; he was not on Earth. He resisted the urge to cry as he lay afloat in a foreign ocean.
The second sun rose completely. As soon as it did, the waters around him began to churn. A defeated pioneer, Spaceman remained still as he was suddenly sucked back underwater by a growing whirlpool. It was pulling him down, deeper and deeper underwater. He flipped on his HeadBeam not wanting darkness to be the last thing he saw. What his light showed him took his breath away.
Millions of seed sized particles reflected a shimmering light all around him. Spaceman felt as if he were among the stars once more and all other worries diminished. He landed on the oceans floor and was met with a black, gooey sand-like substance. He grabbed a handful and watched how the sand spread out on his palm and close around his fingers. It was like it had a mind of his own. He felt the sand begin to close around his boots, his calves and then his thighs.
Spaceman looked back at his friendly sea of stars. Moving his head around, his failing headlamp caught a glint of something else. A golden helmet that read #22 layed not even 10 meters away from him.
Spaceman was shoulders deep and his HeadBeam was loosing power. He oriented his head up and was met by comfort. To burn out among such magnificent beings as stars would be as glorious as Spaceman could hope for. His oxygen had run dry but Spaceman didn’t comply with urge to breath. Fully submerged, Spaceman’s stars lost their soul as his light flickered out with a blink.