Stranded (with Pork Chop)
"Neil--are you there, Neil?" Far from the source, the voice was crackled and garbled, taking much of the human tone from the dispatcher.
"Neil--are you there?"
Neil scanned his eyes around the relatively meager cavity of space-relay 27445, considering his options. The communications satellite was little more than an RV sized cigar tube. A desk-sized control panel, an assortment of blinking lights, and a lone silver bucket seat stood as the cabin's only fixtures. Any leverage, tools, or handholds seemed to be conveniently out of reach. And, thus far, wiggling had only made it worse. Finally resigned, he responded.
"Yeah, I'm here."
"Well . . . what's taking so long? I had you scheduled for a repair over on 29567 hours ago. You know Trin-Corp loves to hold out on paying our bills as is. No need to give them a maintenance contract breach to hold over our heads."
Neil let out a heavy sigh, shaking his head. Why me? "I'm stuck, Chris," Neil said.
"Stuck?" the intercom crackled. "How stuck?"
"All right--you know that new stuff I brought up for repairs? The Genco stuff?"
"The Genco stuff? The . . . oh. How bad is it?"
"As much as I'm going to regret this, turn on your visuals, Chris."
Chris' transmitted image flickered to life on the opposite wall of the satellite. His initial I-can't-believe-you're-making-me-do-work look quickly transitioned into a furrowing of his brow, and was subsequently followed by his face filling the screen as he pressed forward for a better look. Neil obliged him by straining against the Genco adhesive that had managed to plaster the back of his coveralls, one of his boots, and both of his bare hands to the space relay wall. With his head he gestured to the never-fail applicant gun--also plastered to the wall--that had, inexplicably, failed.
"Wow, um, yeah, you're stuck."
"No shit! I couldn't reach the damn call button or I would have radioed hours ago."
"Well it's not--" Chris paused, mid-sentence, as his eyes caught hold of the small object floating in the middle of the space-relay, rotating slowly in the microgravity.
"Is . . . is that a pork chop?" Chris asked.
Neil didn't reply.
"Who brings a pork chop with them on a repair?"
"It's leftovers. I was hungry. Look, just get someone headed out this way, all right? I know Trin-Corp has a fac-planet not too far away."
Slowly, slowly, the pork chop turned in the microgravity. Each turn was the same as the last, the same as the one before.
Around and around and you go. If I could just reach . . .
Nothing. No budge, no movement. With his back pasted against the wall, Neil could only shake his head and wonder how he got there.
Of all the clumsy missteps. Why me? Why always me?
"Neil?" Chris asked over the intercom.
Neil's passing of time had been counted in pork chop rotations: rotations of approximately fifty seconds in time. Though he had lost count somewhere around rotation number three-hundred thirty, he knew it had to have been well over eight hours since he had heard Chris' voice. "Yeah, Chris?"
Chris' image popped up on the visual display; he wore a strange look upon his face.
"Um, right. How are you doing today?"
"When's my ride from Trin-Corp getting here?"
"Well, funny thing with Trin-Corp. Um, well, maybe not so much funny as . . . You know the Genco stuff?"
"You mean the stuff my ass has been glued to for a day now?" Neil growled.
"Right. Well, there's a problem."
"The Genco stuff. Trin-Corp. It's not on their list of approved sealants under our maintenance agreement."
"And, well, they're calling it a breach of contract."
"What are you telling me? When are they coming to pick me up?"
"That's what we're working on."
Pork chop, pork chop, you saucy bitch. Just a little closer. I can smell you. Oh, you're starting to rot, but don't think that saves you.
I can do this. Just a little closer.
Neil inhaled sharply, and again, and again. His pursed mouth was focused towards the pork chop, drawing in air with all of his might.
Inch by inch. So close.
Neil squinted strangely at the floating meat, trying to determine the source of the sound.
"Neil?" came the sound again.
Neil's head scanned from side to side, his foggy gaze searching the space-relay's interior.
"Here, on the screen."
"When are they coming?" Neil asked.
"Hold tight just a sec. I've got Charles Worth from Trin-Corp here with me."
A second image appeared on the screen: a young man, barely twenty, with short spiky hair and glasses.
"Hello, Mr. Andrews," Charles added.
"When are you coming?"
"Mr. Andrews," Charles said. "now, I'm looking at your report here. It appears as though you used--" his eyes scanned down to a page in a lengthy document, "a Genco adhesive to conduct your repairs. Is that correct?"
"Hmm." He glanced down at his report again. "I'm seeing here that the Lavator SG21 is the approved adhesive for that particular maintenance repair. An insulation panel number I15 repair is what I have here in my notes."
"Yes, but all I had on hand--"
"Hmm." Charles jotted something down in his report. "When are you coming?"
"Me? Oh. Oh, no. I just needed to verify the details of the report. Don't you worry. I'll be emailing your request to our spaceways manager as soon as I finish typing our discussion notes. We should have this whole thing sorted in no time flat."
Pork chop pork chop pork chop pork chop. Salt and pepper. Rosemary? Yes. I gave you rosemary.
You've got to be tired. All that twirling. Around and around and around again. Why don't you rest for a bit? I've got a nice spot for you over here.
Pork chop. Where are you going? Did you run while I slept? You're so far away.
The door? No, not that one. That's not the one to my ship. That's the outside. It's cold out there. Awfully cold.
I see! Oh, pork chop, I see! You want to twirl. You want to be free! Free to dance the cosmos! I see!
The button? You want me to press it? I think I can reach it. If I stretch . . .
Re: Case #17842 - Space-relay 27445
I have reviewed the case files. Please inform Neil Andrews of FirstOne Service that we will schedule a shuttle to space-relay 27445 to provide him with the proper Lavator SG21 adhesive. We will require a purchase order agreeing to our standard shuttle hourly rates, mileage, and per diem, which I have attached. We will also require FirstOne to sign off on a credit for the missed scheduled repair on relay 29567. See attached credit memo CR-100929-003.
Trin-Corp - Galaxy 12 Division Spaceways Manager