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Programmer, Writer, Whatever Else


Sagan rolled out of his bed, if it could even be called that. His feet slowly pressed on the cold metal floor as he let in a quick breath. He thought if it’s been over a month already, he may never get used to it. He pulled his jumpsuit on, zipped it up, stretched as the poster said, and joined the others in the main room. “At long last, you made it,” Zak exclaimed. “We didn’t want to ruin your sleep that could change our fates.”

Sagan looked at him through his still half-lidded eyes. He looked Zak over, they were in better shape than he could ever be in those slabs of foam. “Why do you have to do this,” he asked.

“Because it’s not fun if I don’t, we all know we need all the fun we can get.” Zak finished their sentence with a deep swig of their thermos. “Besides, Leona isn’t here to lecture me yet.” Sagan raised a brow to them before rummaging through the cabinet for what he might call breakfast. Grabbing a bar, he sat at the table with Zak. Zak threw a smile at Sagan, reaching for a deck of cards to show him with a questioning glare.

Sagan let out a sigh after swallowing, shallowly nodding. “Sure, deal me in.” Zak’s smile grew, they shifted their posture, set their drink aside, and started counting out cards for each of them. A simple game. No unnecessary gambling, apart from the loser occasionally taking chores.

It was coming to a head, they each only had two cards left, and were tied on points. Zak went first, they slowly set their card on the table for Sagan to see. “If your card is higher or a spade, you’ll probably win. But maybe my last one will change the tides of this competition,” they told Sagan with a fluctuating voice. He looked longingly at his cards, one could win, but would he need it later. Before his mind was made Leona’s footsteps on the cold floor stole the two player’s attention.

“Wrap things up, we have some things to take care of today,” she stood in the doorway from the cockpit. Sagan peeked back at Zak, who was motioning their eyes from his hand to the played cards, and back. Shaking his head, he set his cards onto the table face down and stood.

Zak slumped, defeated, in their chair. “Fine, what must we do,” they asked the boss. Leona raised her tablet to recall its information.

“One of the sails is having issues, Sagan goes out to fix it. And you, Zak, will be in here to make sure it works.” Sagan nodded his head, his fingers tapping the table, and his foot quietly fidgeting. He silently made his way to the lockers, preparing his gear.

Zak peered around, not finding Leona in sight, Sagan softly jumped from Zak’s tap on his shoulder. “I know it’s not exactly… liked by the higher ups,” they showed their crewmate a bottle of liquor. “It’s only 18 percent, not too strong, but it still helps,” they whispered. With only a nod, Sagan swiped the bottle and stashed it in his locker. Zak continued past Sagan to the cockpit, “good luck.”

Sagan took sips from the bottle as he fit himself into the elaborate suit. Covered in the new white outfit from neck to toe, he gulped one last drink before fitting the helmet onto his head. Locking it into place, the suit hissed as no air could escape. Leona came up to him as he prepared by the door, she took a hook and snapped it onto Sagan’s gear. She examined his equipment and locked a hose into place at his neck. With a thumbs up, to which Sagan acknowledged, she left and sealed another door behind him, leaving Sagan alone as the door in front opened wide.

The gold and blue hues of the nebula filled his eyes as he gently tossed himself into the starry emptiness. Despite knowing they were cruising at 330 kilometers a second, everything looked so still. He crawled across the hull of the craft and held at the base of the sail arms. “I can’t see anything from here,” he spoke to his microphone, “where’s the issue?” Through the communications of the suit, he heard Leona reply with his answer. Arm 3 wasn’t responding. Sagan gazed around at the sails that formed a hexagon. Counting the arms, he crawled to the upper right extension of the craft and locked himself into place with a latch. From his new spot, Sagan opened the casing and examined the inner workings.

Zak sat at their terminal, waiting for something from Sagan. They found Leona doing the same. After too long of silence, Zak spoke up, “So why does he get to do the fun stuff out there while we sit here not even able to do a single thing?” Leona looked at him with raised brows.

A simple reply is all she needed. “Because he’s the engineer, and you’re the computer guy.”

Zak chuckled at the remark, retorting, “Are the arms out there not simply computers with extra parts?”

She leaned in toward her terminal, starting to look around in various folders and applications, responding, “Those extra parts are why.”

After only another minute, the sound of Sagan’s voice over from the speakers came to interrupt their talk. “I’m not getting responses from the base of the arm,” he paused, “must be a loose wire or something inside this.” On the exterior, Sagan peered up the arm. It stood 20 meters over him. He unhooked the latch holding him at the pole and started his ascent. With only the single cable to the airlock stopping him from careening into the vast emptiness around him. Hand over hand, grasping onto the thin cylinder that ran alongside the arm, he climbed.

Only about 10 meters up, his hand slipped. He let out a yelp and flailed to regain his grasp. The voices from the inside were talking into his ear, but his mind couldn’t understand them while his heart pounded through his chest and his breath fogged up his view. Slowly, he reached to where he was. He glided his hand down the pole and it slipped once again. It was as smooth as ice. He brought his head to it and examined the arm, he found the issue.

He slid his hand over the crack in the arm’s metal. How could it have happened, what could have caused it, his thoughts wandered. He shared his discovery with the others of the crew and Leona gave him feedback. “Take your time out there. Get it fixed, even temporarily, and get back in here.” Sagan breathed deep, taking hold of his hood once again, and attached it to the pole that guided him up. He grasped a roll of tape from his belt and ensured it was ready. Pulling an end out, he stuck one side of it to the hull of the arm. He dragged the tape over the crack and pressed it firm onto the metal. He stayed in his spot for a while longer, making sure he patched it and there were no other damages he could see.

Inside once more, the three of the crew gathered in the cockpit. They discussed how it could be fixed, theorized how it all happened. “We shouldn’t need to adjust the arms for another few days. Rest for now, Sagan, and we can work on fixing it later.” As much as Sagan wanted to get it over with, he knew Leona was correct here. Zak stayed silent for the discussion, only listening and nodding along. Once they knew they weren’t needed anymore, they left Sagan alone with Leona, who stood at her terminal.

“How much farther do we have,” he asked, gently shaking in a chair in front of Leona.

Leona pulled out her tablet and opened something on it. The silence seemed to last for minutes before she gave an answer. “About 21 more days,” Sagan’s head dropped, not letting Leona see an inch of his face. “We have about 600 million more kilometers to cover before we get to our destination.” She could only see his head gently rock. Leona sat down with Sagan. She reached out to softly hold his shoulder and stay near him. “We have time. As I said, we just need to fix this in about three days. You rest and recover until then. And do it when you’re ready.” Sagan silently acknowledged and rose, slowly leaving the cockpit himself.

When he got to the kitchen of the ship, he found Zak at the stove with a pot. They smiled at Sagan and stirred the pot before removing it from the cooktop. “I know it isn’t much, but I hope it will help.” Zak poured it into a bowl, steaming as they set it on the table and gesturing for Sagan to accept. He thanked them and sat with the hot stew, slowly steadying his shaking.