Keith Meyers, The Space Station!

Chapter 1

 

Photo, Jo Ann is Worried about her brother, Capt. Harvey.
CHAPTER 1

THE "LUNAR ROBINSON CRUSOE"


"If I eat any more of these algae cakes, I’ll turn into a green glob," murmured Lieutenant Sanders. He made a wry face, then stretched out on his contour couch in the pressurized space station. "It’s great being back on the moon again, but I’d give my Jet Pak for a good salami sandwich." Jo Ann Harvey lifted her space helmet from her shoulders and gently hooked it on an aluminum rack. Although her face was drawn and troubled, she forced a wan smile. "Bruce, I’d advise you not to let Captain McAllister hear you complain like that. Those algae cakes are his pride and joy." "But they taste like cardboard!", protested Sanders as he pushed a final green crumb into his mouth with the tip of his thumb. "He keeps saying he’s worked out a formula that makes `em taste like Italian pizza … but they still taste like cardboard!"

The girl sat down and expertly removed her weighted space boots. She sighed heavily. "Nothing like space boots to make a young woman psychiatrist resemble a baby elephant! Say, isn’t it your turn to go duty as officer of the day?" "Right," said the lieutenant, standing up. "However, since none of us is getting any sleep during this first twenty-four-hour period, I’d say we are all acting as officer of the day!" " That’s because Major Mason wants every Nucleus Two project to be in working order before we go over the rim of the moon and wake up my hibernating brother, " replied Jo Ann. " I’m sure he’ll be all right," commented Lieutenant Sanders as he zipped up his bulky space suit. But his voice was without conviction. He walked heavily toward the revolving air-locked door that separated the moon’s vacuum from the air inside. "Those hibernation pills are good for three months. There’s nothing to worry about. You know where he is. He’s sleeping like a baby at the bottom of the thermal tube." "I hope you’re right," mused Jo Ann. She removed a slender gold tube from her blouse pocket and applied a touch of pale lipstick to her mouth. Then she wearily leaned back on the couch, rested her tousled head against the inflated cushion, and closed her eyes. As though they were projected on a movie screen inside her head, the events of the past few months flickered fitfully in her mind as she dozed off. Captain Otto Harvey’s strong-jawed face glimmered first on her mental screen. Called "Squeak" since his Air Force Academy years as Major Mason’s roommate, Otto was now famous throughout the civilized world as the "Lunar Robinson Crusoe." The lovely young flight doctor stirred on the couch. Her fingers twitched with nervous fatigue. Captain Harvey had received the nickname because he had volunteered to remain alone on the moon for several months following the space expedition known as Nucleus One. The purpose of that initial lunar probe had been to establish temporary bases for complicated power plants and pressurized living quarters which would be established when more supplies had been sent from Earth in the follow-up expedition, labeled Nucleus Two. Encouraged by Major Mason, who was in charge of all lunar projects, Squeak had had a thermal tube the size of a living room sunk into a protective crevice on the far side of the moon. Here, in a hostile environment characterized by great extremes in temperature, he was to observe the effect of prolonged isolation on his body and mind. The thermal tube was cleverly constructed so that the range in temperature would be minimized. A platelike grid receptor on the upper lip of the wide opening captured fierce solar energy during the month-long lunar days, to be converted into instant warmth during the month-long lunar nights. The tube had several other interesting features: Twin holographic television cameras made possible the transmitting of crystal-clear three-dimensional pictures to central control stations on Earth. There was a microwave radio transmitter-receiver that could also operate on laser beams, and a computerized portable decoding device. Of course, there was a generous supply of concentrated food packaged, like toothpaste, in tubes, which themselves were edible.

Last, but not least, was a reserve supply of Captain Kirk McAllister’s famous algae cakes---though Squeak had swore that he would rather starve than eat them---and a hibernation pill the size of a golf ball, to be used only if the follow-up expedition had to be postponed. The pill would immediately slow down all body functions in order to preserve the precious oxygen supply until the arrival of a space rescue team.
Jo Ann Harvey moaned softly in her sleep. Despite the lieutenant’s words of reassurance, she felt certain that her older brother had perished. Her restless mind continued to churn, and visions of her brother passed before her.

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Copyright 1997 Keith Meyer. All rights reserved.
Revised: February 25, 2006.