Masterson selected two of the twenty-four nitrogen thrusters and gently dabbed the Man Manoeuvring Unit retro button on the left armrest. He immediately floated slowly to port. Below him the Luna shuttle’s white livery stood out starkly against the blackness of space. “Well at least it isn’t raining,” he quipped.
Bret floated through the hatch into the cargo hold on a life line and rotated so Masterson could see him. “Funny man. You missed your calling,”
“I know, I should be on the stage.”
Bret laughed. “Yeah, sweeping it.”
It was three hours since the collision and despite repeated attempts the shuttle's main engines were dead. Masterson finally decided, as commander, to put the MMU on and go see the damage, if any, that the huge piece of space junk had done.
As the thrusters carried him under the shuttle and toward the engines his worst fears were realised.
“Fuel cells ruptured, Bret. Looks like we’re out of fuel. Guess we’ll have to get out and push.”
They both laughed but it was a nervous laugh. Communication with moonbase was good and an emergency call logged within seconds of the accident. The problem was moonbase could not launch a rescue mission for eight hours. The shuttle was drifting off course despite constant corrections using the ship’s small retro thrusters. They also ran out of fuel. In eight hours they were going to be out of range. No rescue shuttle would be able to reach them and return to base. There was not enough fuel.
“Moonbase, this is Galileo. We are dangerously close to the no return sector. What’s going on?”
“Galileo, we know you have a little fuel left in one of the two cells supplying the retro thrusters. If you can use the cell pump to even out each tank we think we have come up with a solution.”
Bret looked across at Masterson who was busy flicking switches and peering at the computer readings.
“Moonbase this is Bret, where are we heading?”
“Bret, you are closing on Sirias 3.”
Both men looked at each other. Sirias 3 was abandoned some ten years previously when a malfunctioning computer had caused a serious fire and sent the huge communications centre off course. More than two hundred plus employees had managed to escape, everyone except a few crew.
“Bret, Sirias is still alive. She lost fuel and almost half the structure has gone. However, she can function as a lifeboat. If you can dock with her we can send a ship to you and a probe carrying fuel for the return journey. It depends on you though. Get the fuel pumped and then we’ll give you the co-ordinates so you can use the retro thrusters to find and dock with her.”
“What about oxygen and water?" asked Bret.
“We estimate two full tanks of oxygen and plenty of water.”
“Okay moonbase, we’re go.”
“Something else, Bret. There is a possibility that some of the crew are still alive.”
Writing order: Ray Stone (Cyprus), Angela Shaw (NZ), Joe Labrum (USA), Linda Alley (Australia), Dan Oliver (NZ), DonnaMcT (NZ), Greg Rochlin (Aus), Roseyn (Aus), Suraya Dewing (NZ), Sumanda Maritz (SA)