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Ted wished he could wipe the sweat off his brow. It had run down into his eyes a few times and it stung like crazy. He hoped he wouldn’t have an itch to scratch since clearly that wasn’t going to happen either. He looked over at Jim, the picture of calmness, methodically spraying the trinite back and forth, back and forth. They had been out for about 45 minutes this run, hard at work the whole time. People’s lives depended on them finishing this and getting it right.
Jim was good at the job, even when he had to dangle by his tether to get at a particularly hard to reach set of hoses and gears he had worked quietly and efficiently. When Jim turned around his face was very red. He was overexerting himself but there was nothing to be done for it.
All in all Ted figured he would rather go by supernova than a heart attack. If his body was hit by the supernova explosion he would never know what happened. One minute he would be there and the next, he would be no more than so many atoms and particles floating around in space. There would be no pain, no fear.
Beside him, Jim faltered. The hose was heavy and he was having a hard time. He was, after all, in his 60’s. They had to be pretty near the temperature limits for the suits. Lord help me, he thought, just a bit more! It was so blasted hot. The air conditioning in the suit could not keep up with the superheated space around him. He turned to Ted and motioned for him to switch places.
“It’s too hot Ted, can’t hold it,” he said breathlessly. “Not as young… used to be.”
Ted patted his shoulder and moved forward.
“I got it Jim,” he said as he picked up the hose and aimed the nozzle. “This must be what hell is like.”
“This. Is nothing… walk in the park.” Jim said breathlessly. “Hell… much worse.”
Ted turned around and looked at Jim.
“Hey you okay man? Not gonna crap out on me now are ya?”
Jim smiled and shook his head. “Finish.” He said, pointing to the hose.
Ted looked at him long and hard then nodded as though he had come to some decision.
“Jim. Go back inside. Close the airlock and get into your pod. There’s only one way we can finish this. You aren’t strong enough to hold it and run the machine too. It’s going to have to be me.”
“No.” Jim said. “Not going to happen.”
“You know I’m right Jim.” Ted spoke calmly.
“Not leaving you out here.” Jim said, eyes watery.
Ted shook Jim’s “hand” with his. “This is the way it has to be. You know I’m right.”
Jim shook his head. “I think…”
Ted laughed. “What do you think old man? I’ll tell you what I think. If what you say is right, the Lord really did die for my sins so that I could have everlasting life. That means I’m going to get to see him before you do. That’s not such a bad thing to look forward to.”
“Ah Ted…” Jim couldn’t finish.
“Pray for me old man, now get inside!”
A flash of bright light burst past the ship, blinding them for a moment. It was happening!
Jim looked back at Ted, stricken. He switched off his external transmitter and spoke into his mike, knowing that the ship’s onboard AI could hear him. He called her on his uplink.
“Yes Jim,” she said. “I cannot appear outside of the ship.“ So there were limits to the program, he thought.
“I have something I need you to do,” he said calmly, then proceeded to give her instructions. He turned back to Ted and pointed at the hose then and gave a thumbs up. With a clap on the back he moved away and bent to uncouple his tether.
Ted turned back to the hull. All that was left was the airlock opening. Seal that up and they would be done – their fate sealed along with the ship. Ted lifted the hose but the doorway seemed to shimmer in front of him. The hose suddenly felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. He tried to turn back to Jim but his vision swam horribly, throwing him completely off-balance. Ted dropped the hose and tried to reach the hull of the ship, failing to get a grip. It all happened so quickly, he hardly had time to think. The last thing he saw before his eyes closed was Jim trying but failing to grab his hand as he drifted away…