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“Hello?” Malcolm Glass answered his communicator.
“Malcolm? We need you at the station. It’s going to be a rough few days,” the voice on the other barely sounded apologetic.
“I saw the weather reports. I know. I’ve already sent out the call to my people. We’re on the next shuttle.”
He hung up, grabbed his small tool kit, and headed down the lift from his apartment. The giant red dwarf sun glowed as a distant speck of subdued color on the horizon of Kepler-186f. He didn’t even have to wince as he looked at it.
The shuttle station was already prepping the magnetoplasma engines for launch with non-stop service to the USS August, a space station locked in geosynchronous orbit with the little colony directly below it. Shuttles ran whenever the crews needed to travel from the surface of Kepler up to the platform. The solar storm was already battering away at the re-entry tiles.
“We’ve got to get you guys up there. Won’t be long before the radiation levels are too high for the shuttles to launch. You guys will be all alone.” The station commander spoke to Malcolm as though the news should startle him.
“Well…they don’t call my crew when the sun is only shining.” He smiled back. His crew already tucked away on board.
“That’s just it sir. This activity isn’t from the solar flare. It’s from something else. Somewhere else. Just keep a lookout okay?”
“Right.” Malcolm didn’t allow his mind to wander.
Soon the ship was rocketing away from the surface of Kepler carrying Malcolm and his 38 employees. Engineers, mechanics, electricians, and a smattering of other occupations comprised the bunch, but it was Malcolm’s job to keep them alive. All they needed to do was to keep as much of the station running until the solar storm subsided. The atmosphere of Kepler would protect the colony and those that had retreated down to the surface, but the solar radiation could tear a station like the August to pieces without a crew to keep the shield generators from failing.
The clank of metal reverberated through the shuttle as the air-lock sealed it to the station.
“Alright, everybody out. You guys know what to do.” He gave orders as the crew grabbed their duffel bags and luggage like passengers on an airplane. They moved just as slow too.
There was no urgency at this point. They had a few hours before the worst of the storm hit, and this was their only job. The shields were fine. Only blinking lights to watch for now.
Each began to head off in a variety of directions. Electricians went to the solar panels to ensure that they had retracted properly, engineers scurried to ensure that life support and artificial gravity systems were still functioning, physicist began running numbers on expected radiation, and all – for the most part – was quiet.
The August had four generators contained in the primary support scaffolding of the station. A central compartment allowed for the monitoring of all of them. The rest of the station sprawled out from the primary supports like a spider web. Constructed for shuttle part construction, the August held no training centers, no high-end research labs, got little publicity from the news agencies on the surface or on Earth, and yet it was the only place in the Cygnus constellation that made the specialized helicon coupler antennas for the now ubiquitous magnetoplasma engines. The August was a silent factory keeping interplanetary travel alive, and Malcolm’s crew was there to keep it from falling apart.
“Hey Malcolm. The first significant radiation event has occurred. Reading two-thousand rems on the exterior sensors.” The voice crackled.
“Two thousand? Sheesh. Glad I’m not out there. One heckuva sunburn.” He smiled as he responded. “Shields?”
“Holding fine sir.”
“Sounds good. Keep me posted.”
400 rems could be lethal to humans. Two thousand would be. Marissa Kart approached him with a black clipboard. Serving as the station’s interim, her job was to be aware of anything that happened near the station. Whether it was parts, beverages, or paper clips Marissa had the numbers. Her brown hair had been pulled in a tight bun offset by her round face and thin frame. She wore a uniform just like everyone else.
“Malcolm. I feel the need to inform you that there’s a detachment of transport ships that will be arriving Tuesday at 0900 hours. 6 ships, 1200 on board each.”
“You better let them know they’re going to need sunscreen. I don’t know if ground control will let them land. Any chance they could re-route to the dark side of the planet?”
“I can find out, but we’re expected to allocate some of our resources to assist them once they travel within comm range.”
“Of course. Worst storm in history, and we’re supposed to host a parade.”