Sievert was a jerk at the best of times, but he was mad at me and that made him much worse. He was tied with Alyona Gusarov at being four hours away from breaking the long standing one thousand hour EVA record. He'd wanted to tell the ground station I was sick so he could go EVA and make the repairs, but I was the mission engineer and had refused. To pay back my insolence, he opened an intra-suit connection the minute I left the ship and hadn't stopped harassing me since.
"You techies make bad astronauts," Sievert said then gave me a long peal of barking, hiccupping laughter. His French accent grew more pronounced when he was angry and it made him sound even more condescending.
"You're too cautious and too timid, Hartman," he said. "By-the-book takes twice as long!"
I gritted my teeth and made another tiny adjustment to my slow, but steady, course toward the malfunctioning orbital fuel depot. Sievert could probably have made the repairs, just as I could fly the Stolid, but it was my ass on the line. Tyco Space Services Corporation had a ninety-eight percent quality rating for its orbital equipment and this was the first time one of these refueling depots went offline. I couldn't screw this up.
I ignored his ongoing abuse and watched the sun rise slowly over the Pacific below. Like every human who left the Earth before me, I never stopped being stunned by its beauty. Since this depot was in geosynchronous orbit, I wouldn't get to see the jewel encrusted night side during this EVA, but that also meant I didn't have to work in the dark.
My focus returned to the task at hand as the depot slowly dominated my field of vision. It was a cluster of round tanks surrounded by steel struts, all interconnected by armored piping and roughly the size of a two-bedroom house. Fueling probes jutted outward in four directions, easily accessible by either crewed or automated spacecraft, and solar arrays sprouted from the top and bottom. Printed in huge letters, next to the Tyco Space Services logo on the wide equatorial band, was the identifier TRD27. Or officially Tyco Refueling Depot number 27.
"Are you too nervous to talk, techie? Do you clench your teeth tight to keep them from chattering?"
"Twelve meters," I answered over the open company channel, but he was right about my being afraid. I just wasn't afraid for me. I had to stay alive for Dad.