Snakes and Pills

079 - bed pull

"CVM balances set to neutral," echoed in over the radio. The voice was from Tucker, an astronaut floating around in the vacuum of space. His words were a command to his partner, Dan, who remained within the confines of their spacecraft.

"Roger that, CVM balances have been reset to neutral," Dan shot back. Although he could not actually see Tucker from their craft's limited portholes, Dan was monitoring his progress through various sensors, gauges, and cameras. He radioed back to his comrade. "How did those changes work out?"

Tucker was conducting a spacewalk to attempt a repair on a malfunctioning component on their ship, the Durant. The Durant, a long-term research vessel, was a month and a half into its journey to Mars. All had been fine on the journey for the ship and her crew of six up until yesterday, when various alerts began to pop up about the Durant's life support systems.

While it was nothing immediately life-threatening, the system that purified the ship's water was not operating at normal efficiency. Even worse, as the Durant's crew monitored the purifier, it seemed to be losing output by the hour. The crew tried every method in the book to try to diagnose the problem and get everything working again.

Eventually, they exhausted all the options, and the system was still not working properly. There was a backup system in place, but for the primary purification system to begin failing so early in a very long journey was very worrying to everyone, both those onboard the ship and those monitoring the mission from Earth.

In the end, Mission Control suggested an extravehicular activity to see what could be done about the unit through physical inspection and manipulation. The crew was well-trained for such an operation, and seeing as how the failure of the unit could jeopardize their entire mission, they were more than up for the task. Tucker, the most-experienced astronaut onboard, was eventually chosen for the spacewalk.

He had been outside for over three and a half hours, coming close to exhausting the four hour supply of oxygen his suit was able to provide him. No solution had been found. At this point, Tucker was working with Dan to just try and send various commands to the unit, and seeing if there was any response in the machine itself. The attempt to reset the CVM register was just the latest of many that the two had been trying.

"Nothing," Tucker replied. "I don't get it, I can see all the connections are in place, so why isn't it accepting any of the commands?" he asked rhetorically. "How's output?" he called back. Dan turned his head and checked the gauges. "It's still dropping, pretty much at the same rate we were seeing earlier. No changes."

They were silent for a moment, but through the external cameras, Dan was able to see Tucker still tinkering with something. He was working himself hard, and they simply weren't getting anywhere.

"Listen, Tucker, why don't we just call this a day? Let the eggheads pore over the data we've gotten today, and tomorrow we can have another go at it." Dan knew it would probably be futile, but he had to at least try.

"If we wait until tomorrow, and if output keeps falling at the same rate, the system might shut down completely by then."

"We have the backup system," Dan reasoned.

"Yeah, but if this one shuts down, we don't know if it is even possible to get it back online," Tucker said. "I've got to keep at it until we get it right."

Dan knew he was right. He sighed. "Alright, Tuck. So what haven't we tried yet?"


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