The Infinite Matrix

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ocean of stars
by Myra Çakan

translated from the German by Jim Young

09/28/09:48 CET

Benya says that Vassiliy is dead. I have to believe her. She says nobody could have survived in there. Smoke is still coming out of the command module. I just don't know if the extinguishers are still working. The locks are blocked shut, so I can't get in. Not that I want to. What could be in there scares me. Does that make me a coward?

Benya says I'm not. She kissed me and said I was her hero. Then she opened the lock. I couldn't stand to watch the Orion take off, though. Two people had to stay back. One was Vassiliy, the other…

Me…. What am I doing here?


09/28/09:55 CET

The quarters look the same as they always did. Nobody had any time to pack anything. Tom's Magic cards are scattered over the table. Tom and Davina both had fractures and internal bleeding. Just yesterday he and the Commander were playing… Vassiliy made a joke and said something, and Tom laughed… But I can't remember what the joke was any more. And the Commander…what was his name again? I really can't remember. Did we call him something different? I'm sure he had a name. Everybody does. My name's Chris. Christopher Warncke, first engineer on Space Station Delta 2. Chris Warncke.

The doctor gave me a shot. For shock, he said. "Stay warm, he said, and put a blanket around me. He wouldn't look me in the eye, and he patted my shoulder… Why me? Vassiliy is dead. He never did win anything at cards…

Out of the port I can see the solar array casting its sharp shadows across the laboratory module. Nothing looks like it's changed. But then, the shuttle's docking ring is on the other side. Right now they're making the last system checks. I know the procedure. Routine — it keeps you from thinking too much.

I can't see the Earth from here. When the fire started, Ground Control was off line. They didn't know what had happened. Vassiliy was right in the middle of making a system check. Earthside was expecting our first recall at twelve hundred CET.

I'm getting cold. The doctor warned me that was a sign of shock. It's a good thing I've got this blanket.


09/28/10:01 CET

Benya says the explosion blew away the whole section that contained the escape capsule She's able to reach me over her suit radio. I'm sitting on my bunk and holding the receiver to my ear. "The lower solar panel also got hit," she says. Benya can keep talking to me because she's the science officer, and they don't need her to help with the takeoff.

But she has to stop to help keep Grigoriy lying flat. Tom and Davina are both unconscious.

Sometimes I can hear Grigoriy screaming. I'm not sure if it's what I'm remembering, or if it's coming through Benya's suitphone.

The shuttle wasn't designed to carry the ISS crew. Only carries its own flight crew and four passengers. Somebody has to maintain the station. I'm the only one who wasn't wounded. So I'm the one. "We'll send a shuttle," the Commander says. He sounds absolutely sure of it.

"Lots of luck, Chris," Benya tells me. Her voice is fading. It will be gone soon. Crackling static, then silence.


09/28/10:09 CET

Now I'm alone on Delta 2. I was just in the galley. I've got enough supplies. It's the life-support system that worries me. Right after the explosion, the whole station went dead. No electricity at all. Got to find out what caused it. Won't be enough reserves to cover if it happens again.

I've got to develop a plan. Check off every point on the list. First thing is to get an exact idea of the status of the station's systems. When the fire broke out, our little R2D2 was off line. I can't contact it now. That means that if I really want to know how bad it is outside, I'll have to do an EVA.


09/30/18:18 CET

I'm trying to keep to a normal, daily routine. It's hard. Haven't slept for two days. With every passing hour I feel more abandoned up here. There are all these echoes when I walk and I can hear the blood roaring in my ears. I realize everything's slipping away from me. I've really got to get some sleep.

Tomorrow I'm going to try to repair the transmitter. Even if it means going into the command center. Vassiliy is still in there. God help me. How can I stand to look at him?


10/01/14:32 CET

I didn't get in. The airlock must have been warped by the heat. It feels like a reprieve: I don't have to see Vassiliy today.

Here's my theory about why I can't sleep: It's the fear that another explosion is going to wake me up. Grigoriy was just leaving when the lock on the command module sealed itself automatically. He couldn't really say what had happened.


10/01/16:18 CET

Found some Dexedrine in the medical unit. Finally I'm going to be able to think clearly again. Make some decisions around here.

I also went into the lab. At first I thought nothing had happened in there. Looked as though Benya and Tom could come back at any moment. Then I saw what was in the test-tubes — everything had congealed. There was condensation all over the equipment. All the blood samples had dried out. The aquarium full of guppies had cracked open. The amphibians are dead too. Didn't even think about trying to take care off the lab-animals. I really shouldn't neglect my duties.

I'm still feeling cold. Probably means I haven't been getting enough sleep.


10/02/00:01 CET

I pasted a photo of Lara on the bulkhead. I had it in my locker. I didn't want the others to see her and make remarks. I know I am not much with the women. I'm not particularly good looking, or funny, and I'm too damn shy. Never have been able to figure out why Lara fell in love with me. She always tells me I brood too much. And then she looks at me that way she has…

Tonight I'm going to be able to sleep. I'm sure of it. Then tomorrow, I'll do the EVA.


10/02/13:05 CET

I used the emergency exit in the lab. Right now, from where I'm floating, Delta looks just like the old Space Station Freedom in the poster I had when I was a kid. Space Station Freedom was my reason for living. That poster went with me to college, and I hung onto it right up until I got to the training camp in Huntsville. Just before we blasted off, I gave it to Lara.

I'm using the jet pack to maneuver along the station. Now I'm in front of the docking ring. It was really fried in the explosion. Hard to believe that the Orion was able to take off at all.

Now I'm outside the command module. All that's left of the docking bay and its CRVs is bent metal, but the directional antenna looks OK. I'm going in.

Everything's covered with soot. The computers have melted all over the consoles. The transmitter is just a pile of rubble. Maybe I could link my helmet unit to the antenna and send a distress signal. Better yet, maybe I could rig something using Vassiliy's suit.

But what am I talking about? Vassiliy — where's Vassiliy?

Oh my God!


10/02/15:05 CET

I carried Vassiliy into the upper storage bay — or, I carried a crumpled something that used to be Flight Technician Vassiliy Petrovich from a tiny village in the Ukraine. Hard to think of him as a living, breathing human being at that point.

Suddenly, I could hear his laugh. Vassiliy had always seized life with both hands.


10/04/03:23 CET

Tonight, Grigoriy's screams woke me up again. All I have to do is shut my eyes, and I see his face, his half-burned off face. It would help if somebody could let me know if he made it. Even if it was the simple truth that no one could survive such an injury, it would give me some peace of mind.

Why weren't we trained to deal with this kind of a mess? I'm feel so helpless. I know the station inside and out — it's the inside of my head I don't really know about.

If I could choose between the insomnia and the nightmares, I'm not sure which I'd pick. But then, I guess I don't really have a choice, I do need at least a couple of hours sleep.

My brain is playing tricks on me. Yesterday I thought I heard voices from the Lab. Benja and Vassily. They laughed. For a moment I believed that the accident and Vassily's death only a gruesome nightmare. I must be careful so I won't cross the line between dream and reality. I'm keeping a couple tabs of amphetamine handy in case I can't handle the nightmares any more.


10/04/09:44 CET

The station is losing altitude. Somehow I've got to get more power out of the solar panels and recharge the power cells so I can boost her back into our old orbit.

It's been two years now that we've had Delta under construction. So far, we've built only four of what's supposed to be 12 modules; and the solar array isn't finished yet, either. There've been plenty of delays. We had trouble getting deliveries made, and some of the important components weren't anywhere near done. When Benya arrived, she said they were thinking back at Earthside about not even finishing the project. That could be the explanation for a lot of this.


10/04/12:48 CET

I found R2D2. He's stuck in one of the solar panels. I've got to get him out of there so I can get that panel working again.

The robot is really stuck in there. I'll have to go back to the station and bring back the cutting gear. Hope I've got enough air to do a second EVA.


10/04/13:07 CET

I damaged my suit. Nothing dramatic, but I lost some air from a small tear in the fabric. I didn't notice it in time — only after the alarm went off. Sure hope Vassiliy's suit fits me.


10/07/05:23 CET

Made some progress. Worked through the whole night again. Yesterday I got the robot out of the solar array, and got full power out of the big panel for four rotations. But the life-support system still isn't running the way it should. It's still cold in here, and I'm afraid the oxygen supply isn't as good as I'd hoped.

Finally I've managed to get the main antenna linked up to my suit radio. I'm shivering so much it's hard to get the final connection made… I'm so tired. If I could only get some decent sleep.


10/08/02:11 CET

Ground Control called. Lousy connection — kept breaking up. I gave them a status report. They swore they were going to send up a rescue mission soon. They also said that the shuttle with the crew had landed, and that Grigoriy, thanks to several skin transplants, was on the way to recovery. They promised to call back in 24 hours. They're going to let Lara talk to me then. I'm so relieved. I'm not going to die alone up here.



[ Part 1 ]    [ Part 2 ]

Myra Çakan is a novelist and journalist living in Hamburg, Germany. She is the author of three novels, including the acclaimed German cyberpunk novel When the Music's Over. Her fourth novel is due out this year. Her work appears in Die Woche, Konr@d, Der Spiegel, and Der Suddeutsche Zeitung. She is presently writing the screenplay for When the Music's Over.

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