The oxygen storage facility, or OSF, is a bit of a misnomer. Oxygen actually comprises only about 20% of the air that we breath. Nearly 80% is nitrogen. If either gas were removed, we could not survive. I already know that there is a leak, but as I cycle through the airlock to re-enter my ship, something starts to bug me.
The OSF is filled with racks of pressurized cylinders that contain enough oxygen and nitrogen to last me 4 times the duration of a typical run. Although I would love to be able to haul more of my precious cargo, the excess oxygen and nitrogen are there for redundancy. If I face a mechanical breakdown, or a microscopic hull breach like I’m facing now, that extra air dramatically increases my chances of survival. In fact, with the amount of excess air, I should have no issue getting back to base even without fixing the breach. Something else must be draining my atmosphere. I’ll start by patching the leak…that will at least slow the problem down, but I had better be able to figure out what else is going on.
As I enter the OSF, I notice immediately what the problem is, and I can’t say that my new knowledge is reassuring.
When biologists first started classifying living things, they assumed that all life could be broken down into two main categories: plants and animals. As new discoveries were made, however, biologists had to continually adjust their classification system until eventually, instead of two kingdoms, there were 6. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 22nd century that biologists learned of a 7th kingdom. I suppose that shouldn’t be overly surprising that it took so long to be discovered, since this new kingdom cannot be found anywhere in Earth’s solar system.
That kingdom has just invaded my ship.
The few times that this…thing… has been encountered, it has been in spores hurtling through space. The best theory that exobiologists have come up with, is that this…whatever it is…must have originated on some planet that was destroyed through some catyclysm, and when the planet was destroyed…scientists figure it must have exploded, the rock hard spores of this thing were launched into space and are travelling at near light speeds. They are few enough and far enough between that they typically do not pose a problem, but if a spore happens to hit a ship directly, scientists have theorized that it could cause a hull breach. Apparently their theory was correct. The frightening thing about this thing is that it reproduces incredibly fast in the presence of oxygen. That explains why my atmosphere is depleting so quickly. Soon there will be nothing left to breathe but nitrogen. I might not have much of a green thumb, but I guess I’ll have to do a bit of weeding if I plan to make strangers of my uninvited guests.
chapter 4 of Asteroid Rake is a response to the prompt: “making strangers”. If you enjoy writing stories, head on over to Inspiration Monday, and click on “blog feed” for a set of 5 wonderful prompts given each week. Use one, or all of the prompts in any way that you see fit.