Her eyes flutter awake, chest heaving with effort as she tries to breathe in air that is ever-thinning. Her eyes water as her chest screams under the amount of pressure she is enduring.
She crawls desperately over to the oxygen pump that she placed beside her pod, lifting the tubes and frantically connecting them to her suit. As she breathes in a rush of heavenly air, her relieved body crashes to the deck in exhaustion, chest fluttering from adrenaline. She blinks, once, twice, shaking her head to dispel the light-headedness that she knows is coming.
The oxygen should never have gone that low, she double-checked everything just before sleeping. Her heart sinks as she runs through the possibilities, trying to think of a reason why this could have happened.
‘No’ she thinks, ‘It can’t be a leak.’ But she can’t think of another reason why the pressure dropped so suddenly. ‘Harry!’ her mind screams, as she rushes up the stairs to check on her husband.
She finds him sleeping peacefully in his pod, untouched by the pressure drop. ‘At least the upper deck was unaffected’ she thinks, relieved. She has to fix that leak if she ever wants to sleep, so she thinks it’s best to do it now. Sleep is never a good thing to forgo.
Glancing at Harry’s peaceful features one last time, she heads downstairs, picking up her toolbox on the way. Grabbing a couple of tethers from beside the hatch, she places one right at the entrance, ensuring that she’ll have a way to get back to the ship if everything goes to shit. She opens the hatch and pushes off the tether, floating out into the great darkness. She remembers to stay close to the ship, placing tethers regularly until she finds the leak. It’s nothing major, but it’s just big enough to overload the pressure homeostasis devices the ship has.
She opens her toolbox, picking out a vial filled with a nanobot suspension. She gently drips the viscous, oily fluid onto the leak and smiles as she watches the surface knit itself back together.
Packing her toolbox up, she carefully angles herself towards the hatch and begins reeling in her tether line, maintaining a constant speed. She pulls the final tether out and turns the artificial gravity back on after she closes the hatch.
It isn’t easy, being a star miner. Sure, the job pays, it’s fun and the universe is always beautiful and exciting, but little things can kill and she has to stay aware of everything. Sometimes, she thinks it adds another level of peace, knowing that you’re so insignificant in the universe that it doesn’t even have to try to kill you.
She takes her suit off and places it on the stand, opening the first door to the biodome. She waits for her clothes to be sanitized as the door closes behind her. The second door opens and she steps in. The biodome is her sanctuary, a place to remind Harry and her where they came from, and how their species began. She sits beneath her favourite Peach tree and begins to read an old book, a physical one, that her mother gave her before she set out on this journey of a lifetime.
She’s already at the table when Harry lazily ambles down the stairs, a sachet of coffee on his hands. ‘G’morning’ he mumbles, greeting her with a lazy kiss as he sits down on his chair, taking a sip of coffee before grabbing one of the many sachets of food. ‘Morning’ she replies, before heating up her own sachet. Once upon a time, food was varied. People ate sausages, vegetables, fruits, grains and all kinds of things. The earliest space travellers even carried some of this food with them, but now all they have are tasteless nutrition sludges and flavour powders to add to them.
The trees in the biodome fruit sometimes, but the fruits are too valuable to eat. The law requires her to submit the fruit to the nearest lab for testing. They want to cover the Earth in trees again, but she thinks that’s just something that the government needs to do to look like they’re doing something with the citizens’ money. The Earth is a lost cause, and there are many more planets that could be explored instead.
She stares out the large window as Harry plots the course and checks the ship’s stats. She barely sees anything change in the view, but she knows they’re moving at amazingly high speeds. It’s just that the stars are so far away.
The universe makes people emotional. Everything gets bumped up by a few orders of magnitude. It’s inevitable, really, when you’re surrounded by such vastness, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed. Sometimes it makes her cry for no reason whatsoever. Sometimes it fills her with so much love that she pounces on poor Harry and doesn’t let go.
It’s a mixture of both right now, as she rises up to hug Harry desperately when she spots him walking towards her. Tears of pure emotion well up in her eyes and she tries to control them, not wanting to explode.
Harry, used to such displays, gently rubs her back and murmurs soothing promises into her ear, running his fingers through her bushy hair, trying to calm her down. His own moments of vulnerability are far fewer and far subtler, but she’s grown quite proficient at spotting the signs. Theirs is a quiet life, only interrupted every two years or so when they have a star to mine, and they like it that way.
This little ship is their home, away from the politics and planet colonisation back home. She misses her home, but she loves this life she shares with Harry, and she couldn’t think of giving it up for anything else. They have a life among the stars. A life of nothing but peace, love and happiness.