If you’re wondering what happens to the main characters from Perigee, here are the sequel’s opening pages. I’ll drop in a few more select scenes at random over the next several weeks.

. . .

Keep breathing.

Simon Poole could barely think of anything else at the moment. He’d always taken it for granted and now found himself surprised by that fleeting realization. This, despite spending much of his adult life at the mercy of the various machines that encased his fragile human body and provided for its needs. He’d learned how to escape from a crippled sub or survive a rapid decompression in space, but through all of those years the simple act of breathing had always been something he just did.

Until now.

Poole’s skin tingled in a harsh warning against the rapidly evacuating air. His lungs hurt like hell, and he knew that wasn’t about to get any better. It was best to just let them deflate, as holding his breath would surely rupture them once the pressure differential dropped enough. He’d have to force himself past the reflexive panic that would come once his brain began to ache for air, before hypoxia set in.

He just hoped his eyeballs didn’t freeze first.

He struggled with the locking mechanisms surrounding the airlock hatch, and cursed the engineers that had made it so overcomplicated. And what a damned stupid place to store the emergency patch kits…more items for his flight debrief logs once they returned to Denver. Whenever that might be.

The compartment walls behind him fluttered and rippled as the supporting air escaped. The hab was essentially a big Kevlar balloon and would collapse as it deflated, like a child’s birthday decoration. The cylindrical walls seemed to constrict around him, which his vacuum-addled mind welcomed. Maybe it would be warmer.

Keep breathing.

A sudden, stabbing headache sharpened his focus and brought him back to the task at hand. He braced against the lip of the hatchway and gave one last twist of the locking lever. The stubborn portal flew violently open and he felt a stinging blow as it connected with his left arm. With normal pressure on the other side, the simple act of breaking the seal was enough for the hatch to release as if it had been kicked open by some invisible giant.

No matter. Poole knew he had to keep going, and pushed ahead into the welcome rush of air. As the compartment emptied into the near-vacuum behind him, he inhaled deeply and finally risked holding his breath. At least the headache disappeared with it.

He could also think clearly again, and used his good arm to reach back and pull the hatch shut. It was harder this time, working against the torrent of air flowing past him. Grunting from the strain, he felt the hatch seat itself against the rim and heard a satisfying whistle as air pressure returned.

Peering through the small porthole, he watched the habitation module finally collapse. Once equalized with the vacuum outside, it began fluttering like a loosely-gathered sail.

Simon Poole looked around and took stock of his surroundings. It didn’t take long, as there wasn’t much gear to inventory: some emergency stores, a first aid kit, and that was about it. And there was the emergency patch kit — a fat lot of good it’d do now.

After another luxurious deep breath, he sighed, understanding that this tiny compartment was likely to become his sarcophagus. As the ancient Egyptian kings had once commanded their servants to face eternity with them beneath the great pyramids, so would he spend it in a tiny aluminum cylinder, doomed to forever circle the Moon.

Keep breathing.

. . .

2 Replies to “Sneak Preview: TERMINAL VELOCITY”

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