John sat in the same chair he had been in for three days, the orange cushion compressed long past the point of being comfortable. He nervously ran his thumb around the corner of his nametag. The S in Sturgis had almost worn off. When the need arose, John evacuated his bladder directly onto the textured metal floor, hoping the urine would wash away the blood. He couldn’t tell if it had; John hadn’t moved his eyes from the tranquil blackness of space. He had seen too much blood, too much death in the past two weeks. When the rescue shuttle came, he would have to move, have to see the crusty brown stains on the metal floor, have to touch the dried arterial spray on the lift controls, have to step over the EVA suit that was melted to Specialist Hakata’s flesh.
The ping of the communications alert nearly sent John into a panic attack. It sounded several more times before he was able to calm his shaking hand enough to accept the transmission.
“Kitamura Research Station, this is Shuttle Branson II requesting permission to dock. We’ve brought Specialist Hakata to take a look at the long range antenna you’ve been having problems with.”
“What?” John asked, the word exploding from his lips in shock. “No. He’s here. He’s dead. I saw him die! Who is this?!”
“Flight Leader John Sturgis, who the hell is this?”