Space

From the Story Arc: The Lecture

Previous Story in the Arc: Smiert Spionem by Comrade Hero (Saturday, April 14, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: Wrong Hero by Comrade Hero (Tuesday, April 17, 2007)

(posted Saturday, April 14, 2007)

Unsolved problems in physics: Why is it that some cosmic rays appear to possess energies that are theoretically too high, given that there are no possible near-Earth sources, and that rays from distant sources should have scattered off the cosmic microwave background radiation?

Comrade Hero did not need the advanced breathing apparatus and helmet to survive out here, but he did require the ability to communicate and co-ordinate his actions with the technicians at the Russian Federal Space Agency Mission Control Center in Star City and the Cosmonauts stationed in the International Space Station.

A crimson glow surrounded Comrade Hero’s body, as he absorbed the cosmic radiation of space. He felt stronger out here, more powerful, more alive. Perhaps he was meant to be out here in the darkness of space instead of tied to the little blue planet far below him. Cosmic radiation had been the unstable catalyst that had made Comrade Hero the hero he was today.

Malfunctions. System Error. Warning. An explosion. The searing pain as he was bombarded with unknown cosmic energies. The fall, tumbling for what seemed an eternity. His body, his very soul on fire, as he hit the outer atmosphere and was violently pulled towards the Earth. Hurtling helplessly through the darkness, ablaze like a crimson meteor. The impact. Striking with the force of a nuclear warhead. Frozen earth exploding, snow and ice vaporized, a column of steam and ash racing outwards from the large impact crater. The night sky of the Arctic ablaze.

Alive.

Unbroken.

The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Reinforced steel buckled under his fingers as Comrade Hero gripped the defunct satellite. He stared for a moment at the blistered red paint bearing the legend C.C.C.P and smiled. Comrade Hero silently flung the satellite on its final voyage towards the Sun, a fitting fiery end for this old relic.

The space around Earth was littered with defunct satellites, obsolete equipment, and various debris that went all the way back to the days of the Soyuz and Apollo programs. It made space missions these days more hazardous than ever. NASA estimates put the amount of space debris at around 10,000 objects - the majority of items having come from Russia and the United States.

Comrade Hero was doing his part to reduce the space garbage. He wasn’t alone out here in space. Other heroes from Europe, the United States, China and Russia were also out here. Tossing unmanned satellites and discarded space capsules into the Sun was the easy part. Trying to prevent small pieces of metal, paint flakes, and slag from solid rocket motors hurtling around the Earth at hundreds of miles per hour was a logistical and practical challenge.

Comrade Hero sighed. Humankind couldn’t look after its own planet, and now it appeared they were bringing their worst traits to the stars. But he couldn’t solve every problem that came his way, and right now Comrade Hero had been relieved of duty.

The orders came through from Mission Control. His shift was up. Time to head back to the International Space Station. Hand in the breathing apparatus and helmet, and then a nice leisurely flight back to Paragon City. If he was lucky there would be nothing but paperwork waiting for him back in CCCP headquarters.

Comrade Hero soared through space towards the ISS, and maneuvered himself towards the outer docking port of the Zvesda Service Module of the Russian Orbital Segment. Exterior cameras tracked Comrade Hero’s movements as the ISS Cosmonauts relayed instructions to him. The outer docking port slowly slid open and Comrade Hero slipped inside. Small vents opened as the outer dock shut, quickly pressurizing the tiny compartment between the inner and outer docks. The crimson glow that surrounded Comrade Hero faded away as the compartment was filled with life giving oxygen.

Comrade Hero removed the helmet and breathing apparatus as the inner dock opened and a grey suited Cosmonaut floated towards him, right hand outstretched, a broad grin on his face.

“Privyet, Comrade Hero.”

Comrade Hero readily shook the offered hand.

“Privyet, Comrade Major.”

“My apologies, Comrade Hero. But your friends in America from the Federal Bureau of Super-Powered Affairs wanted to speak with you the moment you came off duty.”

Comrade Hero nodded and quietly followed the Cosmonaut inside the Zvesda Service Module.

Surely the American’s had plenty of heroes in Paragon City who could be counted upon to react to any situation? The CCCP wasn’t as well funded or as publicly well known as the Vindicators, the Freedom Phalanx or Freedom Corps. And only a handful of the C.C.C.P’s roster had the security clearance necessary to respond to Omega class threats. And most of those heroes were American friends of Comrade Hero who had agreed to bolster the ranks of the CCCP and provide knowledge, experience, and expertise to lower security rated heroes.

Comrade Hero waited patiently as the Cosmonaut handed him a headset and went to work on the Communications console. The Zvesda module had been overhauled since the last time Comrade Hero was here. He recognized the influence of Rikti technology, even if it was cleverly reverse engineered and bore the corporate logo of Crey Industries.

The headset suddenly crackled to life and the Cosmonaut gave two thumbs up.

“Comrade Hero, speaking.”

“Comrade Hero, this is Brighid Moreira.”

The City Representative? Comrade Hero adjusted the volume on his headset and watched as the Cosmonaut floated away to check some diagnostic equipment.

“Go ahead, Miss Moreira. I am receiving you loud and clear.”

“Very good, Comrade Hero. One second.”

There was a bright burst of light in the capsule. The Cosmonaut blinked in surprise and turned his head. His eyes widened. Comrade Hero had vanished, leaving behind a floating headset. The Cosmonaut opened his mouth and then frowned. He let out an exasperated sigh and shook his head.

“Heroes.”