By Griffon
Published: May 20, 2008

The last two people Major Baker ever saw or would see were Lieutenants Davison and Troughton. flash fiction contest winner In his mind's eye, the awful split-second where they realized he was torn free of the module was burned into his mind like a photograph. He saw their horrified faces as his thruster pack malfunctioned and fired. He watched them reach for him in slow motion as the thrust tore loose his tether and sent him out into space.

It might have been comical, had it not been so serious.

In an instant, they'd vanished from sight, and there was just Baker and incalculable miles of empty space.

Icarus 1's mission was "to go deeper into space than any manned mission before it."

I'll end up doing them one better, Baker thought with irony darker than the space surrounding him.

Memories of old physics classes drifted through his thoughts as he tried to understand what had happened. Though the propellant in his thruster pack had run out, he would fly backwards until something stopped him. Given the vastness of space, the odds were against that happening. The mathematics of the size of space had made him feel small enough--the fact of it made his mind feel close to snapping.

At first, he'd screamed. After a while, he stopped, realising no one would hear him. Panic momentarily ran through him and was just as swiftly stifled when the understanding settled on him.

There was nothing he could do.

He would drift on and on through the empty blackness. Even after his oxygen ran out, he'd still be tumbling through space. Until then, he'd be awake and aware, alone and adrift in the long dark.

He thought about it some more, and some time passed before he made a decision. Within his gloves, his hands sweat and shook as he reached for his helmet. The panic returned as he laid his hands on the side of his helmet, the rational part of his mind trying to talk himself through this final act.

Relax, he thought, twisting his helmet and unsealing his suit.

This won't hurt.