Earth Strike

There are, of course, no sounds in space. With no atmosphere to carry sound waves, the noises of a collision or explosion can’t propagate and spread.

So instead, Harrison only looked up when he caught the flash of light out of the corner of his eyes. Lifting his gaze from his equipment, his jaw dropped – but then, an instant later, it closed again as he shook his head in dismay.

“Come on, guys,” he groaned into the microphone mounted inside of his bulky space suit. “Can’t we do better than this?”

The mike crackled. “Harrison, what’s going on out there?”

“Something just blew straight through the Earth, I guess,” Harrison sighed back, rolling his eyes. He dropped the large mining drill he’d been carrying; it landed softly in the moon’s dirt, pulled down by weaker gravity than that on Earth.

“Holy @#$%, really? Blew through it?”

Harrison started to form a reply – but then paused, shaking his head. “Yeah, nope. Not sticking with this. Sorry, folks.”

And with that, he reached up and popped the seals on his helmet.

Normally, removing a space suit’s helmet in space is a very bad idea. As soon as those seals give way, air rushes out, and the helmet fractures outward as the pressure differential attempts to rebalance itself. Lungs are squeezed empty by the negative pressure, and the poor, unfortunate soul trapped inside of the space suit suffocates in quick order, even as every bit of liquid on the surface of his skin boils away through sublimation.

None of this happened to Harrison.

Instead, he lifted off his helmet to reveal a very different scene than what he’d seen a moment earlier through his visor.

He stood in a large room, standing on a surface that, he did have to admit, looked a lot like the lunar landscape. The room, however, was about the size of a football stadium, and he could see panels of lights hanging overhead, groups of technicians clustered around computers on tables off to the sides, and even a set of bleachers, pushed out of the way for these simulations.

A large man came barreling over towards Harrison as the astronaut removed his helmet, pushing up a pair of black plastic framed glasses that looked quite incongruous on his linebacker body. “Harrison, what the hell do you think you’re doing!?” he yelled out, stabbing a thick finger out like a sword.

“Getting sucked out of the illusion, that’s what I’m doing,” Harrison answered. The glare on the face of Jeremy Irons, head of simulations for NASA, might be intimidating to those who didn’t know him well, but Harrison had spent enough time next to the director to lose his fear. “What the hell was that?”

Irons kept up his glare. “The hell are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about the bloody big explosion of Earth, that’s what!” Harrison gesticulated up in the air, where the virtual reality display on his helmet had projected the image. “Have you lot lost your minds?”

“Have we-” Irons bit off the words, pausing to let out a huff of air through his nostrils. “Harrison, the astronauts need to be prepared for all eventualities-”

“And that includes the laws of physics being literally pushed to the breaking point?”

Irons paused. “There are meteor strikes-”

“That make a huge fireball out in space – where there’s no oxygen?” Harrison cut him off. “Who programmed the visuals, a fifth grader? And a cone of ejected debris – at the impact site? No radiating fractures? Come on, I thought this was supposed to be realistic!”

Irons took another deep breath and then sighed. “That’s what troubles you? The lack of accuracy in the explosion depiction?”

With a grunt, Harrison crossed his arms. As the only engineering candidate left after months of grueling training, he knew that he had leverage. “Yes.”

“Fine.” Irons threw his hand in the air. “We’ll change the visuals. Satisfied?”

In response, Harrison picked up his helmet and lowered it over his head.

Just before the seal re-engaged, he heard Irons shouting as he walked away from the astronaut. “Okay everyone, let’s go again! From the top!”

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