Exploding, Like Fireworks by Pat Murphy

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On the space station known as Moon Talk, engineers and poets work together to prototype and manufacture communications satellites. The founder of the station decided to include poets because they specialize in communicating high-density information in very short bursts.

Angel, a 20-year-old robotics engineer, is visiting Moon Talk on a poetry/engineering internship when an accident on the station’s hull leaves her paralyzed. Unable to return to Earth where the relentless pull of gravity would kill her, Angel must make the station her home.

Though her body is trapped, the poets and engineers who run Moon Talk find a way for Angel’s consciousness to escape the confines of the station. The robotics staff jacks Angel first into a robotic unit on the station’s hull, and then into a body that can move about the station’s interior. She inhabits a robotic probe that prospects among the orbiting rocks of the asteroid belt. But that's just the beginning of Angel's journey.

A novelette.


I never saw what hit me.

I was a young woman of 20, visiting Moon Talk, the space station for engineers and poets, when my life changed. I was out on the station’s hull with a couple of friends. I had wanted a chance to see the earth with as little between me and it as possible. Sure, I could look at it on the monitors, but that didn’t seem real. I might as well be earthside, watching it on TV. So I’d convinced Chaz and Joan to go for a stroll on the hull.

We were strolling near a construction area, where remotely controlled units were attaching a dish receiver to the hull. Chaz and Joan were flirting with each other—amusing for them, but not so great as a spectator sport—so I turned off my radio. In my suit, I could hear only the sounds of my own body: the rhythmic pounding of my heart, the hiss of my breath, the distant scraping of my magnetized boots on the metallic hull, constructed of steel mined from an asteroid.

The earth was a crescent in the sky above me—a thin slice of the globe was illuminated by sunlight, the rest was in deep shadow. On the brightly lit crescent, I could just make out a few details through the clouds: the curve of the Chinese coast, the islands of Japan where I’d be going in just a few months. In the darkened portion of the globe, I could see flashes of brilliant white light shining through clouds—lightning storms over Asia.

I was staring up at the earth when I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye: a white shape, moving fast. I started to turn toward it. Too slow.

I didn’t see the dish tumbling toward me. Someone—I never asked who—had released the grip of the robot manipulator too soon and then, moving quickly to try to recover from the error, had slammed the pincers into the dish, sending it flying out of control. The safety line had already been removed: in a hurry to finish the job, someone had acted too soon.

The dish caught me just above my left shoulder, striking at neck level and continuing with inexorable momentum to smash me against the hull. The space suit held: it was not ruptured by the impact and its boots still clung firmly to the hull. But my body—soft and malleable flesh—twisted and snapped within the protective suit.

I had been on the night side of the station, shielded from the direct rays of the sun. I didn’t really see shadows getting longer, but the metaphor works.

  • Published by: Untreed Reads

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