My first hard sci-fi novella. Be free to give your comments

Courting Lady Luck

Chapter 1

Sweat pooled upon Charles Sheng's face as he delicately loosened the tiny screws with his torqueless wrench. He carefully collected them with the wrench's magnetized handle as each screw drifted free like metallic snowflakes, glinting as they passed under the sun's feeble rays. Sliding the wrench into his utility belt, Sheng took a deep breath before gingerly removing the charred communication unit.

It was getting unbearably muggy within the spacesuit. Sheng misted his faceplate each time he exhaled and in-suit temperature verged on 40 degrees Celsius. He withdrew the replacement unit and easily slid it into the correct slot. Reattaching the screws, however, was a whole different story. Manipulating objects the size of a hairpin in freefall condition while handicapped by a misted faceplate would've been an impossible feat for anyone less experienced than Sheng. Operating entirely by his in-suit navigation system, the 48-year old maintenance man skillfully reattached six of the seven screws before rising humidity rendered his faceplate entirely opaque.

"Permission to return, captain," Sheng muttered as the last screw fell in place. The silence of space, occasionally disrupted by the unnerving beeping of the life-support system, was unbearable even for the veteran spaceman. He verbally activated the in-suit radio and tuned in for a Vestal rendition of 1812 Overture before detaching the belts securing him to the communication tower.

"Everything fixed?" Captain Liu of Interplanetary Transporter Lady Luck suddenly inquired. Sheng gave the hip-joystick a casual flick before calmly replying.

"It should be. Give the damn thing a try."

"This doesn't sound like you, Charles. You don't seem confident about what you are doing."

"Come on, captain!" Sheng shouted. "The life support system failed ten minutes ago and I've been running on the backup for all this time. If I don't get back within five minutes I might become the first man to drown in space!"

"Alright, alright," the captain hurriedly replied. "You've got my per…"

"I take that as a yes," said Sheng as he nimbly removed the security tethers. Droplets of water struck his face when he initiated the main-thruster.

My radio must've failed, Sheng thought as he slowly approached the starboard airlock. I better get back to Lady Luck before high humidity ruins the entire electrical system…

"Sorry about that, bloke."

So startled was the veteran maintenance man that he forgot to reverse thrust as he entered the airlock. Thankfully, his crash was cushioned by the memory foam covering the walls.

"You've done it, Charlie. The long range radio is completely functional."

"I'm glad to hear that." It was getting difficult for him to breathe.

"Someone hailed us immediately after I activated the radio and it appears to be an emergency message. It looks genuine…"

The brightly lit airlock was dimming by the second…

"Charlie, do you read me?"

I wonder if I still qualify as the first person to drown in space, Charles Sheng dreamily pondered before blacking out.