1st World Library

Damned to Heaven Cover Author
Damned to Heaven
The space shuttle is in trouble and time isn't the crew's only enemy

by Bob Mahoney


From Chapter 15 - Soyuz Undocking

Houston, Blue FCR, Flight Director's Console

"ADCO, what's going on?" Flight Director Miller's uneasiness no longer whispered.

"Stand by, FLIGHT, I'm evaluating."

Drake nearly smiled. The catch-all phrase every flight controller used when he didn't know what the hell was going on. Per Miller's request, Drake sat by Miller's side but officially only as an observer—this was pure Station ops and Miller was Lead Flight Director today.

Drake noted the attitude rates were picking up, primarily in roll but in pitch and yaw as well.

Miller glanced at Drake, then tapped the Control Moment Gyro data. "Saturation. Soon."


Ferguson's small window gave him an angled view forward that, at their slowly increasing range, now encompassed much more of the Station's structure. The entire American Propulsion Module ... wait a second. Was that a thruster firing? Ferguson knew hydrogen flames were nearly transparent in a vacuum, but it sure as hell looked like that's what he was seeing.

The two Russians suddenly broke into another aural blur. Ferguson caught 'gyrodynes' somewhere in the middle. Finally, Ruchenko keyed his mike.

"Alpha, Soyuz, why are thrusters firing?"

I.S.S. (Destiny Lab Module)

McCafferty replied, knowing both the Soyuz crew and the others on Station could hear. "Not sure guys. The gyros are saturating. Nothing there in Zvezda, right Nikolai?"

"Correct. No insight or anomalies here."

"We'll let you know, Viktor." McCafferty's Jet Status window on his computer screen flickered a chessboard of alternating reds and greens as he felt the gentle whumps of the thruster ignitions through his restrained feet. Just below the ever-present din of the air circulation fans, McCafferty heard creaking to his left at the Destiny/Unity interface.

"Houston, Destiny, we see rates picking up and the C.M.G.s are saturated. What do you recommend?" Unfortunately, the vehicle had just passed out of the East TDRS satellite coverage.

McCafferty was worried now. The vehicle was approaching half a degree per second in all three axes and the jets were still banging away. If he'd have to guess, the jets were speeding up the attitude divergence, not correcting it.

Houston, Blue FCR, Flight Director's Console

"ADCO, I need your answer. Disengage or not?" To Drake, it seemed as if eternity passed before Hall responded.

"Affirmative, FLIGHT, disengage, repeat, disengage the Thruster Assist Mode."

"Free drift, then?"

"Affirmative, FLIGHT."

"CAPCOM, tell them to select FREE."

I.S.S. (Destiny Lab Module)

The switchover to TDRS Spare was complete. "Roger, wilco, Houston. I'm selecting FREE now." The Alpha/Discovery combination now tumbled freely with rates of more than three quarters of a degree per second in all three axes.

McCafferty keyed his intermodule comm. "There's your out-of-plane motion, Dan." Since the Station had undergone an attitude excursion, the apparent motion of the Soyuz in the cupola view made sense. It had only appeared to have been moving laterally.

"Thanks, Mac. That explains it. Now what?"


In the meantime, Ivanov had been statusing the departing three since McCafferty's comm link with Houston wasn't relayed to the departing ferry.

Ruchenko responded. "Thank you for your update, Nikolai. Are we to continue with sep sequence?"

"We don't know yet, Viktor."

Suddenly, Cahill's voice came on the circuit. "Nikolai, this is Jill." Officially, she had no reason to be on the Soyuz comm link. "I think it would be wise to have them hold where they are and not spend the fuel backing all the way out. If they need to redock, they should conserve all they have."

Viktor rolled his eyes for the benefit of his shipmates. Ferguson knew the Russians didn't have a high opinion of Cahill. But as always, Ivanov handled it professionally.

"I will consider this, Jill. Now I recommend, Viktor, that you proceed with separation to 400 feet."

"But that's what I'm concerned about, Nikolai. They'll spend more fuel if they stationkeep that far out."

This time, it was obvious across the circuit that Ivanov wasn't in a mood to argue. "Viktor, I leave it up to you until we hear from ground. I assume Houston and Moscow are discussing this."

"My rate is slow now. I will let us drift outward for now and will hold at sixty meters. We will wait for call." As he finished, Ruchenko pointed out for his crewmates, on the television screen, just how far Zvezda's docking port had drifted out of alignment. All the lines of the Station, previously orthogonal in their field of view, were now skewed as the Station continued to drift away from the undocking attitude.

"Will need to do flyaround anyway, if we redock." Ferguson could tell that Ruchenko relished the prospect of the piloting challenge.

I would too. Ferguson, sitting in the right seat, still had his limited, canted view, out his starboard porthole. He felt every bit the piece of cargo given he knew almost nothing about flying the Soyuz. That the doctors had sent him home like this still burned.

So I had a few memory lapses. I sure as hell hadn't had any hallucinations! Damn. Ivanov was a nice enough guy, but why the hell did he bring up things like that without knowing for sure? I told Nikolai what it had been! Why would he doubt me? Ferguson couldn't help but wonder what this would do to his career.

Hold it a second. As Ferguson stared wide-eyed out the window, doubt soaked through him. Was the Station coming at them? But that was ridiculous. It was crazy ...

Oh my God. It is happening. Damn those two switches! What the hell should I do now? If I say anything, they may slam a damn sedative in my leg.

Ferguson watched, struggling silently. If what he was seeing was real ... That would be very bad. It can't be ...

Return to Top

Authors serving authors ...

All material on this site Copyright © 2006, Groundbreaking Press
unless otherwise specifically noted.