The Smart Thing

A light flashed green. At first, he couldn’t remember what it meant. For more than a month, nothing had changed on his panel; the green light was something new.

All of a sudden, he remembered: the storm was over. That’s what green meant. Just to be sure, he checked all the other instruments. Their readings had changed; the radiation had subsided. If he had to, he could risk going outside. More importantly, he could contact the others.

How long had it been? More than a month, he was sure. Well, nearly sure. The computer had survived the storm, but it had experienced some glitches that made him mistrust its clock. It had been a long time, of that much he was certain.

The green light flickered and went out. For just a moment he froze, then he quickly scanned the readings. The storm had not returned. The light had just gone out. Probably burnt out, he told himself.

Static crackled in the speaker when he turned on the comm system, just as it had for months. But that didn’t mean anything; the others may be waiting for someone else to send a signal.

He hit the button to let the others know he was on, ready to talk. Now he just had to wait for them to respond.

Hours passed without any interruption of the static. Had the others met with some accident? Had their communication arrays been damaged in the storm? Had his?

He checked the cameras. There was no visible damage on the outside of the station. The problem was elsewhere. How long until it might be fixed? How long could he wait?

The nearest station was over a hundred miles away. The land between them was scorched. Another storm could strike at any time. And who knew what might roam outside? The smart thing to do was wait here and hope someone responded soon.

But the smart thing to do might drive him mad. He donned his suit, secured the helmet, and entered the airlock. After it completed its cycle, he stepped outside and began walking.

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