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Jax

Munson's Microfiction Entry

By Christy MunsonPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 3 min read
Top Story - May 2024
30
Jax
Photo by Nicolas Lobos on Unsplash

She gives the kill sign and unlocks her helmet.

Standing still, Jax wipes away the waxy balm. "My tears need a minute to find the edges of my face. If you'll please excuse me."

Abruptly Commander Jax sets off down the wide white hall, pitter pattering, clanking heavy feet into the sterile lavatory.

Tears! An impossible result. An insult. Shattering news. The worst. Jax didn't expect the introduction of compound 2X-84-5 to be lethal. We're going to die up here, she agonizes, realizing the substrate's base note hasn't been properly accounted for. There can be no other explanation.

She knows only too well. Tears locked inside a helmet can cause eyes to swell. In a blink.

In space, a fraction of a second's all it takes. Tears freeze and it's over. No sight. No nav. No hope.

There can be no tears in space.

The balm was designed to retain moisture, bringing hydration into lips while blasting through the outer ring. It was supposed to resolve the dry lips issue. Instead it provokes tears. The worst of all possible trades.

The assistant won't leave. Can't take a hint. Keeps staring, watching, hovering. She thinks Jax needs the toilet. Her calculus factors in the wrong variables. Jax is only human.

And now she actually does have to cop a squat. And anyway, she's come all this way. She might as well relieve the pressure in her bladder without using a funnel.

As she unlatches the hinges and drops her suit, the assistant lingers, entirely too close. Once 110 pounds of exo-suit falls heavy as lead to the immaculate concrete, Jax's long underwear is exposed. She's struggling but can't quite convince the liquid cooling tubes along her sides to bend. And she can't risk a rupture. Not to the tanks. Not during final testing. It'd be too expensive. Too costly in terms of time. It'd take another week to build new ones, what with quality assurance testing backlogs and Zeegler heading that show.

Jax was given no leeway to work her magic. Six months or mission aborted. Towel tossed in, just like that. Tomorrow's it. Last day of testing. There can be no tears.

She bends, awkward in a suit designed for zero gravity. From this crouching angle, she spots it. The tangle that's gone amiss with the fourth bolt. The linchpin.

The assistant observes Jax's observation and swiftly takes a half-step into the oversized stall. Quickly, mechanically, she lifts her hands toward the suit, twisting digits into dials, pushing gently, efficiently, into the linchpin. Suddenly the uncooperative bolt twists into submission.

Instinctively Jack bats away the robot's hand. Gives her an angry frown. Starts scratching at her metal fingers, exacerbated.

Jax regrets her actions immediately. Robots have as much skin in the game. Maybe more. Their math doomed us all. That's a heavy burden to carry.

Blasted emotions. Got Leon killed.

"I've got this." Jax tenders no apology for her earlier overreaction. "Done it a thousand times. Suit's a tad—"

"Protocol, Commander. Parameters of—"

"I know. Parameters require strict adherence... Protocols 7 Beta 1-1-3... I wrote the manual, X-ster. I've got this," she adds, softening her tone at the last bit. "You won't be there, to help, on the first ship out. I can't count on you—on anyone else—being there. Step back. Please."

Flashes whoosh, filling the Commander's mind. The loss feels omnipresent, alarming in its cruelty. First came terror. Then Jax saw Leon, his brilliant smile biting at the fire. Then came two small bangs. More fire. All that he could have handled. He was getting out.

Then came tears. Blue eyes swelling, coiling maroon as veins ruptured. Then came death. And he was gone. Drifting. Away.

The flight is necessary. Everything rides on this test, proof of concept. Mission is everything. What Jax signed on for, getting the space imperative right. Getting everyone off this infernal planet.

It wasn't that long ago humans were able to breathe without masks. We could touch each other, skin on skin. Hold each other. Kiss tenderly in the open air. Make love beneath the stars. Feels like ages ago already.

"Commander Jax, you do understand I will have to report the linchpin issue to my superiors."

"I understand. I just need a moment."

"Can I help?"

"Tissues. Please, bring me tissues. To wipe away the tears."

"Very well."

Just there, left of the plastic wrapped funnels, beneath assorted discarded failed balms and talcs, is an empty space. Where the toilet paper goes.

_______________

Copyright © 05/04/2024 by Christy Munson. All rights reserved.

Author's notes: Written for my unofficial challenge, Munson's Microfiction. This microfiction, of course, is ineligible to win any prize money, but I can't resist participating. Hope you enjoy it!

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30

About the Creator

Christy Munson

My words expose what I find real and worth exploring.

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  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  2. Compelling and original writing

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Comments (20)

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  • Kayleigh Fraser ✨20 days ago

    I am partial to a sci fi / space story now and again! Great job with this one. An easy and enjoyable read 😇🌟

  • Anna about a month ago

    Congrats on your Top Story!

  • Pauline Fountainabout a month ago

    Firstly Christy Thank you for reading my Challenge entry for ‘Just one minute.’ As a fan of Sci-fi movies, I have yet to read any Sci-fi on Vocal + until now! So what a very engaging and suspenseful short Story! Yep. I am hooked now and will add Sci-fi to my categories for reading, I havej Subscribed and left Insights and am very much looking forward to reading more of your writng Pauline 🌸

  • D.K. Shepardabout a month ago

    Thanks for providing such a great example micro for your challenge! Such a creative and engaging sci-fi piece!

  • Mark Gagnonabout a month ago

    Interesting concept that tears will cause death in space. I know there is no crying in baseball, but space, who knew? Congrats on your Top Story!

  • Esala Gunathilakeabout a month ago

    Congratulations on your top story.

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Babs Iversonabout a month ago

    Fabulous!!! Congratulations on Top Story!!!

  • Andy Pottsabout a month ago

    Nice work. This might be worth submitting to somewhere like Sci-fi Shorts, if you have the opportunity.

  • C. Rommial Butlerabout a month ago

    Well-wrought! You balanced the descriptions of practical scientific issues and the subjective emotional experience of the protagonist masterfully! It furnishes us an excellent allegory for the practical difficulties of being... anything!

  • Emil indwabout a month ago

    I can imagine being a stressed-out jax with so many choices. I hope there is a continuation of the story.

  • Lamar Wigginsabout a month ago

    Oh wow, great story and writing, Christy! I agree with John, glad we're not up against this one. It would set the bar pretty high. Congrats on your TS.

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Been having a shitty day so I was crying as I was reading this and it felt good to know that I'm not the only one crying. Loved your story!

  • Caroline Cravenabout a month ago

    It’s a good job you can’t win your own challenge!!

  • D. J. Reddallabout a month ago

    This narrative takes off its suit with daring, shocking style. It is excellent!

  • Margaret Brennanabout a month ago

    this is awesome and so mind bending. One minute, I thought she was in one place, then you proved me wrong. GREAT, AWESOME.

  • Lacy Loar-Gruenlerabout a month ago

    Christy, what a novel way to employ the prompt! Thumbs up from your assistant!

  • John Coxabout a month ago

    I’m so happy we don’t have to compete with you. We don‘t right? 😳

  • Hannah Mooreabout a month ago

    I DID enjoy it, glad you put it in!

  • Kendall Defoe about a month ago

    Oh, I like this. I wonder what I would do under that much pressure, too. ;)

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