It was a bad day on the moon:
“Sea of Rains, huh,” Jeff Brannock said as the outer airlock door opened. “Maybe if it’s raining dust.”
“Crewman Brannock, what was that?”
Jeff winced. “Sorry. Personal comment, not intended for broadcast.”
“Sure, kid,” the voice from EVA Ops said. “Please maintain comm discipline.”
Jeff tilted his head forward and thrust his chin out to work the transmitter switch in his helmet. Once he heard it click into the “off” position he said, “Sure, whatever.”
A rack outside the lock held the discharge brushes he used for cleaning dust from the solar panels, Jeff’s after-school job. Another held handle extensions. Jeff grabbed three extensions and shoved them into the thigh pocket of his suit. He took one of the brushes and set off in the direction of his assignment.
His long, loping strides, a technique called a “moon trot” carried him around a stack of air return pipes, big half-meter diameter ferrocement tubes, for the next stage of expansion of the construction station. He rounded it and paused while he looked ahead to spot the section of solar panel that was his goal.
In the vacuum of the moon he did not hear the strap break. His first warning was the stack of pipes shifting a moment before it began to collapse. For a moment, Jeff froze, then he turned and ran.
At least, that was his intention. He pushed a little too hard and his foot slid out from under him. He landed on one knee, preparing to spring to his feet and continue but the lowest of the pipes, squirted out by the weight of those on top of it, caught him in the small of the back and knocked him to the ground. His head snapped forward as he hit the ground, pain bursting through his nose as it struck the faceplate of his helmet. For an instant, he saw red spattered on that faceplate before the falling weight pinned him face-down into the regolith, leaving him in blackness. The pipes slammed repeatedly into his back as the stack continued its slow collapse.
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