Chapter 9 – Birth of Colors
The excitement on board of the NASA research station was clearly palpable. Even though the scientists with their white coats behaved in a formal manner, the tension was writ large in their faces. Ben observed their activities through the airlock’s little window. A glance at the time display revealed: only five minutes left. Kara, too, seemed noticeably nervous.
„Everything will happen very fast,“ a voice from the loudspeaker was creaking. It was Dr. Forster’s voice. „I can’t tell, of course, for how long your colors will be visible. But there will be a window of opportunity for fractions of a second.‟
„Thank you so much again, Dr. Forster!“, Ben said. „Without the support of your entire team we wouldn’t have a chance. We very much appreciate it.“
„Hardly worth mentioning it.“ Dr. Forster coughed slightly. Everything for the sake of science.“
„It’s time“, Kara said. In her grey overall she almost looked like an astronaut. She tied off the safety bond, and Ben did the same.
„Ready?“, Dr. Forster asked.
Ben and Kara showed thumbs up.
„In this case I will ow open the porthole. On the count of three! One – two –‟
Kara pressed Ben’s hand. He narrowed his eyes to a slit.
Ben had expected a powerful stream of air but everything remained calm. The airlock had adjusted the pressure impalpably. Cautiously he walked a few steps towards the edge of the platform. Below them extended the surface of the Earth, the rich blue of the oceans, the stinging green of the forests, the faint ocher of the deserts.
Kara poked Ben’s shoulder.
„Look at this!‟
His gaze moved upwards. Instead of the sky an endless blackness extended above them. They were high enough to look directly into the universe. Ben shuddered. It was one thing to be aware of the infiniteness of the universe. Now he experienced it physically. Out of the corner of his eye he perceived a glint. This must be it.
Ben took the binoculars. Surely the comet was speeding at many thousands of miles per hour, however it barely seemed to get closer to the orbit of the sun. One could clearly see how again and again smaller boulders broke off and burned out. Within a few seconds its tail would become visible, a unique opportunity!
„Ben!“, Kara shouted. A loud bang followed.
„What the –?“
The safety railing hat been hit by an object flying as swift as an arrow. It had missed them only by a hairbreadth.
„Space debris “, Kara gasped. „Quickly, did we miss it?!“
Ben had no time to digest the moment of fright. He pressed the binoculars to his visor again – there it was! The comet’s tail sparkled in a radiant turquoise-blue and dark brown color. A spectacle of overwhelming beauty. Ben rejoiced. He took the compass from his pocket and held it up.
Dr. Forster was sweaty and his reserve had vanished completely. When the porthole opened he flung his arms around their necks and hugged Ben and Kara alternately. „May I?‟, he stammered and pointed towards the compass with trembling hands. Ben handed the delicate object over to him. When Dr. Forster held it in his hands, the expression of his face changed.
„I am so sorry ‟, he said.
Ben didn’t understand. „What is it that you are sorry about?‟
„My daughter, my wife … I had no choice.“
A man emerged from the shadow. He wore a dark blue overall, and his scornful grin flashed under the visor, while he held a pistol in his hands. It was him! The one who had killed the lighthouse keeper; the one who had shackled Kara!
„No!‟, Kara gasped.
„With best thanks!‟, her adversary said and took the compass. Dr. Forster looked bashfully at the ground.
„I wish you an enjoyable search ‟, the stranger said derisively when facing Ben and Kara, while he was entering the airlock. A parachute flaunted on his back.
He wouldn’t, would he –?
Ben pulled himself out of his paralysis and hammered against the button to his left. Too late. The airlock opened and the thief jumped.
The compass was lost.
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