He shifts, giving a yawn as he pulls on his suit. He'd done that morning's check-in with base, and now he needed to do a little maintenance on the outer panels. Nothing too difficult: it was all routine work.
And he only had another three weeks before the scheduled return. He loved the work - of course he did, or he wouldn't be here - but it would be nice to be back. Back on Earth.
He looked out of one window, marvelling at the sight of the stars, of Luna in the distance. It all seemed so CLOSE up here. He carried on with his work, doing safety checks and ensuring his harness was properly in place before continuing out.
There was nothing quite like the weightlessness of space. In the pod it was normal, but somehow this felt different every time. It wasn't just the difference in gravity, it was something more. Some other-wordly sense to it, of hanging there in empty space.
He shook the thoughts from his head, turning back to the panels and carefully adjusting what he needed to. Then, it was the regular work of cleaning the panels over the cameras. There was the unfortunate issue of some pretty terrible photos on his face that those at base tended to giggle over, but it couldn't be avoided and he was used to it.
He'd been told he'd get lonely, up in space, but there wasn't really a loneliness. After all, there were people at base who would appear just to tease, and he was almost constantly able to contact ground. It really wasn't so bad.
He had no idea what made him look. It was a random instinct, a whim. He'd wish he hadn't for the rest of his life.
He couldn't tell what it was, but it flared from the other side of the planet in a bloom of burning flame. Impossible, it couldn't possibly be fire. But the pulse was followed with a black and grey cloud of SOMETHING. His eyes watered as he made the effort not to blink, unable not to stare. He couldn't miss any of this, terrifying though it was. What...?
He moved back inside the pod, rapid and hurried in it. He went straight to the control panels, concentrating on not panicking as he tried to contact base.
No one answered. He got an automated response, telling him there had been an evacuation in emergency and to check back in one hour.
He waited. He got the same recorded message. Again. Twice more. Thrice.
He tried to occupy hinself, to get on with his work. If he looked down at the planet, he could still see thick blooms of black blotting out entire countries, like spillled ink on a map.
No afternoon check-in. No morning one the next day. There'd be no more ever again, he knew, but he tried on schedule all the same.
He pretended nothing had happened for the sake of his own sanity. There was no way he could just sit and wait - he needed to occupy himself somehow.
He was going to die. He knew that. He couldn't get back down to the planet without a dozen clearance controls from his base, and even if he could the planet would probably be dying around him.
Not to mentioned the no doubt corrupted atmosphere.
Eventually, he would run out of food, water, oxygen. Not soon, perhaps, but eventually.
It was all he could think about, as much as he willed himself not to. He told himself it wasn't all that different to how it'd been before, but that wasn't the case and he knew it all too well.
He was alone in space, and he was going to die without ever seeing home again.