Learning Curve by Jim Washburn

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SUMMARY: September flash fiction contest: theme 'A Feather'

"This thing is as light as a feather!" Lucian said wonderingly while he helped
guide the hundred ton module with just his own two hands.

Moving the huge conglomeration of metal, plastic and glass with such ease
was a sight to behold, it reminded him of something from his youth. He had sat
watching a trail of ants scurrying between the forest and their nest for
seeming hours. It was amazing and marvelous how they carried things perhaps a
hundred times thier own size with seeming effortlessness. Now decades later here
he was performing a similar feat.

"Don't get too full of yourself rookie!" His partner growled back over the
radio link. "This ain't a kid's playground out here." Some quiet mumbling followed
but Rick was talking to himself apparently, and finished with chastising him.

They had been outside now for eight hours removing the new module from
the shuttle bay and preparing to fit it to the International Space Station. Both men
were starting to get tired and a little on edge. The job had not started out smoothly,
but they were near to finishing now and more than a little eager to doff their suits,
streatch, scratch and get something to eat.

This was so different from the simulators and training tanks back on the
ground. Aside from not being able to really reproduce zero gravity they were either fake,
or in the case of the water tanks completely bland and boring. It was the incredible
scenery that continually astounded him whenever he had a free moment to look around.

Mother Earth hung huge above, half dark and half incredibly bright with blues and whites dominating the view. His feet were pointed towards the stars with the space shuttle off
to the side somewhat, keeping away from the module but anchoring his feet. The shuttle,
module and space station were in stark relief, one moment blindingly bright the next almost invisibly dark as the Sun rose and fell behind the planet they were orbiting. Nothing, not pictures not stories from grizzled veterans nor even looking out the station ports could
begin to do justice to the experience he was having now.

Shaking his head got his focus back on the task at hand. It had been drilled
into his head to not let fatigue, or wonderment, get the upper hand and to always think
twice before doing something. Even Rick, with ten missions and many months experience
up here still had to remind himself of this, or so he claimed.

Carefully they turned the behemoth spining it ever so slowly toward the waiting
connection pod that would serve as a foyer for this laboratory and tying it to the rest
of the station. Rick was carefully using his manuvering pack and Lucian could occasionally
see a tiny white puff of gas as he handled the far end. He was teathered to the shuttle's
robotic arm with his feet hooked so that he had a solid footing. With Rick setting the
pace of the move and him guiding the thing towards the station the plan was to get there
with the correct orientation, and virtually no speed or else it might overshoot and they
would have to start all over again.

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