U3

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U3 - THE ATTEMPT

Abaddon was put in what the Russians assured Del was a completely suicide-proof room close to the entrance to the station, and the dispossessed emperor found they weren't kidding. After catching up on the latest episode of "Gods & Demigods" Abaddon ran his bath, which was more like a storm of water globules in a watertight bag, and yanked the power cord out of the television. Del came in and confiscated the cord. Che didn't bother to slice out the cord that brought the signal to the TV, because in the microgravity of Phobos there was no way Abaddon was going to hang himself with it. But the episode answered the question in hyz mind about whether the room was being monitored on closed-circuit TV. What an insult to a god!

When Del left, Abaddon looked out of the viewport at the surface of Phobos and the bloated globe of Mars rotating in the sky. Hy considered throwing hyz coffee mug at the now useless television screen and using the broken shards to cut hymself, but hy knew he wouldn't bleed out fast enough to avoid the ministrations of hyz bene elohim "nurse". So instead hy twisted the diamond ring on hyz hand and used it to scratch the window, under the guise of running hyz hand over it in an X pattern as though checking for vulnerabilities. The hy picked up the television and threw it screen first at the viewport, cracking it. The air in the room swept hym out with the broken glass and he was on hyz way on a long parabolic trajectory out of Shklovsky Crater. Twenty seconds after beginning his flight he passed out.

The Russians offered Del a pressure suit but there just wasn't enough time to climb inside and get checked out. Instead che grabbed an oxygen bottle and told everyone around hem to brace themselves with something. When che opened the door to Belial's room, the pressure in the passageway blew hem right through and out into space, but che banged hez arm severely.

Despite the popular imagination of the "icy cold of space" it was a curious fact that space was not really cold, even out at one and a half AU like Mars. Heat could only transfer to and from Del's body by infrared radiation, not convection or conduction. So hez own internal body heat kept hem quite comfortable. There was a pressure gradient that threatened to swell hez eyes and let them slip out of their sockets, but hez bene elohim talent kept that under control as well as kept hez tissues oxygenated by stripping oxygen back out of hez layers of fat, but there was a limit to how long che could keep that up. When che caught Abaddon che could do the same for hym.

Belial's velocity was well short of the forty MPH hy needed to escape Phobos for good, but it was enough to reach the Hill Sphere. The orbit of Phobos was slowly decaying, a meter per century. In fifty million years the Hill Sphere (representing that surface contour where the gravity between Mars and Phobos balances out) would shrink below the surface of the satellite and the gravel pile would begin to break up into a ring like at Saturn. Unfortunately for Abaddon, the angle of his trajectory was traverse to the Hill Sphere. Hy had no chance of reaching it and becoming an independent satellite of Mars. And very quickly Del caught up to hym, having a slightly greater velocity and the advantage of being able to refine hez course with bursts from the oxygen bottle che thought to take along.

When Del snagged Abaddon che temporarily stopped hyz heart, which was beginning to go into defibrillation, and kept hyz body oxygenated much like hez own, but at a low level that would keep hym from returning to consciousness. Che didn't need him awake and struggling just yet. Then using the remaining contents of the oxygen canister che canceled their motion and even reversed it back toward the station, as much as che could.

Both of them sank in the infuriatingly feeble tug of Phobos to the surface, where their gentle impact knocked loose gravel on slow-motion arcs of their own, and Del began to doubt che could get the traction che needed to drag hezself and Abaddon back to the station before hez ability to keep them both alive ran out. But in short order a spacesuited Aleksy Leonov came to their rescue dragging the end of a winch cable with him.

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