February 01, 2005

Everything You Ever Wanted in a Space Suit

Jairim’s VeraTek Lifeshell Deep Space Survival Suit, was state of the art, designed to keep its wearer alive for weeks in the void. The makers, in Jairim’s opinion, had thought of everything. Food and water were recycled as best they could be in such a limited environment, aided of course, by the latest advancements in protonutrients. His air was scrubbed clean and fed back to him, with only the faintest odor to suggest it had been used before. The emergency beacon broadcast its distress calls over all six emergency channels (and could be upgraded for two more that were technically illegal, although that was not something advertised, just discretely hinted at by the salesman when the man recognized how serious Jairim was about his purchase). The suit itself had three different sources of power: battery cells, solar cells, and the wearer’s own motion. If the VeraTek engineers did not manage to break the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, they certainly gave it a good scare.

Jairim, however, had not purchased the suit on its technical superiority alone, although it was certainly a consideration at the time of purchase (and later a comfort - when he allowed himself to think about it). There were plenty of other (cheaper) suits that would have kept themselves and their wearers functioning for as long as the Lifeshell could but it was Veratek’s commitment to his sanity that Jairim admired. Surviving in the void for two weeks was one thing, staring at it the whole time was quite another.

“The problem with the void,” as the Veratek salesman described it, “is that there’s nothing there.” The Veratek salesman outlined the solution with equal understatement, “We provide an in-flight movie.” What Veratek really did was provide a display system across the interior of the helmet, a small speaker at each ear, and a memory pod capable of storing over a year’s worth of movies, documentaries, vidshows, and games. The engineering would fail before the entertainment did. And the display completely blocked the view through the helmet (“although the opacity can be adjusted, of course”) to better enable the wearer to forget where he was.

That is why Jairim was still sane thirty-one days after the accident. It is also the reason he did not notice the derelict ship until he bounced off of it on the morning of the thirty-second.