“I wish you could see it from here!” said Leon, unaware that Mia could see the Earth crystal clearly through the cameras on his helmet and armor. She couldn’t deny it was impressive. Even though she’d seen the blue sphere many times from the moon’s surface, seeing it after having been there put things into a new perspective. “It’s so beautiful…” Mia detected a crack in his voice.
Then she heard sniffles.
“Um, Leon…?” she asked with caution. “You’re not crying, are you?”
Leon sniffled. “Oh yeah, sorry. I get kinda emotional when thinking about space.”
“Oh.” A horrified realization overcame her. “Oh… ohhhhh no, you reeeally shouldn’t cry in space…!”
“But it’s so beautiful!”
“No, this is serious! Tears are going to build up in your eyes with the lack of gravity!” the freckled ranger explained. “Can you see right now?”
“Now that you mention it--”
“Ranger Wattson?” Mia’s heart stopped upon recognizing the captain’s voice. She took off her headphones and turned to see him standing over her seat. “I’m hearing reports that Ranger Summers is missing from the group. Where is he?”
Sounds tumbled out of Mia’s mouth, but few of them resulted in words. Finally, she pulled herself together. “I’m trying to direct him towards the others, sir!”
“Hmm.” The unreadable captain responded with a single grunt before turning toward the other observers. “Remember crew, you are your partners’ second set of eyes.”
Second set of eyes… Mia looked at her observation panel. She could see what Leon should’ve been able to and then some. In front of the window, she saw Jun and Emil, the latter doing simple tricks to pass the time. She donned her headset once more, a plan hatching in her mind.
Leon’s frightened voice greeted her. “M-Mia, are you there?”
“S-Sorry!” She only just realized she left him alone after he realized he couldn’t see. “We can probably make this work, I think I have an idea.”
“I can still see everything, so I’m going to need you to follow my directions the best you can, okay?”
“Alright.” Mia studied the different camera views in front of her. “Can you turn around? Just kind of put one foot behind your other knee and activate that jet, and that should make you spin.
“Got it!” The cameras spun with Leon, indefinitely. “Wait, let me see if I can steady myself.” Mia watched the cameras go back and forth and back again, until they steadied to the point where she could see a silver and yellow speck in the distance.
She realized that was the ship. A quick check on the observation panel revealed that it floated a whopping 111 kilometers away and counting -- almost 70 miles. Her heart stopped. What had she done? The first jet flight of the mission and Mia had already lost her flier. Nothing like this ever happened back on the moon! She had a pretty decent track record when it came to being on observation duty, but the captain wouldn’t know that. He’d only see a bumbling fool who lost an entire person!
“Where is the ship...?” asked Leon, snapping Mia out of thinking about what she’d have to put on a resume. “I can’t see it from here.”
“Ummm… It’s in front of you, but kind of far away at the moment.” Mia replied, trying to hide her fear. It wouldn’t do any good to let a first-timer know how worried she felt.
“Will I be able to get back…?”
Mia wondered the same thing. A distance like this might not be too much for someone more experienced, but Leon could barely fly, and now he was partially blinded. From his perspective, it must’ve looked like being stranded in space! He was probably freaking out!
“Yeah.” Mia answered. Of course he could get back. It just required careful navigation. “The jets go pretty fast, so you should be able to get there in no time. Try to propel yourself forward please?”
The freckled ranger could see that Leon was flying toward the ship, but not nearly fast enough to catch up.
“Are you using all four jets?”
“No, just the shoe ones.” He answered.
“Use all four, and keep pressing them until I say stop, okay?”
Mia watched intently as Leon’s numbers accelerated towards a satisfactory speed.
“This is really fast!” Leon remarked. “I kinda wish I could see better, but still, it’s really exciting! I feel so free!”
“Yeah.” The redhead continued focusing on the numbers. “Okay, could you stop pressing the buttons now?”
“What butto--?” With every second hesitated, his speed climbed, making Mia anxious. “Ah! Yeah!”
“Thank you...” She breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing Leon’s speed even out. He continued cruising along, and by her calculations, should reach the ship in the next few minutes. She had to remain vigilant. Someone like him needed extra time to stop, and reacting too late might cause him to sail past the ship in the other direction. Not to mention she had to ensure he didn’t crash into the ship, one of the other crew members, or whatever else might be lurking out in space. This was not a time for distractions.
“You know…” Leon began, distracting her. “I was a little worried back there about looking like a screw-up in front of you and the others. Still kinda am, honestly.” He laughed. “I can hear someone at boot camp right now being like ‘Summers, get your act together!’,” he attempted the gruffest voice he could manage, which wasn’t all that threatening, “but you just kind of took it in stride. Thanks for that!”
“Oh! No problem.” Mia wondered why he wasn’t more concerned with how far he strayed from the ship, but she herself didn’t notice that until after worrying about her own reputation, so she could understand. “No amount of training can really get you prepared for the jet armor until you’ve actually tried it. Besides, I was kind of panicking too.”
“At least I wasn’t alone! What were you panicking about?”
“I--” She struggled to divide her attention between the conversation and the observation panel until she noticed something alarming. “You’re on a crash course with the ship…” She thought aloud.
“Leon, please focus! Are you able to angle yourself downward?” Mia scrambled to figure out how to word her advice. Ideally, she’d want to slow him down while also moving him out of the way of the ship, but he wasn’t nearly advanced enough for such a maneuver, and she wasn’t advanced enough to teach him. Steering him out of the ship’s way was their best bet.
“I can try!”
“Please do that! And let me know when you have!” Mia’s voice wavered. Slightly easing her worries, the helmet camera tilted downward.
“I think I’ve got it!”
“Okay, now fire your jets, all four!”
“Yes, all four!” She couldn’t contain her panic. “You’re getting closer!” Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Roxie mouthing a concerned question, but she couldn’t answer it. Mia’s breathing steadied upon seeing that Leon’s trajectory angled itself down and away from the ship. She gave Roxie a smile and a shaky thumbs up. He was safe.
“You can stop the jets now.” she informed him. She also noticed he was going much faster than she intended. “Actually, try to turn yourself opposite of where you’re headed and fire them the other way. I’m going to try to slow you down to the ship’s speed, okay?”
“Perfect…” Mia watched as the numbers decelerated. “Annnd you can stop the jets...now!” Leon’s speed evened out at a speed slightly faster than the ship. Mia could see its underside from the helmet’s camera.
“Woah, that was a close one…” Leon remarked. “I mean, I did get to fly in space, so I would’ve died happy, but I’d rather not be smacked into the side of the ship.”
“I’d also prefer that.” The freckled ranger slumped back into her chair and sighed. Finally, she felt like she could relax.
“Oh hey, I can see Emil and Jun! They’re waving at me!” True to Leon’s words, Mia saw the two rangers outside waving at someone below the window. She smiled. This could’ve gone a lot worse. “I’m gonna try to get closer to them!”
“What?” Mia wondered what could’ve possibly gone wrong now. “Did something happ--?” The cameras on her observation panel began to spin wildly, but that wasn’t what caught Mia’s attention.
What caught Mia’s attention-- and everyone else’s-- was the sight of Leon spinning uncontrollably up and across the window’s line of sight. Mortification wouldn’t even begin to describe what she felt on his behalf.
“Whoop. There he goes.” Aiden reported over his headset, stifling laughter. When Mia looked to her right, she saw him and Roxie intermittently glancing between the window and her.
“It seems as though Ranger Summers has been accounted for.” the captain spoke as the freckled ranger fought the urge to crawl under her observation panel.