“Honey can you hear me?” Captain Tipper Polevik, or Tip, said. He maintained a tight grip on the metal-alloy handhold above the monitor and a foot on what he supposed was the ground. Living in zero gravity had its ups and down, literally. Although despite the exciting research Tip always found himself in, he relished his weekly video chat with his wife who was comfortably 250 miles away on the ground.
“One sec. There we go. Sorry we’re a little late.” Static disturbances riddled the picture, but through it all Tip could see Tiana and his daughter, Elly, waving to him.
“Elly and I were just out looking for a gift to give daddy when he gets home.” Tiana turned to Elly. “Say hi to daddy.”
“Hi daddy.” His daughter yelled. She smiled that big smile with the big gap in between her two front teeth. He remembered the first call after she had tripped and fell smile-first into the dining table. Her mother was a mess, stressing over school pictures and the like. Elly though, well she was just happy that the dentist gave her a free Disney toothbrush.
Tip couldn’t help but to break out in his own smile. “Hey El. How are you today?”
She buried her face in Tiana’s arms. “Good.”
“Elly turn and say that to daddy. Not to me.” Tiana nudged the five year old.
Elly unburied herself and looked towards the screen, “I’m good.”
“That’s good to hear honey,” Tip said shifting his grip. “Have you been keeping an eye on mommy?”
His daughter nodded and turned back to her mother.
“Elly baby, why don’t you go play in your room for a little bit. I need to talk to daddy alone.”
“Okay. Bye daddy.” Elly said running out of frame.
Tiana watched as their little ball of energy took flight down the hallway. She sighed and turned back to the camera. “It’s hard for her you know. You being up there for so long.”
“I know T” Tip sighed. A creeping guilt began entered his thoughts. He shifted his weight once again and looked out the window to watch another sun rise.
“I know that work is important to you, but you know we’re also important. You need to come back and be a father for a little bit. I’m not saying that you need to stop being an astronaut–I would never ask you to give up your dream. Just, stay down here a while.” Tiana folded her hands in her lap. She wasn’t even looking at him. Tip felt her looking through him. In that moment Tip pictured her dressed head to toe in all black. That’s exactly how she’ll look at my funeral, he thought.
“I’ll be home in a couple of weeks.” Tip said. “Once I’m grounded I’ll start looking around for a more normal job.”
“Thank you.” She blinked and refocused on him. A fire burned in her eyes. “Although there is just one thing I think you need to take care of before you go hunting for that job.” Tiana said.
Tip looked around in the cabin. Not a soul in sight. He turned back to Tiana and bit his lip. “Oh yeah? What’s that?” He said. The feeling of guilt gave way to the ever overpowering good old-fashioned horniness.
“After you take me out to…” The audio feed cut and the monitor cut to static. After what might have been 10 seconds or 2 minutes the feed came back.
“You still there?” Tiana asked.
“Yeah. Still here.” Tip yelled. “I’m going to have the guys on the ground look into that. Everyone has been complaining of the reception up here in the last week. Houston thinks it has something to do with the new relay in Antarctica.”
“Antarctica? Why the hell did they put a relay down there?”
“Do you want the short answer or the long scientific one?” Tip asked slightly sarcastically. Tiana said nothing. “Okay, the short answer. Uhhh…” Nothing got Tip more excited than a scientific explanation. He took a second to gather his thoughts and omit some of the more tedious details.
“Well in our new orbit I’ll be talking to you through our relay at the south pole. We’ll almost always be in the line of sight of the Antarctic relay and the air down there is a bit clearer– for the most part. It might be getting finicky because of a storm but it’ll still work. Obviously though we still need to work out the kinks a bit, but there shouldn’t be any more windows of complete communication blackout.” Tip beamed.
“Short?” Tiana mocked. She turned a smile once she saw how excited her spaceman husband was. “Well I suppose that’s good. God forbid something happen up there and you wouldn’t be able to contact us. Has anything been happening up there, like, have any of your coworkers been acting weird?”
Tip frowned. “What? No, of course not.” Tip already knew what she alluded to. Mission control had briefed both himself and Katie, his Canadian counterpart on the rising tensions on their fragile planet below.
“There’s nothing to worry about because nothing is going to happen. We’re all friends up here. There are no Americans, or Russians, or any of that up here–just scientists.” Tip reasoned.
Tiana lowered her voice to a whisper. “Tipper, they might be your friends and scientists or whatever. But remember that y’all aren’t staying up there forever.”
Tip sensed her clear signs of distress. “Tiana Polevik, look at me.” Tip moved closer to the camera. “You worry too much. Stop.”
“How can I not be worried Tip? You’re up there. Elly and I are down here. I’m glad things are hunky dorey up there but,” Tiana was taken by a full-body shudder. “All they’re talking about down here are these fucking missile tests and how Russia is feeling emboldened. Emboldened by what? Our idiot fucking president?”
“Mommy, I’m hungry.” Tip heard Elly call in the background of the call. Tiana turned to talk to Elly off camera.
“Okay, just a second babe. Mommy’s gonna say goodbye to daddy and then we’ll start dinner okay?” Tiana turned back to face Tip. “Alright I guess it’s feeding time,” Tiana laughed. “You know she’s eating us out of house and home. There won’t be anything for you to come back to.”
They both shared a laugh.
“Love you Tipper. I’ll talk to you soon.”
“Love you too T. Stop worrying so much.” Tipper kissed his fingers and put them up to the camera. “Talk to you soon.”