Xu looked about her. Seeing all the concerned eyes focused down upon her. And not being able to provide the beseeched for words of assurance. She felt their fear. She felt her own fear. And there was nothing that anyone could do but wait.
The four of them were huddled inside the Haven. An audible ticking sounded from the sensor on the wall like the sound made by a Geiger counter. Its frequency indicated the strength of the solar flare that was searing the surface of the Moon. Today the Haven, though little more than a scrape in the ground, was proving its worth. The internal sensors indicated that the radiation levels within the Haven remained nearly at background. But those for the outdoors were ticking away. Sometimes madly. Usually very strongly.
Though the SOHO prediction service had roused them from their sleep barely an hour ago, it had given them enough time to don their egress suits, drive to the Haven and step into its solid enclosure. Its comforting solid regolith walls and ceiling reassured them as they took the descent and sealed the door shut behind the. As protocol dictated, they kept their egress suits on even though the chamber was hermetically enclosed. That is, it reassured the four of them who had made it to the Haven before the flare struck.
Jean was not with them. And his absence is what caused Xu the greatest fear. Jean had been strolling at the extremes of their survey area when the alarm had sounded. Through relays, Jean had heard it nearly immediately and had quickly determined that he didn’t have the time to get to the Haven. Or even to the Hab with its few places of appreciable protection. Instead, Jean had elected to crawl into a nearby crevasse. From calculating the incident angle of the flare, he’d determined that there would likely be no direct path from the Sun into the crevasse. Except for a brief moment when the Sun was directly overhead, the crevasse was in perpetual darkness. However, no one knew how much radiation would bounce or curve into the crevasse. Jean would be the first to find out.
And because of the flare, Xu had no way of contacting Jean. She couldn’t use the comms to reach him as the flare made all of their above-ground network inoperable. She couldn’t use the lunar orbiting satellites to view him as they were in safe mode to protect against the radiation.
For the four of them, their whole world had shrunk to a very small space that had little more than the basic necessities to keep them alive. And it wasn’t a guaranty of a long life. From first donning the egress suits, they had 2 hours of air and water. Stored within the Haven were extra containers of compressed air and of potable water. These would could them alive for another 8 hours. At least it would keep the four of them alive for well beyond the expected duration of the flare.
But Jean had only about an hour remaining of supplies in his egress suit. All of them in the Haven knew the limited supply. None of them knew when the flare would subside. It should be less than half an hour. It shouldn’t cause Jean’s dosimeter to record excessive radiation. But no one knew for sure.
Xu talked into their local, direct microphone. It allowed the four in the Hab to talk without using the dysfunctional surface system.
“Yes” she began “this has been one of the strongest flares we’ve ever experienced. But we did get sufficient notice. And we’re here. Safe.”
“We also know that Jean is safe.” she casually lied. “He’s got himself a little downtime where he can listen to his podcasts and not worry about work for a while. Let’s figure out how to celebrate when this is over and he’s returned to us together in the Hab” she ended. All the while stifling the onset of the cracking of her voice that would display all to clearly the worry that enshrouded her.