There was a long silence, followed by a voice which sounded almost as exasperated as Marcus felt. “Did you try rotating it? It really should fit.”
“I’ve tried it from every sensible angle. I can turn it over, but since we both agree that the red studs have to go into the holes at the bottom of the socket, I don’t really see how that’s going to help.”
Another long pause. “I know we’ve checked already, but that part number is A-174-V-5?”
“B as in Bravo, Five?”
Marcus closed his eyes, awaiting the response. It was as exultant as he’d expected. “V as in Victor!”
“Right. That’s what I’m looking at, etched right onto the side of it. Alpha 174 Victor 5.” He looked at the part. It looked like it should fit. It slipped nicely into the socket he had taken the seemingly identical but burnt-out component from, but it wouldn’t seat. He pushed it in again, for the fifth time, and for the fifth time, it stopped, as if touching something spongy in the socket, stiff several millimetres proud of the casing it should lie flush with.
He held it beside its dead twin. The red was scorched from the studs on the bottom of the dead one, but there was no telling them apart otherwise. He replaced the dead one. It slid in with a satisfying click he could feel through his glove, and when he removed it, it resisted, just a little, just enough to inform the fingers that it had belonged right where it was.
“Look,” Marcus said, putting both parts, each useless as it currently was back in his bag, “I’m going back inside to try to figure this out. If you come up with anything, I hope you’ll be able to let me know.”
He paused at the airlock door, looking back toward the tiny spark of the Sun. Earth, from this distance, would be within his field of vision, although there was no telling it from countless other dots of brightness.
He realized that as he had paused, the communication delay had passed. The ship was not only racing out of the system, it was rotating ever so gently. The antenna could no longed see home, and so he could no longer talk to the customer support line. Whatever was wrong with spare part A-174-V-5, he would have to figure out on his own.
As the airlock pressurized, Marcus laughed. It suddenly occurred to him that he had the rest of his life to figure it out, but possibly only one chance to get it right.
“Inktober 2019 – Misfit” ©2019 Dirck de Lint.