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Unformatted text preview: Sheet1 Page 1 Breaking Strain Arthur C. Clarke Originally Published as "Thirty Seconds - Thirty Days" Grant was writing up the Star Queen's log when he heard the cabin door opening behind him. He didn't bother to look round-it McNeil was just standing in the doorway, looking as if he had seen a ghost. The trite metaphor flashed into Grant's mind insta What's the matter? said Grant angrily. "You sick or something?" The engineer shook his head. Grant noticed the little beads of sweat that broke away from his forehead and went glittering ac We're done for, he whispered at last. "Oxygen reserve's gone." Then he did cry. He looked like a flabby doll, slowly collapsing on itself. He couldn't fall, for there was no gravity, so he just fol Grant said nothing. Quite unconsciously he rammed his smoldering cigarette into the ash tray, grinding it viciously until the las around him as the oldest terror of the spaceways gripped him by the throat. He slowly loosed the elastic straps which, while he was seated, gave some illusion of weight, and with an automatic skill launc The hold was a large hemispherical room with a thick central column which carried the controls and cabling to the other half o But even if the cargo had suddenly vanished Grant would scarcely have noticed. He. had eyes only for the big oxygen tank, ta It was just as he had last seen it, gleaming with aluminum paint, and the metal sides still held the faint touch of coldness that g Grant gazed at that silent symbol as a man in ancient London, returning home one evening at the time of the Plague, might ha When Grant got back to the control room, McNeil was himself again. A glance at the opened medicine chest showed the reas His voice trailed off into silence. Ten days didn't sound much-but it might just as well have been ten years. Grant thought sardonically of all the hack adventure It was a meteor, he said. "They tell us a ship this size should get hit once a century. We seem to have jumped the gun with nin "But what about the alarms? The air pressure's normal-how could we have been holed?" "We weren't," McNeil replied. "You know how the oxygen circulates night-side through the refrigerating coils to keep it liquid? Grant was silent, collecting his thoughts. What had happened was serious-deadly serious-but it need not be fatal. After an, the "Surely the regenerator can keep the air breathable, even if it does get pretty thick?" he asked hopefully. McNeil shook his head. "I've not worked it out in detail, but I know the answer. When the carbon dioxide is broken down and t "The space-suits!" cried Grant in sudden excitement. "What about their tanks?" He had spoken without thinking, and the immediate realization of his mistake left him feeling worse than before....
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