Space is big. Really big. But the space around the Earth? Not so big. Late 20th century as mankind started putting spiky balls into space it didn’t matter. These were the same type of people who thought four billion IP addresses would be enough to identify every device on a network.
Fast forward 180 years and the ExaNet was almost as congested as the first few hundred miles out from Earth.
So what did humanity do? They took an existing service and they adapted it. The Marshalls service became an extra-solar police force, taking a seat on every shuttle that left Terra or headed home. But for all the junk, floating around above our heads? They went to the same people who dealt with picking turtles out of floating refuse on the oceans.
“Eh eh, incorrect.”
The United States Coast Guard now had a fleet of cutters. Landsat tracked the orbits of the biggest bits of debris, plotting courses and flagging anything big enough to cause a bang if it fell back to Earth. And then Adam and Lee were sent up.
Find the junk. Nudge the junk. Send it down to the Pacific, clear of anyone or anything.
“Urinary tract infection?”
“What the?! Hell no. Why did you even think that?”
It was dull work. Launches were still costly, even with the Gibraltar tether, so each deployment lasted a few months at a time. The two of them. Stuck in a can, swapping bad jokes and old stories.
The latest target was an old test satellite. It didn’t even do anything, just acted as a big mirror. Someone wanted it’s orbit and so the USCG got the order to send it down. Adam kept his hands on the thrusters, but let the computer track along behind the object as Ken, tethered to the ship, attached the microthrusters that would send it gently back to Earth.
Their comm-link was the definition of not following commo-discipline.
“You’re just guessing now.”
Ken sighed over the line, his voice echoing in his helmet. He’d been trying to affix the nitrogen pack for ten minutes now.
“It’s not a hard riddle man,” Adam said.
“I give up. What’s the answer?”
“Come on, give me the answer.”
“The answer is no.”
Edit: ran out of time so cut short.
Prompt originally posted by trewq321 on reddit and received 6 upvotes.