Prelude: Apollo 1
January 27, 1967, 6:24PM: Cape Kennedy Launch Complex 34
"Damn. Repeat Capcom?"
A garbled, "We are p...on hol..." from Capcom came in reply. A third repetition finally revealed the message of, " We are putting the countdown on hold."
"How are we going to get to the moon if we can't talk between three buildings?" Gus Grissom muttered.
He, Rodger Chaffee, and Ed White had been sitting in the Apollo 1 capsule conducting the plugs out test for hours at this point and his nerves were beginning to get the best of him. His microphone wasn't working, the test had its fair share of technical problems, and the capsule was filled up with nylon and Velcro even though he had specifically instructed for it to be removed.
All in all he was having a bad day. He turned to his right to ask Rodger about a gauge reading but when he did so he saw that Rodger looked quite pale and was sweating in his suit.
The commander asked him, "Rodge you okay man?"
A bit startled by being unexpectedly called Chaffee turned his head to Gus and felt the world spin but soldiered past it to say, "Yeah, just feeling a bit odd. I think it was the shrimp I had last night."
Grissom had flown enough aircraft to know when someone next to you is faking being fine and was quite aware of what usually followed after a sharp turn by the person who was 'fine.'
Trying to muster up his authority voice Gus said, "Listen here Chaffee if you aren't up to it I don't want you trying to save face with me. Do you need us to stop this simulation?"
Looking a bit green around the gills the rookie replied, "No I just want to get this over with so we don't have to come back and do it later."
Gus was about to protest but decided it wasn't worth the fight. He was a big boy and could make his own choices.
"Hey there any update on the countdown?" Ed asked keying his mic.
"We are working on it. Continue holding," came the brief reply from mission control.
Annoyed but having nothing else to do he began looking at his flight plan and as he was taking a look at his he felt a quick jolt to his left and turned in time to see Rodger swing up the visor on his helmet and begin vomiting onto his side which unfortunately happened to include Ed's left arm at the time.
With a mortified but relieved look on his face Rodger said, "Oh Ed! I'm so sorry..." but before he could finish another short burst of bile was expelled from his mouth.
Seeing this occur Gus finally had enough for one day and shouted into his mic, "Capcom we are ending this test for the day. I am about to vent the cabin to allow egress."
The Capcom communicator began to reply with, "Gus you haven't been cleared to..." but was cut short by him, "Capcom this is Grissom, I repeat we are ENDING THIS TEST."
With that he flipped the cabin vent valve and pushed back Ed's headrest so he could open the capsule when the pressure normalized. There was a slight hissing as the oxygen departed the capsule. After a short period he saw a light pop up near his feet. Looking towards the glow he saw the licking of orange flames as they caught the nylon netting near his feet.
Instinct and training quickly took over as he shouted out the warning, "FIRE! Fire in the capsule!"
Both of his crewmates sprung into action instantaneously as Ed began prying at the door and Chaffee talked to Capcom about the threat. Gus rushed over to the plug door where Ed was and put his hands around the latch to help him release it. Even though the atmosphere was mostly vented there was still a significant difference in pressure that took both of their combined mights to overcome.
As they swung open the internal hatch Gus felt a burning sensation on his legs and quickly realized that the fire had spread to his suit. He ignored this as he and Ed began wrenching at the second hatch. On the other side of the window they could see the workers rip open the boost protective cover that was against their outer hatch.
As Ed was egressing through the hatch being hauled out by one of the men on the other side Gus heard a scream. Turning he saw Chaffee fall from his couch onto the floor as the flames took over his suit. Rushing back he grabbed the man underneath his armpits and dragged him back to the hatch where they were both wrenched out from the inferno inside.
For the next few seconds all that Gus felt was extreme cold as he and the others were sprayed with fire extinguishers. As soon as this was finished he was hauled to his feet by one of the technicians and rushed with his crewmates to the elevator where they quickly descended with each bump causing Chaffee to whimper in pain. As soon as they got to the bottom they saw an ambulance tearing its way to them. It screeched to a halt and the back doors were flung open before the three men were piled inside. From the back window Gus could see the orange glow and white smoke rising into the evening sky from the top of launch complex 34.
~~~~This is my first attempt at writing alternate history so feedback is welcome. I will try to update on a regular basis but anything might happen with college. If you notice something technically inaccurate feel free to point it out as even though I do as much research as I can I'm under no notion that I know everything. I hope you all enjoy.