Story Go Round 11/30/2002, round 1, #2

"Blue bottles"

Cardboard boxes tumbled down all around Horace, and he yelped. But not too loudly. He didn't dare. A few fell near the sleeping quarters doorway. Silence again. The hum of the ship's life support system calmed him, and he resumed his search for more rations. From Herbert's sleeping pod, he heard tremendous snoring coming from his vid-unit, which cycled between snoring & yodeling.

Eyes. If only he could find his eyes. Locating them in his condition wouldn't be easy. He sniffed cautiously, careful to control his exhalation.

A bit more rummaging - and his hands snatched jubilantly at the goggles - his "eyes" - in space parlance. Without them, he'd go star blind in minutes in the void.

The bit about rations was mere pretense, of course. He had to keep it up mentally, but Rigelian rum was his real goal. On Rigel Herbert had traded a whole escape pod for 7 kilodrams. Now in space, it would take 70 kilograms! Silence. He found the feeder-tube, and slipped it between his lips, and started drinking.

Several minutes and sips later, Herbie got up from his crouching position and headed for the head. Two of the cardboard boxes helped him claim the floor and one fell down over his head.

Right. First things first. The bodies he could eject later. Right now air was the key. At 30 parsecs to the nearest Belt object that was going to stretch things pretty thin.

The rum steadied him, clearing his thoughts, giving him the moral boost he needed. He needed it; he was the last one, and the Gorkinbrackins slept soundly, yes, but only in twenty minute intervals. His chrono showed five left.

Get in. Kill them. Take their ship. The plan was simple. Now he had goggles, rations, and rum - and the boxes hadn't woken them, with so little air to vibrate - he didn't know if that was a blessing or a curse.

Neither, Herbie, just a fact.

Get in, kill them, take...

Of course, he'd die either way.

Peaceful or badly?

Was there a difference?

He had the last words of his crew to deliver. It was a point. True, most of them had been something along the lines of "Aahg" - but just before lunch Ralph Wilkinson had remarked how much he'd been thinking of his wife and the collards crop and the way she liked Lawrence Welk reruns, and the color of the flies in July.

Blue bottles. Like the rum, he realized. A slim margin between apathy and motivation. Such banality, if Herbie's known the word - He didn't. He swallowed, adjusted his "eyes", and stepped toward the airlock.

Amber-purple; John-pink; Alan-blue; Terry-orange; Habeeb-brown; Alvin-green