Fergus Boylan woke and checked the readout in front of him. A groan escaped his lips. It was day 13 of his forced confinement. All systems indicators read nominal in the life pod but there was still no ship within reach–yet.
He rose and in the tiny personal unit took care of his bodily needs and washed his face and hands. In the two square meter area in the center of the pod he did the recommended exercises to keep up his strength. Not normally an exercise fanatic, he did them because there simply wasn’t much else to occupy his time. Wiping down after the exercises took another ten minutes.
Fergus sat in the chair in front of the food dispenser and sighed. This was the worst part of the day for a young man who looked forward to meal time. His stomach growled so he pushed the button. The dispenser spat out a food bar. Textured yeast protein–that’s what the manual said it was. Gray and without scent, it was the least appetizing food possible. It tasted worse. Fergus took a bite and wondered how the bar could be both crumbly and hard to chew at the same time. He punched the button on the dispenser and a water bulb rolled out of the opening. He admired the packaging as he pushed the spot on the bulb that caused a short straw to emerge. The entire bulb was made of hydrogen and oxygen, the same as the water it held, but solid.
He sipped to wash the food bar down. Too bad the engineers couldn’t come up with a tastier food bar, he groused to himself. The food was so awful he’d stopped eating three times a day. It wasn’t worth it. Already his ship suit was looser.
As he chewed he studied the screens in front of him. After all this time in the life pod, after the skeletal space station he was apprentice project manager on, exploded, he’d read the entire pod manual from cover to cover, twice. Because he’d stopped eating the mid-day meal, he saw that he had extended his food reserves by two weeks. He didn’t think he could eat those textured yeast protein bars for another two weeks. Matter of fact, he didn’t think he could face another one today. He checked the long range scans. Please let there be a ship out there. But it wasn’t so. He turned off that screen and brought up a picture of a sea shore and turned up the sound of waves washing up on the beach. He pulled up the manual and began to study the pod’s structure. It was something to do.
Two days later he started out of bed at an alarm. Tangled in the blanket, he rolled out of the bed and staggered to the console. Was the ship on fire? Had a meteor hit the pod? He clicked through the screens in rapid succession. No, no, no, the ship was fine. Then he clicked on the long range scan. There was a ship! Oh hallelujah, a ship! He checked his distress signal. It was broadcasting properly, they were just far away.
Fergus clicked the link to transmit. “Hello, unidentified ship, this is the life pod Argosy. Fergus Boylan requesting rescue.”
He waited, fingers drumming on the console top. “Ship, this is the life pod Argosy, requesting assistance.” He chewed his lower lip. After fifteen days in the pod alone, he was ready to talk to anyone. Fergus pushed the dispenser button for water and drank the entire bulb. When he crumpled up the empty, it evaporated into the air to be recycled in the pod’s system.
Static came over the speakers, then faint and full of static, “Argosy, this is the freighter, Star Chaser. We are coming to fetch you. Stand by.”
Fergus whooped and danced around the tiny pod. Back at the console he transmitted again. “Star Chaser this is Argosy. Standing by.” If he never saw a textured yeast protein bar again it would be too soon.
He paced around the pod. There wasn’t anything to pack—he’d raced to the pod ahead of the fire with nothing but the ship suit on his back. It took five hours for the Star Chaser to bring the life pod on board. As soon as the hatch opened, Fergus hugged the young crewman outside the door. “Do you have something to eat? I’m starving.”
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