Fall Guy

Now on a spacewalk, when somethin’ don’t happen what’s s’posed to happen, it ain’t never good. Like when I cycle the airlock hatch. And it don’t open.

Did Rickard—no. No way. Unless …

“Rickard? Mate? Now before you go doin’ somethin’ we’ll both be—”

And when somethin’ ain’t s’posed to, happens? Well you just know it done went from bad to worse.

The ship’s engines fire and just like that I’m tumblin’ free and clear, watchin’ her pullin’ away and goin’ to Shift. And my maneuver pack startin’ a deep space walkabout without me. Now that’s as worse as worse gets.

My fault. Likely wouldn’t be in this dang mess if I weren’t so lucky at cards. Or if I’d stuck to the Galactic. Then we’d of never got the distress call.

Seventeen degrees off prime, anti-spinward. C.F. Celeste Noble, a Draco cruise liner. Who she was and how she got there weren’t real important. We had no legal cause-ification to help, especially a can full of grounders like that. Still, Rickard decided to check her out. I shudda made him cut the cards right then and there.

Instead, he got us a window and we Shifted. There she was, the Noble, 900,000 tons of stupidity. Nitwit grounders. Space is for workin’, not partyin’. Rip down the ventral told me she’d fought rogue plasma in Shift and lost. Drives cold, tanks empty, no crew. I ran off a salvage marker and prepped our drives for the Shift back. Waste of time and a perfectly good marker, you ask me. Companies like Draco got lawyers. Salvage claim or no, we’d never see a credit.

Rickard wanted a looksee anyways. I tried talkin’ sense to him. He wouldn’t listen. No, he’d come this far, and weren’t about to leave without one of us checkin’ her out. This time we cut the cards. I won, as per pretty much always. “Suit yourself,” I said and settled back with a mouthful of “I told you so’s” ready for his return. Ate ’em when he got back—and he weren’t alone.

Our BurtnErnie‘s a two-man prospector slip. Emphasis on two. No matter how I did the maths, we come up short. Too much mass, not enough everythin’ else. I could of sliced our O2 for the hydrogen we needed, but it’ a been free radical hell. ‘Sides, then all three of us woulda been short on O2.

Now mind you, me and Rickard, we’ve hung ever since Acrux back in ‘03. I figured we’d tuck his Princess back in the emergencsleep tank he pulled her out of, press on to Freeport, log our claim, and let the System handle the rest. Sides, her own dang fault she missed the evac.

Shudda made him cut the cards.

Nah. Shudda finished the maths. One Chief Mate. One stacked and flush high society hottie clingin’ to Rickard like he was the bees’ knees. One pilot named Rickard what owed said Chief Mate three lifetimes a credits and the ship he rode in on. Room with a view.

For two.

Heck. I know I ran him a tab all these years, but I’d of never asked him to pay me back, ya know?  So here I am playin’ kick the can’t. Can’t reach the Noble. Can’t do nuthin’ but hope he’ll come back for me. He won’t. Can’t. Cause I…

Always hated me, didn’t you Rickard? Hated my knack with the gizmos, my luck with the skins and the bones.

Heck. Them’s just things. But life? It’s…life. And mine about over.

“Recycler just died. Didn’t it, Suit?”

Yes Evan. It can’t regenerate your air anymore.

“Thanks, Suit. Heck, I guess he pretty much killed the both of us.”

Evan? Your suit shut down completely. You’re talking to yourself.

 “Is okay. You tried. We tried. Lady Luck? Just shipped out with what’s his name. Was his name. And hers? Never got to know hers…”

 “How much time I got left, Suit? Two, three minutes?”

Silence.

“Did somethin’ bad, Suit.”

 “Took the drive shields offline. Tanked the failsafe.  When they Shifted they got Hot, Suit. Real Hot. Cold here, though. And stuffy. You stuffy too, Suit?”

Labored breathing.

“Is okay. I’ll crack a winda. Catch a few.”

 “G’night, Suit. Maybe if I hadn’t been so dang good at cards…”


Havok 2.3Fall Guy initially appeared in Havok Magazine 2.3