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Chapter 15 - Space; Empty, Empty Space (page 1 of 10)

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It had been a peculiar span of some number of space-minutes since I'd left the bridge, and therefore the previous chapter in my adventure. As I walked back down to my suite to prepare for what was about to become of us I thought about what I'd just done. Making promises beyond my pay grade was a violation of some article of some code of some sort of interstellar conduct, or so I imagined, so I tried to do it no more than a handful of times per mission.

This time, however, things were not looking particularly pretty for us, not even in the trashy sort of way. Loyalty is important, but I'd always favored not-dying over the preservation of obscure galactic codes. When it comes to the lives of my crew I'll do whatever I must to preserve them, though by "them" I should reluctantly profess I mean "me".

I reached my automatroniconal dooriest passageway only to find I had to manually open it, as if I was some sort of savage cave-astronaught reduced to using my own hands for as little of a "reason" as minimum as sheer necessity itself. Detestable savagery for sure. The thought sickened me and I committed myself to re-shaving my knuckles once inside.

If I had thought for a minute that I could keep my composure wearing only a replicoutfit, I'd have passed entirely on my cosmic primping regiment entirely, but if you're going to mess your pants, it's imperative to actually wear pants, lest you sully the rich suede so lavishly upholstered about the interior of New Terran shuttlecrafts. Such a mark on your record or recliner can be more than embarrassing; it can be outright vomitously disgusting.

I looked through my wardrobe and considered my options. Unsure what the unfortunate barter would be, though sure I wouldn't like it, I opted for a snug-fitting, mono-piece monoform sculposuit, the sort of outfit that embodies official, military status while flawlessly holding, lifting and separating critical molds and danglies as needed. I laboriously clad myself, putting it on with the all the awkward acoustics of a circus clown twisting a dozen balloon giraffes into shape, and with a final, sharp snap, I knew I was ready to strike a deal.

I thought about what regrettable things I may need to do to save myself, my crew and my ship, and took a moment to thank the God that is that I have an exceptionally well-controlled gag reflex, while also praying that such a benefit wouldn't come into play -- or mouth -- as such.

My nerves were a bit shaken, though not stirred. As much as I'd been trying to wean myself from the pills, this was not the time to leave anything to chance, except of course for the game of chance that was soon to follow with the lives of so many hanging in the balance like so many well-lynched goat thieves.

"You dirty super-pharmacology, don't fail me now," I said, staring the small, plaid bottle in what would probably have been its face, had it the decency to have one. I began the ten-step Sino-pharmasecurity puzzle that is the minimum mandatory childproofing on any such container as I thought about the desperation the ancient Ching Chong's must have felt to create such an elaborate puzzle. Within a matter of just a few-dozen minutes the top was loose and I tumbled a pill out into my unsteady hand.

"Come on Tek," I said with forced bravado. "You're still the man, but you have to do this. Pull yourself together."

Reluctantly I rolled a second pill out into my hand, then a third. Then, with near-tearing sadness and reluctance, I popped them in my dry mouth, my leathering tongue more rough than that of a cat. My self-loathing cropped up for what was probably the third time in the whole of my life.

"Damn you placebos, you ruin me," I told the bottle that held me captive so long.

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