The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue, Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family Business, Jewel’s Place, Shanghaied, First Mark, The Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, and Adrift. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in order.
They continued their drift, and their conversations for a couple more months. Both knew the rations were running out. Although they both knew they should be watching the long range scans and SOS transmissions, neither paid much attention to these details. Instead they simply set the computers to sound an alarm if anything significant came up and then ignored it for weeks at a time.
The normal speed of a pod of this type would never reach any place to land, nor would it reach a listening post to pick up on the distress calls. If either of these were possibilities, the pirates would have destroyed them. The certainty that it could not happen was the only reason they were still alive. But in reality neither the computers on the pirate ship nor the pirates themselves had considered the extra boost of speed given to the pod by the explosion of the CDF ship.
When the rations were reduced to a couple of weeks, their conversations took on a more somber tone. Chambers speculated more and more what it would be like to starve to death. She tried not to talk about it, but she couldn’t help herself. Jamison hated to see her despair in this way. His response was to begin skipping his rations at times, returning them to the stores. But it didn’t take long for her to catch on and reprimand him for this action.
Jamison was beginning to consider a more drastic action to keep from wasting rations on himself. He figured he couldn’t shoot himself because then she would have to live with the horror of the sight of his suicide and the nasty task of cleaning up. But what he could do was lock himself in the airlock used as the garbage disposal. Then he could launch himself into space. Instant death for him, and another couple of weeks of rations for her.
He knew it would be too cruel to leave her without saying goodbye or without any word of explanation. So one night he waited for her to fall asleep first, then he went to the computer log and asked it to open up a death resolution. To his surprise a file of this type already existed. He immediately suspected what it was, so he opened it up and read.
In the past few months I have come to know you in a deeper way than I have ever known anyone before. I never expected to care like I do for you, much less while the world was in such a mess as it is today. I always thought it was more important to spend my life making the world a better place. I was willing to sacrifice my own life to give humanity a chance at survival.
Now the time has come to put this commitment into action. But instead of sacrificing myself for the sake of humanity, I choose to sacrifice myself for you. It is my highest hope, my wildest dream, for you to be rescued, giving you the opportunity to align yourself with the Kilkians.
I am sorry that the best I can give you is the slim chance of a couple more weeks. But this is all I have to offer, so I give it to you.
Jamison read the letter to himself several times. He shuddered to think that if he had delayed his choice one more night he would have missed her, forever. He went to the bottom of the note and typed.
Ditto. Which is why we need to ride this out together.
He closed the file and then went over and sat on the floor, his back leaning against the door to the air lock.
A couple of hours later she woke him up and asked him why he was sleeping on the floor. He took her by the hand and led her to the computer console. He opened up the log and scrolled down to the addition he had put on the end. She closed it without saying a word.
When she finally turned around she was crying silently, but as she wrapped her arms around him, she began to wail. The two of them stayed in that position for a long time, at first Jamison was trying to console her, but eventually he gave up and joined her.
After a while they settled down to the floor, still arm in arm, still crying. They grieved for each other. They grieved for the lives they could have had in different circumstances. They grieved for humanity so wracked with turmoil that the simple, normal experience of love had become uncommon and difficult.
They might have fallen asleep together, right there on the floor. Neither was sure when they considered it later. But a couple more hours into the night a proximity alarm went off. Jamison didn’t startle, he didn’t strike out in fear, he simply roused, and went to the computer to deal with it.
The console described them approaching a galaxy. It had one planet capable of sustaining life. Although it had no current human activity on the planet, there were ruins of past colonization. Extensive knowledge of the landscape, climate and life forms was in the computer. If they wanted to land on the planet he had 25 seconds to decide. 24. 23. Jamison pressed in the response.
They both took their seats and outside the pod they could hear a device moving a single use thruster to just the right position to change their course, a slight change but just enough to make them enter the atmosphere and make a crash landing. These landings were rough and sometimes un-survivable. But the chances down there would be better than the chances up here.
A moment later they felt the push of the thruster redirecting them. It only lasted about 30 seconds. Then the main display had two countdowns added to it in the top right corner.
12:31 to the outer atmosphere.
13:13 to impact.