One of a Kind

I’m precious.

Precious in the way only rare things are. Particularly when that rare thing is the last of its kind.

Think about it. You think nothing about walking on grass – assuming, that is, you live on a part of the Earth that has grass. But if you happen to be walking through, say, sanddunes all day and you come across a single blade of grass poking through the sand, you will walk around it.

On Earth, I am one of billions. Literally nothing special, a nobody. If I died today on Earth, two or three people would be born in the very next second to fill my place. Certainly few would notice. Or care.

Here on Rotrushep, I am rare, I am precious, becuase there is no one – and nothing – else like me.

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Life Boat

“What did you do on the ship anyway?” David asked, his voice booming in the confined space.

Bernard grunted. The words trickled out of him slowly like oil spilling from a can. “Engineering. Tinkerer. Making sure things ran properly. Good money. Respectable job. Made the time go quickly.”

“Is that important? Making time go quickly, I mean?”

“Sure. Why not? It’s not like I enjoyed the work.”

“Then why do it at all?”

“Gotta do something. Job is everything.”

David mulled over that for a while and then the younger man asked the question that all young people ask most: “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why is job everything?”

Bernard scratched at grey stubble on his cheek. “Well. I know who I am, I guess. And when people ask me what I do, I can answer them.”

They were quiet a while, both lost in thought. Each stared to the side of the other’s head, as if trying to see through the walls to the dark beyond. The ambient sounds of the life boat began to press in against both men’s hearing again, until Bernard finally cleared his throat to speak.

“And you, young David? What did you do? I’m guessing kitchen from the looks of your uniform. You a chef?”

David laughed and his laugh had a rusty quality, as if it had been corroded from years of disuse. “Nah. Just a kitchenhand. I was working my passage across to Centauri.”

“And what were you going to do when you got there? Had a job lined up, did you?”

“No.” He thought for a while. “I guess I was going to see what happened.”

Bernard frowned at that but didn’t comment. After several minutes he said, “So. No ambitions beyond kitchenhand?”

David’s almond-shaped eyes flickered to his for a moment then away. “No.” He shrugged. “Just seeing what’s out here.” He gestured at the walls but meant space.

Bernard stretched his back and groaned. “Helluva way to see it.” He slapped the bulkhead above him.

David laughed uneasily again. “Yeah.”

 

It had been nearly a full day since they’d fled the smoke, the panic, bundled themselves into the cramped pod and jettisoned from the ship.

***