Castaway

1 Aug

Tss. You think this military mess is inedible?

I once ate survival rations meant for an Imperial. You know, that 12-legged race of insect-lizard critters. I don’t know exactly what was in those compressed, dried foodstuffs, and I’m not sure I want to know. Ever. I mean, what do bugs and lizards eat? Other bugs? Alien bugs?

Are you going to drink that turnip juice? No? May I…? Thank you.

But I didn’t have much choice if I wanted to live. I’d already been marooned a week on a barren planet in an interdiction zone without any food when I found the wreck of a lifeslip. That’s how I recognized the food as coming from the Imperium, by the logo on the side. Imperials have a thick-skin/soft-bone combination, and there was nothing left but his/her/zher atmo-suit. You never can tell gender with an Imperial unless they tell you themselves.

On the left, are you going to eat that beet pudding? No? Thank you!

Anyway, I was extremely hungry. I figured I could starve slowly or I could die quickly if the food proteins/carbs were aligned wrong and it turned my intestines inside out, if you know what I mean.

I thought MREs were disgusting, but this! It was like eating saw grass or nettles, pressed down and wrapped with spiderweb and studded with little bits of protein that felt quite slimy as my saliva rehydrated it. I broke the rest of the ration into little pieces and swallowed it like pills. The texture alone was enough to gag a musk ox.

Corporal? Are you going to eat those mashed kale patties? THANK you!

How did I end up on a barren planet, eating an alien MRE? I’m glad you asked, friend. I was trying to outrun some Galactic enforcers, see, because I had salvaged a derelict ship, as our solar system laws allow. Granted, the derelict was less than a year old, but still – I hadn’t caused the wreck or anything. I didn’t know that Galactic law required all wrecks to be reported and salvage rights filed before beginning salvage. Sheesh. Always paperwork, right?

The salvage was very good, if you get my drift, but maybe I activated an alarm or something, and anyway, some freelance enforcers caught up with me and demanded my cargo.

I’m not sure what’s in that blue protein ball of yours, but may I…? You are very kind, ma’am.

I had to go hyperspace without proper plotting, and I came out too close to a gravity well. My ship and the treasure ended up in the sun, but I got out in my life pod, making it to the only Cinderella world in the system.

How did I escape that world?

Well, I didn’t, rightly. Those enforcers tracked me through hyperspace. I didn’t know you could do that. Then they sent me down the gravity well to retrieve the salvage. I don’t think anyone outside the enforcers and certain high-level galactic government officials know that’s possible. I was just glad they didn’t kill me. At first.

How did I end up here?

I am hungry. So hungry. The enforcers didn’t kill me, but they released me into the gravity well. They left their protective shield around my ship. And they left me with a hold full alien MRE packages. And the packs are labeled in some sort of braille, not in one of the standard galactic languages programmed into my ship’s translator. So, I never know what I’m opening and eating. Some of it feels like it’s coming alive as I eat it. I gagged once, but the food escaped. I hear it sometimes, scurrying around, as I move from sleeping to waking.

I’ve learned enough about the protective shield to project myself onto another ship if it’s close enough. But I can’t stay. As soon as you get pi times the half-life of carbon times the speed of light from my prison, I will be ported back to my ship.

I see your disbelief. I do. That’s OK. I don’t mind. I’m just going to grab your MRE, and yours, and yours before —

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