Author : Ian Rennie
“All right, just tell me what happened,”
Flight Commander Athelston was a long way from happy, but right now exhaustion outweighed anger. His two subordinates, one furious, one sheepish, started to speak at the same time. Eventually Turner, the angry one, won out.
“Sir, Cook’s endangered the whole mission with his stupidity. He’s contaminated the scene with lord knows what effect and put everything we were trying to do in jeopardy.”
“Look, it was nothing serious! You’re only freaking out because of-”
“Both of you, hush.”
They turned from each other to the commander. Anger was poking its head up again.
“Right, without laying blame, tell me what happened, not what you think of each other.”
After a pause, Cook spoke, sounding like the naughty kid found drawing penises on the blackboard.
“All right, full story. I was off duty last night, and I was bored, so I opened up the emergency spirit rations.”
“An offense under section-” Turner began, before catching the Flight Commander’s eye and shutting up. Cook continued.
“I got a bit of a buzz on, nothing else to do on this place, is there? And when I went on patrol this morning I was feeling the after effects a little bit.”
Athelston closed his eyes.
“Please tell me you didn’t throw up on the planet we’re meant to be observing.”
“No, no, nothing like that!” Cook began, his opening defense hasty with little to follow it up, “It was just… well, I was half a mile from base camp, and I was bursting for a piss.”
Athelston let out a sigh.
“So you used the emergency suit reservoir? No, of course you didn’t.”
“There was this little warm puddle by this rock outcropping and-”
“And you decided to make it bigger and warmer? Cook, you may have forgotten, but we are meant to be a non-contact mission. Our engines are full-capture, we take no samples. We don’t even take on water. Our purpose is to observe without impacting. What part of that tells you to take a leak against a rock?”
“Recommend his immediate court martial, sir!” Turner said, crisply.
Athelston paused, considering the months of his life such a court martial would take. Him answering questions in a courtroom instead of piloting missions, smart lawyers insinuating this was his fault, the endless headaches that would at best leave a smudge on his mission reputation.
“No,” he said slowly, “That won’t be necessary.”
“But the environmental-”
“Urine is sterile, Turner. Cook disgraced himself, but he didn’t put the mission in danger. Cook, you’re a bloody idiot, and you’re pulling engine room duty all the way home. Understood?”
Both men nodded, neither entirely happy.
“Good, now let’s finish up and get off this planet before Cook decides to take a crap on it.”
A few hours later, the launch capsule took off again. It was a remarkable thing, managing capture of almost all of its exhaust emissions. With a strong wind, any signs of its presence would be gone within the week.
In a small, warm puddle, half a mile from the landing site, interesting things were happening. Cook hadn’t thought to mention the girl he’d run into on their last planet leave, or the things she’d done with him in a bedroom above a kebab shop. He wouldn’t even know for a few days that he had caught a dose of something from her. Nevertheless, bacterial signs of that tryst lived on in this puddle. The only life on the planet, they started to multiply in this warm, nutritious mixture. When the rains came in a few days, they would be spread into the rivers and oceans of this planet.
And the morning and the evening were the first day.