Author : Bryant Pocock

“Dammit,” grunted Sam as the wrench slipped and he lost his grip, drifting slowly away from the mining craft. “Now I’m really in deep shit.” Mentally running through his options, the panicked miner came up with nothing.

The battered and stinking p-suit never came with a long-distance radio, so that was right out. Similarly absent was the fuel for his maneuvering jets or the (theoretically) Company-mandated safety tether. These he had pawned at the Company Store to pay his fare on the freighter to this lonely outpost. That left the small but efficient solar collector on his back to power the oxygen scrubbers, electric heater, and water distiller to keep him alive, floating through this asteroid field until he starved to death. Or there was always the grisly possibility that a microscopic spec of space dust, traveling faster than any bullet, would pierce a pinhole through kevlar and flesh, spewing a miniature fountain of bubbling blood and precious atmosphere at entry and exit. One way or another he would die here, floating and turning slowly, meters away from his modest habitation capsule.

Considering this possibility, he preferred suicide. Sam pondered this solemnly for several minutes, said a quiet prayer, and tugged hard at his helmet seals. Nothing. It seemed that the only pieces of safety equipment still functioning in this man-shaped composite crapcan were the vacuum-activated safety locks.

This left the pistol strapped to his side. The only non-vital piece of kit that Sam had held onto all these years, he had been wearing it since before he sold the hydro farm back on Earth and set out for the asteroids to try his luck extracting ore. “Second Amendment and all, can’t be too careful,” mumbled Sam to himself. Not that any government’s constitution held real sway in this corner of space, but Sam had lost count of how many times the old-fashioned revolver had saved him from unpleasant confrontations. Now it was once again helping him forge his own destiny.

As he drew the gun and said his prayer again, Sam suddenly remembered with surprising clarity the voice of his high school physics teacher, droning in his driest monotone, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” A smile crept over the old miner’s face. Turning the gun away from his helmet, Sam took careful aim and fired all six rounds, slowly and deliberately.

It took nearly two days, but eventually the impulse of those few ounces of lead moving at the speed of sound was enough to send Sam gliding slowly to within an arm’s reach of the thruster pod he had been repairing. He was even able to grab the dropped wrench before making his way back inside the small metal can he called home.

“Damn the Company and damn this cloud of rocks,” thought Sam out loud, banging a fist on the bulkhead. “Soon as I can, I’m getting back to God’s Green Earth. But first things first, I’m getting my hands on some more bullets.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows