Doctor Bell crouched behind the bulkhead as a burst of plasma fired past his head. His friend, Basil Casa (the renowned “consulting detective” for the Galactic Yard), scrambled out of Engineering and took cover next to him. “Well, this is a fine predicament, Mr. Casa,” Dr. Bell said despondently. Using the fingers on his right hand, Bell began to tick off several irrefutable facts. “The reactors will lose antimatter containment in five minutes. We are millions of miles from Earth. There are three of us left on this ship, and there are only two escape pods. And to top it all off, our greatest adversary, Professor R.T. Mori, is the only one with a weapon. And, tell me Mr. Casa, why in the name of Sol didn’t you take one of the escape pods when you were in Engineering? There’s no sense both of us dying at his hands of this maniac.”
“Poppycock, old man. I wouldn’t think of leaving you behind. Besides, who else would chronicle our little adventures in the Subspace Times? But, fear not. You know my methods. All will be well.” Casa cupped his hands on either side of his mouth and yelled, “Hallo. Professor, I’d like to discuss the terms of your surrender.”
Three quick bursts of plasma ricocheted off the bulkhead. A few seconds later, Professor Mori stood up and slowly walked toward Engineering, keeping his plasma gun aimed toward Bell and Casa. “I can’t say I envy your bargaining position, Mr. Casa. Nevertheless, I am inclined to turn down your generous offer. Surely you see that an intellect as great as mine will never tolerate incarceration. However, I will make you a counter proposal. I consider your lesser mind the second greatest in the universe, and would hate to see it vaporized. Therefore, I will leave you the second escape pod. You can choose to save your friend, or to avenge his death by saving yourself in an effort to ‘bring me to justice.’ Personally, I hope you chose the latter, for I would miss our little cat and mouse games. Cheerio, gentlemen.” With that, Professor Mori ducked into Engineering. Bell and Casa raced after him, but they arrived only in time to see the escape hatch slam shut, and hear the whoosh of decompression as the hatch jettisoned into space.
Dishearten, Dr. Bell turned toward Casa. “I absolutely refuse to take the last pod. You are the only one who can catch Mori. You have to save yourself.” Dr. Bell had never seen such a mischievous grin on the face of his old friend. He knew something was afoot. He tried another tack. “At the very least, we should draw straws.” Bell would fix it so the Casa got the long one.
Casa broke into a fit of laughter, put his arm around Bell’s shoulders, and led him toward the far wall. “Thank you for your kind offer, Dr. Bell, but it is not necessary. We will take these two perfectly functional escape pods over here.” He motioned toward a set of unopened escape hatches.
Flabbergasted, Dr. Bell stuttered a response. “B-b-but, I don’t understand. I saw Mori enter a pod. I heard it leave the ship. Were there three pods all along?”
“No, only these two,” Casa replied nonchalantly.
“It was simplicity itself, Dr. Bell. When I was in Engineering earlier, I switched the identification signs. It appears that the ‘Universe’s smartest human’ inadvertently ejected himself out the antimatter disposal chute. Now, let’s hurry along. We must make good our escape before the ship explodes.”
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