Ripping yarns of derring-do from across the Fifteen Galaxies
A hyperplane pilot has a rare opportunity on a frozen planetesimal as he comes face-to-face with a living legend.
"Evacuation in the Void"
by Tom Menary
I fought the controls of the dying hyperplane all the way down to the frozen planetesimal, but it was my esteemed passenger who saved our lives.
At the last second, as the craggy, icy waste came rushing up, he barrelled into me from the back seat with all the force of a cannonball, knocking the wind out of me and punching us up through the canopy. We hit the ice as our 'plane skidded hard off the lip and pitched into the swirling black fathom below.
I lay there for several moments, gulping heavily through my Breatho-Walkabout, then rolled over to find my passenger tugging off his own helmet, a deep crack in the visor, and gasping for breath. Immediately I began yanking out my suit's tubing to wave in his face in a desperate attempt to give him air, but he held me off with an upraised hand. "Don't be soft, lad. You need that contraption more than I do. I wager my lungs are a damn sight bigger than yours."
And that's how I ended up marooned in the depths of space on a tiny speck of ice in the company of the great Ironjaw, later Admiral of the Royal Space Navy and a hero of space and fable. Back then, I'd swooped in to evacuate him from a campaign that turned south, but the savages brought our ship down before we could make hyperspace.
The planetesimals stretched away in a pearlescent chain towards the system's blue dwarf star, hanging over the endless void. My colleague seemed perfectly at home, and settled down to unpack his satchel and ration tin for inventory.
That's when the cybernetic polar bear attacked. The blasted thing came bounding across the gap between the closest neighbour and our little icy island, all metal fangs and claws. I yelled and threw up my arms, but Ironjaw simply planted his boots and stared the mechanical monster down. With a great cry of "Hyyarrr!" the mountainous man drew back his arm and punched the bear firmly on its nose the instant its paws hit ice. The thing gave a buzzing yelp as its snout concertinaed up like a crushed can of beans, and it yomped away to the next ice rock in the chain to lope about in confusion.
"Best way to deal with those tin bastards," he said, and bent to retrieve his satchel. The great man clutched his gut in some discomfort. "Give me a minute would you, lad?"
I gave him as much space as I could on that frozen spit of dirt. I know how privileged I was at sharing a tiny world with Ironjaw himself; he was mountainous not only in stature but in legend, and men would have killed for a chance to hear his tales and receive his wisdom. I waited with bated breath to discover what the great war hero might have to say.
Indeed he seemed more thoughtful than I'd ever seen him, and cast his gaze around the tiny planetesimal as if taking its measure. "First thing when you find yourself marooned in the big blackness," he said, turning his bushy-bearded face to me and rubbing his grumbling belly, "find the best place to let yer guard down."
He strode across to the frozen lip of the spaceberg and began unbuttoning his trousers. "That gubunga sirloin went right through me," he bellowed. "I don't know about you, but I'm dying for a shit."
With that, Ironjaw shoved his britches down, bent over on the ragged edge of space, and stuck his arse out over infinity.