By Robert Lynch
The microwave dinged.
Marissa, Joel, Wendell, and Kylie all looked at it from gaunt eyes. Marissa got up and opened the microwave revelling a small ration pack. Slowly and carefully, she opened the package and cut it into quarters. Each of them took a piece, delicate to keep every crumb, and ate it in a single bite.
“I don’t know how much longer we can keep doing this,” Joel said.
“We don’t have a choice,” Marissa said. “We won’t make it to the delivery if we break with the schedule.”
“What about sedation?” Joel asked Wendell. “Could three of us sleep until the delivery? Food for the awake member could be increased the rest of us don’t need it.”
“Sleep doesn’t slow the metabolism that much,” Joel replied. “The gains for the awake member would actually be losses, as their workload would increase if only one person is awake.”
“We would also be disadvantaged if an emergency occurred,” Marissa said. “It would take too long to wake anyone else to help. Better that we keep to low duties and try to get as much rest as we can.”
“We could abandon the station,” Kylie said. “By the time that we run out of rations, we will be too weak to handle re-entry. There has to be point when we evac.”
“There is,” Marissa said. “When we are down to 12 packs we will eat full rations for the last day then leave. At this stage that is… 26 days away. The shipment should get here on day 21, so we should be fine.”
“We are all already at a danger level,” Joel said. “Our body fat levels are reaching a point that could mean irreparable damage if we don’t leave. I don’t think we have 21 days before we reach that point.”
“If we have to evac for medical reasons we will,” Marissa said. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Try to get some rest everybody.”
Gingerly, she floated over to her bedroll on the wall and climbed in. Exhaustion and malnutrition are uncomfortable bedfellows, but she had passed the point when such things kept her up.
Three hours later, she woke. A launch alarm was going off. She ripped out of her bedroll and floated into the command module. The docking clamps had been disengaged; the escape capsule was floating free of the station.
She grabbed the radio. “Whoever’s on that ship you need to come back! You’ll strand us all up here!”
Joel, Wendell, and Kylie all floated into the command module; each looked at the capsule as it shot back towards the planet. If they were all up here then who had taken the capsule?
Marissa flicked the radio channel over to Ground Control. “The capsule has autopiloted back to the surface, what is going on?”
Ground Control never replied.
The food shipment never came either
30 days later, they were out of food. Marissa died after day 40. Kylie day 43. Joel day 49. Wendell, driven by hunger, ate the three others; lasting to day 123.
“That concludes human simulation 92.” Galfaron, Lead Researcher into aliens, told the conference. “In none of the simulations has one of the subjects every left in the escape capsule when things became dire. In 74 of them, some aspect of cannibalism has occurred. It is the conclusion of our research that Humans are too primitive to make contact with.”