0139: Lap of Luxury

Ziggurat #47

Rosemary slowly made her way up the ramp, peering skeptically into the dim red glow of the interior. “Are we meant to sit on those metal benches?” She asked.
Ed shrugged. “Well, this part wasn’t exactly meant for people. But it’ll do the job.”

“All aboard who’s coming aboard,” Ed Spratt beckoned, his flat tone betraying more than a touch of sarcasm. The ramp that led to the interior of the asteroid pod had been open for several minutes, but so far the band of brave explorers had done nothing more than approach within several feet of it. 

“Give us time, mate,” Lamont murmured. It was clear that none of the others particularly relished the idea of being thrust untethered into the emptiness of space in this comparatively small vessel. The prospect was made no more appealing by the resemblance that the cargo area of the pod bore to the abdomen of a great metal insect.

Rosemary bit her lip, turning to Francis. The captain had arrived on the scene not long before, in standard uniform, and had made a slow inspection of the pod’s exterior, his cane tapping hollowly on the metal floor as he walked. “I wish you were coming, captain,” She admitted. “You’ve been in scarier ships, I suppose.”

Carter nodded gravely, his expressive eyes making it clear how difficult it was for him to be staying behind. “Archangel IV was a pillbox atop a nuclear bomb, for all intents and purposes.” He cleared his throat, patting the pneumatic tube that extended the ramp. “But that was a long time ago. This is an impressive piece of technology.”

“State of the art,” Ed agreed proudly. “Self-contained atmosphere, microfusion engines, even Martian gravity coils. It’s the lap of luxury.”

Rosemary slowly made her way up the ramp, peering skeptically into the dim red glow of the interior. “Are we meant to sit on those metal benches?” She asked.

Ed shrugged. “Well, this part wasn’t exactly meant for people. But it’ll do the job.”

Evidently embarrassed that Rosemary had started up ahead of him, Rico bounded up the ramp, passing by the medic to settle himself onto one of the two long metal storage compartments that were built into the open storage area. He patted the seat next to him. “Any accommodations are comfortable when company is good, eh, señorita?” He grinned. His expression fell when Rosemary primly took a seat on the bench across from him.

The compartments were appropriately sized for sitting upon, but that was clearly an afterthought. The metal drawers, mesh nets, and modular containment rails in the cargo bay indicated that the space was designed much more for minerals than people. In a pinch, Lamont thought, the pod was certainly capable of carrying more than the six present members of the expedition. Abigail followed close behind Lamont, accepting Clifford’s offer of help to push the metal box up the incline. Ed ascended the ramp next, satisfied that the battle had been won, and Arthur took up the rear, scowling grimly. Lamont had heard rumors—never personally confirmed—that the veteran militiaman hated flying, and had to be coaxed aboard the ship to Mars with a flask of bourbon. He stood with wide-set legs as the ramp lifted into the pod while he was still on it, glaring at Ed, who had his finger pressed firmly to the airlock control. 

Glancing at Rosemary, Lamont noticed that she kept her eyes locked on those of the captain until he disappeared behind the slit of the closing ramp. There was a low creaking sound, and then a very final-sounding metallic clank as the ramp was locked into place. Lamont’s ears popped uncomfortably as Ed established an air seal with the flip of a large switch. He was still yawning to relieve the pressure when Rosemary slapped her knees and, in a tone of forced cheerfulness, said, “Right! Now that we’re settled, let’s talk about emergencies.”