I regained consciousness, which meant I was alive. Just to reassure myself, I checked my HUD. Yes, life readings, my life readings were registering someone alive in my exosuit, so it must have been me.
The minerals I was carrying were no longer on me. Strange… how long had I been out, calendar readings showed two days. I was starving, and I was thirsty. I grabbed something to eat from the scullery. Had I left it in such a mess?
I don’t think I was alone. Someone had been looking through my belongings. I checked everything, but nothing was missing. The reading terminal had been left on; I remember closing it. I noticed the page title, ‘Planetary Resources Analysis’, and below, information concerning the resources collected on the planet; data and location also displayed. Someone was interested in what I had discovered, and they had gone through my data. A trader perhaps, maybe a pirate, or even a smuggler. So, whoever they were, they were in the right place at the right time, at least in my case, since they saved me. Maybe they were just curious, and I was jumping to conclusions. But where were they now?
My knee was better, a bit numb but the swelling was gone.
I slowly moved out of the habitation quarters and made my way to the ship’s cabin. Outside, a doleful mist hung heavily over a landscape of dark shadows. It was an empty night without stars. The ship’s canopy was tinted with readings from the display panels in low light and a single led light on the ceiling was flickering on and off. I froze. There was a pale reflection on the canopy, of a small podgy figure seated in the pilot’s seat. Somebody or something was in my seat, fast asleep and snoring.
I nudged the thing.
“Hey! You there! Hello!” I didn’t know what to call it yet.
Initially, there was no response. If it wasn’t for the snoring, I would’ve considered the thing had passed away. Suddenly, it opened its eyes. Eyes shaped like round black opals. It blinked, then croaked, crackled and broke out in gargling sounds as it spoke to me.
“Friend,” it said slowly. I was surprised I could understand it. “Need not worry.” More gargling. “Came to help, saw danger… you in danger.”
I stood there gawking. “Oh… well… thank you.”
It stared at me, motionless, then burst out in hoarse laughter. I waited till it calmed down.
“Saw danger?” I asked. “You were watching me, but how, how did you know I was in danger?”
“Scanner picks up radio distress signal from this ship, came down to help poor distressed you?” it said in a rough croak.
Strange, I couldn’t recall having sent a distress signal, at least I don’t remember having sent one. But I had found this ship and it was in a terrible state, maybe the previous occupant had a signal transmitting all along, then had wandered off… and ended up lost, or worse yet, dead. Like I almost ended up.
“Well, thank you all the same, that is, for coming down and helping me.”
“Help friend, yes.” It paused; its black eyes peered into mine. “Then friend might… help me too, yes?” Its huge, stripped toad like head seemed to stretch out sideways as its mouth expanded into a huge smile. I held back from laughing at the comical oddity, wondering what it might want from me.
Nervously, I replied, “Sure…”
Squawking laughter filled the cabin as it stretched up its short, chunky arms and started to clap jubilantly.
I knew I had no choice, after all it had saved my life, but I still wondered at what I had just committed to with this bizarre creature thing.
There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t met.
William Butler Yeats