A weak smile broke out across Ambrose’s tired face. It had warmed him, to hear an indignant jab of humour in the face of such a desperate scenario. Tsang negotiated his way across the corridor and clambered over the doorframe through to the mess, moments later reappearing with two small, silver tubes in hand, one of which he casually tossed into the lap of the ship’s doctor. Ambrose recognised the tube as a pack of the nutrient gels the crew had largely come to rely on for sustenance.
“Keep yourself going.” Tsang quipped, snapping the lid of his tube and guzzling the contents. “We’re sitting on a good few years worth of grub in the back there”
The smile had dropped now and Ambrose’s face clouded.
“We just sit here at get fat on our dead comrade’s rations? Is that the plan? Nobody even knows we’re out here, let alone be able to get here soon enough to rescue us dammit!” He stood, bitterly flinging his tube to the corner of the steel corridor, hobbling to turn away from Tsang. “We could keep ourselves fed and watered for a hundred years, only to end up starving to death anyway. Would have been better to have died with the others.”
The sudden burst of anger caused Tsang’s face to cloud.
“Is that what you think? You think all I want to do is to sit here, in this metal tomb with your miserable hide and toast our good fortune?” His voice crackled with anger as he approached Ambrose’s back “You think you’re the only one with memories, who’s lost something? Funnily enough, Brian, Chicago or Seattle or whatever yankee town you’re from wasn’t the only one that had sunrises and green grass and rivers. We had them in Sichuan and they burn through my heart and my soul every time I close my eyes, the same way it burns through yours. You aren’t the only person who has a spouse or children that they’ll never see again, who will never even know what happened to you. You don’t get a monopoly on how bad things are, funnily enough your situation is literally the same as every other human on this planet, remember?”
Ambrose dipped his head and looked back over his shoulder, having no response to fiery rebuke he had just endured. He meekly raised an open hand – point taken.
For a few seconds, the two men stood silently. One enraged, the other despairing. Both thought back to happy, peaceful, carefree days made of the most human and earthly pleasures. Of summer breezes and winter snows. Of the laughter of wives and former lovers. To cold beer and warm, homecooked meals. In their own ways, both men smouldered at the incomprehensible injustice of it all.
“We are both men of science. We are both men of Earth. And in both respects, we must uphold our duty, to refuse to surrender. To explore, to document our discoveries. And when we drop down dead, we leave something. Whoever, or whatever finds us tomorrow, next week or a thousand years from now will know we were here. Humanity…was here, dammit.”
Turning to fully face his colleague, S.M.O Ambrose nodded, avoiding eye contact as he composed himself. He stepped past Tsang and began to shuffle around the body of the crashed spacecraft. He collected ration packs from the mess, along with a personal daypack that had been forgotten at a dinner table prior to the crash. He thought it had belonged to Dr. Shah, the ships engineering genius. Returning back to the corridor and facing up to Tsang, Ambrose placed the daysack on top of the cracked medical supply container and took in a long, unsteady breath. For the sake of clarity and not to allow the poor acoustics to infringe on the gravitas of their predicament, Ambrose elected to broadcast
“Senior Medical Officer Tsang. If you are able and would care to, may i invite you to visit your scientific quarters and gather whatever supplies you may be of use, before joining me on an expedition outside this ship, in pursuit of learning more about this alien world you and I have the pleasure of finding ourselves on?”
Tsang smiled, reached out and clapped Ambrose on the shoulder pad of his uniform. “Let us not go gentle, into this good night”