Danson was doing the Imperial Space Marine thing. Lacking actual armor she had strapped pieces of spare hull plate to her arms, legs and back and was toting a welding laser from the machine shop. She darted about, glancing left, right and up, pretending to 'cover' us as we wandered through the rock pile. I didn't bother dressing up beyond the good set of boots from my suit; I wore jeans and a T-shirt with what had originally been a quote from Hellpope Huey printed on the front but which years of washing had obscured.

There were rocks everywhere. Big rough boulders surrounded by small rough boulders, flat slices of sedimentary stuff stacked metres high like magazines in a batchelor pad, awkward pebbles which threatened to skid out from underneath your feet. They varied in colour from dull ochre to bright arterial red.

We were supposed to be checking out the territory around the ship, but there wasn't much point; it was all rocks.

Parndale picked up a pink pebble, pouted and tossed it at Danson, who whirled on the spot and fired a half-second burst of green laser light over his shoulder. They had been at each others' throats since Parndale had suggested to Danson she weld two metal bowls from the kitchen to the front of her 'armor'. Privately I was hoping Danson would burn a hole through him; if she did, and he died, I got his cabin. My cabin had a window and I was concerned about atmosphere leaks. Parndale's cabin didn't have a window.

Occasionally the radio made staticky fooshing noises as the captain tried to find out what we were doing. The antenna was on the other side of the ship, or rather, we were on the other side of the ship to the antenna, primarily so the captain couldn't contact us. Of course, if she entered my cabin she could probably see us through the window.

I took off my watch, pulled the strap through the metal slots and tried to see what was going on behind my back by peering at the blur reflected in the brushed metal watch case. Piles of red rocks. The moment all three of us were facing the same way the reflection changed, dozens of tiny pebbles silently dancing like Ray Bolger on the hood of a car in a traffic jam, leaping up the sides of larger rocks and nestling in the cracks between them in an unusually deterministic way. For pebbles, that is. I didn't bother turning around; if they wanted to get us, they were all around us.

Not rocks, though.

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