The last airlock door slides open. “Is that shouting I hear?” asks José. Two crew members race by in a hurry. A third speeds around the corner and Grader grabs him by the arm.
“What’s going on here?”
The man is hopping from one foot to the other. “Haven’t you heard? They finally got the cargo ship open. There’s a banquet set up in the dining hall. REAL FOOD!”
Hwang smacks her hands together. “该死的 我们吃吧 !”
“I could use a ‘Ding-Dong’, let’s go see what’s for dinner.”
In the dining hall it’s pandemonium. The tables are filled with engineers in tattered grey overalls pounding the tables rhythmically and chanting, “HAM-DINGERS! HAM-DINGERS! HAM-DINGERS!” The shouting reaches a crescendo as Chief Engineer Pence mounts a small dais at the far end of the room. He’s wearing his best uniform and a grin wider than a used car salesman’s tie. He starts making “quiet down now” signs with his hands. With a few raucous shouts the crew settles down, at least in a relative manner.
“Friends. This is yet another historic moment for Bradbury Base. Through the dint of your hard work, the spit in your eye and the gravel in the guts you have kept this colony going through events no one prepared any of us for and now we get to reap a small reward for our efforts. Fresh! From Earth! Mashed potatoes! (a cheer goes up) And in honor of our valiant hero, José who arrived in the crate, REAL HAM, HAMDINGERS!” Shouts ring out and somehow coalesce around “HAM! HAM! HAM! HAM!”
Pence is swaggering now. “BUT WAIT! There’s more.” From underneath the table he retrieves a grey, brick-shaped package. “This my friends… is coffee. Real coffee.” The room gets quiet except for a low “oooohhhh…” from the long time coffee-deprived. “And we have a generous supply of ‘Astronaut Ice Cream‘ for anyone who wants it. Now, if you’ll form a calm and orderly line…” The rest of his words are drowned out by the sound of chairs being knocked over and bodies jostling to be first in line.
Pence stands to the back, clearly enjoying the event. The group fresh back from Hab Seven steps forward to have a word with him. “We have accomplished our retrieval mission with a minimum of complications. Would you like to hear about it now or wait for my official report?”
“Pleasure first, business later Lt. Grader. I wouldn’t call this a ‘decent meal’ but it’s the best we’ve had in a long, long time.”
“What about the rest of the cargo?” Asks Beth.
“It’s tempting, but we can’t keep it. That would mean war, not worth it.” Pence strokes his chin. “I’m thinking we’ll hold a carnival, a ‘Mars Olympics’ if you will. Plans are already afoot.”
José opines, “You know, I promised the girls on Phobos chocolate. Or rather, I bribed them with the promise of chocolate.”
“That can be arranged. You know what we also got a fresh supply of?”