No. 573

The itch behind Commander Thompson’s right ear began to intensify. He couldn’t scratch it through the helmet and tried his best to concentrate on the empty red vistas of Mars in front of him. The rover bounced over a rock and Thompson shook his head to focus on the drive.

“Hey watch it,” said Simpkins over the radio. “I almost fell out.”

“I didn’t sign up for a demolition derby,” said Spears. “How come you didn’t drive like this on the way out?”

Thompson ignored them both. He had to get them back to base so he could scratch.


Dinner was the usual rehydrated mush. The trio of astronauts didn’t speak to each other as they ate. Thompson noticed Spears and Simpkins looking at him. When they saw him, they pretended to study their plates.

“What?” Thompson asked.

The itch throbbed. Thompson knew instinctively that if he scratched it, they would know.


Thompson blasted up into space in the escape rocket. He shivered, doing his best to align the guidance grid to the proper coordinates for a rescue. He had Spears’ blood on his hands. Or was it Simpkins’?

He told himself that he couldn’t have helped it. They came at him, didn’t they? He was only defending himself.

More words hissed into Thompson’s helmet. “Mars Rescue One, this is Deep Space Base, do you copy, over?”

He reached forward and increased thrust to maximum. He had to destroy Deep Space Base.

It was the only way to stop the itching.