The People

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Spacekid watched through the black ribboning smoke as the astronauts gathered round the slightly singed map he'd found in under the shattered coffee table. It was one of those shiny tourist kind of maps, hand-drawn in a cartoony 3-D style with all the buildings and structures represented in playful, woefully out-of-proportion designs. Rowan leaned against a detached piece of Kestrel's front landing strut and traced his finger along various roads on the crinkly map, stopping at each building along the way to assess its probable security features.

"No," Rowan said when Citro aligned the tip of her finger with the drawing of a department store close to their present location. "Big open spaces you can't secure."

"It's close, at least," said Citro seconds before doubling over in a violent coughing fit. Rather than fight it, she let the cough run its course, then cupped her red face with the transparent respirator mask and drew a long, hearty breath of clean air. In moments her sweat-slick face regained some of its color.

The house was starting to roast, but Rowan wouldn't let them leave the crash site without a predetermined direction in which to run. The People would be on them the moment they emerged, and Rowan held that without a set, logical destination in mind, the party would be inviting disaster. But it was getting damn uncomfortable in the living room, no doubt about it. The walls of faux wood panelling that had survived the crash were finally beginning to blister and bubble in the heat, and the sounds of crackling, snapping wood were really picking up.

Above, the chasm Kestrel had cut into the ceiling groaned ever downwards, spilling more bric-a-brac onto the shuttle's surface and down into the hatch, where new licks of flame jabbed upward from inside the vehicle. A twin size bed screeching ever closer to the edge of the bowed ceiling's lips. Listening to these sounds, inhaling the scent of burning wood with every breath he took, Spacekid thought of Houdini Campground, where his parents had once taken him on a camping trip long before the whole "Spacekid" thing changed his life forever. Crappy at the time but a nice memory.

"'Fraid we don't know for sure where here even is," Bob Rehearsal said as he shrugged his broad shoulders as if to apologize. Bob had a background in topical geology and so, upon de-planing, he'd been the one tasked to pinpoint Kestrel's crash position, while the other astronauts searched the house for weapons and supplies.

What Bob did was he peered through the exposed places in the shattered wall and, by studying the layout of the street, came up with a mini topographical map of the surrounding area. And it hadn't taken him long to sync this mental image with a section of the roads on Spacekid's cartoon map. But these kinds of tourist maps were never known for pinpoint accuracy, and Bob, a real stickler for details, made sure to keep reminding everyone that he wasn't making any promises vis a vi Kestrel positioning.

"Large structures with plenty of open space we need like we need a cork in our ass," Rowan said, tugging the mapface flatter and tilting its surface towards the daylight beaming in through the wrecked wall. The smoky sunlight thrummed on the glossy paper. When he talked, Rowan's gravelly voice sounded muffled inside his respirator mask. Thick streaks of tears zagged from his smoke-agitated eyes and dribbling along the edges of his respirator. "Too difficult to secure, especially since there's only the four of us now, plus Spacekid."

Over by the aperture in the wall, where a makeshift arsenal of fireplace prongs and stainless steel barbecue forks stood ready for deployment, Spacekid turned away from Rowan, wincing as he did so. Spacekid this, Spacekid that. Every single time one of the astronauts referred to him by his viral name, which was often as hell, he wanted to pick up the nearest pointy object and fling it at their asses like a Chinese throwing star. Not that his real name---Wallace Glutious---was much better, but here's the thing: Wallace wasn't even a kid anymore. Not after two-and-a-half years stranded on a space station. Not after what happened up there with Forsythe. Hell, Spacekid was barely a kid anymore even back when the whole "Spacekid" thing first started, when that stupid video of him bouncing off Proserpina's Hab 2 walls, making the lamest poop-my-pants faces you could ever imagine, blew up on social media. To still be called Spacekid after all this time-it just rubbed Wallace the wrong way, is all.

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