Author's Note: [Warning: Mentions of Cannibalism]
How much food can be stored for human beings on a journey of over a trillion miles?
Not enough. That's why all the travelers are kept in a state of suspended animation in cold freezing pods. Sleeping until they reached a habitable planet (by human standards), then the ship would gently awaken them.
Well, that was the intent anyway.
"Who's toe is this?" Asked 3003, or Double E as everyone else called her. She waved a roasted human toe with her fork in the faces of the other awakened travelers.
"Don't know. But it's big, so ... have fun chewing it." 0000, better known as Lucky said, not even bothering to look up from the human arm he was gnawing.
"Why do you always have to include a dirty joke?"
"What was dirty about that?" Lucky purposely spoke with his mouth full, spitting food in Double E's face.
"Screw you! And no one has answered my question. I don't want to accidentally eat the foot of someone I care about."
"So if you don't care about someone it's ok to eat them?" Nameless joined in on the conversation. She had no numerical tag having burnt it off her right arm the first day of her awakening. Only the First knew and she minded her own business.
"I'm not saying it's ok to eat people, but necessities and priorities. I don't wanna eat someone I care about." Double E wailed, earning a glare from First, who had stuck her head out from the kitchen.
"If you don't want to eat starve."
That shut Double E's mouth in an instant.
Human scientists so far had been unable to crack the lightyear code. But as humans, we were still curious and excited about the possibilities of space, so governments around the world gathered the disposables: prisoners with life sentences; and chucked them into space.
To be honest, it was done in the year 2020, even the sleeping pods were a gamble. Let alone the propulsion rockets. Humans just wanted a win, and throwing people of low social worth into space like dirty laundry down a shoot was considered a win.
(In defense of the people of 2020, they were really desperate for a win.)
The food ran out by the time the sixth traveler awakened. Now they were thirteen and eating the bodies of their fellow travelers, and even that was running out. Grim, but choices had to be made.
In the kitchen, Zero stared at a roasted human torso. When First returned, he asked her point blank, "Is it really ok to eat the others?"
First, emotionless as the Sphinx, replied, "The choice to eat is yours, and yours alone."
Zero ran a hand over his bald tattooed head. Even though he'd been eating people for the past three years, today he was too scared to eat. And for that his stomach thanked him by trying to give him an ulcer.
It's not that he was religiously or in any way ethically repulsed by the idea of cannibalism, but ever since the latest traveler, the 13th, awakened, he had started having nightmares of himself in a fiery pit. Just yesterday, he heard clicking sounds, like horse hooves, and saw a shadowy creature with horns. But as the self-designated tough guy with a criminal record of serial murders, arson and robberies, he was never ever going to admit that he was scared. At least openly.
The 13th, nicknamed Friday, walked in to the kitchen with his plate. "All done. First and Zero, thank you for the meal. It was delicious." And with a bow he left.
When he was sure Friday was out of hearing range, Zero asked, "Hey, don't you think it's weird that a kid that short and skinny wound up in prison?"
"No." First replied, not turning from the plates she was washing.
"Really? You don't find it strange that a kid that well-mannered and weak looking wound up in prison with a life sentence."
"I've seen weaker looking people commit worse crimes." First turned with a smile devoid of any humane emotion, soap suds dripping from her wet hands. "It only takes imagination."
"It's my turn to keep watch." Nameless laid her hand on Zero's shoulder. "Go to sleep. You look like shit."
"I'm fine." Zero said, refusing to budge from the screens in front of him.
They were in the control tower. It was the place were all surveillance cameras sent their data.
"What are you looking for? Maybe I can help."
"No. It's fine." Zero walked between the screens that showed the living quarters and the pod room.
In one of the screens Lucky and Double E were staring at a pod containing a middle aged woman. Nameless had no idea what Lucky said, but Double E slapped him and kneed him in the groin.
"How did those idiots get selected for--"
"The dumping program?" Zero interrupted, joining her to look at the pod room screens.
"I know people don't value us, but still..."
Zero suddenly sprang and grabbed one of the screens. "Did you see that?"
"A shadow, a person, a ... " -- Zero buried his face in his hands and sobbed -- "I don't know."
Nameless took a step towards him and collapsed to the ground.
Zero looked up to see Friday standing over her body.
"It took time."
"Indeed it did."
First and Friday were standing at the edge of the bridge, staring at the face of the red giant, Inferna.
"The good Lord would be pleased with his new reapers, would he not?" Friday said, turning to the eleven travelers, with flaming halos around their heads.
"They've already consumed over a hundred souls each. They're the strongest in a long time."
Flares lashed out from the star, but the ship remained deathly cool, steadily making its way to the core of Inferna.
Word count with warning: 989
Word count without warning: 983
Hope you liked it! : )
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