Carry On, Torus
by Gregor Hartmann
Becoming aware of thoughts banging around in the old bean, I deduced that I was
conscious again. And still breathing, which seemed rather a good thing.
In the cozy embrace of the survival bag, I wiggled my fingers. A metal ring was a
"Good morning, Torus," I said.
"Good morning, sir," my factotum replied, his tiny speakers vibrating my knuckle.
The ring that housed my virtual valet was modest. Self-effacing. Like moi, Andrew
Woozer, gentleman. A simple gold band, with no engraving to impede his wee thoughts as they
whirled around my right index finger like greyhounds at track.
I rubbed my face, felt stubble. How long had I been unconscious?
"Is it morning, Torus?"
"Morning is the period of time from sunrise till noon, sir. On this Kuiper Belt Object, we
are currently located on the hemisphere facing away from the sun. In local terms, the
corresponding temporal setting is approximately midnight."
"Dash it all, Torus, I know I'm stranded on a KBO, but couldn't you be a trifle more
"The object on which we crashed has a short rotational period. In one hour fifty-six
minutes twenty-one seconds, rotation will bring the sun into view, hence aligning our
circumstances with your preferred salutation."
"That's more like it."
The survival bag was snug, but never let it be said that a Woozer shirks his duty. I
outsided my noggin like a mole reconnoitering a new garden.
A remarkable panorama of stars binged across the black sky. Blazing as if just out of
reach. Not surprising, really, since (a) I was in the Kuiper Belt, at the outermost edge of the solar
system, and thus closer to the heavens than on poor old Earth, and (b) the thin bubble of the
escape dome was near my face, so only a wisp of atmosphere stood between me and their bright
"Completely vaporized, sir."
"Are you certain?"
"Yes, sir. You were lucky to be able to eject."
Sunrise disappointed. Even at KBO distance, the sun should have been an extremely
bright star, enlightening the environs and lifting the Woozerly mood. Instead, it was shrouded in
gray fog. Not a bracing, night-of-mischief, concealment-from-policemen fog. Rather, a dismal,
pea-soup-and-oatmeal, cold-water-in-the-socks fog.
"The Rot is eating the inner solar system," I grumbled.
"Most unfortunate, sir."
"I hope the boffins are satisfied."
"I suspect they're all dead, sir. Thus incapable of altering their mental state in response to
a change in external stimuli."
I had never understood what the boffins were trying to accomplish with their bloody
photospheric engineering. Something about nana bees? Unleashing a swarm of nana bees to
gather light from the sun and fill our batteries with clean energy? Well, a right fine mess they'd
made. The entire human race had been devoured.
With one significant omission. Moi.
"Well, Torus, I must get on with it. Surviving. Defying the Rot. Embodying the best
humanity has to offer."
"Very good, sir."