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Cerberus

The asteroid was hurtling straight for Vallius 99.

The captain saw it first on the radar, only a red pinpoint among the green squares of the grid, a harmless speck. But that was wrong.

“Wrong!” shouted the captain. “Our course is wrong!” He marched from the cabin to the sleeping quarters to the control room. Icarus and Novia were alert, watching the dials and screens and numbers.

“What are you doing in here? Our course is wrong, can’t you see? Wrong!”

“Why, captain,” said Icarus, “our course is not wrong. Of all things, it is exactly as it should be. We planned this course, and we are running it exactly.”

The captain looked at them in shock. “But can’t you see? On the radar, this location. . .” He pointed to the red point moving closer to the ship. “An asteroid! In our path!”

“You’re right, captain, you’re right.” Icarus nodded. “But this is our course.”

The captain was exasperated. “Are you insane? An asteroid! It will destroy our ship! We must change our course!
Novia smiled calmly. “You are right. We are going to be destroyed.”
“Yes!” Icarus nodded vigorously. “I will call it. We can talk with it, and radio the stations its response! Captain, you can talk it out of our path!”
The captain was at loss for words. Icarus twisted the interspace radio knobs. “It is close. Here, captain.” Icarus shoved the deep space voice amplifier into his hands. “Talk to Cerberus.”
The captain slowly took the amplifier. “Cerberus!” His voice shook. “You will not only kill us, but keep us from escaping the river Styx! But why do you come this way, of all ways? Space is infinite and we chose the same point in which to be at the same time! A coincidence? Will you not talk with us, our final wish?”
Now they could hear its roar, Cerberus opening its gaping mouth.
“Will you kill us now? Now we must die, but not in silence!”
Vallius 99 shuddered, Cerberus gnawing on its metallic body, the aluminum closing in in fire to the anguish of the captain.
“Cerberus! Are you not in some way human? It is not death, but the before-feeling that stings! One day you will burn out, but that is natural phenomenon! Imagine, before then, smashed to a greater body. How terrible! You kill us now, and we are lost to history.”
Cerberus stilled.
“Lost to history! Gone, we’ll be!”
The great asteroid, burning tacitly in subdued fury, fell from the ship into deep space.
“Captain!” cheered Novia. “You’ve steered us--- not with controls, but with words!”



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