When last we saw our hero, Rafe Burley floated in an antique spacesuit between the dark matter of the Andromeda galaxy. Left adrift in space to die slowly by his nemeses the Tlorgons, he resisted the urge to shiver as his suit’s systems failed.
“Captain’s log. Andromeda galaxy. Approximately three hours since the Tlorgon war chief jettisoned me into space. Mission incomplete. Failed to retrieve 43% of data before capture. What information I was able to obtain is included in the drive attached to this suit.”
Rafe pauses and scans the sky before him. Faint globular stars shine weakly through blurred vision. It was too soon for his eyes to crystallize. No, these were tears.
“This will be my final mission for Space Command Gamma-Z. As I look out at the distant light of the Milky Way, I am reminded of a home no one of us knew. If my remains are found, I request my body’s ashes be . . . uh, hey, uh Clarence?”
“Cut!” Clarence Curry yelled. “What’s wrong, Mike?”
Mike Anderson continued to float in his suit, false tears blinking back from his eyes. “Something might be wrong with this contraption. Is it actually supposed to be cold in here?”
Curry sent a scuttle rocketing over, its thrusters adjusting until it achieved near stasis next to Mike’s equipment. It performed a diagnostic and sent its data over to both Mike’s helmet and Clarence’s screen inside the station’s film booth. RESULTS: ALL SYSTEMS CHECK COMPLETE. ALL SYSTEMS SOUND.
Clarence folded his arms with extra flair so Mike could see behind the observation window. “Are we good then?”
“Yeah, yeah. We’re good,” Mike confirmed.
The camera drones repositioned themselves after the diagnostic scuttle moved out of the shot. “From ‘If my remains are found.'”
Mike dropped back into character. Once more, the courageous, chiseled features of Captain Rafe Burley gazed out toward the Milky Way. “If my remains are found, I request my body’s ashes be scattered among the ruins of Old Earth.”
Rafe’s suit responded on cue, “Warning. Oxygen levels at twenty percent. Sixty minutes remaining until systems failure. Return to the nearest ship or station.”
“Sixty minutes,” Rafe mused to himself. “More time than I probably deserve, but far less than it will take for this emergency beacon to reach Space Command.” He returned to his recording, “Oxygen reserves too low. Captain Rafe Burley signing off.”
He hovered in space like a balloon bobbing gently on a breeze. He looked once more at the Milky Way before shutting his eyes. A single tear ran down his cheek.
Just then, a three-tone chime came over his headset. Then again. “Could it be?” Rafe opened his eyes and looked around. And there, in the distance, coming closer at rocket speed: RayRay the rocket hound.
Rafe was supposed to turn his body quickly toward the approaching robotic canine, but instead, his hands simply fumbled frantically with the front of his helmet.
Clarence yelled cut once more, and ordered the medics out. “Get him in. His feed isn’t coming in, and I think he’s actually losing oxygen.”
The moment the medics reached him, they infused his suit with warm air to breathe as they hurried him back. Crew members rushed to Mike’s side the moment he was safely sealed inside the space station. The prop manager worked off the safety seal to his helmet and Mike gasped for air, his face turning from purple to red.
“System,” he gasped. “Not. Sound.” He collapsed on the cool white floor and the medics rushed him to the infirmary.
Clarence visited him when the doctor cleared him for visitors. “Mike,” he said, leaning against the adjacent bedpost, “That sure was a close one. It’s a good thing you gestured or we wouldn’t have saved you in time.”
Mike Anderson stared up at his director with eyes blue as ice and a gaze to match. The gel kept his brown hair in perfect Rafe Burley style, even through the whole ordeal. “If you had listened to me when I first–”
“Yes, you’re right. But the diagnostic scuttle said–”
“Frag what the scuttle said! I could have died out there, and this isn’t the first accident.” He looked away from the director. “That’s it.”
“What’s it?” Clarence asked, his brow furrowing with a hint of worry.
“I quit,” Mike said.
Clarence’s worries confirmed, he straightened up, his mouth tightening into a line. “You can’t quit. You’re under contract. Five films, and this is only the fourth! You quit, and the studio sues you for every dime you have left.”
“No contract is worth my life. Let them sue me. Why can’t we just film these things in a studio like we used to?”
Clarence thought he saw an in. “We could, but you know the audiences these days. They swear they can spot a greenscreen, no matter how clean the picture. They want their old time space dramas filmed in space!”
Mike studied the director once more. He’d made up his mind. He threw off his blanket, stood up, and said in his best Rafe voice, “This concludes the final Daring Adventures of Captain Rafe Burley.”
He turned on his heel and left.