What’s your favourite type of sausage?

Who: Bruno Downing, former IT Technician on the SS Oregon
Where: White Midget, about 3 light years away from Fernandos
When: Now

Bruno stared at his bogie-encrusted watch and waited for the minute hand to perfectly align with the 5-past mark. "Just a few more seconds… Now!"

He got up off his chair in the cockpit and sprinted out of the exit. Down a metal staircase, making sure to touch every single step. He would never skip one, ever. Skipping a step means he has to do this all over again.

Onto the metal gangway now, and he jogged along to the tiny cargobay of his small ship where a crate 4.26 metres cubed (yes he’d measured it) stood in the center. He jogged around it 3 times, his dirty bare feet padding on the cold metal, and when finished he stood at the entrance to the small bay and looked again at his bogie-encrusted watch.

The minute hand was just over 10-past.

“Smeg!” He yelled. As he knew what that meant. That meant another 3 laps of the cargo container, which he did compulsively until he wheezed to a stop. He looked at his watch again, hoping he didn’t have to do that again - he literally didn’t have the energy. In the last 12 hours he’d only had 1 fruit and nut energy bar - like he did every day and it barely sustained his appetite as it was.

This time he was 5 seconds under the minute mark, which he was glad about. He waited the 5 seconds and counted them aloud. “two… one… go!” He sprinted back out of the room and to the cockpit.

He stood in the room where his well-worn pilots seat was, but didn’t sit down. Again, checking his watch until the second hand got to the top. Then sat down in the chair, sinking right in it.

He reached over and pulled a piece of paper towards him which was titled in pencil “Todo list” then a roman numeral, as he didn’t even know what day it was. All he knew, this was day MDCCCXXVI and he was waiting until the nice round number of MDCCCXXX for the special treat of eating the extra quarter of a nutrient bar he’d saved up for that special occasion.

Bruno liked round numbers. He liked doing things only when the clock was at a five-minute interval. It felt luckier somehow.

He ticked off the to-do item “Fifteen minute exercise” and looked down to the next. “Check space background radiation”. He glanced at an orange light on the dash and nodded. “perfectly normal”. There was a gurgling in his bowels, which he winced and pressed with his hand.

He then looked at his watch again, and didn’t take his eyes off it until the second-hand reached the top, then glanced forward through the cockpit’s windscreen. A spacestation loomed large over him, with a rusted “Serraco” logo proudly displayed.

“Welcome to Serraco Polaris IV North, Pilot Downing.” Said the synthesised voice of the station’s AI, and a pixellated eye appeared on screen. He saluted, and when it disappeared, said “Here I go again.”

The White Midget was pulled down by the automatic pilot onto the landing platform, which withdrew like a retracting tongue into the body of the station. Bruno waited until the second hand was at the top, even though his bowels were gurgling more than before. Then sprang up and exited his vehicle. He trotted down the steps and along the high-ceilinged docking bay of the space station, as a robot arm removed the cargo from his ship. He waddled towards the giant screen where the pixellated eye looked down at him.

By now he had both hands on his cramping crotch and he danced to relieve the pain. He removed only one hand to salute the eye.
“Permission to use the bathroom please?” He asked. And only ran towards them at top speed when the eye agreed. “You know where it is!” The AI said.

After a few minutes, Bruno emerged, his back more straight (although still slouched) and he panted with relief. He was convinced the docking procedure was getting longer. His toilet situation was getting more and more urgent each time.
He crept up to the giant eye, fidgeting with his feet and holding his hands together. “I was wondering Polarix IV North….”
“Yes Pilot Downing?”
“If… if I could have something other than a nutrigrain bar as payment. I’ve been doing this for 5 years now and....”
“NO.” Boomed the AI’s voice. “We provide enough food to sustain you for your trip.”

He hung his head and replied miserably. “Okay.”

A nutragrain bar dropped into a tray in front of him.

“Your payment will be made after another successful cargo retrieval from Serraco Polaris IV South. Goodbye pilot Downing.”

He sullenly picked up the oaty bar, and wimpishly said “Thank you” and “sorry” a hundred times (he counted) whilst backing up to his ship.

He dragged himself back into the ship, glancing at his watch and hurrying up so that he could get in before the second hand reached the top. The automated cargo arms watched him take off and leave, heading towards Serraco Polaris IV South. An identical station 12 hours away.

As he piloted the White Midget away, he picked up his to-do list again, and when the second-hand reached the top of his watch, implemented his next item which is “broadcast to check for other lifeforms”, which he did every day and after 4 years of chatting to silence he’d turned it into crap local radio station broadcast, where he imagined he was the superstar DJ.

He brought the ship’s mic to his face. “The time is nine o-clock, and you’re listening to Bruno Downing. Is there any lifeforms out there? If so get in touch and we’ll have a chat. About anything. Really, … anything. Todays topic….” he thought for a while. “What’s the best type of sausage?”

He waited for a few seconds. Silence. There had been silence for 5 years. 5 smegging years. “...okay well I am partial to a bit of cumberland.”
More silence.
“Okay well time for some music. Here’s moving rabbit classic, ‘Bright eyes’.” He said and faded up the theme music to Watership Down, which filled his now empty cargo bay, and echoed around the radio waves of the Polaris IV star system.

He closed his eyes, and woke up 11 hours and 50 minutes later. In fact he woke up just after 10 minutes to, so had to close his eyes until the minute hand perfectly aligned with the next round number.

He was already on approach to Serraco Polaris IV South. It was identical to the other station in every way. He quickly checked the background radiation. Still orange. Good.

He realised his music mix had been playing for 12 hours, whilst he’d been asleep. He faded it out, knowing that the AI on Polaris IV South could hear it too. “That was sweating lunatic Iggy Pop part of my 90’s mixtape. Did you enjoy that Polaris South?”
“Does not compute.”
“Shame. Today’s broadcast topic was types of sausages. What’s your favourite sausage Polaris South?”
“Does not compute. Never eaten 'sausage'.”
“Shame. Good chat. Good chat.”

He landed and the robotic arms lowered a crate into his cargo bay. Always the same size. Bruno sometimes wondered what the crate contained, but never dared to ask.

Soon he was away again, ready to repeat the mission he’d been doing for 5 years. 5 entire years. Something had to change.

As he flew out of Polaris IV South he kept the broadcast open. “Groundhog day continues. Let's have a bit of Duran Duran..."

He faded the music up and pushed back into his pilot’s chair.


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