The spaceman pet his cybernetic canine’s head, its mouth speaker squarked out a ROFF, and everything seemed right. He leaned back in his chair, tipped back his hat, and let his gaze play across the spacescape. The course was set; readings all seemed normal. For once, things might actually go according to plan.
He’d been hauling a chart unit for the Mapping Union for a fair stretch now. Took him to just about every corner of the stars that had never seen the likes of a man and his dog before. Naturally that meant those corners were pretty unfriendly more often than not, be it from environments or the folks living in them. But the spaceman had a reliable rig, a steady hand, and a trusty robot. What else could a man want?
You couldn’t be in the business for much more than just being in it. If you got in for the glory, you’d be dead soon and happy to be. If you got in for the money, you’d probably die even quicker, since you’d be trying so hard not to. The route to the afterlife wasn’t one this spaceman was eager to map for a while yet.
So he kept it simple: just do the job. Go out, ride around, note what there is worth noting, and haul back. You can’t take little side trips unless you really need to. It was dangerous enough being this far out on the rim of space. You look too hard at anything for too long, and you’re bound to find something you don’t need to find.
Outside a week of losing at solitaire and trying to get the calibrations just right for his companion to fetch, a signal barely within that just-right range pipped on the spaceman’s chatterbox from a little, blue rock. The robot’s speaker let out a RARK.
That settled things for the spaceman. Guess they needed it. Reflexes steered the rig down. The spaceman slipped into an orange jumpsuit and clipped on a black helmet. The robot helpfully wheeled over his gun. He slapped it to his belt and patted the dog on the head. “Well, Rolph, let’s see what’s out there.”