The crew was spread out on lawn chairs around the portable campfire, which blazed blue and orange and flung light out across what could be called a veldt. There were ten of them, loyal and free, and ranged in age from fifteen to sixty-six. Some smoked, some drank, and they had all just finished off the ribs and potatoes. Janelle, the captain, examined the back of her hand against the bright splash in the night sky that was the Milky Way.
"Where do you want to go next?" asked Gary. He was the medical officer (even though he was missing his M.D.) and Janelle's best friend since high school.
"I don't know." Janelle retracted her hand. "It's so fucking big."
"Yup," chuckled Gary, looking into Janelle's empty cup.
"I don't think people back home really get it."
"They'd have to get out here to find out."
"Yeah," said Janelle contentedly. "We can afford a second ship now. We'll need a second crew. Show a few more people just how fucking big this universe is."
"Have you decided for sure?"
"I don't know. Maybe I should just retire and hand it all off to somebody else. There's a lot of risk in this business."
"You couldn't give it up."
"Hah! Yeah, you know me. I'll die on that thing probably." She gestured towards the ship, parked behind them, a lurking dark mass in the night.
"Until then, we keep going."
Janelle turned to him, leaning in, her head bobbing with the consumed alcohol.
"Why're you so anxious? What's up with you?" she asked.
"I don't know," said Gary, stretching out his feet towards the fire. "It's just so peaceful here. Untouched. Primeval. I could stay so easily. And I've never wanted to stay anywhere before. To tell the truth, that frightens me a little."
Janelle sat back in her chair, leaning in the opposite direction. She let out a short, barking burst of laughter. The other people looked up at them and tuned their ears into the conversation.
"It's not funny," chuckled Gary.
"Yes it is. I don't think you're frightened of staying in the same place. I mean, technically, you've stayed in one place on the ship for twelve years."
"It's not the same--"
"No, you're frightened of being boooooored! That's all. Boredom. Hell, I fear that. I fear it every minute of every day." She leaned back towards him, putting her hand on his. "There's no shame in that. It's healthy. I don't know man, maybe we should stay here a few more days and just enjoy this weird little planet for what it is. In a few hundred years it will be overrun by people. They'll ruin it of course, but for now it's a gorgeous paradise."
"It could use some birds though," said Gary after a moment. Janelle laughed again.
"Evolution never fails to surprise me," said Janelle. "Anyway, what I meant to say is that we occupy this tiny little slice of time. We should be afraid of wasting it."
Janelle leaned into the back of her lawn chair, tipping it back slightly, then thumping it forward. She dropped her cup to the ground and folded her hands over her abdomen and closed her eyes. Gary took a sip of his drink and watched the rise and fall of her chest in the reflected light of the fire.
"That's a sound philosophy," he whispered to himself.