art by Justine McGreevy
Hoist With an Ark to the Stars
by David Glen Larson
The world may have been ending, but that was no reason to throw trash on the floor. The bin was only three feet away. That's thirty-six inches. Simon Sacks could have landed a rocket the size of a flea on a Martian dog's ass, but the chief engineer of the Ark project couldn't be bothered to land a Styrofoam cup in a metal can.
Milo propped his arms on the broom handle and stared at the short man in the sweater vest.
"What are you looking at?" said Sacks, tearing open a bag of pretzels.
"Not a thing," said Milo. "But I hope your aim up there is better than it is down here."
The chief engineer's face reddened. Milo wasn't one to mouth off, but what did he have to lose--his job? If he survived, there'd be plenty of sweeping to do.
"Your job may not be rocket science," said Sacks, "but you're paid to do it. Or is picking up trash too menial a task for a custodial engineer like yourself?"
"No, Sir," said Milo.
"Then how about you let me save humanity, and you keep pushing your little broom around." Sacks dumped the pretzels onto the carpet and mashed them with his shoe, making sure each crumb was embedded in the pile before storming back to his station.
"Two minutes till launch. Ten minutes till object impact." The public information officer's voice sounded tighter than Milo's belt after Thanksgiving supper. Everybody on the planet was huddled around the radio, either buried in a bomb shelter or packed into the local bar for last call. She'd be the last human voice most people would ever hear.
None of the geniuses dashing around the room knew what to do about the comet. Most of the missiles missed, and the ones that did hit only picked off a few cocktail-sized ice cubes.
Earth's last hope sat out on the launch pad venting steam.