Crab Feast, by Cecil Washington
Terry started as soon as the spaceship landed on the beach. “Look guys,” he said as the other five crewmembers changed into swimwear, “you’re being stupid.” He ran his brown hand through his dreads. “I don’t care what the tests say about Akara. It’s a new planet. Anything could be in the water.”
Thad was the blond guy in charge. “Don’t keep the rest of us from sun because you have a permanent tan.”
Terry sighed. “The Commander said you guys are the worst. Racist jerks!”
Thad chuckled. “Get the stick out your butt, Mr. Sensitive.”
Terry crossed his arms. “A brother would rather stretch his legs in a secure area. We’d have a better chance of seeing danger in a clearing.”
Thad snapped his trunks. “Since you want to be a party pooper, you get first shift.”
“I am the crew sergeant.” Terry looked at the rest of the crew: two white women and two white men, all twenty something astronauts in dire need of tanning.
“Yeah,” Thad said, “but I’m the Captain.” He stuffed a few small plastic bags into his trunks. “Open up the hatch, Tair.”
Terry stayed in the ship, muttering to himself about being the only black guy on a deep space mission. But, it was his only chance of becoming a Ship Sergeant before 30.
He sent the daily reports back to Central Command and kept an occasional eye on the monitors. After watching the women frolic in the water for a few hours, he wondered if maybe he was being uptight. The women sure looked good. At least if they were by the water, he’d have an excuse for flirting. He opened the hatch and unbuttoned his shirt.
The crew lay down and started sun tanning.
“Naw,” he said. “I’m black enough.” He went back inside and plopped back down in his seat, watching them in the monitor.
Thad reached into his trunks and pulled out a few of plastic bags. Five minutes later they were all lying on the shores, soaking up some sun and getting higher than the sky above.
Terry pushed the com button. “What are you guys doing!”
Thad coughed. “We’re getting high, Sergeant!” The rest of the crew laughed.
“Dammit Thad----I mean, sir----we can all get in some major crap if we contaminate the biosphere.”
Thad put up a hand. “Stop bitching. You kill my buzz and I’ll put you up on charges. Got it?”
Terry shrugged his shoulders. “I got it.” He let go of the button. Thad’s mouthed some racial slurs that everyone but Gladys, laughed at. “At least Gladys is not an ass.”
Fifteen minutes went by before Terry heard the first beep. He checked a monitor and saw a large
mass swimming towards the shoreline. A few button clicks told him that whatever it was, it looked
like some sort of large crab-like creature. “Damn! Why didn’t we pick this up before!” He hit the
button for the speaker. “Emergency! Hostile life form approaching!”
Everyone laughed hysterically.
Terry slapped a locator on his wrist, grabbed a rifle and ran outside. The blip grew closer and closer.
He shot a few rounds on the sand near the crew. They jumped a little, then fell back into their
stupor, pointing and laughing at Terry.
Thad staggered to his feet. “Stop, Bro!”
Terry stopped. The locator beeped.
Thad didn’t notice the big red crab-like creature that sprang up behind him from the ocean. “Bro, you better----” The crab grabbed Thad and dragged him underwater before he could let out a scream. Terry fired wildly into the water, hitting nothing but wet. The crew looked around for Thad. As soon as they saw nothing, they laughed even louder.
“Thad’s gone, so I’m in charge. Get back in the ship!”
Most of them gave him the finger and lay back on the sand. Gladys crawled over to him. She pulled herself up by grabbing his trousers and kissed him. “I’ll come back in the ship with you,” she whispered.
Terry saw four other giant crabs crawl out of the water. It was too late for the others.
“Let’s go.” He took her by the waist and ran onboard, wincing at the sounds and screams of the crabs eating his crewmates.
He strapped Gladys in a chair and got back at the console. Shaking his head, he started up the ship and flew the craft back into space at warp speed.
The Commander was not surprised when Terry gave his video report. “Sergeant, that mission had a low survival. We hoped you’d be able to salvage something from the effort.”
“You knew those things were there?”
“We sent robots down to make first contact with the Akarians. We have a working knowledge of their major dialect. It’s called Akara. And some of them are learning English.”
Terry clasped his hands and sighed. “We could have died down there. Gladys and I are----”
“The only two people in the crew worth saving. The rest of them have been under galactic investigation for months. They’re lucky the Akarians got to them before we did. They got off easy if you ask me.”
Terry slouched. “I’m just glad it’s all over.”
“It doesn’t have to be. We need someone lead another mission to Akara. You’ve got experience. Besides, there’s a commission in it for you. You’ll jump from sergeant to captain? We’ll consider it a field promotion due to hazardous conditions. What do say----Captain?”
Terry looked at Gladys. She went limp, stunned by the callousness of the commander.
Terry shrugged. “Will I get hazard pay, too?”