How the Aurora was Won

The stranger stepped onto the bridge, and every gun barrel was trained on him within seconds. Playing cards fell to the floor, swirling under consoles and into sticky puddles of vodka. The stranger ignored them and focused on the game instead. “So you play cards on this planet, too?”

The man with the most stripes on his jacket jabbed his pistol at the man in the doorway. “Kto ti?”

“Jonny d’Ville,” the stranger said. He held out his hand. “Soon to be winner of…” He peered at the soldier’s badges. “The Aurora. Nice.”

The soldiers looked at one another, bewildered. One or two laughed uncomfortably.

“Ya nye tak dumayu.”

Jonny smiled widely and paced into the room. Trigger fingers tightened, but he waved his finger. “You don’t want to do that,” he said. “See, I just so happen to have the last bottle of Standart vodka in the known universe right here in my hand, and the glass has grown quite fragile with age. If I should end up falling on it, well… Such a waste.” He picked a shotglass from the floor and, removing the bottle’s screwtop with the audible snap of a fresh seal, poured some out. This he passed to the man in seeming charge. He downed it suspiciously. His eyes widened.


Jonny’s grin widened further. “So here’s the deal,” he said, drawing his sixgun. The other guns came up again, but he waved the bottle in friendly warning. “Your world, and I suspect your civilisation, are several different colours of fucked right now, and even if you survive the uprising, it’s doubtful you’d make it through the aftermath.”

No-one disagreed.

“You need this ship so you can escape. I want this ship so I can play. Only one way to settle a problem like this.” He handed his revolver to the captain “Roulette. Last man standing takes the ship. You may load as many bullets as you like, and I’ll go first.”

The men looked at each other. A slow smile spread across all their faces; the captain grinned, loaded all six bullets, and handed the gun back. Jonny shrugged. He put it to his head.

“I butilka?”

“Good point. Hate for it to get broken.” Jonny put the bottle carefully on the floor, placed the gun to his temple. He looked the captain in the eyes. “When you die, I’m going to take your coat.”

He pulled the trigger. The left side of his skull blew out, splattering the unfortunate behind him with blood and shards of bone.

The soldiers were silent for a shocked moment. Then, as one, they burst into laughter. Soon they were all laughing, relief washing over them at the bizarre stranger’s death. The captain poured himself another shot of the vodka.

The laughter stopped abruptly as the bloodied hand of the corpse reached out, picked up the glass and raises it to lips that still curled into a smile.

“Goddamn, but that never gets less painful,” he said, holding the sixgun out to the man in front of him. “Your turn.”

No one can say why five hardened officers of the Cyberian navy shot themselves in the head that day, while a grinning, drunken dead man watched. Maybe it was fear, maybe it was honour, maybe it was the hopes that they, like their new companion, might not die. Jonny himself could never explain it. But sure enough, one by one, the soldiers took the gun and blew their brains out.

“And the last one left standing is me. Hooray!” Jonny told the smoke-filled room. He slid, satisfied, to the floor, gazing at the bottle. He took a deep draught and settled back to wait for the Doc’s return. “You and me, kid. Together we’re unstoppable.”

The bottle said nothing.