Asteroid Habitat
by S Shane Thomas

“We’ve got to corner it” Jillian said.

“It’s hard to find a corner between the two of us in here” her partner Leroy replied.

Jillian gave him the annoyed expression he had grown to love over the months since their pairing on the Colonial Security Force’s off ship detail. Leroy smirked back and bit his tongue. Jillian did not like to hear that she was pretty when she got angry.

Jillian crouched low and launched herself to one side of the small creature who resembled a two foot long sloth with a honey comb on its furry back. With a lazy grace the animal clawed its way to the rear of the potato shaped asteroid no larger than a cabin. Leroy waited for his moment to rejoin the pursuit from another floating mass twenty feet off. Hundreds of these creatures lived within the asteroid belt. Despite the continued use of their space suit’s life support, their colonial starship’s scans indicated that most of the rock cluster maintained an oxygen rich atmosphere. Leroy glanced at the shuttle on the cusp of field where Morin and Keller nodded their encouragement for the pair of security officers. Jillian and Leroy had already been returned to the rocks a half dozen times after missing a landing, the shuttle serving as lifeline between the explorers and the cold expanse of open space.

“Now!” Jillian shouted into his headset.

“Got him,” Leroy exclaimed after a final successful hop from one asteroid to the next.

The small animal squirmed in Leroy’s grasp and covered its face with curved claws. Jillian appeared beside it and stroked its fur soothing the creature before wrapping its body gently in a mesh net to prevent its escape.  Despite the lengthy chase, the asteroid dweller accepted capture without a scratch or bite. Leroy smiled at his partner attempted to sooth and coo the creature with gentle words, despite the fact that no sound left her pressure sealed helmet.

The rear compartment of the shuttle depressurized, which allowed Keller and Morin to examine the asteroid jumping sloth without potentially harming it by introducing an artificial Earth atmosphere and gravity. Outside the rock field, veiled in its own gas laden environment, it was easy to spot the little animal generating its own air within the honeycomb on its back. A small cloud soon formed around the being and it pulled the air into lungs while pawing at its examiners lazily. The animal seemed content with the entire abduction and examination until Morin pricked a few cells from its skin for the geneticists to clone the animal for an extensive study back within the colony.

Leroy and Jillian returned the oxygen generating sloth to its home, and their shuttle began the week long journey to rendezvous with the colonial starship.

As the shuttle slid into its docking bay, dozens of little creatures leapt gracefully from its roof onto the vast hull of the starship. Maintenance hand holds and service ports provided grips for mobility and areas for nesting. Within a month sensors detected the presence of an oxygen rich pocket outside the ship. Leroy and Jillian were dispatched to investigate. 

“Hey look Jillian, it’s your little friend,” Leroy said and pointed to a furry creature, which raised a clawed paw, seemingly in greeting.

“The admiral has to let me keep them!” Jillian said with a giggle.

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