from the sequel to Report on Sample 717 ...
Edrig had been looking up at the pod wall behind him, between himself and the Ladies, and had noticed a closed compartment with a handle protruding.
Moving his arm very slowly as the octopuses eyed him suspiciously, he reached up and pulled at the handle to reveal a large book of plastic pages within.
'Ah!', he exclaimed, having taken the book out and begun to peruse it. 'The manual eh? And since all else has failed perhaps we should read the manual.'
And so Edrig read the manual, for quite some time, before falling silent for an equally long time and then muttering to Adrig in 717 English, 'I think I have a plan, and I think I have made a decision. And look... the Ladies are both asleep.'
'Just trust me. If I tell you... Well, just trust me.'
'You joking? Here, give me the manual.'
'Give it to me!'
But Edrig pushed the manual between his legs and then sat on it, while Adrig glared at him.
'There are helmets,' Edrig whispered. 'Now trust me, and we may return to 717 and live our lives there. You would like that wouldn't you? Instead of living with the octopuses or back under the domination of the Ladies?'
'What are you talking about?'
'Trust me. I have decided. And keep quiet or you will wake them.'
And so while Adrig shook his head and shrugged, Edrig began to reach upwards to another larger compartment beside the first one, but a little further away.
The octopuses watched him, and one raised a tentacle threateningly.
Edrig shook his head towards the octopus and pointed at the manual that he was still sitting on. The octopus hesitated, but kept its tentacle raised.
Slowly and cautiously Edrig opened the compartment and reached inside to pull out a rather flimsy clear plastic bag-like object that was linked to the rear of the compartment by a thin tube.
'Put it on Adrig.'
'Trust me. Put it on.'
And as Adrig opened the bag and pulled it over his head, Edrig pulled several more of the flimsy devices out and placed them on his knee.
The octopuses were both watching intently, but were clearly uncertain about what to do.
Edrig looked at the octopuses and nodded towards them in encouragement, pointing at the clear plastic devices, and then he slowly reached over to Adrig and showed him how to tighten and seal his bag around his neck.
'See, You can breathe,' he said. 'Trust me.'
Those were words that Adrig could only vaguely make out through the plastic, but he breathed and nodded a little towards the octopuses, suggesting encouragement to them.
Fairly soon Edrig had pulled another of the bags over his own head, and sealed it. Then as he breathed in the rubbery but life-sustaining air that arrived through the thin tube, he began to panic a little, but then calmed himself.
The Ladies were sleeping.
The octopuses were watching, as Edrig reached quickly across Adrig's chest to hit a small button beside the hatch, and as he did so one of the octopuses pounced towards him and delivered a harsh sting to his arm.
But just as the sting was being delivered the hatch flew open and the attacking octopus was sucked out with all eight tentacles flailing crazily as it went.
The second octopus was being propelled towards the hatchway in a rush of air, but managed to grip a handle on the far wall of the pod with several of its tentacles, and so it was stretched across the pod towards the hatch as the air rushed out.
The Ladies never awakened, but their eyes bulged alarmingly and some sticky fluid oozed from their mouths towards the hatch. Their big bodies did shift a little, but Edrig's outstretched leg restrained them as the pressure dropped.
The noise of the escaping atmosphere soon subsided as the pod's interior became a fatal vacuum.
Edrig could see that the remaining octopus was losing its grip, and so he kicked out at its tentacles, causing them to fall away from the handle. Carefully, he was able to lift the slimy lifeless creature and propel it outwards, where it seemed to be swallowed up by a deep black velvety soup of nothingness. It reflected the dim light escaping from the inside of the pod for only a few moments of its journey, and then it was gone, invisible, hidden in the exterior limbo without light or sound. There were no stars. Nothing but the deepest black that was not even black. Just nothing.
Then Edrig turned to Adrig, who had been oddly silent and remained motionless in his position in the corner between Edrig and the door. And that was when Edrig noticed the long gash across Ardig's mask, and the bulging eyes on the white face within.
'No!' Edrig screamed, inside his mask. 'The tentacles! A tentacle ripped your mask!'
And as he screamed he realized that he could do nothing about it.
Adrig was dead.
The Ladies were dead.
The octopuses were gone.
Edrig was alone.