There were plenty of rations for the way back. That was not the problem. It was only a one man mission, and they had given Commander Popino enough food to get home and back five times over.
His cargo sloshed about in their water. They were like purple turtles with shells as shiny as a mirror, and proof this new world had life, and was worth investment and expansion.
It was the smell that got him first. A scent of something he associated with his childhood. Some kind of milky sweet, perhaps something you would receive inside your chocolate egg at Easter. He thought about that smell all night, watching the stars glide past the window of his space ship.
That morning Commander Popino decided those back on Earth would not mind if one went missing. It might make quite a funny anecdote, something to include in the book. He made a makeshift cooker from a hot piece of electronics, and roasted one of the turtles whole. They smelt even better cooked, like hot goose fat injected in the crackliest piece of crackling. A long way from the freeze dried blandess he had eaten for the past six months.
It was the greatest meal of his life. The meat fell apart in his mouth, and was creamy like every joint was saturated in Hollandaise sauce. But there was a surprisingly small amount, and he had to suck the meat off the bones to get it all.
Commander Popino was still hungry. Not starving, but teemed with the rough corner of hunger, the kind where you on the way home, and you know your dinner is in the fridge. He tried to focus on the journey, but he heard the turtles splashing in the back. Just one more wouldn’t make a difference.
The others he ate raw.
Bones soon decorated the mess area. The splashing had stopped. Popino wiped his mouth, his belly so full it was if he never had to walk again. There must be one left somewhere. He scanned around the room, not caring he had ignored communication from Earth for days, not caring that his ship ticked off course, mile by mile.
Back on the planet, now far, far away from this floating ship, the turtles bowed their heads, and sang songs of their brothers’ sacrifice. Their deaths would ensure nothing disturbed them for a few more years.