The Necessary Thing
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Richard Gregor was seated at his desk in the dusty offices of the AAA Ace Interplanetary Decontamination Service, staring wearily at a list. The list included some 2,305 separate items. Gregor was trying to remember what, if anything, he had left out.
Anti-radiation salve? Vacuum flares? Water-purification kit? Yes, they were all there.
He yawned and glanced at his watch. Arnold, his partner, should have been back by now. Arnold had gone to order the 2,305 items and see them stowed safely aboard the spaceship. In a few hours, AAA Ace was scheduled to blast off on another job.
But had he listed everything important? A spaceship is an island unto itself, self-sufficient, self-sustaining. If you run out of beans on Dementia II, there is no store where you could buy more. No Coast Guard hurries out to replace the burned-out lining on your main drive. You have to have another lining on board, and the tools to replace it with, and the manuals telling you how. Space is just too big to permit much in the way of rescue operations.
Oxygen extractor? Extra cigarettes? It was like attaching jets to a department store, Gregor thought.