Captain Greer looked out at the clothesline as it swayed peacefully in the salty air. He could almost imagine that he was a sea captain rather than commanding a spaceship, could very nearly hear the roar of the surf and picture the clothes on the line as mighty sails, full of wind that would carry him to a distant shore. As he watched a pair of pants slipped free and dropped out of sight, bringing not a splash but a damp splatter.
"It's muddy out today, Len."
"It's muddy out every day, Captain."
The captain nodded. This was true.
"Captain... we need to talk about our schedule. I agreed with your decision to allow the crew to take some shore leave because I knew that we would have some leeway on future deliveries."
The captain continued to nod, more out of habit than agreement.
"But the leave was to be for a day or two... we're now behind schedule by nearly a month and... sir, you know the ship is sinking."
This was also true. The salty muck that made up seventy percent of the planet's surface had immediately allowed the ship's landing gear to bury themselves ten feet deep, but since that time they had continued at a rate of about two inches per day. The lower portholes had already vanished.
"Len... I think you may be overreacting. A little mud can't harm us, and what's a month or so in the grand scheme of things? We'll get caught up."
Len circled around to block the Captain's view and held up some papers.
"Captain, sir, I've done the math. In about a week the ship will be so low that the gravitational thrusters will be blocked and we'll be trapped here unless we can get lifted out - which we can't afford. I have a plan, and if you'll look at this... sir?"
The Captain had stopped nodding and had closed his eyes. "Keep talking, Len. I'm listening, just resting my eyes for a moment."
"If we leave right now - today - and do five deliveries per day rather than one we can be caught up by the end of the month."
"What's the rush, Len? Five deliveries a day is nearly impossible!"
"Nearly sir, yes. It will be a lot of work, but the numbers check out." For a moment Len held up his papers as proof, but the Captain still wasn't looking. "I have to submit a report to our financial backers at the end of the month, and if we're not caught up... well, they may pull our funding."
The Captain opened one eye and looked at Len's face. He looked serious. With a deep sigh, Captain Greer thought about all the work involved with getting moving after a month of rest. They would have to find the crew, dismantle the little shantytown that had sprung up, take down the clotheslines and gardens... it would take all day, and the Captain was tired from looking out the window.
"You're right, Len, of course. You're always right. But... how about you run those numbers again and see what they look like if we leave tomorrow instead?"