A Distant Island, Far From Home
Xavier Xanthum, Space Explorer had been reading. Not much was happening in his sector, and the Wanderlust's computer held every book written in human space. So Xavier'd been wandering blissfully through what the computer called "adventure narratives of Earth's pre-space century." Treasure Island, Shipwrecked, Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson. The list was long, and most of them seemed to involve islands in a warm sea.
So when he found the little moon off of SLVD 3246, what Xavier saw was a little Island paradise. The Wanderlust scanned the databanks and the moon itself, and told him it had warm oceans, sand beaches, a breathable atmosphere and no intelligent inhabitants. Everything he needed for a holiday, though some faint hint of caution lingered, no doubt put there by Larry, the disembodied telepathic eyeballs which were the computer's manifestation in his own head. Larry always was the cautious part of the crew, as well as best at repairs in enclosed spaces.
Xavier ignored Larry's worries and sent the boss a hyper-space message to say he was taking some vacation days. Then he set the ship down.
For the first day or two he lived his dream. With no treasure map and no storms or cannibalistic natives, Xavier enjoyed his island more than most of the characters in the books he lay on the beach reading. He didn't have a robot, so he had to go into the ship for the little drinks with umbrellas that his historic guide to the island of Fiji, somewhere on Earth, indicated were necessary to the proper enjoyment of a beach, but aside from that minor inconvenience it was perfect.
The first signs of trouble, or at least annoyance, came on the second day. The little furry creatures--odd that they would be furry, like Earth squirrels, in such a warm place--found him where he lay on the beach and began scampering all over him. One stuck its nose in his drink.
"Hey! Geddoutahere!" He brushed them away, laughing. They kept coming back, but they were kind of cute and didn't bite, so after a while he ignored them and went back to reading.
It was the third morning that he discovered that the little creatures weren't just cute and furry, and that the scanners were wrong when they said there was no sentient life on the little moon. That was when Xavier came out of his ship after breakfast, armed with coffee cup and reader panel (connected wirelessly to the ship's computer, of course, so he could go on reading that endless supply of Earth novels) and caught one of the critters hauling off something that looked suspiciously like a chunk of his right retro-thruster.
"What? Hey! Put that back!" The little fur-thing gave him the sort of look that said he was in trouble, and kept right on going, back to the distant clump of vegetation he'd been too indolent to explore. Xavier started to follow, thought better of it, and went back into the ship.
"Larry, are all systems operative for take-off?" The computer was silent for a long moment, which Xavier considered a bad sign in something that thought at more or less the speed of light.
"No, Captain Xanthum." The computer managed to sound apologetic. "I regret to report that the retro-thrusters are non-responsive."
"That's because some kind of local rodent has hauled them off! Can we take off without them?"
"Well, dammit, you'd better think of something, because while I enjoyed reading about Robinson Crusoe, I have no desire to spend the rest my life on a desert island! I want to go home!" It didn't matter that the ship was all the home Xavier had. It was the principal of the thing.
Offended, the computer fell silent, and Xavier went back outside, leaving Larry to himself. Larry couldn't function outside the ship, anyway. What had gone wrong with the automatic perimeter defense? Had the nasty creatures hauled that off, too?
There was only one thing to do, and Xavier did it. He went back inside. "Ship!" he commanded. "Another pina colada!"
Six little umbrellas later, Xavier Xanthum knew what to do, and had the means to do it. He had managed to keep the furballs away from the remaining retro-thrusters, and tracked them to their lair. Definitely intelligent, and so much for the computers, scans, and everything else that had promised an uninhabited paradise.
Armed with a bottle of tequila and a handful of shallow dishes, he headed for the grove of trees where the creatures had their base. An hour later, Xavier emerged, weaving slightly, but carrying the parts purloined by the local inhabitants. Behind him, the fur-covered natives slept the sleep of the inebriated, as Xavier crawled under his ship and reinstalled the essential parts. His head throbbed by the time he finished, and he cast a quick look in the direction of the trees. No movement yet.
Climbing back inside, he addressed the computer. "Get us out of here, fast. Before they wake up." He didn't take his eyes off the grove of trees until they were out of sight. Those furry things had appreciated the introduction of alcohol into their lives. He just didn't think they would be as appreciative when they discovered the hangover.