Identify science fiction short story
March 20, 2012 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Identify this science fiction short story, possibly by Isaac Asimov. The few survivors on a marooned space ship play a game of wits to stay alive.

The story is not "Marooned Off Vesta," though the set-up is very similar: a small number of people (two? three?) on a cargo ship in our solar system are stranded after the ship is hit by a small asteroid (or something similar).

They survivors have very limited resources (oxygen? water?) -- in fact, too few resources for both (or all?) of them to survive until the rescue ship comes. In addition, a vial of poison exists on the ship.

The author goes a rather hard-sci-fi route in proving that it will take a long time for the rescue ship to show up, talking about how even though Mars and Earth are have close orbits in the solar system, if they are on opposite sides of the sun in their orbits, they could be VERY far apart. Therefore, opportunities to travel between Earth and Mars are many months apart . (I believe it was these two planets, though it might not be. The concept is the still the same, though, if it's something like Earth and an asteroid or Venus or Mercury.)

Because they have limited resources, someone has to die so the other(s) can survive -- but no one wants to volunteer to be poisoned, or be seen as the one trying to poison another. In the end, one character pulls a trick on the other, blindsiding them, showing that other just tried to poison him, and the game is up. I believe the caught poisoner then takes the honorable route and kills himself, saving the life of the man he tried to poison.

I believe the story is by Asimov: it has the thin characters, puzzle-y plot (how can they possibly get out of this?), effective use of logic, and strong storytelling that is typical of him. It could be Arthur C. Clarke or Robert Heinlein as well, though.

Any ideas?
posted by lewedswiver to Media & Arts (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Arthur C Clarke wrote a story like this but can't remember a title. If it's the right one, one of the characters was a smoker.
posted by Logophiliac at 8:52 AM on March 20, 2012

Best answer: Try Breaking Strain.
posted by Logophiliac at 8:56 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: That was startlingly quick. Thanks, logo!
posted by lewedswiver at 9:15 AM on March 20, 2012

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