This is my first time posting in a while. I'm not sure how to start this story:
The red light said it all, splashing across Lieutenant Ruk Kim’s helmet visor at regular intervals. Another negative. The test required cruel little interpretation, left little to hope for in the face of unambiguous blinking red light. Another water source tainted with the toxic inorganics that were all too common to Martian ice deposits. Another day closer to running out of water.
That's what it boiled down to. There was enough keep the base running for, what, a few days? A couple weeks? Ruk Kim did his best to estimate, but the only one who knew their expiration date was the captain. After water, time was the most valuable resource. Every action they took had to be carefully weighed in precious minutes and considered against a host of alternatives
[This message has been edited by redapollo9 (edited June 17, 2011).]
I like the start. You've included a point of tension (time & water) - I would read on.
You would think that if they have to manage time in minutes, Ruk would have better than a vague "what, a few days? A couple of weeks?" knowledge of how much time/water is left. He might even measure it in hours or minutes. There is a large span between a few days and a couple of weeks. Too inexact for what you're writing.
Nit: There should be an article (an or the) before unambiguous.
I agree with what NoTimeToThink said. You're also missing the word "to" in front of keep.
On one hand, the conflict of trying to find water and running out is good because I want to know how they got into such a predicament. On the other hand, they either got into trouble because they didn't plan correctly (so they're stupid) or I'd rather know up front how they got into trouble. Reading a test seems like a slower start, and less grabbing for me, than some kind of accident that punctures a water tank or whatever.
"boiled down to" felt too much like a pun after "ice deposits"
"expiration date" makes it dispiriting; the sentence makes Ruk Kim look like a weak protaganist by relying on "the captain" for opinion on survival.
I would start off with Ruk Kim relaying via communication device to the captain of the contamination. You would have interaction between characters and would provide how Ruk Kim feels about the captain (and Ruk Kim's interpretation of the captain's opinion on survival).
The last sentence is just words that sound nice but doesn't really do anthing for the story. It is stating the obvious.
I have a different opener I'm considering that might address some of the above issues:
Ruk Kim gave himself completely to the water. It culled his desires and seldom left him thinking of anything but memories of dim blue rain drops, the wet warmth of a shower, or being enveloped by the lapping waves of the ocean. He yearned to be held in the soft belly of the sea once more, to drift weightlessly while the world of the surface buzzed and flapped and dragged.
He would find water. Not enough to go diving in, but enough to survive. Nothing was more important now that there were no shipments coming from Earth, thanks to The Virus. In his mind he fixated on the frozen water scattered beneath the Martian soil, let it call out to him. His body was not his own when he hunted. The promise of water tugged and pulled him across the cracked..
Also, an open question: would it be too repetitive/annoying for me to keep referrring to the MC as 'Ruk Kim,' instead of shortening it down to 'Ruk'?
The first opening was better - in this one, I spend teh first paragraph thinking that Ruk Kim is swimming in the ocean. If I was reading this for the first time, I wouldn't understand that there was a water problem until I'm into the 2nd paragraph. I knew there was a problem at the vvery start of your first version.
As to the open question - I don't have a problem with Ruk Kim, but some people might. Is everyone else in the story referred to in the same manner? If so, it shouldn't be a problem. Make sure you always refer to him that way when you use his name.