This week’s challenge at esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com is to build a story around one or more of the words job, kill or love.
“How much longer do we have to spend floating around in this tin can?”
That was a question that I had been asking myself for weeks, too, and never come to an answer I liked.
“We knew when we took the job,” I said, “that there would be months of this boredom before we reach our destination. It was in the briefing notes, and I know you read them, Sally.”
“I know, Tom,” Sally replied, “but there’s a world of difference between reading about months of tedium, and living through it.”
“Do you love me, Sally?”
“You know I do, Tom. Don’t I tell you often enough?”
“Of course you do, Sal, but sometimes we say these things in a formulaic way. And before you yell at me, I’m not saying you are doing that; but we both need to be sure and reassure each other that our love is as strong as it was when we lifted off six months ago.”
“I know, Tom. I know you aren’t digging at me, but I’m not sure if I can stand another three months of this before we reach Mars.”
“We’re two thirds of the way there, Sal. We can do it. We are strong enough. Remember how we were saying, less than a year ago, that we would kill for this job? How we worked so hard to convince the selection board that a husband and wife team was not only a workable option, but also the optimal solution, if the habitat is to be a permanent, self-sustaining colony? Our children will be Martians. How cool is that?”
“Yeah – cool,” Sally giggled. As she did, their module rang like a bell that had just been struck, and started to spin.
“What the hell was that?” she asked. “Checking telemetry…”
“Too far out for space junk,” Tom exclaimed, “can only have been a stray lump of rock. Anything logged?”
“Hold. Stabilising attitude, check; confirm course, not right; applying auto course adjust, check. Phew. Back on track… I think. What were you asking?”
“Is there anything in the log?”
“Hold…” she said, “Bugger!”
“Logs are shot. We’re flying blind. Call ground control.”
“This is Major Tom to Ground Control, we’ve been hit by a meteor that wasn’t in the logs. Sally has re-established directional stability and I think my spaceship knows which way to go, but the logs are shot, so we’ll have no warning of approaching objects.”
“How long until we hear back from them?” Sally asked.
“Round trip time is currently around half an hour.”
“By which time any number of things could hit us, and we’d never know.”
“Sal. We’re going to be OK. This tin can is solid, it’s designed to take a few knocks. It will get us to Mars.”
“Yes, Tom, but in what sort of shape?”
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” said General McMasters, “that is the end of the recording. When the module soft-landed on Mars, both occupants were dead, and examination showed they had died two months previously. What took place in the month between the end of the recording and their passing; as well as the manner and cause of their demise, will remain among the mysteries of the Mars Colonisation Program. We honour Tom and Sally today, as we honour all those who gave their lives that the human race may continue when the Earth can no longer support it.”