Lost Sols

When Rogers didn’t come back from setting survey spikes we thought he’d had a suit issue, developed hypoxia, wandered off, died in a shadow somewhere where we couldn’t spot him on satellite imaging. But then Pierce, and then Bai, and we knew something was happening.

The Director did the morning briefing personally. “Only go out in pairs. And armed. And don’t leave the Rollabout unless you absolutely have to. You see anything, report it. Anything at all, I don’t care. Report it. Report in.”

Franklin and that blond kid, the new one, both of them and the Rollabout, just gone, and they’d checked in that they were on their way back ETA five minutes. The Director was apparently on comms that whole afternoon trying to get Earth to find out if somebody else was out here, the Russians, the Chinese, whoever, messing with us. Nothing.

No one’s left the dome in… two weeks? We keep a watch on the landing pad, three guys in the airlock, just to make sure the lifeboat doesn’t disappear. But there isn’t room on it for everybody, so we can’t run.

If there’s Martians, and they want us gone, I just wish they’d say so.

Lady Luck

I’ll make a deal with you: if you roll a six, I’ll cut you loose. I mean it, I’ll cut the ropes, I’ll unlock the door, and you can run. I won’t chase you. Any other number, though, and… here’s the gun right here.

Or, you can roll again. If you roll a six again, I’ll not only cut you loose, let you go, but I’ll wait until the cops come and let them catch me.

Or you can roll a third time. And if you roll a six again, I’ll take the gun and shoot myself in the head.

Hellas Planitia Organizing Committee

The signs started appearing after they announced the Air Tax increase: on the walls outside the big commissaries, in the bathrooms, the vehicle bays, places workers go but Shareholders never see. Most of them were fairly restrained, civil, and they stayed up; nobody wanted to get fired, and management didn’t want to seem heavy-handed.

It wasn’t until they announced the pay increases — only two percent for contract full-timers, one percent for everybody else — that the signs started to get threatening. And instead of paper, they’d be painted right on the duroplast. Management couldn’t take them down, because it’d take a work crew, and the crews wouldn’t do it.

When Bobby McNeary was caught mid-application of a particularly incendiary slogan, and ended up beaten to within an inch of his life by Security (who were already exempt from the air tax and got a five percent bump in pay), things quickly got out of hand.

I don’t know if you saw video, but a riot at one-sixth Earth gravity is a bad idea, especially when people are swinging metal tools. I saw one hack get flipped end-over-end courtesy a steel pipe to the chin.

But at least they’re negotiating now.

SF Drabble #495: “The Big Thaw”

“How do you feel?”

She could hear the voice — a reassuring, male timbre — but it seemed distant, quiet, almost unintelligible. “What?” She tried in vain to raise her arms, wanting to push the tank open.

“Don’t move too much. You’re still weak, and the suspension drugs aren’t entirely out of your system.”

She relaxed, still floating, “Didn’t it work?”

The voice chuckled. “Nine out of ten ask that. What year were you tanked?”

“Tanked… I was… 2024? Cancer, I had cancer—”

“It’s 2378. Your cancer is gone. Welcome to Federated North America. I’m going to wheel you into recovery now.”

SF Drabble #494: “Breakdown”

“Nope”. He slid out from the access space, tools in hand. “Bone dry, and completely shot. There’s a crack in the housing all the way from the forward mounting plate to the second amplification ring. The coolant’s probably pooled at the bottom of the space between the inner and outer hulls.”

“So we’re dead in the water?”

He sat up. “We could seal the crack, temporarily, pump the coolant back in. Four days? And that’ll buy us one jump, maybe two.”

“The closest repair station is six jumps away.”

“How close to Woolie territory are we?”

“Don’t sneeze too loud.”