Princess Of Mars

There’s maybe twenty people in the compartment: miners, or ex-miners, or whatever. She is suddenly very aware that she is wearing a dress and heels that were lifted from Earth, and that neither have dust anywhere on them, nor is there any in her hair or smudged onto her skin.

Jimmy whispers to her, "Be cool."

It’s the third time Jimmy the Bits has said it, and it’s getting tiresome. The party is definitely down in the sketchier sections of the dome’s lower levels, but it’s not like she’s some delicate flower just because the Managing Supervisor is her father. "Why are you nervous, Jimmy? You said it was all right to bring me—"

"It’s cool. Everybody knows Jimmy." Everybody does, whether they want to or not; knowing Jimmy the Bits can go either way. "Lemme introduce you around."

Jimmy introduces her to a series of people, and they are polite if a bit cool. There are eyes boring into the back of her head wherever she goes in the compartment. Maybe some of them know who she is, maybe not, but they all think they know what she is. Whatever, it’s not like people don’t stare at me in the upper levels.

Jimmy takes her elbow and pulls her to stand in front of a big guy with leathery skin and a patchy beard. Jimmy says, respectfully, as if she is being presented to a Company Director or some Earth Senator on a fact-finding mission, "Yonk, this is Melody."

Yonk nods by raising his head once and then lowering it. “That your real name? 'Melody'?”

"No, it’s just a name I use sometimes. But I like it. Is ‘Yonk’ your real name?"

The room titters, and Yonk grins. "Real name is Stewart. They just call me Yonk."

"Why? What does it mean?"

Jimmy looks pained. Yonk smirks, as if delighted at the opportunity to explain. "Meatie. Pudder." Someone behind her yells, "Cock!" The snickering has graduated into full-on laughter, around her, behind her. Yonk continues, "When we finish a shift we have to clean off. Hose down the outside of the suit in the lock, then shower. Whole gang all in the shower at once. First day on the job, end of the day, everybody sees my yonk, I get the name."

She raises her eyebrows. "Because it’s big, or because it’s small?"

It’s suddenly very quiet in the compartment. Jimmy is white as a sheet, and shifts his weight as if he wants to step away from her, put some distance between them. Yonk, thankfully, doesn’t lose his grin. "It’s big enough for you, I think."

"Well, if you’ll find me something to drink, maybe I’ll let you show it to me. And then we’ll know."

Yonk laughs, a hearty belly laugh that shakes the bulkheads; everybody else is thereby given permission to laugh and the party resumes. A bottle of something home-brewed that would get someone arrested if her father saw it is pressed into her hand.


  1. I like how you made the intergalactic happenings so down-to-earth. Thanks, from the Earthlings.