Hohmann Transfer Orbit

"Books? Do you want to take any books?"

"I've got the e-reader."

"You'll miss books."

"There's a weight limit, Henry." Not only did everything have to fit in the one case which had to measure within certain dimensions, but the whole thing — case and contents — had to mass less than 25 kg. Not in a 'we'll charge you extra' sort of way, but in the way where they make you take something out and throw it in the trash right then and there; she'd explained all of that already.

He didn't say anything, he just sat on the edge of the bed watching her, trying to think of something else to suggest, to be helpful, to be somehow part of it, to be necessary.

She was working on off-duty clothes, trying to arrive at the perfect selection: once she was on her way there would be no supplementing it. She'd thought it through. But the list seemed now like a complete stranger had written it.

"I like you in the blue thing."

"I already have a dress. There won't be any reason to wear the blue one, it's too…" She trailed off. She didn't want to say 'sexy'. 'Revealing'? "It's just too much."

He shrugged. "That's why I like it."

She smiled, gave him a look. if there had only been time, she would have stopped packing and sat on his lap, kissed him, done more. But it was already nearly six, and they were coming at six, and she couldn't be late for the flight to the Cape. She started shoving things into the bag almost at random. When the case looked like it couldn't take any more, she lifted it onto the scale. 26.2 kg. "Fuck."

"Here." He came to her side, unzipped the case still sitting on the scale, pulled a few heavier things out, put a few lighter things in. "Slacks instead of jeans. And you don't need a hoodie."

24.9 kg. "Okay."


She sighed. "I wish I could take the boots."

"You can't." He zipped up the case, picked it up, headed for the living room. She looked at the clock again: 6:01 AM. She paused in the doorway and took in the view of their bedroom for a long moment before following him.

She pushed the front window curtains aside: the Suburban and its driver were waiting at the bottom of her driveway, with the police cruiser escort behind it blocking the road. "They're here."

He was a quiet statue. She'd seen him like this before, at his mother's funeral: strong, stoic, playing it like his father would have played it if he'd still been around, following the only real example he'd ever had. But eventually he broke. "Ceecee, what if—"

"I'm coming back." Assuming everything goes right, assuming they don't put me in charge and I have to stay. She put the case down, stepped close to him, put her hand on his arm. "It's just Mars, honey. It's not a divorce."

Whose Little Girl Are You?

I joined the UNAF when the Woolies attacked the colony at 47 Ursa Majoris, like so many people did. By the time I was through basic training and zero-gee combat training and astrogation training it was a year later and the Woolies had taken everything up to and including Epsilon Eridani.

My unit is all greenhorns like me and old men with the shakes, and we're all that stands between the enemy and Sol. I can still hear my father saying, but you're just a girl.

Not a problem.

Separation Anxiety

There's no headstones on the property, none that I've ever found. The real estate lady said the whole graveyard had been relocated sometime in the 50's, before the house that was torn down to build this house was built.

I'm fairly certain they missed someone, though.

I've done the research. Abigail Anne Cordero, 28, wife of Fabrizio, both dead in a fire, buried in 1931. She'd be long-dead now in any event, but I don't suppose that matters. I'll bet he was moved as planned and she wasn't. Somewhere, probably under the mud-room where she appears, her bones are waiting to be reunited with the love of her life.

I'd dig her up myself if I could afford it; of course the insurance company won't pay. If I could get her on camera maybe they'd believe me. Maybe not: it's so easy to fake something like that on a computer.

Fantasy Drabble #353 "Sisters Of The Moon"

Her name was Mavis. She was in all the family pictures: us on the front steps, me with a skinned knee and her with an ice cream cone; the pool with the bright orange water wings on our arms and our skin two shades lighter for all the sunscreen; the ballet recital where I was the swan and she was in a cast.

When they arrested her, it was on a spellcraft violation. Something technical, a harassment tactic. I don't know what happened after.

She started fading from our pictures a week later. That's how we knew she was gone.

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.