Starbound

 

 by Alex A. Kecskes

 

 

Chapter 1

 

         The windowless room is small and brightly lit. Air whistles through a vent in the ceiling. Photos of the Martian surface line the walls--some labeled with the words: Mars One. The young woman sitting in front of him is pale as if she’d spent her entire life under neon lights. Her dark hair is swept back and tied tight in a bun. When not speaking, her small mouth is cinched tight as if to prevent any extraneous words from spilling out. She shifts her glasses up onto the bridge of her nose. Her eyes flick from Jonathan to her computer monitor.

            “So, Jonathan. You’re a Nobel Prize-winning journalist with a promising career, why go to Mars and never return?”

            His face goes dark.

            “Jonathan…?”

            “Sorry. I think you’ll need someone up there to document everything.”

           “I read your article on terraforming. Very detailed.”

            "Yeah."

            “No family…anywhere?”

            “No.”

            “You’re married…?” She scans down the page. “Oh….” Her face opens.

            “She’s gone. Cancer.”

            “Sorry. Recently, I see.”

            “Two months, three days.”

            She reads more. You served in Iraq. Any flight training, experience with aircraft?”

            “I’m instrument-rated to fly a helicopter and a twin-prop.”

            “Mhm. You passed our physical. Better than many applicants.”

            “Sarah, my wife. She kept me in great shape. No junk food. Hours in the gym.”

            She brings up another screen on her computer. “And you did better than most on the written.”

            “Yeah. I’m pretty good with tests. I did my homework.”

            She leans back and looks at him. “Okay. The journey will take seven months. You’ll be in a small spaceship with three other people. Once there, you’ll live in a very confined space.”

            ‘Yeah, I got that. I spent time in an Iraqi prison. So it’s not a problem.”

            “Mhm.” She types in few notes on her computer and studies him. Her eyes draw tight. Her lips pursed.

            “Is that it?”

            “We’ll be in touch.”