I was meant to finished with my shift when I finished those PMs but I’m still down here in the engineering compartment doing repeat backs with Isaacson. Higgins is a hard ass. One should never take his threats lightly because he will follow through. And Isaacson has a stick up his butt and is terrified that since this is a consequence, if we cut corners, he will be punished even more severely for disobeying the orders. What this means is the next few hours of what would have been food and a nap are going to be filled with his saying something out of the instruction booklet, waiting for me to repeat what he said followed by “Aye”, then doing it, saying I’ve done it, then him repeating that I’ve done it followed by the word “Aye”...it’s honestly so thrilling.
It isn’t that this is so bad, it’s kind of how the training is meant to be, but it is awful with a person like Isaacson because anyone else I can just say, “Alright, what next.” Essentially it equates to a time when I was a young boy and my dad punished me by having me write a sentence 200 times. About halfway through, I started using contractions, then later on I started drawing lines down the page for all of my tall letters. My dad did not stand for that: I had to redo the entire 200 sentences with no contractions and a mandatory space between every sentence to prevent cheating. That’s how this feels with Isaacson. No contractions, no vertical lines down the page. Word for word repeat-back.
God, it’s always so hot back here. To pass the time during this mindless labor, I’ve been watching the sweat pool under me. As long as I’m still sweating I’m good, but my water has been empty since three machines ago. I haven’t even seen Isaacson carrying a bottle with him so I imagine he’s feeling the effects of dehydration. The whirring of the machines is deafening and makes communication between the two of us difficult but it’s really the heat that is causing the most trouble.
“Hey Isaacson, do you have a canteen with you”
“No, I was supposed to be off elsewhere but you can’t seem to follow instructions without close supervision.”
“Alright, first off shove it or I’ll shove it for ya, and secondly I’m out of water and you better grab your canteen. I’m starting to get dizzy from dehydration and we won’t be able to finish this if one of us passes out and has to go to medical.”
“How about you stay here and I’ll take your bottle and get us both some water.”
“You know very well that ain’t going to happen. I don’t let anybody near my food in the galley, what makes you think I’m going to let you carry my water bottle around with you where I can’t see what you are doing to it or putting in it?”
After carefully considering this and trying to think of an argument that he thought would keep me down here while he went off to a cooler area to get water and his bottle, most likely taking his sweet time, I just stood up and started to walk away. Nobody touches anything I plan on consuming. That’s a rule. I don’t fight much, hardly ever, but the few tussles I’ve been in on this trip have been because people have pushed the limits of my germophobia.
“Where are you going, Hobbes? You stay here while I get our waters.”
What is he saying behind me? It must be the drone of the generators next to me that is drowning out his whining or maybe it’s the give-a-damn that I forgot to bring to work today. Either way, I’m not staying in here while I gets to cool off and take his time bringing my bottle back to me. Since that’s probably his plan, I think I’ll just mosey on over to the technicians air conditioned room and see if “Auburn” is still there.
I may not know her name, but I’m very familiar with what she looks like. Most guys back here probably are since males outnumber females five to one back here and it seems a vast majority of guys like a pretty redhead. She is one of those gals that always gets a second glance. Her nose is small and turns up slightly. Her eyes are a soft green with freckles on her cheeks and lightly spread around her forehead and jawline as well. I’ve noticed her fingers are long and thin just like the rest of her body. She has a slender frame that doesn’t fill out her uniform but she still stands a few inches taller than most of the men she works with. Then there is the hair. It’s slightly past shoulder length when I see her with it down in the galley but she keeps it up in a tight bun when she is. The way it waves when she walks is like watching the tide roll out at home, glossy highlights adding to the illusion of motion. I may not know her name, but I can still pick her out in a crowd by the sound of her laugh.
During the times when I’m lying in bed angry at myself for completely abandoning everything that I knew, I just remind myself of the rewards that await me on the new planet and of the newfound beauty in female berthing. As much excitement as I have for landing, I will still miss shamelessly decorating my home for Halloween and scaring anyone passing on the streets and rewarding all of the little souls that dared knock on my door. I’ll miss seeing the painted faces of all of the little Draculas and zombies and the beaming smiles of the little princesses and cowboys. All the other holidays were very family centric and my family never came back together after my grandmother passed away, so that’s part of why I cherished Halloween. I don’t need family to enjoy it. Just beer, costumes, and scary movies. Maybe we will still have something like the holidays on earth when we get to Mars. The sols on Mars are about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day but the years will be nearly twice as long. Maybe we will have two Halloweens a year?
The water fountain that I’m going to use is back in the area where we mustered during the emergency. It isn’t too far off from the door to the technician’s working stations. I know that it’s not permitted for me to go inside without having a reason but nobody said that I can’t just peek when I walk by an open door. But that’s probably not likely since all doors are secured when not in use to prevent anything from getting smashed if another object should hit the ship. So I’m just going to have to either time this just right or open it myself. And since my bottle is almost full, I’m just going to open the damn door to look in. I just don’t know how to explain myself when I do.
My feet are taking me to the door but I don’t know what the plan is yet. What will happen if there is a high ranking person in there? What will happen if Amber isn’t in there? Or even worse...what if she is?
But I don’t need to worry about that long. My feet were barely planted in front of the door for more than two seconds before she walked out nearly bumping into me.
“And who are you? Why the hell are you calling me Amber?”
“Did I really? Shit, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have stopped here to drink my water. I’m with the A-gangers, Hobbes.”
Her green eyes are penetrating my very soul. She’s fuming because I almost tripped her but I feel like I’m floating. I don’t even know if some of the words I’m saying are intelligible or not. Is my tongue working? My brain certainly isn’t.
“Oh god, I’m so sorry. I...you...look like someone I know back home. Her name was Amber. And...what is your name?”
Her eyes are still angry.
“It’s Dawson. We’re not on a first name basis, nor will we ever be. I’ve seen you and your work around here and now it all makes sense. Get out of my way, 1 dee 10 tee.”
She brushes past me like a large drunk man expecting a wall to move to let them pass. For a first interaction, it could have been better. But at least I know her name after all these months.