Monday, June 19, 2017

Story 239: Ruining Friendships Since 1992

When they pick a crew for a trip to Mars, one of the main things the International Space Exploration Foundation is looking for is psychological stability. The ship is cramped, the trip is long, and the opportunities for conflict are endless. So the eight of us were hand-picked as the least likely to go stir crazy and the least likely to piss each other off.

And now we're practically trying to kill each other.

Honestly I wonder if we should have just aborted the mission when we got hit. The issue is that the damage was extremely localized - whatever that thing was, it punched a neat hole through one of our hard drives and nothing else. We didn't lose anything vital and we were all worried that if we stopped the mission we'd never get another chance. Also, just a quick physics lesson: once you're well on your way to getting up to speed for a trip to Mars it takes a really long time to stop. We weren't yet to the point where we couldn't do it, but it would have been an enormous waste of time and energy.

And hey, we only lost the optional stuff. Books, music, games. Entertainment. We're a bunch of nerds, we thought, we can make our own entertainment! If nothing else several of us could whip up a homebrew role playing game. We also assumed that Earth would be able to send us replacements for some of our entertainment files because the books in particular don't take up a lot of space. But a combination of equipment malfunctions, political maneuvering, budget arguments, and other factors too idiotic to mention meant we got almost nothing from ISEF command. Oh, and the RPGs went badly. Very badly.

If we had nothing, maybe it would have gone better. Maybe we would have withdrawn into our own heads and had a miserable but silent journey. Instead there's a game console on board, just the one, with a single game. Mario Kart. As the sole source of entertainment, we've all become obsessed with it. Every waking moment not spent going over diagnostics and microgravity experiments is spent on those damn tracks, four of us playing at a time and screaming at each other at the top of our lungs.

It will be fine. We're the best of the best. The most stable, the most sane. We can do this - and when we get to Mars there will be more room and more people and backups of all the entertainment we lost. Just one more month. I really hope we make it. Karen is banging on the airlock, probably yelling at me to let her back inside. I can't hear her though, which is a really nice change. Still, I should check in on her. I reach over and press the intercom button.
"Karen... are you ready to say it?" She lets loose a string of obscenities that really show how smart you have to be to become an astronaut. Some of those verb-noun combinations are ingenious. "No, that's not what I'm looking for Karen. You can say it. It's just six words." Seven if you count the contraction as two, I guess. Karen is too mad to be picky though. "Come on, Karen. Say it: I'm sorry about the blue shell."

I release the intercom button, and the banging intensifies. My hand drifts towards the button to open the outer airlock doors, but... no. That would be taking it a little too far. Leaving her there, I unclip my wrench and make sure I have a nice firm grip on it. It's time for my turn, and Gary may need a little convincing.