The Mechanisms Aboard the UNSS Green Earth

“Be careful,” Tasha said, pulling her ponytail out of her white jumpsuit, “and don’t forget to log everything. Your PDA isn’t even on.”

Lily turned around and frowned, saying, “Sorry, boss.”

Tasha huffed and stepped forward, clicking Lily’s PDA on, nearly knocking it off its small stand. The screen blinked to life, and they both appeared on the screen, Tasha’s dark hazel eyes glaring down at the smaller Lily. “You Mooners get on my nerves. This is the third time this week I’ve had to tell you to follow protocol.”

She was small, but Lily managed a feisty scowl that reeked of disdain. “Can you stop hovering?”

Turning, Tasha rolled her eyes, and headed back to her station across the large, open, whitewashed bay called Lab-03, saying as she went, “Just be careful with those chemicals. Goddamn.”

“Go to hell,” Lily muttered, turning back to her PDA. Facing it, she said, “Lily Schultz, Biochemist, R-5, located in Lab-03. Mixing Substrate-12 with potassium nitrate and magnesium in an attempt to create a resistant and long-lasting fertilizer for assistance on the AgriMartian project.”

That out of the way, she turned to the vials before her. Substrate-12 sat in a black glass container, while the potassium nitrate and magnesium sat in large glass beakers. It was a simple thing, just to mix them, but she had to be careful. First, she leaned forward, closely inspecting the glasses that sat on the cold steel countertop, checking them over for foreign substances. Theoretically, they should’ve been clear, given the counter-contaminant measures and double airlock doors, but a once over always helped.

As she inspected them, Tasha, behind her, said, “I’m heading over to Lab-02. You’re the only one in here, so be careful.”

“Yeah,” Lily said, not turning around. She could hear the first airlock open and shut with a hiss, and then was left in silence. The beaker with the magnesium was cold, but the air in the labs was always nearly intolerably cold without the warmth of the jumpsuits. She gripped it and poured it into a large flask, before doing the same with the potassium nitrate, and mixed the two with a glass stir rod. Then, carefully, she grabbed the neck of the vial with Substrate-12.

When she poured the gross, viscous black liquid out, it landed on the powder below with a couple of plops. It looked like a sort of tar, and crept like a slug from the vial, drip, dripping down in liquid chunks. Lily watched it, eyes glossing over in boredom as she waited for it all to seep from the glass, when a smell hit her nose. Something foul seemed to be in the air that made her face scrunch. She sniffed around for a moment, careful to hold the vial where it was, trying to locate the source of the smell. It seemed to be all around her workspace for a moment. Leaning into the mixture, however, she had to jerk away quickly. The smell was so powerful it singed her nose, smelling like a chemical burn. Her body tensed, and her eyes shot wide. Icy adrenaline stabbed through her gut as she turned to the PDA, yanking Substrate-12 away from the mixture flask Quickly she punched a button on the side of the PDA, prompting a small dialpad to pop up. One-one-two, was all she had to press, just one-one-two.

She got to the third number when the flask burst into a white, thunderous explosion. By the time Tasha and her team arrived, frantic and panicked, the fire suppression system had already done its job, leaving the room blackened, smokey, and empty. Klaxons wailed and people hurried aside as the responder team pried their way into the airlocks. Tasha watched, lips pursed, eyes empty, fists clenched, and cheeks stained.

“Go, go, c’mon!” 

“I’m going!”

“Go faster!” McKinzie said, ushering the man in front of her to the emergency lift. They hurried down a hexagonal hallway, the corner lights flashing red in sequence as a mechanical voice echoed through the hallways.

On again, it clamored: “Code-Orange in Lab-03. Fire Team 02, Medical Team 04, Engineering Team 01, respond immediately to Deck-02. Repeat. Repeat.” 

“Price goddamnit, you need to work out more!” she shouted.

He looked over his shoulder with a snarky glare. “Right now? Jokes right now?”

“Just go!”

Loudly they bolted down the hallway, their boots hammering on the grated floor hard enough to shake it. The emergency lift was down a hall, to the left, next to one of the fuel-regulation rooms. As they bolted toward the set of steel lift doors, someone stepped out of the regulation and watched them pass.

“Is everything alright?” they called.

McKinzie turned as they arrived at the lift, Price hammering away at one of the doors’ buttons. She shrugged, panting, and said, “No clue.”

“C’mon,” Price said, the doors opening to a small, dark elevator playing the emergency broadcast inside. McKinzie jumped in, the doors slamming shut behind her as the lift jerked up. 

Both of them were panting, leaning on the handholds on the wall. “What the fuck happened, you think?” Price asked, watching the number above the doors shift from five, to four, to three.

“I don’t know.” The cool air of the lift was a refreshing change from the heat of the engineering deck. McKinzie, taking a deep breath and wiping her forehead, said, “Science nuts probably got too excited and blew a gasket.”

“I hope not.”

She shrugged. “Yeah, well, code orange. Doubt it’s something else.”

Covered in bearing grease, Price, cursing under his breath, wiped his forehead with the sleeve of his dark orange jumpsuit. “This shit’s not flammable right?”

“Well, only a little,” McKinzie said. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

Price groaned. In a moment, the lift locked into place, and slipped open. The pair sprung out and hurried down the cleaner, rounded hallways that wove through the different labs and storage rooms of the second deck. Following a bright green line on the walls, they made their way to the charred airlock doors, just in time to see the medical team leaving. McKinzie paused. It looked like the fire was already out, and the fire team was already inside the lab inspecting the damage and aiding the scientists in securing any other materials. From inside, through the blackened glass, she could see Jonathan, the medical director of the ship, discussing something with a woman who was clearly frazzled. McKinzie pushed her way through the small crowd of white jumpsuits at the doors, and through the security cordon, Price close behind. 

The room smelled foul. It was burnt flesh, absolutely, McKinzie knew. She’d smelled it too many times before to mistake it, and yet it still made her gut churn. She scowled, clenching her jaw when her boot hit the ash on the floor. As she stepped in, she caught the last of the conversation being had between Jonathan and the woman – Tasha. She looked completely disheveled, her normal black ponytail frazzled and frayed, and her face a deep red and sweaty, and McKinzie could hear the stress in her voice as it cracked and wavered.

“So she’ll be fine?” Tasha asked.

Jonathan shrugged. “Likely. Looks like pretty severe skin damage, but not too much below that. If the fire guys are right, then it must’ve been a quick boom.”

Tasha doubled over, leaning on a powdery lab counter. “Thank god. Christ, I thought I’d lost a member of my team.”

“Well, I don’t think she’ll be coming back to work anytime soon,” Jonathan said. “We’re gonna try and get her back to Earth when we can. Even if her organs look like they’ll eventually be fine, the skin damage was pretty bad.”

McKinzie could see Tasha’s fingers curl on the counter, digging into the soot as if she were in pain. “We’re already running behind.”

“Sorry. There’s no way she’s coming back though.”

“Dammit!” Tasha slammed a fist down on the counter, before standing up straight and taking a deep breath as she attempted to regain her composure. “Alright, just… take care of her, okay?”

“Planned on it,” Jonathan said, before departing. 

McKinzie, just barely catching Tasha’s gaze, turned away and saw Price already working with the fire team near the blast site. She joined them, inspecting a burnt out hole in the wall, pieces of shattered glass and melted machinery, and a giant melted hole in the wall that had burnt through several wires and panels. McKinzie looked into the hole as Price and talked with the head of the fire team, and started to inspect the damage. It was no surprise they’d had to crack open the airlocks manually; several of the locking wires had been busted, not to mention a major hydraulics pipe that had no business being where it was. She cursed the shoddy construction of the ship and pulled out her PDA.

When she pulled up the map, she located the nearest tool compartment, and turned to Price, holding out the PDA. He gave it a glance, then looked at her and nodded, before heading off. McKinzie then turned to the fire team chief, trying to catch his empty stare.

“What happened?”

He shook his head and sighed, gesturing to the blackened room. “Some kind of chemical explosion. Melted the walls, the counter, spat dust everywhere, and don’t even get me started on the girl.”

McKinzie ran a gloved hand through her sweaty, matted short blond hair, rubbing streaks of the black dust through it. “Well, alright then. Is it safe to work?”

“Should be,” he said. “We’re trying to get the Admiral to shut off the alarm now. Best of luck to you.”

He gave her a little mock salute as he walked away, slipping past Price as he stepped back into the room. When she turned to grab the tools from him, she caught Tasha’s eyes once again. It seemed, if just for a moment, that the room fell silent as they watched each other for a moment. Tasha’s face was tight, and it seemed like she wanted to look away, but couldn’t. Her soft features seemed sharper, like McKinzie’s own, but it could have just been the way Tasha was tensing. For a brief moment, McKinzie wondered what Tasha was seeing through her steel-gray eyes, before she came to again. The alarm had fallen silent, the fire teams left, the cordon outside dispersed the gathered crowd, and now it was just the three of them. 

Price handed her a black case of tools, and said, “The fire team’s not gonna clean this place up? Or is that for the service teams?”

“Service,” McKinzie said, shaking herself a bit and taking the tools to the damaged wall. “And they won’t get in here until we’re done, so let’s get to work.”

She laid the case out on the counter, punched a code into its digital lock, and cracked it open. “Price, get the right side, with the wires. I’ll handle the hydraulics.”

“Roger,” he said, leaning into the hole. It was wider than it was tall, about the length of a person, so he dug into it and began to work with the frayed electrical bits.

As McKinzie picked up a welder and black multi-purpose tape, hopping onto the cooled countertop and leaning into the hole, footsteps echoed behind her. Turning, she watched Tasha approach.

“Need something?” she asked, arching an eyebrow.

Tasha frowned. “I need a drink. I need another scientist. I need you to do your job.”

“Tightass.” She leaned into the hole, flipping on a small mask that came with the tools, and tested the welder. “You should be more careful up here.”

“Us? Every other day some system or other fails on this ship. It’d be nice if that didn’t happen.” Tasha leaned on the counter and crossed her arms, looking down. 

“We aren’t the ones that keep blowing the electrical systems in the labs,” McKinzie said, starting to weld a piece of the hydraulics pipe. “This ship is shit. They all are. You and your team need to remember that.”

“Good maintenance would help.”

McKinzie stopped welding for a moment and sighed. She turned back to Tasha and flipped her mask up, frowning at her. “Blame Earth for that. They’re the ones who built these deathtraps.”

“Money and time constraints,” Tasha said. “The Lunar ones were better. In fact, we’d still have them, if not for the events of 2091, you know.”

“Also not my fault. Blame Earth for that too,” she said, putting her mask back on and leaning into the hole, cursing under her breath.

Tasha sneered. “Chief Engineer McKinzie. With a title like that, you’d think you could, well, let’s say, engineer the ship to function better.”

Again, McKinzie leaned out of the hole and glared at her through the metal mask. “Why don’t you focus on not letting your scientists blow things up every other day, huh?”

Price leaned out of the hole and looked at them both, before shaking his head and going for another set of tools and quietly leaning back into the ship’s wound. As far as McKinzie could tell, Tasha didn’t even register that he was there.

Her white jumpsuit was starting to get blackened with the soot in the air. Tasha tried to wipe it off, but her hands, covered in it, only stained her more. She grimaced. “After the events of today, I don’t think that’s… necessary from you. And my team is under significant amounts of pressure to get this done. We’re on a time crunch with implications you couldn’t possibly understand.”

“Yeah whatever,” McKinzie said, patching up another hole in the hydraulics line. “You have no idea what goes on in the belly of this ship.”

“You have no clue what we do in these labs.” Tasha stood up and looked around the room. “The progress we have to make.”

She walked up to the counter that McKinzie knelt on, leaning on it and looking up at a secure set of glass beakers and vials that’d managed to survive the blast in a metal cabinet on the wall. Reaching up, she grabbed a beaker, inspecting it closely for cracks, melted points, or fractures.

McKinzie rolled her eyes and pieced together the final patch on the pipe. It would do until a new pipe could be fitted for the system, which would take a day or two. Carefully, she reached over to a small red valve on the wall – the emergency shutoff – and flipped it on to test the system. As soon as she did, from a small gap in the pipe, a hiss of hot steam blasted her in the face, heating up her mask instantly. She yelped and shot out of the hole, bumping her head on the overhead cabinets and rattling everything inside.

The jolt was enough to make Tasha lock up, dropping the vial she’d been holding. McKinzie watched as Tasha, eyes wide like a panicked animal, tried to recover the glass before it ultimately shattered and scattered across the ground in tiny glimmering pieces. 

Fingers curling, Tasha began to shake, her face turning red as she turned to McKinzie. “What is wrong with you?”

McKinzie shrugged. “A lot of things. Relax, it’s just a glass.”

“Relax? Relax? Do Mooners take anything seriously? This is a piece of equipment that is expensive. Expensive! To haul all the way from Earth to Mars. Blast my labs, almost kill my scientist, shatter my equipment, you Mooners!” Tasha slammed a fist on the counter, spilling ash into the air. “Why are you all on my ship?”

“It’s not your ship–”

“Can you do anything to uphold the fragile systems we have in place? Do you even understand the importance of our mission here? Are you capable of that?” Tasha scowled at McKinzie, her fists going white and her face burning a deep shade of red. It almost looked, from behind McKinzie’s fogged mask at least, like her eyes may have been watering too. “You should’ve stayed on the moon! Holy shit.”

McKinzie, body tense and jaw locked, took a deep, shaky breath, and tried to ease her grip on the welder. “Twenty-two years does a lot on a person, huh?”

With that she turned away, shaking it off her shoulders, and carefully leaned in to shut off the pipe. Tasha, behind her, said, “Why, of all people, did you have to be on this ship?”

“I didn’t do anything to you,” McKinzie said, white hot sparks flying as she patched the small hole that the steam burst from. “Not a damn thing.”

Tasha was quiet for a moment, before simply turning and walking away, out of the lab without another word. McKinzie finished patching up the pipe and tried the steam one more time, being sure to back far away from the lever. No steam. It looked like it would function well enough until the new pipe was fitted. She turned to face Price, who was finishing up with the wires.

He raised his eyebrows and looked at the airlock that Tasha had just left through. “Well,” he said. “At least it looks like we’re almost done here.”

“Yeah,” she said, following his eyes to the doors. “Doesn’t look like there was that much structural damage done, at least.”

They climbed off of the counter and repackaged their tools, sealing the case up and labeling it with a small orange sticker for the second shift engineers to review the contents. Price picked up the case, and McKinzie took a moment to stretch out.

“Alright,” she said, shaking her arms out and pulling her PDA from her pocket, “I’ll let the service forman know we’re done.”

Price nodded. “Are we gonna patch the hole?”

“No, we’ll send up another team for reinspection after the room is cleaned up, and then we’ll patch it when we fit a new pipe on the system. Nobody’s going to be using this lab for a while anyways, that’s for sure.”

“Guess that’s true.” His boot scuffed at the floor, kicking at the shards of glass beneath him. “So what was that about?”

Fingers tapping at her PDA screen, McKinzie looked up briefly, then down at the glass, before going back to the screen. “You don’t interact with these people much, huh?”

“I usually stick to the lower decks.”

“That was Tasha. She’s to the eggheads what I am to us grease monkeys.”

Price scratched his neck awkwardly. “Okay, but it sounded like you two have beef.”

“It’s a long story.”

He paused. “Wasn’t twenty-two years ago 2091?”

Everything in McKinzie’s body locked up for a moment, before she forced herself to breathe out a small sigh and relax. “Yeah. Now c’mon, I just sent the service guys the memo, let’s get back down to deck five. I’m still worried about the fuel regulators.”

“The coolant?”

“It’s working for now, but I want at least half of them inspected by the end of the shift.”

She started for the airlock, and Price tagged behind her. “You sure you’re gonna be okay?”

“If I wasn’t sure,” she said, glancing over her shoulder, “I wouldn’t have made it this far.”

After the shift-bell rang, and McKinzie had retired to her small, cramped quarters, just before she could slip out of her jumpsuit, her PDA dinged. The room wasn’t large at all; in fact, as she sat on her bed, tucked away in a wall-cubby beneath the room’s electrical systems, she could lean over and reach her desk, attached to the other wall and grab the device. When she pulled it up, a small screen appeared showing her doorcam. Outside of her door was a visibly uncomfortable Tasha, arms crossed like a hug across her chest and eyes looking back and forth through the engineering living quarters. 

McKinzie watched her for a moment. Tasha was still in her white jumpsuit, so she must’ve gone right from her shift to McKinzie’s room. For a moment, McKinzie watched her as she squirmed in the hard, brutalistic belly of the ship, before sighing and clicking a small button at the bottom of the screen to open the door. It hissed quietly, and then yanked open as McKinzie stood, putting her and Tasha face to face.

There was a long moment of quiet as she and Tasha stared at each other, McKinzie steadily holding a flat gaze as Tasha glanced this way and that, face turning down. Eventually, McKinzie, laying back on her bed, said, “And to what do I owe this royal honor?”

Tasha scoffed. “I didn’t come here to pick a fight. I… I came to apologize. May I come in?”

Looking her over, McKinzie sighed and said, “Sure, alright. But keep the mooner shit to yourself.”

“Thank you.” Tasha stepped into the room, the door sliding shut behind her with a little whispered hiss, and for a moment looked visibly uncomfortable, as if she was unsure of what to do next. 

McKinzie sat up and motioned to her desk, where Tasha took a seat and faced her. “So,” McKinzie said, scratching the back of her neck awkwardly, “welcome.”

Tasha chewed on her lip for a moment, as though in thought, and then locked eyes with McKinzie with an intensity that she knew all too well. “I’m sorry,” Tasha said. “I’m sorry for how I snapped at you earlier, and the things I said. I… I didn’t mean to… we’re just under a lot of pressure to get this soil project done. I don’t expect you to understand.”

“I don’t care what kind of dirt you guys are working with, you don’t understand how flakey this ship is and all that goes into making sure you don’t get accidentally spaced. We pull twelve hour shifts down here just to keep this bucket of rust afloat, and then one of yours blows up a lab, and we have to take time to fix it, and what do we get for it? Beratement. Do you see why I’m a little unhappy?”

For a moment it looked like Tasha was about to go on a tirade, but the color in her cheeks settled and she leaned back in her chair, seemingly in a mixture of defeat and exhaustion. 

McKinzie kept going. “This entire ship was rushed along, you know that. We’re flying a jerry rigged tube of cardboard and duct tape. The stress, the hours that go into maintaining it, all so that you eggheads can get your mission done sooner, you really owe a lot to us for keeping everything running as smoothly as it has been.”

Tasha only looked up at McKinzie with tired eyes. McKinzie sighed and leaned back on her bed, pressing herself against the wall. “Listen, it’s fine, okay? Don’t think about it too hard and try to get some rest tonight. Today was stressful for everyone.”

“Thanks Kinzie,” Tasha said, standing up and brushing herself down. “In that case I hope you have a good night. I’ll be around if you… well, I’ll be around.”

With that, she let herself out. McKinzie watched her go, twirling a lock of blonde hair between her finger and thumb, thinking. Then, she rolled over, cursing under her breath as her cheeks began to turn a fire red and fill with warmth. 

The bridge of the UNSS Green Earth was quiet at this hour. Third shift was a smaller crew than the second and first, and it always gave Admiral Williamson some time to think. This was why he preferred the second and third shift, leaving the first shift to Vice Admiral Tester. These were the quieter shifts, where one could get some thinking done amongst the hubbub of the ship’s bridge. The bridge itself was a spacious cavity aboard the ship, with two aisles of computers arranged in a circle around a center console and hub, where the captain sat. Great bay windows opened the front of the bridge to the beauty of space beyond, letting in the light of the twinkling stars that speckled the sky. Below them, the large fire orange orb of Mars was visible.

Admiral Williamson sat at his console in the center of the circular bridge, clacking at the keys and going over the day’s logs. The most interesting thing was the explosion in the labs, but that seemed to be cleaned up already, with one patient in intensive care. He idly looked over the report again – he’d read it plenty of times already – and sighed. Things were already tight; the deadline for achieving airable, terraformable soil on Mars was nearing closer and closer each day. The colony wouldn’t last long without it.

A shipman approached and saluted, yanking Admiral Williamson from his thoughts. “Sir,” he said, “your conference call is ready.”

He cleared his throat and stood, saluting back and brushing down his stark white uniform. “Alright. Thank you.”

Turning, he ran a hand through his short blonde hair and headed toward the end of the bridge. He stepped out of the bridge and into a small hallway, with doors on either side, each numbered with thick white numbering. A small console sat beside each door, and at the door labeled with the number one, he punched in a series of numbers and stepped into a small conference room. The room was a small square, with a rectangular table surrounded by several bolted down swivel chairs, and a screen sat embedded in the far wall. On screen were two men, one an aging man with white hair, a clean shaven face, and a stony demeanor, and the other bald with a mustache, his sharp features coming through clearly on screen. Both men wore similar white uniforms to Williamson’s, each decorated with a series of colorful, striped badges. Admirals Vintrel and Vladistok, respectively.

“Admirals,” he said, sitting in a chair at the head of the table. “Good evening.”

“Morning,” Vintrel said. 

“Evening to you as well,” said Vladistok. “So tell, what happened aboard the Green Earth?”

“We got the reports,” Vintrel said, leaning back in his chair and stroking his chin. “The Starbound is prepared to send medical supplies as necessary, but I should voice my concern. We can’t afford many incidents like this. And the Green Earth is ill equipped for medical responses of this level. The Starbound is a destroyer, she doesn’t have much space for medical refugees. And I know the Impact Crater is ill equipped in the medical department as well.”

“We’re too loaded with research equipment and weapons,” Vladistok said. “Best bet would be the Safe Harbor. But Admiral Williamson, this is the latest in a string of incidents, and the clock is ticking. We need to put the Safe Harbor planetside and assist the colony, and we need that terraforming solution.”

“I’m aware,” Williamson said, waving a hand and frowning. “The UN sent us ill equipped for this mission and we are doing what we can. This incident will be the last of them, I’m ordering the crew of this ship to tighten up. I realize we cannot afford many incidents like this.”

“The UN is getting antsy,” Vladistok said. “They’re talking about shifting the mission to the Impact Crater. And if I’m honest with you Admiral, I think that may be a wise decision, all things considered.”

“Absolutely unnecessary,” Williamson said, cooly glaring at his counterpart. “We have the situation under control and will continue to develop a terraforming solution. I will speak to the UN myself if I must.”

“Perhaps you should,” Vladistok said. “See to it that you succeed or my destroyer will be the one to take the reins of this operation.”

Williamson scowled, but Vintrel spoke: “This is an unnecessary conversation. The mission will continue as planned, until word is given from the UN that we will shift course. Enough.”

Vladistok shrugged. “We shall see. In the meantime, I must tend to my bridge. Good luck, Admiral Williamson. You may need it.”

With that, Vladistok’s screen blipped to blackness, leaving Vintrel and Williamson alone. Williamson sighed and slouched in his chair, rubbing his eyes and groaning. Vintrel watched, then chuckled before leaning back in his own chair and shaking his head.The two sat in silence for a moment.

“I don’t like that man,” Williamson said eventually. 

“Ah, neither do I Will, but we have to work with him. Come one, we’ve served with worse. Do you remember Timothy Gales?”

Williamson laughed despite himself. “Yes, yes I do. Crazy son of a… back aboard the Meteorite, I was just a junior officer back then.” 

“See? So don’t think this is too bad. He could be Timothy Gales.”

They both shared a chuckle.

Then, Vintrel said, “Do you think you’ll have it done in time?”

“Depends,” Williamson said with a droopy shrug. “It’s up to the scientists.”

“Well lets hope they pull through, I don’t want that toad picking up the mission.”

“Neither do I,” Williamson said. “I don’t trust the man.”

“I have faith in you Admiral. Contact me if any further incidents arise please, keep me informed.”

“I will.”

Vintrel gave a soft smile and nodded. “You’ve got a brilliant crew aboard your ship. Just facilitate them and they’ll pull through I’m sure.”

“Yeah,” Williamson said, sitting up straight. “I’m sure they will.”

“Well then, I hope you have a good night Admiral.”

“Same to you.”

And with that, the screen blipped to blackness, leaving Williamson alone in the conference room once more.

The next day, the mess hall was alive with the sound of changing shifts. McKinzie wandered in, only lightly hungover on the ship’s homebrew booze, and headed for the food line. She grabbed a tray, slipped in line, and was handed a small breakfast sandwich, some “orange juice”, and a biscuit. Food in hand, she then turned and headed out toward the bolted down shiny metal tables of the hall.

People in jumpsuits of assorted colors littered the floor of the hall, moving to and fro, eating and chatting and laughing and spreading rumors, and it truly felt alive here. McKinzie searched for Price, scanning her eyes through the hall for him, when her gaze settled on a familiar face: Tasha. The scientist was eating at the end of a table, alone, seemingly lost in thought – until, that is, their eyes locked.

Tasha stared at her for a second, seeming to not know exactly what she was looking at for a moment. Then awareness clicked in, and she blinked, before waving McKinzie over. She stood there for a moment, looking once more for any sign of Price. Then, with a sigh, McKinzie slumped and headed for Tasha’s table. Once there she set her food down and looked down at Tasha for a moment, seemingly evaluating her. Then, she sat.

“Good morning,” Tasha said.

McKinzie grunted and took a bite of her sandwich. 

“Not in a chatty mood?”

She sighed. “Tasha, what do you want?”

Tasha recoiled slightly, a hurt look on her face. “Just to talk, that’s all,” she said, looking down at her own food. “I don’t like our dynamic.”

“We don’t have a dynamic,” McKinzie said. “We’re not a pair.”

“Kinzie that hurts.”

“It shouldn’t. That was lost on Luna.”

Tasha quietly pondered her own tray for a moment, before scowling slightly and saying: “You know I regret what happened.”

“Do you? Because the way you speak to me says otherwise.”

Tasha sighed and put her head in her hands. “I’m stressed. You have no idea the pressure on us right now to get this done and you know how I am under stress.”

“Is it that? Or is it a class thing? You abandoned me on Luna, and now… well you know how Earthers see us. Is it the same for you?”

Tasha stared at her for a second, then appeared as though she was about to speak, before silently closing her mouth and looking down. 

“So it is. You look down on Lunars. Don’t you? After all we’ve been through you look down on me, don’t you? Say it. I want to hear you say it.”

“Kinzie,” Tasha said, looking up at her with doe eyes. “I’m just tired.”

Say it.”

Jaw locked, Tasha stared at McKinzie for a moment with an intensity in her eyes, and a weariness behind them. “Fine. I feel uneasy speaking to you. After everything that happened how could I not? Kinzie please, just listen to me. I don’t like it either. That’s why I invited you over, I want to talk to you more. I miss… just, ugh, listen. I don’t want it to be this way.”

“Yeah?” McKinzie scowled. “Well maybe you should’ve thought about that before you ditched me in the dirt. Maybe you should think about that when you speak to me. Maybe you should think about that before you make off-handed comments about Lunars. Maybe you have some thinking to do. But me? I know where I stand.”

“You’re bitter. And – and I understand that. I just -”

“Nope,” McKinzie said, standing up. “We’re done here. I can’t stand to speak to you any more right now. Have a good day Tasha.”

With that, she stood up, took her tray to the trash cans, and disposed of her garbage, before heading out of the mess hall. She’d barely eaten, but her appetite was gone. She turned out of the hall, into the belly of the ship, before hitting an elevator and descending to the maintenance deck. Once there, she headed for her work, slipping into a small area filled with pipes and gauges and two large tanks on the back wall. Here, Price was already hard at work, sweat lining his brow and making his dark brown hair sparkle. He turned as she entered, tools in hand, and waved at her.

“Hey McKinzie.”

“You’re here early. Did you eat breakfast?”

He shook his head. “Check this out,” he said, turning and pointing at one of the gauges. “This thing is stable for now but the fuel regulators could overheat if we don’t lock down the problem.”

“Ah, so you got right to work.” McKinzie slapped his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “You’re probably the best on my team, you know that?”

“Thanks Kinz,” he said, grinning, before getting back to work. “How was breakfast?”

McKinzie rolled her eyes. “Tasha,” she said. “She invited me to sit with her and for some reason, I did.”

Price’s eyebrow crept up. “How’d that go?”

“Terrible. She has no respect for Lunars.”

“Are you sure it’s that? Not to take her side or anything but -” A hiss of steam sprayed out at Price, causing him to recoil. He cursed and wiped his brow, before getting back into the thick of his work. McKinzie watched for a moment, before joining in, picking up a wrench and tightening down a joint. “But,” he continued, “considering the history you two have, maybe it’s something else?”

“Like what?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t interact with her much. But you said she came to your room last night.”

“How do you know that?”

He laughed. “You sent me a very drunk text.”

McKinzie felt her cheeks heat up. “Oh.”

“All I’m saying,” he said, reaching for a laser cutter, “is that there’s definitely some unresolved tension between you two that, I think, stems deeper than a surface level racism.”

Another puff of steam hissed out as the laser cutter hit a valve, but a quick twist of the knob fixed that. “What do you know?” McKinzie said, frowning.

“I know that I’m your best friend and that you trust my judgment.”

She opened her mouth to speak, and then decided against it, grunting and turning to her work. For a while they worked, trying to get the valve readjusted, small talk littering the air. After some time, McKinzie’s PDA dinged. She pulled it out, flipped it open and saw a message from the bridge. The captain wanted to speak with her.

“Shit. Looks like I have to go,” she told Price. “Captain’s orders.”

“Oh?” Price leaned back and watched her for a moment. “Alright, I’ll be here trying to get the regulator fixed.”


She stood and turned, leaving the room and heading for the elevators. In minutes, she was on the bridge deck, walking through decorated hallways and past officers dressed in professional white uniforms. She walked up to the bridge, slipped through the doors, and found herself standing in a large circular room filled with computers and displays. Beyond the massive bay windows, the dark of space sat looming, the void, the ether, and below crested the crimson of Mars. 

Admiral Williamson stood in the center, talking to Tasha. When McKinzie saw this, she groaned quietly, before regaining her composure and stepping forward. They were talking about the state of the research aboard the ship.

“We’re going as fast as we can sir, but given our circumstances, this is the best we can do,” Tasha was saying as McKinzie approached.

Admiral Williamson saw her and turned to greet her, extending his hand. The man had a jovial smile, but behind his deep blue eyes there was a sort of weariness that was harder to detect. McKinzie only saw a flash of it before it was gone. She took his hand, shaking it firmly, and said, “Captain, I came as soon as I got the notification.”

“Good, thank you. I need you both here,” he said, turning to face them both, “as there is a situation I must speak with you both about. You see, the UN is getting worried about the state of our mission. Our setbacks, the most recent one included, have the governments antsy. So I need to know what the state of the ship and the mission are, from your mouths directly.”

McKinzie looked at Tasha, who returned the look, before Tasha bashfully spoke. “I confess, some of our equipment isn’t working properly. We could likely speed up if we got our super coolers and our robotic arms repaired.”

“That’s an easy fix,” McKinzie said, looking at her with a sort of exasperation. “I’ve downloaded all sorts of maintenance schematics to my personal chip. Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Indeed, why didn’t you say anything?” Admiral Williamson said, looking down at her from his tall stature.

Tasha stammered for a moment, scuffing at the ground, and for a moment McKinzie thought she looked like a child being scolded. Eventually, she said, “I’m sorry. This is a personal failing of mine.”

Admiral Williamson rubbed his eyes and sighed. “And you Ms. McKinzie? What is the state of the ship?”

McKinzie ran through several areas of the ship for the admiral, listing off diagnostic codes and reports, before finishing: “The only other problem is the fuel regulators, but my best man is on them as we speak. Should be resolved soon. Something’s wrong in the systems but we’ll sort it out.”

“Very good. In the meantime, I want you and Ms. Grey here to head to the labs, see if you can repair whatever it is she needs fixed, okay?” Admiral Williamson said, looking at them both with a stern intensity in his eyes. “And report when all is operational.”

“Yes sir,” they both said.

“Very well, you’re both dismissed.”

They nodded and, together, left the bridge room. As soon as they were out of the bridge, McKinzie said, “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Tasha hesitated as they reached the elevator, pushing the button and, averting her gaze, saying, “Because I didn’t want to get you involved.”

“Very nice,” McKinzie said, rolling her eyes.

The pair descended on the elevator to the research deck, where they departed. McKinzie grabbed a set of tools from a tool cache on the way, following Tasha to one of the research labs. They stepped through its sliding door, finding it empty.

“We don’t use this one because the equipment is broken,” Tasha explained. She pointed out several objects. “We need the arms fixed, the super cooler fixed, and the laser fixed.”

“Alright,” McKinzie said, setting her tools on a countertop and examining the room. The mechanical arms were limp on the far counter. The super cooler was stashed under a countertop, and the laser sat on its shelf. She took a moment, took a deep breath, and then got out her tools and began to work. 

Tasha watched her silently for a bit as she worked. She seemed awkward, as though she was unsure of what to do, leaning on a counter and fiddling with some gadget. “You know,” she eventually said, not looking up. “I’m sorry.”

McKinzie huffed, leaning over the robotic arms as she began to work on them. The wiring was badly damaged, and some of the joints needed replacing, but it was nothing she couldn’t do. “For?”

“Everything,” Tasha said, frowning slightly. “For how it all went down. For how we’re strangers now. I miss you Kinzie. Miss your laugh and your smile and your comfort at night -”

“Nothing to be done for the past,” McKinzie muttered. 

Tasha’s frown deepened. “Do you remember? When things were good? I’d just turned eighteen, you were nineteen. Even though the moon is a harsh mistress, we had each other.”

McKinzie straightened up and turned to face her. “Had, Tasha. We had each other. And do you remember why that ended?”

Tasha swallowed. “Yes. I regret that too. But there was a war, Kinzie. What… you would’ve done the same in my shoes.” She sighed and let her shoulders fall. “But I was young, immature. And I regret that. I miss you. Please, can we turn a new leaf?”

Watching her, McKinzie pondered for a moment, looking Tasha up and down and right in the eye. Then, she sighed, looked away, and said quietly, “I have work to do Tasha. Don’t you?”

From the corner of her eye she could see Tasha’s face fall. “Yes. I suppose I do.”

Without another word, Tasha stood from the counter, set the little gadget down, and walked out of the room, leaving McKinzie alone to continue her work. For a moment, McKinzie felt tears just behind her eyes. “Stupid,” she muttered, finding her resolve and continuing her work stone-faced. “Absolutely stupid.”

Admiral Williamson sat in the conference room once more, staring at the screen before him. Vintrel and Vladistok both stared back, and there was an uncomfortable silence in the room. He shifted, thinking, before leaning back and groaning. 

“Admiral Williamson,” Admiral Vladistok said, “I understand this is not the best news you could receive. But what the UN states, stands.”

Three days. He had three days to produce results or the mission would officially be switched to the UNSS Impact Crater. Three days to finish months upon months of work. It was almost absurd. Even worse, the UN was threatening to decommission him if results didn’t come through. If the mission switched, the Green Earth was going back to the green Earth for drydock. Williamson rubbed his eyes and groaned again.

“I understand,” he said. “I’ll see to it that my scientists do as well.”

“Good,” Vladistok said. “We are fully prepared to take over the mission if need be. Just be aware of that. Good evening, Admirals.”

His screen turned dark, leaving Williamson and Vintrel, who had been quiet through the meeting, alone. Finally Vintrel spoke, a grave look on his face. “You’d best see to it that your scientists understand the gravity of this situation.”

“I will.”

“I don’t want that slimeball taking over the mission. I have faith in you Admiral Williamson.” Vintrel saluted, and then his screen went dark too, leaving Williamson alone. He leaned his elbows on the table before him and rested his face in his hands, thinking. If Vladistok got the mission, it would be over for Williamson’s career. This was meant to be his highlight, leading the terraforming mission on Mars, and it was threatened now, at risk of falling apart. 

The weariness was apparent in the way he carried himself; his shoulders sagged, his eyes had dark circles beneath them, and no smile graced his lips. Tired, he stood, leaving the conference room and heading back to the main bridge. Once there, he sat himself at his command console, and pulled up the PDA list, pinging Tasha Grey. They’d need to speak, and soon. And if she couldn’t pull it off? 

Well, they’d all be at the end of their rope.

McKinzie examined the fuel regulators again. There was certainly something deeply wrong with them; all of their fixes were failing. She chewed on her lip, staring down at her PDA as it did a diagnostics test, a little wire linking it and a port on the wall beside a display. They’d need to fix this soon; an unregulated fuel regulator risked overheating, and an overheated fuel regulator risked exploding, which would take the entire ship out of commission, not to mention possibly killing people in the process.

Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t hear the door behind her slide open as a frantic Tasha slipped into the room. “Kinzie,” she said, making McKinzie flinch. 

McKinzie turned around, raising an eyebrow at Tasha. “What?”

Tasha looked frazzled. Her hair was a mess, and she had tired, worn out eyes. Her hands were shaking slightly too, and her whole posture seemed slouched. “Bad news. Very bad news. I need your help. Please, please fix the lab equipment today. We need that equipment badly.”

“Hold on,” McKinzie said, noting Tasha’s appearance and trying to speak soothingly. “What’s going on?”

Tasha frowned and ran a hand through her hair. “We have three days to finish our soil testing. If we don’t… the mission gets transferred to the Impact Crater and we all go home. The Captain believes it’ll be the end of our careers. So please, please fix the equipment. I don’t beg often but I’m doing it now.”

“These fuel regulators,” McKinzie said, trying to keep her voice soft, “are at risk of overheating. I need to fix them.”

“Don’t you have anyone else who can take over? You’re the only one with a chip in your head, you know how to fix things better than anyone else on this ship, and we need that equipment now.”

McKinzie looked Tasha over; there was a seriousness about her, a weariness, and a sort of fear that softened McKinzie’s heart, even after all these years. She thought for a moment, before assenting. “Fine, I’ll have Price get on this. Let’s go.”

After sending Price a message, McKinzie followed Tasha to the labs, tools in hand. Once there, they were silent for a while, as McKinzie began to get to work on the equipment, pulling out a welder and beginning to insert new joints into the mechanical arms. She worked for a while, Tasha watching her, fidgeting and clearly anxious. McKinzie watched her out of the corner of her eye for a moment, before shaking her head and sighing, her demeanor softening.

“Can you do it in three days?” she asked. “It’s gonna take me a day, day and a half to get this stuff up and running.”

Tasha shrugged. “I believe so. We’re on the verge of a breakthrough. Or were, before the explosion. But I believe we can do it. I have faith in my team. But we’re on the verge of a breakdown too. Please do your best, we need this equipment.”

“I’m working on it,” McKinzie said, fiddling with one of the joints. “I’ll have it up and running, don’t you worry.”

“Thank you. You… always were reliable. Are reliable.”

McKinzie gave her a sidelong glance, before returning to her work, saying simply: “Thank you.”

“Well… I must get back to work,” Tasha said. “But Kinzie? After-shift, I… I’d like to invite you to my quarters. Please. Just to talk a bit.”

Pausing, McKinzie stood frozen for a moment, chewing that over. She turned and faced Tasha, hands on her hips, and looked the woman up and down. The exhaustion, the nerves, it was apparent she was feeling worn down. Her hair was frizzed, kept in a messy ponytail. Her eyes had dark circles under them, and her posture spoke of exhaustion. And something about seeing her like this left McKinzie feeling some sort of way. She couldn’t explain it. 

“Alright, fine,” she said, almost despite herself. “I’ll be there.”

Tasha gave her a soft smile. “Thank you Kinzie.”

Then, she turned and left the lab, leaving McKinzie to work. That day she managed to fix the mechanical arms and begin working on the super cooler, her mind stuck, for whatever reason, on Tasha, and how she looked. Tired, frantic, vulnerable, a side of her she rarely showed. Looking like that, McKinzie almost couldn’t say no to her request. And when the shift bell finally rang, she packed her equipment, returned it to the tool cache, and headed for Tasha’s quarters.

The living quarters deck was much nicer than the maintenance deck, where her quarters were. It made sense; the ship’s maintainers should be near the equipment they maintain, but still, this level had a pool table, recreational area, and vending machines. Not to mention it was roomy. McKinzie made her way to Tasha’s quarters, and knocked on the metal door when she arrived.

The door slid open with a hiss, and she saw Tasha standing before her with a bottle of wine-like alcohol in her hand. For a moment the two exchanged awkward glances, before Tasha invited her in and closed the door behind her. 

“Please, sit anywhere,” she said. 

McKinzie chose to sit at Tasha’s desk, spinning around in the chair to face her bed. The quarters were roomy too, with a bed, a desk across from it, a screen on the wall displaying the reaches of space beyond the hull of the ship, shelves and storage areas, it was nice. Tasha sat on her bed, and offered McKinzie the bottle of lab-brewed wine. McKinzie looked at it for a moment, and seemed about to refuse, before taking the bottle and taking a gulp of its contents. 

For a little while, they passed the bottle back and forth in silence, each taking little sips of it and loosening up. When McKinzie’s cheeks finally started to turn slightly pink, Tasha smiled at her and spoke.

“It’s been a while, but I find I still enjoy the silences between us.” She shifted on her bed, bringing her legs up and sitting with her legs crossed. “I remember back on Luna we could go for hours without speaking in the same company and still it felt as though we’d been conversing the entire time. You’re good company Kinzie.”

McKinzie shrugged. “Don’t get used to it.”

Tasha looked down, a sad smile on her face. “You know, when war broke out between Luna and Earth, I was scared. But you were always there for me. I… I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.”

“You had other plans,” McKinzie said, looking away. “In the end it worked out.”

“I disagree. But being an agricultural scientist isn’t so bad. I just… wish I’d taken a different path. When I was evacuated to Earth, I thought I’d never see you again. I was worried, Kinzie. I’m sorry I left, but please know I was always worried about you.”

McKinzie frowned and faced Tasha. “I was worried about you too,” she said, locking eyes with Tasha. “But that hurt. When you left, I was all alone.”

“But you made something of yourself too,” Tasha commented, offering a half smile. “Silver linings, I guess. What did happen to you after the war?”

“Someone had to repair the bases on Luna. I got swept up by a maintenance crew and taught everything I know. At some point they decided I was so good at the job, they implanted the chip, and now I’m one of the most skilled maintainers the UN could ask for.”

Tasha laughed softly, and McKinzie, despite herself, softened. Tasha had a laugh like tinkling bells, like gentle ocean waves lapping at the shores of Earth. McKinzie sat back and continued: “I got a prestigious scholarship to a university on Earth, too. So I went. Earth is… big. Open. It’s beautiful too. But too much for me. I much prefer space.”

“Earth is wonderfully beautiful,” Tasha said. “I have long wished to show you my hometown. It’s beautiful.”

“Amsterdam right?”

Tasha smiled. “Right. You remember.”

Waving a hand, McKinzie said, “Of course I remember.” She stood and sat on the bed beside Tasha, looking into her eyes. “I remember everything about you.”

For a moment, the pair sat in silence, before Tasha leaned in and tried to hug McKinzie. McKinzie pulled away though, an intense look in her eyes as she frowned and said, “Don’t. Don’t think that we’re still a thing. Or that we ever will be again. That ship has sailed. I’m perfectly fine on my own now.”

Tasha looked down at the bottle in her hands and slumped. “I… I’m not, Kinzie. I’ve done well for myself, made a career for myself, and succeeded. But the stress and pressure are weighing on me. I just… I just miss the simpler times. When you and I were happy. Before life took its toll on us both.” She chewed her lip for a moment. “I miss the simpler times. I miss running through the corridors of Luna with you. Do you remember when we accidentally activated the fire suppression system in the cafeteria?”

Despite herself, McKinzie laughed. “Yeah I do. God they were pissed about that.”

Tasha laughed too. “Yeah they were. I miss those times. We’d get in trouble, have fun, be ourselves.” A look crossed her face, one speaking of dejection, sorrow, and longing, and her eyes seemed to stare a thousand yards into nothing. “I miss those times.”

McKinzie looked at her gently, her hard heart softening, and carefully, unsure, she reached out and pulled Tasha in for a hug. Tasha seemed surprised, gasping and hesitating before awkwardly hugging back. For a moment they sat in each other’s embrace, awkward yet warm, before McKinzie pulled away and looked Tasha over. Her demeanor seemed somewhat brightened, which made McKinzie somewhat pleased. 

“Listen, I… still don’t know how I feel about all of this,” McKinzie said. She stood and brushed herself down, looking down at Tasha. “But maybe I’ll be back tomorrow, okay?”

Tasha’s eyes lit up. “Really? That’d make me happy, Kinzie. Thank you.”

“Yeah. I’m gonna go now, I need some rest. But… well, nevermind. I’ll see you around Tasha.”

“Yeah,” Tasha said, watching her go. “See you.”

With that, McKinzie left, and Tasha was alone.

The next day, McKinzie found herself in the fuel coupler room with Price. Long pipes lined the walls and hung from the ceiling, all connected by coupler joints. Displays on the wall were listing readouts from the coupler and fuel systems, and the entire room was humming and whirring. Price stood at a console, keying something into it, as McKinzie watched.

“Well?” she said. “What’s the news?”

“There’s major problems with the regulators. Something is gunking them up, somewhere there’s a problem, but…” He ran a hand through his hair and cursed, kicking the wall. “But the damn thing is telling me that everything is green. So I don’t know where it is.”

McKinzie stepped forward and took a look at the readout on the screen before Price and sure enough, beside the list of subsystems was a little green light, all the way down. She hummed for a moment, before saying, “Well keep working on it. If you find something, let me know as soon as you can. I need to get back to the labs to fix the equipment up there, but the moment you find something, you let me know, okay?”

“Roger,” he said, turning from the console to face her. “I’ll head down to the coolant systems and see if I can’t find something there.”

“Alright. Be safe.”

She turned and left the coupler room, heading down the long corridors of the maintenance deck to the elevators. Soon, she found herself in the labs, their sleek white corridors with stripes painted on them to guide wayward scientists to the right lab room illuminated brightly in the harsh overhead lights. She found her tool cache, headed for Tasha’s broken lab, and when she arrived, she found Tasha waiting for her, leaning casually on a countertop and fiddling with her PDA.

McKinzie entered without a word, and began to set up. Tasha watched for a moment, before returning to her PDA. For a while, it was like this, McKinzie silently working and Tasha clicking away at her PDA. Today she was working on finishing the super cooler and laser tool – it would probably take half a day – and it seemed that Tasha would be sticking around, if silently.

After a time, however, Tasha spoke. “So… last night. It was nice to have you over.”

McKinzie stood up from the super cooler and raised an eyebrow. “Alright, I’ll bite. Why the sudden shift? You go from calling me a mooner to reminiscing over a night we spent together. What’s up with that?”

“Kinzie c’mon,” Tasha said.

McKinzie sighed and got back to work on the super cooler. The rectangular safe-like box had wires fried and its internal temperature regulator was cooked. It’d need a new one from downstairs. She pulled her PDA out and sent a request for it to her team as she got to work on the wires. 

“Don’t get used to it,” she eventually said. “I’m a self-sufficient person. Had to be. Don’t think you can just waltz back into my life like nothing happened.”

There was a pause. Tasha looked to her, then looked down, scuffing at the ground with her shoe. “Do you regret it?” she eventually said.

“Regret what?”

“Becoming a mechanic. Landing aboard this ship. Doing what you’re doing. Do you regret it?”

McKinzie stood up again, setting her tools on the countertop. “No, I don’t think I do. I love my job.”

With a shrug, Tasha said, “Do you think you’d have done it if I’d stuck around?”

“Hold on,” McKinzie said, frowning and pointing at Tasha, “If you hadn’t left I’d probably – you know what, drop it.”

“Probably what?” Tasha probed.

“Nothing. But… still I keep thinking about last night too. So I suppose you’re not alone. But don’t get used to it.”

Tasha’s face brightened a bit. She didn’t smile, but the dejection was gone and there was a light behind her eyes. She stood up fully and walked over to where McKinzie was working, leaning on that countertop beside her and saying, “Will you join me for dinner tonight?”

A warm, pink heat rose to McKinzie’s cheeks. “Dinner?”

“Yes, dinner, in my quarters. It was… nice… to catch up with you.”

McKinzie mulled it over for a moment. She breathed in deeply, and let it out slowly, thinking. If she went, she would be assenting to Tasha’s wishes, which, surprisingly, she found she didn’t mind as much as she thought she would. Still there was a sour taste in her mouth about it all. And yet, despite the uneasy feeling, she said, “Fine. But on my terms. Come to my quarters after shift, we’ll have dinner together. Alright?”

“Deal,” Tasha chirped. “And Kinzie?”


“Thanks. I’ll see you then.”

She turned and left the lab, and McKinzie watched her go, before rolling her eyes and getting back to work. She worked through the day, until the super cooler and laser were finally repaired – easy fixes but in need of repair all the same – and when she was done, she headed back down to the maintenance deck and went to the coolant room. Price was here reading something on his PDA, which was plugged into a port on the coolant system’s display. Big tanks lined the room, with pipes jutting out of them every which way and lining the wall in a colorful display. This was one of three coolant rooms aboard the ship, and she was lucky to have found Price on her first try.

“How’s it going?” she said, approaching him.

He jumped. “Jeez Kinz, scared the shit out of me.”

She laughed lightly. “Sorry sorry. Any news?”

“Something is definitely up with the coolant system, I just don’t know what. Need more time, the ship is being stubborn.” He closed his PDA and turned to face her. “What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Run into your ex?”

McKinzie grunted and put her hands on her hips. “Yeah. She’s coming to my quarters for dinner.”

“Ooo,” Price said, “sounds interesting. Why the change of heart on her?”

“I… don’t know yet. I remember how she was though. Fiery under pressure, but mostly harmless. I can’t help but get the feeling that nothing’s changed and that… makes me feel some sort of way.”

“You’re open to giving her a chance.”

McKinzie shrugged. “I don’t know about that, but… I doubt she has malintent. I guess that’s what matters. I’ll see where it goes I guess. Still don’t know how to feel about it.”

“Well just keep yours truly posted, however it goes.”

She offered a soft smile with tired eyes. “Thanks Price. I will.”

He smiled back. “Good. Now then, c’mon we really need to figure out what’s going on with these regulators.”

“Right,” she said, and the two got back to work.

When McKinzie opened her door, Tasha stepped in, a tray of food in hand. She set it on McKinzie’s desk, where McKinzie’s own food sat, and she sat in the desk chair. McKinzie took her tray and placed it on her bed, before picking up a bit of her food and swallowing it. The shift bell had rung nearly two hours ago, and McKinzie had spent that time thinking over tonight, how it would go, what would be said, how it might end. All of the thinking was threatening to give her a headache. For a while, they both seemed uneasy, hesitant. Neither spoke.

After some time, Tasha spoke first. “Do you remember the war well? I do.”

McKinzie looked at her, then to her food, and said, “I do. That was the first time Earth has ever been bombarded like that. And the moon was in terrible shape afterward. I’m surprised there was any reconciliation.”

“Most people involved were tried and executed,” Tasha commented. “I remember watching it from Earth.”

“Good too,” McKinzie said. “Lots of people died during the moonrock shelling.”

“I didn’t know you felt that way.”

McKinzie shrugged. “I don’t find unnecessary death appealing. My home is on Luna, but my loyalties lie with humanity.”



Tasha took a bite of her food and looked away. “Can I be honest with you Kinzie?”


“I… I never meant to leave you there. On Luna, during the war. I fled without you and… that weighs on me at night sometimes. I feel… shame about it. Deeply. I’d always hoped we’d meet again, but it’s not… this isn’t… it’s not how I want it to be.”

For a moment, McKinzie thought she looked like a child once again. For a moment, she could see the eighteen year old in Tasha, afraid and vulnerable. She sighed and said, “Don’t think about it too deeply. You’ll hurt yourself.”

“I’m trying to tell you how I feel.”

“It’s… not necessary. We are where we are now, and that’s what we have to work with.”

Tasha shook her head. “I think it’s necessary. My time on Earth really cemented my view of Lunars, you have no idea the amount of hatred that Earthers felt after the bombardment. A lot of people died. And I just… I felt angry too. Earth is my home.”

“Not everyone on Luna participated in that.”

“No, not everyone,” Tasha said. “Not you. I know. Not most people.”

“Then why the vitriol?”

“I…” Tasha paused, and McKinzie noticed her eyes begin to grow glossy and wet. Tasha wiped at them with her hand, rubbing her eyes and swallowing harshly as though she was trying to maintain composure. “I don’t know. I have a superiority complex now, a lot of Earthers do. And I don’t know how to handle that, especially with the shame I feel in leaving you on that transport ship.”

Something within McKinzie softened. She felt her body slack a bit, and the tension she wasn’t even aware of in her shoulders vanished. Before her wasn’t the harsh, fiery scientist Tasha had become; before her was the eighteen year old Tasha, alone and deeply vulnerable. McKinzie pushed her food away and leaned back on her bed, looking at Tasha, examining her, before speaking.

“Tasha, I don’t hate you. I was just hurt. And that moment stuck with me through my entire life. I don’t blame you for leaving, but it stings. But I don’t hate you. I don’t even dislike you. I just don’t know how to interact with you.” She scooted over on her bed. “Sit with me.”

Tasha stood and sat on the bed next to McKinzie. “Listen,” McKinzie said, “we both went through a lot. And I think… listen, this is contingent on you treating me with some respect, okay? But I’ll be willing to put the past behind us, if you are too. But you need to lighten up with the Mooner shit.”

Tasha nodded without looking up. McKinzie couldn’t help but see her as a child in this moment. “Alright,” was all she said.

“Can you do that for me?” McKinzie asked, carefully placing her hand beneath Tasha’s chin and lifting it so that their eyes met. 

Tasha turned a bright pink and stammered for a moment, before swallowing and saying, “I’ll try. We’re just under such pressure, and I don’t know that we’ll get the mission done on time, and I’m sorry for being such a firecracker under pressure I just -”

“I know. Just try.”

“Alright.” Tasha nodded. “I will.”

“Good.” McKinzie inspected Tasha’s gaze for a moment, before leaning in and planting a little kiss on her cheek. Tasha instantly turned a bright pink, bashfully looking away. 

She watched Tasha for a moment. “Don’t get used to it.”

Tasha stammered for a moment, before falling silent. 

With a little chuckle, McKinzie said, “You really do remind me of all those years ago, you know that? You haven’t changed.”

“Neither have you,” Tasha said, still blushing.

McKinzie laughed. “Yeah well, more than you might think.”

The two ate their dinners and enjoyed casual conversation through the night, sitting beside each other. It was like old times, McKinzie thought. They even bantered a bit as the next shift began its day’s work, and for a moment, McKinzie found Tasha’s company enjoyable. Pleasant even. Just like old times, she supposed. But the feeling that lingered with her, even after Tasha had left, was heavy, and thick, and she was unsure of how to navigate it. And that night, as she lay in her bed trying to sleep, one thing kept coming back to her mind: Tasha. 

That night, Admiral Williamson sat in the conference room with Admiral Vintrel on screen, and only Vintrel. Williamson looked tired, as though he’d not been sleeping, with dark lines under his eyes and a droopy expression. Vintrel watched him for a moment, frowning. “You’re not getting enough rest,” he said.

“No, I’m not,” said Williamson. 

“You’ve still got one more Earth day to figure this out.”

“I don’t know that it’s enough. Though my senior scientist has reported that her labs are repaired. And I have faith in her ability,” he said. “I just don’t like this. And I don’t like Vladisok, that man is too much of a firebrand for his position.”

“I’ll agree,” Vintrel said. “Which is all the more reason to ensure that yours is the ship that has this mission.”

“We just need a little more time,” Williamson said, sighing and holding his head in his hands. “That’s it, just a little more.”

“I’ll try and protect you for one more day. Let me see what I can do. You keep focused on the mission and I’ll update you as I can. Word from the UN though is that they’re considering authorizing use of force if the mission fails. They really want this done, Admiral Williamson.”

“It’ll get done. I just need time.”

“I’ll see if I can buy you some.”

“Thank you Seymour. You always were reliable,” Admiral Williamson said. 

“Same to you Voss. You know I’ll have your back.”

“Thank you,” he said again, offering a small smile. “I’ll see if I can’t get the ship to cruch.”

“Good, you do that, I’ll see what I can do about getting Vladistok off of your back.” Vintrel saluted, and then his screen cut to black, and Williamson sat back in his chair, sighing. Use of force being authorized meant that the UN was desperate, and a desperate government was dangerous, let alone a council of them. He’d have to work fast – everyone would. Wearily he pulled out his PDA, found Tasha, and began to type her a message.

“Price, how are the systems?” McKinzie asked, stepping into the coolant room. 

Price was lodged under a large coolant pipe, examining something. He slid out and looked up at her, shrugging. “Not good. The whole coolant system needs maintenance, and at the very least the coolant needs replacing. Looks like this is the issue with our regulators.”

“That’ll cripple the ship for a bit,” McKinzie noted.

Price nodded. “Yeah but without it, the ship could pop like a balloon. It needs doing badly. How’d things go last night?”

Hesitating, McKinzie said, “Well. No promises, but I think we’re making headway.”

“Headway. I didn’t know headway was the way you wanted to go.”

“Yeah well… neither did I. Let’s focus on these fuel regulators. I’ll order the crew to spend limited time in the regulator rooms, you focus on getting that coolant flushed.”

“It’ll take some time,” Price said, slipping back under the pipe. “Plus the Captain needs to know.”

“Leave that to me.”

“Roger,” he said. “You headed out?”

“Gonna go get some lunch, yeah. You want to come?”

“Nah I’ll stay here and keep working. Not hungry.”


She turned and left the coolant room, headed for the cafeteria, her mind still firmly lodged on Tasha, who was nowhere to be found at lunchtime. After lunch, she informed the captain of her need to shut down the ship’s engines, headed back down to the coolant rooms, and helped Price prepare for a coolant flush. The day was long and arduous, and was spent lugging tools and coolant through the belly of the ship, and when it was over, and McKinzie was headed back to her room, she found herself relieved. But when she arrived at her room, she found Tasha leaning on the wall beside her door, looking down at her PDA.


“Oh, um, hi,” she said, putting her PDA away and standing up straight. “I was hoping we could talk.”

McKinzie raised an eyebrow, but opened her door and let Tasha in. “What about?” she asked as the door shut behind them. “Is this about last night?”

“It is,” Tasha said, sitting on McKinzie’s bed. McKinzie watched her for a moment, before sitting beside her. “Thank you for fixing my lab equipment, by the way. I… think we can do it now. I’m not sure, it’s up to the second and third shifts to pull ahead and make some progress, but I have faith in them. I tried to keep working but they told me to go get some rest.”

“Probably a good idea, you tend to overwork yourself.”

“Yeah… what about you? How is your work going?”

McKinzie shrugged. “We need to replace the coolant in the ship pretty badly. We’re risking an explosion as is. So it’s tense, but I think we’ll manage.”

“I see.”

“Tasha, why are you here?”

Tasha looked away, her cheeks turning a light rose. “I wanted to see you.”

“I told you not to get used to it.”

“Oh Kinzie,” Tasha said, locking eyes with her. “I’m sorry, I just miss you.”

McKinzie turned away this time, looking down at her bed. “Tasha…”

“Shh, please don’t speak. I need to tell you something. I…” Tasha paused. “I still… you still mean a lot to me. And I can’t keep you off my mind. Even when I’m working under such a crunch, I can’t help myself. So just…”

She leaned closer. “Just don’t speak, please. Words are pointless here.”

McKinzie felt a sudden urge to pull away, but it didn’t last, and soon Tasha was close, very close, and she planted a small, gentle kiss on McKinzie’s cheek. McKinzie blushed deeply and stroked her cheek for a moment, before looking at Tasha with an intensity in her eyes. 

“Tasha, what are you doing?”

Tasha averted her gaze bashfully. “I-I just… I know there’s tension between us. But… let’s unravel it. Right here, right now. C’mon Kinzie, can’t we just let go? I… I’m sorry for everything that’s happened between us. But you said it yourself, let’s put this behind us. I can’t go back and stop myself from leaving you on Luna, but I can be with you now. I want to be with you now. I wish I’d been with you this whole time. I want us to be together again, like we used to be. You know, happy.”

“Tasha, I…”

“Shh, please,” Tasha said. “Aren’t you lonely? I am… I really am Kinzie. I… I miss you.” She started to lean in, but backed away bashfully. “Can’t we just… can’t you just trust me. Things are different now.”

“I don’t know. Tasha I can’t just let go of -”

“But Kinzie,” Tasha whispered. “I’m not asking you to. I’m asking you to let me in. Just one more time. To show you how different things are now. My regrets, I’ve learned from them. And…” She leaned in once more, and very, very gently planted a kiss on McKinzie’s lips. 

McKinzie flushed fire red and averted her gaze, but held her ground and stammered, “Tasha…?”

“Shh,” Tasha said. “There’s no need for words right now. Just…” she trailed off as she leaned in once more. “Just trust me. Just one… more… time.”

And with that, their lips met passionately, and soon the two fell into the dance of lovers. Time itself seemed to still, though hours passed, and when these dancers had taken their bows, they fell into a deep, comfortable, thought-provoking and much needed slumber.

“Admiral Williamson,” Admiral Vladistok said, “When the clocks on Earth roll over, I will be assuming command of this mission, as per UN orders.”

“We just need a day, the science team is almost finished with their product,” Williamson said, his voice filling the otherwise empty conference room. Vintrel watched them both from his screen, but had remained silent.

“The UN has authorized use of force if need be, Admiral. Do not make this harder than it has to be, please.”

“Vladistok -”

“Admiral Vladistok.”

Williamson grit his jaw. “Admiral Vladistok. If you take over the mission now it’ll only cause further setbacks. My team is almost finished, your team hasn’t started. Just give mine a day.”

“I abide by UN orders. That’s all. Good evening gentlemen.” 

He saluted, and Williamson noted the smugness in it as Vladistok’s screen went dark. He looked to Vintrel, who had a tired look in his eye, and said, “I hate that man.”

“He’s probably vying for a medal.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me.”

“Listen,” Vintrel said, “I can stick by you for a day. I doubt he’d pull anything with a destroyer around. But I need your word. Can you get this out in a day?”

“I can. You realize you may be charged with breaching orders, right?”

“I think that’ll be overlooked. I’ve worked with the UN for long enough to know when I can get away with something.” He flashed a grin. “Just try and get that product out.”

“I will,” Williamson said. “I will or so help us all.”

The next day, when they awoke, McKinzie and Tasha spent the morning idly chatting before their shifts. Slowly they dressed, resolving to figure out the day together, neither of them speaking of the night before. Still, there was some playfulness, McKinzie playing with Tasha’s hair as they awoke, Tasha playfully scolding McKinzie for taking too long to get ready. The air wasn’t awkward, or tense – it was clear, oddly. McKinzie kept stealing glances of Tasha, who did the same, but neither of them brought up the night before.

Before the shift bell had even rung, however, both of their PDA’s lit up. A message from the Captain. They looked at each other warily. They’d been summoned to the bridge immediately, and in moments the mood was gone, and they were serious once more. McKinzie finished getting ready, as did Tasha, and soon the pair were maneuvering through the ship to reach the bridge. Through engineering, up the elevators, and to the bridge they went, where they found the mood to be quiet and tense. All of the bridge hands were at their stations, and everyone seemed to have this intensity about them.

Williamson was waiting for them by the bay windows, looking out at Mars below. They joined him and for a moment he was silent, seemingly lost in thought, before he turned around and eyed them over.

“Status update, Ms. Grey?”

Tasha stepped forward. “I haven’t spoken to my team yet but I’m confident we are close to a breakthrough. When I last spoke to them I was told that by today we’d have tangible results.”

“Let’s hope so Ms. Grey. And you, Ms. McKinzie, any word on the coolant?”

“Should be able to do a flush today sir,” she said. “Everything is in order.”

“See if you can’t hurry that up, both of you, we don’t have much time today. I’m keeping an eye on the Impact Crater, if she even so much as twitches in our direction I’ll let you know, but you must let me know immediately when you have completed your soil prototype. Understand?”

“Yes sir,” Tasha said. 

“Sir!” called out a technician aboard the bridge. “Comms link incoming.”

At that moment, a face appeared on the screens behind them. They turned and saw Admiral Vladistok’s face staring down at them, his sharp features making him look imposing, authoritarian even. He inspected them for a moment, before saying, “Admiral Williamson, I am hereby informing you that your time has expired, and this mission will now be transferred to the Impact Crater. I am hereby demanding that you surrender your ship for boarding immediately. Failure to do so will violate UN O-1544 clause 17 of -”

Another face appeared on the screen now, this time Admiral Vintrel, who seemed angered, frowning, brow furrowed, and a deep, red look in his eye. “Admiral Vladistok, I am ordering you to cease and desist your approach. I repeat, cease your approach. I am sending a long range link to the UN base on Luna for authorization of one more day for Admiral Williamson’s team. Until we have confirmation, I demand you back down.”

“Time is up Admiral. Surrender your ship to boarding immediately.”

Vladistok disappeared, his screen blinking away, leaving Vintrel alone on the monitors. “Admiral Williamson, I don’t think I need to tell you how dangerous this is.”

“No, you don’t. Miss Grey, I need something now.”

Tasha looked at him, then to McKinzie, who nodded, before reaching into her pocket and frantically pulling out her PDA. She flipped it open and began hurriedly punching things in, reaching out to her team, demanding status reports, and finally, she called them, stepping away. McKinzie looked at Admiral Williamson, then to Admiral Vintrel, and finally out to space, where she saw, far away, lights blink to life – the thrusters of the Impact Crater. It’d be on them in minutes.

Williamson, apparently noting this, barked to his crew: “Evasive maneuvers on my mark. Don’t let them connect!”

The bridge crew silently looked at him, before turning back to their work. They seemed reluctant, but McKinzie could tell they’d follow orders. Which would be bad, if the fuel regulators weren’t fixed. “Captain, the coolant system still needs flushing.”

“It’ll have to wait,” he said.

“But sir, the fuel regulators could pop like a cork.”

Williamson looked at her for a moment, staring with a deep intensity, before cursing under his breath and turning back to Vintrel. “Is there anything you can do?”

“I’ll try,” he said. “But no promises. And Williamson? Don’t let that man board your ship.”

“He won’t.”

“Good.” With that, Vintrel’s screen went dark.

Tasha hurried back up to them, packing her PDA away. “My team is currently refining the finished product. We just need fifteen minutes, that’s it.”

Williamson looked out at the darkness beyond. The little lights were growing brighter now. “Radar screen,” he ordered, and on the glass a screen popped up displaying in three dimensions the radar field of the ship. The Impact Crater’s IFF pinged it at a couple hundred kilometers away and swiftly approaching.

They watched for a moment, all in silent suspense, as the ship neared. Soon it was visible through the bay window, and they could see its sleek black metal hull, its angles, its weaponry, and two small extending boarding tubes coming off of its belly. Williamson cursed again. If that ship got close enough to tag the Green Earth, it could send a request for manual override to the UN, and board as it pleased.

“Fuck,” he cursed, spinning around to face his bridge. “Dammit all do it anyway! Evasive maneuvers, swing us starboard sixty degrees and skyward ninety, now!”

The bridge crew got to work. Vladistok’s ship was quick, and near now. Without much groaning however, the ship began to turn, until Mars was fully in its view for just a moment. Then, it swung skyward, removing Mars from its field of vision and leaving only the emptiness of space. 

“Thrusters, now!”

It was a subtle change when the ship moved, but it was apparent all the same. McKinzie could feel it in her feet as the thrusters kicked on, and in her gut too, which knotted up. This was a lot of movement for a ship that was a ticking time bomb. 

The ship maneuvered, and Tasha and McKinzie watched as some distance was put between them and the Impact Crater on the radar screen. “Sir,” McKinzie said. “Don’t overdo it, those regulators -”

“Aha!” Tasha cried out, examining her PDA. “Captain, I believe we have a final product. My team just informed me that the distillation and cooling have completed and that this soil will blend seamlessly.”

Williamson turned to face her. “Excellent, excellent Ms. Grey! Comms! Get Admiral Vintrel on the line, now! And call up Vladistok too. Make sure -”

Just then, a sudden boom rippled through the ship, throwing it into a sudden lurch that nearly knocked McKinzie off her feet. It was so loud it was deafening for a moment, and she couldn’t hear what Admiral Williamson or Tasha were saying. She blinked, gathering her bearings, a loud ringing echoing in her ears. Quickly, she pulled her PDA out and checked Price’s status. Her heart pounded – one of the regulators just exploded, that was definitely what that was, and he was working on the regulators. But there was a small green light next to his PDA – he was online, good. So he hadn’t been in that room. Quickly she ordered her team to evacuate the engineering deck, before packing her PDA away and looking back toward Tasha and Williamson, who was speaking.

“What?” she said, clearing her ears.

“I said you two go! Go figure out what happened and take care of it! I’ll handle the politics!”

McKinzie looked at Tasha, who looked back with uncertainty in her eyes. “C’mon,” McKinzie said, jaunting out of the room. “We need to go now.”

Tasha swallowed and nodded, hurrying behind her. “What happened?”

“Fuel regulator blew! Likely there’s a giant hole in the ship now, and there’ll be more if we don’t fix the coolant system. We need emergency coolant,” she said as she hailed the elevators. Around them loud klaxons filled the halls with a deafening wail, calling teams to the engineering decks for a code orange. “Problem is, it won’t cool anything fast enough. We need a super coolant, and just shit. We don’t have any super coolant.”

“Super coolant?”

“It’ll freeze the engines but at least they won’t blow, and we can figure that out later. Tasha, can you cook up a coolant? Do you know how to do that?”

“I know how to make something that’s incredibly cold,” she said as she stepped onto the elevator. “But I can’t make enough of it in time. Maybe if I modify the original coolant though, I can get it to be essentially liquid frost. It’ll gunk up the lines though, I’m sure of it.”

“That’ll do.”

The elevator stopped on the laboratory level, where they stepped off and hurried to a specific lab on the far end of the floor. In the labs, Tasha quickly got to work, gathering a concoction of liquids and beginning to meticulously measure them out into beakers and pipettes. The strange, clear fluids were foreign to McKinzie, but she let Tasha work in silence for a moment.

“Is there anything I can do?”

“You can just sit there and be pretty,” Tasha said, before giving her a soft glance. “Just be here for me. Like I should’ve been there for you.”

McKinzie watched her for a moment, and then gave her a soft smile, before letting her get back to work. Then, another boom rang out, throwing McKinzie off her feet and spilling several of the liquids that Tasha was working with. They both cursed as they tried to right themselves, the ship shaking and buckling, klaxons blaring with a code orange alarm screeching over them. Likely fire crews would already be on the engineering deck, trying to suppress any fires not caught by the blast doors. 

McKinzie pulled her PDA out once more and checked Price’s status and when she found it was offline, her heart dropped. The PDA’s only ever displayed an offline status if they were off – meaning Price’s, for the first time, was off. Her heart dropped, and she nearly let go of her PDA, as her hands trembled and her eyes began to water. Her lip quivered as the reality of the situation sank in. 

“Kinzie? Kinzie! Hey! What happened?” Tasha asked, seeing her face. She stepped over and attempted to hug McKinzie, but McKinzie pushed her away.

“Hurry with the coolant solution!” she cried. “Just hurry! We don’t have time.”

She swallowed her emotions as best she could, wiping her eyes and hardening her jaw. This was no time for emotions. This was time for action. And if there was one thing she was good at, it was acting in times that called for it. “Is there anything I can do?” she repeated.

“No, no,” Tasha said, quickly mixing this and that liquid, until a beaker began to steam. “I’m almost done.”

She reached over and picked the beaker up with a pair of tongs. “This should interact with the coolant and create a super cold mixture that’ll fuck the ship up for sure.”

“Perfect, as long as it stops this nightmare,” McKinzie said. “Let’s go. Is it ready?”

“It’s ready,” Tasha said, holding the beaker at arm’s length from her with the tongs. “Let’s go.”

The two of them hurried down the lab corridors, past several frenzied scientists, to the elevators, where they got on and headed to engineering. On the elevator, McKinzie felt a tear stream down her cheek, but resolved to mourn later. If all of the regulators on the ship blew, there’d be no mourning to do. Just people to mourn for. Tasha watched silently, but brushed against McKinzie lightly, as if to let her know that she was there.

The elevator stopped, and they hurried out of it, McKinzie leading the way. “This way, down this hall, let’s go!”

They hurried down the hall, the klaxons blaring, fire teams rushing past them. They turned this way and that, until they were in a coolant room, with its big tanks and pipes and displays. Several maintainers were here quickly trying to feed more coolant into the regulators. “Move, move!” McKinzie cried.

They parted like the sea as she and Tasha approached. “Here,” McKinzie said, pointing to a small tank on the wall. She twisted a valve and popped open a hatch on top of the tank, revealing a chute that led into the belly of the ship. “It’s the emergency coolant port. Dump it in here.”

“Alright,” Tasha said, carefully pouring the concoction into the chute. It poured like syrup, thick and viscous, drizzling down until there was nothing left in the beaker. “And now?”

“We hope it works,” McKinzie said, closing the hatch and twisting the valve again. “If not, well… I suppose my last days on this rust bucket weren’t so bad.”

Tasha looked at her with a mixture of hope and despair, a conflicted look passing across her face. “God, Kinzie, I…”

“Hey, don’t speak,” she said, placing a finger on Tasha’s lips. “I’m glad you were aboard this ship.”

Tasha looked to her, then to the coolant system, and then finally her eyes fell. “Me too.”

McKinzie shook her head and looked at the displays. Huge warning signs blared across them, warning of overheating and critical failure. Fuel regulators three and five were offline. But, but, the heat levels in the other three were decreasing. The bars displaying the regulator’s heat were slowly falling, bar by bar, and for a moment McKinzie felt like she could faint. Her knees buckled and she leaned on the wall for support. “Look.”

Tasha looked at the displays. “What am I seeing here?”

“It’s… working. It’s working. We’re alright, thank God we’re alright,” she said, letting  out a small, desperate laugh and clutching her chest. “Jesus Christ I thought we were all gonners. If each regulator blew, the engines would’ve… well, it’s best not to think of it.”

A hand landed on her back, causing her to jump and nearly yelp. She spun around, and came face to face with a grease-covered Price, who looked exhausted, scared, and yet, oddly jovial. “Did it? You pulled through again Kinz.”

She stared at him dumbfounded. “Price? I thought you… your PDA…”

“I left it in one of the regulator rooms when things went critical. I didn’t have time to grab it, I just darted.”

Tears welled in her eyes. “You… you undead motherfucker, c’mere,” she said, pulling him close for a hug and crying into his jumpsuit. “I thought you’d died you asshole. Jesus, I thought you’d died.”

She cried for a bit, Tasha watching awkwardly, before she regained her composure. She wiped her eyes and sniffled, and Price laughed lightly, saying, “Never seen you cry before Kinz. That’s a first.”

“Don’t get used to it,” she said with a small laugh.

Then, Tasha’s PDA dinged. She reached into her pocket and pulled it out, and said, “The Captain wants us to know that we’ve received authorization from the UN to take one more day to push out a product. Not that we need it now but…”

McKinzie stared at her for a moment, and then laughed raucously, saying, “Of course.”

“He wants to speak to us but says it can wait until tomorrow. He probably has some politics to take care of,” Tasha said, putting her PDA away.

McKinzie looked at Price, then Tasha, and said to Price, “I’m sorry, could we have a moment?”

Price grinned and nodded, before corralling the rest of the maintainers out of the room with him, leaving Tasha and McKinzie alone in the belly of the ship. McKinzie turned to Tasha and looked her over for a moment, examining her.

“You know what? I think I am ready to leave the past behind us. If you are.”

Tasha smiled softly. “I’d love to let that rest. I’m so sorry Kinzie.”

“Nah,” she said, “Don’t be. Honestly, I missed you too.”

They stared at each other for a moment, before McKinzie stepped forward and pulled her in for an embrace, pressing her lips to Tasha’s, gently, softly, tenderly, and sweetly. For a moment, everything was as still as space itself. Then, McKinzie pulled away just slightly, and looked deeply into Tasha’s eyes.



McKinzie laughed and went back in for another kiss, passionately embracing Tasha. It’d been too long. Far far too long. 

“So what now?” Tasha asked after some time, still held in McKinzie’s arms.

McKinzie shrugged. “I dunno. After all of this, I could use some R and R. What are you doing right now, anything? Got plans?”

Tasha chuckled. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Good, because I do,” McKinzie said with a wink, before taking Tasha’s hand and leading her out of the coolant room, through the halls, and to her quarters, where the two would spend much time together during their time aboard the UNSS Green Earth, whose mechanisms were, and would continue to be, strange and homely. 

The End.


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