I can’t let myself think about what I’m doing. I would lose it.
“Here it is, just when they said it would get here.” Lars, his voice on the radio sounds so different. Wish he was going along. Damn you, multiple sclerosis, for keeping my main squeeze Earthbound.
I looked at the squat round-nosed cylinder. Space taxi. Just like the Imstoshai advertised. Free round trip, all inclusive cruise, but BYOB.
“Suits checked. Go bags ready.” Who was that? Oh, right. That was me talking. Contact team leader. Scared out of my f’ing mind team leader, pretending brave so the others don’t back out.
“No radiation. How do they do that? Door is opening, lift coming down.” Lars, watching from 400 thousand klicks away.
“Okay, gang, let’s roll!”
Tyrone. Quantum physics.
Guan Ting. Linguistics.
Abhilasha. Topology and functional analysis.
Yuri. Relativistic mechanics.
Byeong Ho. Genetics.
Janelle. Astrophysics. Me.
Extraterrestrial intelligence researcher me. First Contact me. Team leader me.
Little nobody Detroit chit me. Why me?
The lift hardly seems strong enough, but it carries us up to the door. One at a time.
Guan Ting goes first, then Tyrone. The storage boxes with our supplies next. Then Yuri, Abhilasa, Ástríđur. Byeong Ho, David.
I board last. “One small step,” I mutter, and shuffle onto the lift platform.
We find our seats, secure ourselves with the straps, and wait.
The hatch closes on its own. A subdued thundering noise, and our bodies press down against the couches.
Point eight gee, uncomfortable after a couple of weeks on the Moon. One point six will be even less comfortable, but we can tolerate it for the three week trip.
On our way to Mars. To meet the Martians!
Don’t tell anyone. No one. Absolutely no one.
Please don’t even tell us.
Because we know this is big. Bigger than Neil Armstrong, bigger than Yuri Gagarin, bigger than Ferdinand Magellan, bigger than those nomads that left Africa to discover the world back before we humans had history.
Scared? Me? Damn straight, sister.