“I don’t need therapy.”
“All the pilot candidates have to go through these sessions. It’s part of the selection program. Do you feel like you’re being singled out?”
“No, not really. I’ve been through therapy, as a kid.”
“Yeah, um, gender issues. I didn’t have issues, just some people had issues with my gender.”
“Would you rather not talk about that?”
“Yeah it’s old news.”
“Ok we’ll drop it then,” she paused scanning her notepad, “So, what if you don’t come back?”
“From the mission?” Maria asked.
“Yes. What if the ship fails or you run out of food or crash into Jupiter?”
“Well I hope I finish the mission first,” Maria said, “It would be beyond pointless to shoot me off into space to die without saving the Earth first.”
“You wouldn’t have any regrets about dying alone in space?”
“Of course I would have regrets but the mission is more important.”
“Are you worried about your family missing you? A significant other?”
“My parents would understand if that happened. We’ve talked about the dangers when I went up to space the first time. They still worry about me through.”
“What about a significant other?”
“Are you looking to date anyone?”
She hesitates before saying, “No.”
“It’s like you said, I may not come back. I don’t want to put someone through that.”
The sun had just begun to brighten the room when the alarm went off. Maria leaned off the bed and slapped the snooze button. The arm across her stomach pulled her back against the soft body it belonged to.
“Hrrrmmm,” a sleepy Dr. Hailey Lee mummered into her back.
Maria turned to face her. She brushed Hailey’s hair back before kissing her forehead. “It’s time to wake up,” she said.
“Don’t want to,” Hailey said turning her head into the pillow and pulled the blanket up.
“Come on we have to save the world,” Maria cajoled.
“Saving the world is not worth getting out of a warm bed,” Hailey’s muffled voice said.
Maria slid off of the bed, walked to the end of it, firmly grasped the blanket and sheet, and yanked them off Hailey and the bed.
“Eeeee! What?!” Hailey sat up in the middle of the bed looked at Maria and deadpanned, “I hate you.” She got up and walked into the bathroom slamming the door behind her. Maria tossed the sheet and blanket back on the mattress and began making the bed.
The bathroom door cracked open. “Can you start the coffee, babe?” Hailey asked.
Maria laughed, “Sure hon. Don’t use all the hot water, k?”
“Ok.” The bathroom door shut.
Maria sat in the command chair watching the comet. Her work shift, of burning holes into it, had ended a few hours ago. She watched the ice harvesters carve ice out of the comet. Some small pieces of debris tumbled outward from the comet’s surface. This was the fourth comet of the mission.
Log #68: “Mission day eighty. I think I’m really hitting my groove. Sectioning the comets is still boring as hell but I’m getting used to the solitude. I’ve embraced the quiet of space. Sometimes I go hours without talking. I just listen to the ship. The whir of the fans circulating fresh air. The hum of the generators creating electricity. The purr of the water purifier cleaning my gray water. Every once in a while I stop hearing the ship. The sounds fade into the background. When they do, I panic a little because I think the ship has stopped. Then I listen and it all comes back. And for a little while I feel like everything is alright.”
“Coffee’s on the table,” Maria said over her shoulder while cracking a second egg into a pan.
“Mmmm, thanks.” Hailey sat at the kitchen table sipping her coffee while Maria cooked.
Maria plated the eggs and added some hash browns from another fry pan. She carried the plate to the table and set it in front of Hailey. Hailey smiled up at her and began eating. Maria sat down opposite her with her own mug of coffee.
“What’s on the agenda today?” Hailey asked.
“I have an appointment with the mission doctor in the morning and then I rejoin the team for training with Dr. Matthews. Have I met them?”
“Probably not officially. Dr. Matthews is the head of the department working on the maneuvering thrusters. They were at the first few general briefings but the last couple of months they’ve been working off site.”
A pleasant chime came from the wall clock. “Time to take off. I’ll see you at work,” Maria said. She emptied her mug and set it in the sink.
“Not likely. Matthews is going to keep you very busy but I’ll see you after,” Hailey said. Maria bent over to give her a kiss. “Bye, love.”
“See you later,” Maria said before turning to leave.
Log #80: “Hey Hailey. Do you know what day it is? It’s been two years since you found me moping over my highball. It seems like so much longer. I wish you were here or I was there. I miss talking with you. I miss talking to you about last nights episode of New Trek. I am going to be so behind when I get back. Don’t you dare spoil the new season for me. I miss.. HEY! If anyone other than me or Dr. Hailey Lee are listening this, turn it off. …. I’m serious. If I find out you’re still listening to this, I will launch you on a slow drone to Pluto. …. Ok so, like I was saying I miss you. I miss touching you. I miss waking up curled up next you. I miss cuddling on the couch. I… I…-”
“Well you vitals look good. I’ll have your blood work done by,” the doctor paused as she flicked open the calendar on her notebook, “Wednesday and I’ll send you an email with the results. I shouldn’t have to see you again until mission start if nothing out of the ordinary shows up. I just have a few questions about your periods.”
“Well, I don’t have periods, Maria said.
The doctor swiped through Maria’s records. “I see that you had cloned ovaries implanted four years ago.”
“Yes but I opted out of the uterus,” Maria said.
“Ah, I see. Let me make a note. Do you experience a hormonal cycle?” the doctor asked.
“Yes, some breast tenderness once a month and mild cramps.”
“Ok. Any tissue rejection symptoms?”
“No.” Thankfully the doctors had been able to use her own tissue samples for the clone tissue, cutting down on the chance for rejection. There had still been a chance her body would reject the organs but four years later that chance had fallen to almost nil.
“Good. That’s all I needed to know, unless your blood work shows something.”
Log #90: “Stardate 3784.57 the LREV is performing within nominal parameters. It is day one hundred and three. The Kiligons have been keeping their distance as have the Romulans, Feringei, Vulcans, Carcadasions, Bajorans, Betaziods, and Borg. Even Q has been absent making this one of the most boring save the world missions ever to take place in space.”
Maria wrapped an arm around Hailey as they laid in bed. She nuzzled the back of Hailey’s head, smelling her hair.
Hailey sighed, “They’re going to pick you.”
“Pick me for what?” she asked.
“The mission,” Hailey said.
“How do you know that?” Maria lifted herself up on one elbow.
“We got a memo outlining the next phase of training and it had you named as first pilot.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m the one.”
“They’ve never listed the pilots by any kind of rank before,” Hailey said.
Maria remained silent digesting this news. She knew one of the ten candidate pilots would be chosen but somehow she hadn’t really thought it would be her. She was qualified and had done well during training. She laid back down and pulled Hailey closer to her. A couple more months of Earthside training and then she’d be shipped off to the moon for the last few months before the launch. After that, she would alone until she got back. If she made it back.
She could quit the mission. There were nine other people they could choose from. But they had chosen her. At least Hailey thought they had. Could she quit? If she was the best choice to send on a mission of this importance could she say no? She wasn’t sure.
Maria loosened her grip on Hailey and rolled onto her back to stare at the ceiling.