On a barren world where air is priceless and women are bought and sold, one man longs for love, but is she worth the price?
In this collection of short stories by science fiction author Noelle Campbell, Mars is the new frontier where men stake their claims for a new life. But some commodities are harder to come by than others–including women, who are often willing to sacrifice everything to escape an Earth that is no longer free.
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Richard “Rock” Klein
Captains Log 14.10.2665
Patraeus Station, Outside Luna
Docking Bay 24
They say space is cold. But it’s not *just* cold. No one has ever really felt how cold it is and lived to tell about it. We know instinctively that anything so vast and so empty must be cold.
The irony is that all the things we spend time with while in space also make us feel cold and empty. We travel in cold metallic ships from cold empty space to cold empty space.
Machines have no disability like perception. Filled with Artificial Intelligence and hundreds of processors heating up their hard drives, they are still only metal and plastic. They don’t care if they sit in space or in a shipyard for twenty years. They do not desire warmth and companionship. They just exist.
If you have one of those new bioships it might feel a little more like a horse than a cold lifeless THING, but in the end, it’s still a machine. It gives out as much personality and intelligence as an animal and it only lives to fill its purpose. It knows exactly what it should be and do. There is no goal for a spaceship to one day become a station. It is what it is and will never be more.
We try to fill the spaces with ego or warm it with personality. Those of us who spend so much time in space hardly know what exaggerated bravado is. We believe the lies we tell ourselves. We believe all the fantasies we create about ourselves and the things… and people, we love – or maybe it’s just ‘want.’
I’ve given up trying to tell the difference between love and desire. I just want warmth.
We leave a planet’s atmosphere to be greeted by a sheet of black with pinpricks of light. There is so much empty blackness between each point of light, that space seems cold even without feeling the temperature drop. We spend much of our time trying to make it feel warm and filled.
The ship is cold and empty this morning and I think of her.
Six months ago she warmed these halls. Maybe it was longer, but I remember it like it was yesterday. No one has ever turned me on, out and completely neutroned me like Sam did. We were good. No. That’s a lie. We were slammin’ fantastic. I know how good it can be between a man and a woman.
That’s why I hate her and why I can’t get her out of my mind at the same time.
I sit at these docs and the ship is so quiet, all I can think of is the noise that Sam used to make, the scents she used to leave, the warmth, the humanity, as flawed as it was. Every time I have to sit and wait for maintenance, I think of her.
You might look at the logs from a year ago and come to the same conclusion I did then: She could be a cold-hearted bitch.
Still. . .a cold hearted bitch is better company than an empty starship.
Noelle Campbell has been involved in science media for more than a decade, covering stories for the entertainment sections of syfy (when it was still scifichannel), space.com, and local media in Houston, Texas—the home of the Space Center. As an advocate for the disabled, Noelle thinks the best way to prepare for the future is to imagine what it will be like and loves to imagine a life on Mars, which she does in her first published collection of short stories, Martian Goods & Other Stories.