Author : James Marshall
Captain Will Kano of the Aries was sitting on an air-chair watching baseball with the sound muted. The latest round of memos from mission control, or the office as they called it, lay spread out on the floor beside him, along with a Rubik’s Cube and an empty Juice-Sack. He sighed.
“I’ve got to get my shit together, Alan.”
“Your shit is together, Captain”. Alan was the ship’s interface, and he appeared on a dedicated LCD above the television. He was represented as two dots for eyes and a line for a mouth on a yellow background. He looked like a Lego man, before they developed frowns and stubble. His voice was deep and breathless. Everyone liked Alan.
“I’ll talk to Sarah tonight. Put an end to it.”
“There’s no rush. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do.”
“I’m being stupid. I’m married.”
“You’ve never been stupid in your life, Captain. It’s a long, boring trip, you know that. Give yourself a break. Worry about Tanaka.”
This made Will laugh. Tanaka was nuts.
“I’ve got another list here if you’re interested,” said Alan. “This one’s from the Country Women’s Association of Australia.”
“Go on then, said Will. He shifted in his chair and put his hands up behind his head.
“’Another small step for man, another giant leap-‘“
“A man. ‘One small step for a man.’ That’s what he said. Next.”
“’Life goes on.’”
“Like it. But no.”
“’A new world, a new promise.’”
Alan went through the list, which did not contain anything remotely inspiring or memorable.
“Shall I send them a thank you mail?” asked Alan.
“I’m sure we’ll come up with something when the time comes, captain.”
Will leaned across and picked up the Rubik’s Cube. He had all of the blue and almost all of the yellow, but he couldn’t proceed without losing what he already had. When he was a child he would give the cube to his mother before he went to bed, and there it would be in the morning, sitting on the kitchen bench like new. One night when he couldn’t sleep he walked into his mother’s room and saw the cube spread out in bits across her bed. She had fallen asleep, still holding the screwdriver she had used to pry it apart.
“How about something simple?” said Will, trying to move a corner piece around without screwing up the whole thing. “I’m going have so much on my plate when we land that I don’t think I’ll be able to remember a long, rambling speech. What about something like… ‘Here we are’?”
“That’s what the man who first landed on Mars said in the book Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. The colonists went to Mars in a ship called the Aries too, by the way.”
“Really? Damn. Ok, how about… um… on behalf of all people on Earth, we come to Mars… in the spirit of human endeavor and-“
“Very similar to Mars Crossing by Geoffrey Landis, I’m afraid.”
Will sighed. “I give up. We need a scriptwriter, not a pilot.”
“What we need is a copyright lawyer,” said Alan.
Will chuckled. He dropped the Rubik’s cube in his lap. He yawned.
“You know,” said Alan, “Coca-Cola have offered you a billion dollars to say ‘Coca-Cola.’
Will sat up. “Have they really?”