Author : Matthew Callaway

It looks like snow, except there’s no snow here, no rain. The foamy droplets float down from the decontamination sprayers as a ship lands, speckling the faceplate of my respirator. When I was a kid seeing snow was like seeing a planet for the first time. Every ice crystal glimmering, the trees bent over from the weight of frozen branches. No trees on this planet. I wonder what season it is on earth right now. My display says its October back home, I think that’s Autumn, the colors are pale in my memory. We left when I was so young it feels like a less of a home now than this sand pile, or that last rock. The droning hum of the landing craft is just above me now.

“Look alive!” The boss bellows at me from inside the comm booth. What a prick, I’ve got it under control. The ship settles into the docking lock, not gonna get a scratch on her shiny hull. All thats left is the particle scrub and ‘Welcome to Splendora’.

This ship looks like thousands of others, sleek but utilitarian, the whole thing rings like a bell when the mag locks engage. Like the bell between classes at school, before the frontier, before the remote classrooms, skipping from one new found rock to another, and the lonely light years started piling up between me and what once felt so much like home. My brother went back and became a droid mech, they’re practically outnumbering people there now, droids I mean, not mechanics. Then you have ‘people’ like me.

My shield plated arms slide under the ships’ drive core to disconnect the cables and clasps to free the device, a couple thousand kilos of metal and glass is like a toy in my hands, twenty degrees or seven hundred, as was now the case. The glow of the reaction inside shines off the blueish tint of my elbow joint. You can get them to look basically unaugmented, of course, but the company only pays for basic. A message flashed on my view the other day, news from home, another heart for Mom, she says the new one loves me just as much and I should visit sometime.

The sun’s setting again, must be about lunch time, this core is clear and humming. Snapping closed the panel I can almost smell the air outside my respirator, for a moment I smell the mildew of a leaf pile.

“You ever go to the Vega system?” Keplen, who was actually born on Splendora, offers me a cigarette and tries to bait me into asking about his lucky streak at the Vega Casinos, and with the well tanned ladies of the Vegas’ asteroid colonies.

“‘Hear it’s a good time, didn’t you make the trip a few months ago?” Taking the bait, and the cigarette from his extended mechanical arm. There was a deep gash on his forearm plate where he caught a bit of plasma, as they say, in a bar fight. Another great one I’ve heard twenty times. He might get it repaired if it wasn’t such a great story. I display some images of Vega across my view to color the tale as it rambles along. It makes me want to see a cruiser from the inside again, but not one to Vega. If I’m going that far I might as well go all the way. I’m sure these arms can rake leaves, or shovel snow if it takes me a few months to get there.

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