Author: Ben Coppin

The only thing protecting me from Titan’s vicious cold is my fourth generation spacesuit, the result of decades of experimentation, engineering and design work. Suit sales have been in decline lately, and my marketing people assure me that a forty-kilometre walk on the coldest inhabited rock in the Solar System is the best way to build consumer confidence.

I pull up my messages as I walk. Just one, from my Chief of Staff, Mary.

“Hello, Michael. I have something I need to say, and this seems like the perfect moment.”

Mary’s voice, usually friendly and warm, is strangely cool.

“I want you to understand how I see you, Michael. You’re so proud of your engineering prowess. But you’re sloppy. There’s always an army of flunkies behind you, picking up the pieces, keeping it all together.”

I’m briefly distracted by the pale clouds my breath is forming in my helmet.

“All these years, you never asked about my family, never wondered if I had one. If you had, I wonder if you’d have recognized my husband’s name? Oh, yes, I was married, once.”

My whole body is shivering now. What’s happening?

“Those first-generation suits. So much promise, but so flawed. Your over-confidence led you to put the lives of strangers on the line. And one of those strangers was my husband, Charlie.

“You’d be surprised how easy it was for me: getting that first job, slowly working my way up to Chief of Staff. And then I just had to wait for a chance like this. No-one looked twice at me, carrying that old suit, the one Charlie died in. And it took just a minute to switch it with your new, safe spacesuit.”

My breaths are icy shards. My head is swimming. I can’t remember why I’m here.

“Goodbye, Michael. I’d say it’s been a pleasure, but it hasn’t. Your hubris cost me my husband. And now it’ll take your life.”

I fall to my knees. Someone was talking, but I don’t remember who it was, what they were saying. Where am I? On another world, I think. I’m feeling sleepy. I should be afraid, but I have nothing to fear. My suit will keep me safe.