Author: Rick Tobin

“Outrageous! Don’t you dare degrade my mother, you monster! She will never love you.” Pearl pushed her finger at Jake Rosetter’s dark, greasy, pockmarked forehead only half-visible behind his helmet’s face shield in the ready room near exit hatches for scheduled spacewalk repairs. He leaned back hard against blue steel lockers before slamming shut his cabinet.

“Back off, Tindal! What would you know? You haven’t seen her for twenty years. You’ve only got memories. We’ll make our own.” Rosetter yanked his underwear-lining zipper, quickly concealing a slender, four-inch wide, narrow ceramic ingot sealed within dull-gray metal welded to his thin aluminum safety lanyard. His necklace matched dented lieutenant bars on his spacesuit hanging on the adjacent wall. He finished dressing, pushing arms past inner suit linings, exposing silvery warmth gloves emerging through sleeves of his orange work suit.

“I don’t care what kind of pull you have with the Captain. You can’t take her out there. She never liked space. She never entered the void. She lived on Titan, discovering critical methane pools for your struggling Earth, dedicating her life for billions facing death from Earth’s glaciation, but they never knew her sacrifices. How dare you dishonor her legacy playing this damnable charade of passion? It’s not just heresy…it’s insanity.” Pearl pulled Rosetter’s arm as he reached for his outer space suit, delaying his exit.

“Claws off, civi! You know the punishment for grabbing elites?” With that, he pushed Pearl out of arm’s reach. “I won’t press charges, but you touch me again and even your mother’s love won’t protect you…not on this cargo ship.” He stiffened as he pulled the lower half of his exit suit off the mag hangar to a final dressing bench. Soiled outer sleeves and two repaired puncture marks portrayed dangers from off-world ship maintenance where micrometeorites rocketed around Saturn’s gravity. Rosetter pushed Pearl back further against adjacent lockers, hard enough to bang the petite black laborer’s head against metal frames. She came charging back.

“She forfeited her life for your kind, and this is your gratitude—imaginary love, keeping her DNA over your heart? After she died with her team caught in that Sotra volcanic ice blow, her shredded remains were congealed into that pendant. It’s our respect for lost miners. Her shield of dignity was sealed in Pallas City’s temple of high honor. You stole her essence to defile her in your disgusting indulgence.”

“Excuse me if I don’t get it. You’re a Titanese worshipper, as she was, so her soul is somewhere else in some heavenly dimension? Isn’t that what you call it?”

Pearl squinted, pulling her lips back in a snarl. “So what?”

“Cargo engs have no progeny to remember us. We have no legacy. We’re sterile as my suit. That’s the price we rejects from Earth’s declining gene pool pay to preserve their dwindling herd. All I’ll ever have for company in my brief life is one reconstituted clone made from some departed’s cells, but she’ll only survive for two years. I picked your mother for her honesty and loyalty, not some frivolous empty-headed celebrity.”

“I forbid it.”

“You’ll never see us together. The rule is “Never where they lived.” My one-time companion will only know me within this ship’s cramped quarters. I will honor your mother’s memory, as no one else can. Ghosting is reparation for those dying young while traversing deadly radiation belts. Maybe cloning isn’t ethical to you, but it’s legal. It’s the only love I’ll ever have. You had hers once. Now let me have mine.”