A long, long time

© Jaysi | Dreamstime.com

“This isn’t the way I imagined it,” George Turner said, looking out the window at the blackness. “Are we even moving?”

Yolanda Xenophilius looked at a computer screen. “Yep.”

“There’s no way to tell for sure. Do you see any movement out there?”

“George,” she said. “We’re still going 10,833 kilometers per hour. We’re still going 3 kilometers per second. Just chill.”

“This isn’t the way I imagined it,” Turner said.

Behind them, a snort.

“You watched too many space movies when you were a kid, George,” Jason O’Toole snorted. “You know they put those moving stars in the windows so you could tell the model starships were in motion, right? Real space doesn’t look like that.”

“Of course I knew,” Turner said, sourly. “That’s not what I meant.”

They lapsed back into silence for a few minutes. Then Sally Ripley, sitting next to O’Toole, started to sing softly.

“Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids,” she sang. “In fact, it’s cold as hell.”

“NOT. FUNNY,” Turner growled, but his crew mates grinned. “Come on, Sally, stop singing that.”

“OK, what would you rather hear?” she said, then began to hum. “Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer …”

That one didn’t get quite as much of a guffaw, so she trailed off around 96.

“Are we there yet?” said O’Toole.

It was Xenophilius’ turn to scowl, but there was something inauthentic about the scowl.

“Don’t make me come back there,” she said, and this time even Turner laughed.

They lapsed back into silence for another few minutes. Then Ripley said, “Anyone up for a movie?” They had thousands of choices in the digitized library.

“How about ‘Waiting for Godot’?” O’Toole said, and then, “What? Too soon?”

They settled on the film that won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2036. Afterward, they all agreed the Academy was comprised of loons.

“I do think the pelican scene was hysterical,” Xenophilius said. “But otherwise …”

“I know, right?” Turner said, but at least he had forgotten his malaise. They grabbed another movie from ’36, one that had only been nominated in a couple of technical categories, and had a lot more fun.

When they returned to Earth, they were frequently told they were heroes and so lucky to have been chosen for humanity’s first mission to Mars.

“Frankly, I liked the book a lot better,” Turner would say.

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