“Elias! Quite staring off into space and get over here and help your Mother.”
Elias Davis sighed. Taking one more look through the porthole into the endless nothing of the universe, and wondered again why he was here. “Yes, Dad.” He mumbled and turned back to help clean their “quarters”, an extravagant description for their current home. On Earth, Elias had grown up in the 15 bedroom, 5 bath mansion his father’s career as a banker had bought them. Now they were living on 6.25 square meters surrounded by hanging tarps enclosing only 3 cots and 3 trunks filled with all their remaining property. In Space.
His Mother sat on top of 1 of the antique, wooden trunks with a pile of dishes set in front of her on another and a bucket of water on the third. “Elias, you’re here, good, start drying these dishes before they get spotty.”
“Worried that your dinnerware wont be up to Martian standards?”
“Don’t be a smart ass or you’ll be washing them, too.”
Elias sat on his cot, an uncomfortable thin bag of cotton resting on a rusty metal frame, picked up the towel and set to drying. Long slow circles, flip it over, long slow circles, repeat. Just as endless as space, these pedestrian chores. I never thought I would miss our servants so much.
“Eli, are you alright? You’ve barely spoken for days.”
“Am I alright? Well, you made me leave my friends, home, everything I know to go on some crazy trip to Mars we can never ever come back from, and just may kill us, without even asking me if I wanted to go. Yeah, sure, I’m alright.”
“Look, Eli, you….”
The speakers set about the shuttlecraft in the corners between the wall and ceiling began to crackle, and then a voice cleared its throat, “Attention: this is your Captain. Per orders given prior to leaving Earth, we will be holding elections on each of the shuttles to prepare local government for your arrival on Mars. Election day is one month from today. You will be voting on 11 council members and 1 Mayor. My crew will administrate the election and not be available for any seats. Nominations should be delivered to my First Officer, Commander Shelly Combs within 48 hours. Thank you.” The speakers crackled off as abruptly as they had come on.
“Elections? We don’t even know each other…”
“Didn’t we come here to start over, now we’re just going to do the same thing….”
“Honey, you should run….”
The excited buzz ran throughout the shuttle. The first new thing to happen since leaving Earth 2 weeks prior. Everyday had been an endless progression of minutes without landmarks. It was difficult to even judge the separation of days without the rising and setting of the sun. The Captain had begun adjusting the lights to simulate Mars 25 hour day, but it did little to break up the monotony of being a passenger in space. An election, now that was cause for real excitement.
A few meters from where Elias and his Mother were discussing the rights of children, sat Terry Evans and his wife, Alicia folding laundry.
“Terry, what do you think about running for this council?”
Alicia laughed, ebony skin contrasting the bright white of her smile, “No, definitely not. Not unless there is an ‘angry iconoclast’ party. I was thinking about running myself.”
“Really?” Terry stopped folding clothes and turned his large, round, bald, black head to look directly at his wife. “That’s actually an excellent idea.”
Her eyes light up, “You think so?”
“Sure, you’re the smartest person I know and you everyone likes you. I’ll vote for you.”
“Thanks baby.” Alicia leaned in to kiss him. Wrapping his arm around her waist, he pulled her slender body on top of his massive frame as he lay back onto the cot. Alicia felt the warmth of his passion set her whole body to vibrating. As his broad hands pressed into the small of her back, his lips nestled into the side of her neck, she let out a small moan.
“Mom, can I go to the cafeteria with the Davis’s?”
Alicia buried her face in Terry’s shoulder, he looked over at their son standing in the doorway, “Yes, boy, go the cafeteria, and close the doorway.”
“What’s wrong with Mom?”
“Nothing, she’s just..tired, She’s tired. Go on now.”
Luther ran off, and they began laughing, Terry held his thumb up as a reporters microphone, “Candidate caught in sex scandal with her own husband.. more at eleven.”
In the fore of the ship, Captain Archibald sat with his first officer reviewing sensor logs and drinking coffee. They sat at a large obsidian table, the top of which was also a touch screen monitor controlling the ships computer systems. Lights in the cabin were kept low to improve visuals through the windows gazing out into the vast dark of infinity. A small red dot in the distance had been growing larger in the window for days.
“Navigation appears to be on course, and energy use is actually below expected.”
“How much below?”
“We have amassed an extra 3 hours over the last 2 weeks.”
“Oh, well, I guess that’s something.”
“Yes, sir. We have had a few minor scrapes, but no serious injuries. Security reports a few scuffles in the last few days, but nothing serious, mostly over space usage. Other than that, everything seems to be in good shape, Sir.”
“Excellent. Only a year and a half to go. Should be incredibly.. boring.”
“These elections should liven things up a bit.”
The Captain stared out the ships main window, “Yeah, that’s one way to put it.”
“Sir, can’t we appoint someone from among the passengers to handle the election administration.”
“No, Shelly, we can’t. Whatever new government forms needs to be trusted, at least from the start. We are the only party capable of being objective, so we have to run the election. But you already know all this.”
“Yes, I do, I still don’t want to deal with the inevitable whining and posturing, and..”
“I know, but I don’t either, and since I outrank you…. ”
“Yes, sir. I’m going to go to the aft section and check on the generator. These sensor readings suggest the timing belt is coming loose again.”
“Alright. Take McNally with you.”
“Chief! Grab your tools, we’re headed aft.”
Chief McNally and Commander Combs stood looking at the engine and saying nothing. The usually rhythmic pace of the carbon-cycle engine was noticeably off. The erratic pace of its movements had both of them worried.
“You don’t know what’s causing this chief?”
“Still no, Commander.”
“I thought you said it was the belt?”
“No, you said the sensors looked like it was the timing belt, I just came along. The belt is fine.”
“Well, what normally keeps it in proper rhythm?”
“That’s the thing, it’s design has all the parts moving in conjunction with each other, this should be impossible.”
“Clearly its not. What happens if we can’t fix it?”
“The engine will break, the ship will come to a stop, we’ll run out of air, and die a slow, horrible death.”
“Oh, and here I thought it was important. You have no idea how to fix it?”
“Not ’til I figure out why it’s broken, Ma’am.”
“Fine, I’m going to report to the Captain, you stay here and work on this. And not a word to anyone. You understand?”
Shelly headed back towards the fore cabin at a hurried walk, trying not to appear hurried. McNally turned back to the engine.