By Jeff Ammons
“This really sucks,” she complained. After only ten minutes she needed a rest break.
As she leaned heavily on the spade, her thoughts drifted once again to James.
Dr. James Candler had been a great choice for the mission. A medical doctor and a pilot with twenty years of service with the US Navy made him a more natural choice than Sarah. She was an academic, albeit one with a deeply ingrained preference for fieldwork over lecturing. The decision to send a crew of two made them a good team. Pilot/doctor and field-geologist with a specialization in the earliest paleo-life.
She wished he were there to help her get back to the rover and to fix her damaged knee.
“Wishes don’t count for much here, Seven,” she said as she began making her way back up the river bed.
“Of course, if I am going to start wishing… let’s throw in a nice smooth sidewalk instead of all these river rocks.”
She began struggling her way up the streambed again. Even with the knee joint of the suit locked, her entire leg ached. The farther she walked, the more her lower back began to complain as well. The odd gait of the hobbling strained her back in unusual ways.
She made it nearly a quarter hour before she had to stop again. Her back was killing her, but her knee was subsiding into a dull throb.
“Damn it,” she muttered.
She wanted to lie down and rest. Every muscle in her body demanded it, but her brain had to overrule them. With a limited supply of O2 and a leak sealed by glorified duct tape, she didn’t dare stop for long.
After a brief rest, she pushed on.
The next two hours were a blur of pain, struggling, talking to Seven and missing James. Although she and James had never been lovers, they had become close friends. Two years of training, almost a year in transit and a year on Mars had given them plenty of time to get to know one another.
They had each been married but never had children. She was divorced and he a widower. She was 64 when they left and he 62. Both had lived alone for more than a decade before signing up for the mission. Neither felt the need to be more than friends, but they had become very close friends.