I was so startled I almost dropped the bottle. “Destiny! Oh no! Oh my God, no! Not you!”
“Huh?” she said with a concerned look on her face. “What's wrong, John?”
“What's wrong? Jesus Christ! You're a dropper! Oh, God…” I was devastated.
She looked at the eyedropper and laughed. “These aren't angel tears, silly, they're antibiotics.”
“Antibiotics? What, you got pinkeye?”
She laughed again. “Don't worry, I don’t have any diseases. I had the lenses in my eyes replaced with implants a couple of weeks before we left. I have to put these drops in my eyes once a week for another month. It was three times a day for the first week and once a day for the next week. It's just to prevent infection.”
“Why did you have to get Implants?” I asked.
“I was nearsighted, my vision was twenty forty and I had a little astigmatism, too. These new lenses are great, they're like having strong binoculars and a built in microscope. I never would have believed how sharp and clear everything would be. I can see a blood cell, and the doctor said I should be able to see Earth's moon or Saturn's rings from Mars if the planets' orbits are in the right places. It's perfect for an astronomer! An astronomer's eyes are one of astronomy's best tools.”
“Wow. Did it hurt?”
“Did what hurt?”
“No, it's painless. You don't feel a thing.”
“Still,” I said, “I'd have just worn contacts rather than let somebody stick needles in my eyes.”
“Well, I used to wear them but they said they'd get in the way on Mars. And I can see so good now! I'm really glad I had the procedure.”
Procedure. Folks who went to college talk like that. I thought of something... “You told me once you were planning on taking advantage of me. How and why?”
“Oh, John, you're going to hate me.”
“Well, look, you already confessed.”
She sighed. “I lied to you, I work for the organization that hired your company. My job was supposed to be keeping the whores from taking over your ship. But I didn't expect to like you so much. Actually, I didn't expect to like you at all. They told me you were an asshole.”
I laughed. “I am an asshole! It's part of my job.”
“Is that for me?” she said, looking at the wine.
“It's for us. Got a corkscrew and glasses?”
“Robot, open this wine,” she said. A square box with rounded corners wheeled across the room with two wine glasses sitting on top of it. I set the bottle on it and grippers grabbed the bottle while a corkscrew came out on an arm with hinges... oh, hell, you've seen boat robots, sorry. What? You haven't? Why in the hell did they send you two? Anyway, the thing opened and poured the wine. I started to take a sip.
“You have to let it breathe,” she said.
“I gotta what?” I asked.
She laughed. “Let it sit for a couple of minutes. It'll taste better.”
I asked why and she gave me a complicated answer that I didn't understand that had something to do with chemistry. At least, I think she was talking about chemistry. I should have went to college.
“You never did tell me why you were going to Mars,” I said.
“I just told you, I work for the company.”
“Yeah, but if you were only going to be on Mars for a week or so your contact lenses wouldn't have been much of a hassle. So you must be planning on staying.”
“I am, yeah. I just took the job on your boat to earn a little beer money and passage to Mars, not that I need money but I'm obsessively frugal by nature. I told you I had a PhD, and that I’m an astronomer. Well, there are too many photons produced on Earth...”
“Whoa, slow down,” I said. “I ain't went to college and ain't got a clue what you're talking about. What are ‘photons’?”
“Photons are what light and radio waves are made of. It's way too bright everywhere on Earth for astronomy and there hasn't been a useful telescope on the planet for well over a century. So it was the moon or Mars, and they have plenty of people on the moon. Mars isn't just short of women, it's short of everything and everybody. Almost everyone there is a scientist; there’s no unemployment on Mars at all. It needs more robots, too. It needs more of everything. It's a real frontier, I think it's really exciting, like an adventure.”
Adventure? It was old hat to me. I'd made the Mars trip lots of times. Now Saturn, that was an adventure. I'd been on my way back from Titan one trip and the damned engines quit and the robots couldn't fix them any more than they can perk decent coffee, although they can fix most stuff most of the time. But not that time. I had to wait six damned months for a tow tug and I’d made it half way home when the boat crapped out on me. It took six months because it was a rush job and I was at a full gravity and about to turn around when they went out, so I was way off course by the time the tug got to me.
Mars was usually a two or three week trip, but it was on the opposite side of the sun and we were going to be in space for a couple of months. I have no idea why the company didn’t just wait two weeks or maybe not even that long to launch, we’d have gotten there a lot sooner but what the hell, I do what they tell me to do and they pay me to do it. But that’s a long time to put up with dropless whores.
Destiny raised her glass. “To Mars!” she said.
“Nah,” I replied. “To us.”
She smiled. “I'll drink to that! Are you staying on Mars with me?”
An alarm went off. It never fails. I grabbed my tablet.
Shit! A fire! In space, a fire is the last damned thing you need. Well, almost. But bad just the same.