Mars is only a reality TV show away... In a tale that crosses the border between fiction and an entertainment project that still might see the light of day, DJ Cockburn takes us on a journey into Deep Space. DJ Cockburn is an English writer whose most recent publications have been in the Year's Best Science Fiction of 2014, Qualia Nous, Apex and Interzone. In 2014 he also won the
James White Award. He blogs at Cockburn’s Eclcetics https://cockburndj.wordpress.com/
by DJ Cockburn
Punching Yegor on the nose wasn't the most tactful way of expressing my objection. I think 'expressing an objection' was the phrase they taught us in conflict management, but it was a while ago and I may have dozed off. A two hour lecture is hard to take in after a full day of decompression drill. Whatever they'd taught us didn't stop a mist the colour of our destination from filming my gaze when Yegor ate my toast.
Yegor shouldn't have needed conflict management to tell him to respect other peoples' toast. Zero gee doesn't make a simple, "is that your toast, Kirsten?" any more difficult than it would have been on earth.
I'd turned my back for two minutes, checking the oxygen tanks that keep us all alive. Yegor wouldn't have thought about that. His optic nerve is wired directly to his stomach, bypassing whatever higher brain functions he hasn't euthanised with reruns of Australian soap operas. At least, that's what he says he's watching when he pulls the curtain to his sleepspace.
A moment's thought would have told him that if someone left bread in the toaster, they would be looking forward to eating it when they came back.
You have to practice mindfulness out here. I think before I speak. I ask before I take any of the communal supplies. I've even developed a zero gravity version of yoga. I keep telling everyone we'd get on much better if I teach it to everyone, but no one ever takes me up on the offer.
Stoic as I am, Yegor pushed me one slice of toast beyond the limit of my forbearance.
So I punched him on the nose.
It was a good punch. Back home, that nose would have been broken. Out here, where the blue disk of home is so tiny I can straighten my arm and hide it behind the last joint of my thumb, it sent us both flying away from each other.
We can't even have a proper punch-up in here.
My tantrum will make good television. We've been in trans-Mars cruise for a year now, and our ratings are losing out to reality shows filmed closer to home. Mars got Talent would be a short and very dull series.
The signal would take a minute or two to reach earth. If Yegor's theft of my toast had struck the match, the thought of several billion people sniggering at my bleeped out obscenities poured the petrol. If I was going to lose it, I was going to lose it properly and rip Yegor's head off what passed for his neck.
Everyone in the ship must have heard our shouting, but Guzman was the first to hurtle into the galley. As I kicked off a bulkhead toward Yegor, Guzman grabbed a rail with one hand and my ankle with the other. He was saying something like, "calm down, Kirsten", but I was well past listening. I flung abuse at Yegor and flailed my arms like a willow in a gale. Not that I'd ever see a willow or feel a gale again.
They'd told us the weeks of psychological evaluations were to choose a crew who were compatible with each other. I'd been naive enough to believe it. Halfway to Mars, it finally dawned on me that we'd been selected to make good television.
I was one of twelve people chosen to spend the rest of our lives hating each other.
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