Susan opened her eyes to sunlight streaming through the open curtains of her bedroom. Realising that she was fully dressed and had no recollection of returning home and collapsing on her bed, she worried what else she had forgotten about the night before. Perhaps going out and getting wasted wasn’t the best response to the news she had received the day before, but finding out your marriage was not the secure haven she had imagined it to be had been a shock.
It had been an uneventful conversation, a chance remark from a friend and her world had tilted. A funny phrase to use in these times where the human population no longer lived on the world they had called home for so long. But that’s a whole other story. Humans on a habitat revolving around the old home still lived the same petty lives, with the same petty grievances as ever.
Susan’s home was the Europa habitat. She had moved there from the Britannia habitat when she married Gus. They had met on the construction of the first of the Mars planetary domes. Susan was an environmental designer specialising in adaptive planting to make living spaces both aesthetically pleasing and functional air quality engines. Gus was a technician in the team building the CO2 scrubbers vital to maintain a healthy atmosphere in any human habitat. The seven habitats revolving around the old world were rapidly becoming overcrowded, even with the draconian restrictions on procreation and encouragement of end of life options for those whose usefulness had ceased. The Mars habitat was vital and if successful many more could be built to ease the crisis. Maybe the old world could be recolonised too at some point, if it ever cooled down enough to make that viable.
Susan ordered the window display to change to a cloudy day to lessen the wretched pain in her eyes, reflecting momentarily that the physical pain had taken her mind off the mental anguish that was now beginning to reassert itself in her thoughts. Ordering the coffee machine to prepare her usual strong black coffee and the medical dispenser to dole out painkillers for her hangover, she peeled herself off the bed, undressed and headed to the shower cubicle.
Showered and dressed in fresh clothes, she pondered how to spend the next two days before she returned to the Mars project. Gus was supposedly still there. A last minute issue had meant, supposedly, that he had not been able to return for their scheduled break, but if that was the case, why had her friend casually mentioned seeing him on the Eurasian habitat the day before?
Sitting at her kitchen bench Susan reviewed as much as she could remember of the night before.
Jessica was a shuttle pilot, an arduous job and like most pilots she partied at every opportunity. Opportunities were common since all pilots had to take mandatory four day breaks every seven days to relieve the stress and fatigue of the job and being away from their home habitat for most of their shifts. When Jessica suggested that Susan join her at a pilot’s party, Susan had leapt at the chance. Anything to stop the inevitable thoughts that were bubbling in her brain at the lie Gus had told her. She didn’t think Jessica had noticed her initial confusion at the revelation about Gus.
The party had turned out to be a large gathering in a disused shuttle bay that was scheduled for refurbishment. A temporary bar had been set up on one side. On the opposite side, there was a small stage with a sign inviting anyone to provide entertainment. The sound was routed through the hangar speakers. When Susan and Jessica arrived a band was playing old world classics. Jessica dragged Susan to the bar and ordered beers for them both. Draining her glass and encouraging Susan to quickly do the same, Jessica indicated that she was going to join the lively crowded dancing in the space between the bar and the band.
Susan recalled that the pattern of the night was dance, drink, dance and more drink. At one point, Jessica had disappeared for a while leaving Susan to catch her breathe whilst sitting with her back against one of the hangar walls. When Jessica returned her lipstick was decidedly smudged and she had a big grin on her face. No explanation was necessary. Then it was back to the bar and back to the dance floor. Susan’s recollections of the night began to get hazy after that.
The coffee and painkillers hadn’t made much of a dent to the drums in Susan’s head and so she asked the water dispenser for an iced water and headed to the food cupboard. Taking a sachet of scrambled eggs and some bread, Susan walked to the rehydrator and fixed a quick breakfast. The food settled her stomach and she began to feel less of a physical wreck. Of course, that meant she couldn’t avoid having to think about why Gus was in orbit around the old world instead of on Mars.
If he had been called to another project, he would have messaged her. The Europa habitat was enroute to Eurasia from a Mars trajectory so he could even have stopped by and said hello. But he didn’t, he hadn’t and Susan could not think of a good reason why not.
Her brain kept throwing up bad reasons. All of which did not bode well for her and the love she had for her husband and their marriage. Pulling herself together Susan decided she needed a distraction whilst she worked up the courage to call her husband and demand an explanation.
First she messaged the habitat relationship manager and requested an appointment for a joint couple’s mediation meeting. They were overdue an appointment and it was a mandatory task in the out world habitat rules.
Susan opened her phone and swiped to the contacts page, scrolled down to her husband’s name and pressed the dial button…