The march across the Mars surface sent tingles through Stacy’s neck and scalp, unless it was the soothing voice of Chief Chancy Pants coming through the spacesuit earphones and the subtle puff of air wafting on her temples.
The chief led them. Karen walked beside Stacy, drinking in the landscape and grabbing Stacy’s shoulder every few seconds to point at something. Jason and Kirby followed behind, each with a glove in a handle slot of a case of Schlitz. They were the cast of the play, “Red Christmas,” part of the new Arts and Entertainment Section of the Mars mission, and they walked to the presentation dome for an impromptu cast party.
They could have taken the indoor conduits, but Stacy had the feeling Chance was being efficient, fulfilling his promise to take her on the walk and getting them to the party safely. His voice’s warmth soothed any pique his perfunctory approach had caused. Listening to the poetic sound of it, she lost track of what he was talking about.
“It takes more than expertise to be fit for Mars,” he said. “You have to keep stubbornly at it. You must adjust and find solutions outside your comfort zone.”
“This is everything you said it would be, Chancy.”
“But I can’t wait to get inside and see what you’re like with a few beers in you.” Stacy had been trying to break through his hardcore professional exterior for a week.
“About the same as you see now.”
“I told you he was drunk,” said Jason.
“He’s not drunk,” said Kirby. “That’s how the English really sound.”
They passed through the airlock and stripped out of their suits, then carried the beer into the lounge area of the dome that they’d commandeered for rehearsals. A line of cupboards with a sink ran along the back wall, the counter covered in props and costume odds and ends, some made-for-Mars eating utensils, and a coffee maker specially designed for the mission, pressing water through the filter and filling an air tight coffee pot.
Several others from the Mars mission lounged around, socializing, playing games, and drinking Starbucks.
“We’ve got a problem,” said Jason. “The beer’s frozen.”
“I was afraid of that,” said Chance. “The atmo’s that cold.”
“Well, why didn’t you say something?” said Jason. “We could’ve insulated it.” He held one up, it’s sides bulging. It was a special design made for Mars, a flanged seal where a special straw punched through.
“Too late now,” said Kirby.
Stacy grabbed a spoon and sauce pan from the props and beat the pan to get everyone’s attention. “Anyone here have a way to thaw this beer?”
Without a word everyone returned to their discussions and games. Kirby put a beer under each of his armpits.
“Hey! This is mission critical, people. We’re faced with a problem—find the solution.”
They stared at her.
“Come on! Not one of you engineers has an idea for thawing beer?”
Jason turned on the tap at the sink and held his hand in a very slow stream to see if it would get hot. Kirby, now shivering uncontrollably, held the two cans to his mouth and breathed on them.
Stacy gave up on the others. “Any suggestions, Chancy Pants?”
“If we were in the mess, maybe. But it’s about an hour to get there from here.”
While Jason sat on a can of Schlitz, and Kirby put one down his pants, Stacy rifled through the cupboards looking for something to help, she pushed the coffee maker out of the way to look behind it, then stopped.
She grabbed the coffee pot, twisted off the lid and looked inside. Holding back a smirk, she grabbed a can and dropped it into the pot, then shoved it onto the maker’s burner. After filling the reservoir and turning it on, the machine forced hot water through.
Chance sat at a table and gave her an amused look.
Stacy crossed her arms and stuck out her tongue.
When the coffee maker finished brewing, she pulled off the pot, opened it, and poured out the water, catching the beer as it slipped out. It cooled her fingers, but the bulge was gone. She grabbed a Mars straw out of the case and punctured the seal with it. Cold beer never tasted so good.
She giggled. “Want some, space cowboy?” She handed Chance the beer and he sipped.
Jason and Kirby raced for the coffee maker, grabbing the handle at the same time and wrestling each other to the floor for it.
“Hm.” Chance took another sip. “Perseverance. Adaptable. Finding solutions. You just might be a fit for Mars after all.”