Sunday, 14 February 2016


It was three days before I saw Nick again. There were no fixed schedules for when we worked or ate or rested, and it was a huge city, so unless there was a specially organized meeting or event, the crew of the Albatross could go for many days without bumping into each other.
Mel and I were taking a break in the Terminal Café over coffee on the fourth day when Nick and Sammy wandered in, got themselves some coffee, and joined us at our table.
“Mind if we join you?” Nick asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Tough,” answered Nick as they sat down.
We chatted for about fifteen minutes about what we had been doing since last we had seen each other before Nick said,
“Oh, by the way, I got a call from Dick and Courtney earlier.”
“Oh, they’re still alive, are they? What have they been up to?”
“You mean since you left them behind, don’t you?” Nick said with a grin, “Apparently they have learned many things in the past four days and would like to be picked up and flown back to the city sometime in the next few days. The only question is which one of us will be flying over there to pick them up.”
“Rock, Paper, Scissors?” I asked.
“Oh, for God’s sake!” said Mel as she and Sammy rose to their feet with coffees in hand and marched themselves off to somewhere else in the city.
Nick and I played a few hands of Rock, Paper, Scissors just to entertain ourselves for a while, but of course neither of us won.
“Actually,” Nick said, “I’ll go pick them up a bit later. I’m suffering a bit of cabin fever at the moment, and I wouldn’t mind a bit of flight time in the Martian skies to clear my head.”
“Well, whatever you do, don’t roll down the Albatross’s windows if you’re not wearing your suit, because hypoxia does not help in clearing the head,” I cautioned him as I rose to return to the terrarium.
Three hours of tilling and toiling later, I was taking a short break and staring out through the dome at the Martian landscape when I saw Albatross rise up into the skies and perform a tight 180-degree left bank, light its tail, and rapidly disappear into the distant Martian skies toward the alien shipwreck on the other side of the world.
An hour later, I walked into the Terminal Café to have a light meal and a coffee and found it deserted. After collecting my meal, I sat alone at a table with my coffee and proceeded to consume both while my mind pondered an important and weighty issue. It had occurred to me that the name Terminal Café did not convey the impression of a safe place to go for a healthy and life-sustaining meal and/or drink.

After much contemplation I decided that Spaceport Café sounded like a much more appealing and cooler place to hang out. I had made the decision to mention it to the rest of the crew when I next saw them as Mel wandered in, smiled at me, made herself and myself coffees, sweetened both from Nick’s bottle (while the cat’s away), and handed me mine as she sat down.