Only three of us survive. We are waiting for the ships. I don't know what our fate will be, don't dare predict. It happened so fast. The sliding door of the airlock opened sending my heart into warp drive. Oh Lord. The hound from hell. Lu Mare, our captain and the station's ecologist, tossed her helmet to the deck and opened her arms. From one of the passageways in the Martian station, a big yellow puppy galloped up. It stood on its hind quarters trying to grab her face with its paws. She ruffled the dog's fur and planted a big kiss on the top of his head while I cringed.
"What's the matter, Jordan? Nostradamus is just a pup. He can't hurt you."
I showed Nostradamus a trembling hand, and instead of sniffing it, he dived into my face.
I shuddered, lied. "I'm fine. Is David here?"
"He's out collecting samples, but he'll be back for chow."
I had just arrived from the Agaricus II one of the biospheres orbiting Mars. Lu Mare had picked me up at the landing and brought me to the Ranunculus. It was not a large station, but it was home for the next six months. It was constructed like a torpedo or a submarine, and like a submarine, it had only one entrance.
Lu pointed to a door. "You're bunking with me, so the cube's empty. I've got to complete some reports, but if you want some company—" Her eyes flew briefly to Nostradamus before returning to mine. I shook my head quickly and entered the cube.
Outside the only porthole, Olympus Mons rose above the Tharsis plains. In the nearby sea, squat columnar stromatolites, pink, green and blue jutted out of the backwash. Waves sloshed and sucked, heaved up and out, and splashed the coral and sulphur sand mottling the shore. Dust swirled, burst, as a hovercraft scuttled by. Two faint moons showed above the settling dust, and somewhere beyond that . . . was Earth.
David and I were lovers on Earth. I will never forget the dark look on his face the last time I saw him. The growl, the terrified voice. David jerking his head up from the tray of green slime that was meant for the simulator. My own voice screaming. I remember seeing him through the window of the lab as he shoved the glass tray into the simulator. He had left the hatch open and come outside, approached the snarling boxer, held its collar, then let go, and put an arm around me and walked me indoors.
A snarl had come from behind us. His boxer skulked in. David went for its collar, too late. The dog lunged at me. As I dodged its snapping jaws, it catapulted into the simulator and I slammed the hatch shut. In my panic to get away, I tripped onto the console, switching it on. The dog convulsed, its eyes bulged, and its blood boiled. Then the body of David Wang's boxer crumpled in the simulated Martian air.
Nauseated at the memory, I forced my attention back to the porthole. Accidents happened. That sea and that sky. Stromatolites on Mars. That was why I was here, and why Mars, given enough time, would look like Earth...
The complete story can be read here at Author's Den