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Out of Orbit

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Dr. Elleesia Rocket stared at her strawberry plants and tried to ignore everything that was happening on the radio. The same from Mars had finally arrived, but the pod carrying them had somehow been pushed off course. The team aboard the ISS had to go out in a spacesuit and grab it, which was what they were doing. Rory Adams was out walking and Kat—like always was fretting. Elsie listened to them bicker back and forth, and tried to push down her anxiety about Rory. One little mistake and he could be dead. That’s all it took in outer space; a misstep, a missed handle, and an unpushed button could all lead to death in an instant. It was something she could never get used to. Elsie was a plant biologist. The company she worked for, Biosyn wanted to test their new strand of samples to see if they could withstand zero gravity, so they elected Elsie to run the experiment


Elsie listened as Rory moved into position to catch the pd. She could hear the tension in Kat’s voice as she reminded him over and over again, “slow is fast”. Elsie let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding when she finally heard Rory whooping. He had caught it. He was okay. Everything was going to be okay.


Elsie was 24 years old, the youngest person ever aboard the international space station. Her most striking feature was her pale lavender eyes; it was something most people couldn’t get over. She had blonde hair that had streaks of pale pink and purple on it. The unusual dye job was the result of a lost bet three months ago. It hadn’t washed out yet. Elsie moved from the window back to her lab. She pulled up her sleeves, revealing a lavender lotus tattoo on her right wrist. The tattoo covered a four inch long scar from where she had broken her wrist and had surgery. Two years ago she had broken it defending herself from her abusive boyfriend. It took a two week stay in the hospital to make her wake up and leave him. ever since then, she had sworn off men. Elsie preferred to be alone, it was safer that way.


“Yo, Plant Girl.” Rory called her on the personal radio in her ear. That unfortunate name was her nickname. Rory had called her that the first day she had come aboard the ISS, three weeks ago and it had stuck.


“Yes.” She answered


“Come see what we found in the lab. It’s pretty amazing.”


“Okay.” Elsie said


The radio started to click off, but before it could she heard Rory as he said “I got two words out of her this time.”


“Shhhh Rory, she’s just----.”


Then the radio clicked off.


Elsie couldn’t help it that she was shy. She just didn’t like small talk. She found it boring and unnecessary.


Slowly, Elsie started to navigate her way down towards the lab. She still was used to zero gravity. It made her feel awkward and clumsy. As she reached the lab, she heard shouts of astonishment.


“Oh my God.”


“Did it move? Oh my god, it moved.”


Elsie quickened her pace, pulling on the handle bars. She propelled herself into the lab, turning around in a summersault and barely missing David’s face with her foot. He caught her gently, steadied her, then let go.


“You’re getting better. No one lost an eye this time.” He said, but he was smiling.


“Thanks.” She said


“Come look at what Dr. Derry found.” David said, pointing with his finger and motioning her forward.


Elsie stared at the screen, at the little grey image twitching.


“That’s it?” she asked


“That is the first conclusive data we have that life really exists on Mars.” Dr. Derry said through the radio, looking up at her through the wall that protected the lab and smiling.


Elsie smiled, “That’s pretty incredible. Congratulations, Dr. Derry.”


Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Rory counting on his fingers.


“It’s a new world record; 6 words. 7 if you want to get technical with the contraction.”


“Shush, Rory.” Kate said, but she was distracted, still string at the lab.


Elsie started at the small wiggling cell, and felt a sudden sense of foreboding and realized with a pang that that tiny little thing on the screen held her entire future in it’s tiny, nonexistent hands. Everything was changing, and suddenly she felt like throwing up.


What had they done by waking this thing up?