By E. A. Schweitz
I detest the morning status meetings, but I sat there and listened to Peter drone on about numbers. My mind drifted as I stared at the barely tepid synthetic sludge—the snarky label read coffee.
Who didn’t know that Station 53 was in the red? That corporate management drove short-term profitability at all costs?
“OK, Peter. Just stop. I get it,” I interrupted.
His worried eyes widened. “Yes, Ms. Ott. Sorry—”
“Don’t apologize, Peter. And, call me Mary. Please.”
He looked at the floor. “Yes, ma’— Mary.”
Peter was too nice a kid for this job. He’d never survive.
“Let’s take a walk,” I said.
Our shoes squish-snicked down the carpeted hallway of the mezzanine in the low G. I stopped at the windows overlooking the concourse. Stranded travelers sprawled everywhere: floors, chairs, someone even slept in the exotic Martian plants.
The hotel rooms on Station 53 were exhausted, even at the seasonal hyper-inflated prices. Those without the means were left sleeping out in the cold gray mundanity of the concourses.
I snorted. The mother and kids still slept in a dog pile in the corner. Had it been two, three nights? Perhaps someone should check on them.
“Bottom line, Peter. We’re still in the red this year.”
He coughed, looking uncomfortable, but nodded.
I should have made him do it, but I spoke into the comm on my wrist. “Execute command: Milking Cows.”
I glanced toward my assistant. “Another lovely day for phantom sunspots, isn’t it?”
He just stared out the window at the cash cows, saying nothing. The departure cancellations wouldn’t begin for several hours.
“Look on the bright side. Maybe we’ll get an annual bonus yet.” I wanted to laugh.
“And, Merry Christmas, Peter.” My shoes resumed their squish-snick.