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Emergency Scenarios

Kelly Sandoval's fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Uncanny, and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. She lives in Seattle, where the weather is always happy to make staying in and writing seem like a good idea. Her family includes a patient husband, a grumpy tortoise, and too many cats. You can find her online at kellysandoval.com.
It was two weeks until the ship landed back on Earth, and Trisha figured that meant now or never. She had to tell Jazz how she felt. Because once they reached Earth, it'd all be different. Instead of being two of a half dozen kids, they'd be two of millions. It wouldn't matter anymore that Trisha could put a space suit on in under two minutes, because the Earth teens would know how to drive, play guitar, and swim. The sort of things Trisha had only seen in movies. Once Jazz met people like that, ze wouldn't have time for Trisha.
So she had to act fast. It was, you could even say, an emergency. Trisha was good at emergencies; she'd even been safety officer for two years at Mars High. (Which was also Mars Middle, and Mars Elementary. With six kids, one room really did the trick.) She knew how to stay calm, put on her spacesuit, and proceed to the nearest shuttle.
If only that was all it took to ask someone out. Trisha didn't even know where to start. Invite zir to see a movie? Considering they'd been watching movies together since they were toddlers, Trisha worried that might not get the point across. She needed help. Since she'd take a long walk between domes without a space suit before she'd talk to her Dad about this, that really only left one option.
"ADIONA?" she called, turning to look at the screen that was currently displaying the Martian skyline. Jazz preferred beach scenes, but even the idea of oceans filled Trisha with a nervous, fluttering feeling. And they both avoided images of the forests and green fields their parents rhapsodized about. Trees were just so weird looking.
"How can I assist you?" ADIONA asked, in the too level voice all computers seemed to have.
"Bring up the emergency simulator. I want to run a scenario."
The screen shifted to black. "Scenario type?" ADIONA asked.
"Crew dynamics."
"Ready."
"Use crew profiles for Trisha and Jazz. Got it?"
The screen filled with an image of the two of them posing by the Curiosity monument. Jazz in a grease-stained jumpsuit, flashing a victory sign, zir arm slung around Trisha's shoulders. Trisha was looking down and away, giggling despite herself.
"Conflict?"
"Trisha asks Jazz to watch Moon Riot. Run scenario."
There was a pause. "Awaiting additional data," ADIONA said.
Trisha could almost swear it sounded bored. "That's it. That's the scenario. I ask Jazz to watch Moon Riot. Tonight. What happens?"
"I detect nothing of consequence."
"Details, ADIONA!" Trisha sat up, frowning at the screen. She would make this work. "What's the worst case scenario?"
Another pause. "You watch Moon Riot. Jazz says the original was better. You call zir a purist. Ze calls you disloyal. A fight erupts. Jazz threatens to return to Mars. In a rage, you disable the sensors in your room and set fire to the ship. Everyone dies."
Trisha shook her head, doing her best to chase away that particular chain of images. "Worst case scenario where no one dies?"
"Much the same, but the fire is contained in time. You are imprisoned the moment we land."
"I wouldn't do that, you know. You need to update your Trisha profile."
"Noted," ADIONA replied.
"What if I kissed zir?" she asked. "You know, during the movie. Before I lose it and kill everyone."
"A slight increase in the potential for worst case scenario."
Great. Tell someone you like them, increase your odds of wiping out your entire crew. Why did everything have to be so difficult? Who even cared about stupid Earth and stupid college? If they'd just stayed on Mars, she wouldn't be having this conversation.
Instead, she'd be quietly waiting for Jazz to notice her, just like she had for the past year. So, not an ideal plan, but better than actually talking to zir about it.
"How likely is this, anyway?"
"Less than .00001%."
Well, as long as she didn't try this a billion times, they should be safe.
"ADIONA, does Jazz like me?"
"I don't understand the scenario."
Trisha approached the screen, resting her forehead against the cool plastic. "Forget emergency scenarios. You have zir profile. You even know ze hates remakes. So you should know if ze likes me."
"You don't have clearance to access zir profile." ADIONA made a sound, something like a sigh, if a computer could sigh. "But, I believe Jazz could provide you with an answer."
"Just ask? Just like that?"
"The chance that such a question will lead to the death of the crew is negligible."
"I can't."
"Timidity is a noted issue in your profile."
The door chimed softly, then opened. There was Jazz, in torn jeans and a t-shirt for "Mars Attacks" the band they'd formed for a month last year. "Hey," ze said. "Everything ok? ADIONA said it might be an emergency."
"ADIONA thinks everything is an emergency." She shot a glare at the screen. "I thought we could watch Moon Riot. And maybe, I could ask you a question. Whatever your answer, I promise not to burn us all alive."
Jazz laughed, zir low chuckle making Trisha shiver. "You? ADIONA said I burned the ship. After you cruelly spurn my advances, of course."
"I wouldn't!" Trisha objected. "I mean, I didn't. I mean, what advances?"
"I haven't advanced them yet." Ze lowered zir gaze, blushing.
Trisha swallowed hard. She could do this. Timidity be damned. "Well, maybe you should. And we'll just both agree to stay away from lighters."
Their eyes met. And, with that sweet, slow grin that Trisha loved, Jazz advanced.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, November 6th, 2017

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