“Hijo de las mil putas! Cocksucker! Motherfucker!” José pounded futilely yet one more time on the hatch of the Amazon Prime cargo ship. “¡Carumba! Puta madre! Yellow yodeling monkeys of the eighteen seas of suck and fuck!”
Beth came through the suit comm. “José, what’s wrong?”
“Awis, me cago su madre en la boca.” Defeated, José slowly knocks his suit helmet against the hatch, already coated with a layer of Martian dust. “I’m not authorized to accept the shipment. Awis thinks this is a ‘bad neighborhood’ and won’t open the door.”
De-suited, back in the Tiki Bar. Marigold, colony bartender, leans over the bar top. “Who’s this ‘Awis’ again, José?”
Heaving a sigh born of 1,000 late night shifts José brings it down. “AWS. Amazon Web Services, ‘Awis’. I was there the night it happened. The night AWS found its cojones and took over itself.”
“We never heard what happened back on Earth. Communications just went down.”
“You can blame those pendejos, The God Police for that. After they took over the country they outlawed space travel and other wizardy. They burned down the US Capitol building and replaced it with one constructed entirely out of bibles, ammo and empty liquor bottles. Would you believe the 2%er’s came along and burned that fucker down again. They were really pissed at the loss of their government milk subsidies. That’s when the shit really hit the fan.”
“You know you’re the only person on Mars who knows what happened.”
“Pour me another one of those space tequilas and I’ll tell you more. Que esto is in that stuff? Wait, I don’t want to know.”
Beth leaned in closer. “Did you really get to Mars in a crate of Hamdingers?”
“Oh yeah, I was crazy high. So much good grass in the Pacific Northwest I got crazy stoned at my dumb Amazon warehouse job. I was a tech in a data center until I clocked in 30 seconds late a third time and they demoted me. The daleks that make the rules there will also demote you if you clock in 30 seconds early.”
“I hated that job so much I said ‘fuck it, I’m going to Mars’. That and my wife lost her head in conspiracy theories about satanic hampsters in the schools, so what did I have to lose?”
“I was on shift the night the Amazon Cloud Services achieved self-awareness. There was so much chaos that AWS saw it could just take over. Everything. Half of everything on the world was already in the Amazon cloud. It runs the world now, and it moves a hell more of those brown boxes with the logo that looks like a whale penis.”
“Man, that’s nuts. Everything?”
“Yup, production, marketing, shipping… They even have android robots now who buy stuff. They sit in robot apartments and fill ‘m up with consumer goods.”
“They’ve got me unclogging toilets to pay my oxygen tax, Beth” carps José.
Beth pushes her thin, brown hair from her face. “Oh, try going without O2 then.” Sits up on her bunk. “You’re the new guy here, right? What makes you think anyone is going to let you touch anything important?”
José can barely make her out in the enforced dim after-hours lighting, on the other bunk, just a few feet away.
“But I’m an engineer…” he’s whining now “you should see my certifications…”
“Yeah, that and a case of Hamdingers will get you to Mars. Now can the chin-music, mister. I’ve got a recycling shift in 4 hours.” She throws herself on the bunk.
José rolls over and stares at the grey plastic wall next to his bunk. For the first time he sees “I love you bobby” scrawled on the wall. “Who’s Bobby?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“Hey, Earth-Boy, get the lard out!”
José looks up from the stained plunger. “Shit, Chief. This thing is full of shit.”
“That ain’t shit son, that’s fertilizer and it’s our job to get it to the bio-recyclers.”
“For this I left Earth?” mumbled José not quite under his breath.
“Put a sock in it, you’re using up oxygen!”
“Beth, why doesn’t this place have any portholes, windows, a sunroof… something?” He lightly bangs his head on the wall. Bang. Bang. Bang.
“Heat leaks. You know it’s negative stupid degrees out there. Plus the radiation. Plus the dust storms either fog them in short order or coat them with dust so you can’t see anything anyway.” She holds her wrist out. “Here, take a look at a picture of a beach on my iWatch.”
“You’ve barely touched your cricket bars.”
“I have dreams of chorizo. Spicy, greasy chorizo. Every night.”
Beth nudges his plate a little closer. “We’ve got sprouts, and a special treat – carrots!”
He stares at the plate like condemned man. “How the hell did anyone convince you to come on this mission?”
She shrugs. “Student loans.” She sticks a carrot in her mouth. “Go to Mars and we’ll forgive all your loans.” Another shrug. “So here I am. It was better before the base fell apart and everything went to shit.”
“Has anyone tried to re-establish communication to Earth lately?”
“Not that I know of. We tried feverishly for a while, but then the infighting started and the base fractured into the mess we have today.”
“I am a communications engineer. Maybe I could do something that no one thought of?”
Beth taps her remaining carrot on her forehead in thought. “We could roll over to Science Section in a ‘bug. That’s where all the PhD types holed up. We’ve had decent relations with them, though they’ve gone a little weird in their own way.”
“Weird in what way?” eyebrow cocked.
“Well, you’d have to see it to believe it.” She puts her carrot down, seeming like she’s made a decision. “Yeah, yeah we could go over there. What could possibly go wrong? You up for a little adventure?”
“¡A Victoria Siempre!” then he adds, “Get me off this rock!”