Brian Beauchamp is sent across the solar system to the ninth planet, Pluto, to help improve the terra forming efforts there. Unfortunately, his ex-lover, Zack Kirkland, is stationed there, too.
Zack left Brian without a word three years earlier. Both men are going to be stuck on Pluto for a long time. Will they be able to work through their unresolved past? Or will things between them make their life in deep space unbearable?
“Atmospheric pressure and standard temperature have been established,” the computer said. “You may now safely remove your helmet and space suit.”
“Finally,” he muttered. It took him almost five minutes to remove his suit, down to the nylon overalls he wore underneath and scanned the interior of the building. It appeared to be more machine shop than scientific outpost. Almost every square meter of the space was occupied with machinery and scientific equipment. A narrow path wound between the mountains of apparatus, just wide enough for him to pass through. Brian took a tentative step forward and his foot falls seemed to echo.
A noise from somewhere inside grabbed his attention and he made his way toward the sound. An opening appeared before him as he stepped around a stack of containers. A small living space, about three meters by four meters sat among the piles. It had a low bed, an exercise station, and a kitchenette. A chamber jutted out from the wall into the room and Brian could see a toilet and shower inside.
A lone figure sat at a table, his back to Brian, hunched over a piece of scientific equipment.
“Zack?” Brian spoke in a soft voice, as not to startle him. How could he have not heard me enter? The airlock is not quiet, and the computer voice was loud enough to hear through my helmet.
The figure turned around.
“Brian?” The red-bearded face appeared greyer and more drawn then when Brian had last seen him and Zack seemed thinner, but he was still the handsome man Brian fell in love with years ago.
Zack wore overalls similar to the one Brian had on, and heavy boots. He walked toward Brian who held his arms out for a hug.
When he got close enough, Zack punched him hard in the face. Brian fell back, landing on a pile of luggage straps.
He lay still for a few seconds, stunned, pain shooting through his skull. When the shock subsided, Brian struggled to get his feet and cleared his vision, noting Zack had not moved.
“Not the reception I was expecting,” Brian said, rubbing his cheek where Zack’s fist had connected, feeling the stubble that had grown during his trip.
“What did you expect?” Zack snapped. “You’re responsible for me being stranded on this fucking rock! Did you think I was going to welcome you with open arms and on my knees?” His voice rose to a shout.
“Wait a minute,” Brian retorted. “You left me! You wanted to come out here to get away from me!”
“I did not leave you,” Zack yelled. “I was told you wanted to break up with me and the next thing I knew, I was shipped out to this frozen cesspool.”
“I was on the other side of Titan when you left,” Brian argued. “We hadn’t talked for several days, so who told you I wanted to break up?”
Zack pressed his lips together and did not respond.
“Maybe the same person who told me you requested this assignment?”
“Assignment?” Zack looked surprised. His expression changed to amusement and he burst out laughing. “Do you think this is an assignment?” He spat out the last word. “This is a fucking death sentence,” he continued shouting. “We are never getting off this goddamned planet. At least I’ll have the satisfaction knowing you’re stuck here too. And will probably die here. With luck before me.” He turned and walked back to his workstation.