“I’m just saying…,” Carter shrugged at the rest of the crew. “…they weren’t in charge when we left; it seems kind of fast that a company we never heard of is running NASA now.”
“I know you’re not complaining,” Lucy replied. The team’s engineer sat on a lounge in the common room. She wore a fluffy white robe and held a margarita straw centimeters from her mouth. A pair of red scissors was the only logo on the robe; it looked familiar to Carter but he could not place it. “After the couple of years we had, this new quarantine protocol was heavenly. I wouldn’t mind a few more days.”
The rest of the crew laughed and agreed with Lucy enthusiastically. Something still bothered Carter, but he decided to drop it for the moment. Even after his first successful mission, the rest of the crew considered Carter a rookie. He was usually given the least exciting jobs like cleaning, or sample collecting. He didn’t know how to communicate what was bothering him, so he let it go and tried to enjoy the free time with his friends. It was a nice change of pace from days full of chores and maintenance and little time to socialize. Though, he hoped it was the last night of quarantine.
After two years and three weeks, Carter was ready to socialize with different people. He was excited for the mandatory meeting just because he’d finally get to see some new faces. New faces that would hopefully tell him he could go into town tomorrow. Not that he wanted for any material possessions; he could literally ask for any food, gadget, or tool and get it delivered the next day. He wanted to see real sunlight. An actual blue sky that’s not a virtual environment.
“Good evening, crew,” A pale woman in a white suit appeared on the main screen in the common room. The crew immediately gave her their attention. “My name is Dana Sharp, owner of Sharp Development, and temporary head of NASA.”
Eight of the nine astronauts greeted the woman with a wave, nod, ‘hi’, or ‘hello’. Carter was distracted by the company logo along the bottom of the screen. It said ‘SHARP Development’ but the ‘A’ was made up of a red pair of scissors pointing down, like the embroidery on Lucy’s robe. Ms. Sharp either didn’t notice or didn’t care that not all of them were paying attention.
“Though standard quarantine protocol is coming to an end. In order to thank you for your service and bravery, Sharp Development is honored to extend your stay indefinitely. Take advantage of our hospitality free of charge, for as long as you like,” she said.
“YEAAH!” The room burst into cheers. Eight of the nine crew members hopped on their feet in excitement.
“What if I don’t want to?” Carter asked Ms. Sharp.
“What??” The cheering stopped immediately and Lucy spun Carter around to face her. “Why don’t you want to stay? This place is amazing!” Carter did not know how to explain that he didn’t trust Ms. Sharp, partially because he couldn’t identify the reason. It didn’t help that the woman herself was watching. Before Carter could stall for more time, Ms. Sharp spoke up again.
“I’m afraid that it’s somewhat of a package offer. All of you stay, or none of you do. I’ll give you an hour to discuss it,” Ms. Sharp said. Then, she disappeared off the screen. Instead of feeling at ease, Carter felt the heavy stares of his crewmates.
“Alright, Carter,” Lucy said. “What’s the problem?” She used her captain’s voice. It comforted Carter. When she used that tone she was open to new ideas and suggestions no matter how stupid they were.
“Something,” he said with a shrug. “I don’t know. Something about this whole company is giving me weird vibes,” he pointed at the red scissors on Lucy’s robe. “That logo in particular,” he added. “I’ve seen that somewhere. I don’t know where, but something about it is driving me nuts.” Lucy pulled the robe fabric taught and looked down at her chest. She seemingly noticed the logo for the first time.
“Hey. It’s scissors,” she said with a slight giggle. The moment she spoke she looked up and locked eyes with Carter. He remembered exactly where he’d seen the logo, and Lucy knew it too; she’d said the same thing the first time they saw it.
“No way…,” Lucy spoke, but Carter tore out of the room at top speed. As soon as Lucy realized he was gone she bolted out too before anyone got a question out.
Lucy caught up to Carter in the Sample Storage room. He was in the process of opening a heavy silver case as she walked in. Then, the heavy footfalls of the rest of the crew caught up. They entered the room and gathered around the case as Carter flipped it open.
“The first set of samples from Mars. 16 months ago…,” Lucy said. The interior of the case consisted of several deep velvet pockets. Each pocket contained a sealed clear plastic bag. Carter checked several pockets, then pulled one small plastic bag out completely. He closed the chest and laid the bag out flat on top.
Inside it contained what was assumed to be paper of some sort. It looked dusty red with age, but it was easy to tell that it was once white. In the center of the paper was a faded, distorted red logo that Lucy once identified as scissors.
“So, we’re not staying, right?” Carter asked.
50 minutes later, the crew sat in the common room. Bags packed and dressed to go, though Lucy did pack the robe in her luggage. Ms. Sharp appeared on screen again.
“We’ve decided not to stay,” Lucy said as soon as the pale woman appeared.
“Very well. On behalf of Sharp Development, I wish you good luck and godspeed.” She disappeared again without another word.
“What, that’s it?” Carter asked.
“No,” a woman’s voice said from the entrance of the common room. They all turned to see a short, pale woman in a black suit. “Ms. Sharp also sent me…,” her hands began to glow with bright blue light. “… to clean this place up.”