I did promise to write more, and I did...but then the dialogue had no bite, and was ill-integrated. At any rate, the hard drive upon which that version was is in a currently non-functional computer. I present to you what I hope is better than that here. This may end up being all of Chapter 1, or I may add some:
OBLIGATORY WARNING: The following contains mature subject matter. It ain't my fault if you're a prude, so use your own discretion. Thank you.
“Because I said so!, because I've never....because....fuck you!”
“So you'll do it, then?”
Alice could have countered the incoming blow. The technique was sloppy, and Julia's posture was ill-suited for staging any attack. Could have. Didn't. In her heart of hearts, she knew it was deserved. Better to take a single physical blow now than face the multitude of potential consequences later. The piezoelectric layers embedded throughout Alice's utility harness, hard shell, and exodermis registered small power spikes as the other girl's fist connected. The unconverted force was enough to cause Alice to stumble backwards a step or two, eliciting little more than a grunt. Alice was momentarily absorbed by the behavior of the dust clouds she had raised, how the light – from the sun, and hundreds of orbital mirrors - played upon the palls of Martian soil in the thin air. What particulates brushed past her flexeramic greaves immediately adhered to the surface. It was fascinating to – OOF!
Julia had taken advantage of Alice's momentary distraction, choosing to tackle her overzealous lover. The pair landed on the ground with an uncomfortable THUD, coming to rest beside one another, covered head-to-toe in Red dust.
“It's...not...”, Julia gasped “...that I don't...want to.....sleep....with you”
“then what....IS....it?” Alice demanded
“You're...leaving....so soon, and...you....know that it would....be...best to wait...see how we...feel when you.....get back”
“How many times....must I say 'I'...'Love You', before you'll....believe...me?”
“It's not a question...of....'I love you's!”
“Then why not let me...bed you? I thought sex was....healthy in relationships?”
“Does what I would feel with your head between my thighs right now tell me if I'll feel the same way about it in a month? Two? A year?”
“What does that matter? Would knowing that change how you feel now?”
“I beg your pardon!”
“You deny your present desires, on account that they may be momentary, or simply unreal?”
“it's self-fulfilling. It makes your present love false, regardless of future events or feelings”
I don't want to talk about this anymore!
“Don't do this!”
“Real speech is intimate, don't make this so formal!”
I have already told you what my conditions for intimacy are. If you will not respect them, I hardly see why I should maintain any form of intimate contact or discourse between us.
You and I have duties to which we must attend. I suggest we return to them
“Have it your way”
Addressing me vocally is presumptuous, please d---
“FUCK! Enough already!”
Alice could no longer help but cry. This was not what she had wanted, in any case. Julia had been her bunkmate for the past six months of her internship on the Red Planet, and her first real friend off-station. Julia had been born here, the child of early colonists. The conception had been unlicensed, but the astronauts' genetic potential had been judged sufficient to allow the pregnancy to come to term. Julia was several months' Alice's senior, and had shown her the ropes at the Main Terraform Station where the pair worked. Like all Genzeroes, their task was to transform her assigned corner of the solar system into a paradise for their genetically superior brethren. Her parents had overseen construction of the mammoth, mechanized, and monolithic structures which Alice and Julia now worked, and the latter of the two had embraced that heritage with pride, rising quickly among the 'former techs until she was stationed at the very centre of planetside operations. Alice had been assigned to a similar post for her pedigree – genetic and academic.
Alice and Julia had become fast friends, bonding almost immediately once Alice had moved in. Julia had delighted in showing her new roommate the ropes: she introduced her to all the important people on-site (essentially everyone, as all menial tasks were automated), gave her tours of the facility, and helped her junior adapt to the low gravity. Alice had struggled to repay her enormous debt of gratitude, but could think of little else to give besides stories of life on Earth, and in Mars orbit aboard Demeter. She had cringed at the cliché. In the end, it had mattered little; Storytelling was not Alice's Forte, and Julia had wasted no time in suggesting that she not quit her day job just yet. This had left Alice with only herself to offer...not so much her body, but her mind, her friendship. Alice shared thoughts which had always been private, fears she would have been ashamed to admit to. Julia was initially taken aback by this openness, but in time came to appreciate that Alice was trying to be the best friend she could. The two began to share equally, and their conversations began to extend well into their allocated sleeping hours. That mattered little to the pair, who were all too eager to throw common sense to the wind in the name of friendship.
“Have you ever been in love?” Alice had asked, late one night.
“I had sex with this boy once...it wasn't half-bad” Julia giggled “every inch a Gentwo”
“Ok” Alice conceded “How big was it?”
Alice held her palms about a metre apart, and then burst into fits of giggling
“I don't know!”
Julia imitated Alice's gesture, substituting the approximate measurement
“Huh” said Alice “Not bad. Did you love the guy, though? You haven't answered my question”
“No, I didn't love him. Guy was great with words, that's what he was. Gifted with a silver tongue”
“Are those any good for, you know....?”
Julia winked, and nodded ever so slightly
“Have you ever loved, then?” Alice inquired.
“Yes, but it was....it was a long time ago. How about you?”
Alice thought for a second
“Yeah” She said, and stopped at that.
Alice had not slept well at all that night. She wondered if she really would have said “I love you” to Julia, had she continued. She cursed herself for being too afraid, prided herself for avoiding potential heartbreak. It was all too much. How would Julia react? How did Julia really feel about her? For that matter, how did she really feel about Julia? There were too many variables in this equation – equation! Just like me to retreat behind cold logic at a time like this, Alice had thought. Still, the comparison held: Alice had enjoyed almost no other company for months, had enjoyed little pleasure of late, by her own hand, or others', had slept far less than was healthy, worked more than was bearable...how was she supposed to know what she felt? No answer came to comfort her tumultuous mind, as she tossed and turned under the sheets.
An exclamation entered Alice's mind, as if she had read it from a book:
“The Pipe, you....Look out!”
In her daydreaming, Alice had neglected the irrigation pipe she was supposedly maintaining. She had picked a particularly bad time to do so. Looking down after Julia's cry of anguish, Alice's optical implants noted that indeed, the pipe had become dangerously pressurized, and was about to burst. This revelation sparked activity in hundreds of nanoscale wires, embedded in Alice's brain, in addition to a multitude of specialized glands in all parts of her body. Time slowed to a crawl, and Alice twisted herself as fast as she could, preparing herself for the inevitable blast. She had just tucked her head down, when it happened.
Forgive me, Alice managed to think
I love you!
Not what I--
Alice and Julia had been working in a proto-farm, tending to genetically modified, lichen-like organisms, which would – over generations – grow, die, and mingle with the local dirt. The end result would be soil, or the nearest equivalent which could be attained. All water in use on Mars' surface had originated in the polar caps. While the eventual goal was to create oceans by melting the caps, the current water demand was met by trucking large chunks of ice between the caps and terraforming stations, to be melted upon arrival. The proto-farms around each station were large enough that very high-pressure pipes and hoses had to be employed for the water to reach to the very edges of the lichen-like growth. Pipe 7 had been erratic of late, and Alice had been coating the antiquated metal tubing with carbon nanofabric. It was that milimetre thick layer which saved her from the worst of the shrapnel. What was left for her to face was a momentary wall of water, which punched her dead-on in the chest. Alice was thrown back, and lost consciousness upon impacting the ground.
Note: Chronologically, this is about a decade after the prologue, in case anyone cares to know