An Old Rock Climber

Shreya stood in her little office on the Eisenmenger, occasionally pacing, staring at her globes. They’d expanded from her shelves many years ago, colonizing her desktop, cabinet, and even areas of the floor she was sorry to say. Old starship manuals were stacked in piles just to give her globes a little variation in height.

She had Earth, of course, and Luna. Mars—her first—and Mercury—her most recent. The Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Many of the substantial Saturnian satellites: Titan, Rhea, Iapetus, Enceladus,  Mimas, and Hyperion; somehow Dione and Tethys had evaded her. As had the entirety of the ice giants and the TNOs. But she did have the larger belters: Ceres, Pallas, and Vesta. And perhaps her favorite, Hektor, one of the trojans, just for the sheer novelty of it. A globe for every world she’d walked on.

Not bad for an old rock climber.

Of course, she’d been a young rock climber at the outset, just looking for a way to get away from home. And that she did. First with the military, engineering corps, and then with the astrominers once they caught up. The miners invariably preceded the homesteaders, and by the time the homesteaders came streaming in Shreya was always on to the next rock. She made a niche leading surveyors and astrogeologists over, through, up, down, under, and around alien terrain.

Shreya grabbed a globe—Rhea—wrapped it in paper, and packed it into a box. She paused, remembering. There was a young guy—she couldn’t remember his name: Jaden? Jason? Mason?—a geochemist on a prospecting team with Tronly Capital. No one ever died on Shreya’s watch, which took both skill and luck, but this kid had been close. Made her palms sweat even now.

She gently picked up Ganymede and found Memphis Facula in the northern hemisphere. She remembered everyone’s excitement over the dark ices that stretched to the horizon in every direction. They said this would open up the TNOs, and they were right. This was before Memphis was the largest city beyond Mars; just six people on the whole moon then, and Shreya was one of them.

She regarded Earth, with its vibrant blues and greens. But there was no excitement there. Shreya unpacked her globes and returned them to their various perches around her office.

When you love what you do, there’s little incentive to retire. In the morning she would sign the contract extension after all. There were so many globes she still wanted. So many rocks still waiting for a human touch.

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