Lt. Jackson’s breathing was shaky, cold sweat pouring down the back of his EVA, every hair on his body standing on end.
His stomach turned, and he had to force a calm, knowing these suits weren’t designed to be puked into.
But he couldn’t stop staring.
The word `CROATOAN` carved into the central beam of the main pod was bad enough, but it could be written off as a bad joke with a coincidentally tragic circumstance.
Jackson had strolled past the dining area left mid meal, shower left running until the auto-shutdowns with artifacts left as if mid-shower; but the doors were sealed,
as if the occupants had never left.
But Jackson couldn’t get past this.
The changing station was set up. The lead scientist, against orders, became pregnant midflight. She was too curious, they said, but Jackson admired her bravery.
The first gestation in space, and the first baby born on Mars, the first legal Martian.
Adorably nicknamed Marty had soiled one of the makeshift cloth diapers. A clean one had been laid out. A nighttime bottle of formula laid half emptied on its side, a dried puddle next to it.
Jackson couldn’t imagine what scenario had this scene at its conclusion. Nothing sane anyways. And all that left was the terrible gibbering madness…
His daze was broken by the squelch of the comms. “Lt., you have to see this.”, said Sgt Chen.
Jackson marched through the desolate, well-lit corridors. He couldn’t bring himself to peer through any of the portholes on the way across C-hab.
“Sir.” Sgt Chen sounded off.
The dorm style hab unit broke off into five tiny apartments, with a main rec area. The Sgt stood in the doorway of an locked unit that they had just cut open, and pointed at the bed.
The scene was one the crew would have been familiar with, clothes flung haphazardly, crumbled bedding.
Lt Jackson twitched at the glimmer from his peripheral vision, and broke into a hoarse chuckle when he realized it was only a condom wrapper.
What would the colonist do when they ran out of those? He pondered briefly as he surveyed the room.
He leaned forward carefully, noticing Sgt’s hesitance to cross the threshold, respecting that concern.
He could tell the pairs makeup apart, hers in a smallish toolbox, and his in an elaborate foldout, polished to look like the sands around them.
The same makeup had been smudged onto the uniforms that now lay on the floor.
Jackson traced the lover’s path, noticing the bed hadn’t had its locks completed cinched to the ground on the opposite side.
The under-plastic and coversheet on one corner had been pulled up by the hungry, siding bodies. Two comforters pushed towards the head area, farthest from where the bed would have been stowed.
Pillows tossed away from the scene, where they landed next to the porthole.
Where one pillow hung suspended from the outside.