I've never written flash fiction before... thought I'd give it a go anyhow.
Captain Jarrold Barnes lay back and the cyolene embraced him. He sunk deeper into the chair, there was a mechanical noise as its fine adjusters moved to meet his body. He breathed out and in, encapsulated by the moon - and then another.
Lo hung closest in the heavens, a brilliant orange sphere, half in darkness and half in brilliant light, stars twinkling around its dizzying circumference. Europa was smaller but less gaudy. Its pinks were subdued and paradoxically it was more attractive. Although pink from a distance, Barnes knew it to be a world of howling winds and blue ice. Barnes flipped through the pages of the feasibility study. Perhaps a colony all the way out there was not so far fetched.
"Beautiful," breathed the voice of the girl in his ear. He fell more deeply into the cyolene, a warm sleepiness moving over his features and he spoke back to the girl. "It's my favorite time of night."
And then he switched off the small speaker that hung on a long stem by his ear and the girl's voice was cut off. Sometimes he wondered about that voice. Had it ever belonged to anyone?
The pod was warm and he dozed close to the window, the craters and dead seas of the planet, sweeping away in all directions from the sweep of glass. Sometimes the idea of venturing out there seemed abstractly appealing. It didn't look like it was -480 degrees. He swatted away an image as if it were a speck of alien dust; the day Corporal Lizard walked out there and tuned to powder. Poor chap's odd utterances had been rattling round the base camp's usually silent walkways for weeks beforehand.
Barnes realized he had slept fitfully. A bleak, flat light was slanting across the bare plains revealing the nakedness of the land,. It was refracted from a distant sun. It was multiplication day. He would dutifully walk down to the clinic and help ensure his chromosomes were used to build the next generation. There would be a blast of high sounding flute music and the probe would come out of the wall, prick his finger and the cloning machine would do the rest.
He heard it was a much more painful and messy business in times gone by. Nobody cared to elaborate.
After his appointment with Docktor Anality, a buzzing and flashing machine that barked out instructions in metallic little soundbites, he received a neuromessage that informed him to go to the delivery bay. He'd almost forgotten about the shipment of belongings from his great uncle Arthur who had died a couple of years ago on Mars.
Barnes had little perception of Mars or desire to go there. All he knew it was close to the old place that perished and his uncle had a reputation as an eccentric who researched the old ways and spent a good deal of time in a reeducation program that wasn't entirely successful.
Even picking up the package could be deemed as subversive. In the delivery bay Barnes sighted another humanoid form behind a frieze of plastic swirls. Such proximity was unusual. He checked himself a couple of times and considered leaving before he engaged the dark little girl in conversation.
"I'm picking up a package from Joseph Arthur," he said through the barrier.
The girl giggled.
"You find that funny?"
"No. Just a quaint sort of name," she said.
"Can I have the package?"
A door opened and a ragged box moved down a conveyor belt.
Barnes took the package and moved off quickly to avoid suspicion.
When he opened it back in his pod, a series of strange paper bundles trapped between pieces of cardboard with words on them fell out.
The dust between the covers immediately aroused Barnes' suspicion.
The line drawings alarmed him even more. Men and women entwined in the most curious and unthinkable of ways. It was entitled "The Human Touch."
The cycolene creaked and he fell further into it. A cold, cruel and haunted light crept around Europa in its freezing swathe of space. The images of the people entwined caused a tiny pain deep within him, so small it was closer to an itch than a pain. There was a germ here of a memory and suddenly it was gone. He willed the lights to go out above him and he was in high lunar darkness again.