Please be sure to record the winner and their score on your daily log to be sent back to Canaveral! They will be added to our Hall of Fame back here at Corporate! ☺
And don’t lie. We’ll know.
(No prizes will be given for winning by Goddard Futuristics, however, any consequences of defeat may be determined by the crew on an as-needed basis.)
Jacobi held it up to the light.
“We can just snap it?” suggested Maxwell. “Or put it back in Box 398? I really don’t like the look of that box, Colonel.”
“No, we cannot.”
Warren Kepler held up a finger in the air, affecting a pleased, gracious smile.
“Ah, the sound of whining. It echoes so gloriously in this well-outfitted, perfectly functional spaceship provided, graciously, by our employers. Who have asked us to perform this… team building exercise.”
“Isn’t it optional?”
“Absolutely,” said Warren, drawing out his words, “not.”
“Well,” said Renee, cautiously. She towed the box behind her into the observation deck. “I found it, you guys. Just where the schedule said it’d be.”
Hilbert raised an eyebrow.
“What!” yelled Eiffel, pushing off the handholds towards her. “We have a CD! And a karaoke machine! Man, you never told me we had this on board! Are you telling me we could’ve been listening to this all along?! Instead of just, like, Mozart’s workout playlist?”
“Well, it is the karaoke versions of the songs,” said Hera. “As I understand it, this means that it’s only the instrumentals.”
“Give me that!”
Renee felt the evening beginning to slip away from her already.
She’d been under the assumption that Eiffel would throw a fit about karaoke night. But of course he’d probably be familiar with every damn song. Of course he’d love the idea.
God, they’d never sleep again. She handed over the CD, and began hooking up the damn karaoke machine to the screen.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me. Lambert, you can’t be serious.”
She couldn’t help it.
She realized too late, at the shocked looks on the others’ faces, that she’d fucked up. Again. Of course he was being serious. He was always so damn serious. She resolved to—
“It’s in the schedule.”
He pointed at Rhea’s screen.
—how could any human be so damn pompous? She wasn’t stupid. She could see that. If she wasn’t listening to the schedule, maybe there was a damn good reason. Like the fact that a karaoke night would be idiotic.
“Oh, right,” said Isabel. “It’s in the schedule. Forgive me. How could I ever forget? About the schedule. I suppose we have to, because it’s in the schedule.”
“It doesn’t sound so bad!” said Hui, before Lambert could speak again.
“Yes,” said Selberg. “It does. I am with Captain on this.”
“Thank you!” said Isabel.
Selberg scowled. Any port in a storm, Isabel decided, and then he… kept talking.
“However,” said Selberg, “Lambert is only trying to follow protocol.”
“Et tu, Doctor Selberg?”
“Captain,” said Fisher, “let’s set some parameters, yeah? What exactly constitutes a karaoke night?”
“Oh, that’s a good idea, Mace!” said Fourier, cutting in before Isabel could reply.
Isabel frowned. Lambert scowled.
He had a way of going red-faced, absolutely apoplectic—a vein that stuck out in his head. It was usually funny. Honestly, it was cartoonish. But Isabel was trying to be better, now. No more box 953 incidents.
“Go on,” she said. “I’ll hear you out. What would count as a whole karaoke night, guys?”
“Two songs each, maybe?” said Hui. “That should keep Command happy. And it’ll be a full night for us. Consequences of defeat?”
Isabel could still feel a phantom pinch in the back of her hand.
“Two songs, yes. Consequences of defeat, no. But two songs should be fine.”
“Yes,” said Lambert. “That should give the machine enough data to determine a fair winner!”
“Give me that,” said Isabel.
She read the note from Canaveral. And then read it again. And then read it a third time.
As sketch as anything from Canaveral ever was, sure. With a lot of room for interpretation.
But it was still pretty clear.
“Well, if it’s a winner you want,” said Isabel. “You’re on, Officer Lambert.”
“Oh,” said Marcus, opening up the empty CD case. “I think I lost the CD, Miranda! We won’t get to do karaoke night now!”
There was a long, long pause. Marcus met her gaze.
It was impossible to lose things on a spaceship. There was only so much space in a spaceship, and if you were as organized as Goddard Futuristics, none of it went to waste. Certainly none of it got repurposed for a fragile compact disc, not when there was a case on board for that disc. A place for everything, and everything in its place! And a schedule to keep, the events of which would be recorded at the end of the night and sent back to David Clarke in Cape Canaveral to be added to the company files.
A schedule which, for the next three hours, dictated that it would be karaoke night.
Miranda didn’t smile. Rachel didn’t smile. Neither of them made a move to stand up—Rachel, most likely because she hadn’t been told to, and Miranda, because it wasn’t as though they had anywhere else to be.
“Tragic,” said Miranda.
I DON’T KNOW WHY ALL OF YOU ARE COMPLAINING, ANYWAY, said Rhea. YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BE PUTTING THE WORDS ON THE SCREEN.
“Yeah, guys, Rhea has to sing all of them! Why are we complaining?”
“Oh, now, that’s not fair,” said Fourier. “It’s not hard for her! Doesn’t it just… tell you how fast to go?”
I STILL HAVE TO READ IT! AND I HAVE TO LISTEN TO ALL OF YOU. I HAVE TO RUN THE SCORING PROGRAM.
“I don’t understand how we can be scored,” said Fourier. “I mean, I know there’s a winner, but… how is it calculated?”
“Have you never done a karaoke night?” asked Isabel, curiously.
Fourier shook her head.
The faint creak of the door distracted them all again, and Isabel rolled her eyes.
“Selberg… don’t think you’re getting out of this.”
Selberg, caught in the act, hung onto the handholds.
“If I sing first song and second song? May I be permitted to leave early? I have… experiments.”
Isabel glanced back at Hui and Fourier, who both, in unison, pursed their lips and shook their heads. She laughed.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” said Isabel. “You’re going to sing the first, and then you’re going to sing the last. But you don’t have to sing any in-between. And yes, I do expect everyone to stay for the whole night.”
“I don’t get it,” said Jacobi, pulling out the list of songs. “Why is it a CD?”
“Because,” said Warren, anchoring the karaoke machine to the wall via a pair of velcro straps, “we’re plugging this into the screen, and we’re going to take these two microphones—”
“No, I mean—it’s not 1999 any more—”
“Of course not,” said Warren. “This is duets of the 2000s. Not even Goddard could get this CD in the nineties. As far as I know, anyway.”
“And Command couldn’t even spring for a karaoke app for the computer system?” asked Maxwell.
“It’s retro. Surely you can appreciate a little bit of old-school charm, Dr. Maxwell.”
“I think they got the duets so they wouldn’t have to spring for the rights to like, real hits,” said Jacobi.
Maxwell nodded pensively.
“Have you even heard of most of these songs? Or singers, for that matter? I mean, obviously, Jordin Sparks, Christina Aguilera, Michael Buble, kind of your typical… early 2000s grocery store purgatory playlist, oh. And Beyonce. That’s where all the money went.”
“Uh,” said Maxwell, “My childhood was kind of… I didn’t listen to a lot of pop music.”
Warren continued scrolling through the song list, slowly, the rhythmic click-click-click of the list as it moved filling the silence, like the pendulum of a clock.
“Right,” said Jacobi. “Never mind.”
“Oh?” echoed Warren.
“I’ve heard of that one,” said Maxwell, excitedly, pointing at the screen. “Yes! I can do that!”
Warren tossed her a mic.
“Sing your heart out, Dr. Maxwell. Start us off.”
“Okay, so, this is the fifth time you’ve scrolled through the list,” said Minkowski. “And Dr. Hilbert kind of looks like he’s going to die of boredom, and I honestly couldn’t blame him at this point, so…”
“There has to be something good on here!”
“It is… karaoke,” said Hilbert. “There is nothing good about it.”
“Come on! Even you have to appreciate Journey! Just a small town girl! Living in a lonely world! Even you have to know that one, Doc! Like, of all the decades, why did they have to pick the worst one for—any genre!”
“I do not know that one.”
“Oh no,” said Hera. “Oh please, Dr. Hilbert, don’t get him started.”
Renee felt that particular pressure behind her left eye that only Eiffel could manifest.
“Okay, that’s it,” said Eiffel, and he hit Select. “Hera, turn down the music volume, but keep the mic on, okay, darlin’—oh, geez, do you guys feel like we’re in an elevator or what—never mind!”
TELL ME WHEN WILL YOU BE MINE, scrolled across the screen, and Eiffel turned to face them.
With the music down, Eiffel did his level best to scat his way through the top notes of a very familiar series of piano chords. He wasn’t quite fast enough, and it certainly wasn’t anything remotely resembling in tune, but—
Well, Renee decided, you had to admire tenacity, and Eiffel did have that in spades, when it came to doing things in a manner at odds with the orders he was given.
WE CAN SHARE A LOVE DEVINE, said the screen. Renee pressed the palm of her hand to her eyes. Hera could see that, couldn’t she? Couldn’t she fix it?
“Just a small town girl! C’mon, Hera, I know you know it!”
“Officer Eiff—took the midnight train—”
Hera’s voice, sweet and tinny through the speakers, picked up. There was something about their performance… Renee narrowed her eyes. Probably only noticeable, Renee realized, if you were familiar enough with the original song to realize where Eiffel was off-key or off-rhythm. A too-high note here, a missed beat there—Hera matched them all.
Okay, Renee decided, that was kind of cute. There was a lot about this situation that wasn’t cute, but that—that was kind of cute.
PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME WAIT AGAIN, said the screen.
Hera glitched on the final syllable. There was a tremendous crash, a series of sparks that ran along the wires between the karaoke machine and the screen—Eiffel dropped the microphone, and the room went dark.
“Well done,” said Hilbert. “Now you have crashed mother program. With… Journey. Was it that important?”
“Ow!” said Eiffel.
“Did the microphone hit you?” asked Renee.
“Oh, baby when you talk like that! You make—a woman go mad!”
Jacobi, holding the other mic—a bright purple monstrosity—went through (Warren counted) about three different facial expressions of shock.
“Alana! You can kind of sing!”
“Ten years of church choir will do that to you—oh, oh, Daniel, your part’s coming up—”
Warren tried not to wince as Jacobi warbled his way through a description of watching a woman dance—a performance with, Warren decided, several truly unconvincing layers, not the least of which was that Jacobi was having trouble keeping the microphone cord from floating up into his face and tangling around him. And this, it seemed, was a more pressing concern than reading the lyrics. Or singing on-key.
Fortunately, a spaceship was not an acoustically streamlined chamber, as every square inch of space was given as much purpose as the engineers could fit. The various buttons and dials and wires of the room functioning to, essentially, absorb the sound of Jacobi’s… caterwauling.
“Daniel,” said Maxwell, as trumpets signaled the end of his verse, “you really kind of can’t sing. I mean, I appreciate the effort?”
“His ears are turning red,” observed Warren.
“This is uncalled for,” said Jacobi. “This is slander. Alana!”
“Como se llama!”
“—You know,” said Warren, “this reminds me of a time that I was in Colombia…”
“God! Fine! I’ll sing this part!” said Jacobi, and proceeded to yell into the mic loudly enough that Maxwell covered her ears.
“All right,” said Fisher, after ten minutes of Selberg’s hemming and hawing over the options, and Fisher’s own professed ignorance of every single song on the list, at least three times. “Doc, give me that remote.”
Selberg held out the mic. Before the transfer could be completed, Isabel dove forwards, and smacked the select button for them. The screen, currently displaying an album cover with a large “17” on it, lit up, and proceeded to the opening notes of a ballad, set to the visuals of a clearing in a forest.
“What,” said Isabel. “You weren’t gonna choose. Selberg wasn’t gonna choose.”
“I don’t even know if I’ve heard this song?”
“C’mon,” said Isabel. “Show us what you’ve got. You can pick again afterwards if you like.”
“…Captain, this is Christina Aguilera. That’s just cruel.”
Something about microgravity made sitting around a karaoke machine, reclining in the air, feel… casual. Like sitting around a couch. That’s what they want you to think, she decided. Team-building, and all that jazz.
LIKE A BROKEN ARROW, said Rhea, and Fisher dutifully took a breath.
…Isabel winced. There was something about karaoke, she decided, that was… hellish.
Maybe it was the way that neither Fisher nor Selberg could sing, despite Fisher’s best efforts and Selberg’s… mediocre (if she was being generous) ones. Maybe it was the lack of alcohol. Maybe it was the way that their voices echoed, or the way that both of them faltered when Hui and Fourier started giggling.
No, decided Isabel. No team lunches could’ve prepared them for this. Not enough living in each other’s pockets for the world could’ve set them up and made them comfortable with each other enough for this.
What the hell was Goddard thinking?
“Why did all of those songs in the 2000s end like this?” asked Hui. Fourier nodded, pity and horror in her eyes in equal measures. She clutched the nearest handhold, knuckles white, but kept her gaze ahead, as though she couldn’t look away.
“You mean like, how they don’t?”
“Captain,” said Selberg flatly, as Christina Aguilera’s fifth NOBODY WANTS TO BE LONELY rolled across the screen. “Am I required to sing all of this?”
“Oh, now that’s no fun,” said Fisher.
“Exactly,” said Selberg, gesturing at the sixth. Selberg proceeded to ignore the rest. Hui and Fourier exchanged a glance.
“Okay,” said Lovelace. “So, write down the score…”
They peered at the screen.
“Hey, Rhea,” said Lovelace. “Where’s the score?”
I DON'T HAVE IT. DON’T YOU?
“Long story short,” said Warren, “—we took the truck, and just let it roll right off a cliff!”
“He didn’t hear any of that,” said Maxwell, “and Colonel, if you go back we’re snapping this CD in half.”
“My turn. Jacobi, how do you feel about being my… Nelly Furtado?”
He glanced at the screen.
…Well, they’d notice sooner or later, he supposed.
“Okay, well,” said Isabel. “Let’s see how the next one goes. Selberg, Fisher, hand over your mics. Who wants to go next?”
“Me and Fourier!” said Hui, decisively. Fourier shook her head furiously. “Oh? Wait, no?”
“Kuan—okay, fine,” said Fourier, holding out her hand. “Mic me, Captain.”
Isabel pushed the mic towards her.
“Song?” asked Hui.
“Lady Gaga and Beyonce,” said Fourier, and her eyes narrowed, in the beginning of a sly smile. “Only tolerable thing on the list.”
“Ooh, I hoped you would say that! Did I ever tell you that you’re the best?”
“Hera…? Hera, you there?”
Silence on a space station was, generally speaking, a fantastical concept. There were the hums of the lights, the distant whirring of the engines, the fans for the computers in any room, and the creaking of thousands of tons of metal as it hurtled through space—the crackle of the speakers.
They waited for three of those sounds to go back online.
“It’s… really dark in here,” said Eiffel.
“Oh, come on, I know you’re not afraid of the dark,” said Renee.
…She didn’t know that, though, she realized, a little too late.
Hilbert’s voice came from somewhere above her—a faint shadow, lit by distant stars. If it hadn’t been for the lack of Hera, and the rising panic in her chest the longer their mother program stayed offline, it almost might have been peaceful.
“Is reasonable to be afraid of loss of mother program.”
“You killed Hera,” said Renee, “with karaoke. This is a new low, even for—”
There was a hideous screech of feedback. Sparks ran along the wires—Eiffel screamed—and the screens flickered back on with a static burst that Renee felt in the hair on her arms and up her spine—
“Street—lights! Peeeeople! Ooh. Why’s it dark? Hey, did you guys know that karaoke is a clipped compound of the words empty and orchestra? In Japanese? Makes you think about those transmissions that Eiffel receives. Like, there’s no orchestra, where they’re coming from either, right? Um, I should turn the lights back on, huh?”
“That’s how you do it!”
Hui threw down the mic, as the ending piano notes drifted off. Fourier, out of breath and pink-cheeked, glanced between the rest of the assembled company.
“Was that okay?”
The mic swung back around and clipped Lambert, who flinched.
“You did great,” said Lovelace, amused. “You’re no Beyonce, but hey. Hui’s no Lady Gaga, either.”
“Come on, Captain!” said Hui. “Beyonce’s no Victoire! Do you see Beyonce up here in space doing astrophysics! You did amazing, for your first time. C’mon, let’s see the score!”
“Oh, it is quite all right to not be compared to Beyonce,” said Fourier, holding up her hands. “I don’t believe in that sort of competition.”
They all peered at the screen again.
“…So there’s still no score,” said Hui.
“Rhea, are we forgetting some switch?” asked Lovelace.
“If we’re supposed to report the score, we should see it,” said Lambert. “Maybe it’s broken?”
There was a long, long pause.
NO SWITCH THAT I CAN FIND. I’M NOT GETTING ANY ERROR CODES, EITHER.
“Well, can you see it?” asked Fisher.
NO. EVERYTHING I’M SEEING TELLS ME THAT YOU CAN.
“It’s so jazzy,” said Jacobi. “How are you doing that? Do you know this song? Because this kind of feels like a song that no one, literally ever, has known before. Not even the people who sang it. There is nothing familiar about it.”
Warren ignored him.
“I feel like we should be on an elevator,” said Maxwell.
“No, I get more of like, a Christmas vibe?” said Jacobi.
Warren paused, turning back to them.
“You gonna sing, or you gonna commentate your way through this? Mr. Jacobi, all you need to do is sing the lines after me for the moment. You’ll pick it up. I have… faith in you—ah, there is your line—”
“I don’t know how I’m supposed to know it—”
“So we’re all agreed that it’s weird that Rhea thinks we can see the score, but can’t see what’s on her screen herself, right?” asked Fisher.
“Right,” said Hui.
“Right,” said Fourier.
Isabel scowled at the screen, across which Rhea wrote: STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT, CAPTAIN.
“It’s not you—it’s—they want us to pick a winner,” Isabel said, decisively. “Without a score, they want us to decide who did best.”
“Fourier and Hui,” said Fisher, right as Rhea’s screens flashed DR. FOURIER AND DR. HUI.
“I will concede,” said Selberg.
Hui and Fourier gave each other a sweet smile, Fourier brushing her frizzy hair out of her face, and Hui striking a pose with his hands on his hips. Cute.
Isabel closed her mouth.
Fisher was raising his eyebrows, in a way that had definite overtones of I Told You So. Selberg frowned at her, and Fourier and Hui looked like they were both ready to bolt from the room. Rhea’s cursor blinked—
It hadn’t been any of them who’d spoken. She glanced over at Lambert, who was doing his best impression of a glower, eyebrows furrowed and mouth set.
Do better, she thought to herself, remembering holding the gun and standing in front of Eris. Be better. This is Goddard again, testing you. God help us both if we didn’t learn from last time.
“I know why I said that,” said Isabel, slowly, “but Lambert, why did you?”
“Nice weather we’re having!”
In return for this, Marcus received a perfectly bookended disdainful glance from the two women seated across from him.
“Oh, come on,” he said, “no rain, no heat wave—I mean, we could be back at home. In the middle of hurricane season.”
“You’re determined to punish us,” said Miranda.
“For what? We’re just going to have a nice evening here, until it’s time for bed, right?”
“All right,” said Miranda, “tell the truth. What’s karaoke night about?”
“We-ell,” said Marcus. “I suppose… you both have Black Archive clearance… oh my god, I’m just kidding, you should’ve seen the look on both your faces! Yes, Miranda, I know you are the Black Archives.”
“Sir,” said Rachel. “Is it about something else?”
He pressed a finger to his mouth.
“Promise you can keep a secret? Let me pull up the files.”
“Okay, so,” said Eiffel. “Karaoke killed the space station… In my mind and in the big red star? We can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far?”
“I’m trying to find the lights,” said Hera.
“Aren’t you the lights?”
“I don’t know, Officer Eiffel,” snapped Hera, “are you your left pinky knuckle? Some of us have proprioception that covers one million pounds of metal, instead of 185 pounds of meat!”
“If you say proprio-what-now—” said Renee, “—if those are the next words that come out of your mouth, so help me God, you’re on latrine duty for the next week.”
Eiffel closed his mouth.
“Proprioception, Officer Eiffel,” said Hilbert, and, God, Renee would have guessed that pity was as much in Hilbert’s vocabulary as proprioception was in Eiffel’s, “is sensation of knowing where your hand is when eyes are shut. Is generally not a problem in humans, but is more of a problem for space station.”
Or maybe he just wanted to show off.
“Thank… you… Science Guy,” said Eiffel. “Yeah, okay, I get it. I’m a clod.”
“Ah!” said Hera, and every other light flickered back on. “Oh, wait. Oh no.”
“Good enough,” said Renee.
“I mean, it’s really not, sir.”
“We can see, Hera,” said Renee, more firmly this time. “That’s all we needed.”
“So, okay,” said Eiffel. “Your turn next, Doc? You wanna give it a go, Commander?”
“Oh, no,” said Renee.
“Is fine,” said Hilbert.
“Because you and I didn’t sing yet, and that means that we haven’t done a real competition! Sir.”
“This isn’t,” said Isabel, feeling a Lambert-migraine settling in, “a real competition. This is Goddard, just trying some stupid, petty bullshit to get us to compete and then feel hurt. We shouldn’t even pick a winner at all! We should call it off right the hell now.”
“And tell them, what, that we all want participation trophies? Do you even know what’s going to happen if we don’t pick a winner?”
“Uh, nothing? What would they do to us that they haven’t already?”
“How do you know that? How do you know they’re not going to come up here again, stick us all in a box—”
“Oh? Are you going to write another memo to Command about how I bullied you all into turning down their stupid competition?”
“They won’t need me to do that this time, they’re going to know because we won’t have picked a winner!”
“So sorry to interrupt,” said Fourier, “but I am foreseeing an hour’s worth of arguing and I am really not in the mood. So, Captain, you’re going to be angry about the stupid petty bullshit, and take it out on the rest of us, who definitely didn’t plan it, and who were trying to have fun doing it anyway? And you, Officer Lambert, you’re going to make this about the Captain? Proving her exactly correct about how stupid, and petty, and bullshit it all is?”
And then she clapped a hand over her mouth.
Isabel felt her stomach drop.
No one stepped forward to say anything. No one shook their heads, no one distanced themselves from Fourier. Except, with increasing fear, Fourier herself, speaking through her hand.
“Captain, I didn’t mean it—!”
“Sorry, Dr. Fourier,” said Lambert, at exactly the wrong time, as usual.
“You did mean it,” said Isabel, keeping her voice low. “And that’s okay. You’re right, and even if you weren’t, I needed to hear it. Hand me the mic.”
Wordlessly, Fourier handed it over, and Hui handed his to Lambert.
“You pick,” said Isabel.
“No,” said Isabel, even quieter, and with as much sobriety as she could pack into the word. The speakers clicked as Lambert scrolled through the options. “You should—wait, Chris Brown, really?”
“It’s the only one I recognize!”
“O—kay,” said Isabel. “Yeah, sure. Why not? Let’s go for it. Last song of the night, folks—I know we said two, but let’s just call it quits after this. All agreed?”
There were nods all around.
“Okay, so,” says Renee, finally. “Karaoke night is… a bust.”
“That’s fine,” says Eiffel. “I mean, it’s not fine, I am very disappointed in our corporate overlords, and their taste in music. And the quality of their karaoke equipment! But hey. At least we never have to listen to that again. Of all the Earth culture to bring out into space! ”
“I mean, yeah,” said Hera, “Eiffel, you can just sing on your own time. Not that we really want you to, but…”
Renee had the log screen open, fingers poised over the keyboard.
“We’ll write down that we had an equipment malfunction!” says Renee. “Will we get in trouble for that, do you think?”
“Not wrong,” said Hilbert.
“You’ve been on missions with Goddard before, haven’t you, Doc? Did you have to do a karaoke night? Is it true about the Hall of Fame back at corporate—okay. Yeah, I can see your face. Forget I asked. Why’d you let us do it?”
“Eiffel was excited.”
“Aw, Doc,” said Eiffel, “that’s almost sweet.”
“And if Eiffel monopolized microphone, I did not have to sing. I did not realize even Eiffel would be unimpressed by musical selection.”
“Ooh! Machiavellian. I like it,” said Eiffel, affectionately. Renee finished tapping out the message, and hit SEND.
“I mean,” said Fourier, after Isabel and Lambert, chests heaving, set their mics in a pair of clips on the karaoke machine. “That was… great, Captain. That was really great.”
“Oh my God,” said Lambert, as Isabel managed, “You can really sing, Lambert—”
She grinned, and so did he.
“I’m only gonna do this once,” said Isabel, and she held up her hand for a high five. Lambert pushed off the nearest handhold and went for it, and missed, the effort of it upending him in microgravity. Isabel reached down, and caught him on the flipside.
“Yeah,” said Fisher. “Fourier and Hui were better, though.”
Isabel’s jaw dropped.
“Are you joking?!”
“We sang our hearts out!”
There was the soft tones of what they’d all come to associate with Rhea’s voice, coupled with no words on the screens—
“You’re laughing at us!” said Isabel, jabbing a finger at the nearest screen.
“Oh, yeah, Captain,” said Hui. “What was that about stupid, petty Goddard bullshit designed to turn us against each other?”
“With all due respect, Captain,” said Fourier, “you should’ve seen your face.”
“If we have no scores to go off,” said Lambert, “we still have to decide a winner. I say we take a vote. All in favor of Fisher and Selberg?”
Neither Selberg nor Fisher raised their hands, and, neither did anyone else.
“For me and the Captain?” said Lambert.
Lambert raised his hand, and so did Isabel.
“Oh,” said Fourier, “oh, no, I can’t vote against you when you say it like that, you two really sang your hearts out.”
And she put her hand up.
“Vict—I mean, Dr. Fourier!”
“No one else?” asked Lambert, hopefully. “Fine, then. Hui and Fourier?”
Fisher and Hui raised their hands. Fisher elbowed Selberg, who shook his head.
“I will not partake in… childish popularity contest.”
Isabel punched the air.
“In your face, nerds!”
“Goddard Hall of Fame, here we come!”
“I mean, obviously,” said Jacobi, “even if we don’t have the scores—thanks a lot, ship—any of the ones with me in it didn’t win, so, I think that leaves, by process of elimination…”
“I think we’ll learn a valuable lesson about effort from this, Mr. Jacobi,” said Warren, tapping out his own name and Alana’s, along with Because Of You, Tony Bennett, k.d. lang, on the relay back to Canaveral. “As in, if you had put in… oh, any effort, at all, I think perhaps there would have been more of a competition. I think… we don’t even need a consequence of defeat. I don’t feel like I have to report anything back to Canaveral.”
“Oh, yeah,” said Jacobi, perfectly blank-faced. “Absolutely. Learned my lesson. Definitely. Sure thing, Colonel. Maxwell?”
“He does look very penitent, sir,” said Maxwell.
“Pending a few… conditions, of course,” said Warren, “when we get back to Earth, we’ll all go out for another round. A rematch. I know a place in New York—last time I went there, well, let’s just say the man who runs it owes me a favor and at least two drinks…”
Marcus scrolled over the files.
Miranda and Rachel, despite their disinterest and despite the fact that they were the prime suspects in the disappearance and likely destruction of the karaoke CD, peered over his shoulder.
Such a shame. It really could’ve been fun!
“I thought it was just a silly game,” said Rachel.
“It’s never just a silly game.”
“Anyway,” Marcus said, “as you can see, no one knows anything about Michael Buble! That’s sad, he really does have such a nice voice.”
“A boring voice, you mean,” said Rachel.
That earned her a glare from Marcus.
“With all respect,” said Miranda, “I have to agree. Not a single one of these songs is good. I should have known you didn’t pick them.”
“Well, obviously, it’s about the decade,” said Marcus, “not the music itself.”
“These aren’t even the good songs from the decade,” said Rachel.
“Exactly!” said Marcus. “You should’ve seen the list for the 1980s—oh, boy! We had some complaints about that one! Anyway, I think we’ve had a decent enough sample size for the research team, given the number of deep-space missions we’ve got going on now, but it wouldn’t have hurt to have had our own input, though—huh. Honestly, Miranda and I are something of… outliers in terms of age, as far as being research subjects goes. I suppose our results might have gotten thrown out anyway, just for that.”
“And only about two of them ever reported consequences for defeat,” said Rachel.
“Isn’t it sweet?” said Marcus. “A shame, data-wise. Our investors were very curious about that, let me tell you! We probably should have made it mandatory, but I suppose it’s telling enough that very few of them ever reported it to us.”
“Your little team players,” said Miranda. “They always protect each other.”
“Well?” said Marcus. “Who’s our winner?”
“Me,” said Miranda. “I snapped the CD in half and flushed your obsolete tech out the airlock.”
He paused, tilting his head. Rachel said nothing. He wagged his finger at Miranda, a silent rebuke, and keyed in her answer, along with a few extra notes for Clarke.
“I ordered you a plaque,” said Marcus, when the message was sent. “For winning! It should be all set in your office by the time you get back.”
“I don’t want one.”
“Well, we said there’d be a Hall of Fame for the winners,” said Marcus, “oh… thirty years ago?”
“We should probably get around to that.”