The Very Pulse of the Machine
by Michael Swanwick
The radio came on.
Martha kept her eyes forward, concentrated on walking. Jupiter to one shoulder, Daedalus’s plume to the other. Nothing to it. Just trudge, drag, trudge, drag. Piece of cake.
She chinned the radio off.
“Hell. Oh. Kiv. El. Sen.”
“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” Martha gave the rope an angry jerk, making the sledge carrying Burton’s body jump and bounce on the sulfur hardpan. “You’re dead, Burton, I’ve checked, there’s a hole in your faceplate big enough to stick a fist through, and I really don’t want to crack up. I’m in kind of a tight spot here and I can’t afford it, okay? So be nice and just shut the f*** up.”
“Not. Bur. Ton.”
“Do it anyway.”
She chinned the radio off again.
Jupiter loomed low on the western horizon, big and bright and beautiful and, after two weeks on Io, easy to ignore. To her left, Daedalus was spewing sulfur and sulfur dioxide in a fan two hundred kilometers high. The plume caught the chill light from an unseen sun and her visor rendered it a pale and lovely blue. Most spectacular view in the universe, and she was in no mood to enjoy it.
Before the voice could speak again, Martha said, “I am not going crazy, you’re just the voice of my subconscious, I don’t have the time to waste trying to figure out what unresolved psychological conflicts gave rise to all this, and I am not going to listen to anything you have to say.”