Persephone was alone, surrounded by the vast emptiness of space, its flyby of Neptune years in its past. The ship’s sole inhabitant, Commander Leslie, was likewise alone–Commander, she thought again, such a funny name for a passenger who did everything from piloting the craft to emptying the head–but she wouldn’t be for long. According to the ship’s computer, it was mid-February, but the calendar had no meaning out here. It was the sight of her destination, growing larger and larger as she approached, that filled her with excitement.
Leslie turned on the comms as the dazzling geological formation known as the Heart filled the viewscreen. The metallic claws she used to manipulate the controls were only one of many modifications she had made to her body for this trip: the things we do for those we love, she reflected.
“This is Persephone. I’m one hour from landing. Conditions clear.” She tried and failed to keep the emotion out of her voice; it was hard to be separated from her beloved for so long, but now technology shortened those distances. After nearly ten years–and an entire lifetime before that–there was only one hour left. By the time Mission Control heard her message, hours from now, she would be a citizen of a new world.
Even through the increased body fat that gave Leslie a swollen, grub-like appearance, and the armored exoskeleton grafted over it, the cold on Pluto’s surface was incredible: even nitrogen turned into ice here. Through layers of swaddling and filtration she drew her first breath with her extra lungs, a second pair colonized by methane-eating bacteria. It was blissful.
On the horizon, the Sun was only a pale dot, not much larger than the stars. It was everything she’d hoped for. Finally she was overcome: she sank on her armored knees to the icy surface and caressed her beloved, so long distant. “I’m here,” she cooed. Her hot breath steamed away instantaneously as she kissed the frozen ground.
“You’ll always be a planet to me,” she murmured.