Martian Adventures: The Fish Tanks

 Ronnie leaned out over the fish tank.  She’d brought Jim up onto the catwalks over the aquariums.  Mom would flip if she saw them up here, but Ronnie liked looking down at the water.  The algae tanks were okay, but the fish were the best.  Their silver scales flickered as they darted back and forth. 

"Aren’t they awesome?" Ronnie asked.  "They’re genetically modified trout.  We use the whole fish.  Anything that we don’t eat gets composted." 

Jim mirrored her pose, leaning over the railing and looking straight down.  "They really are pretty–oh crap!"  His foot slipped, and Jim pitched forward.  Ronnie made a frantic grab for his legs, but she missed, and he tumbled off of the catwalk into the water below.  The fish scattered. 

Ronnie screamed.  She’d had a best friend for all of a week, and she’d managed to drown him.  "Jim!"  She sprinted down the catwalk and scrambled down the ladder, calling his name, barely keeping from sobbing.  Tears blurred her vision as she wove around other tanks to get to where Jim had fallen. 

She ran to the side of the tank, expecting to see him thrashing around as he died, or, even worse, his dead eyes gazing back at her.  Instead, he climbed over the edge of the tank and dropped down beside her, soaked, but alive. 

Ronnie threw herself into his arms.  "You’re okay!  I was so afraid–I was sure you’d drown." 

Jim hugged her and patted her back.  "It’s okay.  I’m fine." 

"Why didn’t you tell me that you could swim?" Ronnie asked, wiping away tears and laughing from pure relief. 

"It didn’t come up."  Jim raked his wet hair out of his eyes.  "Can’t you?" 

"No.  These tanks are the only places on the planet with enough water to swim in, and I’m not supposed to be here." 

Jim laughed.  "Do you ever go anywhere that you’re supposed to be?" 

Ronnie wrinkled her nose.  "I’m only supposed to be at home, studying, or at the cafeteria, eating.  I’m not allowed to go anywhere cool." 

Jim grinned and shook his head.  He was still holding her, and she was getting soaked.  She stepped back.  "Come on, we need to sneak back and change before anyone sees how wet we are." 

"Good idea," Jim said. 

They climbed back up onto the catwalk and made their way to the hallway access.   "Jim?" Ronnie said.


"I’m glad you can swim." 

"Me too." Jim said. 

"Maybe someday, you could teach me." 

"Yeah," he said.  "I’d like that."  


About Jamie

Jamie Lackey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their cats. She has over 160 short fiction credits, and has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Escape Pod. She has a novella and two short story collections available from Air and Nothingness Press. In addition to writing, she spends her time reading, playing tabletop RPGs, baking, and hiking. You can find her online at

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