“I do everything around here.”
I stared at him, biting back the words that came rushing up, ready to lash out and strike. Swallowing them down, I turned away, finding no words to replace them. What could I say? The work had, I thought, been evenly divided for the most part. But in that last hurtful statement, all of the things I did happily, proud in my contribution to the team, were reduced to dust.
He turned and walked out of the room, leaving the questions writing in the back of my throat. What did he do around here? What was everything?
I buried my head in my hands, resting my elbows on the desk. Part of me, the raging ego, hammered at my self control, demanding violence, action. Throw something, destroy my research. Show him all the things I did. Prove my worth through absence and immolation. It felt like there was no positive way to get respect, even acknowledgement, for the nights spent processing, analyzing, compiling. It wasn’t prestigious work, but it was what I was good at. It was why they had picked me for this mission, why they had specifically included me in the team sent here to unravel the small mysteries of the universe.
He was the rock star, the famous scientist whose discoveries on this small moon had led to us being here, examining the airless dust and rock and trace residue of life long gone. Looking for answers, a solace in the loneliness of an entire species. A hint of our future doom.
Who was I, then, to dissent? Perhaps I had forgotten my place, the triumph of individuation over the collective good, the sin of pride projected to justify my own sense of injustice. I should get back to work.
I rubbed my face and looked at the readouts. The processors hummed to themselves, decoding the chemical messages. I pressed a button, typed in a sequence, waited for the results. Results to go with the piles of results we had already streamed back to Earth. There was no room in science for heroes.
The computers made an unhappy noise, a blat or beep or rejection. The information stopped scrolling. I mashed a couple buttons to restart the stream. Another angry noise. Then the screen went dark. In the reflection behind me, he stared, arms folded.