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Surprised, Charlotte stared at the piece of paper, touching its unfamiliar texture with her fingertips, still only half-believing.

Terrified, almost. Unsettled, as she was, it was hard to convince herself that all her hard work, her years of training, had been rewarded. Now, seeing her launch orders printed on paper, a material that, for decades now, had only been used for official and slightly ceremonial purposes, lend a weight to that reality the words shouted at her moments ago by the woman standing before her hadn’t had.

Defiant Olivia stood before her, her wide generous mouth drawn in a grin from one copper-framed ear to another. Expectantly, Charlotte looked up at the woman who was going to be her only human companion for at least two years. Normal progression of the mission would mean that they would be alone far longer.

Uneasily, she smiled at her colleague. Likeable as she was, Charlotte wondered why they’d been paired for this mission. Likely, it was random chance. Of all the women she’d trained and worked with in the last five years, Olivia struck her as the most unlikely companion for this journey. She’d been able to establish a feeling of easy camaraderie with the others. Never with Olivia, whose green eyes seemed to alternate solely between wide-eyed amazement and predatory staring. Charlotte had felt an indeterminable, uneasy feeling in her stomach from the moment she’d met her.

Still, who was she to doubt the judgment of NASCA psychologists? They practically ran this operation. And perhaps mutual uneasiness was a far more stable form for a relationship than camaraderie. Familiarity breeds contempt, after all.

Olivia handed her the large bottle of champagne she’d been carrying.
“The official announcement is tonight,” Again a predatory grin. “but I thought we’d celebrate here and now.”
“You knew about this already?” Charlotte asked.
“No, but I’ve had this bottle ready in my gym locker for ages, just in case.&rdquo Olivia confessed.
Despite herself, Charlotte burst into laughter.

“To Mars,” she bellowed, shaking the bottle “planet of men, stepped on by womankind!”

It had been their battle cry since the beginning of training. Statistical models had shown that the safety margins of the first mars mission could be drastically reduced by employing individuals measuring under 5’5. That, and the assertion of the North-American Space Co-ordination Administration psychologists that an all-women crew was the most stable option for long-term missions, had ensured that the first manned mission to the planet Mars would be free of Y-chromosomes.

The cork gave a a loud «pop» sound, and champagne sprayed over the dressing room floor, and partially over Olivia’s jumpsuit. Charlotte set the bottle to her mouth, and drank greedily.

Handing the bottle to Olivia, she eyed the bottle of shampoo she’d taken from her locker just moments before the announcement came.

“And to think I was just about to go wash my hair.” she said, her heart still pounding in her throat. “Seems a bit pointless now.”

Olivia smiled, her expression otherwise inscrutable as a Sphinx. The subject of hair had been a source of much uneasiness amongst the many hopefuls. Astronauts weren’t allowed hair on long-term missions. Not since the 2027 ISS Incident. Short hair-Olivia wore hers in a flattering, borderline permissible jaw-line bob-was allowed on Orion round-trips, but one-inch buzzcuts were regulation for anything longer. For the Mars mission, the rules were even more strict.

Charlotte had found it most convenient to keep her dark brown curls trimmed at two inches; the shearing she’d had to endure for her first two-month stay in Stanford L4 had been traumatic. The hair regime for the Mars mission would probably be no less so, but she felt she had less to lose.
Less than Olivia, anyway.

“There’s always a downside” she said, trying a sympathetic smile for the other’s loss.
Olivia met her smile with a characteristic grin. “Oh, I’ve been growing out my hair specifically for this mission.” “Really-?” Charlotte began uneasily. “I think it’s wonderful to be able to shed all that hair, all the care you’ve put into it, and emerge renewed.” her green eyes held Charlotte locked in an intense, almost hypnotic stare “And the fact that you don’t know how you’re going to look makes it all the more exciting. The last time I had to get my hair cut off for a mission I asked them to take it down to a quarter inch. It was an almost erotic experience.”
“I’ve never thought of it like that.” Charlotte admitted.
“Let’s do it now.” Olivia said, her stare unbroken. “Let me be your guide; I’ll help you savor every moment of the experience.”
“Now?” Charlotte asked, her uneasiness mounting “You’re insane.”
“Am I?” Olivia clucked her tongue. “The official announcement is in three hours. The place will be crawling with journalists. The public expects us to look like As-tro-nauts” she stressed every syllable of the last word.

That made sense.

“Do you really want to answer stupid questions from journalists about how you feel about losing your pretty hair?” her Celtic companion teased.

Charlotte gave in. “Okay. Let’s do it. But this’d better be the fucking greatest haircut I’ve ever had.”
It seemed foolish, after all, to argue with someone who was to be her only companion for years.

“Great.” Olivia said. “I have everything we need in my locker.”

“You’ve planned this.”

“I have indeed.”

Olivia handed her a heavy pair of electric clippers. “You can decide what setting we’ll use.” she said.

“Well, we have to trim away the bulk, but not too much. How does 3/8th of an inch sound?”
“Perfect, but I thought you might want to go about this in multiple stages?”
“Oh, I’m not going first.” Charlotte said. “This was your idea.”

Without warning, she placed the clippers on her companion’s forehead, and flicked them on, using only thumb and index finger of her other hand to steady Olivia’s head. A large path of orange stubble replaced the middle part of the woman’s bob, locks of hair tumbling down left and right on her shoulders.
“Oh, that’s pretty damn dramatic.” Charlotte joked.
“Don’t stop.” Olivia said, craning her neck to allow better access to her skull.
Charlotte made another pass, and noticed that Olivia had closed her eyes, and biting her lip. She’d made no joke about this being an intense experience for her.

And maybe it was due to pre-launch excitement, but Charlotte found herself drawn in as well. Shaving someone else was rather enjoyable. Olivia emitted a sound that held the middle between a squeal and a moan when Charlotte ran the clippers over her occipital bone. In a way, it was all very erotic.

Running the clippers further over the shorter, trimmed hair of Olivia’s nape, she spotted something odd. A few more passes of the clippers revealed a green strand of ivy behind a shower of orange stubble, tracing up from her neck over the base of her skull.

“Oh, you’re really, really into this.” Charlotte laughed uneasily.

Olivia turned her head and looked at her partner, her sideways glance revealing her now sharply demarcated hairline. “Don’t worry.” she teased. “There’ll be time for you to get one as well before launch.”

With growing uneasiness-or was it excitement?-Charlotte sheared off the remaining tufts of red hair. Olivia now looked strangely severe. clean.

“Your turn now.” she stated matter-of-factly. “I want to save the best part for last.”

“What’ll it be?” she said, grabbing the clippers out of Charlotte’s hand “crewcut? mohawk? Now’s the time to experiment.”
“Just shave it off, please.” she replied weakly.
“You’re not savoring the moment.” Olivia said cheerfully “Just let go.”

But it was hard to let go. As she felt the clippers chew a path through her thick brown curls, Charlotte tried to focus on the feeling; not on the loss, but on the experience. This was all part of goin
g into space. Only the bald and the brave could venture there.

As a naturally shy person, confidence had always held a magnetic attraction for Charlotte. Not just the confidence that is borne out of competence-she had that-but also the easy, natural grace that individuals are born with. Being bald wouldn’t allow her to be shy and demure. Her baldness would draw people’s attention like a magnet, and she would have to dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings.

She tried to imagine herself standing before a room filled with journalists, not cowed and feeling ugly, but proud and unabashed, her shiny dome a symbol of her achievement and bravery. She felt her nipples harden. Oh yes, she wanted that. She wanted to walk around unfettered and bald.

The clippers stopped. She felt her barber arch over her and plant a soft kiss on the top of her head.
“I think you’re going to be one sexy and brave bald woman.” Olivia whispered.
“Don’t stop now.” she whispered back. She wanted to hold this feeling as long as possible.
She gasped as an incredibly hot substance was spread out over her head. InstaWax. Normal hair cutting was infeasible in space, even in the 0.38g the Mars Habitat and Emergency Return Vehicle was going to have. The problem of stray hairs would be magnified a thousandfold. The only safe way to remove hair was by regular waxing.

«Zip!» A single strip of hair was pulled off. The sensation was somewhere between pain and orgasm, and Charlotte screamed.
“Go on!” she gasped even before she could catch her breath. She watched her partner carelessly throw a waxed strip of cellulose on the ground. It tumbled, one side covered with coarse brown stubble.
«Zip!» She found herself no better prepared for the second time. The muscles in her thighs were tightening though. Every step brought her closer to baldness, and that was turning her on something fierce.
«Zip!» «Zip» Olivia was now pulling off the strips without pausing. It suited Charlotte fine. The pungent smell in her nose, her training supplied as a useless fact, was the InstaWax; it was made of real pine resin. Only biological materials could be easily anaerobically processed by the ASEBAC system.

“All done” Olivia announced finally. “I take it you finally got into it?”
“You could say that” Charlotte said, knowing well enough that she flushed red all the way to her neck.

Olivia held up a mirror for her, and Charlotte was pleasantly surprised to see that not only did she feel ten feet tall, she looked great too.
“They’ve tested this stuff before.” Olivia volunteered. “You’ll have all your hair back in less than a year after we’re back from Mars.”
“I’ll just have to keep up the waxing regime after I’m home then.” she quipped, and she grinned broadly when Olivia’s mouth turned into a perfect `O’ of surprise.

She beckoned Olivia to turn around, as she rubbed the exothermic pine gel between the palms of her hands. She made no effort to hide the sensuality of the act of rubbing the sticky substance into her crewmate’s remaining hair. Both women were well-aware of how intensely erotic this sensation was for the other. Normally, Charlotte would be worried about the consequences of developing an intimate relationship with a colleague. Not now. They were proud, bald astronauts. They’d earned the right to whatever intimacy pleased them.

Charlotte was pleasantly surprised to find that Olivia’s freckles continued all the way over her head. Even perfectly bald, she’d always be recognizable as a redhead.

She took a moment to steady Olivia’s chin with her left hand, and was somewhat surprised to find herself sliding that hand down over her breast. She was no less surprised when Olivia’s hand touched hers, steadying it in that place. Finally, the last strip was removed. Even with a little residual resin on her head, it was clear that Olivia was as smooth as herself.
Her hand hadn’t left Olivia’s breast, who now turned around and took it in her own hands. The transformation had only intensified the electric stare of her pale green eyes, under elegantly arched eyebrows the color of red wine. Above, a firmament of freckles on tanned skin. But Charlotte found herself meeting her companion’s gaze without blinking.

“How does my tattoo look?” she asked.
“Great.” Charlotte returned, not breaking the staring contest.

In an instant, Olivia had unzipped her jumpsuit all the way down to her crotch, revealing tanned, naked flesh underneath. A tattooed strand of ivy ran over it, circling nipples, and growing around her navel until finally disappearing into the orange hair hiding her pussy.

“I have some hair left.” she said, bringing her lips close to Charlotte’s face “And I think you do too.”

As her lover’s hot tongue entered her mouth, Charlotte wondered what kind of `compatibility’ the base psychologists had selected them for.

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