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#1 2012-01-27 18:36:45

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 4,896

Life on Mars - Short Story Part 4

PART 4


The meeting was over by 16.00 hours. She decides to go back to her room.  There are a few things she wants to get sorted, not least e mailing her family back home.  She had meant to do so yesterday but had been too busy.

Her room really is a little oasis of peace and serenity. She loves the little painted “marsclay” designs on her wall which had been produced by the artists’ unit under the direction of the famous artist in residence, Martel Lyons.  They seem to invoke tranquil thoughts. She switches on Radio Mars.  Some lovely soothing music is playing.  Perhaps she should just rest up for a few moments. She lies on the bed and closes her eyes.  It does not take long for her everyday conscious thoughts to begin to jumble and begin the slide into sleep, but before she drifts off, her  work watch bleeps aggressively – with the urgent tone.

She taps on the tiny screen.

“Message at 16.04 Sol 141.  We have a unit member shortage in the Food Processing Team.  You are asked to attend the Team at 07.00 hours Sol 142.  All other duties cancelled.”

So much for relaxation! Tomorrow is normally her day off (2s and 7s are her days off).  But every resident of Humanity has a “second post” as it is known.  In her case she had been allocated to Food Processing Team 24 at Arthur Base. She had asked to work as a medical auxillary but it had been decided that the training for that would take her away from her work in the Governor’s office too much. So, she found herself on FPT 24 as it is known, one day in 5 trimming vegetables, making soups and jams, baking biscuits and the like.  Nothing too complicated.  At least she wasn’t gutting chickens. But she has to admit she hates the work.

She wants to forget about all that, so decides to get out her laptop and compose an e mail to her sister Jen, telling her what she misses about earth:

“You of course, and Mom and Dad. And Jet – it’s so weird being somewhere where there are no pets! Mars won’t really be human till we’ve got some animals for company. Jet is the best dog in all the world. I miss him so much!

Other things I miss:

All those clothes to choose from! You can’t believe how boring life is with so little choice about what to wear!!!

Multi-channel TV.  Some people think we ought to have it piped in. It’s not impossible so I’m told but the Governor thinks it would be bad for colony development. But I miss my soaps!

What else?

Oh, chocolate, hardly ever see any here.

I miss the weather!  I want the wind on my face again and the rain on my hair!!! Although I did do a walkabout last week and got to touch some rock in the new space suit.

I’m sounding so homesick aren’t I? But really there are great things about Mars.

First off,  there is just the sense of being part of something MUCH bigger than on earth. It’s a kind of spiritual feeling – just going this “small way” to Mars makes you realise how incredibly big the universe is.  It’s a strange feeling, but it’s with you all the time and it’s good. I’ll miss that feeling back on Earth.  Or maybe I’ll bring it back with me. Who knows?

Second, we are like one big, happy family. Honestly, we are all working together so well! You never feel like anyone is hostile. You aren’t having to fight for the right to exist all the time.

Third, we may be breathing artificial air, but it is fresh. Same with the food. It’s all fresh, organic and unadulterated. I haven’t had a single zit since I’ve been here! It’s so healthy.  Apart from the bone loss. We have to watch out for that!!! In fact I must rush to the gym now – my exercise alarm just went off!

Love you,

Sylvie XXX (Your Far Away but Close at Heart Sister)

The work watch reminds her about the gym. What a chore the evening gym session always feels like!  But if you didn’t go there would be the regular, shrill work watch messages (increasing in volume each time!) and then if you ignored those a visit from the Base Health Monitor.  She had even heard of one guy who had been sent home after three months of dodging gym sessions – but only after he’d been made to lose 30 pounds for the return flight!

On her way back from the gym the tannoy crackles into life:

“All personnel are reminded that there will be an emergency drill procedure, tomorrow Sol 345.  All area emergency officers to meet at base headquarters tonight for planning and co-ordination.  All personnel except hospitalised patients are required to participate in the drill.”

The drills seem to be taken a lot more seriously since since last year’s dome disaster when three young construction workers had been killed during testing of the pressure system. It was fortunate the accident hadn’t happened when the dome was fully inhabited.  Since the disaster, work had been going on to double the number of emergency pressure shelters (the smallish metal cabinets that could house four or give people for an hour, breathing through masks) available within the colony. But she knows from Governor’s meetings that was a big call on the colony’s resources and was having the effect of slowing up other projects. 

Sylvie returns to her room and gets herself ready for Kim’s arrival. Make-up is rather frowned on – an unnecessary import as far as human settlement is concerned but the Home Products Section of the Industrial Services Division has recently begun manufacturing some basic cosmetics. So, she applies some discreet lipstick and powder, together with some perfume she brought from Earth that she uses very sparingly, as there is none on offer in the colony stores.

Kim compliments her on her appearance when he arrives. After some tender moments together, they decide to go for stroll to the Atrium and take the lift to the night observation pod.   

The external arc lights are always switched off between 20.00 and 24.00 unless there is special work being undertaken, so the night view is not spoilt by light pollution.
It’s a beautiful night – very clear with a vast array of stars on display. Kim, who majored in astronomy is able to point out one particular bluish point of light.

“Look – that’s where we came from.” He laughs. “The home planet.  Doesn’t look much like home now, being so far away.”

“But it’s big in our thoughts, still.”

“Yours yes.  Not so sure about mine.  I don’t like my family as much as you like yours!”

They are the only couple there, sat on the locally produced bamboo bench.  A lot of people are at the basketball match and there’s a new film on at the cinema.  They have the pod all to themselves. It’s romantic and soon they are entwined together, enjoying  the touch and the smell of each other.  They kiss passionately.

After a while, Kim moves away a little, to Sylvie’s regret.

“I want to show you something in the e paper.”

“The Mars Observer?”

“See here. It’s just come through.”

He shows the flexible, paper-like screen to Sylvie and she reads the article:

“Today the Governor issued Order No. 326, following consultation with the Consortium.  As of Sol 200  this year, secular marriages may take place on the planet. Anyone wishing to apply to get married, should apply to the Governor’s Status Office, contact no. 41847. “

“Well what do you think?”

“It had to happen eventually, I suppose.  Some people might say it was a long time coming, but I suppose it wasn’t a top priority. Stopping people from frying or suffocating to death is a bit more important I guess…”

Kim was looking at her intently.

“No, I don’t mean that…I mean what do you think?”

“Think?”

“About you and me…”

“Oh my God!” She put her hand to her mouth.

“Yes, getting married. Well? ”

“Oh Kim. This is so…Of course.”

“Wow!! Fantastic!!!”

Kim hugs and kisses her wildly.

“But here! I was kind of counting on my Mom being there! And my Dad. And my sister. And a few friends, come to think of it.”

“Yes, but look…wouldn’t it be cool to be the first people on the planet to get married.”

“Cool?  Weird maybe…” She pauses and smiles ironically. “Oh no, I think we’re about to have our first argument.”

“No we’re not. You said yes to me. That’s the important thing.  Where is secondary.”

“But I’ll think about it.  I can see it would be fun. Kim you are a real pioneer!  More than me I think.”

“I just love it here. But don’t worry - you’re more important than Mars to me. If it’s a choice between Mars and you, you come first.”

                                              THE END

Postscript:

Sylvie did marry Kim.  They weren’t the first though. Two other couples beat them to the licence application. So not such a happy ending?

Well…actually they achieved a first after all when nine months later Sylvie gave birth to Ares, a beautiful and healthy baby boy, the first child to be born in the colony. 

Of course, that could mean a lifelong commitment to the planet now.  Doctors are doubtful that a Mars born baby could survive on Earth owing to the lowered immune response (Mars being so free of pathogens)  and Sylvie was not going to risk her child. Kim, of course, was more than happy to stay on the planet he truly called home. Twelve years later Sylvie’s sister Jen visited Mars – one of the first Mars tourists -  and the two sisters spent a wonderful six months together before she returned to planet Earth.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#2 2012-02-09 00:04:51

JoshNH4H
Moderator
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,513
Website

Re: Life on Mars - Short Story Part 4

Louis-

I was intending to comment on this rather a while ago but it kept slipping my mind.  I think that this story does cover a lot of the important points of an early martian colony, though our disagreements on technical issues are of course carried through to their manifestations in the story, which is not surprising in the slightest and which, in fact, would indicate a good deal of confusion of they weren't.

In terms of writing it is perhaps a bit too focused on the setting and not so much on the characters, but seeing as it was written to elucidate the setting more than the characters this is not necessarily a bad thing.  It reads smoothly enough so I would say it serves it's purpose.

There is a definite lack of hard scifi for an early, self-sufficient extraterrestrial colony.


-Josh

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#3 2012-02-09 16:57:43

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 4,896

Re: Life on Mars - Short Story Part 4

Thanks Josh - very fair comments. I wasn't really approaching it as a literary exercise more as an "illustration" of how life might be, emphasis on might.  Some of my ideas have changed since I wrote it, of course.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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