http://mars.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/?ImageID=7189 Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M Univ.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of the sun setting at the close of the mission’s 956th Martian day, or sol (April 15, 2015), from the rover’s location in Gale Crater.
Here’s the thing. I couldn’t stop thinking about this story last week. http://wp.me/p6LAko-Om. I knew it was just a partial story and it kept nagging at me. So here we are. I’m going to make this a short serial and give you both a Christmas and a New Year’s story out of it. I’m totally pantsing this thing so you get it rough and only lightly edited. Hope you enjoy.
Part 2 of 5
It would take at least two hours for them to get settled and view the first video. Longer if they decided to be thorough and view all the associated vids. I decided to hustle over to the main tunnel. It was the original tunnel, that the first landers found and developed into the first habitat. Now it’s the Main Street, as they say on Earth. A large concourse, the old berths now shops. It’s beautiful, all the walls covered in spider plants and such that take CO2 and turn it into oxy. Planters with flowers in the walkway the ceiling had a light net that made it seem like stars twinkling. My favorite part of the habitat.
My crew was in front of Benji’s, the ice cream shop. As old as the habitat, one of the original landers, Benji, retired and decided to grow soy beans. He figured out how to make it into ice cream. No dairy needed. He always said that’s what he missed most. Now his son, Dayrn, runs the place, or did. He’s gotten old, too, and people get old slowly on Mars. Grandson, Isha, is the new manager, learning from his dad. I like that. Mars business belongs to Mars.
I skidded into the group, knocking Kayla to the side. She punched me in the arm. “Earther!”
“Waiter.” I punched her back. We both laughed.
“How’d it go?” Tayln lounged against a planter of Christmas cactus. It was far from blooming.
I sank, cross-legged to the tile floor. “As you’d expect. Lots of questions. A little resentment.” I rolled my eyes. It was the same every ship. They thought they knew it all. Coming to rescue the hicks. “I liked the girl. My age. Gads, she’s so small!”
Everyone laughed. I was the last in the group to get sponsor duty. They’d all been through it.
“Who do you think will buy it?” Dary asked, all hyped. He made me nervous, to be honest. There was something wrong with him.
“No one, I hope. If I’m a good enough sponsor.”
Dary giggled. A sound all wrong in more than one way.
“Maybe so. But I’ll do my best.”
“I don’t know why they keep allowing them to come.” Tayln shook his head. “We don’t need them. They keep us back. All this talk about Earth. We’re Mars. We don’t need them.”
“Too much listening to Sirius, Tayln.” Amber stretched her whole body. It was like watching liquid in motion.
“What do you mean?” I wanted to know.
Amber was a year younger than Tayln but, I thought, twice as smart. She was working in the astro-physics lab when she wasn’t with us. Tayln was in the Engineering section, and it was just clean-up, to be honest. Work that had to be done but still, not as smart as Amber.
She drew a breath. “I agree, Tayln, that we shouldn’t be tied so much to Earth. I mean, really. They’re marking winter’s onset and we’re coming into spring. It’s ludicrous. And all these Earth holidays. Bastille Day, what’s that mean to us. We should have a Lander’s Day.”
“We do have Lander’s Day.” I didn’t understand. What was wrong with Bastille Day?
Amber smiled at me. “True, little one.” She looked around the group. “But what holiday is coming?”
“Christmas.” I and all the rest shouted.
“I love Christmas.” I had to admit. The wall tree, the presents, the extra colored lights. It made everything happier.
“And what does Christmas mean to us?” Amber looked around the circle.
“An extra sugar ration!” Angus Holloran called out. We all laughed.
“Yes,” Amber grinned. “Extra sugar ration. Candy, chocolate, it’s all a party, isn’t it?” She grew serious. “But what does it mean?”
We all shook our heads.
“It’s a religious holiday.” She looked around the group as people walked by us, toddlers in tow, shopping bags filled with the week’s groceries. “It’s a yoke, to tie us to Earth.”
I had to take a minute to process that. What was she saying? “What religion?” I finally asked.
Tayln snorted. “The one that keeps us tied to Earth.”
“And why is that bad?” I wanted to know. All of our time was dual, Mars and Earth time. Mars rotated at a different rate, of course our days differed but still, we all knew what time it was in Greenwich. Our most important shifts of scientists and government worked to Greenwich time.
Amber looked at me with a sad smile. I felt like an idiot and began to blush. “Sweet child. It’s a trick to keep us tied.” She looked to Tayln, who nodded. “We’re nothing but a cash cow to Earth. We discover new materials, new insight into the cosmos, new medicines and they take it all. As though they’re our masters!”
I didn’t like the word masters. It made me feel small and ignorant. I’m not small or ignorant. “Why?”
Amber stood. I knew the audience was over. “To keep us down, Sweet one. To keep us down.”
She swept away, Tayln trailing. The rest of us huddled together. “What’s she mean by that?” I asked.
Elise, Tommie, Hope, Dary, Kayla and Albert shook their heads. They were older than me but younger than Amber and Tayln. “I think they’re radicals.” Tommie finally said. “My pop said there’s a group in the habitat that are trying to get us to break away from Earth.
“Break away? That’s stupid. Where would we go?” I was annoyed. We were in orbit around the same sun. How could we break away?
“The governments,” Elise said. “We don’t answer to the Earth government. We don’t take their colonists unless we say so. We don’t send all of our work to them for nothing.”
“Are you a radical?” I asked. I mean what else were we supposed to do? “We owe Earth. That’s in all the histories.
Elise shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. Do you?”