Like the Prose: Challenge #4 – What do we think the world will be like in 2091? And as dystopias are so passé, don’t make this a dystopia. Is there any hope for the world? Where can we be in 72 years? Let’s make it a happy tale.
Curiosity Colony, Mars, 2091
It’s the scent of oranges that wakes her. Oranges and coffee; her two favorite aromas on this or any world. Resisting the urge to bury her head under the covers, Marin addresses the person she knows is responsible for at least one of the delightful smells.
“Doug?” she asks.
“Do I really smell oranges?”
“Shuttle from Earth arrived this morning. Ten cases offloaded into the café’s stasis-storage. Signed for by yours truly.”
“Well, ten cases, minus two. Figured you deserved a treat, it being your anniversary and all. Sit up, I’ll bring breakfast in bed.”
“Best boyfriend ever,” she says. She rolls to a sitting position and watches as he moves around their shared living space, arranging mugs and plates on a tray. “You’re overdressed though.”
“Someone had to be up to meet the shuttle. Governor Jones isn’t due back from Luna Colony until next month, so that someone was me. Besides, you’re gonna want to be up pretty soon anyway.”
“True enough.” She adjusts her position on the bed, making room for her partner and his tray. “Can you believe a year ago I was yelling at you about water rations?”
“And I was yelling back that a coffee bar was an unnecessary luxury on Mars.”
“And today Red Sands is the center of the colony’s social scene,” Marin said, picking up a section of orange and popping it in her mouth. “God, I’ve missed fresh fruit.”
“You gonna make orange juice with them?”
“I don’t know… it takes a lot of oranges to do that. They’ll go farther if I use them another way. Maybe a chocolate-orange mousse for a treat today.”
“Not really. The Santander’s chickens are providing me with enough eggs that I can do it, and the Derry’s dairy has more than enough cream and… ”
“Okay, okay, do you need me to help?”
“You could refill my coffee cup?”
“I could do that, but there’s a price.”
“After hours tonight… come for a ride with me. I have a surprise for you.”
“There you go being all nonverbal again.”
* * *
The party had gone well, Marin thought as she and her green-haired teenaged helper finished cleaning the café at the end of the day. “Krista,” she said to the younger woman. “A year ago when your family arrived here – ”
“You mean when they dragged me here against my will?” Krista interrupted.
” – yes that,” she couldn’t help but lace her tone with amusement. “I took you on mostly because I knew there was very little else you could do here.”
“Mars isn’t exactly the land of opportunity if you’re not into agriculture, social planning, or scientific research,” the other agreed.
“No. No, it’s not.”
“But since then, you’ve really become an asset. So I was wondering if you’d like to start hosting a teen night, now that there actually are other teenagers here? We don’t have to decide today… but… I think you’d be good at running it, and I trust you to do it.”
“You’d help me though, at least to get started?”
“As much as you want.”
“I… I’ll think about it. Thanks. Especially if you teach me how to make that mousse.”
Marin laughed and pushed a stray strand of her hair out of her face, “I’ll think about it.”
* * *
The problem with taking a romantic drive on Mars was that it wasn’t really romantic. You had to wear an e-suit, which did nothing for your figure, and made any makeup melt right off. You could sort of hold hands, but you couldn’t kiss, and if you didn’t remember to pick a secure channel, anyone on comms could eavesdrop on your conversation.
Fortunately, Marin thought as she climbed into Doug’s tricked out Mars-buggy (ever the optimist, he had a surfboard strapped to the back), the former Base Commander, and now Lieutenant Governor of Curiosity Colony was good at the details.
“Okay, Marin said, peering through her helmet at the man next to her. “What’s this surprise you’ve got planned.”
Doug drove them outside of the colony’s perimeter, and down to where the ‘viners (short for diviners – the nickname given to the team hunting for water) had been working most recently. Usually, there was a small dome where they could spend time outside of e-suits and a derrick or two. In this case, there was a deep excavation going on, right at the base of a mountain.
“We found a cave system, earlier, but hadn’t had a chance to explore it,” Doug explained. “The ‘viners chose it as their next target, and magic happened.” He steered the buggy into the mouth of the cave.
“Magic?” Marin asked.
The buggy kept going, inward, downward. Marin lost track of how far into the dark they’d gone, though, she noticed there were glow-markers every so often. Eventually the tunnel opened into a cavern. And the cavern, she realized was no longer rock, but…
“Sand. We’re on sand.”
“Mmhmm…” Doug said. He flipped a switch on the buggy’s controls, and the worklights in the cavern came on, illuminating lapping water.
“Oh, my god! You found it. You really found it!”
“The underground Martian sea. Mmhmm.”
“So when do you surf it?”
“Not for a while but… Listen, Marin, do you know what ‘anamnesis’ means?”
“Remembrance, I think? It’s why we take communion during Mass. In remembrance of Christ.”
“Right, but outside of religion, it’s… it’s remembrance of a meaningful, beloved thing. Surfing… surfing was freedom for me. My mother died when I was young. My dad was deployed a lot. I mean, he loved me, but he wasn’t around. So the ocean… the ocean was my family.”
“So you carry that board around to remember?”
“Mmhmm. Same way you brought your grandmother’s demitasse. You and me, Marin, we are FROM Earth but we’re OF Mars now. But our kids? They’ll be Martian kids. They’ll be FROM Mars and OF it.”
Marin reached her thickly-gloved hand out to cover his. “Our kids?”
“Well, don’t you think we’d make good looking children?”
Marin considered it. Doug was a good fifteen years older than she was – nearly fifty – but he was fit and she loved the way his blue eyes crinkled when he smiled. She hadn’t really considered having a family, but… why not?
“Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, I think we would.”
Dough leaned his head closer, until his faceplate was touching hers, and then he cut the comms, letting the touching glass transmit his voice. “I wouldn’t have yelled at you if I hadn’t been attracted, then. I’m in love with you now. Marry me, Marin.”
“You gonna teach me how to surf?”
“You gonna give me free coffee?”
“Yes to coffee?”
“Yes to marrying you. The coffee you pay for.”
It would have been the perfect moment for a kiss, Marin thought. Or a ring. Or both. But watching the gentle waves of the underground sea… that was pretty perfect, too.