Wild, Wild Red Planet
by Kevin Koch
edited by Mia Forney and Norm Forney
Duran Grey walked down the nearly deserted sidewalk. As he moved past, storefronts lit up, trying to get his attention. Jingles for a dozen different creams and snacks blended together, fading away as he continued on. Shivering a little from the autumn wind, Duran looked down at his palm. Lights flashed and coalesced into a computer screen that hovered a few millimeters over his skin. Of course the screen wasn’t actually there, it was being projected right onto his eye, but it looked real. Reaching for the screen, his feedback glove simulated a little resistance when he touched it.
Scrolling through a couple menus, he dialed up the temperature on his coat and looked up into the sky. Blue was fading to red and orange to the west. Overhead, the grey peanut Phobos was making its way in the opposite direction as the sun. On days like these, Duran often thought about what it would be like to have a decent moon in the sky. A nice round one, not the tiny and misshapen one they had here on Mars. Somewhere out in the dark Ol’ Blue was still spinning, but humanity had to abandon that particular ship. Don’t crap where you eat. That was the lesson that should’ve been learned. Apparently drowning one planet in waste wasn’t enough though, cause Mars was well on its way to being uninhabitable.
When things got so bad on Ol’ Blue that you couldn’t go outside without falling over dead or drink the water without growing an extra finger, the powers that were decided it was time to look at solving the planet’s problems. Of course they quickly found out it was too late for that. A hundred years of limping survival later and they’d finally managed to lob enough comets and asteroids filled with the right elements onto Mars to thicken up the atmosphere a bit.
They planted all their fancy toys and tried to make a smooth transition, but it wasn’t easy. Things went wrong and the atmosphere wasn’t quite right. It didn’t help that all the workers they’d carted over to finish their utopia found out the air was slowly killing them—and that it was all part of the master plan. There were only so many resources on the little red planet and the politicians and business leaders and other valuable citizens didn’t want the working poor taking up space.
The revolution was short lived but destructive. Even deadlier than the fighting were the delays. By the time the atmosphere was fixed, most everyone who really knew what they were doing was dead. The survivors continued on as best they could, but more and more secrets were lost. The best people at capturing and using Earth tech were often those least able to understand how it actually worked.
Generations had passed, and the cities, with their programmable factories, had done alright. But the frontiers were rough. Most families lived in shacks and farmed by hand, trying to make enough to survive. And those poor prairie rats were still better off than the poor living in the tunnels under the cities.