In the year 2085, Enon Truss, Father of Mars, led our ancestors to the red planet in pursuit of liberty. One hundred years after the Exodus, Martian satellites detected multiple nuclear detonations across the homeworld. For the first time since dawn of the twentieth century, Earth fell into total radio silence.
But on Mars, our ancestors endured. They thrived.
Today, two hundred years after the Exodus, our population is eleven million strong and growing. We stand ready to retake our homeworld. In preparation for our journey across deep space, we have sent drones to monitor Earth. To our surprise, we have discovered that human society has re-emerged from the ashes of nuclear war. These societies are in the earliest stages of development. It is as if time has been set back five thousand years.
My name is Jack Hanlon, and I'll be joining the First Expedition. Our mission: to rebuild human civilization and lead humanity to the stars.
If you enjoy science fiction, adventure, and deep themes, check out the first two chapters of my novel below. If you like what you see, head on over to Amazon and buy yourself a copy of Red Eden: Homeworld Bound.
Hope y'all enjoy it. Cheers ;)
Michael E. Vigil
“These are the top five horrible things that can happen to our colonists. Number five. They will die of a heart attack the instant they land on Earth.”
Jack Hanlon grinned. Not me. I've been training for Earth gravity my whole life.
Red dust blew into his windshield as he drove across the Martian outback. The Green Martian podcast played on the twenty seven inch touch screen display affixed to the dashboard of his electric rover.
“Number four. They will contract a mutant virus that will spread to Mars and kill us all.”
Hmm. If, hypothetically, Jack were to seek out sexual adventures on Earth, not that he was, catching a weird STD would be his number one concern.
“Number three. They will become horribly irradiated and die of cancer.”
Jack shook his head. All the experts agreed that a hundred years was more than enough time for radiation levels on Earth to return to normal.
“Number two. The underground remnants of the Eden Directorate will reveal themselves and massacre our colonists.”
Jack patted his Kinetoshock P500 Gauss-rifle lying on the passenger seat. We'll be ready for 'em, if they're somehow still around.
“Number one. The primitives who inhabit Earth will rise against our colonists. Meanwhile, a bleeding heart pinko will fall in love with a smoking hot Earth girl, become enamoured by the culture of her people, and betray Mars, thus ending all hope of our people ever returning to Earth.”
Jack laughed. I got a weakness for beautiful women, but I ain't no bleeding heart pinko.
“Which do you think is more likely? Leave your predictions in the comments below. The person with the most up-voted prediction will win a cool miniature model of the ITS Hiigara II, courtesy of Solar Express. Book now to join the first expedition. Spots are filling up fast, so don't delay. Hopefully, the most horrible thing you will face as a colonist is running out of toilet paper.”
Jack smiled. His spot on the first expedition was guaranteed. His father, John Hanlon, was the chief of Solar Express's colonial engineer corps, and they were already on Earth.
“And that is all for the Green Martian daily podcast. This is Nate Green signing out.”
Jack turned off the video player and parked his electric rover outside the obsidian gate of the Hiigara Memorial Site. He came to shoot his last Mars adventure video and to deliver the farewell message that he had prepared for his fans. “HUDs up,” he said. The visor of his helmet projected a virtual interface into his eyes. Various application icons popped onto the border of his vision in addition to the time, date, oxygen level, and suit status. “Begin recording.” A light-blue camera icon flashed at the top left corner of his virtual interface. “Power up drone. Set to hover ten feet above surface.” A small window popped open on the bottom right corner of his virtual interface. The window showed him the live footage from his drone as it gradually lifted off the cargo bed of his rover.
He stepped outside and motioned for his drone to follow. His drone buzzed like an angry hornet, kicking up a small dust storm. He walked through the obsidian gate and strode down a stone path lined by rows of black tombstones. Each stone had a galactic spiral etched onto it. That was the insignia of the ITS Hiigara, which had crashed over two hundred years ago. Only a few tombstones had names carved onto them. The rest were anonymous.
He approached a twelve foot tall obsidian obelisk that stood on a crossing. From the base of the obelisk to its tip, the black rock bore the names of all one thousand of the Hiigara's crew and passengers – names taken from the ship's manifest, which now resided inside a museum back in Tharsis. He brushed his fingertips over the names. One stood out from the others as the font size was much larger: Enon Truss, Father of Mars.
Jack walked past the obelisk and approached another gate. He stopped here for a second to gaze at the wreckage of the ITS Hiigara. It looked like the skeletal remains of a dead animal. The ancient interplanetary transport ship had crashed on the edge of the Valles Marineris, the biggest canyon in the Solar System. His goal was to reach the tip of the Hiigara’s nose, which hung precariously over the vast canyon. That would be the perfect spot to capture his final shot.
He followed a stone path down a hill. The shadow of his drone followed closely behind him. He trekked across a field littered with jagged bits of aluminium jutting out of the sand and approached the midsection of the Hiigara where the ship had sheared in half. As he stood in its shadow, he plotted a path up a wall of twisted metal that led to some pipes he could climb. The pipes led directly to the elevator shaft at the central axis of the ship. From there, he should be able to crawl to the nose.
He looked up at his drone and pointed at the sky. “Increase altitude by a hundred metres and wait for me.” The drone beeped and followed his directions.
He began his ascent up a wall of twisted steel beams. He reached the copper pipes that ran horizontally across the ship's midsection. He grabbed one of the pipes and shook it to test its strength. Satisfied, he wrapped his arms around it and lifted his feet into the air. He folded his legs over the pipe and climbed across. When he reached the opening in the elevator shaft, he dropped inside.
He saw only blackness inside the shaft. He crawled down a few metres, stood up, and bumped his head. Dang it. I'll edit that out. He turned on his helmet's headlamp, which revealed a crawlspace that had a yellow ladder running down its length. He kept his head low as he ventured deeper into the belly of the Hiigara. Thirty metres in, his beam of light revealed a message scrawled onto the wall in black ink. The cake is a lie. Next to the message was a drawing of a cube with a pink heart on it.
Kids these days and their obscure references.
Seven years ago, he didn't see any graffiti here. Unfortunately, his first viral video had inspired a number of uncouth youths to follow in his footsteps, and some of them had decided to leave their mark. For shame. The Hiigara was a historic landmark. It was one of the vessels that had transported their ancestors to Mars in a mass Exodus from Earth. It was the only one that got shot down by the Directorate with all passengers still on board. It was the greatest tragedy in the history of Mars.
Jack was sorry his first adventure video had inspired a bunch of idiots to vandalize the ship, and people had criticized him for it. Despite that, he didn't stop making adventure videos. Why should he hold back his aspirations because stupid people existed? Now twenty five years old, seven years into his career, he had a successful brand, a loyal following, and a steady income stream of ten to twenty thousand runits a month. Not bad for one guy with a camera.
He reached the end of the shaft where it connected via an airlock to the Dragon Heavy capsule, the vehicle responsible for ferrying passengers to and from orbit. He twisted a valve to open the hatch to the airlock. He walked inside and opened a second hatch.
He entered the Dragon Heavy. A twisted ladder led to the observation deck at the tip of the capsule. He put his foot on the wobbly ladder, extended his arms to maintain balance, and walked across rows of empty seats. Midway, he spotted a bobble head of a blond boy wearing a blue jumpsuit wedged in the crack between two seats. He felt a strange urge to jump down and collect the bobble head. “Meh.” He shrugged and kept going.
He reached the observation deck. Golden sunlight poured through the windows and bounced off the walls of the domed chamber. The trapped sunlight heated the deck to a cozy temperature, and everything glowed with a golden tint. He hopped off the ladder and landed on one of the windows. He crawled towards a shattered window. He grabbed the jagged edge of the windowsill and peered over it. He swooned at the sight of the heart-stopping five thousand metre drop to the bottom of the Valles Marineris canyon.
Here comes the hardest part of the climb.
“Drone, zero-in on my position.” The drone flew into view just outside the window. “Start recording.”
He put his foot on the bottom edge of the window frame, grabbed the upper edge with his left hand, and slowly poked his head and torso through the shattered glass. A light breeze sent flecks of sand flying into his visor. He looked up and found the shrapnel holes on the hull that he had used to climb outside on his first run seven years ago. He grabbed the nearest hole with his right hand and squeezed to test his grip. Firm enough. He pulled himself up and lifted his feet off the window frame. He now dangled perilously over the canyon. He spread his legs and pressed his feet against the opposing sides of the window frame to hold up his weight. This allowed him to let go of the window frame with his left hand and grab the next hole up. He hauled himself up and grabbed the next hole with his right hand. He continued like this until he reached the radio antennae at the nose of the capsule.
He stood on the antennae, which was no thicker than his leg, and extended his arms for balance. He walked towards the tip. The wind picked up speed and blew even more dust into his visor. The antennae began to wobble, which forced him to slow down. His heart fluttered, and the inside of his suit felt damp. One false step and he would plunge to his death. He gritted his teeth and kept going. When he reached the tip, he sat down and let his feet dangle over the abyss.
Not today, death. Haha!
He loved this feeling – this intoxicating buzz that came with each death-defying climb. Up here where there were no barriers between him and the canyon, he wasn't just a spectator. He was part of the scene. On the edge between life and death. Order and chaos. The known and the unknown. Yin and Yang. Exactly where I'm meant to be.
He looked up and spotted his drone. He waved for it to come towards him. “Zoom in on my face.” A small window opened in his virtual interface so he could see what the drone was seeing. He saw a handsome man who had sandy blond hair, a rugged stubble, and a jawline to die for.
“Well,” he said with a sigh, “this is it. The end of my journey here on Mars. I had a speech prepared, but it's cheesy as hell. So just... Goodbye, okay?” He gazed at the setting sun. God, it's glorious. “This doesn't mean I'm done adventuring. I'm not done with this channel. Not by a long shot. I will keep making videos. From Earth.” He smiled at the camera. “I've joined Solar Express's first expedition. Our mission: to rebuild and repopulate the homeworld.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “Ladies, gents, it's gonna be one helluva ride, so stay tuned.”
Jack grabbed the pull-up bar with both his hands and lifted his ninety five kilo body weight plus the weight of his one hundred and ninety kilo tungsten suit. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten! He gritted his teeth. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty! His heart raced. Sweat rolled down his forehead. Twenty one. Twenty two. Twenty three. Twenty four. Twenty five. Twenty six. Twenty seven. Twenty eight. Twenty nine. Thirty! Lactic acid burned his muscles. Thirty one. Thirty two. Thirty three. Thirty four. Thirty five. Thirty six. Thirty seven. Thirty eight. Thirty nine. Forty! His muscles couldn't take much more of this punishment. Each rep now took seconds longer to complete. Forty one... Forty two... Forty three... Forty four... Forty five... Forty six... Forty seven... Forty eight... Forty nine... His arms trembled as he strained to pull himself up. Fifty! He let go of the bar, landed on his tungsten boots with a metallic clank, dropped to his knees, and slammed his tungsten-plated knuckles onto the floor.
The time was 5PM. The date: 15th of September 2285. One month from now, he would blast off the red planet with a thousand of his fellow Martians and embark on an epic journey to colonize the Earth.
He stood up and paced around his three hundred and fifty square foot single-room habitat. He stopped briefly in front of his full-body mirror to admire how awesome he looked in his suit of tungsten armour.
His smart-visor beeped. He grabbed it off his desk and slipped it on. It projected a virtual interface into his eyes. He had just received a text message from his little brother, Ray. You coming to tonight's meet'n'greet?
Right. That little get-together organized by Solar Express. This was the perfect opportunity to scout out the ladies and call first dibs on the hottest one he could find. Too bad he couldn't convince Vicenta to come along. Initially, his ex had agreed to move to Earth with him, but she started asking questions like how they were going to survive, whether or not there would be plumbing, or if there would be mutant bugs waiting for them. She eventually chickened out and handed him an ultimatum: her or Earth.
Earth had been Jack's dream since he was a kid. When he was little, he and his dad used to go adventuring through the Martian outback every other weekend. By Jack's tenth birthday, his father started working more and made less time for their outdoor trips. Ten year old Jack had asked his father why they stopped going on adventures. His father replied, “Because I'm saving up for the biggest adventure. We're going to Earth.”
Jack remembered running out of the house that day, screaming his jubilation to the whole neighbourhood. He started training that very day because he knew he needed to be strong. Then his dad told him they would have to wait fifteen years to save up enough money to move to Earth. Moreover, Solar Resources needed time to rebuild their interplanetary taxi service. For a ten year old kid, fifteen years was literally a lifetime and a half. He didn't think he could wait that long.
His father had drawn up a bar graph to keep track of their Earth fund. Every other Friday, Jack would sit in front of that graph and wait. Then his father would come home from work with his pay stub, take out a red marker, and add a tiny sliver to the red bar. It grew so agonizingly slowly. Ten year old Jack couldn't wait to get a job so he could make their progress go faster.
When he turned eighteen, he made his first contribution to the fund. That day, he took out a marker – a blue marker – and added a tiny sliver of blue over the red bar. In the following seven years, he and his father competed to see who could contribute the most to their Earth fund. His father had a significant head start, but Jack's wildly successful adventure videos pushed him to parity by the end of those seven years. When they finally reached their goal, they stood together in front of their chart, and Father quietly said to Jack, “You've got the spirit of the pioneers in you.” Jack had cried a little when his father told him that.
When the time came for Jack to choose between Vicenta and Earth, the choice was easy. He chose Earth. He chose his father. He chose the future of his people. No pair of tits, no matter how hot, could compare to destiny.
Still, it would be nice to have a female companion on the trip.
He pulled up the virtual keyboard and typed his response to his brother. Fingers crossed it's not a sausage fest. Jack had seen the online polls. Men were pioneers. Women were settlers. Men were more willing to dive headfirst into the wilderness. Women, on the other hand, tended to want some semblance of civilization before making the move. Hopefully, Solar Express made an effort to even out the sex ratio during their selection process.
He removed each piece of his tungsten suit and placed it on his armour stand next to his wardrobe. From his wardrobe, he picked out a body-fitting, smokey-grey t-shirt and a black Armano carbon nanoweave jacket. He completed his getup with a blue pair of jeans and black running shoes. He took the elevator down to the lobby of his building, located on the underground level 10, and exited to the street.
Electric cars sped down the road, each one travelling at the precise speed determined by the Standard Traffic Protocol, the autonomous navigation software installed on every vehicle. He screened his eyes from the artificial sunlight beaming down on him. “Visor, increase shade to fifty percent.” His smart-visor darkened the tint on the glass. He lowered his hand and gazed at the fluffy white clouds drifting across the brilliant blue sky. A yellow biplane flew overhead, a white banner streaming behind it. The banner read, 'Virtu-Sky brought to you by Hyun-Sung Electronics.' A red dragon chased after the biplane. The dragon blew out a huge breath of fire, which left a fiery message that read, 'Co-sponsored by Red Sand Microsystems.' Here and there, a few black dots hovered in the sky. Those burnt out OLED pixels were an eyesore.
“HUDs up.” Jack's virtual interface reappeared. He pulled up a panel containing his apps and selected the Unterground Express app. The app asked him for his destination, which was the Enon Truss Congress Centre. The app asked if he wished to share a ride. He didn't mind sharing a ride, as long as it was with a beautiful lady, but that wasn't an option so he selected the 'travel alone' option. This more than quadrupled his fare, but he had cash to burn so he didn't care. Within a minute of sending his request, an Unterground SUV pulled up to the curb.
The SUV automatically opened its falcon-wing door for him. He climbed inside, and the door automatically shut. The SUV had a single seat which formed an oval around the interior. Despite the car's modest size, it felt open and spacious due to its glass roof, which offered him an unobstructed view of the artificial sky. He sat down, put up his feet, and relaxed as the SUV pulled away from the curb.
To pass the time, he opened the DeepCast app and browsed the top trending videos. The video titled Rediscover Humanity on Earth caught his attention. In less than twenty four hours, it had accrued over six million views, which was more than half the Martian population. He flipped open his smart-visor’s hidden earphones and pushed them into his ear. He selected 'full-vision' mode and played the video.
His vision faded to black. He heard leaves rustling in the breeze. A lush green field faded into view. Before him stood a single tree with branches laden with red fruit. Birds chirped. Butterflies flew in circles around him. He rose from the ground as if lifted by a rocket. He saw lakes, rivers, and a huge blue sea. A forest-covered mountain, unmistakably Olympus Mons, loomed in the horizon, its highest peak obscured by wispy clouds. As he rose higher into the sky, it turned black. The horizon curved into the shape of a sphere. He zoomed past Phobos and Deimos, the moons of Mars. The stars around the green planet coalesced into words. Biomedica. Growing Earth on Mars. Click here to learn more.
He snorted. Terraforming Mars was a pipe dream that would never come true.
The ad faded to black. The actual video started.
A violinist played a haunting melody in the background. Solar Resource's company logo faded in and out of view, followed by the rocket-round-a-planet logo of its subsidiary company, Solar Express. A female narrator spoke:
Two hundred years ago, Enon Truss, Father of Mars and Founder of Solar Resources, led our ancestors to Mars in pursuit of liberty. One hundred years after the Exodus, Martian satellites detected multiple nuclear detonations across the homeworld. For the first time since dawn of the twentieth century, Earth fell into total radio silence.
But on Mars, our ancestors endured. They thrived.
Today, our population is eleven million strong and growing. We stand ready to retake our homeworld. In preparation for our journey across deep space, we have sent drones to monitor Earth. To our surprise, we have discovered that human society has re-emerged from the ashes of nuclear war. These societies are in the earliest stages of development. It is as if time has been set back five thousand years.
The following is a compilation of the footage that we have captured thus far...
The haunting melody reached a crescendo. A throat singer bellowed a deep rumbling note that sent shivers down Jack's spine. Tribal drums clashed in the background. A bonfire blazed before him. Half-naked tribespeople danced around the fire while screeching at the top of their lungs. The scene cut to a group of tribesmen stalking an unseen prey down an urban street overgrown with green foliage. The scene switched to a POV footage of a creature crawling towards a group of old women who sat in a circle inside a tent. The old women throat-sang as they scraped the meat off an animal hide. One of the old women smiled at the camera and patted its head.
The video cut to a scene in which two groups of tribesmen clashed with spears and axes in the middle of a flat plain. The ruins of a great metropolis loomed in the background. A fiery comet tore across the sky. The warring tribesmen dispersed. A jet of flame burst out of the comet, which turned out to be a space capsule. It bore the emblem of a red sphere with a planetary ring around it, which was Solar Resource's logo. The capsule landed and opened like an orange peel. A flock of birds burst out of it.
The video cut to a scene of a young couple, dressed in animal fur, who sat on the edge of a vine-covered skyscraper on a moonlit night. The girl rested her head on the boy's shoulder. She was pretty, and he was handsome. The boy whispered something into her ear and pointed at the heavens. The camera panned towards the stars. The Hiigara II, Solar Express's debut interplanetary transport ship, came into focus above the red planet. The ship fired up her engines, and a burst of white light saturated the scene.
The female narrator spoke again: Join us and rediscover humanity on Earth.
Jack closed his eyes. Ooh, I've got the shivers. He could totally imagine himself hooking up with a cute tribal girl and making sweet love on a moonlit night on the roof a jungle-skyscraper. Solar Express had launched a terrific ad campaign.
“Arriving at the Enon Truss Congress Centre.”
The car stopped and opened its falcon-wing door. Jack gawked at the huge waterfall where the entrance to the congress centre should be. He stepped out of the car and cautiously approached the waterfall. Its gentle rumble called to him. A soft female voice whispered into his ear. Jack, you're almost there. We're all waiting for you on the other side. A shiver ran down his spine. Did he imagine that voice?
He took a few steps towards the glowing mist emanating from the waterfall. The mist surrounded him. It left a hundred tiny droplets on his smart-visor, yet he didn't feel any dampness on his skin. He heard the gentle hymn of a distant choir. It sounded like angels singing from beyond the waterfall. He took another step forward, and the waterfall parted for him, revealing a beautiful young woman who stood behind a reception counter. She wore a white vest over a silver blouse. She smiled at him and waved him over.
He wanted to get a better look at her, so he took off his smart-visor. Those annoying droplets disappeared from his vision along with the glowing mist. The waterfall no longer looked 3D and immersive. The low rumbling of the waterfall now sounded hollow and 2D. The entire facade of the congress centre was covered in OLED panels.
He laughed and slipped his smart-visor into his jacket. He walked through the entrance while rocking his head to the electronic techno beat thumping in the background. The beat meshed nicely with the angelic choir. He put his left arm on the check-in counter where the cute receptionist worked. “Wow. That entrance nearly had me convinced I'd died and gone to heaven. Or maybe this is heaven,” he winked at her, “cuz you look like an angel.”
She wiggled her hips. “If this is heaven, then you'd better be on your best behaviour.”
He crossed his fingers behind his back. “I would never do anything to get a good girl like you in trouble.” He shifted his gaze to the fluffy white scarf tucked into the V of her vest. It looked cute on her.
She leaned to her left. “Are you crossing your fingers behind your back, mister?”
He gave her a cheeky smile and read the silver name plate above her left breast. “So Louise, do you just work here or will you join us on Earth?”
She sighed. “Someday.”
“A few people dropped out of the first expedition. If you want, I can say you're with me. That'll bump you up the waiting list.”
“And who's gonna pay my fare?”
He pulled out his expensive smart-visor, still set to half-tint, and slipped it over his eyes. He wiggled both his eyebrows at her.
She snorted out laughing. “You?”
He shrugged. “Interested?”
“You also gonna pay for my boyfriend's ticket?”
Ouch. She played the boyfriend card. That didn't necessarily mean she wasn't interested, only that he had to up his game. “Imagine feeling the sun on your skin, warm sand tickling your toes as you walk naked down the beach. No more suits. No more oxygen tanks. No more hiding underground. Just you, the sunshine, and nothing in between.”
Louise sighed. “Sounds like paradise.”
“I can take you there. Don't worry about your boyfriend. I'm sure he'll find his way eventually. Come on. Let me take you to the stars.” You'll be seeing stars after you ride my rocket. Hehe.
“You're serious about this?”
“Don't you have anyone else to take with you?”
He sighed. “My girlfriend got cold feet. Had to break up.”
“That's so sad. I'd like to help, really, but we've just met. I can't ditch my boyfriend and run off with a stranger. My parents raised me better than that.”
He clicked his tongue. “You're such an angel.”
She giggled. “Now move along before you get me in trouble, you devil.”
“Trouble? But we haven't done anything naughty,” he winked at her, “yet.”
“You're terrible. Just go. Enjoy the hors d'oeuvres.”
She waved him away. “Shoo.”
He held up his hands and backed away from her. “Alright, Tiger. I'll give you time to think about it. Ciao.” He walked away a few steps, glanced over his shoulder, and caught her smiling at him. He waved goodbye and continued walking.
He came upon a railing. He leaned over it and gazed at the reception hall below. The hall was thirty metres deep and a hundred metres wide. A white mist hung in the air above the dance floor. He tried to gauge how many people there were. Maybe a thousand. Swirling blue and red beams of light cut through the mist while electronic techno music blasted from the speakers.
A snake-like dragon straight out of Chinese mythology burst out of the ceiling, breathing multi-coloured fire onto the crowd. The crowd roared in delight as they jumped up and down with their hands in the air. The dragon curled into itself and spun with accelerating speed. The music sped up and became so fast that the notes blurred into a single tone which held for a few seconds. Pause. Then. Boom. Epic violin solo. The dragon burst from its shell, limps stretched far apart, and undulated to the beat of the music.
Jack threw up his arms. “Woo!” He planted his butt on the staircase railings and slid down to the dance floor. He hopped off at the last minute and landed on his feet. He spotted his little brother, Ray, leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets. Ray chewed his lips as he gazed at the dancing crowd. Jack went over to stand next to his little brother. Jack followed his brother's gaze to a pretty blonde girl dancing on the floor with her girlfriend. They looked about eighteen, which was Ray's age. The girls bounced up and down while holding hands, squealing in delight.
Jack nodded approvingly. “Good choice. You know her?”
“I can’t believe my luck,” Ray said. “She’s coming to Earth with us. I’ve had a crush on her since, like, forever.”
A solidly built young man with dark brown hair waltzed up to the pretty blonde girl and spun her around. He caught her in his muscular arms, and she laughed.
Jack cringed. “Ooh. Stiff competition.”
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
Jack pointed. “That pretty blonde girl over there.”
“Oh, no. I was talking about her.” Ray pointed at a girl with pale skin, dyed black hair, black lipsticks, and a black dress, who sat alone at a cocktail table with a scowl on her face. “Vanessa,” he sighed. “Ain’t she a beauty?”
“Uh... not feeling the goth getup, but yeah, I guess she’s kinda cute.”
Ray groaned. “I want her so bad. You're good with the ladies. How should I approach her?”
“Hmm.” Jack rubbed his chin. “Observe her demeanour. Think what she’s thinking. Feel what she’s feeling. Vibrate on the same frequency as her, and the both of you will resonate.”
A big grin formed on Ray's face. “Jack, you're a genius.”
“Go get her, Tiger.”
Jack watched as Ray skipped over to goth girl. Ray slowed to a shuffle when he got near her. He shoved his hands into his pockets and casually took the seat across from her. He looked around at all the happy people having a good time. She looked at him, and he, without even looking at her, leaned over and said something. Goth girl curled her lips in disgust and nodded. Ray crossed his arms and frowned. He said something that made goth girl shake her head. She said something back to him, and he nodded. He made eye contact with her for the first time. He curled his right index finger towards himself twice, and she leaned towards him. He whispered something into her ear and pointed away with his thumb. She nodded, a mischievous grin forming on her face. They stood up and walked away together, hand in hand.
Jack couldn't believe his eyes. He knew that he had given good advice, but he didn't know it was that good. Ray had executed Jack’s lesson flawlessly. Jack was proud of his little brother.
Someone clapped him on the back. “Jack, you missed the big talk where they went over all the important information.”
Jack turned to see who it was. The man looking back at him had dark blond hair, brown eyes, and a muscular body. “Derek!” He gave his best buddy and future brother-in-law a big hug. “Skipped it for a reason. I'm here for the party.” Jack saw his sister and gave her a curt nod. “Amy, you been taking care of Derek?”
She pinched his nose. “Never mind Derek. We saw the last video you posted. Mom nearly died of a heart attack.”
He pulled his nose out of her pinch and let go of Derek. “Gotta live on the edge or I'll die of boredom.”
She put her hands on her hips. “I'm sure that's thrilling for your audience. We want you to be safe.”
“I'd be nobody if I were safe.”
“Why can't you get a normal job like Derek?”
Jack hugged his sister. “Love you too, Sis.”
She wrapped her arms around him. “You're never going to change.”
“Change is my only constant.” Jack had a bunch of cheesy lines like that. His audience loved them.
They let go of each other.
Amy linked arms with Derek. “We were just at the exhibition hall. Spent our last fifteen thousand runits on our wedding cake.”
Jack arched his left eyebrow. “Cake made of gold?”
“Might as well be,” Derek said. “Costs fifteen hundred runits per kilo to ship that behemoth of a cake to Earth.”
“Hope it doesn't go stale along the way,” Jack said.
“We aren't going to have a wedding without a wedding cake.” Amy jabbed her finger into Derek’s chest. “And it’s not going to happen until we have a lovely blue sky above our heads. It has to be perfect.”
Derek looked down at her and smiled. “Cost me near two hundred thousand runits, but you’re totally worth it, babe.”
The two of them mashed their lips together, and they made sucking noises.
Jack cringed. “Ugh. Get a room.”
Amy parted her lips from Derek's and scoffed at Jack. “Oh, grow up. You're the big brother, yet I'm the mature one.”
“Really now?” Jack crossed his arms. “And who helped pay for your ticket?”
She smiled at him sweetly. “Thank you, Jack.”
“Did you have to sound so sarcastic?”
Derek patted Amy's arm. “She means it, Jack. Really. Thank you.” He muttered under his breath, “woulda cost me a hundred thousand more if not for you.”
“Just how much stuff are you guys hauling to Earth?” Jack asked.
“Oh, you know, the usual,” Derek airily replied. “Lots of shoes. A couple of dresses. A trunk full of makeup.”
“Hey,” Amy said, “you want me to look good for you on our wedding night or not?”
“You look good without that stuff,” Derek said.
“Oh, you're so sweet.” She kissed Derek, then they started groping one another. Clearly, they didn’t care that they were making Jack uncomfortable, so he walked away.
He still had a hundred thousand runits left in his account, which wouldn't do him any good on Earth, so he decided to check out the exhibition hall to see what was on sale. Maybe I ought to stock up on toilet paper. Could be lucrative if everyone else runs out. He crossed the dance floor and entered the adjacent hall. Dozens of companies had set up their booths in here. From canned foods to cosmetics, all manner of products were available to order. He suspected it wasn’t the direct sales that these companies wanted. It was the prestige of associating their products with Solar Express and the Martian colony on Earth.
A beautiful woman with jet black hair waved him over. She sported a black dress-suit and a red scarf, which she had tucked into her vest. “You must be Jack Hanlon. I have a gift for you.”
He had already received so many free products that he would have to leave most of it behind so as to not exceed his weight limit. Still, he didn't like to say 'no' to beautiful women, so he approached her. “Whatcha got there, Snow White?”
She grinned at him slyly and slipped a plastic business card into his hand. “A Volta XCS-900 all-terrain vehicle. Courtesy of Volta Motors.”
He looked at the card in his hand. It was actually a key card. “Generous, but this will put me way over my weight limit.”
She winked at him. “We’ve got you covered, hon. Volta Motors will reimburse you the cost of shipping.”
He saw a poster of the XCS-900 ATV behind her. It wasn’t a large vehicle, but it must weigh at least two hundred and fifty kilograms, which translated to a shipping cost of three hundred and seventy five thousand runits. “What’s the catch?”
“Just promise me you’ll continue making adventure videos. The Volta XCS-900 will no doubt serve you well in your travels across Earth.”
“No doubt it will.” He studied the shape of her curves, and he liked what he saw. “I’ve got a gift for you. A free ticket to Earth. Interested?”
She covered her mouth, her pupils dilating. For a moment, he thought she was going to throw herself at him like a horny teenager. “Sorry,” she said with a subtle wiggle of her hips, “but I can’t abandon my mum and dad, unless you’re willing to pay for their tickets as well.” She ended her sentence with an inflection.
Nope. “Sorry. I can only afford you. Maybe one day, we’ll meet again on Earth. Thanks for the ATV.”
She blew him a kiss and waved goodbye.
He winked at her, pocketed his key card, and walked away whistling. He strolled down the aisle, taking in the bustle of colonists browsing the exhibition hall. He came upon a stall occupied by Solokov Kinetic Solutions Inc. The company rep stuck out his arm and waved Jack over. “Mr. Hanlon, a moment of your time, if you please.” The rep was a middle aged man with a well-groomed moustache. He wore a grey suit over a red vest, which had a golden chain running out of its pocket.
Jack was a gun enthusiast, and he had always wanted a Solokov. Perhaps this gentleman had a free Gauss rifle to offer. Jack strutted over to the stall with his chin lifted high. “Got something for me?”
The rep wiggled his well-groomed moustache. “I’ve got a special offer just for you, Mr. Hanlon.” He turned around and grabbed a sleek silver rifle off his gun rack. “This is a Solokov Mark V Gauss rifle.” He detached a slim metallic slab from the stock of the rifle. “Comes equipped with a standard fifteen kilowatt-hour solid state battery, which can be upgraded to twenty kilowatt-hours if you need the extra juice.” He re-inserted the battery pack and detached the magazine clip. “For best performance, I recommend shooting .45 cal rounds. Each magazine packs fifty rounds.” He slipped the magazine clip back into its slot. He drew Jack’s attention to the dial on the left side of the rifle. “You can adjust the power from zero to a hundred. At max power, the Solokov fires projectiles at speeds in excess of Mach 5. Here. See how it feels.”
Jack took the rifle. “Feels heavy. What’s the recoil like on this baby?”
“The weight helps reduce the kickback. It’s also got a sliding stock to absorb most the recoil. Having said that, if you're firing at full-auto and max power, Newton’s Third Law cannot be denied. Solokovs are designed for strong men, and you are a strong man, Mr. Hanlon. I’m sure you can handle a Solokov.”
Jack admired the Solokov’s glossy finish. “Beautiful yet deadly. I’ve been loyal to Kinetoshock, but I can't resist this. How much?”
“Normally, it's sixteen hundred runits just for the base model. But for you, fifty percent discount. Plus, I’ll throw in a free scope.” The rep grabbed a scope off a display case and affixed it to the barrel of the Solokov that Jack was holding. “Scope’s got night vision, infrared, and aim-assist. It's state-of-the-art. Pass the gun over. I'll box it up for you.”
Jack handed the gun over. “What's the exact weight of this thing?”
Jack whistled. “That’ll put me three whole kilos above my limit… Ah, it's worth it.”
“Very good, sir. Would you also like to purchase extra rounds of ammunition?”
“No point having a gun without bullets. Yeah, I’ll purchase a magazine box.”
The rep tapped away on his laptop. He spun it around for Jack to see. “Just log onto QPay and scan the QR code. The funds will be transferred.”
Jack scanned the code. A message popped into his virtual interface. Confirm payment of 810 RU to Solokov Kinetic Solutions Inc? “Confirm payment.” Another message popped up. Payment confirmed. Download receipt? He swiped away the message bubble.
The rep shook Jack's hand. “Good hunting, Mr. Hanlon.”
Jack gave the man a curt nod and walked away whistling a cheerful tune.
He came upon the stall of another arms dealer, the Huoxing-based Dapao Group. The Dapao rep spoke in mandarin in front of a hovering drone. He had his arm around the hulking shoulders of a glowering Huoxing man. The rep switched to English. “And for our English viewers, my friend here is Erwin Yu, the hero of Huoxing City. Mr Yu, do you have anything that you would like to share with our viewers?”
Jack had heard of this fellow, Erwin Yu. Ten years ago, Erwin had uncovered a secret meat farm run by a gang called the Cohong Butchers. There were only two sources of meat on Mars: synthetic meat grown in bioreactors, and human flesh. The Butchers peddled the latter, and Erwin put an end to their operations in the deadliest shootout in Martian history.
Erwin crossed his muscular arms, his sparse moustache twitching above his lips. After glaring at the camera for several seconds, he finally spoke. “I don’t go anywhere without my trusty Dapao. It was there for me when I took down the Cohong Butchers. It was there for me when they sent assassins after me. And when I take my first steps on Earth,” the big man grabbed an electric chain gun off the table, “I’ll have my Dapao Shredder with me. Now suit up, grab your Dapao, and let’s take back the Earth.”
“There you have it,” the Dapao rep said. “Our first colonies on Earth will be defended with Dapao arms. As always, choose Dapao as your premier defence solution. This is David Chen signing out.” As soon as the drone flew away, David dropped his smile and said to Erwin, “The hardware will be delivered to the Hiigara.”
Erwin grimaced, dropped the Dapao Shredder back on the counter, and stomped away.
Jack wondered why Erwin was in such a foul mood. Maybe the Huoxing man didn’t like selling out. Personally, Jack had no moral qualms about selling out as long as the product he was selling was of decent quality. Dapao arms weren’t exactly his favourite for purely aesthetic reasons, but the build quality was generally good.
The Dapao Rep rubbed his hands greedily while eyeing Jack. “Ah, I know you. You’re Mr Hanlon.”
Jack held up his hands. “Sorry, Solokov rep got to me first.”
“You can never have too many guns. How about a free sidearm? Mars's premier security agencies can attest that Dapao Durangos are the most reliable.”
From past experience, Jack knew that freebies from Dapao always came with many strings attached. He didn't need the trouble. “Sorry, I’ve already got more free stuff than I know what to do with.” He walked away, though he still felt the rep's eyes on him.
He continued browsing the stalls, not looking for anything in particular. He saw a beautiful young woman standing at the Outback Company stall. She held out her arms while a tailor scanned her body with a handheld device. She had shoulder-length blonde hair, which she wore in a French braid. She had a cute nose and petite lips. She wore a body-fitting dress-suit, which tastefully accentuated the curves of her sleek body. The tailor was a short man who had a goatee. He checked the readings on his device and arched his eyebrow. “Hmm.”
“What's wrong?” She asked.
The tailor replied, “Your ratios are off-the-charts gorgeous. Such perfect proportions.”
Jack rolled his eyes. Come on, man. You need a machine to tell you that?
“The only thing wrong is that after I craft your suit, custom tailored to fit your delicate body, I will never again create anything so beautiful. You are my masterpiece.”
Jack wanted to barf.
The woman giggled. “I've never been complimented quite like that before. Thank you.”
“No, thank you. I should be the one paying you for the privilege of crafting your suit.”
“Nonsense. Name your price and I will pay.”
“Twenty five thousand is what I would normally charge, but for you, ten thousand is the most I would accept. To accept anymore would be an insult to you.”
Jack shook his head. Keep dreaming, shorty. She ain’t gonna sleep with you.
“Make that thirty thousand. No less.”
“But that's more than-”
She cut the tailor off with a wave of her hand. “That is my final offer. Take it or leave it.”
The tailor bowed. “You are too generous, my lady. Thank you.”
Jack wondered why the man called her 'my lady.' Tacky as hell.
“Are you sure you can craft this suit before we head out?” She asked.
“My lady, I have access to state-of-the-art carbon nanoweaving technology. It will be done before the end of the week.”
“Excellent. Now to pick the colour scheme for my suit. What are my options?”
The tailor turned towards the fifty inch touchscreen display affixed to a stand behind his counter. He made a flicking motion from his handheld device to the big screen. A 3D-model of the woman's suited up body appeared on the display. The suit looked like a workman's coverall, trimmed to fit her body snugly. The base colour was white. The suit had black shoulder pads and a black band that ran run down the flank of the torso and the thighs. The boots were black with white soles. The tailor flicked his finger across the screen to cycle through various colour schemes. “May I suggest burgundy for the base colour and vermillion for the highlights? It is a lively colour scheme that accentuates the natural hue of your lips.”
Jack curled his lips. Vermillion was too garish. He stepped in and cleared his throat. “Go with pearl-white for the base and gold for the highlights. Goes well with your hair.”
The woman looked at him. He tilted his head and winked at her. Grinning, she turned her attention back to the tailor. “Let me see what that looks like.”
The tailor selected Jack’s colour scheme.
Jack studied the woman's reaction.
She smiled. “I like it.” She turned to him. “What is your name, sir?”
He was a little disappointed she didn’t already know who he was. “I'm Jack Hanlon. I make adventure videos on DeepCast.”
“Ah, I think I might have heard of you.” She shook his hand. “I'm Ellen Truss.”
He arched his left eyebrow. “As in the Truss family?”
She dipped her head. “My father is Cornelius Truss, CEO of Solar Resources.”
He smiled. “Beautiful and royalty.” I have to have her.
She waved her hand dismissively. “It’s just a name.”
“Your family brought our forefathers to Mars. Now you’re taking us back to Earth. I’d say it’s more than just a name. It’s a legacy that lives on.”
She smiled. She had such beautiful white teeth. “Hanlon. That name sounds familiar. Is your father John Hanlon, the chief of our engineer corps, by any chance?”
“Now there’s a man who has dedicated his life to the vision of our company. I like him.”
“He always said he wanted to watch his grandkids grow up on Earth.”
“Ah, so you’re married? You have children?”
Checking if I'm single, are you? “Me? Nah. I've been too busy adventuring to settle down. But one day...” He grinned at her.
She bobbed her head. “Hmm.”
The tailor cleared his throat. “Ms Truss, the QR code, please.”
Ellen turned her attention back to the tailor. “My apologies. There. Payment confirmed.”
The tailor looked at Jack. “And would you be interested in purchasing a new EVA suit?”
“Thanks, but I’m happy with the one I’ve got.”
“Well, I’d better get going,” Ellen said. “It was nice meeting you, Jack.”
You're not getting away from me that easy. “Hold up. Where ya headed?”
“The cocktail bar.”
“I was headed there myself.” I am now. “May I join you?”
Sweet. He followed her out of the exhibition hall and onto the dance floor. “You comin' to Earth with us?”
He silently cheered on the inside.
“My father has put me in charge of Solar Express’s operations on Earth.”
“Does that mean you're my dad's boss?” Kinky.
“Technically, yes, but your father's the one in charge of our colonial engineer corps. My role is to look after my family's investment. We have poured much of our fortune into Solar Express.”
“Sounds like a big responsibility.”
“Not just for me. For you also, and all Martians. We are the sole inheritors of humanity's legacy. The next one thousand years will be shaped by the decisions we make.”
A shudder ran down his spine. She makes me feel all tingly with nothing but her words. Now imagine what she can do in bed. Another shudder ran down his spine.
They arrived at the cocktail bar. She pulled out a stool and sat on it.
He sat next to her. He glanced at her hands to see if she had on a ring. “You seeing anyone?”
She smiled at him without answering and hailed the bartender. “I’ll have a shot of Virgin Red, please.”
Jack wiggled his left eyebrow. “Interesting choice. Give me a shot of Risin' Rocket.”
The bartender poured a creamy red liquid into a tiny martini glass, placed a cherry inside, and slid the glass towards Ellen. “Virgin Red.” He poured a steaming, colourless, effervescent liquid into a tall shot glass and slid it towards Jack. “Risin' Rocket.”
Jack took the shot glass and swirled the bubbling liquor. “So… it’s complicated?”
Ellen was just about to sip from her glass when she paused to look at him. “Excuse me?”
“I asked if you were with someone. You didn’t give me an answer.”
She swirled her cherry around her drink. “And here I thought I’d made a new friend.”
“Ouch. Got friend-zoned. Today is not my day.”
She giggled. “Sorry, Jack, but I’m already with someone.”
“Mind if I ask who?”
“You wouldn’t know him.”
He turned to face the dance floor. “Is he here somewhere?”
“Why? Are you going start something with him?”
“No.” He downed his entire drink in one gulp and smacked the glass back on the counter. “I just want to know who my competition is.”
She laughed. “There’s no competition, Jack.”
He winced. “You’re breaking my balls, Ellen. Is he that hot?”
She leaned in close enough for him to smell the shampoo she used this morning. “I need a man who can help shoulder the weight of my family legacy. What can you offer me?”
He stared into her blue eyes and became lost in them. “The world,” he whispered. He had no idea what he meant by that, but he meant it nonetheless.
She pulled away and sipped her drink. “Better roll up your sleeves, then.”
He tilted his head and wondered if she really expected him to hand her the world.
“Ah, Ellen, I’ve been looking for you.”
Jack turned to see who it was. A man, slightly taller than Jack, walked over to Ellen and gave her a peck on the lips. Jack clenched his jaw. The man looked ten years older than Ellen. He had brown hair, a receding hairline, and soft features. Not an ugly man, but not exactly a stud either.
“Kainen,” Ellen said. “I want you to meet Jack. He’s the son of our chief engineer.”
“You mean John Hanlon?” Kainen looked at Jack. “I know your father. He’s a solid man to have on the team.”
“Jack, this is Kainen,” Ellen said. “He's on Solar Express's Board of Directors. In fact, he was our angel investor. Without him, Solar Express would not exist.”
Jack smiled. This is who I'm up against? Great.
“I must confess,” Kainen said, “I didn't invest because I thought it might be profitable, though it certainly is. I had a vision,” he took Ellen’s hand, “of you, me, and the frontier. I had to make it come true.”
Ellen held Kainen's hand against her chest. “Promise me you'll always be this romantic.”
Jack looked away with a grimace on his face. Wish I had a billion runits to buyout a girl's heart.
“Ellen, I have something I want to show you. Can we go somewhere more… private?”
He'd better not be talking about his dick. Jack glared at the lovebirds. Kainen had his hand in his suit pocket. A ring? Jack stared into his empty shot glass, frowning.
“Yes. Let’s go somewhere quieter.” Ellen and Kainen walked away together.
Jack slumped over the bar counter and snorted. Gold digger. A different voice in his head sneered at him. Sure, believe that if it makes you feel better.
A text message from Solar Express popped into his virtual interface. We have just received a communications update from our engineers on Earth. Please report to Hall C to listen to their message.
He got up from his stool, scanned the QR code for his drink, and marched to Hall C. Everyone else headed in the same direction. Inside the hall, he saw a big white OLED screen on the far wall with rows of seats arranged in front of it.
“Jack, over here.” Jack’s mother, Mary Hanlon, waved him over. She was at the front row with Ray, Amy and Derek. Jack crossed over to them. His mother gave him a hug. “Glad you could make it.” She let go. “What's the matter? Are you still broken up over Vicenta?”
Jack was over her, but he nodded anyway.
His mother rubbed his arms. “I know plenty of nice single girls who are coming to Earth with us.”
He held up his hands. “Ma, I don’t want you introducing me to anyone. Please.”
“Don’t be shy, Jack. You remember the Evans? They used to be our neighbours. I ran into them not too long ago, and we’ve been catching up. Their daughter, Evelyn, absolutely adores you. Remember how she’s always wanted to be your friend?”
He remembered Evelyn. The last time he saw her, she was eleven years old and not exactly the most attractive girl on the block. And yes, he did remember how she used to follow him everywhere. Come to think of it, she was a bit of a stalker.
“She’s grown into a beautiful swan,” Mother said.
“You should meet her. She’s very excited to see you. She follows your channel, you know?”
Great. She's still stalking me after all this time, but if she's beautiful... He bobbed his head. “Sure, I can meet her, if she’s as pretty as you say.”
“Oh, Jack. You put far too much emphasis on beauty.”
“Wait. So is she beautiful or not?”
“She is. You’ll see.”
He wasn’t so sure anymore. “Yeah, maybe.”
The lights went out.
Mother grabbed his arm. “It’s about to begin. Everyone, sit down. Hush!”
He sat down with his mother. The big OLED screen turned black. The low rumble of waves crashing against the shore filled the auditorium. Birds squawked, and then a soft guitar tune played in the background. A scene slowly faded into view on the big screen. It was of waves washing against a beach of pitch black sand. The camera panned towards the blue sky. A male singer broke into song:
Blue skies and sunny days.
Green grass and lemonade.
Dance 'round and 'round and 'round.
Hiigara, we're homeworld bound.
Mother squeezed Jack's arm. “That’s your father!”
Jack tilted his head. So it is. A violinist launched into a playful melody that put a smile on Jack’s face. When the melody ended, the camera cut to a tall man with blondish white hair and a white goatee. He stood knee deep in the ocean while playing his guitar. Jack smiled. That's Dad, alright.
Surf the ocean waves,
and watch the palm trees swayz.
Jump up and up and down.
Hiigara, we're homeworld bound.
The camera cut to a violinist standing at the edge of a flap-topped mountain. The man had swept-back blond hair, and he wore a tacky neon-yellow smart-visor. He launched into another playful tune as the camera circled around him. A flock of birds with white bellies and orange beaks flew in the background.
The blue jay flaps it wings,
soaring as it sings.
Make angels on the ground.
Hiigara, we're homeworld bound.
The camera cut to a scene of twenty men gathered in a town square overgrown with moss. They reached for the camera as it rose into the air.
We're homeworld bound. Homeworld bound.
We’re homeworld bound…
The camera cut to Dad’s face. He closed his eyes and whispered, “Homeworld bound.”
The scene faded to black.
Mother jumped to her feet and applauded vigorously while squealing in delight. Everyone in the auditorium stood up in standing ovation. Jack exchanged glances with Ray. Ray had a look on his face that said “that’s our Dad!” Jack smiled and gave Ray the thumbs up.
Back on the OLED screen, the camera focused on Jack's father. Father sat inside a cramped office with a computer desktop behind him. He held up his camera with his left hand, just like a vlogger. “I hope you guys enjoyed that. Just a little something the crew and I put together now that we have some spare time. As you all know, we have been working hard to restore the infrastructure down here. Iceland is a beautiful island. The capital city, Reykjavik, and many of the towns throughout the island have been well preserved over the centuries. And there’s nobody here but us. It can get real quiet here at night, but hopefully that will change once you guys arrive. Anyway, we’re sending you this communique to update you on our progress. So let’s head outside and take a look.”
Dad stepped out of his office and into the blackness. He turned the camera away from his face. “Phil, turn on the power.” Three seconds later, clusters of light flickered to life. As the lights came on, they revealed a harbour. Within seconds, light shone out of every street lamp and every window of every house in the city. It was beautiful.
“This is Reykjavik, our new home.”
The camera cut to Dad inside a shower stall. “For the ladies,” he turned a knob inside the stall, and water spurted out of the showerhead, “we’ve got hot showers.” The camera cut to Dad sitting on a toilet. “Toilet works.” He flushed the toilet, and the water below him gurgled.
The camera cut to Dad standing inside a steaming lagoon filled with teal-blue water. He wore a white Outback EVA suit with no helmet, and his smart-visor was set to black tint. His forehead glimmered in the sunlight. “Got a nice hotel here with access to a hotspring. Geothermal station next door still generates power.” He turned his camera to his left. Three men wearing nothing but their underwear splashed into the lagoon, hooting like baboons.
The camera cut to Dad on a boat that rocked up and down with the waves. “We restored this old fishing boat. There’s so much fish in the ocean, you can practically walk across the surface.” He turned the camera towards the ocean. Slimy, wriggling bodies covered the entire surface for as far as the eye could see.
The camera cut to Dad and his crew in a backyard. “We’re roasting the fish we caught. Donny, over there, is adding some spices he found in the cellar to the reindeer meat. Did I mention there are a lot of reindeer here?” The camera cut to a herd of reindeer stampeding across a highway that had grass growing out of its web-like cracks. The camera cut back to Dad and his crew at the backyard barbeque. “Life is good here. This is where we belong. Our homeworld. The cradle of our species. The Eden Directorate nearly destroyed it. We're gonna make it greater than ever before.
“Finally, I'd like to leave a message for my family. Mary, this has been our dream of fifteen years. I know that it's been tough. We've had to sacrifice a lot to make this happen, not the least of which are the friends and family we'd be leaving behind. I can tell you with confidence that it's worth it. We can walk outside, take off our helmets, and breathe. Rivers of water flow across the land – and literally falls out of the sky – forever and for free.
“Jack, I know you love adventures, and I’ve promised you this one for a long time.” He walked through a sliding patio door and into a kitchen. “You see this?” He pointed his camera at a bar graph stuck to the wall. It was the same graph that Jack and his dad had worked on together for the last seven years. Seeing it brought tears to Jack's eyes. “We’ve earned this, Jack. I can't wait for you to get here. We'll go exploring together, like we used to. Majestic mountains. Mighty waterfalls. Hotsprings. Fields of black volcanic rock. And the derelict towns scattered throughout the island... I wonder what secrets they hold. We’ll find out together.”
Jack wiped his eye and sniffled. We will, Dad.
“Ray, I'm gonna take you fishing and hunting. That's how we're gonna earn our living down here. I'm not great at it myself, so we'll learn together. And finally, Amy and Derek... I am especially looking forward to your wedding. There's a beautiful church in the city, or if you prefer, there's this plateau in the central highlands. The view of the island is breathtaking from up there. Good place to say your vows. And of course, after the wedding, I expect many grandchildren.”
Dad winked at the camera. “I hope to see y'all soon.”
Thanks for reading!
Michael E. Vigil
What are ya waitin' for?