CH. 38 «How to Plan a Summer Road Trip»

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Brick’s back in town!

Fondgrid has been one of my best friends for a while. Of the first acquaintances I made after moving to this desolate rock, I think he’s the only person I still hang out with. Well, I say that relatively since I only see him when he makes visits during his breaks from college on Earth, though that’s still far more often than I run into anyone else from Fender. I know I just saw him two months ago when he came for the spring holiday, but it’s always good to have another friend around.

He had grown up and graduated with Leucosia, the girl I was dating back then–you know, the one I came to Mars for. It was so nice to find someone as intelligent as all my friends were growing up, and I can remember great times hanging out, just the three of us, anytime he was back home from school. Late nights and the lights of Fender below, just smoking, drinking, talking…I miss those days, come to think of it. After she and I broke up, he did his best not to take sides, but always knew where to come if he needed a good smoke session and to nerd off with someone.

He’s only staying in town two more weeks, though. At first I was upset that he wouldn’t even be back for a whole month, but last night I changed my mood about it.

“Say, sir, what are you doing come June?” Brick asked, exhaling a cloud of smoke in my direction.

“Uh…I’m pretty sure I have nothing going this summer,” I contemplated it as I took a hit, the exception coming to mind as I passed it back to him. “Oh wait, I’ve got one thing towards the end of June. Eon is making a trip back to grab all the stuff she left.”

“All the stuff they broke into your crawler for and didn’t even take?” he sneered.

“That’s the stuff. She’s coming to get it all and I just have to be around to give it to her, why do you ask?” He handed the glass back to me in a nano, indicating with his eyebrows that the ash needed to be cleared.

“Oh, no reason, just…ROAD TRIP!!” he exclaimed, catching me so off guard that I almost dropped the fragile smoking piece.

“What? Really? Where?” I didn’t know which I wanted him to answer first.

“I’m going to Earth, same way I drove last summer, but this time I’m staying in Carolina, working at the plant there til I go back to school in the fall. I think I can make more credits there than working for their Martian branch in Fender.”

His family owned a corporation called Fondgrid Foods based in Olympus County. You might have seen them, I can’t remember if we had any back home, but in most of the sandwich cases in Martian liquor stores, you’ll spot an array of their products, neatly packaged with their famous red label. I’m kinda partial to Fondgrid jerky myself. He usually spends his summers working for his father to make a few credits for school, but last summer he had driven a company broadside to their branch in Carolina, just a few hours south of Knossopolis.

“Really, well I’ll be blasted,” I was excitedly distracted from filling the glass up again.

“And before I start working…BONNAROO!!” I almost dropped it again.

Bonnaroo is a huge deal–Earth’s largest annual music and arts festival, or at least the biggest one I’ve ever been to. It rivals certain Martian events like the Electric Carnival and Palmchella; some even consider it Earth’s equivalent to Burning Man. Some.

The half-weeklong jamboree is frequented by that same hippie crowd. Still preaching the same verses of peace and love our parents have been singing since the late 2260s. Back in my younger (more drug addled) days it was exactly my kind of scene. I may have gotten all my chemical experimentation out of the way early in life, but I think I could still agree with ideals of peace and unity. Granted, there’s a bit fewer paisleys and rainbows around, mostly flashing LEDs and glowsticks, but whose keeping score, anyway?

“That’s astro, dude. I’m really jealous,” I congratulated him with contempt, remembering the fun I had, during the parts I could remember.

“Like I asked, what are you doing this summer? Cause one of the girls I’m tenting with dropped out and is selling her ticket for half price, and, uh…I don’t feel like making that trip alone this year..” he said. I was too shocked to say anything. So he continued, “it will take a day to get to the ferry, 2 to get across Luna and another 2 across the western continent of Earth. The other girl that’s still coming is catching a direct flight in on the 9th, so we just have to make sure we’re at least as far as the Appalachia Spaceport by then.”

“So we’d have to leave by 4th or sometime early on the 5th to make it in time,” I responded, the gears in my head grinding away.

“So you’ll come?! Sweet!” Brick cheered, adding a sigh of relief.

“Yeah, credits will only sorta be an issue. It’s pool season and my dad owes me a trip. Blast, what does he care, he’ll just be stoked he doesn’t have to cover my spacefare,” and that money could go towards gas, lodging, food and the ticket for the show, I realized.

“Man, this is going to be the ultimest road trip. Ever!” I could tell that his Martian gears were spinning at full steam as well. “Should we go closer to the northern hemisphere of Luna like I did last time, or try the deep southern hemi?”

“Mmm…well the only thing I’d want to do in southern Luna is visit my aunt in New Martia, but I don’t really have the time, it would be out of the way. Besides, that means we’d probably have to go through more of the south of Earth,” The image of front porches swaying with giant swingseats and battle flags made me shudder. “Which I am less than willing to do.”

“I as well, good sir, I as well,” Fondgrid confirmed.

“Hey, this way I could just bring all of Eon’s stuff with me to Earth, and neither of us have to worry about having enough room, or it being too heavy,” I pondered another nano, “we’ll have enough room in the broadside for a couple of extra cases, right?”

“Yes, we should. We may need to cut down on other extra weight though, but I don’t mind if you don’t,” he agreed to the idea.

“No I don‘t, I need to practice packing less anyway. Hold on, lemme just text her real quick. Run through the plan again, please?” I set the half-full pipe aside for a moment and reached into one of my pockets for my texti. With one swift motion of my thumb, I slid the comm open and began to compose a new message.

“Ok, in two weeks we leave from Fender, heading north west, past the Tharsis Montes and just North of the Mariners Valleys. From there we catch a quick ferry to Luna. There we stick to the northern hemisphere and the same when we finally get to Earth. We’ll cut through the bottom of your territory and be in Carolina in no time. This way we avoid the rednecks and the hicks and drop 10 kg by not having to carry a weapon and ammunition. Then, Bonnaroo. Good?”

“Well hold on a nano, Brick. We don’t want to go too far north right? Terra is nice and all, but even in summer, it’s cold as the balls of an Acheron penguin up there. I mean, I think that’s why they put the border there in the first place. We should stay in the Territories.”

“Yes, Klay, I know all about it. My school is right next to the Terran Border. I left my passport there for a reason,” he chuckled.

“So that means we’re left with one option: to go through the religious ring,” I concluded, “so I still want to bring a shotgun.” We both laughed out loud.

“Shut up, we’ll be fine. Besides, I plotted this route so we’d barely touch that horrible area” he laughed. “Now have you decided on a good school for it yet, or are you just baby sitting the little thing?” he said indicating to the inert glass in my hand, trying make a crack at me.

“Uh, right,” caught off guard by the joke, I looked down at the glass pipe, charged and ready to go, then smirked. “To the Summer!” I raised in toast. The lighter snapped aglow.

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PREV: CH. 37 «The Martian Pandemic»

PREV: CH. 37 «The Martian Pandemic»

NEXT: CH. 39 «A Time for Leaving»

NEXT: CH. 39 «A Time for Leaving»


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