CH. 42 «The Road Trip – Day 4»

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I flipped through the directions, looking for the set that Brick had prepared for his leg of the journey. The first page was a very small map.

“Huh,” I murmured.

“What’s up?” he inquired, not taking his eyes off the road.

“We’re not going very far before the big ferry… wanna just save our pre-roll for then?” I suggested.

“Alright, sound’s good to me. What are the directions to there?”

“Hmm? Oh, just back the same way we came. Left, left, then merge east on the same freeway we took in,” I read as I scrolled through the directions. “20 miles to the ferry, exit 670.”

“Good, good. We’ll be on Earth in no time.”

I put aside the handset and reached for the Tuni currently plugged into the entertainment system. I played something upbeat for the drive as we weaved in between the shipping rigs. It was the first day of the work week, so today there were more of them in the way. They weren’t much of a hassle though, Brick’s superior Martian driving skills made the trip smooth like butter. Luna City came upon us in no time.

“Yeah, take this one, I’ll get our fare ready.” I reached into the center console’s compartment to retrieve his KEY, and we waited behind a line of half a dozen other crawlers and rovers making the commute to Earth.

When we arrived at what might have been the eighth ticket booth of the trip, a neon vested, older man pointed to a younger version of himself, waving a green light wand as bright as his own vest, then wished us a safe journey.

The glowing youth directed us into a spot in the rear of the right most lane. We killed our headlights and the dark interior of the old carrier became a little dimmer. He used some controller built into his wristat and we could feel large metal clamps securing around our four rubberized treads. He snagged our fare, let another two into the other lanes, each nestling further up in line than us. Before he could wave another in next to us, a thingamajig at his waist began to blink red. He inspected it and made a cutting motion to the booth, then ran off to grab his helmet and fasten himself for the ride.

Klaxons sounded and bright yellow lights swirled in time. A dark, beveled portal began to close with black caution marks tartaring it’s teeth. The smiling booth man disappeared when they clenched tight around him, along with the alarms and the lights. We could hear the whooshing sounds of atmosphere pressurizing outside, and a dim blue light flickered on, barely illuminating the bay from a thin rim around the top. Brick and I glanced around and shrugged.

“Spark it.”

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Hoping this thing would stop flashing at us at some point during the ferry ride…but it didnt…

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It didn’t take long at all to get to Earth. I wasn’t paying attention to the time before or after, and couldn’t tell you if it felt like it took fifteen minutes or didn’t even take an hour. But, still before noon, we departed the foghat grey transport and continued under our own power on our route East.

Soon, Luna City disappeared in the rear-view monitors. No, not the little settlement we left earlier this morning, but the booming metropolis planetside that goes by the same name. The analogous towns are linked by the old ferry line joining the Earth to the Moon, but the whale’s portion of the thriving is done by the terrestrial half, leading to the popular adage ‘There’s nothing on Luna, not even Luna City,’ and similar dismaying expressions.

“Wow,” Brick said looking to his left.

“I know,” I responded, looking to my right.

“Lots of trees.”

“And grass.” There was suddenly a violent bump that jolted us. “And more animals…well sort of.”

“I think I just hit an armadillo,” he said with surprise, squinting into his rear monitor.

“Really? They don’t move too quickly, I guess…” I glanced back.

“Little more than a slow moving speed bump.”

“Poor guy.”

“Hey look!” Brick motioned ahead with a nod, “more road kill.”

“Huh… I wonder if there will be even more in the eastern hemisphere.” I thought of raccoons and opossums smeared on the highways near my hometown, the occasional deer that failed crossing, and all those pitiful squirrels.

It was indisputably greener here on Earth. A variety of trees sprung up along the roads as we traveled, cutting off the view from the rest of the landscape. Hills rolled in all directions, breaking the horizon at awkward angles. A bright blue sky sat on top of light fluffy clouds that dissolved into the distance. If was a gorkin beautiful day out.

Such a severe contrast to the dry, rocky land we’d become so accustomed to seeing, what a splendid reprieve from the desolation. Over the next two hours or so, we passed scaled down versions of the farms we’d come know so well and many little towns that sprung out of nowhere. Each had unnecessary little signs too: Birthplace of So-and-So, Site of Such-and-Such, Home of Some-Guy.

“Well that’s special,” I said, critically.

“What’s that, Klay?”

“Seems like fame is easier to find in a small town,” I reasoned. “You automatically become a local hero or a legend if you’re from one of these little places. It’s not like Mars or the big cities that everyone congregates to, just to be lost forever in the sea of names.”

“Yeah, but you’re just the legend to the given bumblegork town, no one outside the city limits will ever–Hey look!” His thought derailed abruptly. “Mr. Cook…isn’t that the guy who won Earthling Idol a few years ago?”

“Yes, and I believe I’ve made my point,” I responded, vindicated.

The city of St. Clovis rose up in the distance, fingers of glass and iron scraping at the sky. Amongst their rigid forms, the soft shape of the gigantic arch emerged, the well recognized and unique landmark downtown. The arch is the portal to the west, nestled against the waterfront, it welcomes all approaching from the other hemisphere with it’s fertile shape. To us though, it was bidding safe travel as we merged onto the titanic bridge that seemed to span an ocean of murky water.

The land on the other side was topsy-turvy. Riddled with rivers and tributaries, it slopped every direction but straight. There was so very little about it that was memorable, I didn’t feel the need to look up from my porti for almost an hour.

I did look up to see the swirling blue lights of a police hammerhead. Traveling on the other side of the highway, thankfully, but the undercover hammerhead still caught me by surprise, sending a cold shiver through my body.

“Wow…you’d never see them coming,” I marveled at how hidden the lighting and sensor arrays were as we passed.

“Don’t say another word, I’m nervous enough,” Brick cautioned.

“Ok, ok, I won’t…Hey would you look at that!”

On our side of the road this time, two well labeled police interceptors were gunneled up against the guard rail behind a small silver crawler, not much unlike our own. And also, not much unlike us, two Earthling youths were cuffed and seated against the rail, interrogated by one officer as the other two scoured the contents of the vehicle. One wore shorts and a scruffy, dark beard, the other wore a grey cap with a colorful scarff, and both looked like they were still in college. We locked eyes with our doppelgangers as we flew by, and things weren’t looking too rosy for them.

“That was gorking creepy!” I turned to Brick, ghastly.

“My stars, what a scary sight,” he readjusted his speed with his right hand and rolled up the windows with his left. “Do me a favor and take that down, this is a police territory, apparently.”

I snatched down the peace symbol dangling from the rear-view monitor. Along with the ashtray, still holding an unsmoked joint and half a dozen roaches, I stowed it deep below a panel in the center console. I even took off the bright, festive scarf I’d had around my neck the entire trip. I was even about to stash the cigis.

“Not so fast, I need those if we’re gonna make it through here alive,” he said as he removed one from the pack and a lighter from his pocket.

Before he could even roll down the window, we were passing another two piggies on our right, this time they were inspecting a rented broadside with Lunar plates. We simply shook our heads in disgust.

“You know, I think these are the most cops I’ve seen on any single day of the trip,” Brick stated.

“I think we’ve seen more in the past 10 minutes than in the rest of our trip combined.” I could have been exaggerating, but there really hadn’t been very many until now.

“I’m afraid you’re right,” he admitted, indicating to his left as he flicked ash off his cigi.

There was another hammerhead hidden in the green median between the two directions of traffic. The way it rested on its haunches, tall grass swaying in front of it’s stoic yellow eyes, reminded me of some big, wild cat, laying in wait and ready to pounce on the first unsuspecting prey traveling fast enough for him to catch. All we could do was hope we wouldn’t look appetizing to them.

We arrived safely at our destination around dusk. After passing the downtown area we were enveloped in trees, like the forest had been allowed to grow back in around this town. The streets were narrow and the architecture was very old world, much like most of the early Earth settlements. It reminded me of the moon Amalthea, specifically the town of Dangle nearby the lodging I stayed there. I wondered if the people here were as friendly.

His cousin Mic was indeed hospitable. Or was it his second cousin…or first cousin once removed–I don’t know, I’ve never met enough of my extended family to need know what the difference is. They called each other cousins, though he was well old enough to be one of our parents. He took us out for a bite at his favorite bar in town.

As I ate my extra meaty sandwich, pork wrapped in bacon, Mic attempted to dispense the wisdom he had acquired over his life, like many people his age were oft to do to people our age. Sweeping metaphors like ‘The Right Path’ and ‘The Way’ grazed right by me, only one thing he said stuck with me.

“Boy, you kids got it made. They’d make you a hero around here if you told them you were from Mars,” he spoke with admiration after taking a large sip. “I used to get girls just by saying I was Martian!”

“Astro! That actually worked around here?” I asked in disbelief.

“Sure did, even said I was a Jovian a few times,” he added with solemn confidence.

“Did you use an accent or anything?” Brick inquired. We glanced at me as if we should be taking notes on it.

“Didn’t even need to. No, they either bought it or they just didn’t care. Folks ‘round here just want something different, they don’t mind if its actually different or not.”

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PREV: CH. 41 «The Road Trip – Day 2»

PREV: CH. 41 «The Road Trip – Day 2»

NEXT: CH. 44 «The Festival – Part 2»

CH. 44 «The Festival – Part 2» NEXT: CH. 44 «The Festival – Part 2»


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