CH. 67 «Packing Up The Pod»



I tried. I really did try to turn my dreams into reality. It didn’t quite work out, though.

I wanted to spend the rest of my life lounging in the radiance of the lap of luxury; sitting back in the sunlight without a care in the world–paradise and a perfect day never too far away. But you can’t just get that because you want it.

You have to deserve the peace of mind that comes with being a Martian, and so far I’ve hardly done a thing that obliges me to the way I’ve been living. I didn’t work my entire life, sacrificing my soul and personality so that I could retire early to these red sands. I’ve never been victim of a great tragedy or accident that landed me disabled or the recipient of generous quantities of worker’s compensation. I’ve never even bought a lotto ticket.

Also, should it not be apparent, I’ve never made a credit acting on stage or screen. I haven’t been recognized for my artistic abilities in any contest or competition. I’ll probably never make it as a musician without finding a massive following or financial backing. And I never kept a good enough GPA to be eligible for any grants and scholarships that could help me stay on this planet as a student.

So, two years too late, I’m folding my hand and cutting my losses. I always said I’d see the rest of Mars before I left it, but it doesn’t look like that’s even in the cards. I don’t think there’s any chance I’ll take a trip up the coast to see the more astro cities along the way to the cold north. It’s not likely that I could even scrounge up enough credits to go on a trip south, across the boarder, even if I had time to brush up on my Martian. It doesn’t even look like I’ll even get another oportunity to head into the city and see all the lights and sights of Novus Angelicas.

Perhaps, someday soon, I’ll have enough money saved, or enough credits to transfer, or have gained enough notoriety for my artistic endeavors to return. I hope that after I’ve helped my father to rebuild his company, my mother to relocate to a smaller unit, and my little brother to get on the right track of school and work–by doing it myself to set a better example for him–that I can come back within a year or two and resume where I left off. Maybe I’ll just set out to travel the rest of Sol from Earth when that time comes, and return to Mars in a decade or so when I’m ready to settle down. Who knows? I may never come back.

But for now, I’m bailing. Punching out Jumping ship. Quitting this place. Heading home. Throwing in the towel. Regrouping. Running away with my tail tucked firmly between my legs. Giving up the ghost. Fleetly fleeing. Submitting my two-weeks’ notice. Abandoning post. Letting the dream die. Buying my ticket. Taking that ride.

My Pod is Packed.

-K. Lane

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PREV: CH. 66 «But Where To?»

PREV: CH. 66 «But Where To?»


CH. 66 «But Where To?»



Fondgrid sat forward on Dannae’s bed, hunched over the glow of the large sized Droid in his palms. He was engaged in a match of his favorite strategy game as I waited for the downloads of the new apps he suggested I acquire to finalize and install. A bowl of fire lay smoldering between us, not knowing for certain where it was going next.

“So this is it, you’re moving huh?” the dark-haired, pale skinned Amazonian asked, not really taking his eyes off the game but giving me full attention with his pointy ears. “The last days of your life on Mars.”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” I said remorsefully, setting down Nomi, my faithful robotic companion, and scooping up the bowl to reignite its aromatic contents. “I’ve gotta take advantage of everything this place has that Earth doesn’t,” I spoke while exhaling.

“You don’t really have much time to do that, right?” Fondgrids blue eyes made contact with something other htan the screen as he took a moment to set down his Droid and receive the glass pipe I was offering.

“Less than a week, then I take one last trip for a handful of days and I’m off this desolate, red world for at least a year…I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to come back as soon as possible,” I admitted, retrieving Nomi to double check something on my itinerary.

“There’s always some sort of last hurrah with you, Klay,” he chuckled, aware that I can’t just walk away from anything without leaving a lasting impression or going out with a bang. “But where to?”

“You know, I’m not really sure yet…though I really need to decide if I’m going to do anything, time is running out after all.” I consulted Nomi, bringing up notes I had been making over the past few weeks as I’d tried to determine just that. “What do you think about the wastes out towards Daedalia Planum and the Three Sisters?” I felt confidence in asking a native these sorts of things as opposed to automatically trusting the recommendations my droid makes.

Fondgrid almost choked on the air he was breathing and coughed out “Tharsis? That desert? What’s out there that you could possibly be interested in?”

“I don’t know” I muttered, glancing down at my Droid to check what note I had made on the region. “Isn’t a lot of silver supposed to come from there?”

“That was just a myth, I thought, propagated by prospectors, settlers, and probably the same people who came up with the idea of the Gold Rush,” my Amazonian friend’s statements came charged with spite, probably because he hated that dried up, shriveled feeling one gets in arid climates.

“No, if I remember correctly,” he continued, realizing it would be more helpful for me not to have his appraisal clouded with cynicism, “the only things out there—besides all the squamata—are a few scattered desert settlements existing from when a charter of settlers lost their bearings and crash landed far away from their intended coastal destination.

“Desperate desert-folk?” I pictured it. “Ok, what about up in Cydonia?” I inquired about the next bullet on my list, “I heard there was some sort of life stemming from there.”

“You heard wrong, my friend. It’s quiet and very much asleep around those parts, and the same goes for all the territory of Arabia. Lot of green plant life, but not too much of the social life you’re looking for.” He paused a moment to strike a lighter and inhale, exhaling as he said “But you do like to stay home and smoke all day, so who knows, it might work out for you.”

“I’m not quite sure if I want to spend my vacation the same way I’ve spent the past 4 years of my life…that would sort of defeat the purpose of finding an exciting place to travel to, especially if it’s going halfway around the planet to get back to business as usual.” I sighed and looked back down at my droid. “What do you know about Knossos?”

“In Elysium? You know that’s the land of the dead, right? Nothing goes on up there,” Brick’s words were again charged with a noticeable bitterness.

“What about the visual and music scenes, aren’t a lot of really interesting artists from that area?” I replied, slightly dismayed by his reaction to this destination. “I always thought that it was even more astro than Novus Angelicas.”

“You are sort of a hipster…and you do like to complain about it being too hot and sunny all the time here, but do you seriously think you could withstand nine months of down pour?” he asked genuinely.

“Well, as great of a contrast to the nine months of hot sunshine I’ve been getting living in SoAm you’re probably right, I’d get sick of the rain real quick. Anything that doesn’t change at least once over the course of a week tends to drive me insane,” I said, slightly defeated until I glanced back down at Nomi. “Ah, but its summer, now! It’s not going to be nearly as miserable as any other time of the year would be.”

“Look man, unless you can afford to go to shows or you know someone who can be your personal tour guide, I think you’re going to be bored to tears up there.”

“I thought it was a popular, lovable place…” I whined, refusing to admit defeat, “…but maybe I’ve only heard that from people who were raised there.”

“Notice you never met any of them up there; they all moved down here cause they think it’s better,” Brick stated.

“Meh…this place,” I muttered.

“What’s so wrong with this place? N.A. and OC are the ultimest spots on this planet, and everyone in Sol knows it,” I had the Amazonian defending his hometown now.

“See, that’s just the thing. I don’t wanna offend, but I just don’t think it’s as cosmo as everyone thinks it is. There’s something integrally wrong with this place; it’s just too plastic and fabricated.”

Fondgrid chuckled to let me know he didn’t take it personally and said “Well, what do you expect? It’s the most modern location this side of the Main Asteroid Belt. Modern means pre-fabbed plastic. Across the Solar System I think Japeth is the only place that tops it. That’s as far as publically available technology and conveniences go.”

“Or Fortuna,” I mentioned, reminding us again of how much more opulent that small rock of a world was than any moon or planet.

“Yeah, but you don’t wanna go trying to look for life in any of those places; it’s way too expensive to stay long enough to find any conclusive evidence or results…even more costly than it’s been for you here,” he could only guess how much It had truly cost me to maintain my Martianhood.

“Heh, you’re probably right…where do you suggest I go to find life? Down south of the border?”

We both burst into laughter before I could finish those words. “Yeah right, you can’t call that life,” he eventually replied.

“I didn’t think so either…it seems like kind of the opposite of what I’m trying to achieve. I’m not looking for a rags-to-rags story here,” I snickered.

“Well, maybe it wouldn’t be too bad of an idea to visit just Martia City…or maybe some of the safer, Earthlingized resort towns. Tiwan might be interesting if you’re looking for contrasts,” he halfheartedly advised, not really wanting me to head south of the boarder and disappear forever.

“Ugh… just no…I could be going to be in Pratus in a week or two, so I’m going to have all the disgusting, drunk-party city experiences I’ll be able to stand, and then some.”

“Just a thought, I wouldn’t really wish that trip on anyone. I guess it’s just a convenient way to get off world if you live in SoAm, but only if there’s nowhere else in the entire Solar System that you’d rather go,” he laughed. “Still, I don’t want you to end up dead or less any organs.”

We continued to find good reasons to shoot down each other’s ideas for another half hour before we were joined by Dannae, Brick’s lovi. She had literally just returned from a month-long journey through Jupiter. She’d been taking her time rinsing off the stardust and smell of rocket fuel in the shower and was relieved she didn’t miss my little farewell party. It was tradition on Mars to bless moving off-world, and the ceremony usually included the passing of the pipe. I might not be getting a cake or a keg at this send-off, but I got to hear some travel tales and sage advice for my eminent adventure. Dannae brushed out her damp brunette hair as she recounted each day of her trip, gesticulating with a plastic comb.

“I’ve been keeping up with your feed—you know, cause we’re mutual friends with Brick. I saw what you posted about making some stops on your trek home. Where are you thinking of heading?” the light-eyed Amazonian girl pointed the comb at me and asked.

“Well,” I again sat down the Droid. It was probably the reason I’d appeared to make a surge of updates recently. “as I was just saying to your lovi; I want to see as much of Mars as I can before I launch but I don’t know where the gork I’m going. I mean, I know I should probably try to just hit all the big capitals and cultural hotbeds along the coast north and through Tempe, and journey all the way to Elysium and Antoniadi in Ganymedean Gaia.” She nodded, of course knowing the coastal route I was drawing in my head. “I Just think it’s going to be a bit expensive to travel to and stay in all these places.”

“Yeah, much cheaper to travel in groups. Watch out with that flying solo” she cautioned. “Where after that?”

“Heading back in to Earth. I’ve already got arrangements for my stuff to be shipped back in a container, and I just have to end up at my old unit before it arrives; in about 2 weeks. But I think I’m going to be staying on Luna for a few days of the trip. I’m not sure where yet, but I’ve never been to Le Pratus, I liked Crater when Brick and I saw it, and I can’t help but hear great things about Tycho; also I know people who will be in all of those places, and I should be able to couch surf the moon to make it cheaper,” I explained to them. Dannae seemed attentive, obviously bitten by the travel bug, and Brick spending as much time looking up as staring down at his fancy Droid.

“Maybe you should spend more time there than you do on Mars, if that’s the case,” a suggestion came surprisingly from Fondgrid, whom I’m sure was giving more focus to whatever game he had running. “You know you’ll be back here soon enough to keep reporting about this place, and not lose a beat on your correspondence or whatever it is that you write all the time…who reads that anyway?” he asked somewhat ambiguously.

“You guys…I thought…” suddenly concerned my linked-on friends on Mars weren’t even keeping up with my tlog.

“Oh, no; we do,” Dannae said, giving a confident nudge to her lovi, “he meant who’s supposed to read it? I just always wondered if there’s someone specific on Earth who you keep the netlog for, just by the assumptive tone you take in your rants.”

I chuckled. “No, there’s no one in particular that I’m addressing them to at all..maybe myself in the future of some other dimension. My little brother, perhaps. They’re really for anyone to read, though. I mean, whether I’m a Writer or not, I am a tlogger, of course I want everyone in the whole Solar System to be unceremoniously forced to read it in some official publication. My words are for anyone who thinks they might apply to their lives.”

“Well, good luck with that, friend,” Fondgrid said with a forlorn smile.

“And best of luck with your travels, Klay. I hope you can get back to Mars and see us soon, but until then I’ll at least be getting updates on your whereabouts from your thingie,” Dannae assured, her eyes expressing how sad she was to see me go.

“Don’t worry, you guys are probably right. I’ll be back in this forsaken place before I know it,” I agreed, and forced an optimistic smile as I added “it’ll be just like I never left.”

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PREV: CH. 65 «Words on Parting Mars»

PREV: CH. 65 «Words on Parting Mars»

NEXT:  CH. 67 «Packing Up The Pod»

NEXT: CH. 67 «Packing Up The Pod»

CH. 65 «Words on Parting Mars»

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Lo there! For those of you just tuning into this netlog, my name is Klay Lane and I’m a homeless, unemployed twenty-three year-old Earthling.

I’m currently stuck on Mars and trying as desperately as I can to get off this red, desert world with the few material items which I still possess. I don’t care if I go back to Earth, or stop short when I visit Luna, or if I end up on some other planet. Even if it’s not the bet season to visit Venus and Jupiter’s moons will be packed with other tourists. I’d make do on any planet. Just as long as it’s not here; I’ll go anywhere but Mars.

Now, cool your jets, it doesn’t mean I necessarily hate it here. I realize that’s a problem with this correspondence that I keep. For almost three years I’ve noticed myself express a great deal of emotion about Mars both positively and negatively. I don’t know what portion of my transmissions have actually made it across the Solar System to your feeds, so I can’t be sure what opinion of mars you think I hold. You could have read my exalted appraisal or my doomed depiction depending on what you received. It’s been a long love-hate relationships after all.

There are so many pros and cons to the whole living on Mars thing. Dozens of great reasons to compel one to remain, and many more even better arguments against living here which really should be addressed before anyone begins thinking it’s a good idea to buy a rocket ticket. But I have to present it fairly; though it may be ridiculously expensive to actually maintain a residence, hard to find steady employment, and even more difficult to fit in with the crowd unless you have something undeniably useful to offer them, there are still upsides to being an Amazonian.

You get to behold the nightly spectacle of the sunset and buoy along its beautiful beaches. The women of your world are unique and on an entirely different level; why else would they remain so praised in song and movi if they weren’t one of the prime attractions? You’re afforded the convenience to acquire whatever dinner, drink or drug you could want vended to you any hour imaginable. Instant gratification is a right on Mars.

It isn’t all succulent life, sandy shores and sunshine around here, though. It wasn’t very long ago that Mars was still universally deemed uninhabitable, and it’s important to remember how fragile the mechanisms are that allow us to live comfortably now, no matter how safe and controlled the new settlements of man seem. The vastly unbridled and unforgiving world still calls the shots and one has to take into account the real hazards afoot in the wasteland.

The blistering heat and mostly moistureless air are unrelenting to anyone exposed to them for too long; one needs air conditioning and a constant supply of refrigerated plastic water bottles to keep from drying up when they’re not in direct view of that evil, pinkish eye. The sun’s rays beat down uninhibited upon the surface for hours on end. There probably aren’t many trees or hills to offer shade to you. You’d fry unless you’re indoors or safe under the cover of tinted UV screens.

And watch out! Wildfires, dust storms, waterspouts, rogue asteroids, very large lizards and regularly occurring Marsquakes are some of the more natural risks of this planet; the more manmade perils being smog inhalation, Martian drivers and falling space junk from any ships departing and entering the atmosphere, or the risk of any one of the many machines flying at any given moment suddenly losing its lift and plummeting downwards at anything more populated than patch of dry scrub.

Residents of Mars need to invest in as many products to protect them and their families from the elements as anyone living on any of Sol’s other less hospitable worlds. It hardly seems like a paradise at all when you have to keep climate controlling machines maintaining conditions inside your sealed home through the nicest seasons of the year. Or when you need to apply liberal amounts of sunscreen to any exposed skin just to drive to the convenience store or get some fast food, or need sunshades to see during most days of the year, or need to check the weather for UV and air quality advisories before stepping outside.

This isn’t a place filled exclusively with natural dangers; we have to take precautions here like shredding important documents to prevent identity theft from the trash diggers, or taking out extensive, mandatory insurance policies on all our precious belongings and vehicles in case of accident, or bringing a communicator or some other digital assistant with us everywhere we go to tell us how to get there, or in case we disappear. It’s more than I’d care to have to deal with on a daily basis, but these are just facets of life in this territory.

It’s not like I particularly despise this desolate excuse for a colonized world, I’ve just had it with Amazonia and its lies. They should be ashamed for the terrible trick they’ve played on us all, convincing the whole solar system they’ve tamed the wild beast into a bountiful, pleasant paradise, and that anyone can experience and share in the majesty of it. No one mentions the price, or any of the other fine print that goes along with partaking in the benefits of becoming a local. My problem isn’t with Mars, but with whoever propagated the idea to profit off the place.

To be fair I haven’t heard great things about the southern hemisphere either. Our neighboring nation of Martia is renowned to be replete with a terrible economy, weak healthcare, nearly non-existing public infrastructure, incredibly corrupt law enforcement departments and a scandal-ridden government. Its territories aren’t portrayed as a safe place for tourists and locals alike. Most people don’t envision good things when you mention going south of the border.

Doesn’t mean I don’t still want to visit Martia. Half the greatest wonders of Mars lay in their rocky territories; the gorgeous tropical biome around the Hellas Sea with the historically lush jungles of the Isidis Penninsula and most of the endless chasms of Valles Marineris, to name a couple. And what world traveler’s photoset doesn’t include a few selfies from the top of an ancient Martian pyramid? I won’t get a chance to add any to mine before I move. Maybe I never will.

There are so many planets I’d dreamt about visiting for ages and moons I just knew I’d have to inhabit in order to gain some important life perspective. The Solar System is so grand and rich with experience. If I really had the means to travel to any world why would I ever come back to Mars? I might not ever want to. The only thing that’s going to bring my back to this crazy crimson place is a great-paying job or the availability of a career that will enable me to travel the worlds. If I come back my intentions is still to get as far away as I can. But does that have to mean I hate it?

I think I love it too much, actually. I love it so much that I know if I don’t try to do something responsible with my life in order to deserve the indulgences found daily on the planet of plenty it will ruin me forever. It could possibly stop me from living the life I eventually want to if I don’t employ some prudence now. And if I don’t earn a keep and prove my self-worth in a place without as much temptation and self-rewarding I’ll never be disciplined enough. More importantly: if I take advantage of all paradise has to offer without having the monetary force, or investments to secure my future, I won’t have the possibility of that future to look forward to.

Simply: if I hang around Mars wasting all my credits on good times, I won’t be able to retire to it or them at the end of my life. I have to exhibit some self-restraint. I can’t have my pre-fabricated post-meal treat square and eat it too.

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PREV: CH. 64 «Really Going to Miss this Place»

PREV: CH. 64 «Really Going to Miss this Place»

NEXT: CH. 66 «But Where To?»

NEXT: CH. 66 «But Where To?»

CH. 64 «Really Going to Miss this Place»



The sky filtered cinnabar light from the morning sun that saturated the very air with red, even indoor. Outside the plexi-window of her unit, the crumbling karst of a creek sprang forth with life into a green ravine. The overflowing runoff spout that created it either terribly planned, or perfectly plotted for the experimentalist type who may want to see water erosion on Martian soil. The sound of spring bird chirps on the wind floated across the accidental/incidental artificial gully and drifted through the open screen. The ambiance, along with the smell of some of Jove’s most precious fire that it kicked up, was reminiscent of the first time I’d ever visited Mars.

The view outside hadn’t really changed much over the three or four months while the weather has been like this. Maybe the tall grass had tanned and browned to a more golden shade, but other than that the sights and sounds of the natural feature outside Shayne’s living room window had been the same since the beginning of March. Spare one other thing; there aren’t any students or grads flowing to and from campus from the housing complexes on the hill.

There weren’t any students around anywhere. The lively Ivy League university had become a swampy, tropical ghost colony in a matter of days. Random wayward collegians wandered bereft of anything important or anyone interesting to talk to here and there, but mostly they remained scattered in the peripheries of their homes or around the stores of the university shopping center. I can’t see them, but I know there are grad students about; they do good to keep hidden. The summer just means more time to work for them, so anyone still on campus is stowing away in the hills surrounding it and probably wondering why they got themselves into a year-round 5-year grad-program.

Yesterday I roamed the University Town Center shopping district on the north end of campus and saw how dead it’s really gotten here. Shops had new, slimmer hours and some eateries weren’t open for the lunch rush, signs that business had declined drastically. All of a sudden, it was like the plug had been pulled and drained all the customers away. Or so it seemed to someone who had been stopping by there at least once a day, most days for the past 2 months he worked for the Census. It looks like even that too is closing up shop, though, and I am once again unemployed.

I still take care of the yard at my bandmate’s unit, and I still deliver packages and make a few calls for the imaging company once in a while, but I can’t really consider either of those gigs real, dependable, or gainful employment. There’s really no way I could advance in either field without a lot of time into the crafts of cleaning house and picture snapping, and I’m not truly certain if I want to pursue a career in either right now. It’s also not likely at all that I’ll be able to find myself any other jobs that would pay even half as well anywhere on Mars within the next two months, especially seeing how under-qualified I really am.

It seems like a good enough a time as any to go home, now. My father’s company seems to be picking up even more work. My mom finally seems like she’s had it with the old unit we’ve been living in since I was born, and it could probably use a good fixing up before she can put it on the market. I want to help my family move out of and into whatever housing unit we can get. I also want to be there for my little brother, and make sure that he’s doing the right things like getting a steady job and being diligent in school by doing it myself to set a better example for him. And anyone else there that I love and care about that I’m sure miss me, I’m going back for them to help make their lives easier somehow, too. Instead being the burden I’ve always been around here.

It’s for all of them I leave Mars, but it breaks my heart to think about it, and I feel I’m constantly reminded of what I’m going to miss when I blast off this world. The red planet has been a good host to me, hostile and uncomforting at certain times, but even accounting for all the misfortune it’s been a worthwhile experience. My days left here are numbered so I really have to appreciate what remains in store for me. Without overdoing anything, though.

I’ve become so accustomed to the lifestyle here; waking up late enough to see the working day has passed in the rest of Sol. Mostly due to the convenience of so many late-night eateries and bars that kept me awake long into the morning. I’ve gotten spoiled by the ability to taste anything or feel an experience I could possibly desire, often with a choice between many different flavors and varieties of each, available at any time with little to reasonable effort. I’m a bit addicted to be riding the crest of the biggest, new wave and being ahead of technology and fashion compared to my friends on other planets, and that I don’t even have to be at the Martian pinnacle to feel decades ahead of some worlds. Though I realize they’re things I really don’t think I need, I’m afraid I’m going to feel withdrawals from any that I’m not able to find a viable substitutes on Earth.

There’s a handful I can think of right off the top of my head I’ll never be able to replace. Infrastructure was laid out efficiently before development of the world; the planet plotted and parceled out so precisely. The modern engineering marvels that allowed the red, desert world to bloom so quickly are really something to behold: the electricity and utility grids, mail delivery and shipping lines, and sure, the transportation system too. Even if it ends up terribly congested most of the time, I dig the freeways. I find it easy to use, in theory any destination on this half of Mars is quickly reachable with the right combination of exits.

Seeing the palms and succulents bursting from between the cracks of even the most urbanized areas reminds me I’m standing on a world much more dire than dear Earth. It makes you long for the way things were back home and the animals and tress you’re accustomed. And when the only thing you want on a blisteringly sunny day is shelter or respite from intense UV rays the indigenous trees offer very little in the way of protection… If you could call a palm a tree. I’ll never get that overwhelming sense of optimism and hope for life and creation with as few wild things as are around here. However I totally still respect the flora and fauna of Mars, and regard them certain esteem for being able to withstand this wasteland. The stacked odds make anything that can survive here even more beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful wildlife, we can agree that there are few places in Sol that can claim to have as high a concentration of physically attractive women as does Mars. Whether it’s because we have highly advanced technology available more widely than most other worlds, because the entire planet pioneers the trends of fashion and style, because people who can truly afford it here can also spring for cosmetic mods, or because people with great genes have populated this dusty place; Martian girls appear to come out a few standards higher when they’re rolled off the assembly line. And even if I know better by now than to trust something so GMO’d it doesn’t mean I’m going pass up an opportunity to stare as they pass by. I’ll miss being able to casually glance in any direction and get a piece of eye candy.

The weather is to die for, and anyone who’s been here longer than a day will tell you that. No other planet I know of has as many consecutive months of perfectly hospitable temperatures as Mars, and no other place has as many breathtaking sunsets as the almost entirely west-facing coast of Amazonia. Every evening is an intimate display of magentas, oranges and rose. I’m gonna miss hiking up the boulder and sage filled hills to get a better view of the colors cast on the ruby sea. And crossing that virgin red terrain, uncrushed under the ever-sprawling mechanized foot of development, it’s something I could never feel on Earth. I’ve never felt so at home here than to be alone in the alien wilderness.

Mars is a petty place, its greatest attractions are all external. They’re things of aesthetic, but often powerful enough to overcome the low moisture and poor air quality, and fear of falling sky or breaking ground to make this place appear nice enough to raise your family.

If it weren’t for the internets I would say I’m going to miss my friends that I’ve found here in this desolate place. How can you miss someone you’ll be bringing around with you in your pocket everywhere you go? I guess I’ll miss hanging out with Gerund, Nymh, Shayne, and all of their friends that have made my life so enjoyable over the past few years, but I’m going to be doing my best to keep in constant contact with them, to help make it feel like I’m not really gone.

I’m really going to miss this place, though.

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PREV: CH. 63 «Me and Nomi, the Γ-555»

PREV: CH. 63 «Me and Nomi, the Γ-555»

NEXT: CH. 65 «Words on Parting Mars»

NEXT: CH. 65 «Words on Parting Mars»

CH. 63 «Me and Nomi, the Γ-555»



It’s almost scary how quickly we became acquainted with each other, like it was meant to be. In less than a few days’ time the two of us have become seamlessly integrated as one all-knowing, all-seeing, all-doing machine. This is the sweetest communication device I’ve ever had the pleasure of calling mine. This is my new Droid and her name is Nomi.

I awaken to the pulse of an alarm which gradually grows louder as she becomes impatient. The motion sensor notices my arm reaching in the dark and the touch screen illuminates itself to help me find her. I grasp her sleek, aluminum frame and with a swipe the alarm is dismissed, obliging her to address me with a programmed greeting.

“Good Morning, Master Klay,” she sounded in a mechanical tone. I could see why these things were so popular.

The expression on her the face faded into the home page. One app’s widget displays a universal inbox: holding all incoming messages and transmissions addressed to me from my various social networks, and gives me an input field to broadcast back on all of them simultaneously. Another provides me with a combined minifeed from all the networks that make up my apparent social-web. Even the chatter not directed exclusively at me; the status updates, media uploads similar contributions from every profile each person matintines on however many sites we mutually frequent mashed into one constantly ticking Macrofeed. Another widget open is a newsource aggregator which allows me to customize which set of sources I want to stream a feed of news and happenings from, and delivers their headlines to me as they break.

There are several other panels and apps and widgets available for assisting me with whatever I may need digital assistance; only distractions to me at the moment. I feel compelled to clear my feed inboxes of all the messages I received from the parts of Sol that weren’t sleeping, then I could get on with my day. This requires plenty of viewing and digesting information from a hundred different places at a time, which probably lead to the Gamma-555 model being named “Chomp” on the market. When I received and activated my Chomp I decided on the name Nomi for her. An apt name, as my cybernetic companion chews through them in almost no time, and finishes serving me my informational breakfast before helping me find a real breakfast.

There are many ways I can go about this, now: accessing my navigator app and inputting the name of one of my favorite restaurants to get directions to their nearest franchise or branch, or by going into 3D view to see which blips pop up in the immediate vicinity. Of course I have other apps that just give me a filterable list of every type of eatery or shop within a certain distance, preventing me from having to sort through blips to see which look like food. Another app, called Scene Here, even makes a game out of picking which location you want to go to by making you check in when you get to the establishment, then by keeping track of who goes there most often and alerts you when you can catch your acquaintances at their favorite spots when they get there.

Intelligent software that drives the programs helps make obsolete the extant tools and hardware existing in the non-modular, non-collective market. You can expect, there are many apps that mimic the functions of everyday devices and stand-alone machines that would surprise you, and more are being developed all the time. Of course this wouldn’t even be giving the smartcomm in my hand her due credit. I did have currently listing off names of Martian Fast Food joints and their distances from my current location, though…

“Nomi?” I ask with an inquisitive call, purely out of habit. She doesn’t actually need to note my tone as a question, only hear that I was saying her name to prompt the voice-command menu. This didn’t mean my droid wasn’t smart enough to mimic human speech paterns and insert mood where she deemed appropriate.

“Yes, Klay?” She responded in a soft, patient voice.

I stand her up on the table with one of the imagers viewing me so she can better interpret my facial expressions. “Where should I eat?”

My droid immediately lights up and begins loading a brower page on her screen, saying calmly “I noticed you were looking at Martian cuisine. Did you want fast food because you’re on a budget, Klay?” as two options labeled ‘Martian’ and ‘Fast Food’ appear.

“No, I just want to get my food quickly,” I say, not expecting her to be able to understand this, and begin to reach for the robot to manually. I stop suddenly when her screen reloads without my input.

“Would you like me search which of the nearby Martian restaurants have quick preparation time reported in their reviews?” the ever-clever piece of communication equipment suggested.

I stared with an expression of shock long enough to realize she probably wouldn’t be able to make sense of it and said “If you can do that, yes, Nomi; perform search on…uhh that.”

The results she had for me all sounded appealing but I just asked her to select the nearest one, calculate directions and forward them to the crawler. I could also have her lead my way entirely with her own onboard navigation as I drove, or just allow her to feed me directions as I asked, but I don’t need to run the battery down any further today.

When she’s finished executing the commands I slip her into my pocket and continue to get ready to go out. I only glanced at her once more before I leave to double check the local weather forecast for the next couple hours as I decide on what clothes to wear.

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Just wanted to snap a quick shot of the sunset while I’m driving. Look at how astro the image quality is on this thing! Thats actually pretty impressive.. I wonder how many mega pixels this thing has..Oh gork–road!!

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As soon as I begin walking through the parking lot towards an authentically run-down Martian restaurant, she’s back in my hands. I access Scene Here and check in to the location. It immediately displays reviews and menu suggestions from the other users and claims that someone with an apparent affinity for anteaters is the ‘king’ of this scene, with the most check-ins out of all the users who have eaten here. It is possible he’s an employee and has a Droid that updates when he clocks in to work. I give him kudos in hopes he’ll have more incentive to deliver better care to me knowing I too have a smart device handy, and could easily praise or defame him, the food, or the entire establishment for all to see in my review. Ratings on these apps are impacting to your business flow these days.

It seems like it would make the entire service and hospitality industry more polite and effective if consumers played a larger role in feedback and review of the services provided, but the only ones seeming to take advantage of it are people with smartcomms to help them report about their experience. If I were a food critic or working as a secret shopper I would have to avoid flashing about fancy gadgetry (like this) to test the establishment and make sure they weren’t just playing up for the media, and actually ensure the same amount of satisfaction to all customers, not just the ones they expect to spend and tip more. I should put Nomi away, though; I’m about to order my food, and I know I’d find it rude if I was trying to help a customer too involved in using their comm.

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I never quite understood why everyone needed to post pictures of their lunch for their feeds to see, but I guess sometimes you need to snap an image if you plan on leaving a review and rating your dining experience. There’s so many things you have to do to participate in this modern, digitized world…its hard to remember to eat your food before it cools.

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It turns out anteater11 is not an employee here, and lucky for him cause I just gave quite a caustic critique to the whole place. The service was slow, the prices were higher than I anticipated, and I could have found better tasting food and more properly prepared ingredients at a drive-thru if I had wanted to eat in my crawler. I leave behind a miniscule tip in addition to my digital condemnations before I get up from my faded vinyl booth and walk to the airlock.

Its early afternoon outside and the ruddy sky has broken through the gloom to reveal yet another beautiful Martian day. The atmosphere is almost clear spare a frame of pink clouds, the occasional passing spacecraft, and a small, light colored blip in the center of the sky that must have been one of this planet’s miniscule satellites.

“Nomi,” I say as I raise her main imager to the air, “Is that Phobos or Deimos?”

Without even a moment of computation, she responds “Phobos. Would you like me to access local star maps, Klay?”

“Yes, Nomi. Why not?” I say back, her screen alight with activity as she loads an app that labels celestial bodies, draws lines to connect our constellations, and answers once and for all what the gork you’re looking at when you see that shiny spot in the night; if it’s a star, a planet, a satellite, or just a distant starcruiser.

This program exclusive to Droids as it requires the power of the nano-uber-computer housed inside each to use the GPS in conjunction with astronomical charts and current net feeds to pinpoint your exact location in the solar system, and inform you what you’re observing in any direction the smartcomm can turn. It’s similar to the autonav AIs onboard starliners and other commercial spacecraft, responsible for plotting and trimming the course over the long expanses of curved spacetime. I’m sure their little cousin could be quite useful to have handy if your private craft ever lost its navi. Not that I’d have any particular use for that feature anytime in the foreseeable future, but it’s one the selling points the gadgets have over AM’s COG, which sacrifices hardware space for lustrous shape and aesthetic abilities.

And sure enough: the pale, crumb-sized object in front of me is definitely the bigger moon, Phobos. If a captured asteroid could ever be considered a big moon. It’s the larger of the only two, which explains why my eye was even able to catch it in the daylight. Behind it and just a few degrees higher is the yellow-lined drawing of airy zodiac constellation, Aquarius, and a large blue dot, not to scale with the surrounding area, with the label Earth.

“Nomi,” I said with a weary sigh as I lowered her from the sky, “I’m done with this place.”

“Where would you like to go, Klay?” asked the feminine mechanism, as if with infinite patience and wisdom.


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PREV: CH. 62 «The Pocket-Bot»

PREV: CH. 62 «The Pocket-Bot»

NEXT: CH. 64 «Really Going to Miss this Place»

NEXT: CH. 64 «Really Going to Miss this Place»

CH. 62 «The Pocket-Bot»

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GOT DROID? 06-20-2310

Gork, just look at all the things that a Droid does..all the options and customization, all the features..look at what this one can do! And that brushed aluminum casing.. Oh holy gork, that’s way more astro than having a COG…blast it, and I was so convinced that’s what I needed…like, ten minutes ago.

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So after that entire righteous harangue about getting myself a 3D projecting COG (resolute as any of my tirades) it looks like I’m not going to be getting one after all. All that business about the lowest tier of advanced gadgetry being good enough for me can go right out the window. Even knowing prices of everything will soon change with the AM-4G is being released later this week; it seems I may have gone and bought myself a Droid.

Excitement, confusion, frustration and a general anxiety describe the volley of feelings usually projected at anyone who says this to their friends and family. Whether having a cybernetic companion is controversial or taboo on your planet, whether they support the technology or endorse your joining the ranks of its users, or whether they’re just jealous you can’t afford or possibly need a pocket-bot.

I’m sure anyone who isn’t as familiar with the emergence of Droids onto the market as I am is also just a bit shocked, so let me explain for any of you archaics living in a crater for the past 4 months. The first Droids were cumbersome and buggy; too large to really be convenient for private, personal use, and too unreliable and frail for successful commercial applications. You used to see the technology utilized mostly in reception and hospitality, rolling around in human shape at head height with the intention of comfort for humans that interacted with the surrogatess… ’cause that totally made them less inhuman. Direct descendants of these came to be the electronic tellers that assist us at banks, restaurants, retailers and anywhere else they could replace order-takers, receptionists, and counterpersons.

An apparent breakthrough in nanotech has created an abundant availability of smaller scaled electronics, possibly spawned by the Japetians (they’re always so ahead with computers and robotics). But whether they’re developed and engineered on Saturn’s most forward-thinking moon, or manufactured and assembled on one of its more impoverished satellites, I’m sure we can thank the companies of the ringed world for collaborating with the Earthling enterprises that have their hands on all the resources and patents needed to mass produce a new generation of personal gadgetry.

My brand of speculation aside, tinier components allowed for more intricate systems that required less energy to power the machines. Suddenly these robots where no longer restricted to the leash of their umbilical power cords… or the confines of the designated safe zone preemptive to incidents with their micro-nuclear reactors. The addition of an A.I. Processor turns a robot into a “Droid”. These Communication bots were able to leave the home for the first time, transported in the bags and pockets of those able to afford them, who may still be toting around their alpha and beta models, if they weren’t plagued with errors and design flaws.

Now everyone who can is getting themselves their very own Droid, and with good reason! They’re prolific and inexpensive right now, as well as customizable and quite practical in a time when people are trying to streamline and reduce their electronic load already. Also, how handy is it to have portable text, voice and video communicator that acts as a reliable imager, media device, GPS, Wi-Fi hotspot, net browser, social network manager and an actual personal digital assistant? So what if the right combination of apps can give you similar capabilities with a COG, it still won’t do it all for you.

You don’t have to drag yourself down with all the augs and other gadgetry you’d think you’d need to carry out the tasks of the modern daily routine. You especially don’t need to tote around any other smartcomm or handheld that you would normally use like an electronic multi-tool; a droid can do it all for you simultaneously. It’s like bringing along with you a sidekick or being escorted by your chief attendant, or summoning your very own digital-pet familiar. These condensed constructs take care of their owners.

There are going to be some drawbacks to owning a pocket-bot, of course. Data and service plans are going to be expensive, but maybe I’ll be able to cut back on calls and messaging with the net at my disposal anywhere I go. I’m sure It’s going to be awkward becoming adjusted to always being connected to my social networks constantly or always having my actions and thoughts being monitored by my machine, but after a short while the strangeness of never being alone will fade—like I’m sure it has in anyone else living their lives entirely synced. Of course I worry about what would happen if my mechanical buddy became damaged or lost, and about being hacked and having my private information or the Droid itself used against me.

All very valid concerns, but I’ll be able to adapt and overcome them if it means owning the most astro tool ever sold I’ll be up to par with trends of technology and fashion; and gaining a certain sex appeal associated with intelligent devices. Not that I find I’ve ever really needed to be riding the crest of a new wave, but it would be nice not to be crushed underneath it for once.

So now I’m pacing and waiting anxiously by the airlock. I’m that impatient kid that saved up and just went online to order their first toy from the other end of the Solar System. This is just the first toy that’ll actually do everything.

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PREV: CH. 61 «Need a COG»

PREV: CH. 61 «Need a COG»

NEXT: CH. 63 «Me and Nomi, the Γ-555»

NEXT: CH. 63 «Me and Nomi, the Γ-555»

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