SO I am trying to write more on Mars at the moment. This is story of a collection of ideas for a Martian story.
It is the culmination of a discussion on communal writing. I will put the result of this up next month I guess.
I say 'I guess' often in these descriptions.
If you want something interesting to watch you should check out the candidate videos for the Mars One applicants. Just imagining a colony with these 100 people is crazy.
By The Egg Party
She walked into her office and closed the door with a sigh. The quarterly update session was finished and it had taken longer than any of the previous meetings. The amount of discussion and debate had her exhausted.
Before sitting at her desk she rummaged through her trouser pockets, emptying the contents onto her desk. She kept her keys in her hand as she turned to the window.
On the ring was a small fish key-chain. She spun the small charm, whistling an old sea shanty as it rotated.
She was vacantly staring out the window of her office. Looking again at the distant red soil horizons of the planet. She was well accustomed to red landscapes.
She was born in, on, red Earth.
This new view was also old.
It was her space.
She thought in general terms, of life and work.
She reached a point were she felt happy, rationalising the various elements of her life. Positive moments outweighing the negative. She once again accepted her life on Mars.
As soon as she reached this comfort the screech of a blade clawing on ceramic sounded behind her. She did not turn.
She believed her office was haunted. It was not an overly malicious poltergeist. Her ghost was subtle. Every so often she would hear the sound of a knife on a plate. The noise would bring her back to the present, if she drifted from time.
She thought about the required length of time that a place needed to exist to collect ghosts. Maybe it was due to the derivative, traditional design used in the room. Ghosts in the blueprints.
The room itself was no more than 12 years old. There had not yet been a recorded death on Mars and, as leader of the newly occupied planet, it was fact that she was proud of. There were no possible candidates for ghost astronauts.
The interior decoration, of proud Martian design(each object with a small authentication stamp of a light red dot), was of an earlier time. The furniture around the room periphery was picked to match her desk.
All was office furniture of the style of the Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Office from 1933EY. All had been picked for decor and then made to fulfil specifically requested functionality requirements. The fabrication facilities of Mars were precise and efficient.
The only hint of space age design was the hexagonal shape of the room. These pieces were placed around in the long edges of the interior.
The room was set around a huge desk.
After the psychic break, she left the window and sit, neck tie loose, on the desks matching arm chair. The seat was soft burgundy pleather. It was the same desk used by almost all of the US presidents since 1880EY. The resolute desk design was a staple for many reasons. Most importantly the beastly desk had enough surface space to make a fine mess.
She was the President and she wanted the trappings of such a role, irrespective of location.
Her election was uncomplicated. More important than the traditional title, she wanted to again show that gender inconsequential in this new place. She excelled, defeating her the other male candidates with a huge margin.
There had never been a female president of South Africa. Or the United States for that matter. She thought that she was living in a place which needed to be based on dismantling Earthly traditions and she would lead the way.
This distancing from their origin would help to keep her citizens sane.
It was her that brought up title issue. She wanted her desk plaque to read: Lesedi Johns, President of Mars.
The leadership bill was pushed through the single house of Martian parliament. It had the general support of the cabinet and it was decided that the head role of the Martian Colony would be a President.
On that day the remaining time of that particular sitting of congress was used to discuss the cessation of other dated Earth ideals.
Use of the terms colony, colonisers, and colonisation was ceased. It was disrespectful of those lost, smashed cultures. The term that was decided on was settlement. It was a place that, to their best knowledge, had been previously uninhabited.
The President of the United Martian Settlement.
Years later the term settlement would be outdated and changed to simply Mars.
The President of Mars.
The noise started as soon as she was settled into her office. It made her angry. She had gotten the job through significant sacrifice and it would not fall apart because of some imagined noise.
She believed her office was haunted for one reason: the alternatives were worse. She could grapple with a ghost.
The worse case scenario would be that she were having auditory hallucinations. Going insane. The community was small and it would eventually be discovered and would enter public record. She could imagine the headline on the Gazette.
“Reports confirmed: President is a Martian.”
When Lesedi first read the Mars One announcement she immediately left her work, dropping her current task, so that she could go home and apply. After a few hours of sitting in front of her phone with a rare cigarette and beer, she realised how ridiculous she was and left her house to get properly drunk.
As she sat on a bar stool she read the Mars One recruitment application over and over again. It had been broadcast to each space agency around the world. The simplified requirements were as follow:
The last point was most important for her.
The other requirements were inconsequential. She laughed over her beer. Laughed at how her self imposed isolation made her a perfect candidate.
She was born a country which would never have been given a chance to go to space.
There was no funding for space travel coming from South Africa, no chance for a South African national to get into space. That was the reality of the situation up until the Martian mission was announced.
Her career trajectory for becoming an astronaut was present from a young age. She believed there was no other option for her. This was not a choice that could be taken casually.
Each action, personally and professional, had to be directed towards this goal.
As a fighter pilot in the South African army she got through training by repeating a specific mantra – percentage numbers for space funding by country. She would say them under her breathe as she ran, say them as the saliva hit her face from the various drill sergeants, say them as she heard the desperate pleas from her fellow sexually frustrated cadets.
These country contribution percentages for the International Space Station(ISS) and space exploration were numbers that never left her head. Her childhood phone number was discarded. Instead she remembered the numbers and the years. Ask one. Why not?
Nowhere on that list was South Africa. Or the African continent in totality. The investments in space exploration were too small to influence any extra orbital decisions.
The only person who ever made it to space that was from South Africa was a man by the name of Mark Shuttleworth. He was the second space tourist.
He left on the old Russian Soyez shuttle, getting a chance to see the whole world through dollar shaped pupils. He even set foot on the original ISS.
He paid $20 million USD in 2002. No others. He was the guy, before her, who for decades represented a whole country in space.
It was unbelievable that the guys name was Shuttleworth.
A man was born into space aristocracy.
From her pilot training she was offered a position at the Australian Center for Space Engineering Research(ACSER). And so she relocated to yellow pastures.
The job was only a year long contract with the Australian company. The role was a collaborative approach to treating predicted psychological problems, specifically for astronauts undergoing long term space assignments.
The problem was that at the end of the contract tenure she could not leave the Australia. The land held her. The empty bleakness. It was as close a representation of space that the world offered. As close as she could get. A country of vast nothingness.
She would regularly visit the open deserts, taking small vials of red dirt from each of her trips. She would get home and show he pet fish.
Her fish were the only living things she would miss. It was the another reason for staying in the country. They would not survive constant movement.
She stayed on at ACSER, cycling through many aeronautical flight testing roles and research positions.
She was there until her preparations for Mars.
Going to the planet was a homecoming of sorts. By that stage she had three homes. All three with different shades of red.
When she found out that she was going to Mars her expectation of failure was so strong that she did not celebrate. She was calm finding out the news of her acceptance.
She nodded to herself and muttered the word ‘right’. She immediately began the physical and mental tasks that were necessary preflight.
She was sitting, nine months after her application, at her dining table when the NASA recruitment team arrived with her one-way Martian ticket.
The sound of a door knock was unfamiliar and in her fright she stabbed at the meal she was eating.
Two government officials were at the door, hand delivering her acceptance letter. One-way all expenses paid trip to Mars.
The weedy courier to left peered into her house. The flickering candle light interested him. He spotted the table set for one. He blushed and his eyes remained locked to his feet for the remaining visit.
His unwelcome and unnecessary pity annoyed her.
She shut the door as quickly as possible and opened the letter.
So it was. She would leave home for Mars.
When she was on the planet the rest was easy. She would finally become an astronaut in addition to becoming an extraterrestrial, an alien, a Martian and eventually a president.
When Lesedi made it to Mars and she knew that she would achieve greatness.
Her compatriots would be lacking leadership potential because they would be all built for science. She had in her a ruling streak. She worried that it came from her South African roots. She could not deny that the country had created a part of her.
She sat back down to her meal.
The meal was a strange, bloated fish.
It would be her last meal in her house before she would head to the airport. She already knew she was to be flown to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Mars Division.
This fish was a grilled anglerfish, ceratias holboelli. It was from the family ceratiidae. It was her pet before she cooked it. The fish would not have a new owner. The tank alone was too technical for anyone to accept the responsibility. She did not want to send her pets to an aquarium to be gawked at.
Neither possibility mattered because after careful thought she decided to eat the fish.
She ate the fish out of respect for nature of the animal. She had had already lived with the animal in a parabiotic relationship. Much like the relationship with the male and female; two animals existing and supporting one another.
That relationship would now become a metaphorical parabiosis. She would eat the fish and take it inside, living on in her flesh as she travelled to Mars.
When scientists could reach depths to discover the ceratias holboelli they could only find females. The male of the species was noticeably absent.
It was determined later that the one or more of the much smaller males permanently attach themselves to the fish, eventually merging with the females circulatory system. The male was not truly at home in the seas.
It was elsewhere. Within the female.
Furthermore they were the only animal discovered that was a true chimera. They had this genetic manipulation built into their natural life cycle.
These characteristics stood out to her so intensely that she went out and bought a female fish when she arrived to Australia. There was a male already embedded within. Procuring the exotic fish was a difficult and illegal task.
She designed a tank in her living room which was able to simulate the pressure and light conditions required for the simulated ecosystem.
There were moments when she considered the possibility of taking the creature with her into space. It was an impossibility. Even though it was easier than most animals in that both genders of the species in a neat little package. And they would definitely need animals on Mars eventually.
She imagined a free floating aquarium. A small bubble of water outside of gravity, floating within a shuttle.
Instead she would eat the fish and taking them for the journey to another home.
She spun the key ring again. The fish was the reminder of those pets, Echidna and Typhon.
Inside her was their combined capacity for greatness. She left her office and the greater compound to go walk in the dust.