Preview of “Mother Mars”

I’m sorry to say no story in the Tomorrow News Network series has suffered so many delays as the one I’m currently writing, and unfortunately I am forced to delay it one final time.  It requires just one more weekend’s worth of editing before it will be ready for you, my loyal readers.

So mark your calendars: “Mother Mars” will come out on Monday, April 29th.  And it’s going to be awesome.  In the meantime, please enjoy this brief preview.

2.2 Mother MarsAn android appeared on the viewlink, its silver face glinting under perfect studio lighting.  An orange planet with angry, red bruises appeared over the android’s shoulder accompanied by the words “Tomorrow’s Mars” in bold text.

“That’s not Mars,” Snu said, frowning at the image, but the other academics shushed him.

“We now turn our attention to Mars, the fourth planet orbiting a star named Sol,” the android said.  “Less than a year ago, Martian scientists discovered chronomagnetic energy and began receiving our broadcasts.  We welcome the Martians to our family of viewers.”

Some of the academics burst into cheers.  Others called for silence so they could hear what else the android anchorman had to say.  Snu continued to study the small, dusty planet that could not be Mars, could not be the lush, verdant world where he lived.

“Today is the 500th anniversary of the Martian Scientific Revolution,” the anchorman said.  “It is a time to celebrate the past and look forward to the future, so in that spirit we now bring you this special report.  Tomorrow News Network journalist Talie Tappler joins us live from the future.  Talie, what will Mars be like in another 500 years?”

On the viewlink, a creature apparently called Talie stood in the midst of a rust colored wasteland.  She looked like an Earthling, though she seemed more evolved than the current species native to Earth.  She was significantly less furry, with only a crown of curly, golden hair atop her head.  She wore a midnight blue jacket and matching skirt.  Snu could not identify the fabric, but it was obviously manufactured–not animal skin–its quality perhaps superior to even the finest Martian textiles.

There was no denying it: Talie was a primate humanoid, as alien and ugly as any other Earthling, but when she smiled at the camera, her grin conveyed a sense of arrogance that transcended the barriers between species.  Snu guessed she would fit in among the academic class.  In fact, the academic class, the highest, most esteemed segment of Martian society, might be too base and lowly for someone like her.

“Thank you, Anchorbot 5000,” Talie said.  “We here at the Tomorrow News Network usually report on the major news of tomorrow, but sometimes tomorrow is just another day, and sometimes the day after is no different.  Tomorrows and tomorrows pile up on top of each other with little to distinguish them, but as time goes by, subtle changes accumulate, causing enormous effects.

“Just a few hundred years worth of ordinary days transformed the Martian landscape into what you see behind me, but don’t worry!  One day, twelve thousand years from now, Mars will have a second chance at supporting life.”

The video cut to a shot of the vastness of space, and the camera panned to that same little, orange and red planet.

“That is not Mars!” Snu said.  “Where are the oceans?  Where are the phosphorescent jungles?  Where are the cities and orbital space stations?”

The camera zoomed in, revealing the planet’s blemished surface.  Snu’s eyes fixated on a wide, jagged scar near the equator.  “That cannot be Mars,” he began to say, but his voice faltered.  He shrank back in his chair, carefully setting down his drink.  Snu recognized that scar.  Even without the rivers that ran through it or the patches of green surrounding it, he knew that place well.

A fleet of spaceships approached the planet.  As advanced as Martian science was, it had never produced ships like these.  Snu could not imagine the costs required to launch something so big and bulky into space, much less the nine big, bulky ships the viewlink now showed.

The video cut to a shot inside one of the ships.  Snu cringed, hearing the chatter of alien voices.  Dozens of Earthlings–not the primitive brutes of today but the refined species of tomorrow–crowded around a viewport.  One of the Earthlings made a comment, and the others laughed.  A few held each other.  Others playfully pushed each other around.  A pair of embarrassed parents chased after their children, but the children were having too much fun in zero gravity.  And outside, Snu caught glimpses of that lifeless planet with its distinctive, jagged scar.  As the Earthlings gazed upon the Mars of their present with eagerness and anticipation, Snu stared at the Mars of his future with increasing dread.

Talie appeared, her legs crossed daintily as she drifted about the room.  She began to interview the colonists.  One Earthling called Mars a lifelong dream.  Another wanted to tell her relatives back on Earth that she loved them and missed them.  A third said he was an exobiologist assigned to study Martian life.  Snu gasped with hope, but the man knew of nothing more complex than bacterial life on Mars.

“Bacteria!” Dr. Kikron yelled.  “Is that all that’s left of our civilization?”

The other academics echoed Kikron’s indignation.  They shouted at the viewlink.  Their brains, visible beneath their transparent cranial domes, swelled with rage.  A few stormed off, unwilling to hear any more.

Meanwhile, Talie’s report continued, her smug smile growing wider and wider as the Earthlings landed on Mars, constructed a biodome, and began cultivating Martian soil for their own vile-looking fruits and vegetables.

“The humans of this era have a saying about their new home,” Talie said.  “They say that on Mars, you can jump three times higher and the horizon is three times closer.  This is literally true, of course, since Mars is approximately three times smaller than Earth with one third of the gravity, but it’s also a statement of the unbridled opportunities this once dead world offers.

“Reporting for the Tomorrow News Network, I’m Talie Tappler.”

A scholarly attendant rushed in, his robe and headbands disheveled, his eyes wide with fear.  “My lords!” he said.  “We’ve received word of riots in the capital city!  The people believe the world is coming to an end!”

The academics hurried off to attend to their duties.  Only Snu and Kikron lingered.  The two rival scientists glanced at each other in a moment of shared apprehension.

The viewlink once again showed the sphere of Mars, a monochrome world devoid of life.  Snu turned away.  That jagged scar in the planet’s crust–it was a canyon, the largest canyon on Mars or anywhere in the Solar System.  Decades ago, Snu had made it the subject of his first scientific research, and he’d memorized geological charts of the entire region.  According to the Tomorrow News Network, the Earthlings would call it Valles Marineris, but the ancient Martians had another name for it, a name they still used despite its superstitious overtones.  They called it the Lips of Mother Mars.

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