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Story of Mars: Leaving Behind The Past

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

There is peace on Mars.

This was the thought that came to Piotr Lewandowski's mind as he adjusted his harness, his gloved fingers sliding through the carabiner with practised ease. He was alone, dangling a full kilometre above the crater floor below him.

Ahead of him, separated by his visor, was the crater edge with its striated geology. A promise of wealth that waited for the geologist hammer at his belt.

He took a moment to secure himself to the crater wall, securing his own belay, and was reaching for the hammer at his belt when his suit flashed an alert to his visor. High priority.

Incoming radiation hazard.

The hammer returned to its spot on his belt. Piotr's hands reached for the winch and he ascended towards the lip of the crater even as his helmet’s protective visor descended. With the visor down, the red planet became one of muted colours and shadows even in the light of day. He felt his breathing quicken. Sweat beaded on his palms. The clicking began. His geiger counter.

The sound quickened with his breathing, as if the hazard was breathing with him, a living predator bearing down on its prey.

Panic made haste of his actions as he finally reached the top, clutching at the lip before hauling himself over and onto the surface of Mars proper.

It was at times like this, that his suit's helpfulness was often not.

"Warning: Increased oxygen expenditure detected. Please remain calm."

The wind was picking up, loud enough to be heard over his own breathing. Dust swirled around him, but unlike Mars' usual dust storms, the dust carried on these winds was much more dangerous.

"Warning: Increased oxygen expenditure detected. Please remain calm."

Sharp electronic crackling filled his ears and his visor darkened further as the display on the interior faded out. His compass, his map position, all gone.

The growing storm folded in around him, embracing him while stealing away his vision until nothing remained but the eddied currents of radioactive dust.

The geiger counter became a riot in his ears.

He walked first, then broke into a run. His feet stamped through the martian soil, the sky’s red light giving the dust a hellish glow.

The suit continued its ineffectual pleading.

Piotr did not know where he was going. It didn't matter. It was enough to simply go.

Suddenly, he emerged from the dust.

The geiger counter grew quiet in the momentary calm of the storm's eye.

Piotr's heart froze, tension ran through his body with a thrill that pricked his back and tightened a vice-like grip on his gut.

There was a man ahead of him, radiation visor down, no less than a metre away.

A heavy wrench was clenched in one hand and where Piotr's shoulder bore a Polish flag, the man across from him wore the flag of the Russian Federation.

Even after the collapse of Earth's ecosystems and the rise of the arcologies, there was little love lost between their two peoples.

History could be a crushing weight that squeezed a person into a mould, for better or worse.

In this silent pocket of the storm, Piotr felt as if they were the last two people on the entire planet. The man across from him had said nothing. Nothing could be said. The storm interfered with their communications and neither man was likely to be able to understand each other. They stared at each other, faceless visor to faceless visor, a single moment that felt like an eternity.

Then the moment broke. The other man stepped forward, the wrench still tightly gripped.

His hand rose.

Open palm.

Piotr felt a frisson of relief coil through him and he clasped hands with the stranger in the storm.

Together, they would weather it.

There is peace on Mars.

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1 Comment

Unknown member
Feb 28, 2022

Thank you for this good story. This is a ray of light in these difficult times.

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