The shout went out, echoing up to the transparent curvature of the aerogel dome above them and hung for a moment before glasses were slammed together with a crash and the drink downed. There was a momentary pause and a shared buzz of laughter as each colonist polished off a shot of water. Nojus joined in the laughter as the crowd gathered in the dome enjoyed their drink. It was a far cry from the polished marble and crystal of Earth’s wealthier arcologies, but it was all the more poignant.
The tables and chairs that they sat at for this shared meal were fabricated from high quality steel and chrome. The lighting above them was electric and fluorescent. The meal was simple, fashioned from plant and insect proteins.
And yet, not a man and woman present would decry this meal as lesser when compared to that of the finest establishments on Earth.
Nojus ran a hand over the smoothed edges of the chair he sat at, fingers drumming idly at the table. It seemed like an eternity ago that he had chosen to leave the arcologies and join UNJAM. It was quite a choice, to turn one’s back on home and venture out into the unknown.
However, the rewards were evident.
Here Nojus sat, surrounded by like-minded colonists, on tables and chairs fashioned from ferric minerals excavated from the Red Planet. Here, the partygoers chatted, breathing air provided by the plants they had cultivated under lighting powered by their efforts.
Each of them present enjoyed a meal made by their own hands.
This was something that Earth had long left behind.
To his side, Goda Kazlauskė laughed loudly and Nojus felt a smile tug at his mouth. The young pilot had earned the right to be boisterous this evening as it was her efforts that had seen their little home become that much better. Nojus stood up and then rang a steel fork against his glass, letting the ringing sound call for silence. It took a moment for the silence to fall, a moment longer for the assembled colonists to still.
“A moment please, my fellows.” He said, gesturing towards Goda who sat at his right. “Before we proceed any further, I’d like to dedicate this meal to Ms. Kazlauskė. How long has it been? Mere months, right?” He looked around the room, eying the crowd.
“We said we’d leave Earth behind, buy land on Mars and turn it into something real. Something truly ours. It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been smooth.” The last words earned a brief moment of introspection, who could forget those early days? The days marred by the desperate need to struggle against the storms and hazards that roiled across Mars, the very same days that were bitter for the need to conserve everything they had.
Those were days without luxuries.
Nojus forced a smile and continued, “And it has not been without sacrifice. We had to scrimp and save, forgoing a repair on the temperature units for Dome 6. Water was tight after that freeze snapped our piping.”
He looked around the room again, paused for dramatic effect. “Those on Earth still think we were crazy to go. Does anyone here think that?”
There was a chorus of disagreement.
“However, we did it. We’ve earned our independence, our own future. And we have Ms. Kazlauskė and her Caripen to thank for it.”
There was applause as everyone’s eyes automatically looked out towards the colony’s latest addition that stood atop the Martian soil, easily dwarfing the rounded shapes of the Click-Beetles that were lined up before it. Even beyond the safety of the aerogel panels, the Caripen GPRV commanded respect. It was perfectly still and shone in the late light of Mars’ blue sunset.
To a person from Earth, it was a machine, one of any number of vehicles that persisted in the streets of the arcologies, hiding behind the curtain walls.
To those present, it was a living thing, a workhorse that had rewarded them all with a bounty of lithium. Every colonist knew Mars was a dangerous, rough home, but the enormous vehicle mere metres from their dinner party was proof that they could come together and achieve great things and go on to continue achieving.
It was, in a word, a promise of better.
A better life.
A better home.
The glass rang again softly as Nojus grinned. He looked down at Goda and winked mischievously, knowing the young pilot hated to be the center of attention.
“And now, Ms. Kazlauskė will share a few words about her vehicle and our plans for the colony…”
A better world.