Seven Years or Always Read the Fine Print

Author : Travis Gregg

Indentured servitude has been illegal for centuries, at least on Earth. Mars though, Mars is the new frontier. The Wild West. On Mars a lot of things that used to be illegal are being revived.

The deal was seven years of labor, seven years of running excavators, tunneling, mining, building. Seven long years of constructing the domes and aqueducts and launch pads. Seven years and then you’re a citizen. You get a free ride from Earth, you do your part, and then you’re a member of the most exciting emerging society there has been in thousands of years. Easy as that. If you don’t have any money, and if you don’t have incredibly specific training or expertise, then seven years of labor is the only way to get in. Plenty of people vying for it, I was lucky to get selected.

Seven years isn’t even that bad, or at least this is what I’ve been telling myself. Most of my 30’s will be gone for sure but after that I’ll have a new start, new opportunities, and my kids, when I have them, will be automatic citizens. They’ll have opportunities I can only dream about.

The trip up from Earth was rough, and when we arrived at the lander site we were herded through a series of shoots like cattle. At the very end, past the inoculations, the delousing, and all the tests, we were given our bunk assignments.

The first thing I did when I got to my bunk was tape up the small scrap of paper on which I’d written The Date. Capitol T and Capitol D. I was calling it Freedom Day and it was exactly seven years from today. I’d taped the date up to the wall so I could see it every day, something to keep me motivated.

My bunk mate asked me what that was and I was surprised he’d asked. He knew what day today was, and could add seven to the current year as easily as I could. Still, I explained to him that that’s the day we’re done and he laughed. I asked him what was so funny and he laughed some more then asked if I read my contract. Of course I had, I pulled out my thumbed through copy to prove it.

“Right here, seven years,” I said pointing to one of the very first paragraphs. The contract was eighty-four pages long but the seven years bit was right on the front page.

He thumbed to the back and pointed at a phrase I’d glossed over.

All measurements and metrics are Mars standard.

Now a meter is a meter on Earth or on Saturn. Same for a gram and a liter. They’re universal constants based on atomic properties. A year though, a year is a rotation around the sun. Kind of arbitrary.

While I was doing the math my bunk mate had pulled down my note, crossed out the date, and written a new one.

So long to my 30’s entirely I resigned myself, and half my 40’s too. Should have read the fine print.

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  1. Jae

    Neatly done.

    However: ‘shoots’ should be ‘chutes’.

  2. SimonJM

    First let’s kill all the lawyers …. Shakespeare was right 😉

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