Author : Shaun.K.Adams
South of his lofty position in Tempest stations observation tower, Kane De Souza observed a vast cyclonic column of dust drifting across the Syria Planum. He marvelled at its frenetic energy as it tracked slowly across the highest plateau elevations on the Tharsis bulge, unleashing a dazzling light show of dry lightning stabbing at the Martian landscape. It reminded De Souza of a crazy monster, railing at the world, full of spite and fury. A wild and unpredictable thing, spitting and cursing at its environment as it headed out into the plains east of Arsia Mons.
During the eleven months that Tempest station had been operational, De Souza had witnessed many such dust storms, so far none of them had hit the small human outpost head on. Some aberrant part of him felt disappointed that this was the case. Although he was almost entirely certain that the station could withstand such an assault without so much as a scratch, it would be interesting to test its mettle so to speak. It might also alleviate some of the crushing boredom of the last eleven months here on Mars.
The steady clank of a centrifugal lock opening a hatchway cover and footsteps on the spiral staircase below him meant De Sousa was about to have company. As the sounds of laboured breathing rose towards his ears, he continued to stare after the receding dust storm through the 360-degree Armorglas viewing plate, only turning away when a head appeared above the circular Nano tube platform on which he stood.
“What brings you up here, Dorothy? You look terrible by the way.”
De Sousa grinned as his visitor sat down heavily on the top step, flipping him the bird with her free hand as she caught her breath back. Dorothy unzipped the top of her standard issue padded green coveralls and pulled out a bottle and two plastic cups.
“I came to wish you a merry Christmas you unsociable bastard.”
She cracked open the screw top on the bottle of Glayva and poured the amber liquid.
“Best liqueur in the world.” She said, offering a cup to, De Sousa.
“We aren’t in the world this came from, in case you had forgotten,” he said taking the proffered drink.
“Lighten up, Kane. It’s Christmas day. We all have to make the best of this situation.”
De Sousa took a sip of the liqueur, savoured the taste and sat down next to his companion.
“Sorry, Dotty, how are your lungs holding up?”
“Tight, after climbing those stairs, sunshine. Second stage remission, the new meds from Phobos base are kicking its arse.”
De Sousa ran his finger over the hazard rail at the top of the stairway then held it up to his eyes for examination. A fine red powder adhered to his fingertip. The ‘it’, Dorothy Penhaligon referred to was a condition known as ‘Red Lung,’ the first cases of it had begun to show up among the thirty members of Tempest stations crew less than a week after the orbiting Gravity Tractor had lowered the entire station to the surface of Mars.
“The Providence just left Earth orbit to re supply us, Kane. With her new generation Ion drive she will be here in less than three months, the quarantine will have ended by then. And I have more good news too.”
Dorothy reached over and took Kane’s hand in hers, wiping away the red stain with her thumb.
“The doc, says I am pregnant, my love. Our child will be the first Native Martian.”
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