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A Martian Retirement.

Posted on Thu Jul 16th, 2020 @ 12:55am by Client The Narrator & Passenger Emma Yonkers

Mission: The Forgotten Arm
Location: Mark Whatney Memorial Terraformer 44a.
Timeline: One month before Eros Station, a month and a half before 'One Amongst The Vastness'

The ride out to the terraformer tower had been a long and torturous road. With no easy tram access or even a spur on the Mariner Valley Vac Train line, the 100km trip out across Arabia Terra had been to be done by a surface rover. It was like something out of a Settlement-Era movie, big wire-rimmed tires, the white hull stained by peroxide dust to peach colour, with faded corporate livery on the side.

But arrive she did at the base of the Terraformer. It looked like an old fashion cooling tower used by fossil fuel power plants but scaled up massively to the point of it looking comical. At nearly two thousand meters to the wide, flared top of the tower, and nearly the same wide at its base, it was a feat of engineering brilliance. Buried below the ground were tap roots, seeking out the raw materials the chemical processor needed to churn out a mix of nitrogen and oxygen gases. There were other things the Terraformer was doing to thicken the atmosphere, but that was science.

This was retirement.

The rover mated with the docking collar of the Terraformer and opened its tiny personnel hatch to reveal a spartan accommodation module. The view of the module was blocked by the small mountain of duffles and boxes that blocked the access hatch, and one of them tumbled into the rover as the hatch opened to spill its contents onto the floor.

"Beebo loves you!" The blue stuffed mascot of a MarsNet TV show assured Emma as it tumbled from the pack, it's blue fur and big eyes moving in a way that was corporately designed to look adorable. Stained with peroxide dust, and missing much of the fur, Beebo The Martian looked a little less friendly and more nightmare fuel.

Stepping out of the rover and set her own duffel bag on the ground just outside the pile of the Beebo fan. It differed from the other duffels being it was Martian Marines' colors and had E.Z.Yonkers stenciled onto the side of it. Emma was a bit shocked at the stuffed animal that spoke to her.

"Um... Excuse me I am Technician Yonkers, I am here to relive you..." She spoke not to the stuffed mascot but hopefully to the tech that was behind the pile of crates and duffels. Stepping to the side so she could see around it Emma asked, "Would you like help loading your kit?"

No one answered her. Only the beeping of machines and the soft, omnipresent hum of the air recyclers. The airlock chamber was small, leading to the accommodation module. A pair of surface suits four refit cycles out of date were racked to the wall, with a few more patches on them than was strictly healthy for a suit to have.

Beyond the airlock was a living space, tables, chairs, but again spartan and well worn. One wall was taken up by a large black display screen that used actual liquid crystals to display individual pixels, instead of an augmented reality volumetric hologram. And then the singing started, off-key, and soft, but it was singing. It came fro ma door off to the left, propped open with a small plastic crate.

Slowly and carefully Emma made her way through the living areas of complex pausing only to take in the area she was going to be residing in for some time. Each part of the complex made her less and less impressed with the situation. Muttering to herself, "I should have stayed in..." Continuing on she followed the singing.

Beyond the door was a room full of green. Vines tumbled from aeroponic planters, happy leafs turned up to sun lamps, and the air was rich with the scent of living things. It was like one of the communal gardens arrayed outside of peoples apartments in Mariner City. Except this garden belonged to one person.

He was skinny, almost starvation thin with his ribs clearly visible under his pale skin. He was dressed in a jumpsuit, the top half rolled down to his waist and tied off. And he walked along the planters, checking the leafs, and half-singing half humming something vaguely musical. His hair was short, shorn almost to the scalp, and his chin was fuzzed with days worth of stubble.

"Huum...huuuum...one more time..."

"Hello? Um... Do you want me to wait outside?" She asked after quickly turning around to give the man some privacy. She wasn't sure why he looked so disheveled, but who was she to judge. "I um... am Emma, Here to relive you." She spoke hoping to not upset the person.

He turned slightly, noticing her, and then slowly stepped away from the planters and reached up to pull a pair of beads from his ears.

"Hey there....sorry, didn't hear you. Ya know, like, you get into the zone and it's just so much way ya know?" he said. His voice had the soft rolling gait of a Mariner. He stood up a little straighter and placed a hand on his chest. "I am Technician First Class Ziggy Bartholomew Minkovski. But, folk just call me Skippy. But, hey, ya know you you can call me anything you like. Cuz, like, names are, like this holdover of a systemic control system but down by the PTB so like we can be our true selves out here on the flats ya know. Like, flowers that see the sun for the first time."

He turned back to the planters.

"Right guys?"

Taken aback at the whole reasoning of 'Skippy,' Emma smiled. "Well that is good, I guess. Will you be taking your plants with you?" Looking around she wondered if all of his stuff would fit in the rover.

She walked over to one of the plants and looked at it lifting a leaf to feel it in between her fingers. It had been a while since she had been this close to a live plant. It's slightly waxy texture along with the moist dew on it brought back memories of growing up back in the Valley.

"Oh...oh no I couldn't do that. Cuz, then you'd be all be by yourself out here. Being alone out here, it can do some crazy things to your mind," Skippy said with a low rumbling chuckle. He then froze, like a construction drone getting conflicting build instructions. He turned slowly to look at Emma. "Huh. So you're here to replace me? Cuz that's not until Sol 320 and the last checked it's...like...well it Patchamamma Day yesterday, I think. The Med Dispenser has this great calendar function on it, so I totally know its...a Tuesday?"

"Wednesday, Sol 320..." Emma shook her head, glad the rover had an auto-drive system. "You really need to be careful with those Med Dispensers, they have some heavy hitting things in them. Like really heavy, in the since of Ptachamamma Day was a month ago." She sighed and ran her fingers through her short purple tinted hair.

"Why don't we get you a hot cup of coffee, then we can get you all loaded up and heading back to the land of people." She smiled and walked over to another plant and looked at it. "And don't worry I'll take care of your friends here." She gave him a kind and comforting smile, the same she gave recruits that had pushed all they could, and still came up a hair short. There was time for screaming, an time for a gentile voice.

"Can I have creamer in mine? Cuz we, me and the guys and gals," he hooked a thumb over to the planters. "Might have tried to make pudding out of it one time and it was gnarly."

"You may have some creamer, but not a lot, remember I need some for my tour out here." She continued to smile and started guiding him back towards the mess bay. "How is the coffee out here anyway?"

"I dunno, ran out a while back. Hey. have you tried some Nuttin' Tea? Its just hot water and a caffeine pill from the dispenser, and after a while it really does taste like coffee," Skippy said enthusiastically. No doubt he had also replaced all of his condiments with other delightful treasures from the Med Dispenser.

'oh lord..." Emma thought as she reached the mess, "I have, and I'm not sure I believe that it ever could taste like real coffee, but I guess let's get you a Nuttin' Tea." She never thought part of her duty would be sobering up the previous tech and then pouring him into a rover.

"Sweet," Skippy said. In the mess was a collection of automated housekeeping devices, from a standard clothing printer to a food dispenser which could probably make something edible if not enjoyable in a pinch. Then again placed against an MCRN ration bar (have you tried delicious BannaBeef today?) it might be a gourmet food option. A few personal items were tapped to the dispenser, including a GIF capture on a flimsy. The thin comm screen repeated the same few frames of images again and again.

Two men in tech uniforms, holding up big thumbs up in the galley she was standing in. 'Sol 5!' said a caption on the bottom. One of the men could have been Skippy a few pounds heavier and with his personal grooming intact. The other had the Polynesian skin tone and look that had smeared itself across most of Martian gene stock.

Motioning to a chair, Emma went about making a cup of the chemical based tea. Adding a little creamer and a bit of sugar to sweeten the brew. "So who's the other one in this pic of you?" She asked making conversation as she also pick up a ration bar for him. Walking back she set the pair in front of him. "Bottoms up."

"Huum?" Skippy said, taking the cup of tea. He then noticed the GIF, frowning at it before his eyes skittered away from it, suddenly intent on his tea. "Oh. Oh yeah, that's Chuck. Chuck was here, and now he's not here. See he went outside, and when he was outside he met the Patch Work Man. You ever hear of the Patch Work Man? I think Nikki Minazowa did one of his neo-noir films about it. Based it in a Ganymede Ag-Dome growing this gene tweaked sea weed."

"What? That is just silly." Emma spoke as she pulled a chair out for herself. "What really happened to him, cause I know it wasn't any Boogly sorta man." She spoke slowly and a bit firmly. Suddenly her back was stiffening and the hairs on the back of her neck were raising up to attention.

"He went outside and the Patch Work Man got him, cuz the Patch Work Man said not to interfere and Chuck was always the interfering type," Skippy said, curling his fingers around the cup. "You shouldn't go outside either. Patch Work Man'll get ya."

"You got to be kidding, are you off your rocker? Or did you scare him off?" Emma was getting a hair worried about this man. Once she had him in the rover and away, a call to the main office might be in order. "IF this man, this Patch Work Man is real, what would he be worried about us going outside and interfering?"

"See, that's where I'm smart, cuz I did not ask cuz I ain't the interfering type," Skippy said.

"What exactly do you mean not interfering? What around here is there to interfere with?" Emma asked starting to get a bit worried about this guy. She really didn't want to think it, but she was terrified he killed the other man.

"I dunno, cuz I don't interfere, cuz that's what Chuck did and look what happened to him. Got himself sent off like a package from Amazon. Told him not to go outside, but Chuck does what Chuck did." Skippy said, and took a sip of his tea. "That's nice. so nice I wish I still had some butter cookies. Not like the homemade ones, but they were boxed and kinda nice."

Shaking her head, Emma stood up, "Welp then on this lovely note, I better get you on the road, so you can get back to the colony and get some of those cookies." She spoke as she made a thermos of his Nuttin' Tea. "Come on off to the rover with you."

 

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