About Me

My photo

Husband, father, and writer working on a short story project and submitting my novel, The Windsmith, to agents.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Life and Times of Aries Webb Part 3: When Aries met Amelia

“Graduation. It’s happening in a few days, and in more ways than one.” Aries paused for a second, looking around the room to make sure his audience appreciated the gravity of his words. The collection of Martian citizens nodded their heads in silent agreement. “Not only will we be graduating from high school, but our society, the entire Free Mars movement, will graduate from being a harmless club for disgruntled teens to a real force for political movement on our world. We move from children and young adults in actual adults, taking roles of leadership in our society. From here on out, we will be in a real position to push our agenda, to make a real difference in trying to take Free Mars from a movement to a reality.”

The group stood up and applauded. Though most of them were teens getting ready to graduate, there were a few adults there too. The number of them were getting larger every year, and Free Mars was getting momentum. It made Aries proud. When he joined the group a few years ago, he wasn’t entirely sure he believed in its goal, but now he was completely behind it. And not just that, he had moved into a position of leadership, second only to his best friend, Bo Wu. The two of them had convinced many Martians, native and immigrant alike, that it was in Mars’ best interest to be independent from the US and China back on Earth. It had been especially easy lately with the adults, as the two governments had started bickering with each other, most recently over China’s move into North Korea. The blatant power play forced to US to move troops into South Korea, and tensions were high. Many adults feared war between the superpowers, and what such a war would do to their community, where people from both nations lived in peace as neighbors.

He felt that such a move would allow the Free Mars movement a chance to negotiate for their independence. I mean, imagine freeing up needed troops, but still getting the resources you require from Mars. At a cost, of course, but still less than Mars charges other countries. Mars had to survive, after all. Bo didn’t seem to share this view, though. He and several others saw this new tension between their home countries as a bad sign. With war looming, loosing Mars would be the last thing they would want. They need the resources Mars offers to wage said war, and thus the only way to secure Martian Freedom would be through its own war. They liken it to the American War for Independence. Aries wasn’t convinced. Fighting a war to win peace just didn’t sit with him.

The applause was still going on, and it shook him out of his thoughts. He nodded his head, accepted the praise and took his seat. The rest of the dinner went just fine and everyone talked about what they wanted to do for a graduation celebration. To no one’s surprise, most people were talking about Aries’ party. His family was still was of the most influential on Mars, his dad being the head of the Martian Research Institute, still the number one employer on Mars.

Aries phone buzzed in his pocket just then. He looked at the screen and saw that it was his dad. The old man must have felt Aries thinking of him. He clicked off the phone. He knew what his dad wanted to talk to him about, they had been having the same conversation several times over the past few weeks, and he was getting tired of it. And this was a good party. He couldn’t avoid his dad for ever, true, especially given that his summer internship started tomorrow. But he could avoid him for another few hours, and that was good enough.

Bo came up to him and nodded at Aries phone.

“Just my dad,” Aries said, waving it off.

“Is he still mad at you?” Bo asked.

“Yup.”

“Wow,” Bo said. Then he switched to Chinese. “My parents are not surprised by my choice, but are still insistent that I give up the Free Mars thing. They say I will bring dishonor to them.”

Aries nodded. Then, he slapped his friend on the shoulder and pointed to a pair of girls standing across the dance floor.

“Enough talk of parents,” he said, also in Chinese. “This is a party.”

Bo smiled and the two young men left their troubles on the table to go have a good time. Tomorrow comes soon enough, Aries though. Tonight, let’s eat, drink and be merry.

****

Aries paused outside the massive dome that was the Martian Research Institute. An entire dome, dedicated to a single company. The building inside was created around the dome, the architecture something not seen on Earth, making it uniquely Martian. Aries smiled at that. It was impressive, with a courtyard just inside that featured a large fountain and a rotating steel globe of mars. The fountain was a big deal, water still being an import on Mars. That alone showed off how wealthy the company was. He paused not because he was drinking in the sights, though. He paused because even after all this time, it was intimidating.

“Aries?” a voice called. Aries looked and saw a man in a black suite with a pencil thin tie, the latest in corporate fashion straight from Earth.

“Hey, David,” Aries said.

“Where have you been?” David said. He held an ePad in his hand, tapping it. Aries smiled. David had been his dad’s executive assistance for ten years now, and Aries never saw him without that ePad. “You’re dad is looking for you. He thought you might be ditching your internship after not returning home last night.”

“Nah,” Aries answered, waving off David’s arm. “I’d still show up, even if I’m not looking forward to seeing Dad today. I know the way, David, you don’t need to drag me.”

“You’ll forgive me if I make sure that you go right there,” he said. The man was a stickler for schedule. Really, Aries was okay with that. He liked to stick to a schedule himself. But, it was just lots of fun to raise hell with David. He was such an easy target. The two walked into the building, past the large, dome shaped lobby and down the hall. Aries tried not to look up at the top of his dome, which was a window to his father’s office. He didn’t want to see the look on his dad’s face until they were in the same room. A brief set of sitars and walk down a short hallway had them at the door to his father’s office. Aries hesitated once again. He took a deep breath. Now that he was here, he wasn’t sure he wanted to face his dad at all.

“Allow me,” David said, pushing past him and opening the door. Aries followed the man inside, and saw that not only was his dad there, but his mother was as well. Aries cringed. Both at once? Maybe he should have gone home last night.

“Dad,” Aries said, slowly moving into the room. “Mom.”

“Aries,” Dad said. Aries cringed again. Dad never called him that unless he was angry, it was always ‘Son’ or ‘Squirt.’ “Take a seat. We need to talk. David, if you could excuse us? Aries’ mother and I need some parent time with our son before we do business.”

“Of course, Charles” David said, already sliding out of the room.

Aries watched his last hope of avoiding a chewing out leave the room, gulped, and turned back to his parents. Both were glaring at him, his dad sitting behind his large, round, clear plastic desk, and his mom sitting on the edge of it. His dad help up an envelope. It had the logo of the University of Mars on it. Aries tensed.

“This came in the mail yesterday,” Charles said. “It says that you’ve signed up for a Law Degree, with a Political Science minor. Is this true?”

“Yes,” Aries said.

“I thought we had discussed this,” Charles said, standing up. “Aries, we decided that you were going to pursue your science degree in geology and join us here at the company. One day, you would take over my job, and that was how you would help lead and shape Mars.”

Aries lowered his face. This was exactly what he was expecting. He kept hoping that some day his parents would understand, but whenever someday was, it wasn’t soon enough. Then his dad said something that changed everything.

“You betrayed my trust, Son,” Charles said. “You betrayed the decision we made together. You had such grand plans to learn about the world you were born on, and now you’re throwing it all away to do what? Become a lawyer?”

Something inside Aries snapped. Betrayal?!?

“Betrayed?” Aries said, the anger rising inside of him. “‘We’ never made any decisions, Dad. You made all the decisions, and made it pretty clear that if I didn’t at least pretend to agree with you, it would be very bad for me.”

“Aries,” His mother said, speaking in Chinese. “You shouldn’t talk to your father that way.”

“Don’t give me that ‘respect and honor your parents’ line, Mom,” Aries said. He took a sharp breath after saying it, being just as surprised as his mother was. Aries had never spoken to either of his parents like this before. But now that he had started, he found he couldn’t stop. Not that he really wanted to. “This isn’t China, Mom. It’s Mars. And when I finally go to University, I will no longer be subjected to your rules or restrictions. I’ll be an adult, by both US and Chinese standards. I can make my own decisions, and more specifically, decide how my future goes.”

Charles sat back down, and Aries’ mother, Ju, stood up, shock registering on both their faces.

“If you look carefully at that notice, Dad,” Aries continued, pointing at his father. “You’ll see that I’m still taking geology courses. I’m taking a double major, Law and Geology.”

“Son, a double major,” Charles started saying.

“I can do it, Dad,” Aries said. “I’m smart enough, you know that. Even the school thought I could be able to handle it fine.”

“But, Son,” Ju said, switching to English. “Are you really sure that you want to become a politician?”

“Do I want to?” Aries asked. “No, not really. But I don’t see that I have much of a choice. People look to both me and Bo to be leaders. Don’t deny it, even you do. You want me to take over the company. Even if I did that, I’d still be in a major leadership role for the colony. And I’d still have to deal with the politicians back on Earth. So, I’ve decided that if I’m going to end up being a leader not matter what, I might as well be a prepared one. Most politicians back on Earth are also lawyers, and why not? If you’re a lawmaker, you should know the law. And if I plan on leading Mars to independence, and I do, than I need to know the laws as well.”

He took a deep breath and paused. He realized that he was done talking, and sat down. His parents just stared at him for a few moments, then looked at each other. Aries watched them hold an entire conversation with just their eyes. It was something he loved about his parents, and something he hoped to one day have with a woman.

“Okay,” Charles said.

Aries stared at him. That was not even remotely close to what he had expected.

“Okay?”

“Okay,” his dad said again, and smiled. “I’m proud of you, Son. Not just for standing up to us, but for pursuing your dreams and goals. You’re right to do so, and your mother and I just can’t stand in your way. You’ll be a great leader one day, Aries Webb. And a great scientist, I know it. Now, what do you say we start our tour and show you to your new boss for the summer?”

Aries smiled and nodded. He was grateful that finally this discussion was over.

****

Aries and Charles walked down the hall, stopping every now and then to meet some scientist or another. After a few introductions, Aries got the impression that his dad was just showing him off. Every so often, though, Aries would spot some soldiers, US Marines, if Aries remembered his US military branch insignia. Truth be told, it was hard to tell. They all wore a red and black camouflage outfit that consisted of boots, loose fitting pants, jacket, ball cap and some kind of utility vest. They were rater intimidating, and all armed with black rifles.

“Hey, Dad,” he said, nudging Charles as they walked down the hallway. “What’s with all the soldiers?”

“Marines, Squirt,” Charles said. “They hate being called soldiers. They’re here for security. Ostensibly, they always were, but we tried our best to not use them. But the new general at the base wants a full military presence, and sent over the Marines. At first, I was perturbed over it, but then I started to see the benefits...”

Aries lost track of what his dad was saying. He was instead staring at her. She was a Marine, dressed like the rest, but there was nothing like the rest in her. She was beautiful. Creamy milk chocolate colored skin, full lips, and the most amazingly intense eyes he had ever seen. Her hair was as dark as her eyes were, and was so wavy that it was almost curly. She had it cut short, just below her ears, but even at that, it was still exotic and amazing, just like the rest of her.

“She’s way out of your league, Squirt,” Charles said.

Aries blinked and looked at his dad. “What?”

“She’s a Marine, Son,” he said. “They are not the normal type of women you go for. Strong of both arm and will. Plus, she’s on duty.”

Aries nodded, but looked back at her. He noted that she seemed to be guarding a door to a lab, checking badges as people entered. He memorized the corridor and door number, so he could come back later.

“Come on, Squirt,” Charles said. “Let’s go introduce you to Dr. Sun.”

****

The next few weeks flew by. Dr. Sun, the leading geologist on Mars, put Aries to work right away, and he never did have the chance to go back to that door. In fact, he had forgotten about it and the girl. He only barely made it to his own graduation, he was so busy. But, the work with the grizzled Chinese doctor was exhilarating. Dr. Sun’s team was verifying things believed about Mars for years, or disproving said beliefs. They had even discovered what could be hidden water on the red planet, as the latest core samples indicate that there could be frozen water under the surface, much like there was on the moon. It was all exciting. But, the midsummer carnival was coming up, and Aries managed to convince Dr. Sun to let him have time off to go. Aries learned that the grumpy scientist considered him his shining star, and that was part of the reason he pushed Aries so hard. It also meant that Aries could do things like ask for time off when others couldn’t.

Ever since the trip to Earth, Aries tried to avoid manipulating people like that, but he figured he deserved some time off, and no one else really seemed to blame him for it. They were all working hard, and wanted the time off.

Aries called Bo, and the two met at the transit station. Aries still marveled at the elevated train, even though it had been a part of Olympus Mons City since he was ten. He could remember back when he was a little boy, five or six, and all of Olympus Mons was two domes, no more than a mile in diameter each. Now, those were called Colony Town, and there were eight total domes. The largest, Center City, was six miles wide. The tram was placed to allow free travel between the domes. Manufacturers back on Earth had tried to get cars sold on Mars, but no one wanted them. In the domes, things felt crowded enough, cars weren’t needed. Buses, trams and moving sidewalks got everyone where they wanted to go just fine. And tongiht, the tram took Aries and Bo to Dome No. 6, the Park.

Upon exiting the tunnel and look about The Park, Aries could see that the name was a misnomer. There were, in fact, five large parks in here, including the newly renovated Olympus Mons Zoo. The buildings that housed people here were rented or owned by either the very wealthy or Mars University students. The school was also in this dome, and Aries looked at the clock tower from the tram and smiled. It was perhaps his father’s greatest achievement, a public university that drew the best minds to Mars, later to be hired by his company.

The festival would take place at Langston Park, named after the first man to land on Mars. He could see from here that everything was set up. The ferris wheel and other rides, the booths of games, he cold even smell the food. He looked over to Bo, and the two grinned at each other. This was going to be a blast! They jumped off the tram and ran to the ticket booth. The next few hours was a blur of looking at oddities, buying food they would normally never eat and riding rides. Then, Aries saw her.

It took him a moment to realize that he recognized this stunning beauty at the ring toss game. She was with several friends, but she stood out. Tall, with perfect posture, and the most exotic skin and eyes. She was easily the most beautiful girl at the fair, possibly on the whole of Mars. She was also the Marine he had seen guarding that door at the Institute a few weeks back. This time, she wasn’t on duty, as evidenced by the jeans and shirt she wore.

“Bo, I’ll catch you later,” he said and wandered over to the ring toss. When Bo looked up from the basketball he was trying to get into the hoop, he saw the girl. A smile crossed his face and he returned to his game.

Aries walked up to the group of four girls, three of which were all giggling at the dark skinned woman Aries had his focus on. Clearly, they were teasing her about her aim. One of them spotted him and brought him to the attention of the others. They tried to get the girl to notice him too, but she simply shooed them away with a wave of her hand.

“It’s all in the wrist, you know,” he said as he stood up next to her.

She turned to look at him, and he saw that her eyes were in fact black. A slight smile crossed her full lips, colored a dark brownish red to match her skin. She stood up, reaching a height a full head taller than Aries.

“Oh, really?” she said. “Why don’t you show me.”

He smiled. He paid the woman behind the counter, who handed him three rings. He three them very carefully, making note to the girl exactly what he was doing. His first two rings bounced of the bottles, but his third one landed. The woman behind the counter handed him a small, stuffed dolphin. He handed it to the girl. She smiled again, and Aries felt his throat tighten at that look. She waved the stuffed animal off.

“Keep it,” she said. Then, she leaned over again and threw her three rings, one, two, three. All three landed on different bottles, right next to each other. The carny yelled, and the girl pointed to one of the large, stuffed green martians hanging from the tent’s ceiling. She smiled and handed it to Aries. He looked at it for a moment, than laughed, accepting it.

“You are amazing,” he said. “I’m...”

“Aries Webb,” she replied, taking his hand. “I know.”

“Well,” he laughed again. “You have me at a disadvantage.”

“Indeed I do,” she smiled again. He was more and more impressed by this girl. He laughed again, and this time, so did she. “I’m Amelia . Amelia Day.”

“Well, Amelia,” he said, leaning over to kiss her hand. “The pleasure is all mine, I assure you. Would you like to join my green friend and me in a tour of the festival?”

Her eyes twinkled, and she turned to look at her friends, who were all nodding at her. She turned back and smiled. “Sure, I’d love to.”

The rest of the fair was another blur, this time of her hair and eyes and scent and laugh. He would remember later dancing with her at the main stage, eating dinner and mostly walking and talking. They talked about all kinds of things, and Aries learned that Amelia was the daughter of an American General in the Marines, and that Mars was her first assignment right out of Boot Camp. She was excited to see the red planet, and he offered to be her guide. They continued to walk and talk until the early hours of the morning, long after the fair closed.

****

“I’m telling you, Bo,” Aries was saying around a mouth full of french fires. “Amelia is the most amazing girl ever. I’m going to marry her one day.”

“So you’ve said,” Bo said, “about ten times now.”

“Have I?” Aries said. “Oh. Well, it’s true. My heart has finally been won, and it was by Amelia Day!”

“Aries, you’ve only been dating for a week now,” Bo said. “Leave the marriage thing for at least another week, huh?”

Aries laughed at his friend. Then, he noticed that Bo was not laughing.

“Bo, why the long face?” he asked. “I mean, I know you and Fenfang broke up a few days ago, but you can still be happy for me, right?”

“It doesn’t have anything to do with Fenfang,” Bo said. “I broke up with her, remember? No, I just got... stuff on my mind.”

Aries sat down. He put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Talk to me, Bo. What’s going on?”

He pulled a letter out of his pocket and handed it to Aries. It was written in Chinese, and though Aries could read most of it, his Chinese reading still needed work. Still, he could make out that it was from the Ministry of Defense, and something about... work? For the military?

“You’re being drafted?” he asked.

“Yup,” Bo said. “After years of not bothering to enforce the mandatory military service, the Chinese Department of Defense declared that all Chinese men living on Mars of ages 18 and over would now be required to fulfill this duty.”

“But, what about school?” Aries asked.

“It’s going to have to wait,” Bo said. “Look, Aries, we need to talk about something important.”

“What?” Aries asked. “Whatever you need, Bo, you know that.”

“I do,” Bo said. “You’ve been the best friend I could ever ask for, especially the past few years. You joined Free Mars at my request, I know, to make up for what happened on Earth. But you’ve since embraced it fully, even serving as my vice chair at the meetings and helping me organize things. We had plans, Aries. Plans that I am no longer going to be able to participate in.”

“What?” Aries asked. “Why not?”

“As a member of the military, I can’t be a part of an organization that seeks to displace the Chinese government on Mars,” Bo said. “It would be very bad for me. So that’s why I’m asking you to take over.”

“Take over?” Aries asked, afraid he knew where this was going.

“Free Mars,” Bo said. “I’m asking you to take over the leadership of our movement completely. Free Mars needs you, Aries. Take the reigns. Do it for me. Most of all, do it for Mars. People look to us for leadership, and without me, it’s going to be just you. Will you do this, Aries?”

Aries took a deep breath to consider what his best friend was asking him to do. He looked up at Bo and saw the intensity in his eyes, but he also saw the fear. Everything that Bo had worked for, an Independent Mars, was in danger of collapsing. And Aries couldn’t let that happen. He slapped Bo on the shoulder.

“You know I will,” he said. “I’m here for both you and Mars, Bo. I’ll do it.”

****

The next few weeks were crazy for Aries. Trying to find time through work to do both Free Mars meetings and date Amanda was taxing. He actually fell asleep in the theater during their last date.

“What’s going on, Greenie?” she asked. Greenie was the nickname she had come up for him, short for Little Green Man. “You’ve been really distracted lately.”

“I got a lot on my mind,” he said. “I’m sorry, Amelia. I don’t mean to be such a downer, but my life got really complicated lately.”

“Is this about Bo?” she asked. Amelia and Bo had become good friends lately, even though they argued politics something fierce. The Chinese Communist and the US Marine. Aries nodded.

“Partially, yes.” He took a deep breath and looked Amelia in the eyes. He loved this woman, truly and deeply. He needed to tell her the truth. She deserved nothing less. “Amelia, do you know about the Free Mars movement?”

She snorted. “Of course I do. Basic intel we all got when we arrived. It’s a group of disgruntled mine workers, scientists and kids that think they can just talk and convince the US and China to give up Mars. China has the group listed as a potential terrorist organization, but the CIA thinks it’s mostly harmless.”

“Well,” he said, cringing, “I’m the leader of it.”

There was a moments pause, and then Amelia bust out laughing.

“You had me going there for a second,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. “Leader of Free Mars indeed.”

He looked her in the eyes, his face dead serious.

“Aries,” she said, the smile gone from her face. “You’re not pulling my leg, here? You’re really the leader of Free Mars?”

He nodded.

“How is that even possible?” she said. “You’re only eighteen! And your dad is a staunch support of the US government! Not to mention, it’s stupid!”

“It’s not stupid,” he said. “And my age has nothing to do with it. Free Mars was founded by people that were here from the beginning, and almost everyone that was born here is a member. Is it really that difficult to think that I want my world to be free of outside influence?”

“Outside influence?” she said. “The US and China paid for you to be here. This colony wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for us.”

“The same could be said of the US and England,” he said.

“That was different,” she said, narrowing her eyes. “England didn’t respect the people of America. The US Government has listened to your father and other Martian leaders, and taken their advisement under consideration when making rulings about Mars.”

“My point is that Earthlings are making decisions about Mars, and not Martians,” he said.

“That’s what elections are for,” she said.

“We can’t vote in Chinese elections,” he said. “Not that it would matter much there.”

“You really want to stop being a US citizen?” she said, in a much quieter voice. “Why tell me this?”

“Because, Amelia ,” he said. “I love you. More than I have ever loved anyone, I love you. And you deserve to know the truth.”

“I don’t...” she started. “This is too much, I need some time. I’m sorry Aries, I have to go.”

She stood up and left. Aries sat there, watching her go. Tears were racing down his eyes.

****

“Aries Webb,” snapped Dr. Sun in his clipped, sharp accent. “Focus! You nearly broke this sample.”

Aries bowed and apologized, and went to go get some cleaning supplies to clean the broken drill and glass on the table. Dr. Sun was right. Ever seance his discussion with Amelia a few days ago, he hadn’t been able to focus on anything. His work was beginning to suffer, and he had even missed the Free Mars meeting last night. He wasn’t sure what to do. Amelia hadn’t talked to him at all, and she hadn’t been on duty at the Institute lately, either. When he got back with the cleaning supplies, he saw that Dr. Sun was still there.

“You are sick,” he said looking at Aries.

“I assure you, Dr. Sun, I am not,” Aries said, talking in Chinese. Dr. Sun always preferred to talk in his native tongue.

“No, you are sick,” he said again, sticking to English. “I cannot have sick worker in my lab. Go home. Take two days off. Come back when your mind is clear of sickness.”

Aries looked up at the old Chinese man. Was he really being kicked out of the lab? The accident wasn’t that bad. The sample was preserved. Dr. Sun winked at him. Aries blinked. The old man smiled and nodded ,and Aries realized that the grumpy old scientist was giving him a chance to get his life in order before coming back to the lab!

“Yes, Dr. Sun,” he said. He stood, bowed, and ran out of the lab to go home. Once outside of the Institute, he slowed down to walk. The light blue sky was clear today, the few clouds absent from the sky. There were more and more clouds every year, and scientists predicted that if a lake or ocean could be created on Mars, it wouldn’t take long after that before it desert world would see rain. That would be something, Aries thought. He’d never seen rain, even when he visited Earth.

He walked up to the tram station, and looked at the schedule. Where he was going was a place he hadn’t been to before, having only been built two years ago. He wasn’t even sure he would be allowed to go there. When the tram to the US Military base came up, the soldier at the door told him he couldn't get on board without a military ID. He sighed and nodded. That was to be expected. He needed to see Amanda, though. He needed to see her now, and get a final answer from her. He loved this woman, and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Would she be willing to be with someone that had such a differing political view?

“Aries?” he heard a voice say just as the tram pulled away. He turned and looked. It was Amelia. She rushed over to him and hugged him, and he hugged her back, grateful for the embrace. She was warm against him. It took a few moments for him to realize she wasn’t in uniform.

“I came here hoping to find out at the Institute, working,” she said. “What are doing here?”

“Dr. Sun game me the next few days off,” he said. “I came to find you.”

“My platoon got leave today too,” she said. “We’d been doing combat drills the past few days, I couldn’t call you.”

“Oh,” he said. That explained a lot. He broke their embrace and pulled her away from him. “Amelia, I need to know. Are you still interested in seeing me?”

“Interested?” she said. “Of course, silly! Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Well, you ran off after I told you about Free Mars,” he said.

“That?” she said. “You think I was worried about that?” She laughed.

“No, silly boy,” she said. “I can handle you having a different political view. I was really freaked out by your admission of love. It’s the first time you admitted that to me.”

“Oh,” he said. Was it really? He felt like he had always loved her, how could he have not told her?

“And?” he asked when she just stood there looking at him.

“And,” she said, grabbing him in a hug, and kissing him full on the lips. “I love you too.”

The End

1 comment:

  1. Good story, with a few little errors. Like When he says "Dr. Sun game me the next few days off." The ending is solid and you give us the payoff we wanted. Very nice blog.
    Draven Ames
    http://dravenames.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete