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

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Life and Times of Aries Webb, Interlude 1: A Quiet Place to Think

The massive mountain called Olympus Mons loomed before the silent figure clad in a white space suit. He looked up at it, a smile creeping across his face. Aries Webb wasn’t the first person to climb the mountain, but he had been here before as part of his geology studies. He was here now in order to have a quiet place to think. There were few places quieter. He had some big decisions to make, decisions that could change the very face of Mars.

That may be a bit melodramatic, he thought. He decided to just start climbing. Clearly, he needed to clear his head. Normally, it was considered unsafe to climb alone, but he wasn’t planning on going far, and he considered himself something of an expert climber. He set out his equipment, and got his first handhold. The thing about climbing in a space suit was that you couldn’t feel the rock. That meant you had to be extra careful with your handholds.

As he climbed, he thought of recent events. China and the United States were going to war. This was dire news for the Martian colonies, as they were a joint venture by the two superpowers. The war was guaranteed to come to Mars, as both sides would want the resources the red planet offered for themselves, or at least to keep them away from their enemies. As he thought he climbed, taking each handhold and foothold slowly, steadily, deliberately.

When he reached the first plateau an hour later, he turned to look at the city below. Though Olympus Mons City was no longer the only city on Mars, it was still the largest, and the planet’s de facto capital. Aries had watched this city grow from when he was a child and it was mostly scientists to the bustling metropolis it was. And many of the people that lived there, Aries’ people, were looking to him to lead them through the coming war. Some wanted him to side with one government or another, but most wanted him to lead them to independence. Even his parents seemed to be siding with the Free Mars movement.

But this was different. to Aries, Free Mars meant negotiating their independence with China and the US, or maybe even buying them. With war breaking out on Earth now, he didn’t think either would be willing to agree to such a measure. Loose resources in the middle of a war? Not likely. Independence now meant fighting, and against two superpowers at the same time. Even if Bo and Amelia could convince some of the soldiers station on Mars to turn traitor and join the Martian rebellion, he still felt like it wasn’t enough.

He turned back to the mountain and started climbing again. Leadership wasn’t something he really wanted. Even when he was an arrogant teenager, he only wanted people to look at him, not to follow him. He didn’t want that kind of responsibility. Even after taking political science classes in order to be a leader, he always hoped that it would be to aid Bo as the Martian leader, not to be the front man himself.

And now, he was married with a baby on the way, and he found that all he really wanted to do continue on towards his Doctorate in Geology and spend his life teaching and studying the planet of his birth. Leadership was still not a responsibility he wanted. But no one cared what he wanted. They only wanted him to lead.

He gripped the rock above him, testing it a few times to make sure his grip was firm, then pulled himself upwards. He looked down and carefully placed his foot on a rock below, one he had used as a handhold moments before. He realized that he was stuck being a leader, and he just needed to get used to that. That was one decision down. Now he just needed to figure out what kind of leader he was going to be. He looked back up and found the next hand hold.

He reached the second plateau and lay down, panting, sweat clinging to his forehead in the climate controlled environment of his suit. The sky above was growing a dark purple, the sun setting. It would be another several hours before it set completely, but he should probably turn back after the next plateau if he wanted to be back home before total darkness.

Home. That brought up some points he had to consider. Mars was his home, he was born here. Earth was a far away place, a place had visited once, and it had felt so alien to him. He had to imagine that Mars felt just as alien to the leaders back on Earth. What did they know about leading Mars? There was always a struggle to get them to understand the unique problems of living on the red planet. And that would only be made worse by war. But if he did choose to fight for their freedom, how hard wold the Earth fight back?

He got up and started climbing again. Sometimes the only thing you could do was just continue climbing, continue going up. War. It made him think of his wife. She was a US Marine. Or at least, she was, last year. Even though she said she Mars was her home now, and she would fight to protect it, even going so far as to recruit soldiers from those stationed at the US base on Mars, was it fair to ask her to fight against her homeland? And what of their baby? Did he really want his child growing up to think of him as the man the lead Mars to war?

He reached up to grab the next handhold, but the rock was loose, and his hand slipped. His left foot also came loose, and he found himself hanging by one hand and a foot. Quickly, he grabbed the rocks and pulled himself back against the mountain. He looked up and saw he was close to the plateau. He took a few deep breaths and continued.

He thought of Bo. His best friend his whole life, who was a member of the Chinese military. Bo was right, he realized. When the war came to Mars, it would tear the colonies apart. Brother against brother, for real. Aries was the first martian to have dual citizenship, but he wasn't the last. What side would they be forced to choose? War wasn’t the best answer, to be sure, but fighting to protect the unity of his home, to protect its people... that was something he was willing to do.

He gripped the lip of the last plateau. He made sure his hold was steady and pulled himself up. After getting onto the plateau, he stood up and looked out over the red, sand covered world that was his. He loved this world, like a child loves his mother. War, any war, would bring harm to his world. But, he knew then that he would be damned if he let anyone hurt Mars. He nodded. He knew now what kind of leader he needed to be, and exactly what he needed to do to lead Mars to Independence. Now, he just needed to tell Amelia and Bo. He gathered his equipment with confidence, and began to climb down the mountain.

Back to home.

End Interlude

1 comment:

  1. Nicely done; I like the poetry in your prose. Care to join us?
    Write1Sub1

    ReplyDelete