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Looking at Mars is different now. Through the telescopes, you can see patches of green and purple where the algae is taking hold. New shapes are spreading. Year to year it changes. There's a patch at the moment that the kids are calling the green man, not unlike the man in the moon.

Some of the teens have had the inserts downloaded to their iEyes so that they can see Mars without telescopes. The macro and micro on the most recent patch is amazing. Cops can do fingerprint identification just by looking closely at crime scenes and cycling through the spectrums. Doctors can operate at a new level, fingers like tree trunks sewing up microscopic wounds.

But Mars. Twinkling up in the sky as a new atmosphere grows. It's a war up there. The algae is fighting each other to make sure the most dominant strain wins. The colours are fighting each other for supremacy.

They say in fifteen years that the first private construction modules will be ferried over and fifteen years after that, the commercial flights will begin. Homesteading on Mars will be a thing.
I can't wait.


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I watched as the Martian women came down the stairs from their shuttle onto the tarmac.

Regular Martian humans smeared red clay into their skin but these Ambassadors had tattooed their entire bodies red. They believed that if your skin matched the colour of your blood, you had purity of mind. Their hands and feet were intricately tattooed a darker shade of rust with rings of triangles, dots and bands. Their red cloaks billowed slowly in the calm summer day as they came closer to our delegation.

They were all wearing red sunglasses. Back home, their sun didn’t beat down on them the way ours did.

When Mars humans come to earth, our colour palette is sensory overload. The blue sky, the green trees, the black night. Putting on a pair of rose-coloured glasses helps them. They’re used to red dust coating everything, a small red sun, and twinkling red and pink stars nestling in the bloody ribbon of the Milky Way at night.

They were getting closer. They were taller and thinner than us. We waited in our suits under the July sun with some hand-picked reporters gathered around us. The Martian ship was clean of weapons but we had firearms just in case. Ever since the war ended ten years ago, our planets had been estranged. The planet named for the god of war had lost. Mars had seceded from the solar-system federation after that.

Now we were face to face in the silence of the tarmac. Every one of the Martian Ambassadors had the naturally ginger hair that was common on Mars. Strawberry blonde all the way down to a red-yarn scarlet that doesn’t exist on Earth.

The lead ambassador took off her glasses and smiled at me. Her eyes were a dark, iridescent, fire-flecked reddish brown that we didn’t have a word for. Hair the colour of a Kansas sunset pulled up tight above grenadine skin. An ornate pattern of red tattoos splayed across her exposed red arms and neck. Her nose had the same long sweep as the profile of the face on the Martian twenty-dollar bill.

“Mars is leaving.” She said in a startlingly low voice for such a fragile-looking person.

Confused, I waited for more but she was finished talking. “I don’t follow.” I replied. “You seceded from the System years ago. You have already left.”

“You do not understand.” She said again and smiled at me.

The buds in the ears of the reporters around me started up. The generals standing behind me reached for phones, nodded into them, and quickly walked to their vehicles.

The reporter to the left of me said into his communicator “Gone? How can it be gone?”

I looked back towards the lead Ambassador. She was still smiling.

“We have uncovered the secrets of the ones who lived in harmony before us on the red planet. We have discovered where they went. And we have extrapolated. We can bring the planet with us. We are here to tell you that in person. It’s only fair.” She said to me.

Then she turned to the other ambassadors and nodded. As one, they crossed their wrists. Some of the people around me reached for weapons but before they could draw, the Sisters shimmered, a crimson glow rippling around them, and disappeared with an arcing clap that ended in a twinkle of ruby light.

I stood there in the following silence and looked to the sky. I knew I'd be up on my roof tonight with my telescope looking for Mars.


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No one misses prisoners with life sentences. That was the key. Mars was turned into a prison planet.

NASA had set up fledgling terraformed domes on Mars and teleportation technology was a reality. After a life sentence was passed on a criminal for a crime, they were teleported to Mars.

There, they were put to work as slave labour. It was astounding what humans could do once they set their minds to it.

Leroy Jenkins was being escorted to the teleportation chamber by two burly guards. He’d been found guilty of killing three families in upstate New York. His sentence was life imprisonment on Mars. He was walked in chains into the capsule that would scramble his atoms and rearrange them on Mars.

“I’ll find a way back here, bitches.” He said to the guards as they finished strapping him into the sender.

The guards smiled politely and left the room. A scientist came in to operate the machine.

“You got a wife and kids, egghead? I’ll kill them. Just you see. I’ll make friends up there. We’ll hijack a ship and come back. You’re a dead man.” He snarled.

The scientist smiled. “You think so Leory? You know, I’ve never told anyone this but I worked on the terraforming domes up there. That’s why I’m happy to throw the switch.”

Leroy tilted his head like a dog to listen to the scientist’s words. There was something not quite right about his attitude.

“They said that it would take centuries to make viable settlements on Mars. Centuries. That’s how long it will take. The process could be automated but it would take decades before a human could breathe unaided. You know what?”

Leroy stared coldly at the scientist.

“They were right.” He said, staring at Leroy. His smile was gone now. “We do have teleportation technology. What we lied about was the terraforming. We’re beaming you prisoners to mars but there’s nothing there. We’re thinning the herd.”

He threw the switch and Leroy screamed. The tang of ozone hung in the air and Leroy’s molecules zipped through space to the receiving station on Mars. A receiving station set outside of the domes on the naked surface.

The one thing Mars needed most for the next century was fertilizer.




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July is flash fiction month, apparently. I'm going to do my best to do a flash fiction story a day, just like I used to. Wish me luck. This is a riff on an earlier part. I love the imagery but I'm having trouble finding a good home for these awesome women. See what you think.


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The Sisters of Mars came down the wide gangplank from the rear of their shuttle onto the tarmac of the shuttleport. Their red parasols kept their eyes shaded from the harsh sunlight of Earth. Their skin was dyed red to match their blood, a symbol in their religion of their lack of artifice. It was a not-so-subtle dig at the rest of the human race. With the history of Mars still so fresh in the history books, the dig wasn’t so unfounded. Our track record had been shameful before Mars seceded.

The hands and feet of the Martian women were intricately tattooed a darker shade of rust with rings of triangles, dots and bands. Their red cloaks billowed slowly in the calm summer day as they came closer to our delegation. They were all wearing red sunglasses to protect their eyes from Earth’s startling palette of colours. On Mars, everything’s a shade of red. The dust storms cover everything eventually. The dust in the atmosphere makes the sun red and the stars pink. The plants that have been planted there develop a red pigment over a series of generations from the soil. To a Martian, Earth’s riot of colour is very disorienting. The green of the grass, the blue of the sky, it’s all too much. Pinkeye, we call it. Putting on a pair of rose-coloured glasses helps them.

They were getting closer to our delegation. They were taller and thinner than us. Earth’s gravity must have been hard on them. We waited in our suits under the July sun with some hand-picked reporters gathered around us. Trips to Earth were a year long and the Martian Sisters’ religion forbade them to enter cryosleep. What they had come here to say must have been very important. We’d received priority-one landing clearance from them but nothing else in terms of a message. Their ship was clean of weapons but we had some orbital platforms set to soft-lock targeting above us just to be sure.

They closed the gap. Now we were face to face in the silence of the tarmac. Every single one of the Martian sisters had naturally ginger hair. Some had freckles on their scarlet skin. It was hard to tell what colour their eyes were behind the glasses but I’d heard that all Martian eyes were a dark, iridescent, fire-flecked reddish brown that we didn’t have a word for. The wind played with my tie. The sisters’ long, red habits rippled as another gust shimmied around us.

“Mars says hello to you and wishes greatness to all of your days.” Said the lead Sister in a startlingly low voice for such a fragile-looking creature.

“Welcome to Earth. Anything we can do to make your stay here more comfortable, just ask. Now, what can we do for you? Or would you rather rest for a while after such a long journey?” I asked.

“We have rested for a year. There is no need for more. We have to tell you a message.” She said.

“Go on.” I cocked my head and tried to tell what colour her eyes were.

“Mars is leaving.” She said.

Confused, I waiting for more but she was finished talking. “I don’t understand.” I replied. “You seceded from the System years ago. You have already left.”

“You do not understand. I mean that we are leaving.” She said again and smiled at me.

The bud in my ear started chattering. The ears of the reporters around me started up a few seconds later. The generals standing behind me reached for phones, nodded into them, and quickly walked to their vehicles.

The reporter to the left of me said into his communicator “Gone? How can it be gone?”

I looked back towards the lead Sister. She was still smiling. She’d been waiting for a year to see our faces react to the news in person.

“We have uncovered the secrets of the ones who lived in harmony before us on the red planet. We have discovered where they went. And we have extrapolated. We can bring the planet with us. We are here to tell you that in person. It’s only fair.” She said to me.

Then she turned to her sisters and nodded. As one, they crossed their wrists. The lead sister reached out and grabbed my neck.

Some of the people around me reached for weapons but before they could draw, the sisters shimmered, a blue glow rippling around us.

“You’re coming with us.” She hissed at me through a smile as the tiny wormhole opened up behind us. I stared in horror and tried to back away as I was pulled into the warp gate.

“Why me?” I asked.

“We need a witness.” She replied. “And I like your eyes.”

The wormhole swallowed us all and we joined the other Martians on Mars in her new location, far from Earth and her Solar System.



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The red planet. God of war. Seeing red. Red-headed stepchild. The ginger planet. Cinnamon dust. People who live on Mars are used to seeing everything in shades of pink, red and orange. Earthlings refer to it as pinkeye. Red hair was becoming more common on Mars. Strawberry blonde all the way down to a red-yarn scarlet that doesn’t exist on Earth. The women were called the Sirens of Mars. The sun doesn’t beat down the way it does on Earth.

Martians henna their hands and feet red. They stencil complex patterns over the rest of their bodies. Orthodox Martians tattoo their bodies red. The believe that their skin matches the colour of their own blood, it reminds them to be of one mind. They believe Earthlings who are a different colour on the outside have an inherent duplicity that makes them untrustworthy. These days, the children of Mars are being born with less and less pigment in their eyes. They are sometimes called redskins but mostly, they are called reds.

A new element has been found on Mars, crisscrossing the red ball in huge veins that the Martian mining companies have managed to hold in a monopoly. The element is more volatile on Earth that is in on Mars. It’s dark red, like explosive rubies. It’s the new coal but it burns clean, enabling Earth to use less oil. There is enough Marisium to last for thousands of years. The families of those mining companies are the new royalty. Martians are weaker than humans but when those families travel back to Earth for business, they are protected. A derogatory term for them is Marisites.

When Mars humans come to earth, the colour palette is sensory overload. The blue sky, the green trees, the black night. When they’re used to red dust, ochre sunsets and night skies that are such a dark red that they have a name for the colour that earthlings don’t. Somewhere in between maroon and black. The midnight rose. Mars has no moon to compete for attention in the night sky. The winkling red and pink stars nestle in the bloody ribbon of the milky way. Martians can even perceive certain shades of infra red.

The low tech solution for Martian eye protection on earth was red sunglasses. They were called Jakes, after Jake Cartwright, the Martian sports hero that won a gold medal sprinting at the Olympics.

So that’s what I mean when I say I saw her that night, pink-eyed with red pupils, dressed in black with her hair the colour of a Kansas sunset pulled up tight above grenadine skin. An ornate pattern of red splayed across her exposed arms and neck like shadows through trees, like light through a fence. Her nose had the same long sweep as the profile of the face on the Martian twenty-dollar bill. She was the daughter of Marisium Baron Farakkeh Kong. She was in my bar and she had no bodyguards. My bar is not a nice one. You could buy ten of them for the price of her dress.

It was a volatile situation. As volatile as Marisium on Earth.






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