MARS COLONY: Chapter One and Two


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Chapter One: Rendezvous

 Ten billion dollars might not change the course of human history, but it was worth a try. When five aging billionaires formed the Cartel, they all agreed humanity’s past was a muddle, a vast bloody wasteland, with only a few bright moments of inspiration. Ideologies came and went. Philosophy was ignored by most people of the 20th and 21st centuries. Most of our great art was produced within civilizations of soldiers. Religions came and went, often competing with obsessive, yet entirely rational, forms of materialistic hedonism. Humanity’s self-definition needed some work, and that work was not being done on Earth.

Over a decade, the Cartel bought everything required to send one-hundred-seventy-five people, with one giant leap of faith, to colonize Mars. In 2014, three ships left Earth to rendezvous ten thousand miles past the Moon. Here twenty agile astronauts transformed thirty modules to create one unified ship, the Erasmus. Eight meters high in most places, eighty meters wide and eight hundred meters in length, this ship would transport the colonists, and remain in orbit around Mars. Just in case someone wanted to come back.

Many of the crew had no intention of coming back. They signed-on for a fifteen year tour-of-duty. The crew was carefully chosen from nearly 200,000 applicants. The Cartel wanted scientists who were also artists, and technicians who were also poets. Two composers and a novelist also made the final cut. Scientific exploration was only a small part of the mission. The primary mission was to invent a new form of civilization. Of course, the Cartel had some ideas about what that civilization might look like, but they kept most of those ideas to themselves. They wanted, and expected creative action from the crew of the Erasmus.

The rendezvous was complete, only when the entire crew settled-in and began to discuss their diverse views of what the word ‘civilization’ meant. It was more than a good meal for everyone. More than indoor plumbing. More than endless entertainment. More than science and more than art. It was definitely more than all the computer and biotech advances of the past fifty years. The people obsessed with those advances, were not looking for civilization, they were looking practical solutions, or simply looking to make some money. Those many advances happened side-by-side with a decline in personal freedom, and an increase in economic desperation for millions of citizens.

On the Erasmus, there was a rendezvous of minds, the best minds the Cartel could find. These were the brightest, most creative and well-adjusted bunch of nerds available for space travel. Free of economic pressure, free from the influence or demands of any government, free from all society except the society they would create, it was hoped these one-hundred-seventy-five colonists would look into themselves, and look at their knowledge of human history, then rendezvous to invent something new.


                            Chapter Two: The Love Lounge

The two places aboard the Erasmus most conducive to the conversation are the dining hall and the love lounge.In both places strangers meet, to start friendships, to discuss the details of their lives and their mission. I prefer the love lounge. Two birds with one stone, as the saying goes. One afternoon, I sat near a lovely black girl, her long hair in tight ringlets, flowing over naked shoulders, framing an intelligent face. Her perfect smile proved a childhood of excellent dental care.

Turning her attention to me, she lifted her glass and said,Here’s to you, First Officer Morgan! And, to our lovely Commander Dave!” Then she laughed, tossing her wealth of hair around, until it demurely covered her large breasts, which had been amply exposed from her lime green halter-top. She lifted a slender hand up toward me.

Shaking her hand I said, “Thank you, Miss. I’m afraid I don’t know your name.”

Alyssa. Alyssa Fox, bioengineering.”

Pleasure to meet you. Please call me Chet.”

Okay, Chet,” she grinned, “This is my first time here.

They sure went in for the retro look.”

I replied, “I think the designer had a grand-dad on a hippie commune, the tie-dye walls, bright swirling colors, and lava-lamps. I’m told all the music in the Love Lounge is on vintage vinyl, played on turntables through tube amps.”

That seems like an odd luxuxy for a trip to Mars.”

Lifting a water-pipe from the low glass table in front of us, I said, “Someone thought a ‘hippie’ atmosphere would help us relax, and ‘free our spirits’ or some such nonsense.”

 “I like the weed, “ Alyssa smiled, “but if we are supposed to invent a new civilization, I’m not sure we can to that while we’re stoned.”

I don’t know. Non-linear thinking, free association, inspiration and all that. No good civilization is made by pragmatic, nervous people.”

Alyssa looked genuinely shy for a moment, and said,

I’m only twenty-five years old. What do I know about making a civilization? I know the names of three major philosophers, Plato, Erasmus and Garfield the Cat. I never read philosophy books. I’ve been busy learning about biogenetics. Ask me to make an amoeba or a Copper River Salmon from scratch, and I can do that.”

I reached and patted her hand. “You are the practical technician we need for long-term survival. Physical survival, with time to spare, is essential to a civilization. When our ecology engineers start making rivers and streams, I look forward to eating your salmon.”

I added, “I don’t know much philosophy either. It was not mentioned in public schools, nor required in college. I’ve read some on my own, but that’s it. For most people in 21st century America, philosophy is considered one of those useless relics of history, arcane, of no practical value. Computer science, healthcare or telecom are relevant. You can get a job with that knowledge. Nobody hires philosophers. Two out of every ten million people make a living as a painter, a poet or as a composer.”

Alyssa said, “I guess that’s why the Cartel put up billions of dollars. To give us an opportunity to create a way of life, not reliant on making money, and all the maneuvering and planning required to get any good job. With our minds free from those concerns, we can get on with the serious business of creative thought and creative action.”

 I answered, “I’m sure that’s a big part of it. Another big part is learning how to establish self-sustaining colonies on other planets, to expand our scientific abilities. After we create a stable Earth-like environment on Mars, we can use that knowledge to go further out into the galaxy.

Beyond that, the Cartel doesn’t seem to have any business plan at all. From everything I was told in five years of training, and everything I have seen– not one moment is devoted to finding or creating something to sell to people on Earth. This trip is not about making money. The Cartel already has more money than they will ever spend.”

Alyssa laughed, “Each of those guys has more cash than most small countries! Money. How we make it, and how we spend it definitely defines us. Think of all the Major League ballparks or Major Motion pictures the Cartel might have created… instead they shoot us off to Mars!”

I will miss baseball. I’m glad we have a library of all the MLB games for the past twenty years. You wouldn’t know it know, but when they first planned the Love Lounge it was going to be a sports bar.”

Without any hesitation, Alyssa leaned over and kissed me, her breasts pressing against my chest. “That would not be as fun as this,” she whispered.

Though Alyssa had never visited the Love Lounge before, she clearly knew what made the place so popular. And, she was ready to join in the fun. We had no rules at all about officers having sex with crew-members, and I felt no reason to restrain my eager interest. We moved to one of the private areas, and enjoyed what grown-ups enjoy, for several hours. We didn’t talk anymore about philosophy.

 Don’t get the wrong impression. We are not a bunch of promiscuous nerds, at last able to get out from behind our computers, and have delicious, uninhibited sex.

A few of us had social lives on Earth. Kind of. Most of us, especially those like myself, over age fifty, spent much of our lives working for other people, making money in high pressure situations, where there was little time for anything except work. sleep, and more work. Our social lives might include marriages, but we were rarely at home. Most of us were single, having brief relationships which never lasted more than a year or two. We were honorably self-involved.

These were among the characteristics the Cartel looked for when choosing the Mars crew. Highly driven people, with technical skills, with a need for excellence in everything we touch. Relentlessly responsible, creative and curious geeks and nerds. Yes, we all admit that. But we are also polite and social creatures. We know how to make friends, and we value good friendships. Though our sex lives were generally a mess, we maintained close friendships.

Even the younger crew are mature enough to know sex is not an entertainment, or a game, nor a lifetime commitment. Sex is a sharing, a sharing between people who honestly care about each other. We care about each others feelings.

I can’t say what other crew-members think, but I believe an honest concern for the feelings and the happiness of other people is essential to a good civilization. Courtesy is one way people show concern for each other. This is not the false courtesy of a CEO smiling at his employees, opening doors, and telling great jokes, right up to moment he fires everyone.

Courtesy in the Love Lounge means having sex with people we like, not just having sex to have sex. This is understood by all of us. To an outside observer, it may have appeared Alyssa threw herself at me for a quick afternoon romp. The truth is, during our brief conversation she had made up her mind about me. I was someone she liked being around. I might even become a good friend.

Alyssa came to the Love Lounge ready for a romp, but she was not ready to romp with just any passing stick of meat. Likewise for me. I can probably fall in love– whatever that means– but straight-up desire is a good place to start, if I find the girl intelligent and pleasant to be with. A major benefit of the Erasmus crew is— all of our women are intelligent and pleasant to be with! The Cartel did a really good job on that account!

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