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A Tale Of A Few Cities

Updated: Jun 7



IMAGE: A red tower on a dark cloudy background


The plascrete was forming over their Dome Sweet Dome, almost ready for another layer. Grandad bowed his head as Foreman Fourthchild walked past, thumping his face-screen as he reached to tug his forelock. Ruddy choked a giggle. With the one-child law, it wouldn’t do to offend anyone from a Fourthchild line.

His suit hissed as another patch froze and cracked in the icy Martian air. ‘Red or White?’ asked grandad reaching for the gaffa tape, then followed up with, ‘No, red it is.’ The white being finished (And looking pink anyway.).

He had seen the schematics. The 4,096 settlers’ domes to be reinforced and built on, the 64 ‘Marsmagent’ apartments above eventually supporting 64 ‘executor suites’. Then Mr Kong Queror himself would occupy the palation on top.

The creation of a pyramid scheme was to ‘… protect all and sundry from the unseasonal Martian dust-storms’. Their homes’ casual use as the foundations of another unstable society was not lost on the old man.

Just then a faint rumble vibrated through the ever-thinning soles of their warm-boots, which weren’t. The Horse-less rumbled past, it’s bubble containing the architects on a tour of ‘their vision’. It vented steam every four seconds, blowing into ice-crystals the actual water that many settlers has died digging for, since ‘The final Colonisation.’ began.

Grandad noticed Ruddy swiping at his face-screen, which was being coated in a fine film of dust from the passing Horse-less. ‘You’ve not applied your anti-stat again have you boy?’ he asked, knowing the lad was attempting to scrimp a few Victorias together in order to afford a penny dreadful or a tongue-buster. Unimportant here today, standing barely a chain from the plascreting engine. Yet the elder remembered his first expedition, being less than a furlong from base-camp but totally blind due to the ever-clinging micro-dust.

Solving that dilemma had earned him the post of charge-hand. He’d hammered a depth-pole into the regolith, tied a rope to it, and led the party around in an ever-expanding spiral until they reached base. The elders still told Ruddy about it. With each telling the spiral became greater, literally … spiralling out of control, and possibility. There couldn’t have been that much rope on Mars.

Grandad rested a hand on Ruddy’s shoulder and glanced at the umbilical that led from both their suits back to the hand-powered air-pump in the dome. Wouldn’t do to have these architect types park on the ‘breather’ while they lit up a poppy-pipe in their bubble.

Man and boy looked up, trying to imagine the red-tower as it would be. Many generations had tried this trick. Build upwards to display your power and control. Churches, sky-scratcher, the Chinaman’s impossible looking, bamboo high-riser.

Both saw the folly in trying to expand the empire here. Whatever height was obtained on this spot, one only had to step back a furlong to see it dwarfed by Olympus Mons. Someone hoisted the Jack. It fluttered weakly. The red, pink and purple, barely moving.


Written by ERIC SCARBORO


Artwork by LAURA FISHER


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