There are only two of us now. We are starving. We will have to risk the long trek to find shelter, sustenance, spare parts… anything of use.
I am so blessed that the love of my life and I, from our first meeting on our school’s playground, through high school, college, astronaut training, and all that we’ve been through, are still together. We are as smitten with each other as we were from that first moment in 4th grade when I offered to her my seat on the swingset. Despite all the years, everything we’ve been through, she is as beautiful to me now as she was on that first day.
James was the best man at our wedding so long ago. We watched the light go out of his eyes this morning. Just as the others died one by one over the long years.
We lived through an age of miracles.
My great grandfather courted my great grandmother in a horsedrawn buggy. Years later, on a black and white television at their farm in Illinois, they watched Neil Armstrong take man’s first step onto extraterrestrial soil.
Technology advanced like a tsunami.
I took man’s first step onto Mars, established a beachhead, then a hundred bases. Later I guided Earth-based scientists, their minds uploaded to Human Brain Robots, or HBRs, on scenic sojourns of my home. Even after I retired, I occasionally led Earth tourist groups in HBRs on sightseeing trips to Olympus Mons.
When the 500 years of solar storms hit, our underground bases naturally protected us from the ravaging radiation. Earth was not so lucky. No telling what’s even there anymore.
We were able to continue for a while on our solar powered hydroponics, but dust and time take their toll. The other bases, one by one, all went silent. As starvation prowled the corridors of our home, instead of going quietly into the night, some of us chose to take a leap of faith…and mind. The small fleet of HBRs, which only Base One had, became our path to continue on.
For five centuries we have weathered the storm. We’ve even managed to repair the hydroponics. I once sat and stared for weeks as a tomato I pollinated by hand, bloomed, swelled, ripened, and withered. It was beautiful.
Now, while the radiation storms have abated, Mars’ own storms have damaged and buried our field of solar panels. We are down to just a last few batteries. Eva and I have fashioned very stylish hats for ourselves from the few working solar cells left. We will go to the other bases. We will find viable solar cells and batteries. Once we have recharged, we will return, and see if any of our friends have survived their long sleep in their HBRs.
Perhaps one day we will return to our cradle. The irony of being able to be the first man to return to Earth makes me chuckle. Eva tilts her camera array in that cute way she tilted her head when I first saw her centuries ago on the playground, “What is it, Adam?” My blinking lights smile back at her, “Oh, just missing tomatoes.”
by Michael Mieher