A Date in the Rusty Desert

Hot off a very enjoyable write-up of my story of my universe’s first lunar mission (1949, not 1969), and a more tentative write-up of my Rapunzel Reinhardt story (I was thinking of releasing the latter in June, the former in July, but I think now I’ll switch them up), I’ve been doing some brainstorming of Mars when it gets really developed in my universe, deep into the 21st century (maybe at the same time as another idea I’ve got), and I’ve got a story outlined.

A lonesome Girl by Choice

Nothing too elaborate; it’s really more of an atmospheric tale with a touch of romance. A girl is lonesome in a mine on Mars, one of the few sites on Mars that must be fixed-site, her only company being domestic humanoid robots, the Internet, and massive nuclear-powered robotic mining machines, requiring only one human overseer. That’s usually someone she hires, but as a young, curious, and adventuresome woman she decides to do a stint of some months as an overseer.

She’s affluent even if not particularly wealthy (think this world’s equivalent of millionaire level, not billionaire level), but one of her dearest hobbies from late childhood was tourism to Mars, being a lover of the Red Planet, eventually deciding to purchase a mine outright so she could have a piece of that rusty desert all to herself, one that served a vital economic function in a basic industry. The space-age equivalent of buying a farm because you want to get back to the land, I guess. She hits upon the idea of being the overseer herself because she wants to spend a long time on Mars but wants “the real Mars”, not the recreational tourist stuff.

Still, despite still having total commitment to her stint, she’s lonesome after a while, especially since a large amount of her stint coincides with a global dust storm, suffusing the air all around her with an opaque fog of brown sand, obstructing her view of anything but the nearest parts of massive monowheeled road trains as tall as skyscrapers that roll up to take her ore, and their powerful headlights.

Jet-Setters of the Red Planet

Her only solace is her passion for jets, which she loves to fly in Mars’s unique atmosphere and above its unique landscapes, at once earthly and unearthly. The atmosphere demands unique designs, which she indulges in with custom-made jet airplanes. She even tinkers with them and takes a hands-on role in their maintenance. The jets allow her to rise above the dust storms; though the landscape is obscured, with the exception of the very highest mountains like Olympus Mons, she can see the clear sky and sun she longs for.

On Mars a much higher speed is required to take off, approaching the speed of sound already, and there’s no oxygen for a jet to breathe, but from the get-go in the 20th century Martians have used nuclear thermal jets, which require no oxygen. By the deep 21st century nuclear is the preferred power source for aircraft even on Earth, and it’s trivial to power even a small one-man craft with a nuclear reactor deep into the supersonic range. Into the hypersonic range, in fact, but hypersonic flight is a bit niche, since it’s more economical to just use a spaceplane and not deal with as much atmospheric friction. As for the nuclear power source, it helps a lot that nuclear has unlimited range and needs no refueling on any practical human timescale; even at the dawn of the 22nd century infrastructure on Mars isn’t all that abundant.

One day while taking her jet to buzz the peaks of the Tharsis range, the only features visible from the air during the great dust storm, she’s approached closely by another pilot flying a jet just as custom and hot-rodded as her own, a hotshot of a man challenging her to a race to Olympus Mons’s summit. They race, and after there’s a victor, she finds herself despondent at the thought of seeing him go, feeling that she’s developing a liking for the man, so she invites him to her uranium mine. Flying over there (I’m thinking the location will be ambiguous), she’ll give him a tour of her home.

A House for the Future

And what a home it is; though the views are shrouded in dust, the house is an all-glass structure that sits on a tripodal structure, three tubes equidistant from each other on the edge of a circular hole in the ground (i.e. her mine shaft), all sweeping up in a triple-helix pattern (a surprisingly rare pattern in architecture; this is one of the few examples I could find) at least a thousand feet up before converging onto a glass spire.

This spire is where she lives, with each floor being a room; the idea is that it’s the only kind of architectural geometry that guarantees unobstructed views from all sides. Also guaranteeing unobstructed views is the great height of the habitable part of the structure, being well above the skyscraper-sized wheels of the road trains.

Instead of a cubical structure like our pencil towers, lonesome girl’s spire is circular, all the better for it to be futuristic-looking. A glass spiral-staircase escalator mounted on nigh-invisible wires emerges out of the floors and ceilings whenever she wants to go up or down. Throughout the structure there are moveable screens, which function as robots, that provide green walls, the lushest most vivid greenery, to provide more color to the homogeneous reds of the Martian desert.

The top floor extends much further out, and is domed, the appearance of the spire being similar to that of a mushroom, the dome containing a full garden with woods, even treehouses, all the better for her to gaze out at the stars without a spacesuit. Spacesuits in this setting are skin-tight and comfortable, but there are times when a more earthly environment is desired, or when you simply want to look up at the stars with your pajamas, or even sans clothing altogether.

Into her Mine Shaft

Her mine will be a rather raw affair, but will contain the “works” of her habitat, in particular the garage where her vehicles are kept, secure from the ambient dust, as well as her primary nuclear reactors. She’ll also have an on-site laser enrichment facility, which is common in this universe. Her date will have seen quite a few such mines before, since he just so happens to be in the reactor manufacturing business himself and his company might even be a direct customer of hers (small world, isn’t it?), but never before with such a charming host.

They get along very well, and spend a while down there in the bosom of their giant robotic friends. Maybe they’ll both get ice cream, sent down to that mine shaft from the distant city by ever-helpful delivery drones (yes, they fly at high speed in dust storms just fine in this universe); as they lick their cones down they’ll be held (perhaps in a capsule, a space-age love nest, as I don’t imagine the shaft is pressurized) in the hand of a giant robotic arm, staring up and down as mining robots hover up and hover down, coming in and out of the various side tunnels running out from the main shaft. A cute moment might be if they could rock each other in an embrace right there, with her resting her head on his lap as he strokes her hair. A bit intimate for a first date perhaps, but maybe they really hit it off great.

Sand Kiting and a Kiss

When she sees fit to return to the surface, the dust storm, though still dominating the color of the sky as it takes a long time for all of it to settle, has cleared up immensely, which lonesome girl takes as a good sign for the both of them and their budding affections for each other. Their last activity will be something her date introduces her to, sand kiting on Mars; it’s a thing on Earth as well, consisting of a kite attached to a board you maneuver over sand. I’m thinking it’ll be a tandem sandboard, with slots for both their feet. They have a really fun time surfing on the fresh dust, and that’s their last activity of their date, since he has an appointment he must keep for his business. Before he sets off on his jet, though, he gives her a big kiss, pledging to return.

At the end lonesome girl doesn’t even feel like whether he returns is the important thing: no, the important thing is she’s now a girl in love, her heart’s romantic imagination kindled more than ever before, and that’s the best way to be.

Describing the Characters

So it’ll be a sweet romantic little day for her. Lonesome girl I’m thinking will be of rather mixed heritage, a Russian mother and a part-Indian part-Arab father (descended from the mass immigration from India to Arabia that occurred in this timeline as well). Tentatively, her name is Stefania Antara Bashirovna Samaa, with Stefania Antara being a double-barreled name, and her usual moniker when she’s not going by Stefanka or Stefanka Antara. Bashirovna is her patronymic, and my research tells me Samaa is an Arabic surname meaning sky, suggesting that her patrilineal ancestors might have lived in space, i.e. the sky, for a while.

As for her appearance, I’m thinking the net effect of all that heritage might be an appearance not unlike a Caucasian, though grading more Indian. The brownest of white skin tones, almost an olive, coupled with reddish brunette hair and brilliant vivid green eyes. And of course aside from all that she’ll be pretty, her figure a voluptuous hourglass.

The man will be of Dutch heritage, named Sverre, a Norse name apparently meaning wild, his full name being Sverre Berend Joost de Wint. The de Windt family got a mention in “The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure” as being a rival of the Reinhardt family and having made a fortune in nuclear reactor manufacturing. The better part of a century later it’s still the family business, though Sverre at least seems to spend more time on and around Mars (industrial orbital habitats around Mars probably make a lot of reactors) than his immediate ancestors’ haunt of western lower Michigan.

In terms of appearance Sverre might be very fair, sporting a pale-white skin tone, nearly-white blonde hair, and blue eyes. Changes it up a bit, since usually in my stories the woman is the fairer one of a couple.

Notably, there aren’t planned to be any other characters in the whole story aside from those two, unless you count an array of robots, which perhaps we should, since they’ll be talking to them.

Hmph. Well, that’s about all I’ve got in terms of thoughts for this story; putting it in words here makes me really excited to write it up. And since it’ll only take a short time, being such a short tale, maybe I will very soon!

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