I love Mars stories, and especially those dealing with colonists’ relationship with Earth, so I was excited to receive @AdlaiM’s prompt for the story below. @Baboonicorn does it proud – the flavour of the characters and the corporate logic of the worldbuilding reminded me of Peter F Hamilton (in his less sleazy moments), and there are some splendid flourishes (RULES STALIN always commends the inclusion of mammoths).
STORY NUMBER: 10
PROMPT PROVIDER: @adlaiM
With a cheery boop, Councillor Victor Achebe’s SmartPod announced he had mail. His insomnia had intensified recently, so the notification had not woken him even though the Sun’s rays would not strike the dome outside his apartment window for hours yet.
The reason for his insomnia, and the majority of his other current woes, was his reluctant acceptance to chair the governing council of New Copenhagen, and usher in democracy on Mars for the first time in the planet’s history. The conservative members of the council, Alex Stefanous of the Biltbeld media conglomerate and Paul “Revere” Kidd of the Sons of Martian Liberty in particular, had made it quite clear that they thought the people were not ready, and Richard Kim of the Red Planet Bauxite Corporation had recently added his voice, and his considerable financial backing, to their cause.
The electronic mail, oddly enough, was not from one of the councillors attempting to sway him one way or another, but from a Doctor Saira Shah of the Martian Astronomical Survey, merely titled “URGENT”. He rolled his eyes at this – the word had lost its potency long ago – and was about to flag it to archive when something made him open it instead.
It had obviously been keyed off in a hurry, and spoke of an asteroid, heading for Earth, similar magnitude to the one behind the K-Pg event, whatever that was, but due to land somewhere in the western Northern Hemisphere. This seemed important enough to be considered “URGENT” after all, and he replied, inviting Dr Shah to the council meetingtomorrow, then, clutching the bridge of his nose and rubbing his eyes, sent a clarification that he actually meant today.
The Council Chambers, in the Control Room of the long-grounded NSS Samuel Coleridge, were a noisy place at the best of times, and the fabled Martian contempt for the strictures of pedestrian Earthling authority went right to the top. The uprising against government from Earth, in living memory of most of the colonists, had been overwhelmingly popular, though increasing numbers of Martians had come to realise they’d swapped one group of autocratic, distant oligarchs with another who did not even have distance to commend them.
Dr Shah had sat silently through several hours of near-constant shouting, jeering and SmartPod boops, waiting for her chance to speak. The Earth-threatening asteroid had been placed in “Any Other Business” while the councillors argued, but eventually a stalemate had arisen and nearly everyone was exhausted.
She rose to her feet and very calmly explained how her scopes had detected a 10 kilometre-wide asteroid that was due to impact Earth in around 5-7 sols, the likely effect being a megatsunami followed by a nuclear winter that would devastate plant life, destroying global agriculture. All terrestrial life-forms over 1kg, and 75% of all species would die out.
“There will be refugees, if they can reach us in time. They will be hungry, tired and without homes…”
The chambers erupted into chaos again, everybody shouting to make their point heard.
“Earthlings going hungry? Well cry me a river,” cried Paul Kidd. “Bastards didn’t care one bit when they were requisitioning our crops for their war. Let them starve this time.”
“The infrastructure of New Copenhagen is already overloaded with our own destitutes and hangers-on,” added Alex Stefanous, “we simply do not have the space or resources to feed refugees, and their predicament is not our problem.”
“I agree,” added Professor Robert Jenkins of the Martian Rewilding Project. He had fled the Earth when his mammoth cloning project was deemed illegal and now miserable, shaggy pachyderms huddled in pens across the agricultural biomes of the Amazonis Planitia. “While regrettable that people will die, this is merely natural selection in progress and life on Terra will inevitably recover.”
Dr Shah, ashen-faced by now, looked over to Councillor Achebe for assistance. He was resting his head in his hands, rubbing his temples.
Paul Kidd had continued his diatribe. “If you ask me, we ought to set up railguns at the starport, any ships land without authorisation, BOOM, that’ll make them think twice about coming back here.”
“Doctor Shah?” a voice spoke out. It was Richard Kim, the mining magnate. “I’d like to ask a question, if I may?”
She felt a little better, that at least one of the Council had shown some interest.
“Is there anything valuable in this asteroid, anything worth going after?”
PROMPT: The First colony on Mars has to decide whether or not they can take survivors from earth