White mars by Brian W. Aldiss & Roger Penrose. Chapter 3, 4, 5

White mars. Chapter 3, 4, 5


The EUPACUS Deal: The Rotten Door

Should the citizens of the United States, for example, be answerable solely to Martian law when on Mars? Eventual answer: Yes. Mars is not a colony, but an independent world.

This was the sensible legal decision that became the foundation stone for the Deed of Independence that governs our lives on Mars and will stand as exemplar for all the other worlds we inhabit in times to come.

One of the greatest achievements of the last century was the establishing of preliminary planetary surveys. Less acknowledged was a system of workable international law.

From the start, weapons were prohibited here. Smoking is necessarily prohibited, not only as a pollutant but as a needless consumer of oxygen. Only low-grade alcohols are allowed. Habit-forming drugs are unknown. An independent judicial system was soon established. Certain categories of science are encouraged. We owe everything to science.

Under these laws and the laws of nature, we have built our community.

When I think back to this early time just now, I find consolation there. My daughter, Alpha Jefferies – now Alpha Jefferies Greenway – left Mars last year to live on a planet she had never known. I fear for her on that alien globe, although she now has a contract-husband to protect her.

She told me once, when we were still in communication, that Earth is the world of life. My image of it is as a world of death – of starvation, genocides, murders, and many horrors from which our world here does not suffer.

My arguments with my dear lost daughter have caused me to look again at those first years on Mars, when there was an excitement about being on a strange world and we were not entirely free of Earth-generated myths regarding ancient life on Mars, of finding old land-locked canals leading nowhere, or great lost palaces in the deserts, or the tombs of the last Lords of Syrtis! Well, that’s all juvenile romanticism, part of the fecundity of human imagination, which sought to populate an empty world. And that is what still thrills me – this great empty world in which we live!

I will introduce myself. I am the adopted daughter of the great Tom Jefferies. I first knew life in the crowded city of Chengdu in China, where I was trained as a teacher of handicapped children. After five years of teaching in the Number Three Disability School, I felt a longing to try another planet. I applied for work on a UN work scheme and was accepted.

For my community service, I served for a year as kennel-maid at a dog-breeding station in Manchuria, where life was extremely hard. I passed the behavioural tests to become a fully fledged YEA. After all the preliminaries, including the two-week MIC – or Martian Inculcation Course – I was permitted to board the EUPACUS ship to Mars, together with two friends, on an ORT, an Opposition Return Trip.

What excitement! What dread!

Although I had anticipated that Mars itself would be bleak, I had not imagined life in the domes, which, by the time I arrived, was unexpectedly colourful. As a reminder of the semi-Oriental composition of Marvelos, the travel bureau subsidiary of EUPACUS which freighted everyone to Mars and back, brilliant lanterns were hung among the simple apartment blocks. Tank-walls of living fish stood everywhere. Flowering trees (originating from Prunus autumnalis subhirtella) were planted along avenues. And what I liked best were the genetically adapted macaws and parrots that cast a scatter of colour as they flew free, and sang with sweet voices instead of croaking.

Apart from this pleasant sound, the domes were reasonably quiet, since the small jojo (‘jump-on-jump-off’) electric buses taking people about made little noise.

As I grew to know the settlement better, I found this colourful sector was just the ‘tourist spot’. Beyond it lay the rather grimmer Permanents Sector, austere and undecorated, lying behind P. Lowell Street.

All this was enclosed, of course, under domes and spicules. Outside lay an airless planet of rumpled rock. My spine tingled just to look out at it.

Not that this view was featureless. To the west lay the rumpled extent of Amazonis Planitia, on the eastern edge of which we were situated. The domes had been built squarely on the 155th latitude, 18 degrees north of the equator. The site was sheltered from ferocious winds, which had built the yardangs to westward.

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Categories: Aldiss, Brian