CHAPTER 1: " STIRRING THE ASHES"
“The most merciful thing in the world… is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”
Sallytown was the shithole armpit of Mariner City (or Mars Central, if you preferred). Unlike the newest constructions which were building the settlement upwards into the canyon walls , or the domed settlements of more recent history, Sallytown was the original settlement of robot built concrete hab units, and had grown into a sort of shantytown on the periphery of the modern city.
Dr. Katrina Orlov mused that one day this would all be gone: as the terraforming reached its more advanced stages the permafrost would start to melt, and the water locked into the martian soil would return to the bottom of the 4 mile deep Valles Marineris and pour from its eastern end to flood the basin of Chryse Planitia, once more recreating the ancient sea. Sallytown, and the first domed settlements, would be no more. But that was the future.
In the distance she could see the vast pinecone shape of one of the huge RAP’s which were scattered across the martian surface. The RAPs were essentially atmospheric scrubbers and converters that sublimated the soil bound carbon dioxide and released oxygen. Inside the structures pumps deep inside drove the cleaned and scrubbed atmosphere up through a series of cables to a height of over two miles, and in some cases associated mining units additionally pumped out PFCs.
The buildup of carbon monoxide and oxygen would eventually raise both temperature and atmospheric pressure to the point where a greenhouse effect would kick in, and start to melt the permafrost and polar ice: Mars would become an atmosphere and water rich world again
Already at the depths of the Mariner Valley pressure suits were no longer needed, and the colonists could get by with a Mars Suit and rebreathing apparatus. Up on the high plateaus it was still a different story however-but one day…….
As a native of the small mining town of Petrograd Katrina was familiar with all this: indeed, even in her own short lifetime she had witnessed changes in the awakening planet, and how its inhabitants lived.
And that brought her back to her meeting with Willis.
The doors which were being closed to her in the academic community had forced her to return to Mars and try to pull in a few favours from family friends. She had hoped that some of the smaller mining companies and terraforming sub contractors might still be able to find her useful, and so it had proved with Fountain Botanicals. A former high flying academic applying for a lowly outback monitoring post had seemed too good an opportunity to resist, and she had still been able to call in private references from a few ex colleagues.
And now it seemed that WIllis had finally managed to find a few others desperate enough to accept a job spending several months driving around the martian outback. She imagined that they were unlikely to be other academic types.