Colonial Scout (An Excerpt)

Colonial Scout

By Doug Turnbull

 Traveling on Mars is a lot easier than you’d think, if the only thing you knew about it was from what you saw on virtual vids. In those stories, there are always landslides, deadly accidents, dangerous criminals, life-threatening mechanical failures and of course, Martians. In the end, the hero comes through with some amazing and completely unrealistic gimmick at just the last second to save the day. The reality is actually pretty routine stuff, and as long as you’re careful and follow procedures, none of those other things will happen. By the way, if there ever were any Martians, they were probably bacteria.

We were an hour into an estimated three and a half hour rover trip from Lowell Station to a cave located in Levchenko Ridge. I had plotted the course, and the autopilot was taking us on the fifty-five kilometer journey using topographical maps prepared from photos taken by the orbiting satellites. My job was to sit back and make sure the autopilot did everything it should. It always did. This was a Scout outing, and as the Scout with the most seniority on Mars, I was in charge.

“Saiyed forgot his multi-purpose knife,” Rocky said.

“Did not, Rocky — my kid sister must have taken it out of my pack. I remember putting it in last night.”

“You should have checked your stuff before you left home, Sy,” I said, mentally noting that I should have made everybody check their stuff before we left Lowell. “I’ll loan you my spare.” I handed my extra pocket knife back to Rocky, seated in the passenger area of the rover with four younger Scouts. She in turn passed it to Saiyed.

“Sorry, Augie,” Saiyed said. “Thanks for the loaner. I’ll do better next time.”

“Everybody else looks okay, Augie,” Rocky said.

Rocio Kimura was my second-in-command and the second most experienced Scout, after me, in the whole troop. Rocio got her nickname a couple of years Mars (one year Mars equals two Earth years) before when some wise guy made fun of her in exercise class and she punched him in the nose. After that, she was forever Rocky.

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