Night Driving On Mars: Born to Ride MW-1

Night Driving On Mars: Born to Ride MW-1

Earth folk don't remember the song of a purring engine. They all drive clean cars down there, those folks who still drive. Gotta watch the carbon emissions and all. Not here. In these red sands we're encouraged to put as much junk into the atmosphere as we like. The little bit that sticks around helps thicken the atmosphere so maybe in a century or two we'll have weather. Took an age just to get the planet spinning again, so it's slow going. Some exogeologists stick around to keep the turbines running, others go into deep freeze waiting for the day when there's a proper ecosystem. Yeah, like some cluster of scientists from 200 years in the future is going to have anything but grunt work for today's guys. Honestly, I think the cryo-stasis set just wanna see how everything turns out. I've known enough scientists in my day to know that none of them are all that interested in what's going on right now. They all want tomorrow, and tomorrow's tomorrow. Me? I just want Highway MW-1 and Radio Orbit and the pie at Stop 33.

The Martian Highway System opened the year I was born. It's still pretty clean, not that it gets a lot of traffic. There are more people in Nebraska than live on this whole planet, but the folks who are here are some of the finest. Give it a few generations and maybe there'll be the same road scum you find back home, but today Big Red's still around 90% ambitious and educated. Long story short, trailer trash usually doesn't find itself in private colonization programs.

I don't fit along with the eggheads, though. No, I'm just a tech, driving from station to station keeping the air scrubbers fresh. Somebody's gotta do it and flesh is still cheaper than robots. Who'd have thought? So, I spend most of my time on these long, curvy roads. The stations are built on seismic activity loci for monitoring and experimentation, which means they're spread out and not in line-of-sight from one another. Suits me just fine. It'd kill me to have to drive with no turns for a hundred kilometers.

Radio Orbit broadcasts from a station on Phobos. The DJ is this philosophical type, Harron. He lives up there and always talks about how it's only a matter of time before the moon crashes into the planet or gets ripped apart by tidal forces. Hour 13 of the program is called "Entropy Hour", full of sad, gorgeous songs about how nothing lasts forever and death isn't so bad after all. It's the last live show of the day. The rest are automated mixes and news shows from Earth relays. One of these days I'll save up for a rocket ticket and go visit Harron on his oblong retreat. I always picture his place as a cramped station with a cot and a hot plate, but it's probably nicer than that.

Civilization is sparse along the highways. MW-1 is a little more crowded, what with all the research population around the Olympus Mons. My favorite place is Stop 33, known by locals as Nan's Diner. It's not a proper diner like back home. That'd be silly, just folks trying too hard. It's not that much different than most of the other stops along the highways, all plastic interior and bluish baseboard lights, but it's got a little extra character thanks to Nan. That's Felicia Nan Jin, the woman who runs the place. Of course, that could just be my personal bias. Beautiful Nan, she's a slice of my history just like 33's rhubarb pie is the slice with the blue plate.


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