Night Driving on Mars: Hydro Bar

Night Driving on Mars: Hydro Bar

There's very little danger to nodding off on the Martian highways. All the cars here have automated safety features. If you start running off the road, the autopilot will take over and drive you to the next stop. Sure, it's a little freaky to fall asleep going 100 KPH and wake up in the parking lot of Farpoint Shower Station, but it's better than driving off the lip of a canyon. That happened to me once (the shower station, not the canyon) and when I was still groggy I thought I was on a road trip. That's what it always feels like to fall asleep in a car and wake up safe in civilization. Like somebody else was driving and just let you get your rest. That day I wiped the drool off my chin and mumbled, "Nan? Where in blazes are we, Nan?" But she wasn't there. Hell, she was on the other side of the planet that day. Memory's a funny thing.

I always get nostalgic sitting at a hydro bar. Fresh vegetables are still so rare here that the hydroponics labs figured they'd take advantage of their luxury crops by selling them at a premium in swanky shops connected to their growing facilities. You just sidle up to the clean, blue bar and get a crisp salad or some fingerling potatoes. No booze, though. It's hard to find the stuff on Mars seeing as there aren't enough surplus crops to justify a still and no colony sponsor is like to change its policy on shipping bottles along with approved provisions. Every once in a while I've stumbled upon a colonist who has something decent tucked away for special occasions. Physicists drink like mad men, no joke. I once spent a whole night shooting the bull with a nerd at the propulsion center who had a small bar tucked away in a cabinet in his quarters. I couldn't keep up with guy and I'd be surprised if he weighed more than 98 pounds on Earth.

Here in the MW-1 hydro they have some of the best fruit on the planet. Cherries. Drive around in the red for long enough without a natural flavor on your tongue and something like an honest cherry tastes better than a kiss. A bowl full costs me half a week's wages, but that doesn't matter to me. Money on Mars is strange. The sponsor covers your quarters and for a guy like me the fuel stations don't even ask for credit. I just swipe a badge and the cost of H2 goes to a processing department on Earth. So, what am I supposed to do with my pay? There's no one to send it home to and I'm on the road most of the year. I don't even grocery shop when I'm back at the resident station. So, cherries. A whole bowl of 'em all to myself. By the time I spit out the last pit I feel like I'm high from all the fructose.

But there's no stopping for me, at least not for long. There are scrubbers at the solar array some 200 Km down the road that are long overdue for maintenance and maybe if I drive fast enough the memories won't keep catching up with me.

Oh, Nan. You were prettiest in that kitschy travel dorm that projected scenes of the ocean onto the wall. Ain't no ocean here. Not for a long time, anyway. And for a long time coming.