While rolling through the tunnels on the EL, the ElonLine, a bedraggled man comes by, panhandling — Hello my name is Lemmy and I am a homeless Venezuela War veteran— extending his StarBits card-reader as he walks by. I swipe him a cup of coffee and go back to reading news on my pad.
This is my sixth visit to Mars. My job at Gravitex ties me mostly to Earth, and these visits are often shorter than the six month travel time from the blue planet to the red planet. I’m still a stranger here. When I’m not working I’m a sociological voyuer, using every opportunity to people-watch; scrutinizing Native Martian-Americans going on about their day. I jot down occasional observations throughout today, little glances that at end of the day I can transmit back to be posted on my Medium page.
Because my pad was turned on this morning I got a red blip notification that I had received an iOpener — an important bulletin headline from Earth. The newsflash was that a pronouncement from The Vatican had confirmed that women had been ordained as priests, endowing them with, quote unquote, the power to transubstantiate the essence of bread and wine into the real body and blood of Jesus Christ. A photo of an endless hungry line of believers at the opening gala, with twelve (symbolic) women clergy nourishing the throngs, filled the square at St. Peter’s Basillica. Three of the women, the report continued, were slated to move to Mars and work at the Cathedral of St Joseph of Cupertino.
A child next to me was playing the game Kandy Katastrophe™© on his mini-puter, virtual reality contact lenses bulging his eyes, below which was an excited, teeth-grinding, smile. His mother was reading a disposable e-tabloid the cover of which I caught: Sexiest Men on Mars.
My visit this time is related to the discussion going on about building cloud cities above Venus— the next generation’s goal to trek our amazing advanced species out to the stars. Some of the best minds on both planets were beckoned to this Interplanetary Symposium to review the philosophical components of the venture. The conference began with the keynote “Feed the Hungry or Enhance the App?” — presented by I. Jack O’Reilly, technology entrepreneur, engineer, and CEO of XpandX. He summarized his view at the end with: “Jesus said in John 12:8 — ’the poor you will always have with you‘. So. . . who are we to argue?!” Thundering applause.
On the way back from the Bradbury Conference Center after the event, a fragment of an overheard conversation:
X: Biology dictates it, tradition demands it, and — I want to get married.
Y: But our families won’t agree. Your family was born on Earth and votes Green Party and mine here on Mars — lifelong Redpublicrats. On top of it all your family are followers of Pana Wave and mine are devout Raelians.
X: But our love is like no other. From it will be born indigo children who will usher in a better world, not gullible to the lies of patriotism or religion.
Spent an hour on the Look@Me talking to my family. They gathered on the couch, the Christmas tree visible in the background. I chose to sit near a figurine of a paw-waving cat at my favorite Chinese restaurant; nicer scenery than my hotel room (where a copy of War of the Worlds, which the Gideons had placed there, awaited my bedtime reading).
When I talked a little about my work deliberations, the kids, both teens, excitedly expressed a desire to someday live on Venus. I signed off promising I’d bring them some MoMs — our playful term for items which were Made on Mars, something they always like receiving after my long absences.
After our chat I went back to the Conference Center for a few of the scheduled TED Talks. “Shall We Program Genital Response in Artificial Intelligence” was followed by “Why We Must Circumcise Male Artificial Intelligence (Because It Must Look Like It’s Dad).” Later, the evening ended with an 18 minute proposition that ”Speculative Fiction Can Now See Entire Weeks Into The Future.”
I let my wife know that I’d be be getting on the shuttle coming back in about a week. We’ll take a nice vacation together, just her and I. Maybe we can go to New York City — I know she’s been wanting to go for a gondola ride down the canals of Lower Manhattan.