(Page 2 of 18)
Martian Summer: Comet Night by Stuart Atkinson
So she could see if she really could glimpse Marineris from there, as she had once dreamed she could...
Her nagging had lasted years, literally. Finally one day, heaving a huge sigh of resignation, her father gave in, and after making her pack a rucksack in a matter of minutes he had helped her suit up and then led her up the Hill, following the Trail, re-tracing the historic and solar system-famous route the Spirit rover had taken up it a century earlier.
She had expected excitement, wonder and glory, but it hadn't quite turned out like that...
During that historic and long-awaited first ascent, Sarah had thought she was being hauled up Olympus Mons itself instead of a humble hill; used to being inside her skinsuit for just short periods, usually for the walk to school or across the settlement to visit friends, Sarah had started to struggle inside it after an hour, and by the time they were on the Trail proper, having to dig their boots into the dust and trudge with their heads lowered, her lungs had burned and ached more with each step. Soon her young legs, constantly slip-sliding on the shingle-strewn slopes, had felt as if they were going to explode with the pain. Her head had ached as her pounding heart fought to pump enough blood around her body to fuel its exertions, and more than once she had felt like giving up, like sinking to the dusty ground, or leaning against one of the boulders and outcrops which zig-zagged up the hill.
But she hadn't. Gritting her teeth against the pain in her immature muscles, she had followed her boldly-striding father without complaint, onwards, up the West Spur, towards and then up and through the wide, dust-filled Tennessee Valley and on past one famous outcrop, ledge and boulder after another; taking one heavy, heart-straining, throat-drying step after another, ignoring the fire raging in her lungs and the tears in her eyes which blurred the view of the landscape around her –
Then suddenly the sky opened up in front of and above her, the ground levelled out and she was there, there, at the summit, on top of the world looking down on Creation as the ancient Earther song said. Standing beside the famous full-size replica of the rover, in the shadow of its camera mast, holding her father's hand and trying desperately not to shake, she had felt her heart finally burst.
But not from fatigue, or exhaustion. From love.
Far below her, down on the sprawling floor of Gusev, was the young settlement of Columbia Gate. She had never seen the Gate from above before, but because it was her home, and the only place she had ever known, she had always thought of it as the biggest settlement on Mars, bigger even than Sagan, Squyres or Robinson. Its streets always seemed so crowded with people, ‘bots and rovers. But from the summit of the Hill the truth was revealed and the Gate was reduced to a cross-hatch patterned stain of streets and alleyways, its houses, shops and rover bays mere tiny blocks of white, red and blue against the red of the dusty ground.