Martian Autumn: Transit Day by Stuart Atkinson

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SUMMARY: The citizens of a colonised Mars face their future, fears and mistakes as they watch a transit of Earth across the face of the distant Sun...


"Are we there yet?"

Callie sighed, and pinched the bridge of her nose with her fingers. A classic travel headache was coming on, she could feel it. She was sure and kept telling herself - that it would be worth it, that once they got to their destination what they saw from the hallowed hilltops would leave an impression on them all which would last a lifetime... But right now, only two hours into the day-long shuttle flight from Ares, she was ready to open an airlock door and jump for it -

"No Blare," she replied calmly, deliberately not turning around, knowing that would only encourage her young son to continue the interrogation, "we're not there yet... if you'd bothered to look at the screen on the back of my seat you'd have seen that in the five minutes that have passed since you last asked me that question we've travelled only a dozen klicks or so. Long way to go yet."

The boy let out a deep sigh, pushing himself back into his chair. "I was only asking," he said huffily, and she could tell his arms were folded tightly and sulkily across his chest, "no need for a lecture..."

"Not a lecture honey," Callie replied sweetly, "just answering your question." Then, added, "again..."

Another deep sigh from behind her, wearier than the last.

"What is it?" she asked, still determined not to turn around, knowing that one look at her son's Forget-Me-Not blue eyes would melt her resolve and she'd give him anything he wanted. "You want a drink?"

Dismissively: "Not thirsty "

"Some food then? I could buzz and have you something brought from the galley "

Sulkily: "Not hungry "

Don't turn round... don't turn round... "What then?"

Melodramatic pause. "Bored."

Callie stared at the ceiling. Boone help me...

"Bored. Blare... come on... you're on a spaceship, travelling over the surface of Mars, flying over billion-year old craters and canyons, heading towards one of the most historic places in the history of mankind, to watch something amazing and wonderful, something no human being has ever seen before, ever? Think about it."

There was a short pause then, during which Callie dared to believe her words had made her son reappraise his situation. Then his soft voice spoke again. "I've thought about it mom," her son replied, enjoying her impatience with him, "and I'm still bored. Bored stiff."

Around them, the shuttle's seven other passengers, all friends, laughed quietly at the boy's cheek, and Callie allowed herself a proud smile. Typical Blare, charming the pants off everyone he met.

So like his father had been, before -

No, don't think about him. Not yet. Wait until you've landed and your helmet's on, and you're outside, she told herself, then they won't ask why you're crying -

"Then just do what you usually do when you're bored," Callie replied, pushing the thoughts of Conn away, "torment your sister."

"Mom!" Catriona protested, but only half-heartedly. She knew her little brother's efforts to aggravate her wouldn't last longer than five minutes.

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