Martian Winter: Titan Dreams by Stuart Atkinson

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SUMMARY: Two martians are taken on a journey through Time and Space, and return home with a new appreciation of what, and where, "home" really is...

TITAN DREAMS

Blare felt dizzy from lack of air. Chest tight, head swimming, world whirling around him, it was only when his sister started laughing that Blare finally remembered to breathe.

"I think we're down," he said, gulping in air, his voice cracking with a combination of relief and excitement.

"Yes," Catriona grinned back from beside him, "I think you're right, little brother... "

Around them the cramped cabin echoed to the sounds of creaking and groaning, as the capsule's hull relaxed after the stresses of its fiery passage through the atmosphere. Straining to listen past the cacophony of artificial sighs Blare could just make out a fainter, more natural one.

Was that... wind? Wind, wafting gently over the scorched and blistered hull of the ‘Baxter'?

He started to ask his sister if she could hear it too, but saw she was too busy closing-down the descent systems to talk. He watched with admiration as her long fingers flashed and darted with an almost inhuman speed over the illuminated instrument panels in front of her. She was a natural pilot, always had been.

Unlike him...

"How's your board looking?" his sister asked without looking up from her readouts, reminding him gently that he had his own post-touchdown tasks to attend to. Embarrassed, Blare looked away from her quickly, directing his attention back to the environmental displays.

"Er.. methane, methane, and – hey, more methane," he reported, reading off the graphics display, "as advertised in the brochure."

Catriona smiled , a little sadly. "Looks like those old probes weren't lying after all..." she said, more to herself than him, "shame, I was hoping we'd find a nice sandy beach and a warm ocean lapping at us."

Blare looked out the window, but the world beyond it was as dark as the inside of a coffin. Floodlights, he remembered, and tapped an icon glowing softly on the illuminated panel beside him. A moment later twin floodlights mounted on the exterior of the lander flared into life, each blazing with the power of a million candles and sending beams of light through the gloom. Blare sighed. Nothing. The lanterns weren't strong enough to reveal the landscape around them. He could see nothing of their historic landing sight. All that he could see through the six inch thick crystal-glass window were myriad flecks of... something...flittering and fluttering through the beams of light, particles drifting in the ... wind?

"No ocean, sorry," he replied, thinking to himself and if there's a beach out there the sand is cold enough to freeze you solid in a heartbeat if you go walking barefoot along the shore...

Catriona laughed again. "Well then, little brother, I guess we'd better wrap up warm when we go out to play...!"

Blare nodded in agreement, but wasn't really listening. He was too busy looking out the window, watching a particularly large ice particle drift past. Caught in one of the floodlight beams it looked like one of those bizarrely fragile, gossamer winged Terran creatures he had learned about in school.

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