Intercosmic - Chapter 22 - Welcome to Mars

When Renan asked if I wanted to go to Mars with him, I told him I’d be glad to. I thought that it might be a way to learn more about his life, meet his mother. I haven’t had to meet the parents in a long time. I thought we’d be able to spend some time together outside of hotels and casinos. Now, I’m not so sure.

Looking into his face as he sleeps on the ship, he’s still beautiful, but I don’t think it’s love. I’m not really sure how I would define love. I’ve told him about my past, he didn’t judge me for it. He offered support. More support than I’ve had for anything in my life. Still, I don’t think this is love. The sex is good, but is that it? I don’t know anything about him, other than he’s an escort, that doesn’t actually need to escort. Perhaps the idea of being with someone more than just a night for the first time in years was more important than the idea of love. When I try to think about settling down and raising children, it isn’t with Renan. No matter how I try to picture it. In time, I might grow to love him, but right now, I don’t know exactly what it is. I haven’t sad that I love him, and he hasn’t said that he loves me. We could, but for now I’m just seeing where this takes us.

That’s how I ended up on Mars. He wanted me to go, but couldn’t come out and say it directly. I also wasn’t sure about meeting his mother. Eventually he finally admitted he wanted me to come as well. He was almost afraid of going without me, and I’m not sure why. It would have been the perfect time for me to break this, thing of ours, off and go my own way. After he talked me through my little meltdown at the cabaret. I couldn’t help but feel as if I owed him for the time, we spent getting my crap together. I could at least help him with something he was struggling with even if he wasn’t saying anything to me out loud. Why should I expect him to tell me anything? I barely know him, he barely knows me. I wouldn’t have revealed the things I did if he hadn’t noticed I was struggling. Now I’m riding through mars looking for answers.

Mars is a shithole. Radiation is still ruining most of the planet. Back when Mars become home to some of the first colonies, it also became home to the first nuclear wars. I remember listening to audio of them during history class. The cities had been built into craters and walls of stone to protect from the stone. The Nuclear bombs were the easiest and fastest way to crack through the walls. Most of the population was wiped out, but it had some benefits. Somehow the bombs they were using generated a magnetic field for mars, or maybe kick started one. Anyway, that protected people from the solar rays, winds or whatever other kind of radiation the sun kicking out. It basically made Mars become more livable. With a few changes, they were able to make the planet breathable. There’re no bio domes or anything like that. Mars is truly a testimony to the scientific abilities of humans as well as the destructive capabilities.

As customary, I’ve been looking up places I want to go to see. There’s a volcano called Olympus which is supposed to be three times as large as any mountain on Earth. There's a canyon called Valles Marineris that I want to visit. It’ll take a couple of days if I want to see the whole thing, and parts are still extremely wild. I’m curious if Renan will be up for it, but I’m not sure if he’s ever used a gun, or if we’ll need guns.

The ship descending onto the platform is my cue to nudge Renan and wake him up. He struggles to take his bags from the overhead, the weight is nothing, but he doesn’t seem to want to. Sluggishly he makes his way off the ship, almost as if I’m not even here.

“Hey, where should we go,” I ask.

“I guess we can grab a bite to eat,” he answers without looking up.

“Lead the way,” I reach for his hand and he pulls away.

“Don’t start acting like a lost kid now,” he begins to walk.

I haven’t seen this side of his personality since the night we met. Back then I had a purpose for putting up with it. Now, not so much, and my patience has been wearing thin these last few days. I’m trying to be supportive, the same way he was, but he’s actively trying to push me away from him. Love is just made up of time spent together and secrets shared. We don’t share any secrets and haven’t known each other long.

“How long are we going to spend on Mars?”

“You’re free to go whenever you want. I’ll be here for four to six months,” he answers coldly.

“Good thing I’ve got nothing better to do.”

“Stop him,” a woman screams out.

I turn to watch a short-bearded man in tight green jump suit sprint through the crowd gripping a suitcase. Nobody seems to care, as if this is a normal occurrence. I hand my bag to Renan and prepare to give chase. He grips my wrist with surprising strength. I pause to look back at him and my pursuit ends when I lose track of the man in the crowd.

“It’s called the little green man scam. They’re just setting you up to be robbed. Only tourist fall for that. That’s why nobody gave chase. This isn’t a tourist heavy spot, there’s nothing here for anyone but locals. Barely anything for us either.”

I’ve been here approximately twenty minutes, and I hate Mars with a passion. It doesn’t get any better when I’m tagged by customs for a random search. I didn’t even know that was a thing. I’ve never heard of anyone getting searched at random before but Renan assures me this isn’t a scam. A few scans and a search through my bag should have been enough to clear me but they still felt the need to ask me questions.

“Why are you coming to Mars,” the customs officer asks.

“I’m here with a friend. We’re visiting his mother.”

“This time of year,” she scrolls through a tablet not looking at me.

“I’m not sure what that means.”

“Of course you don’t. How long do you intend to stay?”

“A few weeks maybe. I can’t imagine staying long term.”

“Do you have any contraband to declare?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Last question, what is your occupation Mr. Gray?”

“I guess I’m unemployed.”

“It says here you’re on temporary leave from the marine corps.”

“Temporary leave?”

“For medical issues, that gaudy arm is all the proof I need,” she taps at my arm.

“Yeah, temporary leave.”

First, I get a promotion, now someone has entered me into the system as being on a temporary leave. Either someone is looking out for me, or just looking for me. I can’t think of many friends that would do that. I can think of a grand total of zero who would actually do it for me. I need to get to the bottom of the issue, but I can’t really do that without going back. For now, I’m just glad to know my meeting with customs is over. Although I can’t help but wonder if someone set up the meeting just to pass that information along to me.

“Glad to see you waited on me,” I greet Renan outside the transport station.

“Let’s go,” he continues his coldness.

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