”You see, this greenhouse is just a temporary solution. The ultimate goal is to turn Mars into a second Earth. The process has already begun, even if your people didn’t see it. If you walk around the surface you will notice that there are lichens everywhere. What you can’t see is that we also spread microorganisms which can survive the extreme conditions. The lichens are removing carbon dioxide and add oxygen while the microorganisms add nitrogen to the soil and turn it into something that can support plant life as we know it.”
”How long will all of this take?” I ask.
”We’ve almost finished the first stage. Maybe fifty more years and we can start planting mosses and bryophytes to further increase the oxygen. That stage will take some more centuries and gives us time to figure out how to solve the problem with the animal pollinators. Flowering plants need those. We brought some with us but they won’t be enough for the entire planet. Maybe we will build tiny robots, maybe something else. Who knows. But our descendants will figure something out, I’m sure.”
I look around the greenhouse. It’s gigantic. A huge glass dome connected to other huge glass domes. Fields of corn and vegetables and fruits. It’s really a sight. And it’s my new job.
Two months passed since I arrived here. Two months since everyone I knew was murdered. At first, I had refused to leave my room for anything but food but soon realized that it won’t change anything. My crew won’t come back from the dead if I isolate myself. My mom won’t start living again. So I left my room and pretended to forgive them for what they had done.
Andromeda was especially pleased, after all, she had been the one who saved me. I do still feel a certain affection towards her but she is also at least a little bit guilty. Everyone here is. It’s all I can think of when I look into their eyes.
After being accepted as a part of their group, they told me that I need to start participating in some way. They first put me on cleaning duty, then moved me into the kitchen. I performed well in both positions but wasn’t too happy about it. I had asked Andromeda if I could do something that involved fewer people and she had sent me here, to the greenhouse.
And it’s perfect.
After being instructed on how to care for the plants, my overseer leaves me alone so I can fulfill my duties. Right now it’s mostly making sure the plants are properly watered and to collect ripe fruit to prevent spoilage. Easy.
It gives me time to think.
These people I have to live with now are determined to terraform Mars, no matter how long it takes and no matter the cost. And now that their spacesuits and buildings are, thanks to the technology of my people, better shielded against space radiation, their progress might actually speed up.
Turning Mars from a frozen desert to a forest, that seems to be the dream. To do that, they’ll need to reach many steps in between but with enough patience, they might actually reach their goal one day, turning Mars into a second Earth, populated by genetically manipulated humans who are all descendants of the same few people. Gross.
But as the atmosphere warms up, the memories how it all started will fade and what was once considered normal, or abnormal in this case, won’t matter anymore. A perfect little society of freaks.
I pour some water on the tomato plants. They don’t belong here either. But they are probably just as genetically modified as the humans living here. I squat down to look at one of the tomatoes. There is nothing unusual about it. A normal tomato, not yet read enough to eat. Carefully, I poke it with my finger. Feels like a tomato. Would probably taste like a tomato too. A Mars tomato but still a tomato.
I pluck it off its bush and roll it in my hand. Then I forcefully make a fist around the tomato. Juice mixed with pulp and seeds runs down my hand and along my arm. I look at it, contemplative.
A Mars tomato, yes. But it’s not sturdier than a normal tomato from Earth. In fact, it can be destroyed just as easily as it’s earth-grown cousins.
The humans should be no different.
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