Almost no one inside the Martian Water Dispensary Building could tell where the line ended or where it began. Everyone in line was there to purchase water. They all agreed that it should be free but not Keck Corporation. They’d sell it to Mar’s colonists for the same price as gas back on Earth. It was the age-old greediness of supply and demand coming back to haunt them. Mia Dobson’s family had taken their chances with the colony, but in just six months the game of survival had become unbearable to them. She’d seen ancient pictures in history books of lines like this from the Soviet Union as far back as World War I, but this was a far cry from a communist collapse of that type. This was greed, this was capitalism at its finest. Those at the top get it all while the rest squalor in misery. No one can appreciate a simple thing like good water until it becomes scarce due to tainting. In the end, no one should blame communism, socialism, or capitalism but instead selfishness and greed.
She and her husband Colin had seen the attractive seducing ads to join the colony put out by Keck, and since they both had been out of work; signed up to emigrate to Mars. The various job fields offered by Keck sounded good on paper but in reality, were terrible. Occupations offered decent enough pay, but the rent/real estate was too expensive; once you got there you realize that the expense of living on Mars was super high. Keck liked to nickel and dime the colonists for just about everything. Then the water supply had been tainted making it scarce on the colony. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Mia. She stood in line and thought of how life started on Mars. No, money isn’t everything. It hadn’t all been a terrible deal.
The family enjoyed the serene and sterile deserts that dazzled at night and in the morning. Their son CJ was doing well at the school and had little trouble making friends. Everything had started so beautifully on the colony, except for the precarious financial situation, but Murphy’s law had a cruel way of rearing its ugly head in the end.
Waiting in line like this made Mia think of Colin and the day he disappeared. What had started as a typical bright normal day would change, when Colin went on a surface exploration and never returned. He’d told her he was going with his friend Ethan. That he’d received a text from Ethan the night before and they were supposed to meet at dawn the next day. Ethan called her after Colin failed to show. A day later she filed a report with Martian Security, who searched for Colin but were unable to locate him.
His disappearance had been suspicious to Mia. Especially after she recalled a conversation, they had a week earlier. He’d hinted about seeing something he wasn’t supposed to while exploring Mars with Ethan. Only a select few at Mars knew about it, whatever it was he’d seen. She just wished that he’d told her what it was, but for her protection he refused.
Colin’s disappearance had another effect on Mia. It had sent her into financial ruin. Their bank account had been drained of everything on that same morning. Who had taken it out and why? Neither Mia nor Martian Security could figure it out. All they had were endless theories of speculation. No evidence. He could still be here within the city hiding, she thought. But from who and why? It was only a guessing game at this point, meanwhile, the bills were piling up, and with only her menial income, she and her son were struggling.
When the main water supply for Mars was tainted about a month ago, conditions on the colony became abysmal. Keck authorities were still investigating the cause of it, but rumors of domestic terrorism abounded. It had been hard enough already to deal with the limited water supply of Mars, but now the water had become so scarce it was for sale, and quite expensive too. This put the final nail in the coffin for life here on Mars for Mia and CJ. There was no way she’d be able to afford to buy water of all things. And with two jobs there’d be no time to wait in line every day like she had today. Waiting in line like this to her seemed like a reoccurring nightmare.
This atrocious situation made Mia take drastic action. She’d brought and hidden with her today a Colt 45. It was a rare piece from the twentieth century, more than obsolete here in the twenty-second century. She planned to hold the vendors up for the water and make a quick escape with her friend Peyton. She hadn’t told her about the plan; just asked for a ride home. No, she wasn’t a criminal, just desperate. Desperation brought on by fear. Fear that either CJ or herself would die of thirst eventually. Fear can lead to unspeakable acts like this.
It’s not like she hadn’t tried to return home. She’d already asked Keck and they refused it. Now they were trapped here. The more she tried pulling them out, the worse it seemed to get. Mia likened the situation to that of a Chinese Finger trap. She worked, made just enough to pay one or two bills. Took care of a son as a single parent. Waited in line to pay for life’s essentials with what little money she didn’t have. It was a suicidal thing to do sure. But this had become life and death.
She continued to wait and kept her thoughts on CJ. If there was even a shred of doubt lingering inside her about going through with this, thinking of him would take them away. She also thought of her missing husband Colin. With him not around she realized how lost she truly was. That’d affected her judgment in dealing with her problems. Then again, she had very few friends she could rely on here. She was fed up with Keck Corp and now it was time to show them.
Sometime later, she found herself near the front of the line; just a few moments to go before its time, she thought. Her stomach churned with excitement. It seemed to scream to everyone around her that something big was about to happen, that something was wrong. This is my only chance of survival, she thought. Yes, that’s what she’d call it, survivalism hidden under a desperate woman’s masked struggle to make it in this barren and corrupt world of greed in insolence. A world of stubborn men and women who hid behind a wall of payoffs. A monopoly of the land and resources led to suffering and hungry eyes. Like demented dogs staring at a cold and distant sun with glowing eyes, Keck was blinded by their hardened hearts of greed and arrogance.
Now at the front of the line, she stepped forward and handed the vendor her container. “Three-gallons.”
The vendor stood silent for a moment with his arms folded and waited. After a short while, he held his hand out. “Ain’t you forgettin something Miss?” Mia froze for a while. He continued. “Well, come on we ain’t got all day here. Lots of people are waitin.” With trembling hands, she reached into her Life-Suit pocket and pulled out the Colt pistol. The vendor became wide-eyed; his arms and legs trembled too, he was in shock and couldn’t move.
“Listen, just fill the jug and no one gets hurt.
The vendor slowly raised his shaking hands into the air. “Okay, whatever you say Miss just don’t shoot.” He filled the jugs quickly then handed them to Mia. She strapped the jug to her back then slowly backed up with the gun still pointed at the vendor. Then ran for the front door of the water dispensary.
The vendor signaled to someone well-hidden on a higher floor. He looked down from a darkened window with a Heat-Ray sniper in hand, took aim at Mia, and fired. She felt a burning heat pass her head and froze as she watched it melt the floor in front of her. That was a close one, she thought. Thank God. She ran faster and a few feet later the door was almost within arm’s reach. Another shot narrowly missed right before she pressed the airlock and jumped for cover behind the front desk while it opened.
After a long thirty seconds had passed the airlock was finally open. She heard someone yell. “Shoot her, before she gets away!” She looked to a floor above her after seeing movement. The gunman had moved to a window on her side and was getting into position to shoot her. This is it, she thought, it’s now or never. She leaped up onto the desk and then jumped into the airlock. As the door closed, she quickly pressed her body against the wall to keep herself as covered as possible. The cabin’s air left and slowly filled with the carbon atmosphere of Mars. Her helmet and air supply of her suit were automatically activated, and she stepped out onto the Martian surface.
She quickly located her friend Peyton who waited in her auburn Dustjiffy on the side of a nearby Martian road. Mia raced over and got in the back where CJ sat, his cheeks flushed with dehydration. She turned in Peyton’s direction. “Hurry, we need to get out of here fast.” Then turned her attention to CJ; she filled a canteen with water. With her son’s head held up, she helped him take a drink. She caressed his cheek with the back of her hand. “You’ll be fine soon enough sweetheart.”
The Dustjiffy raced down the street among the pyramid and ziggurat shaped buildings. It wasn’t long before Payton and Mia noticed several cars following closely behind them. Mia looked out of the back window and noticed the Keck insignia on the sides of their Dustjiffy’s. Oh great, Keck Security, she thought. Someone at the Water Dispensary must have seen me get in this car. She turned around to Peyton. “You see them, right?” Peyton nodded but kept her eyes focused on the road. “They’re right behind us; we have to hurry. Can’t this thing go any faster?”
“What did you do back there? Peyton asked.
“We didn’t have water, and I’m broke. I held up the vendors.”
“Mia, you could have asked me. You know I’d help.”
“No, you know I can’t do that. You’re barely getting by as it is. They’re catching up. What’ll we do now?”
“Don’t worry I have an idea” Peyton said. “Hang on tight to something and to that boy of yours.” She then put the gas pedal to the floor and headed straight for a building.
Mia was scared out of her mind. “What are you doing!” She shouted. Peyton didn’t respond. “My God, we’re gonna crash right into that building”. She looked behind her and could see Keck’s Security about to ram them. “Peyton, they’re gonna ram us,” she said. Then suddenly Peyton slammed on the brakes and made a hard left. One of Security’s cars had been ahead of the others and was attempting a pit maneuver on Peyton’s Dustjiffy right before she’d turned and he crashed into a building. After one had crashed the other two slammed into him. Peyton raced through the streets until they reached the main gate. It was heavily guarded and blocked with Keck Security cars and guards around. Peyton again drove full speed and they all responded by moving out of the way and opening the gate. It seemed to Mia and Peyton that these gate guards had no clue what was going on. A wanted woman, about to escape, and the gate guards were none the wiser. Yet wise to move out of the way as their Dustjiffy went through. And just like that, they found themselves out of the city.
Peyton turned to Mia. “These guys had no idea, Mia. At least that’s what it seems like anyway.”
They drove aimlessly for several minutes in silence before anything more was said. They decided to drop Mia off at a small settlement rumored to be beyond the mountain range. Keck was not involved there at all. They didn’t have much, but they had all the basics to survive. She’d heard of a way to return to Earth from the small settlement.
Peyton turned around to Mia. “How much air do you have in that suit of yours?”
Mia read her suit’s computer and the air reading. “A little over a day’s worth.”
“That should be enough,” Peyton said. “There’s one catch though. There will be some security to deal with once we make it. No one should be around here though. I’ll stop and let you off before we’re in their sights.”
“Security? Don’t you mean thugs,” Mia replied.
Peyton nodded. “Three months ago, I wouldn’t have called them that, but things are so bad now, it’s practically a labor camp back at the colony.
Mia sipped some water then cleared her throat. “What are you gonna do about this car? Security is probably looking for it.”
Peyton looked into the rearview mirror. “Already ahead of you. I’ve got a different license plate with me.”
“But won’t they still know the color and model?”
“You’ll just have to wait and see. It’ll be a surprise, Mia.”
Mia rolled her eyes. “Well, ok.”
A few hours passed. Mia had put on normal makeup and removed the cap covering her head; she then gave her son another drink, laid him down in the back seat, and moved to the front. After a few minutes, she looked back. He was resting. She noticed that his cheeks were no longer flush, and he looked like he was much healthier than before. Her worst fear was seeing him become dehydrated. It had been a close call, but it hadn’t happened. Getting water saved him, thankfully.
Peyton turned her head to Mia. “We’re about 2 miles away. Better get ready.”
Soon they arrived at the drop-off point and Peyton pulled over to let Mia out. Mia already had the laser gun Peyton left in the Dustjiffy for her. She handed Peyton the Colt Pistol: “Get rid of it. It’s the last thing that connects me to the robbery.” A tear then streamed down her face. “Take care of CJ for me. I’m not sure I’ll make it. We all should leave that death camp eventually. I guess I’ll be the guinea pig.”
“Are you sure about this,” Peyton asked? “You can hide at my place for a while.”
Mia shook her head. “I did this so we could get off of Mars. So that all three of us could find a way back to Earth. If I make it to the settlement, I’ll contact you and you two can join me. I’ll smuggle you two out of the colony somehow. It’ll be safer that way. It can’t be too far from the settlement. I’ve got air, I’ve got water. I have a gun. I just have to play it safe and I’ll make it.”
Peyton had tears. She said nothing.
Mia took her hand. “If you don’t hear from me.” She looked back at CJ. Tears flowed down her cheek. “You’re the only one I can trust. You must think I’m the worst mother in the world.”
Peyton rubbed Mia’s hand. “Don’t say that. You did fine. It’s Keck’s fault that you’re in this mess. Soon enough we’ll all be in that same mess. You have my promise, Mia. Goodbye.
It had been a long walk, but Mia made it to the mountains and saw the climb ahead of her. She knew it’d be best if she stayed on the far side of where the guards were stationed. The walk had been long and exhausting but at least now she had water, and so did her son and Peyton. The water had been split evenly between them.
As for these mountains, she knew Keck was hiding something but what? She didn’t know. She suspected; however, it’d been here her husband discovered something. Something Keck was trying to keep secret. The way it was heavily guarded near here gave that away, sure, but were they watching her now, remotely? She wasn’t sure but scanned the area for hidden cameras. She couldn’t locate any but figured there had to be some reason this part was unguarded. Maybe it was just Keck being typical. They were just saving money. But had anyone else been out here? Had anyone climbed these mountains? Again, it was a question she couldn’t answer but had to ponder it. Would she find Colin’s body here?