PEACE AND QUIET

by Paul Muller

Day 468.

Her gaze drifted around the white walls of the cabin, dotted with photographs of another life 37 million miles behind her.

They weren’t great pictures, she reflected, as she watched tiny figures dance and laugh and run in and out of shot. When they made it back to Earth she would have some taken professionally, good quality moving photographs with 30 seconds of runtime. Those extra moments of happiness would make all the difference in the lonely vacuum of space.

250 miles below, the Vallis Marineras raced beneath her feet. The survey ship ‘Vigilant’ cast its electronic eyes over the planet below, seismographs, infra-red and ultraviolet scanners scouring the Martian surface. The sun’s feeble light flashed on the surface of a weather balloon, hovering lazily in the atmospheric haze.

And below, automated gliders seeded the clouds in an endless cycle.

She lay back and sighed, trying to imagine how it would feel to stand on the dusty red soil in a white dress, hair waving in the breeze, to breathe the air.

Real, unfiltered, unrecycled air.

But they would all have to wait. They knew the game. That would be the pay-off.

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