Blackbox

Home on the Range

MARCH14-10AF 06:43GMT

Two hundred clicks south by southwest of Pavonis Mons at the TQZ border.

The cycler chews up the ground beneath it, thick and wide smart material wheels meeting the TQZ boundary path as it’s brought into view by the bike’s big headlight. The quarantine zone doesn’t need fences. The people who walk in don’t tend to walk out all that often, and anything that’s already in there doesn’t seem to feel like coming out for a quick stroll along the zone’s border.

The constant hum of the cycler’s propulsion system and the winds were the only sounds in this quiet and cold world’s dark morning.

The ruster on the bike took a big breath of the cold morning air and shivered. They tasted blood in their mouth, the sweet rusty taste of the Martian air. Their morph’s lungs worked hard, harder than any flat human could; abusing Thick’s law to maximise oxygen uptake from such a low partial pressure. They say the new ruster models don’t even have to deal with the migraines the carbon dioxide causes.

Light suddenly start’s to fill the world around the cycle as the sun rises, lighting first the red golden rust flats, then slowly bathing the ruins of Qurain, the bright light reflecting off of the cracked bio domes of the old city on Apollinaris Mons. The red dust choking any life left out of the place, burying it slowly with the help of the martian wind.

Jii, local mesh is giving us a proximity warning? Could you gimme eyes for a sec? Jii’s muse chirped in their skull. The ruster shifted in the seat and reached up to touch the ecto at their neck.
“Knock yourself out but I don’t see jack.” The ruster’s voice was harsh and raspy, one of the fun benefits of breathing in a C-O-little-two heavy atmosphere on a daily basis.
Weird. Sweep north 40 degrees for me? Nothing, just rolling clouds and little pink dustdevils. Or maybe a little trail of smoke? It was faint and far away, but it didn’t seem to be coming from the zone.

A large ship slowly phased into view, the wavelengths of light it had been bending seemed to be shifting to a different spectrum as it careened into the zone about a hundred clicks from Jii’s position. It’s reverse thrusters screaming under stress as it slowly plunged toward the ground.

“This is not my fucking day.” The ruster swore and spat into the bloody dust. "Core? Register emergency response request 80 clicks north of my position.
Roger.

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