Blue Mars - By Kim Stanley Robinson

Part One

Peacock Mountain

Mars is free now. We’re on our own. No one tells us what to do.Ann stood at the front of the train as she said this.

But it’s so easy to backslide into old patterns of behavior. Break one hierarchy and another springs up to take its place. We will have to be on guard for that, because there will always be people trying to make another Earth. The areophany will have to be ceaseless, an eternal struggle. We will have to think harder than ever before what it means to be Martian.

Her listeners sat slumped in chairs, looking out the windows at the terrain flowing by. They were tired, their eyes were scoured. Red-eyed Reds. In the harsh dawn light everything looked new, the windswept land outside bare except for a khaki scree of lichen and scrub. They had kicked all Earthly power off Mars, it had been a long campaign, capped by a burst of furious action following the great flood on Terra; and they were tired.

We came from Earth to Mars, and in that passage there was a certain purification. Things were easier to see, there was a freedom of action that we had not had before. A chance to express the best part of ourselves. So we acted. We are making a better way to live.

This was the myth, they had all grown up with it. Now as Ann told it to them again, the young Martians stared through her. They had engineered the revolution, they had fought all over Mars, and pushed the Terran police into Burroughs; then they had drowned Burroughs, and chased the Terrans up to Sheffield, on Pavonis Mons. They still had to force the enemy out of Sheffield, up the space cable and back to Terra; there was work still to be done. But in the successful evacuation of Burroughs they had won a great victory, and some of the blank faces staring at Ann or out the window seemed to want a break, a moment for triumph. They were all exhausted.

Hiroko will help us, a young man said, breaking the silence of the train’s levitation over the land.

Ann shook her head. Hiroko is a green, she said, the original green.

Hiroko invented the areophany, the young native countered. That’s her first concern: Mars. She will help us, I know. I met her. She told me.

Except she’s dead, someone else said.

Another silence. The world flowed under them.

Finally a tall young woman stood up and walked down the aisle, and gave Ann a hug. The spell was broken; words were abandoned; they got to their feet and clustered in the open space at the front of the train, around Ann, and hugged her, or shook her hand— or simply touched her, Ann Clayborne, the one who had taught them to love Mars for itself, who had led them in the struggle for its independence from Earth. And though her bloodshot eyes were still fixed, gazing through them at the rocky battered expanse of the Tyrrhena massif, she was smiling. She hugged them back, she shook their hands, she reached up to touch their faces. It will be all right, she said. We will make Mars free. And they said yes, and congratulated each other. On to Sheffield, they said. Finish the job. Mars will show us how.

Except she’s not dead, the young man objected. I saw her last month in Arcadia. She’ll show up again. She’ll show up somewhere.

At a certain moment before dawn the sky always glowed the same bands of pink as in the beginning, pale and clear in the east, rich and starry in the west. Ann watched for this moment as her companions drove them west, toward a mass of black land rearing into the sky— the Tharsis Bulge, punctuated by the broad cone of Pavonis Mons. As they rolled uphill from Noctis Labyrinthus they rose above most of the new atmosphere; the air pressure at the foot of Pavonis was only 180 millibars, and then as they drove up the eastern flank of the great shield volcano it dropped under 100 millibars, and continued to fall. Slowly they ascended above all visible foliage, crunching over dirty patches of wind-carved snow; then they ascended above even the snow, until there was nothing but rock, and the ceaseless thin cold winds of the jet stream. The bare land looked just as it had in the prehuman years, as if they were driving back up into the past.It wasn’t so. But