COLONISATION: A NOVEL By RICHARD HOLLIDAY APRIL 2012 PREVIEW

This preview has been taken from Chapter 9. I was woken early that next morning by a buzzing on my room's sliding door. Stirring, I whacked an elbow on the curved wall of the room by my bed as my limbs flailed into life. The burst of pain that coursed through my elbow woke me up fully, and the door opened as I exclaimed. "Hurt your head on the ceiling like I did, eh, Rad?" My eyes adjusted to the brightness of the outside corridor, having relaxed in the gloom of my little sanctuary. I looked and noticed the porthole blinds were still serenely closed; it was early. My eyes focussed on the figure and it revealed itself; It was Aaron, from the drilling team, and I weakly smiled back. "Something like that, Aaron. Is it that early?" "Afraid so, but we're going on a magnetoscope mission today. No drilling, just driving." "The Rover?" "Got any better suggestions?" Aaron quipped. I quickly dressed, threw on a tunic and some trousers, and followed Aaron along corridors on the lower deck of the lander "So where're we going?" I ventured as we tip-toed along the corridor, down stairwells and companionways, destined for Deck 1. The lander was quiet, everyone evidently still asleep in their beds. I envied them a little, but remembered the challenge ahead. Worth one early start. "The motor pool, and then outwards," Aaron answered starkly, guiding me downwards. I wasn't familiar with this part of the Lander, the walls were sloping and it was claustrophobic, with low lighting. "Sorry it's not too roomy down here, Rad. The hull took a bit of a battering here on landing." "OK," I said, feeling in front of me to avoid hitting myself on any pipes or other unexpected parts of the ship, moved from whence they were meant to be. "Is everyone else asleep?" "No, no, the others will be waiting," Aaron said, but his voice suddenly dropped. "Yields has been up in his tower all night, looks like." "Really?" I mused, but Aaron didn't answer, as we'd reached a wide door that had stencilled on in paint the words 'motor pool', and it opened. We arrived in an open space, which looked like a small cargo hold. Inside, the rest of the drilling team were fussing over the Rover, which was parked in one of the three bays at the far end. Alongside the Rover was the Drilling rig from the previous day, with the derrick folded down flat. Along another wall were two other bays, with crates secured in plastic film, waiting to be unwrapped. "Oh, those?" Aaron said, noticing my intrigue at these parcels, "just two spare Rovers we ain't gotten out yet. We're only human, after all." I looked and saw Aaron had moved and was fiddling with a sliding door control on one of the other sides of the room, where the walls curved with the contours of the hull. Dust trails, or orange particles, like sand, followed this door to where the Rover was parked, and I came to the assumption that this was the exterior door. "You're drivin' if you want to, Rad." "I want to." I said, nervously, without really thinking. "Good. Get your pressure suit on and drive outside. Spares ones are on the wall if you don't want to lug yours out from the dorm." I'd neglected to notice that the rest of the drilling team, the three who'd been fussing over the Rover a few seconds ago, had their spacesuits on, and Aaron was lifting his helmet on top of the collar joint on his own suit. I grabbed one of the spare suits from the rack and put it on, over my regular uniform. It didn't fit perfectly, and smelled of dry sweat, but it would do the trick for this mission. I fastened the helmet on with

Colonisation: A Novel – Richard Holliday a few heavy clicks as seals were made and in a couple of minutes took a seat behind the wheel of the Rover. It was unlike any other car I'd driven. There were no foot pedals, or fully circular wheel; instead it had a T-shaped steering device with two handles, a lot like a bison's horns. On these were silicone grips that rotated and could be squeezed. Aaron and a couple other colonists climbed aboard, after loading a heavy metal case onto the back rack of the Rover. Aaron leaned over from the seat next to me. Before he said anything, he attached hoses from a central distributor point in the middle of the lander to a port on the back of my suit's neck. It hissed inside, but this soon subsided. It was this pipe that would keep me alive as we drove around. "Equalise pressure!" Aaron called, and on a remote one of the other guys pressed a button. Red lights flashed for a few seconds as the motor pool was sealed from the rest of the lander and brought to equal atmospheric pressure as the planet surface outside. It was like one giant airlock. The lights turned green around the room. "Pressure's equal, man," the colonist with the remote reported. Aaron cautiously leaned over to me. "Alright Rad, quick driving lesson. Grip each handle on the steering and rotate forward to accelerate, and pull back to decelerate. Squeeze one more than the other to apply more power to that set of wheels." "Why do I need a steering column if they're independently powered?" "Redundancy. It'll go with a default setting if you want it to. You want it to?" "Nah," I said, gripping both handles and turning them backwards and skidding in reverse out until I faced the door. My driving was a bit jumpy but I quickly compensated. I'd driven before, why should this be any different? The rubberised tyres squealed on the metal floor. "I'll be fine." "You're a quick learner. Your suit's already equalised pressure so just drive straight out." I took the handle and squeezed it forwards, and after a few more kangaroo hops, we went swiftly toward the door. I stopped just prior to breaching the threshold. "Everyone ready?" "Sure," one of the other colonists said. "Ready when you are, driver," another other said from the back seat. "Door will open by itself, Rad. Drive on," Aaron directed with a gloved hand. The door rumbled and squeaked open as I slowly edged the Rover forward and drove it outside and onto the Martian surface. The orange was intense against the cold grey of the Lander interior, and drew me instinctively toward it. Driving onto the Martian surface felt unlike driving anywhere else, which made sense considering we were the first people here. Gravity is lower on Mars, and it affected the handling in unexpected and interesting ways. On the front cage that formed the body of the Rover was an instrument panel, and a computer screen that displayed a line graph of the topology of the immediate region around the vehicle. This was generated by the radar that was sitting high on the back, in a little dome nestled in the flower of solar panels that protruded out back. It was these that gave the Rover almost unlimited range, and the induction motors they powered that gave it a definite kick on a squeeze of the throttle grips. I'd certainly have had a lot of fun with one of these back home… no, wait, back on Earth.

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