October 6, 2023
It’s official. My brother hates me. He doesn’t let me touch his Tata Safari Storme ‘Explorer’. That’s bad -- especially since it’s an SUV launched in 2013 back on planet Earth. But he’s crazy about it; he even brought it to Mars with him when we moved to the red planet.
He caresses his ride with loving fingers each day, smoothing out each hint of a scratch till the vehicle looks brand-new, not something that navigates the rugged terrain of Mars every day.
Which is why I decided to “borrow” the Explorer. It’s the only way I get to ride this beauty since my brother owns the only one on Mars. He’s the most powerful human here -- the president of our Earthling colony.
I stole away at midnight, silently reversing the Explorer from the garage and making use of the on-screen reverse parking assist to avoid hitting the Martian rocks that jutted out into our driveway.
The Mars colony guards didn’t look too suspicious as I drove past; they were used to residents making short trips outside the perimeter. As the head of the Earth’s exploration team here on Mars, I have often driven my official Curiosity 6 rover on trips - but riding the ‘Explorer’ on Mars was a whole new experience.
Within minutes, I’d vroomed past the last human outpost on Mount Sharp, where the study of fossils buried in sediment had proved beyond doubt that life existed on the planet. We’ve even had sightings of the green human-like Martian beings, but have never been able to view them from close range. The only other alien creatures we found here in the last decade were the margolians, centipede-like bluish creatures that flourished even amid the dry Martian rocks.
As for plant life, we Earthlings steered clear of the Red Witches, metre-high carnivorous red plants that blended with the planet’s surface and preyed on unsuspecting margolians -- and the occasional human who wasn’t watching his step.
Here I was, excitedly handling my brother’s Explorer as its 2.2-litre VariCOR turbocharged engine purred along. Despite the colonists’ best efforts over the past decade, there were very few motorable roadways on Mars. Which meant that the Explorer had to traverse several miles of inhospitable terrain, despite its efficient navigation device, just to get to the edge of the Valles Marineris, the canyon system that marked the frontier -- the furthest we humans had ever travelled on Mars.
After an hour’s further off-roading on rocks and gravel, I was ready for a break. Parking on the edge of the canyon, I uncovered the roof-mounted canopy for my impromptu picnic. I unhooked my food rations from the cargo basket at the rear, flicked away a stray margolian crawling along the SUV’s decal, and settled into my easychair after switching on the 2-DIN TouchScreen Infotainment System.
This was life! Going where no human had gone before, listening to Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus duets, munching raspberry chocolate bars and enjoying the view of the canyon floor -- where a river is said to have flowed millions of years ago.
I was nearly drifting off to sleep when I spotted it. A green Martian was coming towards me. My hand moved towards my right-hand pocket, just to make sure my stun gun and tasers were armed and ready. But the Martian ignored me and made a beeline for the ‘Explorer’. He crouched in front of the car, stroking the front nudge guard and gazing at the chrome garnish on the projector headlamps.
“Like it?” I asked the Martian, unsure of its response or whether it understood me. It turned its head towards me and seemed to smile, flicking its pointy ears and gesturing with its three-fingered right hand. The alien seemed friendly and I took my hand out of my pocket.
“Want to sit inside?” I asked, gesturing towards it and pointing to the Explorer. The Martian rolled its big white eyes and its narrow green face creased into a huge grin.
I opened the passenger-side door, but it had already made a move for the steering wheel. “Wait a minute! Do you have an inter-planetary licence?” I asked the Martian but it wasn’t even listening, rapt in admiration as it settled into the leather seat and eyed the controls.
It took the Martian just a minute or two of demonstration to figure out how to drive the Explorer. And it whooped in delight as the SUV sprung to life and glided over the rocks and pebbles. Good, so the Martian loved the experience. Just the bait I needed to get him to base camp.
I plotted a course for home on the navigation device and the Explorer made its way towards the colony. The Martian didn’t notice; it was busy enjoying the ride. Within an hour, I had eased the Explorer back into the garage. But the lights were on and I saw my brother standing near the door.
“How dare you touch my SUV?” he yelled.
“I got a Martian for you,” I replied.
“I don’t care,” he screamed.
But of course, he did care. It took a few minutes and five guards to pry the Explorer-addicted alien away from the controls. As he ordered the Martian taken to the lab, he turned to me and said: “If you touch my Explorer again, I’ll throw you into the canyon myself.”
(This fictional post was written for the Tata Safari Storme "I am Explorer!" contest on Indiblogger)