Epilogue: Life on Mars…and Beyond
After several weeks on the west coast of Costa Rica, many of them spent camped out near the beach while living out of my old Jeep, we headed to Europe almost on a whim. I myself had never been so far north through all my travels. I've always felt rooted to the South West hemisphere, but when Jack insisted, who was I to deny him?
I dry-docked the Sparrow in the Florida Keys and had the Jeep shipped and put in storage. We took a cruse from Miami to the coast of France, then Chunneled back over to the UK. Normally neither of us would spend so frivolously, but we figured our Swiss Bank accounts (the only way an ageless person can keep funds w/o being suspicious) were big enough for an extended vacation before slipping into new identities for another lifetime. I was delighted when Jack's accent returned from its 150 year hiatus as the weeks passed in the British Isles. We went to a few museums for the laughs and every so often Jack would describe something he'd seen or done as a journalist there during the second World War. I discovered that's where he'd picked up the Webley, an older gun even then. Sometimes his expression didn't seem to know whether to be sad or happy during these discussions, and I'd sense a bit of Sands' cynical shell around him for a while afterward.
After a few months we toured the continent, staying longer in Amsterdam, Paris, and Madrid, then veering east, over the Mediterranean way. This weather was more to my warm blood's liking. We continued on until the money in both our accounts dwindled. It was a late night in a pub in Constantinople (sorry, "Istanbul") when we knew our outing would have to end.
All my connections were back west in South America, and Jack still couldn't go back to the US. So, two days later, I was on a plane to Brazil and he jumped a train and headed toward Paris because, he told me, he "liked the smell of it."
We'd been together for two years, the longest stint since out first lives, and I wouldn't see him again for a hundred years. As much as he'd proven he was capable of survival in our time together, I still felt deeply worried about him on some nights. His ability to sense the world around him to an eerie degree was not full compensation for sight in my opinion, and I would wonder where he was. Sometimes my heart would freeze at the thought that I might be the only one in the world in my…condition. I remembered the horrible fear that had struck me when I'd pulled his body off the street in Culiacan. I'd yelled at him not to leave me alone. There was no way I could outlive Jack Sparrow, was there?
As the years passed by, I watched as what Calypso had said about the power of humans came to pass. I took my fist trip to the moon in 2067. Mars sprouted cities in 2095. And plans were underway for developing Jupiter's moon Europa, once the distance could be more efficiently crossed. I bought my first personal spacecraft in 2100, and as fate would have it, so did Jack.
2108 found me cruising from the Lunar to the Martian Colonies, just to see what they were like. Despite the advantage of not aging, such long distance travel could get dull after a few days, so I was just still shaking off suspended animation in the cockpit, when a fire-apple red craft came out of nowhere on my left. The fist thought in my sleep addled brain was that it looked like a sporty muscle car version of a Rebel X-Wing Fighter from those century old Star Wars films only with a wider body, the second was "why the hell is this bastard flying so close to me?" I cold clearly see a cattle skull and crossed swords painted on the side in black.
"Someone's daddy has money," I mumbled. Then it maneuvered deftly around me once, got in my way and turned an illegal gun turret on me that had deployed from under the cabin. My adrenaline woke me up and my shock turned to anger.
"So that's how it's gonna be, hijo de puta?" I hissed. What a way to start a day: a hold up. I pressed the camouflaged button that deployed my own hidden weapons. I'm not an idiot.
For a moment neither of us moved. This was international space. If this fight started, it would only end when one of us gave up our ship and begged for mercy, or when one blew the other to hell. We faced off for a long thirty seconds. Did this guy really think my personal craft was worth the effort now that he knew it was armed? Or was it less the prize and more the excitement he was after? A drop of Nelson's blood, you might say?
I fired a warning shot over his bow to get him going and felt a demented smile curl up my face. The red craft shifted right, then swung over my head in a flash. I shot forward, but my heart wasn't in escape; I wanted to get this pompous ass. I felt a blast on my tail shield and spun and fired back at him before he knew what was coming. He caught it on his back as he dove below me and rammed my back end and I went pitching forward. His ship was made for this sort of thing and a newer model than mine. This prick was really getting on my nerves. Catching myself out of the roll, I fired wildly. He dodged and spun and came up beside me faster than I could react. Our shields bumped.
"What are you doing you piece of-"
Something was fired into my side. "Shit!" I finished as my shield fell on my left and something new jostled my craft. I looked at my left side camera. He'd launched grapples into my side. I tried jumping forward, but he offered no resistance so all I achieved was moving us both, which in the vacuum of space is as good as not moving at all.
I glared at the mirrored cockpit beside me and fingered the gun on my hip. I could really use some back-up.
Suddenly, the ship hailed me.
"On screen," I growled in contempt after a moment's contemplation. A corner of my "windshield" lit up to show the cockpit of my enemy.
"Surrender your craft, and its cargo," a man's voice said from off screen, "and I'll consider letting you go in a pod near Mars." A torso wearing a brown duster style coat momentarily blocked the camera. It moved back and the man sat down and kicked a pair of ancient combat boots up on the dash. A head wearing a tri-corner hat and a pair of dark sunglasses looked into the camera. After a moment I saw his body jolt, then he was right up in the camera screen. "Holy mother of Sugar Cane!" he breathed. I was too pissed at first to take anything in, but as that mouth broke into a grin, my heart stopped.
"You evil little money," I whispered. Over the initial shock, I stood up and leaned into the camera as well, pointing at him as if I might poke him in the chest through the screen. "You're paying for the damage you did my ship."
"Only if you pay for the repairs to the Pearl," Jack replied with raised eyebrows.
We docked in New Hong Kong the next day.
New Hong Kong is the ultimate in manufactured cities. The whole damned thing is like Blade Runner on speed. Engineered by the Japanese, built and funded by China, then people were imported and the circus began. On Earth they say life on Mars is like the living bastard afterbirth of science fiction and noir.
The Martian colonies are as dirty and degenerate as the Lunar ones are sterile and orderly. Some claim it's seeing two moons at night that really screws with the human mind, and god knows there are plenty of fucked up people on Mars. The place is chaos.
I love chaos.
When I exited the docking bay (which despite what every 20th century novel would have you believe looks like little more than an air plane hanger) there stood Anna. She hurled and epithet no longer recognized by modern society by way of greeting, then ran up and planted a kiss on me I would not have claimed to deserve, but would never have turned down. Then she slapped me, and proceeded to wag a finder in my face while spouting off about the excellent display of piloting I'd demonstrated to her the day before. I grinned and bared it and when she was done she hugged me again and looked over my shoulder through the archway into the docking bay.
"The Red Pearl?" she asked, reading off the hull of my star ship.
"That's right," I said. "The Pearl's reincarnate. Or great x5 granddaughter perhaps. Haven't really decided."
When she stepped back she had an odd look on her face. She stared hard at my sunglasses and her hand reached out very slowly. When it was a few inches from my glasses I caught her wrist.
"Know this first," I said. "In 2060 I got the first new pair. They weren't pretty. Just two little red dots glowing in the back of the sockets." My free hand came up beside my face and I wiggled a finger like the stalked eye of a crab. "But bather intimidating if I do say so myself. These were the upgrade. Took the bandage off not a week ago." I released her hand. Now for a true judge of biotechnology's handy work.
For a moment her hand didn't move. Then she pulled them off fast, like removing a Band-Aide. She gasped and her hand immediately went to her mouth.
I blinked hard, squinted, and opened my eyes.
Tears were framing Annamaria's eyes and I had never been so happy to see again. She held my face and laughed through a constricted throat. "I- they- they look just like"
"That's because they are. The doctors went in there with their inconceivable little apparatuses and two months later 'Poof,' eyeballs. Produced from my very own DNA. After that, the lids were cake."
She turned my head back and forth in wonder. Then she tilted it forward and I closed my eyes as she kissed each lid carefully and embraced me once more in a way that felt deeper than before. We stood there am long minute before turning and heading toward the street level doors several stories below.
We got onto one of the elevator platforms and it carried us downward.
"What are you doing on Mars anyway?" I asked once I'd sufficiently recovered myself. I couldn't stop looking him in the eyes.
"I got the new peepers on the lunar side of all this," he said gesturing at the air port around us. "So I needed to spend time in a place I could enjoy properly. Sauna's don't agree with my… eccentricities."
"And you figured you'd make a little money on the way over?" I asked, referring to our meeting the day before.
He shrugged. "Space can get boring too. I'm also just seeing if someone I told to meet me here is going to show up."
"Who's that?" I asked.
He just smirked his conspiratorial smirk and didn't answer. "You ever been to New Hong Kong?" He asked after a minute as we hopped of the platform and approached the doors.
"No. I wasn't sure about the distance until I updated my engine last year."
He stepped to the side and took a hold of the door handle dramatically. "Well, the future is here Anna," he said. "And I have to say, it share some eerie similarities to the past." He swung the door in and light and sound erupted in at us. "Welcome to Tortuga, Love."
That day we partied like mad gods, or maybe super heroes, flaunting our lives perhaps more than we should have, but brawling without mishap. We acted like fools simply for the freedom of it in a world where nobody knew our faces and in a future where everyone was so absorbed with themselves that we didn't have to watch what we said. And after hours of playing catch-up and reminiscences Jack told me he had to show me something and we rented a convertible with a clear dome top and drove out toward the red deserts that extended beyond the city. He kept driving after we left the artificial atmosphere and we had to close the windows and turn on the air recycler. He kept checking the clock and looking at the sky as it dimmed above us. The sun was setting behind us. I watched the red landscape pass by. It reminded me of the desserts of New Mexico.
Finally, an hour out of the city, he pulled up to the edge of a crater canyon. The light in the sky was now fading fast. I asked what I was supposed to be looking at, but all he did was point to the horizon, holding his tongue for once in his life. He pulled a hidden bottle of rum out from under the seat. The clear dome of the convertible made me feel like I was outside. I leaned back in my seat and we passed the bottle back and forth as the light dimmed overhead.
Suddenly, I knew what we were looking at.
As the last of the light pulled from the sky like a sheet, points of light became visible. By every second they grew in number and intensity until they numbered in the billions. It was not a sunset we watched, but a galaxy rise. A night filled with 400 billion suns, the rising of the Milky Way. And it was brighter than any I'd seen on Earth since three hundred years before.
Jack glanced at me, and I him. He looked at those stars sprawl out before us and felt grins centuries old tugging at the corners of our mouths.
"Now," Jack said. I looked at him and new exactly what he was going to say, so I joined him: "Bring me that horizon."