1. Its electrostatic charge
Useful for a source of energy, but I wish they’d swap the battery arrays on the surface for something that would cut down on the solar wind it gets. Even though Phlegyas Base is a few kilometres below ground, I swear the hair on my legs has been standing on end ever since I stepped off the shuttle.
I set up an app to track static accumulation on my local, but when I ran my theory past Tashi in Archives zie shook zir head, pushed a dozen studies refuting it at me, and suggested I find other things to worry about — like how late I would be for my work shift if I didn’t get going soon.
2. Phlegyas Base
It’s nothing like home. I miss the Sun! The stars! The wind and water!
And although I realize I’m not going to get all of that in the dome cities down on Mars proper, at least I can dream about what it will be like three centuries from now, when the atmosphere’s thickened and the temperature’s raised enough that people can live on the surface unaided.
Phlegyas, though? Its tunnels are always going to be these winding, awkward things, and Phobos’s endless rotation and low gravity make me motion-sick.
As soon as my service term is up, I’m going to apply for a work-live permit in Alnif City, which is supposed to have stunning views of Olympus Mons. I’ll start a farm, if they’ve got the soil sorted out by then, or … I don’t know. Just wander around sorting rocks. I don’t have many skills, but I can find something.
I bumped into Tashi in one of the tunnels, and when I asked what zie thought, zie said I was too much of a romantic to be alive.
I’m still not 100% sure zie was joking.
3. The Harmonia Festival
I’ve seen the recordings. Who hasn’t?
All those people — scientists, engineers, artists and run-of-the-mill workers like me — standing at one edge of Stickney Crater, fully suited with their hands joined, all their outputs linked and singing joyously just as the Sun sets. The way that electrostatic corona flares into being over all of their heads at once, eerie and awe-inspiring as it twists and dances like something alive.
The Harmonia is probably the only reason anyone comes here. And it’s pretty to look at, sure. But large groups of people stress me out, and I’m a lousy singer.
I never would have gone if Tashi hadn’t invited me to go with zir, pinging my local out of the blue when I was halfway through a gruelling routine in the base gym. Standing there with one gloved hand in zirs and one in some random engineer’s, I forgot I couldn’t sing. I forgot I hated crowds. I forgot I was stuck on this tiny moon more than 75 million miles from Earth, and …
Well, the Harmonia made me hate Phobos a little bit less, and for that I will never forgive it.
4. Its name
Who the hell wants to live on something that’s named after a god of fear? What the hell kind of idea is that?
When I asked Tashi why nobody ever petitioned to change the name, zie bopped me in the arm.
“Phobos keeps us on our toes,” zie said. “Besides, it’s an appropriate name. There’s nothing between us and the endless void of space but a few kilometres of rock. If that doesn’t scare you, something’s wrong. It’s why the first folks here started doing the festival, you know. To remind us how small we are, in the grand scheme of the Universe, and how scary and beautiful that is all at the same time.”
“’Endless void of space’?” I said. “Who’s the romantic now?”
Zie snorted, but didn’t try to correct me.
5. That one day, it will be gone
Tashi agreed to come with me when I get reassigned to the surface — said zie’s done zir time up here and then some, and that zie’d like to see the view from Alnif too.
I’m happy, of course, that zie’ll join me, but I can’t stop thinking about Phobos. How it gets closer to the surface with every orbital pass. How one day it’ll burn up in the atmosphere or fall to the surface and break into a million pieces.
And yeah, okay, that’s in 10 million years, when we’ll all be dead ourselves. But even though I can’t stand Phobos, even though I can’t wait for the day when Tashi and I can get out of this place, it’s sad, somehow, the thought of Phlegyas Base’s winding tunnels vanishing. The thought that one day, the place where I first met Tashi, and the rim of Stickney where they hold the Harmonia will all be smashed to pieces …
For a while I was planning to see if there was something the engineers could do to help Phobos stay in the sky forever. Course correction, maybe. Some kind of rocket system.
But then I thought about it more, and realized that even though it’s sad to think of Phobos crashing to the surface, it’s somehow appropriate. What gives our homes — our lives — value is that they’re flawed and transient things, impossibly full of hopes and dreams. To try to ‘fix’ Phobos’s lilting orbit would cheapen that, somehow.
Tashi would say I’m a romantic for thinking all these things, and maybe zie’s right. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.