The following story is the FIRST in a series of weekly free science fiction from Amazing Stories. We’ve embarked on this new venture and Heather Santo has provided us a memorable story. Each story is provided in text and audio formats. If you’d like EARLY access, please support us via our Patreon.
We Hope You’ve Enjoyed the Journey
by Heather Santo
Georgia slid in next to the window. The Silver class hyperloop capsule seated fourteen, but so far, she was alone. The cabin emitted a soft blue glow, and touchscreens covered windowless walls. Outside, a weeks-long dust storm raged.
“Thank you for choosing Martian Hyperloop for your travel needs,” a pleasant voice said over the intercom. “In a few minutes, we will depart the Arsia Mons station for our next stop, Hellas Planitia and Ice City. Please watch this short safety video.”
The screens blinked on. A tall, orange-skinned Martian woman pointed to nearby exits.
As Georgia buckled her seatbelt, a long strand of black hair fell across her face. She’d paid a local prostitute outside the Lava Tube military base for her hair, and fashioned it into a wig. She hoped that, and the fake ID, were enough to get her into Ice City unnoticed.
There, she would meet Sakes, a black-market arms dealer. And then her life, and the lives of her fellow Martians, would forever change.
The screens flicked to advertisements. A satellite image of Earth appeared, and the shot zoomed in, showcasing stretches of sandy beaches, restaurants with tables of exotic food, and dazzling casino lights.
Georgia scowled. She would never visit Earth. It was forbidden by interplanetary law. Neither could Earth women travel to Mars. Interbreeding was also outlawed, ensuring no biological offspring of the opposite race were born on either planet.
Her hand went to her womb. The aching emptiness still lingered.
Georgia was a product of GeneSplice, a government initiative to speed up human evolution on Mars. She stood just over six feet tall, with increased lung capacity, and skin the color of a burning Martian sunset. Instead of parents, she’d had gene donors, and instead of a home, she’d grown up in a compound with hundreds of other children like herself.
Birthed from politics and policy, not love. Anger sliced her ribcage.
“Is this seat taken?”
Georgia froze. She’d have known that voice anywhere. The slow, lazy drawl. He was from a place on Earth called Georgia, like her name.
She looked up, her heart filling with the light of a thousand sols.
Robert was pale compared to her, with blonde hair buzzed close to his skull. He wore plain clothes, and Georgia thought fleetingly how odd he looked out of uniform.
Shock and joy rocketed through her body. “How did you find me?”
He smiled. “That’s not important,” he said. “What’s important is that I did.”
She glanced nervously around the empty cabin. Robert sat, taking her hand.
“Don’t worry, I’ve bought all the other Silver class seats. We’ll be alone for,” he checked his watch, “the next thirty-eight minutes.”
Georgia didn’t want to think about the cost, although his father’s fertilizer empire made it a nonissue.
“My dad is full of shit,” Robert had always told her. “Literally.”
The maglev system engaged, and with a vibrating hum, the high-speed train shot forward.
“I’ve missed you,” Robert breathed, grazing his lips over her fingers.
Heat spread through Georgia’s chest, pooling in her stomach. A small, sad moan escaped her lips, and she tasted tears she hadn’t realized she’d shed. He brushed them away.
“Are you okay?”
Georgia nodded. She was okay now that he was here, even if their time together was brutally short.
“I’m sorry. Sorry, they took our baby. They had no right.”
“I fought them,” she said. “With everything I had. It wasn’t enough.”
Robert caressed her cheek and stared deep into her bronze eyes.
His eyes were blue, like the oceans of Earth.
“You’re strong,” he said. “The strongest woman I’ve ever met. I wouldn’t change anything that came before that day. My love for you transcends both of our worlds.”
Their lips met, hungry and desperate.
“I didn’t know what happened to you,” she said. Her heart hammered so hard she feared her chest would break open. “That, on top of losing our baby, was worst of all.”
“I was given an honorable discharge and instructed to return home, back to Earth.” Robert paused. “My father is expecting me.”
Rage, like the dust storm outside, clouded her thoughts.
“Who told him?”
“One of the men in my unit, I suspect,” Robert said. “We weren’t very discreet.”
He flashed a wicked smile and Georgia ran her hand up his thigh, her desire for him deepening as he reacted to her touch.
“You’re leaving?” she asked. “Going back to Earth?”
“Earth isn’t my home anymore. You’re my home, Georgia.”
His words broke something fragile and vulnerable inside her. Tears of sorrow mixed with passion, and they clutched one another like worlds colliding.
“He would have been born out of love,” Georgia said finally. “Our baby.”
“I know. That’s why I had to find you, warn you,” Robert replied. “Someone tipped off the Capitol about your meeting with Sakes. He’s been detained, and they’ve set up a cordon to trap you.”
Dread crashed down on her.
“They intend to arrest you as a government terrorist and execute you in front of the Capitol Dome. Make an example of you.”
“You have a plan.”
It wasn’t a question.
Robert pulled what appeared to be a can of sardines, possibly military rations, from his coat. Georgia regarded him with wide eyes.
“Is that the blinker?”
“Yeah, one of Sakes’ associates smuggled it to me. Enough to take down the Capitol Dome.”
She stared at the can, concealing the very small, very powerful explosive.
“I was going to detonate it alone,” she said, reaching for the blinker.
He gently pulled it back.
“No,” he said. “We do this together.”
She nodded, just as the recorded voice spoke over the intercom.
“Arriving at Hellas Planitia and Ice City. We hope you’ve enjoyed the journey.”
“I have,” Georgia whispered, and leaned in for a final kiss.