It’s half past Anti-Prime in the offices of Baden-Maden Travel, Olympus Mons office. The Automatic Jukebox lifts its needle and removes a record. Then, in accordance with program title RELAX01, it lifts another record and places it the turnstile. The needle falls with a soft click.
“Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars.”
The music is faint, all the knobs are set to soft. In the baby blue office of the Regional Director, two people are fucking on a couch. A man with grayish hair was under a woman with black hair. She is naked. He is wearing shoes, socks, a half-buttoned shirt with blue slacks bunched around his ankles. She has the tall, slender frame of a native Martian. He does not.
“Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.”
Behind them stand a proud roll of travel posters, full of the allure and promise of strange new sensations. “BRAVE NEW WORLD, THAT HAS SUCH FREEDOM IN IT!” screamed white brush letters. “MAKE THE RED PLANET GREEN. BUY MARTIAN.” announced one, ” A CHICKEN IN EVERY POT, A SERVANT IN EVERY HOME.” was another, with a housewife fawning over her new robotic maid.
The man finished with a grunt. His name was John and this was his office. He had met the girl (Her name is Appie, short for Aphrodite. John thought that was just adorable) at Clancy’s down on MacArthur Street. He had just been transferred to the Olympus Mons office. His wife and children where still back in Luna City so was understandably lonely. Appie twisted her body and smiled.
“Oh God! Oh, oh thank you.” John laughed. He was really quite charming.
“The pleasure was mine, sir” Appie reached for two cigarettes on the nearby table. She tossed one to John and lit up. She took a long slow drag and let out a cloud that could choke a Atmospheric-Regulator. She had powerful lungs, all Martians did.
“In other words, I love you.” The track ended, click, and switched over to the Robert Dylan Ensemble version of “Volare.”
“Do they have more like you at home?” John smirked behind his cigarette.
“Nope, fraid I’m it.” Appie got of John, her body was blue and bony in the harsh night light. Nights on Mars aren’t like nights on Earth or Venus or Luna City. Mars was bright and cold and open. The shadows cut sharp shapes into the fashionable modern furniture.
“We don’t have girls like you in Luna City.”
Appie smiled. A reflex. “I thought you said you where Terran?”
“Oh I was born on Earth, but I didn’t stay.” John puffed. “It’s just too much down there, all the crime and the noise and the crowding. I got away as soon at the first ships took off. It’s just so much more pleasant up here, free from the worry back home.” He snorts. “Like the posters say “Ride The Sea Of Tranquility!” He laughs at his joke.
“Have you ever been to Earth?” He asks.
“Ethnic Martians can’t go to Earth.” Appie flinched a bit. She was wondering why she bothered. This was the worst part. Just after. God why can’t he just shut up, why did she even bother asking? She had been to Earth, once. She stood underneath the Trans Manhattan expressway with a mob of other protesters. She was a rare white face, save for a few Italians and Jews and other agitators. She hurled rocks and rotten fruit at the heated plastic tubes carrying commuters to the Spaceport. It was freezing, almost like on Mars. She chanted with them, for money, for tax help, for food, for help for a dying world. A year ago she would have gladly kicked a Terran like John in the teeth. A year ago she would have died before returning to Mars. It had been a long year. She turned toward the Automatic Jukebox. “Is that a 500?”
“I think. It was here when I got in.” John pulled his trousers up.
Appie walked to the Jukebox. She scanned past the photo-slides showing the 500-Series collection of records. It was pretty standard. “AMERICAN MOON” “CROSBY GOES COSMIC” “THE GIRL FROM ENCLADUOUS.”Appie clicked ahead.
“Oh shit! You have Back To Earth!” She pressed play, the machine grabbed the record. “I swear I played this every day for a year when it came out.”
“Yeah, the former director was into Negro music.” John began to button his shirt. Appie turned the volume up, “Homeworld Bound” blasted into the empty offices. She started to dance, kicking her feet and flinging her long black hair around. By the end of the song, John was fully dressed and staring at the naked woman dancing in his office.
“I’ve got a meeting tomorrow, so I need to head in.” his voice was small against the guitar and drums.
“Oh,OH! Yes, of course. I’m so sorry.” Aphrodite turned the knobs down. “Me too.” She picked up her shoes first, stopped, dropped them, and picked up her underwear and dress, trying to scramble into them as quickly as possible
“Okay then, Goodbye.” Appie turned out the door. This is normally when they’d offer an AeroCab home. She could use it, she used up her Car Card a week ago.
“G’night!” John smiled and pushed past her, vanishing down the hall at a pace almost, but not quite, a run.
Appie stood there, lit a cigarette, and turned, walking in the other direction.
In the office, the Automatic Jukebox switched to Track 2, “Sattelight Of Love.” but it was drowned out by the sound of soft footsteps on thin carpet.