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Chapter three

Project Mars CHAPTER three

The first thing Emma read that was of note was that the surface area of Mars was only 28 percent of Earth’s and that’s not taking into account that much of the area would be covered by water once terraformed; add to that the fact that the canyons would be unsuitable for building on. So that leaves… maybe 14 million square kilometres? A lot of real estate to be sure but it will go fast given the interest generated worldwide. Plus, on race day, players will try to take as many markers as they can until all markers are taken.

Emma tapped the end of her Swarovski pen against her lips and hummed thoughtfully. Unlike the peers of her generation, Emma preferred the tactile over the digital and chose to write over typing on her laptop or tablet. She found that scribbling and doodling helped her train of thought when she was trying to solve a problem. She was in the middle of a drawing a Martian with a thought bubble filled with colourful question marks when it hit her.

The key is to think beyond the race,she thought between choosing different coloured gel pens. While everyone is excited about picking mods and which type of vehicle would give the best advantage, Emma thought beyond to quality of land versus quantity. She knew that a small plot of land in a desirable location was better strategically than a large plot in an undesirable one.

Emma had multiple screens on with different things on each device. Her tablet was open to the Mars wiki, her phone was her messaging portal and her dual screen gaming computer was her design hub and project Mars repository.

As she was browsing through hi-res scans of Mars, she marked potential sites based on location to resources, defence and weather and developed a grading system with the best sites graded as A1 and the worst sites F10. The first letter defined the wealth of resources in proximity to the site and the number represented how well the site could be defended.

Although there was no mention of a battle component, Emma figured that since the word colonization was used, some type of trading or enforcement would be built into the game. If nothing else, Emma was good at preparation.

After a few hours she needed a break. She had muted her phone during this time to concentrate on research and noticed a text chain between her friends Ashton and Linh.

Em, WTF? I thought we were going to chill tonight?! 😖

LOL, u won’t find her Ash! 😁

Wat? Why? 😢

Project Mars! 🌏

She’s on Mars? I’m so confused.😟

No stupid, it’s that thing that’s everywhere!🔛 Where have you been? 😟

That hurts! You don’t have to be a bitch, Bitch.😠

Seriously? 🐒🍉💩

Yes, words hurt. 😿

No seriously, you don’t know what’s going on? 🤕

With what?🤔

#&$@&&$@$&@!??!$?$!# PROJECT MARS!! 😠😠😠😠

is that on Netflix? I don’t watch star trek shows. 👽

Emma laughed at the exchange between her two best friends. They couldn’t be more different from each other. Ashton was a girly girl attending medical school in Toronto while Linh ended up with one of the top consulting firms in Vancouver. Growing up together in a small town in the Okanagan, an area in northern British Columbia, they remained close and came back home during the summer. Emma was the youngest of the three by several years and was jealous of their success but also happy. Being the only daughter, she felt a sisterhood with these two especially when they fought.

While Linh was on vacation and Ashton on a semester break, Emma had enrolled in some summer courses online for extra credit. She found it hard to be motivated though with her two best friends in town.

They had all met during high school at OK high in Lakeland. Linh was the only other Asian in the small school and so Emma and Linh were guaranteed to meet eventually. Ashton however was a pretty, carefree, and popular student who fell into the group by accident.

As president of the student council, she felt responsibility for welcoming new students to the school and during introductions saw a logo for an obscure band on Emma’s backpack. She smiled confidently as she approached the shy junior and pointed to the sticker.

“Wait, you like Death cab? “

Emma perked up when the band was mentioned “Yeah! I love their music! “

“Nobody knows them around here! “lamented Ashton

“Well I have their latest album on google play if you want to listen to it together sometime? “ suggested Emma quietly.

“Yes, absolutely! “ laughed Ashton in glee as she hugged her new friend.

White girls are so weird. thought Emma.

Emma smiled as she remembered that day while she joined in on the conversation.

LOL u guys are craaazy! Meet @ the usual spot in ten? 😂

While they had met in school, their friendship had really taken hold working at China Castle, a local buffet on the main strip.

Although often hectic and crazy, Emma couldn’t argue with the great tips and flexible schedule. Plus the food was always good and she liked the patrons. In other words, it was the perfect job for a student.

Their favourite hangout was a beachside hole-in-the-wall restaurant where Emma enjoyed the Mexican tapas. It looked sketchy and you couldn’t tell that it was a restaurant if you walked by, so that kind of made it a local secret. In her limited experience, the sketchier a place looked on the outside, the better the food was on the inside.

She grabbed her purse and the keys to her older model Toyota and thought how lucky she’d been to have open mind parents who agreed to let their daughter live on her own. Being from Vietnam they believed in the value of money and family. Things like “the college experience “ didn’t make sense to them and thought that living alone was a waste of money especially when your family was living in the same town! But they relented knowing how hard-headed their daughter could be and this option was better than her living alone in another city. They had equipped their daughter to the best of their ability and although they were not ready to let her go just yet, they knew her mind was already made up.

She looked at her place with the Ikea furniture and mismatched pieces from garage sales and items left on other people’s lawn for garbage pickup. Although it was far from luxury living, it was all hers. At home she would have the comfort of home cooked food and definitely more financial freedom but she couldn’t handle the constant intrusion of privacy and monitoring of every aspect of her life.

She looked at her watch and knew that the girls would already be ordering beers as they lived closer to the beach than she did. The thing with being female and Asian is that she knew that she’d be carded for ID well into her thirties and so didn’t have a chance to try to order alcohol. Heck, she looked like she was fifteen and more often than not was asked if she had lost her parents at the mall. Hashtag Asian girl problems she thought with a laugh.

As she made her way through the quiet streets, she marvelled at how things came to be. How she ended up in a resort town of forty thousand headed to who knows where unsure about her future and stuck with no promising job prospects.

Not to mention a non - existent love life scoffed Emma as she pulled into the parking lot.

Despite all this, she knew from stories her mother told her about growing up in Vietnam how good she had it. It wasn’t the “I had to walk five miles to school in the snow uphill both ways “ but more like, “we had no rice to eat and had to share one apple between ten of us “ story.

She saw her friends chatting at a table in the corner with a plate of empanadas between them. She walked behind the two and tapped each on the outside shoulder and when they turned, grabbed Ashton’s corona and an empanada giggling as she sat down.

“Thanks for waiting you jerks! “ Emma said as she pulled from the beer and looked at the label nonchalantly. “Ahh, I so needed that! “

Ashton cut her eye and grabbed back the beer back from her younger friend. “You brat! That’s mine! I’d tell you to get your own but oh, that’s right, you’re underage. Does baby want some apple juice? I think I saw your sippy cup somewhere …. “

Emma feigned being insulted and gave her Blonde friend a rude hand gesture. “No that’s OK ash, I wouldn’t want to put any strain on your trust fund.”

“Ohhhhh snap…” said Linh as she laughed out loud.

Ashton tried to look angry but Linhs giggles was too contagious and soon all three were laughing hard, red faced and doubled over.

“Ahh you bitch” sniffed Ashton as she wiped away tears. “Thanks for gracing us with your presence you nerd. What’s the big deal with this moon game? “

Emma hugged both and plopped down, waving a hand to fan her face. “Whew, too funny Linh.” Linh was still going through giggle aftershocks and had her head on the table. Turning, Emma looked at Ashton and replied “It’s Mars, not the moon. And it’s only the world’s most advanced simulation! “

Ashton rolled her eyes and shook her head.

“Nerd alert!” she announced as she took a sip from her bottle.

Emma tried to bump the corona but Ashton was too quick.

“The nerds of our generation are the billionaires of the future, Genius! “ Emma said as her hand hit only air.

“Well then cheers to you and your nerd friends! Hopefully one of them looks like Harry Styles!" said Ashton as she raised her beer.

“Mmm I’ll drink to that!" said Linh as she clinked her bottle with Ashton.

Emma laughed as she only had a glass of water to toast and added “Meh, he’s ok but he’s no Steve Aoki.”

Ashton stared at Emma with her mouth aghast, “How did we ever become friends? I was going to invite you to our wedding in London but now I’ve changed my mind." she mimed crossing off Emma’s name from an imaginary list.

Linh and Emma looked at each other and spoke at the same time.

“I can’t even…”

“Seriously? Right? “

As the night went on and as the girls enjoyed their evening together, another meeting was taking place in halls of power in the newly formed Kalistan Republic.

A young man with an old grey IBM laptop was sitting on a bench staring off to the distance, apparently deep in thought.

The doors to a room at one end of the hall opened and a decorated soldier walked towards the young man with the sound of his shoes echoing off the walls.

“The general will see you now. “

“It’s about time," said fair skinned man as he stood up. “If we’re successful, Project Mars will be the vehicle we’ll use to fund our war. But we have to begin preparations immediately.”

The tall man guiding the visitor stopped and turned to face the young man directly. “You mean to speak to the supreme leader about a game? “

“It’s not just a game commander, but I’ve already said too much and unless you want to be the next public figure to be on the weekly televised executions, I suggest you stop asking questions and take me to my uncle. “

The commander narrowed his eyes and bit back a reply. He stepped aside and bowed slightly with his arm straight out to his side with palm facing up and allowed the young man to pass.

“Thank you commander. I would say that this will change the world but then that would be misleading.”

The young man paused before leaving the halfway and looked the commander in the eye.

“This is going to change the future.“

Next Chapter: Chapter four