Life on Mars
 
After Karen's initial landing she had spent several days surveying the landing site, confirming that it was geologically stable and suitable for their purposes.

The glossy rubber figure had also verified that the drop pod had landed in one piece and that its contents, especially the fuel tanks, were intact.

That fuel was vitally important as it allowed the spaceplanes to carry a greater mass down from the orbiting interplanetary ship, they could simply refuel from the drop pod after landing. Without it they would be forced to carry smaller loads so that they had enough fuel to return to orbit.


With her surveying task complete the rubber woman climbed back into the pilots seat and launched the nimble 'plane back into the Martian sky.

A full medical inspection for Karen, a full systems check & refuel for the spaceplane, 24 hours later both were swooping back down to the surface.

This time, when the streamlined craft rolled to a stop next to the drop pod, a dozen lithe glossy figures emerged, moving with grace and elegance in the martian gravity.

The sleek featureless women swarmed into the pod, eager to get started after the long journey from Earth.


The mothership, the Venture, now in orbit high above, was a huge rectangular cage of struts nearly half a mile long, but half of that space was given over to the engines and the vast fuel pods needed for such a journey.

The cargo filled drop pods and spaceplane docking bays took up half of the remaining space, most of the remaining quarter of the ship given over to day to day operations, communications etc.

Crew accommodation was a tiny fraction of the volume of the massive space-faring vessel.

Not that this was really a problem for the Rubbernauts, as they'd christened themselves, - the surgical modifications, the cybernetic implants, the neural interface and their final encasement in the permanent "rubber" suits had left them perfectly adapted for spaceflight.

The thick, all but indestructible compound that had been sprayed onto their skin to form the suits had been developed to protect robot probes from the harsh conditions on Venus, once permanently bonded to their flesh it rendered them immune to the radiation hazards of space travel, the AIs installed in the neural interfaces used the tight nano-rubber 'skin' & cybernetics to keep them at the peak of physical and mental health even during prolonged exposure to microgravity.

Various devices inserted deep inside their bodies handled waste reclamation, their lungs were filled with oxygenated liquid fluorocarbon - once every 24 hours they simply had to connect up to a maintenance station. Scrubbed carbon & filtered toxins were removed, nutrients & oxygen were topped up if necessary. The Rubbernauts were completely self contained, the closed liquid breathing system meant that the crew spaces only needed to be partially pressurised with nitrogen, in those areas that some kind of gaseous atmosphere was required, primarily for cooling purposes, outside of those areas the rest of the ship was un-pressured. Fire hazard had been reduced to nothing and the 'nauts operated equally well in pressure & vacuum.

The optical & audio sensors embedded in the outer surface of their blank featureless ovoid faces connected through the neural interface, granting them vision & hearing in frequencies way beyond the baseline human range. Not only did this reduce the need for energy wasting lighting it meant they could see potential damage to the ships structure simply by looking at it, for example stress damage around a micro-meteorite puncture would be visible as glowing lines radiating out from and around the hole.

It had been fun at first, being the perfect astronauts, but after six months of travelling with nothing to interrupt the tedium of day to day operations they were eager to get to the surface and start building a new world.


In the first day they had assembled the first geodesic dome to serve as planetside accommodation and the first of the 'bugs', the four wheel drive ATVs that would let them roam over the entire surface of their new home, and a dozen 'roombas'.


By the end of the first week they had half a dozen domes assembled and connected, an atmosphere processor operating and providing all the oxygen they needed to keep their liquid breathing systems topped up, the 'roombas' had cleared the stones from a mile long stretch to the west of the nascent settlement creating a smooth runway for the spaceplanes, the hydroponics plant was operating providing half of their nutritional needs and a further three 'bugs' were zipping around across the Martian landscape ....