Retaking Elysium — Chapter One

Prologue

Mars is good place to reinvent yourself, isn’t it?

The entire planet is being reinvented every day—domes built, mines excavated, entire branches of science and engineering devoted to remaking the face of the planet in our own image. 

It is a world in transition. 

Perfect for someone like me.


Chapter One

Earth Aerospace Authority 

Interplanetary Transportation Authorization

Knowingly providing false information on this application is an offence under International Law, subject to various penalties.

Destination: Mars colony. 

Industry: Mining. 

First Name:

The diminutive individual clad all in grey typed into the form, their finger trembling slightly after “J-U-L.” All their life they’d gone for the letter “I” next, but then… then it got complicated. Neither “A” nor “O” had ever fit right, “E” wasn’t even an option, and “X” was cool but they knew it wasn’t their name. 

They took a breath and typed it out for the first time. 

J-U-L-E-S. 

Last Name:

This was easy, at least. Jules typed quickly then hit the “Next” button.

You have entered Jules Morales. Is that correct?

Yes

No, make changes

Make changes. That’s what this was all about, wasn’t it? Jules was making all the changes they needed to. They hit “Yes.”

Preferred pronouns:

They/Them

Zie/Zir

She/Her

He/Him

Other (please specify):

Jules didn’t hesitate. They knew this was right for who they were now. They chose the first option.  

Documentation complete for applicant Jules Morales. Submit their form now?

Yes

No, change names

No, change pronouns

Jules caught their breath. This was about more than changing jobs, more than changing names and pronouns. They’d done most of those things before; it was almost as if change was baked into their DNA. But this was different somehow. It was more. 

Who would ever have guessed that filling out forms could be so emotional?

They mashed the “Yes” button, then authorized the form with a thumbprint, wondering not for the first time how secure that really was. It didn’t matter. They were Jules Morales and they were on their way to Mars.

#

“So, you’re off to greener pastures, huh?” Carla stabbed at the tabletop menu to order another round. The rest of Jules’s now-former colleagues had left the party already, but Carla seemed to be in it for the long haul. They were only work-friends—Jules and Carla had never socialized outside of a work event, but they had spent most of their free time at AutoUber together.

“Literally the opposite,” Jules laughed. “I’m going to Mars.”

If her glass hadn’t been long empty, Carla would have spit beer. “You’re shitting me.”

Jules shook their head as the hatch opened in the wall of the booth they were still hogging, and a jug of beer slid out. Jules poured and said, “I’ve got a contract in the platinum mines. Room, board, a free rocket trip plus a share of the ore. It’s a sweet deal. If I stick it out for a year, I’ll be set.”

Carla narrowed her eyes as she pulled her now overflowing glass toward her. “You’re going to be a miner?” She was incredulous, and waved her hands wildly to indicate Jules’s body. “Give me a break. You’re like… tiny.” She said it as if they might somehow have gotten this far in life without noticing their relative size.

Jules took a long pull on their own beer before answering. “Do you actually think folks are taking pickaxes to the rocks up there? This isn’t the Dark Ages. I’m mainly going to be controlling robots. It’s not that different from what we did at AU. If I have to actually do anything physical, I get to wear an exo.” 

“Come on,” Carla said. “I watch Bodyshop. I’ve seen those Martian slabs of beef. Some of these people with their muscular augments…” She let out a breath and fanned herself with her free hand. “They’d pick you up and sit you on their shoulders like a parrot.”

It was a surreal image and Jules couldn’t help but laugh. “Sure, there’s some call for muscle jobs. But I’ll be in a different area. I mean, obviously.” They imitated Carla’s hand-waving.

“Okay, I believe you,” she said. “I couldn’t do it though. Leaving everything, leaving the planet! It’s too much, even for all the gold on Mars.”

“It’s platinum.” 

“Whatever.” Carla took another swig, then leaned in. “So, Space Cowboy, you wanna come back to my place and knock one out?” She grinned and arched an eyebrow.

A couple of years of mild office flirtation lessened Jules’s surprise at the offer, but Carla was loaded. So was Jules for that matter, and they shook their head. “We better not.” They lifted their glass and pointed at it. 

“You’re probably right,” Carla said, raking her eyes over Jules’s exposed arms. “It’s just that I always wanted to see the rest of the tattoos.”

#

Another jug of beer later Jules gave Carla her wish in the autocar, after covering the hidden cameras their insider knowledge revealed. Jules lay back on the bench seat in their underwear, the pinging of the car’s seatbelt alarm piercing their ears until they realized they could just buckle the clips underneath.

Carla’s proposition was long forgotten as she took in the art on Jules’s body as if it were a canvas—or an entire gallery.

Her hand hovered over a particularly well-realized watercolour cube. “Can I touch?”

Jules nodded. “It doesn’t feel like anything,” they said. “Just skin.” Carla’s finger lightly traced the ink lines, and Jules shivered. All thoughts of sex were gone, now. This was something different.

“You can take a holo,” Jules said impulsively. They’d never done anything like that before; never done anything like this at all. Sure, plenty of people had seen them naked, but not like this. Not so deliberately. Was it the knowledge that they were leaving which made them comfortable with so much vulnerability, was it some desire to, at last, be truly seen? Was it just the epic quantities of beer? It didn’t matter. It felt right. 

Carla beamed and grabbed her handheld. “Turn your head,” she said. “And cover your face.” It was no guarantee, but it might help keep the image from being automatically connected to Jules’s online profile. “I’ll know it’s you,” she added as she snapped a few shots.

#

They hugged when the car stopped outside Carla’s building, then Jules was alone. The short ride back to their apartment was eerily quiet without Carla there, and a drunken lucidity came over them. Everything they did for the next three days would likely be the last time they’d do that on Earth. Every step would be numbered, the countdown ticking ever closer to zero. Jules never stayed anywhere very long and figured that they would return to Earth one day, but right then, as the car swished to a stop outside their building, it felt like an ending.

An ending, but as they always are, it was also a beginning.

New name, new planet, new person.


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