part V

“Come on!” Roe screamed back at Ari through the fading light.

Planet-wide Martian dust storms had calmed in the years since the network of terra-mids began swallowing the once oxygen-less skies. But, while the shifting climate had altered the unpredictable nature and size of the storms, they had not ceased entirely.

They ran as hard as they could. Their mouths covered by cloth, protecting their heaving lungs from the growing blast, having scanned the endless sea of rusted rock and red sand spread out before them in a panic for some kind, any kind, of shelter.

Countless settlements had been lost to the storms in the early years. Most being independent homesteaders, their plans ill-prepared and their structures under-built. They had left their ailing home for a better life only to disappear into the sands. Forever forgotten.

The small outcropping of rock they had spotted was only a hundred meters away now. Their bags felt heavy on their shoulders. Their feet tired. Their vision fading. They were almost there.

While the most harmful particulates in the soil had been neutralized by atmospheric bombardments before the planet was settled, the blast remained ever deadly. Life in the cities would slow to a stop at an approaching storm, emerging rattled, covered in red. But, in the expanse of the desert, there was only prayer.

They were right there. So close to the outcropping. So close to the only protection to be found in this godforsaken waste.

Early in ancient Rome on Earth, Mars was worshipped as a god. But before he was known as the god of war, he was worshiped as another. Commanded a different force.

He was the god of storms.

“Grab my hand!” Roe shouted, fighting against the gusts, reaching out to Ari who had been blown to the ground, “Grab my hand!!

Their fingers nearly touched, pushing through the chaos, as they shielded their faces from the torrent of red trying to tear the flesh from their bones.

But then, within an instant, she was gone.

“Ari!” Roe screamed through the rusted dark, searching frantically for any sign, “Ari!!

But she was swallowed by the storm.

Lost and alone.