The Many Adventures of Andrew E. Curring

Andrew E. Curring wasn't a great hero when he arrived on Mars. In fact, he was never a great hero, which is probably why you never hear about him except when you visit Opportunity Bay. Mr. Curring (according to our Flight Instructor Yoseph) was an early arrival to Mars, shipped out shortly after the Survivor debacle with his wife who was a high-flying geologist, employed to find fuel for the impending influx of immigrants.

There is a photo of Andrew E. Curring on the wall of the Launch Control building's lobby, standing approximately where the Residence is today, looking out and up over the bay. He's wearing tatty, incongruous, unsuitable clothes, with his hair standing out in all directions. Behind him is the half-terraformed expanse of rugged fast-growing hardy brush. This was what had become of Andrew E. Curring in the six years after his arrival on Mars.

We were told to to meet Yoseph in the in the lobby of Launch Control yesterday morning and after all thirty-two of us had gathered, he introduced the day's adventures by beginning to tell Andrew E. Curring's story.

We went on a brief tour of the Launch Control facility, where you can see the people who handle the launches. This bit is on any tourist's trip around Opportunity Bay, but it's a bit different when you know the people behind the glass, surrounded by computers, are the same people who will be handling your own launch, and that the ship you can see through the far window is the one you will be sitting on for the journey out of the atmosphere.

Then he took us right up to the ship itself- something that's not on the tour, and we went in groups up the elevator to look inside. "Isn't she a beauty?" Yoseph said to my group, his hand resting on the skin of the ship, before he opened the hatch.

Inside, everything is very compact, designed for lightness in order to be able to fit as much cargo in the hold as possible. He showed us the cockpit, where the astronauts will sit, and then the tiny passenger cabin, where fourty seats are clustered together. We sat in them as he instructed us on safety measures, what to expect, how it will feel, what's normal (apparantly, vomiting is normal, and someone does on almost every flight- I am hopeful I will not be that someone), and what occurs in an aborted launch (we may end up back here, or we may end up on the other side of the planet.)

Waiting for the other groups, we stood beside the launchpad, very close to the engines, looking up at the ship and the sky. The ship is Titanic XI class, and is called Dragonfly, a name that conjures up something quite different from the behemoth it actually is.

After seeing the ship, we went over to the warehouse and the Curring Museum, which is full of all the unclaimed things that splendiferously wealthy people have sent from Earth but never were picked up. Most of them get sold, but some of them- family heirlooms, luxury earth goods like an ancient luxury car- end up the museum, as a sort of eccentric recent history of Earth according to the very rich.

Also in the museum are things belonging to Andrew E. Curring, including the hilariously out of place clothes he is seen wearing in the Launch Control lobby photograph. Yoseph paused the tour here to continue the story. Apparently, a year or so after his arrival on Mars, Mr. Curring found himself divorced from his wife. Back on Earth, he had been an antiques dealer, but here on Mars his skills were useless (there being no antiques to deal). He lost most of his money in a series of trade deals which fell through, and then found himself destitute. He was finally hired as a delivery agent, doing trips between communities and bases on the planet, carrying food and supplies. A few months later he was hijacked by a rough-living splinter group called Free Mars (unconnected to the later group of the same name) opposing united rule on Mars, and became an unwilling ally, moving goods for them in his truck. This splinter group was based on the other side of Opportunity Bay (which they named).

Mr. Curring wasn't particularly interested in splinter groups, but had become increasingly interested in Mars itself, and also increasingly eccentric. He studied its flora and fauna in an unscientific way, made notes about its landscape and weather patterns, and tides. He did all this, Yoseph claims, from a little hut where the residence is now, overlooking Opportunity Bay. It was then that the lobby photograph was taken. Some of the notes are in the museum ("The weather has been better this week. Wind from the west, bringing small clouds. It seems milder here than at Chamelata. The same chameleon visited at breakfast- I think he likes my eggs benedict.")

The splinter group was short lived, and quickly was taken down by the Mars government, who had grown tired of their small-time mischief. They arrested Mr. Curring and confiscated his copious notes, thinking them related to the splinter group but written in code, but eventually decided that Mr. Curring was harmless and that his little patch of bay-side land was perfect for their new launch site.

"In a moment of rare good humour," Yoseph concluded, "they named the spaceport after Andrew."

I love the story, although I'm not convinced its true. I love to think about an eccentric historian wandering around in the brush, making little notes, and eventually giving his name to the most important launch site in Mars History, simply by trying to make a little patch of Mars for himself.

Anyway, I have to go now. Almost literally. The launch is in a few hours, our luggage is loaded, our heads are full of instructions and us Passengers are now allowed to say our goodbyes to our families and friends. So I have to do that.

When I next post, I will be in orbit. I asked Yoseph and he says we have a couple of hours onboard the Mars Orbital and so I'll probably be able to make a post from there. I cannot believe that I just wrote that sentence and it came out so calmly. My brain is doing excited somersaults. Boing boing boing.

Your Astronaut,


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