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Timeline: 2022

2022

16 August 2022. We had waited an additional week; the sandstorms near our landing area had definitely dissipated. The process of performing the deorbital burn and landing were all but lost in the anticipation of what would happen within the hour.

The lander set down on the surface without any problems. We waited for the dust to clear. When it had, we rechecked our suit seals and popped the hatch.

I reflected, as I climbed out the small hatch, that the last thing a person should do upon experiencing another planet's gravity is to attempt to climb down a ladder.

I took a step.

I wondered how many people were watching me now. How many kids were begging their parents to change the [television] channel. How many senior citizens were sleeping through it.

I lowered my foot, planted it on the lower rung, and followed it with my other foot.

Closer.

Soon I was on the bottom rung. I jumped down, turned, and faced where I thought Earth was.

I glanced at the yellow card in my gloved hand, upon which were written my prepared "first words": "This step is not merely that of a Mexican man, but that of the entire world." Bullshit.

I shoved the yellow card into a suit pocket, then retrieved the flag from my backpack. I hoped no one would mind that I was planting the flag ahead of schedule. I hoped I would say something better than the offering on the yellow card.

I extended the telescopic flagpole, and slammed it down hard into the red Martian dust. I glanced at a status light to make sure my suit radio was working, then spoke the immortal words:

"This time, we will stay."

(Excerpted from: Valdez, "Mars and Onward," 2034)

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