(1100 words) “Y’know, Liz,” said Charles one evening, “there’s a guy at work, he’s got a sure-fire idea to make one helluva lotta big-time dough!” Elizabeth Soulby raised her eyebrows. “Yeah, his name is Stanley, got an uncle by the name of Matthias Dale, a big shot in the aircraft business. Anyway, seems this Mr. Dale is offering shares in the first flight to Mars!” Elizabeth Soulby raised her eyebrows even higher. “Honestly sweetheart, this Dale guy knows what he’s talking about, got contacts in the air defence business.” Elizabeth squared her shoulders and put her hands on her hips. “Well, what the hell does this guy know that NASA doesn’t know then!” Charles sighed, “Simply this, he doesn’t have a million and one regulations holding him back. And he has Fan Evans on his team.”
(700 words) Settlers followed pioneers, who followed scientists, who followed robots. Now, biodomes dotted the frozen red desert that stretched to the pink horizon. The settlers found the soil to be good and plants to grow quickly. Wells bored deep into the surface found aquifers to nourish the plants. Soon – despite warnings – children were born. Children who grew imperially tall and thin, with brown skin, knowing smiles and, shining from green eyes, intelligence beyond their years. And strangest of all, many of them were born with an extra finger on the right hand.
(875 words) ‘Out in space no-one can hear you scream.’ Well, Alice could hear screams all right. Her three-year-old twins, Adam and Toni, fighting. Adam wailed as Toni held a bright-blue shark just out of his reach. Being taller, she would lift it higher, just beyond his grasp, as he jumped up for it. “Toni, you know how much he likes that toy. Give it back right now or you don’t go to see Daddy’s shuttle come in.”
(600 words) His companion Matt steered the rover in the direction of six thimble-shaped buildings. “Look at all that shit on them!” Hard to believe they had once been white. Now they were barely distinguishable from the rolling red Martian hills behind them. Even the huge digits, numbering each pod, were indistinct.
(200 words) “Called reception yet? I detest these flowers.” My wife gestured towards a sumptuous vase of orchids. -We’d entered the Palacio suite that morning. The lounge stretched to distant walls, dotted with plush leather sofas and gilded antique furniture.