Today I met the King of Europe.
He lives in a large, bare apartment in Port Robinson, the old Martian capital; from his windows you can see the huge, ancient city, thousands of years of architectural styles competing for attention.
On the horizon, when the air is clear, the beacons of the beanstalk can be seen blinking their warning in the pale sky, apparently hovering above the distant canyon Juventae Fons. But most of the time there are rainclouds in the way.
King Roland, as he styles himself, has a court of several score Old Europeans, who regularly press his claim for recognition to the Goddess of Earth.
As a direct descendant of Charlemagne, King Roland considers himself the rightful heir to the Holy Roman Empire, which would consist nowadays of a few tribes of Cro-magnon cave-dwellers living in the forests and cave systems of what briefly was known as France.
On his wall he often displays a huge real time image of Western Europe, beamed direct from a godwatch geostat in active suspension a hundred thousand kilometres above the old planet, outside the Exclusion Zone. The old artificial farmlands of the North Sea have been washed away, Paris, London and Brussels are forests, and little trace of human civilisation remains. But Roland has evidence that the ancient court of Charlemagne at Aachen has been preserved, just as the Pyramids and the White House are kept, at the whim of the Protective One. One day he hopes to occupy this building as the rightful King, which he is convinced has been preserved specifically for himself.
Of course if his claim was ever accepted, he would have to be radically altered to live in the thick atmosphere and heavy gravity of Earth. King Roland and his Old Europeans have been modified to thrive in the half-terraformed environment of Green Mars, and he would not survive on his old home world.
Before I leave this ancient world, I also will need to be radically altered in order to return to a ship-normal environment; but this is something I have grown used to after so much travelling. Nearly every world, and every solar system, I visit has a new challenge, and more often than not I require a new body to face that challenge.
By Steve Bowers (2008)
More Traveller's Notes
More on Mars here
Back to Stories by Author