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Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Sci-fi · #2119333
A teenage girl does everything she can to help a human colony on Mars prosper.
Martian Cheerleader

Chapter One: New Students

         Sasha’s morning routine was nothing out of the ordinary. On days where nothing particularly interesting was happening, she’d simply wake up with the morning bell, get dressed, put on her makeup, and be out the door without really thinking about anything. However, today was a day where something particularly interesting was happening. With that being the case, her morning routine also became just a little bit interesting.

         A personally set alarm next to her bed woke her up. Her eyes were reluctant to open at first, but a mental reminder of why she was waking up a full two hours early fixed that problem.

         A blurry image of the room around her slowly came into focus as she sat up and rubbed at her eyes. Her dorm wasn’t much to look at—just a medium sized room furnished with two small beds on either side, two dressers and a single desk in the right hand corner, but having lived here for as long as she had, this seemingly boring setting never failed to feel like home.

         She pushed her blanket away alongside a muffled yawn let loose into her palm. Her feet hit the room’s soft carpet and lazily carried her to her dresser a few steps away. After pulling the outfit she’d decided on yesterday from the top drawer, she got dressed as quietly as she could. A pink blouse and light blue, knee length skirt covered most of her slim figure. It wasn’t the most impressive outfit she owned, but it was one that made her feel both cute and confident, and today she’d surely be in need of that little boost.

         No amount of yawning or eye rubbing would change the fact that Sasha never felt truly awake until she sat down in front of the mirror. Her own reflection smiled back at her as she sat down at her desk and rifled through a plethora of makeup and hair products. The act of putting on her makeup was second nature at this point in her life, but the careful, repetitive nature of it always worked wonders when it came to calming her mind. On particularly stressful days, this daily ritual was nothing short of a godsend.

         A touch of light-brown eye-shadow made her already deep, blue eyes shine even brighter, and a thin layer of blush complimented her round cheeks and elegant features. That, when combined with the lip-gloss applied to her full, pink lips, created a sight that was fairly easy on the eyes. At least, that was the case of her own humble opinion.

         More than satisfied with the view in front of her, she stood up and turned around. While tying her long, blonde hair into a ponytail, she took a closer look at the bed at the other side of the room. Sharing the room with her brother made it feel cramped at times, but after a few playful spats when they were younger, the two of them eventually worked out a floor plan that gave them both the exact amount of space they needed. For her, that meant the aforementioned desk and mirror, and for him, it meant multiple hideous piles of trash and unwashed clothes that no amount of nagging would ever make disappear.

         Her grimace at her brother’s side of the room didn’t last long. On her way to the door in the left hand corner of the room, the blanket hiding her brother’s body shifted slightly, and a soft, quick groan sounded from somewhere within. A light smile crossed her lips as she turned back and stopped by his bedside. She carefully lifted the bottom end of the blanket to reveal the very top of her brother’s head; their attempts to stop his tossing and turning at night had all crashed and burned throughout the years.

         “I’m leaving now,” she said in a whisper, leaning down long enough to lightly kiss the boy’s head. “Are you super sure you don’t need me to come back and get you up after the bell rings?”

         Another soft groan was the only response she received.

         “You promise?” she asked.

         Yet another groan could be heard underneath her brother’s blanket.

         Knowing that that was the best she was going to get, she turned back for the door.


         Her brother’s low, muffled voice spun her back around on a dime. “I was coming back for it!” she blatantly lied, taking a few quick steps back to her dresser.

         A small, silver device sat completely forgotten on top of her shirts in the second drawer. The device had a cylindrical shape and a sleek design, with a small, square screen on its top and two strong magnets on the opposite end that snapped together to keep it strapped to your wrist. After putting it on, a few taps on the holowatch’s screen caused its actual screen to spring to life; a holographic screen a few inches taller and wider than her head, projected by the holowatch, popped up in front of her. The screen instantly scanned her eyes and logged her in, showing off an adorable pink wallpaper which featured a kitten laying one of its front paws softly on another kitten’s head as it slept.

         “Adorable,” Sasha confirmed with a smile.

         With full access to the internet almost anywhere, as well as a massive music library and the ability to run even the most modern video games, holowatches were incredibly popular with most people her age. She, however, often found herself far too busy to ever bother with her own, and it lived most of its sad, underused life in her dresser drawer. Today was different, though. She may not personally care for them, but she knew all too well that almost everybody nowadays uses them as their primary means of communication.

         “Got it,” she said while making a third attempt to leave the room. “Okay. Now I’m leaving.”

         With that, she finally managed to touch a small terminal on the wall next to the door, which sent the door receding into the wall. The door shut behind her as she stepped out into the hall. From there, a series of long, marble floored hallways eventually led her to the exit of the dormitory.

         Even after leaving the building and working her way across a small courtyard, she had yet to see a single student walking the grounds. Not that this surprised her; most of the students at this school were some of the brightest minds humanity had to offer, which also meant that the classes here were some of the hardest in existence. As a result, most students took advantage of every second of off time they were allowed.

         She was usually no different in that regard, but after today, she thought, that might have to change for a little bit. She stopped for a moment in the center of the courtyard, breathing in a deep whiff of fresh air provided by a handful of trees planted around the area. Kneeling down, she ran her hand through the wet grass planted between the stone walkways she’d been following. Of course morning dew was impossible in these surroundings, but the multiple sprinklers hidden within the grass did a fine enough job of simulating the feeling, or so she’d been told.

         The cold water sent a chill up her arm, and helped to wake her up fully. Smiling as she swatted the droplets away, she turned her gaze upward. During the daylight hours, a massive dome that covered every inch of the colony would give off a simulated image of a clear, blue sky; doing so made it much easier for newcomers to adjust to life on another planet. Right now, on the other hand, the view above her was one of pure martian origin. A beautiful, pinkish-red sky loomed over the dimly lit colony, basking the entire courtyard in its light, and disturbed only by a few nearby streetlights.

         After a few minutes of losing herself in the view, the importance of why she was out this early in the first place hit her once more, and she started walking again. The courtyard’s main use was leading to the front entrance of the school, which was a four story, brown cement building, currently to her right. Turning so that her back faced the school, she headed deeper into the colony.

         She passed by the school’s impressive football field and spied her destination in the distance. A long and brightly lit runway took up most of the colony’s left most side. The runway’s lights were blinking a bright red color all the way to the end of the dome, a sight that told her she’d arrived with little time to spare.

         Quickly making her away across the runway, she started for the middle of three large hangers that lined the left side of the runway, seeing an extra bright light coming from its wide opening. Her eyes squinted against the harsh, neon light as she turned into the hanger. She stopped for a second a few steps inside to let her eyes adjust.

         “Sasha! There’s my girl!”

         The call of her name came from a voice that instantly brought a warm smile to her lips. She took a few steps further in as the hanger came into focus. The large interior was mostly empty, aside from the various metal machines and parts she knew nothing about that lined the walls. The only noteworthy thing in the hanger wasn’t a thing at all, but a person currently walking toward her with his arms outstretched.

         Sasha ran forward and jumped into the man’s arms. Fairly muscular arms wrapped around her as a strong scent of coffee mixed with sweet smelling cologne filled her nostrils. She was gently place back on her feet and given a chance to look at the man close up, not that she needed it.

         The man in front of her had a bright, inviting smile and two kind, green eyes. His dark skin was covered by an expensive looking, gray suit and red tie, and his short, black hair was well kept, with a style that practically screamed businessman.

         “Sorry I took so long, Andy,” Sasha said genuinely, matching his smile with her own. “Had to make sure Travis remembered that I wouldn’t be there to wake him up.”

         “That’s fine, Sasha,” Andy replied. To her surprise, his smile then vanished. “But how many times do we need to go over this? I need you to call me—”

         Sasha pursed her lips and rolled her eyes. “I know, I know,” she said in a dismissive tone. “Sorry I took so long, Mr. President.” Andy’s proper title left her mouth in a mocking tone, but she made sure to make it clear that she wasn’t being serious. “Didn’t you say that only has to be a thing when we’re around other people?”

         No sooner had the words left her lips, than a single, solid cough sounded from directly to her right. Preparing herself for the awkwardness to come, Sasha turned on her heels and came face to face with the person she’d unintentionally ignored thus far.

         A thin, middle aged looking Asian woman with long, black hair and piercing, brown eyes; eyes transfixed on her while casting a look she couldn’t even begin to place. The woman was dressed in a button up, black blouse and tan dress pants, giving Sasha the impression that she was some sort of office lady, but she was certain she’d never seen her in the colony before now.

         “Oh!” Sasha exclaimed, suddenly realizing the awkward silence she’d created by looking the woman up and down. “I’m really sorry, Miss! I-I just got up a few minutes ago and I—!” The woman raised a hand to stop her sentence short.

         A wave of relief washed over Sasha as the woman’s red lips formed a thin smile. “Relax,” the woman said in a solemn tone. She then offered a quick bow before speaking again. “My name’s Haruka Arakawa. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sasha. The President has been talking you up all morning, so it’s nice to finally see his perfect space daughter in person.”

         Unsure of whether she should bow in return, Sasha panicked for a moment before extending her hand and mentally celebrating as Haruka shook it with no hesitation. “A pleasure to meet you, too, Arakawa...uh, what is it? Ban? San? Can? I’m so sorry, I honestly can’t remember right now.”

         Haruka’s response was a quickly stifled laugh that brought a slight red hue to Sasha’s cheeks. “Wow...” Haruka said with a now wide smile. “You’re an adorable little thing, aren’t you. Just Haruka is fine.”

         “Oh. Okay. Sorry.”

         While Sasha worked on shaking her blush away, Andy thankfully ended the awkward moment by taking a few steps forward and placing a hand on her shoulder. “Miss Arakawa is my new secretary,” Andy explained. “Her daughter is actually one of the new students arriving in just a few minutes, so I need you to do your best to help the two of them get accustomed to life on Mars.”

         “Of course,” Sasha nodded and looked back to Haruka. “Is there anything specific I could help you with, Haruka?”

         Haruka smiled once more and shot Andy a playful wink, making Sasha think that the two of them may have rehearsed earning her favor before she’d arrived.

         “I’m so happy you asked,” Haruka said in a knowing tone, confirming Sasha’s theory.

         Before Haruka could continue, a pleasant jingle made Andy pull up his right sleeve and look at the holowatch on his wrist. “Oh, this might actually be important. I’ll give you two some space while I answer this.”

         Haruka waited for Andy to walk away before continuing, crouching down just a bit to be eye level with Sasha. “Hey,” she said.

         “Hey,” Sasha replied.

         The look on Haruka’s face took a far more serious turn. “Alright, enough small talk. I really need your help, Sasha. Do you want to be a mother when you grow up?”

         The question took her off guard, and the look on Haruka’s face made it pretty clear the woman wasn’t joking. Thankfully, this question was about something she felt strongly about. “Nah,” she answered dismissively. “Babies are gross. People always talk about how cute they are, but all I’ve ever seen them do is poop themselves and throw up on people—that’s not cute.”

         Haruka’s eyes went wide for a moment, then looked to the floor for a moment of deep thought. “Yeah, that’s fair.”

         “Why ask me that?” Sasha asked, curious what any of this had to do with Haruka asking for a favor. “You’re not trying to unload a baby on me, are you? Because I’m a pretty generous person, but even I know that’s crossing the line.”

         Haruka looked back up to meet her eyes again. “N-No. See, my plan kinda hinged on you seeing yes, so that I could then use that as a jumping off point to...” The woman paused for a moment. “We’ve gotten off track. Look, Sasha, long story short here is that my daughter isn’t exactly thrilled about moving to this colony.”

         “Really...” Sasha made no attempt to hide the genuine shock in her voice. “Why’s that? Is there something wrong with her mentally?”

         “It’s...a long story,” Haruka answered. “Just...I was hoping that, since you already agreed to help the President in greeting this new batch of students, you might be willing to give my daughter some...extra attention. Maybe try to show her why this place is worth giving a chance.”

         Sasha’s eyes lit up as Haruka finished speaking. Honestly, she would’ve said yes to almost anything a friend of Andy’s asked of her, but this favor was different. If all she had to do was show Haruka’s daughter all of the reasons the martian colony was amazing, she was extremely confident in her ability to help.

         “Of course I’ll help,” Sasha responded with a bright smile. “This colony has been my home for as long as I can remember. Trust me, I’ll have your daughter in love with this place by the end of the day.”

         Haruka matched her smile and ended the conversation by lightly patting her head. As if on cue, Andy spoke up from just outside the hanger’s entrance. “Hope you two are all set over there! The new students are incoming in ten...nine..eight...”

         Sasha perked up and began to erratically check herself for any imperfections. Quickly realizing how useless such an act was on someone so clearly perfect, she took a few deep breaths to calm her nerves instead. Andy finished his countdown as the low hum of a ship’s engine grew in intensity. Sasha covered her ears in advance and stepped back against the wall with Haruka.

         The rounded tip of a colony transport ship appeared at the edge of the hanger’s entrance, and turned to face them as the ship inched its way into the hanger. The ship, while impressive in size, was simple in design, with a large cockpit, round body, three thrusters on its rear, and a snow white paint job. When compared to the small, luxury designs of single or two person ships that she read where common on Earth, it definitely didn’t hold up in terms of style. However, as was evident from the multiple square windows that ran along its body, the ship served its purpose of transporting large groups of people incredibly well.

         A handful of teenage faces were visible through the windows. Some of them smiled down at her as she waved, while others were already standing up and walking away from their seats. She continued to wave until the very last person stood up.

         Andy walked back to her side as the teenagers departed the ship via a wide ramp that extended from the ship’s bottom to the hanger floor. Teens of varying ethnicity and skin color were waved over by Andy and formed a small crowd along the side of the ship. Sasha scanned the crowd for any sign of Haruka’s daughter, but didn’t see a single Asian girl who shared any of the woman’s features.

         She raised an eyebrow in confusion, but was then tapped on the shoulder by Haruka. The woman pointed toward the rear of the ship, where one last person was just now making their way down the ramp. Some aspects of the girl Sasha watched join the crowd didn’t surprise her; the Japanese girl shared a lot of her mother’s features, including her round face, brown eyes, red lips, and petite frame. While those features came as no surprise, they made the girl’s shoulder length, white hair stick out like a sore thumb. Also unlike her mother, the girl’s lips seemed to be stuck in a constant pout, and the look her eyes gave off didn’t exactly strike Sasha as inviting.

         “Wow...” Sasha said softly, taking in the sight in front of her. “She’s...really pretty, in a I’d personally never approach her under most circumstances kind of way.”

         “You should’ve been there the day she walked out of the bathroom with that hair,” Haruka added in a dry tone. “It wasn’t pretty, I’ll tell you that much. Her name’s Mari, by the way.”

         “Mari,” Sasha repeated. “Noted.”

         Andy clearing his throat turned their heads. The man took a moment to adjust the tie on his suit before speaking in a clear, deep voice to the crowd of teenagers, who all stopped talking among themselves to listen. “Welcome, new students of Martian Academy!” Andy said with a wide smile. “As I’m sure some of you are already aware, I’m the President of this awe inspiring colony, and also head Principal of the academy itself. As such, it’s my job to introduce the lot of you to the beginning of your new life!”

         Sasha cringed just a bit at the end. This wasn’t the first time she’d helped Andy welcome a new batch of students, and she was never a fan of how heavy he laid on the whole ‘new life’ aspect of moving to the colony. Even she, someone who’d never left the colony or set foot on Earth a single time, knew that that was probably the last thing the students wanted to hear right off the ship.

         “And as new students, you’ve already proven yourselves to be some of the brightest and sharpest young minds humanity has to offer, and because of that we’ll be expecting you to...” Sasha spaced out after that, choosing not to listen again until Andy got to something that actually mattered. “Which brings me to the lovely young lady standing beside me.”

         Sasha perked up and smiled her brightest smile. “Good morning, everybody,” she said in a casual tone. “My name is Sasha, and I’m the head member of the academy’s student council. It’s a pleasure and honor to meet all of you, and I’m sure we’ll all become fast friends in the days to come.”

         It was tacky speech, she was well aware of that, but it got the job done.

         “Now, I’m sure some of you are nervous about attending such a prestigious and otherworldly school...” Sasha paused for a moment, expecting laughter but receiving nothing. One day she’d make that line hit. “Anyway, I’m here to tell you all that, while there’s nothing wrong with feeling nervous, it’s my job to personally make sure you all have a smooth transition to life on Mars. If you have any questions about the colony or the academy, or just need someone to talk to about anything, feel free to come to me.”

         “Before we set off, does anyone have any questions for either of us?” Andy chimed in.

         A single hand raised from within the crowd.

         “Yes,” Andy said.

         A goofy, clearly exaggerated voice answered. “Uh, yeah...Why is your face so stupid?”

         The crowd groaned loudly at the joke, if it could even be called that, and Sasha cracked a knowing smile.

         Andy let out a deep sigh. “Get out of there, Daniel,” the man ordered. “And work on your materiel for next time; you're better than that. The rest of you, follow me. We still have a good hour and a half to tour the school before classes start.”

         While Haruka and Andy both walked with the crowd of teenagers toward the hanger’s exit, Sasha stayed back and waved to the single teen who stayed behind. “Morning, Danny,” she said with a smile.

         Danny (Daniel to his father) was a young man with dark skin and a slightly muscular frame. He shared his father’s kind eyes and smile, but wore his black hair in a series of long dreadlocks that fell to just below his neck. Right now he was dressed in a tight, dark blue jumpsuit that covered everything from the neck down.

         Sasha accepted the boy’s hug before they set off together after the crowd ahead of them.

         “So...” Danny said while looking at Sasha.

         “So...” Sasha repeated, meeting the boy’s eyes with a look that implied she had no idea what to say next.

         Danny let an awkward silence drag on for several steps, and then crossed his arms defiantly. “I knew it!” he proclaimed, quickly looking away from Sasha. “You forgot. You said you wouldn’t but you did, because that’s just how you are.”

         Sasha knew the boy well enough to know that he was just picking, but his actions still made her question what he could possibly be talking about. “Oh!” she said in sudden realization. “Your pilot test was today! That was it just now, wasn’t it!?”

         Danny nodded his head furiously while still refusing to look at her.

         “Oh geez. Danny, I’m really sorry. I completely—”

         “Shut those glossy lips and look at this!” Danny’s hand shot up as she was shushed into silence and watched as the boy activated the holowatch on his right arm. A few taps on the device’s screen brought up a single document file.

         Sasha’s eyes grazed through the document as they turned and started down the runway. Assuming she was looking for his grade, she glanced at the top right corner and felt her heart leap. “A perfect score!” she yelled out, admittedly a lot louder than she meant to. “Shut up!”

         “I will not,” Danny replied, shutting down his holowatch. “Mr. Mendez said I nailed it. Well, he actually said a bunch of long and boring stuff I chose to ignore, but the important thing is I nailed it.”

         “That’s awesome!” Sasha leaned into the boy’s side as he proudly wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Sorry I forget again, but I’m glad you did so well. Aren’t you gonna go tell Andy?”

         “Eh, I’ll wait until later today when he’s not so busy,” Danny said with a shrug. “Besides, I promised my sister I’d call her first thing, so I gotta get home before she flies up here from Earth and beats my butt for not calling. Talk to ya later, Sasha.” With that, Danny removed his arm and turned away from Sasha just before they reached the end of the runway. While Sasha followed the crowd toward the school grounds, Danny departed with a wave over his shoulder.

         It took a second for Sasha’s thoughts to get back on track. Up ahead, Andy and Haruka were already entering the school through a small side entrance. The halls of the school were still empty, but a tiny slice of sunlight from outside the dome was finally starting to shine through, lighting up enough of the hall for the group to walk comfortably. Last through the doors, Sasha sprinted a few steps to catch up to the crowd, and eyed her target near the back of the group.

         Mari was walking with her head down, several inches away from everyone else. Sasha walked to the girl’s side and lightly cleared her throat. Mari continued to stare at the floor.

         As the group made their way through a mix of halls, Andy explained various things about the school’s history and how its classes and grades are handled. All of it was incredibly useful information for any student new to Martian Academy, and Sasha couldn’t for the life of her understand why anyone would outright ignore it.

         She started to open her mouth, but stopped herself. Haruka was counting on her to get through to Mari. As much as she wanted to tell the girl that she really should be paying attention, she couldn’t risk starting an argument. Instead, she tried to think of something she could say to break the ice. Naturally, she thought of her own interests, and took a close look at Mari’s clothes.

         The girl was wearing a dark blue blazer over a white dress shirt, and a black skirt with matching knee socks. It wasn’t really a look Sasha had seen before, but Mari definitely made it work.

         “I like your outfit,” Sasha said in a cheery tone.

         Mari turned her head, glared at Sasha, then looked back to the floor.

         “Uh...” Sasha stumbled for a moment, but refused to give up. “Yeah, I never really liked knee socks myself; they make my legs all sweaty and itchy, but they look great on you.” She shot Mari a curious look, and got another glare in response. “So...do you—?”

         “Stop,” Mari ordered, still refusing to look at her for longer than a few seconds. “I get what you’re doing, but I don’t care. Just...leave me alone.”

         The girl’s accent was a lot thicker than her mother’s, but the few words Sasha missed out on were more than made up for by the tone of Mari’s voice. She needed to pick her next words carefully.

         “Oh my god, your accent is adorable.”

         Mari practically growled as she started to walk faster, leaving a red faced Sasha behind.

         “No no no! Wait wait wait!,” Sasha called out. “T-That just slipped out. I didn’t mean to upset you.” In a desperate attempt to save the situation, Sasha reached forward and put a hand on Mari’s shoulder.

         A chill traveled down her spine as Mari grabbed her wrist with an ironclad grip. In one fluid motion, the girl spun around and pushed hard against Sasha’s chest. Before Sasha could even realize what was happening, Mari forced her into a turn in the hall, hiding them from the rest of the group. There, the girl leaned in close and raised her other arm to Sasha’s throat.

         “Leave. Me. Alone.” Mari spoke through gritted teeth, and was clearly holding back her accent as much as she could.

         Sasha should have felt threatened, that much was obvious, but a few things about her, things Mari had no way of knowing, were stopping that from happening. Rather, all that was going through Sasha’s head, aside from the thought that the girl looked even prettier up close, was that one particular aspect of Mari’s face had been lost on her until right now.

         “Your eyes...” Sasha whispered, not wanting to agitate Mari any further. She knew elaborating wasn’t necessary. Given how puffy and bloodshot Mari’s eyes were, there was no way the girl wasn’t aware of their current state.

         Mari instantly released her grip and put some space between them with a hard shove. The girl opened her mouth, but seemed to think better of speaking and rubbed at her eyes instead. Mari then turned around without a word to catch up with the rest of the new students.

         “Wait,” Sasha called out again. To her surprise, Mari stopped and turned her head slightly. “Look, I’ll be completely honest with you. Your mom asked me to talk to you. She seemed pretty sure you’d be upset about coming here, and wanted me to try and make your transition a little easier. I’d say it’s pretty clear you’re not in the mood to talk things out, but would you at least let me take you somewhere I think might change your mind about living here?”

         As she’d hoped, being up front with Mari seemed to be the right move. The girl turned around with a visibly softer expression on her face. “Fine.”

         Sasha waved for her to follow and started down the empty hall. After a few twists and turns, she led the way up two flights of stairs, occasionally glancing over her shoulder to make sure Mari was still there. She pushed up a heavy door at the end of the steps and felt a refreshing gust of cool air brush across her face.

         The roof of the school was soaked in sunlight shining down from the dome, which was now projecting a pleasant image of a crystal clear, blue sky. She took her first steps onto the cement and spun around to watch Mari follow her outside. The girl’s eyes shot upward and went wide as she cautiously shut the door behind her.

         “An average day on Mars is just a little bit longer than it is on Earth,” Sasha explained, smiling as she watched Mari’s eyes scan the dome. “In order to keep things organized, and make the view a little less freaky when there’s a dust storm outside, the colony’s dome kicks in at just the right time to simulate a picturesque, peaceful sky.”

         Mari let out a small groan to show that she was listening. Sasha then spun around to face the rest of the roof. They were currently on the top floor of the school, and the roof around them formed a large rectangle. Her heart beating faster with each step, Sasha made her way to the front edge of the roof, waving for Mari to follow.

         She clasped her hands behind her back as Mari approached. Truth be told, this wasn’t something she would normally do. Not only were students not really allowed on the school’s roof, but over the years, she’d come to kinda consider this her spot. At the few times when things got a little too much for her to handle, she’d come up here by herself and block out everything while taking in the view ahead of them.

         The school was one of the tallest buildings in the colony, and with them currently standing at the very top of its tallest section, the view was that of nearly every inch of the colony. Rather than wait for Mari to take it all in herself, she decided a guiding hand might make things go a little smoother.

         “Straight ahead is the market district,” Sasha said, pointing forward to the area directly past the school’s football field. The area was four blocks long, and comprised mostly of small, one and two story buildings. “All the stores there are run electronically, and students can use credits they earn from good grades or extracurricular activities to purchase anything they want. Well, except alcohol of course, that stuff is only here for the adults in the colony.”

         She then moved her finger toward the upper right side of the colony, where a few taller, gray buildings sat in front of a large stone courtyard. “Those are the senate buildings. It’s pretty boring over there, honestly. Students never really go there unless they’re in trouble.”

         The last half of the colony was directly to their right. Sasha turned and pointed toward a couple dozen blocks of two story tall buildings with tan, cement walls and identical layouts. “That’s the residential district. Any students that live with their families live there, as well as all of the adults that run the colony. I imagine your mother has already been assigned a home for the two of you.” Confident that she’d given a thorough enough tour, she turned back to face Mari with a wide smile. “So...What do you think? Awesome, right!?”

         Mari’s eyes continued to look around for an uncomfortably long amount of time. “I guess,” Mari said with a shrug. “You know literally everyone’s seen the colony, right? They’re tons of photos and videos online.”

         “Well, yeah...but...” The sentence started off strong enough, but Sasha quickly found herself at a loss on how to finish it. She already found it impossible to believe that, deep down, any promising student wasn’t in love with the idea of living here. The scenery, the people, the opportunities simply being able to say you studied here would open up later later in life—everything about the colony was designed to be perfect.

         “What’s wrong with you?” Sasha rushed a palm to her lips the second the question slipped out. Her eyes went wide, as did Mari’s, and for a moment the two simply shared that look in uncomfortable silence.

         “Excuse me?” Mari finally responded, a fair amount of bite in her words.

         There was no going back now. It truly wasn’t like her to be this confrontational, especially with someone she’d just met, but Sasha’s genuine confusion won the battle over her common sense and decency.

         “You heard me,” she snapped back, a twinge of guilt hitting her with every word. “Do you have any idea how hard it is for most students to earn the privilege of studying here? Martian Academy offers classes on par with the most prestigious and expensive colleges on Earth. A diploma from here pretty much guarantees you any job you could ever want; there are kids back on Earth who would kill for the chance to be in your shoes right now. So how about you stop with this lame edge-lord act you're putting on and start taking this opportunity seriously!”

         The last few words came out loud enough that anyone walking through the school’s courtyard right now probably caught wind of them. She could feel her cheeks burning red, and her hands were shaking despite her attempt to calm them.

         Mari, on the other hand, looked no worse for wear. The girl’s face, furious for a moment, had gone back to a silent, moping look. “I...” the girl said, ending her attempted sentence with a deep sigh.

         Sasha steeled herself, fully expecting a punch to be thrown by the girl’s balled up fists. However, Mari simply shook her head and turned away. All Sasha could do was watch as the girl walked slowly back across the roof and disappeared as the exit door swung shut behind her.
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