Every planet is different, but usually in the early phases of geoengineering you're looking at a lot of volcanic work. Helps enrich the soil, warms the climate, creates bigger landmasses. If you bring your own minerals and molecular precursors — standard supplies for most terraforming operations — you can seed every eruption and tweak the atmosphere pretty quickly. Even so, there are going to be days when the air is shit and you've got to wear a mask. Especially if you're working near the magma fields, the way Avi and I were that month.

"I want to go to a planet where I don't have to build a new climate just to survive," Avi said, sitting down suddenly on a porous rock that had probably been a 900-degree liquid last week. "I'm going to apply for a transfer as soon as I'm old enough."


It was a refrain with him, as was my grunt in response. What was I supposed to say? A lot of people want to leave, but that doesn't mean they'll do it.

When our summer shift ended, we checked into the North Continent Engineering Center and got our credits for the school year. Avi was still talking about how this was his last shift on hellmouth duty


I watched data streaming across monitors in the sensor room, wondering whether the researchers could see something there that told them I'd spent ten weeks shoveling metallic shavings into a southern rift injector. I wanted to be a line of code, something measurable in the ecosystem.

Avi followed me out of the Center, reading aloud from some travel brochure he'd pulled onto his school-issue tuner. Flipping the nearly-transparent panel over, he angled it so I could see a single image centered there: A strange landscape, flat and green, bisected by an incredibly narrow river, upon which was balanced an incredibly narrow freight ship. It was some relatively small satellite of a gas giant with quirky gravity.

"It's called Paradisa Falls," Avi said. "Notice the air isn't full of fucking sulphuric acid? Everybody on that boat is getting laid, too. Guaranteed."

I made a weird face and he grinned, then repeated himself: "Guaranteed."

That fall, I designed my first injector and I liked it.

I didn't see much of Avi after that summer at the equator. We ran into each other once, in the halls, and he told me he was already working part-time in the Telepresence Corps, mapping his nervous system onto the morphology of a landbreaker robot, using its massive body to break up the polar ice. With lasers, his landbreaker unburied the glacier-locked fjords, while Avi saved every spare credit for that trip he was always about to take to Paradisa Falls.

You never really know what people mean when they say they want to get out. Are they actually making a plan, or just complaining? And would their lives really be any better on a super-narrow boat plying the clean waters of a finished planet? Maybe the air smelled awful in a different way when you had all that greenery and blue sky. Maybe it made people's faces swell up and blocked their lungs.


Besides, even if Avi left, it's not like he was going to traipse around getting laid all day in that nice clean climate. He'd be working in the engine room, just like me, just like everybody back home.

* * *

The art that inspired my flash fiction today is by concept designer and illustrator Thomas Crausaz. You can see more of his work on his website. (Spotted on Concept Ships.)

Want to read more Tales of Terraforming? Here are some previous stories:

The City Stood Up
The Art of Pirate Geoengineering
The Pleistocene Reenactment Society
I am sorry you have to live in the time of terraforming and not in the spring that follows