WHITE MARS
him sexual favours would get me through! Can you imagine?'
    I hardly dared ask what she had done.
    She tossed her hair back. 'What the hell do you think? I wasn't going to let him stop me. I let him screw me. Next day my boyfriend broke both his stinking legs in his back yard...'
    By far the greatest percentage of YEAs had no means by which to cover the exorbitant costs of interplanetary travel. Nor was financial payment allowed - although Kathi said this too could be arranged if you were one of the Megarich. Funding poured through the UN Matrix Tax to EUPACUS. Gunther was pocketing a 'whole river' of this money, according to Kathi. I had seen pix of Gunther and thought he looked nice.
    Having passed their exams, the young educated adults were allocated to stations in which to spend a year of community service. Some got lucky, some lived like slaves, as I did. Some laboured on newly established fish farms in Scapa Flow, or the anchovy nurseries off the west coast of South America. Some served in the great new bird ranges of the taiga, or in satellite manufactories, 2,000 miles above Earth. Some were sent to Luna to work on the underground systems as technicians. Kathi was lucky and went to Darwin and the Water Resources.
    'And sitting there like a fat pig in a strawberry bed was Herby Cootsmith, a Megarich, squatting on his investments, gradually buying up all Darwin,' Kathi said.
    As a group, the YEAs were mistrustful of the socio-economic systems from which they emerged. They hated the disparity between the poor, with their harsh conditions and short lives, and the Megarich, whose existences were projected to extend over two centuries. Life for the Megarich, Kathi declared, misquoting Hobbes, was 'nasty, brutish, and long'.
    It was estimated that 500 people owned 89 per cent of the world's wealth. Most of them belonged in the Megarich category, being able to pay for the antithanatotic treatments.
    After your year's community service, you had to pass the various behavioural tests. Then you were qualified for the Mars trip.
    'How did you manage?' Kathi asked.
    I hesitated, then thought I might as well tell her. 'A rich protector came forward with a bribe.'
    Kathi Skadmorr gave a harsh cackle. 'So we're both here under false pretences! And I wonder how many others -YEAs and DOPs?! Don't you just long for a decent society, without lies and corruptions?'
    It came as a surprise to me to discover that Tom Jefferies and his wife Antonia - both of them DOPs - had also used a bribe to get to Mars. That I shall have to tell about in a minute, and to describe Antonia's death.
    Antonia died so many years ago. Yet I can still conjure up her fine, well-bred face. And I wonder how different history would have been if she had not died.
    The DOPs were reckoned to have served their communities; otherwise, they would hardly be Distinguished. As Older Persons, they did not have to undergo the GIQ examination. However, the Gen & S Health test was particularly rigorous, at least in theory, in order to avoid illness en route, that long, spiralling, burdensome route to the neighbouring planet. In some cases, behavioural tests were also applied.
    DOP passages were generally paid for by some form of government grant from their own communities. In the eighteenth century, Dr.. Johnson told Boswell that he wished to see the Great Wall of China: 'You would do what would be of importance in raising your children to eminence ... They would be at all times regarded as the children of a man who had gone to view the Wall of China. I am serious, sir.' To have visited Mars brought a similar mark of distinction - conferred, it was felt, on whole communities as well as on the man or woman who had gone to Mars and returned home to them.
    One of the excitements of being on Mars was that one occasionally met a famous DOP, not necessarily a scientist, perhaps a sculptor such as Benazir Bahudur, a literary figure such as John Homer Bateson, or a philosopher such as

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