The world of the Pteronaut

This page will tell you a bit more about the setting for my book Race the Red Horizon.

Dawn comes to the dead red deserts, chasing away the lethal cold of night. You wake up in your sleeping-tube and stretch your muscles beneath your skin-suit. As much as you can, anyway – it’s a bit cramped in there. You check the readings in your goggle-display, take a sip of water from the drip-tube inside your facemask, and maybe even unfasten it (briefly!) to have a bite of breakfast. Mmmhmm. High-calorie ration-bars! Deeee-licious!

You wriggle out of the sleeping-tube through the flap at one end, pull your wing-pack after you, and strap it on. Brrrr! Still chilly out, but like a good Pteronaut you check the sky. Faultless and blue, just like every other day. Ever.

That first breath through your facemask clears the stale air from your breathing capillaries. Toxic air – utterly deadly if you fancied a sniff of it unmasked – is drawn in through the gill-cells that rib your chest, and the carbex filters inside suck out the poison. Automatically, you check the readings in the goggle-display: all green. Your filters are fresh and will give you enough air to last the journey. All being well.

Your roost is high up on a ridge. A red ridge, among red rocks, because red is the palette of everything in the cold dead deserts, everything but that pristine blue bowl above you. You scan the landscape. It’s stark, bleak and brutal, and utterly empty. Or so it would look to a non-Pteronaut. But you don’t see the starkness; you don’t even see the grim beauty of it. You’re looking for thermals.

A few dust-devils stagger drunkenly around, up and about early like you are. The air is heating and starting to circle. Invisible thermals are building. In a while, their currents will call you. First, you need some water. There is plenty of ice locked deep down in the permafrost – the problem is getting to it. Your goggle-eyes sweep the buttes and mesas and the canyons around you. You spot a little hollow of darkness, a fracture in the rocks, where the ice might be close to the surface. It’s a quick flick of your wings away, and you’ll check it first thing. If there’s no ice there, you’ll need to dig. Never much fun when all you have is a knife.

You reach down and collapse the sleeping-tube. It puffs and pants and shrinks to the size of your palm. The sleeping-tube is the difference between life and death, because the night-dark is too cold to survive in the open, so you stow it carefully in the pouch beneath your wing-pack.

Now it might just be time to fly. You reach up for the handgrips at your shoulders and unlock the wings. They sweep out on either side, unfolding, clicking into place. The wings hum and sigh as the early morning breeze plays over the struts. You test them, feeling the way they bite into the wind.

With a kick, you step off the ridge and take to the sky – you are a Pteronaut again…

If this has ptickled your inner Pteronaut, check out the book.

Header image: Mars, a place the Pteronaut would probably feel at home (By NASA (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory[1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)