The door hisses on pneumatic hinges, rising slowly to show the red sands of Mars. I check my suit one final time, run my eyes over the indicators on my wrist. Then I step out onto a new world.
I feel at once both connected to, and very distant from, the rest of humanity. Mine are the first eyes to gaze out on this new sky, my footprints will be the first to be brushed away by strange winds. I am the furthest son of man. I am the vanguard of a people who will one day spread amongst the stars.
I clear my throat and speak, knowing that every word will be played on a billion screens back home. “Since the dawn of time, mankind has yearned for new vistas. We have climbed the highest mountains, plumbed the depths of the darkest oceans. In every era, in every culture, there have been explorers. Armstrong, Magellan, Lief Eriksson. In shuttles, ships or longboats, mankind has driven beyond the edge of the possible, arriving in new…”
Something catches my eye, off to the left of me. I turn, my prepared speech dying on my lips.
Perhaps a hundred meters away, I see it. A battered wooden shape, a snarling dragon’s head rising from the prow. Some strange canvas shell covers the curving sides, the bumps of ornate shields. A stone obelisk rises from the sands in front of it, an obelisk I know will be inscribed with runes that ruin my dream.
Tears spring to my eyes, almost instantly removed by the acclimatisors within my suit. My entire life spent following a dream that was impossible long before even my country existed. I wanted to be first on Mars, to be the first man to make his home on a new world. But they were here first. Like always.