A Rose from Red Dust - @Holly_Gonzalez - Romantic SF

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A Rose from Red Dust

A Romantic SF Story by Holly_Gonzalez



Love at first sight—a sham glorified in every holo-flick. With the strike of a long-lashed eye, a femme fatale waylaid all hearts. Queue in angled lights, fog, a tragic score, the usual schtick. I didn't expect much from a new romantic thriller, let alone with an obscure actress in the lead, but my friends had insisted I see this movie.

"The Bootlegger's Bride". Dodgy title, loose premise of a back-alley H20 lounge and the deviant lives surrounding it. Mindless entertainment for the average Joe. I leaned back in my seat and prepared for the worst. Even mediocre holo-cinema was an excuse to get away from my office. Away from my brother's prying questions. An evening to myself, sans all disguises.

The opening credits rolled, and the scene panned over dim streets. A chilly night manifested within the glow of the Silver Sphere.

When Ethlyne Mayweather first turned her face to the camera, my jaw dropped. She was a goddess and seductress fused as one, triumphs and sorrows bound in an exquisite frame. Nuances swayed with her hips. Though her lines were trite, she delivered them with conviction and poise, and her talent carried the film beyond its realm.

I left the theater in a sort of daze.

"Good evening, Mr. Blane." My chauffeur nodded and opened the door of my hover sedan. "Did you enjoy the cinema?"

"It was remarkable." I tipped my fedora to him as I eased into the back seat. "Home, if you will, old sport?"

"Of course, sir."

Along the way, I accessed the Net and tuned to the film's official hub. Long threads of fan comments drifted through my wristcom's holo-display.

I added my own to the praise. "(User) CFBlane: What a splendid performance. Bravo from Secundis, Miss Mayweather." Spoken from my personal account. Castor Felix Blane, easy to decipher from the initials.

The usual deluge of replies ensued. Any message I posted on the Net became a sensation. The drawback of celebrity. Silas wouldn't approve of my interaction in public channels, but I didn't care what my brother thought now.

I was smitten with a rising star.

A few months later, when I learned Ethlyne Mayweather was filming a new movie on Mars, I wanted to meet her at any cost.

***

Sweat dripped into Ethlyne's eyes. The rumble of heavy machinery drummed into her skull. She dumped a shovel of raw Martian regolith into a trap. So much dust. She nearly choked. Mars was the dirtiest backwater she'd ever visited. She wiped her brow and forced herself to the end of the take.

Hover-cams drifted around her, recording every angle. Her manager had insisted this role would be her big break, but the only things breaking were her back and her sanity.

"And cut!" The director, Mr. Atwood, shouted through his megaphone. "Much improved, Miss Mayweather. That's a wrap."

Thank goodness.

Ethlyne groaned, set the shovel down, and walked off-camera. Brass-plated custodian units bustled around her in a whir of cogs and actuators, offering handkerchiefs and ice water and electronic praise. If only the director was as gracious as the robots.

She collapsed into her chair and sipped a glass of water. While Mr. Atwood argued with the lead grip, she glanced at the bedraggled extras who lounged nearby, waiting for their scene. Real Martian miners. Men and women who worked long and hard, doing what had nearly caused her to swoon. Tough, lean, their faces worn and uniforms smudged with grime, their reality wasn't a movie.

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