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IT'S BETTER ON MARS ( ) is the Quick Link to here.

It's Better on Mars

a short story by
Jonathan Tad Ketchen (JTK.CA)

Copyright © Jonathan Tad Ketchen (JTK.CA).
All rights reserved.

This is the 2004 Edition
(Original Edition was written in 1992)

JONATHAN TAD KETCHEN Creative Adventures (JTK.CA) = = JTK.CA =
Artist, Poet, Photographer, Nude Model, Playwright, Singer/Songwriter, & Nudist Christian
(519) 780-1057
Guelph, Ontario, Canada

DEDICATION: It's Better on Mars starts, to the day,
one thousand years after I began to write it
and is dedicated to:

Steve Martin (a.k.a. Stephen Keats), my fellow
Alan Parsons junky, and the author
of such literary greats as:
Broccoli: Fact or Fungus;
Topographical Errors;
and National Geotragic (a magazine
parody). He also created and runs
the official Alan Parsons fan web site

May God still make friends as good as him in 2992 A.D.

Note: GENE-TECH Systems is a completely fictitious company with no relation to any similarly named companies in the real world.




It was May 8, 2992 A.D., in Valparaiso, Indiana, five hundred years since Indiana was granted nation status by the crumbling United States government. And as in that distant past the United became Untied, so private investigator Kelleigh Ransom, 23, was (after much soul-searching) finally accepting the fact that she must untie herself from her present society's system, and on Indiana's Independence Day, of all days, for independence for the clones was her hoped for legacy.

GENE-TECH Systems had been cloning humans for over two hundred fifty years. Male clone models M1 through M51 and female clone models F1 through F98 were conceived in mass produced Tech-Wombs. And after their births from inorganic mothers, the clone babies were sterilized, raised, and trained by GENE-TECH to be sex slaves until the age of 33. Then, they would be sent back to GENE-TECH for orderly disposal. Any of the clones, who escaped would be hunted down by free-lance assassins hired by GENE-TECH.

The ICLU (Indiana Civil Liberties Union) through the years, back in the 28th Century, was quite successful in promoting GENE-TECH's cause, elevating the words "reproductive freedom" (for GENE-TECH) and "sexual liberation" (for the clones) while totally stripping them of their meaning. Yet Indiana's schizophrenic legislature decided to keep their strict prohibition of public nudity in place, while they totally legalized child and adult pornography with no broadcast restrictions. There was no absolute right or wrong left in the nation's consciousness, only legislation. Throughout the two hundred and fifty some years that followed, the government hired all kinds of analysts to figure out why the rate of women in the country raped crept its way to 69 percent by 2992, teenage pregnancy to 84 percent of girls, and divorce to 90 percent. It had also become a murderous, bloodthirsty nation. One's closest friends couldn't be trusted for anything. Abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia were rampant but accepted without a second thought because the philosophy of the day, though never worded this way by its proponents, was "Freedom and liberty at the expense of others." Everyone was a victim of some form of heinousness, and Kelleigh Ransom had had enough!

So this May 8, 2992, she broke into Valparaiso's GENE-TECH Laboratory. Being found out while downloading GENE-TECH computer files into her compu-pad, she dodged the GENE-TECH guard as he lurched toward the compu-pad in her hand and fell, through the void she left behind, into a glass cabinet full of trophies presented to GENE-TECH by the ICLU. As the glass shattered, a large shard penetrated through the guard's torso as he hit the ruins of the display case on the floor. As he lay there, Kelleigh saw his bloody, glass-riddled eyes looking up at her, with a blood-swirling tear rolling out of his tear duct and down his cheek. She started to sob, gurgling the words, "I'm sorry," to the guard as the life oozed out of him. All of a sudden, a clatter of footsteps destroyed her sympathy, and she realized who she was crying for. And, for the first time, she realized the darkness of the room, with its cold, metallic, cybernetic glow. She saw the glass boxes, laid out in perfect rows, filling the steel tables laid out parallel to each other, filling up half the room. The glass boxes had glass tops riddled with an orderly pattern of air holes, through which came the cries of babies. She turned to the corpse on the floor and screamed, "Burn in Hell!" The sound of the footsteps was becoming more and more ominous, so Kelleigh took the glass lid off one of the boxes and tossed it at the corpse, missing him, as the glass shattered across the floor next to him. With all the shattered glass, it had become a floor of diamonds being overtaken by a pool of blood. Kelleigh took an M48 clone baby from his glass cage and slipped into the night with her little hostage. Seconds later, the swarm of other GENE-TECH guards, flew into the room and out the exit, in hot pursuit. One stayed behind, kneeling in the pool of blood by his colleague's lifeless body and weeping bitterly, totally oblivious to the shards of glass penetrating his knees.


Having eluded the guards by hiding in the middle of a holographic crowd of anti-GENE-TECH demonstrators outside of the building; when the coast was clear, Kelleigh took the baby to her doctor, whom she trusted. She had her check for any foreign objects in his body because, knowing GENE-TECH's tactics from years of study, Kelleigh suspected each clone would have a homing beacon surgically implanted in case of his escape or kidnapping. She was right. So the doctor removed it from Kelleigh's liberated child without complications. It wasn't intended to be hard to remove because GENE-TECH thought it was one of their best kept secrets. Kelleigh's skills as a private investigator had paid off.


GENE-TECH noticed the homing beacon going off-line and sent a team on a fast-track for the location of the last signal. They broke into the private clinic, but no one was there. They searched for clues. Stepping from the shadows outside, the doctor, with her silent laser pistol, moved cautiously toward the broken window, and when all three GENE-TECH investigators had their backs turned, she eliminated each one with a laser beam silently thudding each in the back of the head.

Kelleigh was on her way to the airport with the baby. When she arrived, she successfully bribed the administrator of the airport to fly them on a skycraft to Evansville, Indiana, but in the cargo hold and to list them as cargo. It seemed ironic to Kelleigh that to evade further attempts by GENE-TECH to find the baby, their missing cargo, she was disguising him as just that.


Kelleigh and the baby arrived in Evansville, where an airport official, in cahoots with the Valparaiso Airport administrator, escorted them from the cargo hold of the skycraft into the airport, wishing them the best in their next caper because he wasn't going to put his butt on the line again.

Kelleigh and the baby found their way on mass transit to Evansville Space Port, and after arriving, went to the chairperson of the port with whom she had worked before on one of her private investigations. He was glad to help and through paperwork disguised them again as cargo. He secretly arranged for room for them in the cargo bay of the Earth-Mars Shuttle and sent word to a colleague at Mars Port 55 to have them escorted off the shuttle and into the port through a restricted door.

So Kelleigh and the baby were put into the cargo bay of the next hourly Earth-Mars Shuttle and were blasted off into the cosmos for a two hour streak through space from their old home to their new planet.


Kelleigh looked through a small, round window in the cargo hold down to Mars as they approached. It was a beautiful red, blue, and green ball in space, with white clouds scattered through its atmosphere, and she remembered how her history books in school told of the many failed attempts at terra-forming the planet. As she was determined to change her life and that of her new son, who would otherwise have been forced into a life of cruel, sexual slavery, she admired the constant perseverance of terra-forming hopefuls. Through those three-and-a-half discouraging centuries, they never gave up, and they passed their enthusiasm down through the generations until through adversity and faith their dream was reached and their doubts were conquered.

As the shuttle entered the atmosphere and broke through the clouds; breathtaken, Kelleigh looked down upon the purple mountains and fruited plains. This was her New World.


After landing at Mars Port 55, an official stepped into the cargo bay and led Kelleigh and the baby into the spaceport through a secret door. She and the baby then left the lobby as they entered the majestic landscape of their new planet.

Kelleigh took in a breath of fresh air and let it out remembering that the government of Mars had always outlawed cloning. So hoping she'd find an open ear and willing hands to help, she found her way with the baby to Mars' capital city, New Duanesburg, which is 450 kilometres south of Mars Port 55.

It was a beautiful summer day in New Duanesburg, but, as she would eventually find out, in this area of Mars it's like summer all year 'round, for she found herself in Mars' tropical zone. As she walked toward Mars Capitol Building, through the grassy mall between it and Chang Monument (named after Melissa Chang, the technician who successfully terra-formed the planet in 2532), Kelleigh noticed that she was one of very few people, on the busy mall, who were wearing clothes. Back at Chang Monument was a holovision reporter reporting on holocorder, but with nothing on. The holocorder operator was clothed, but he, like Kelleigh, was in the very small minority. As she moved closer to the Capitol, passing through the grassy mall full of nudists (a couple taking a walk with their baby in a hover-baby-buggy, a group of kids playing soccer, sunbathers, people on park benches, and a plethora of others), Kelleigh realized there probably weren't too many fashion models showing off the latest apparel, because on Mars the human body was the "in" fashion. Of course, this didn't shock Kelleigh. She had grown up in California. She, and, as she would discover, Mars had no problem with nudity. The only problem she and her new world had was with the bitter cruelty and sinful seductiveness created in nudity's name, problems all too common and rampant on Earth. Though Mars was clothing optional, adultery and fornication were both felonies. This was one of the ingredients in Mars' stable society and strong families.


With a grin on her face, Kelleigh was walking nude up the steps of the Capitol with her baby who was now wearing only a diaper. She had left their clothes in a friendly neighbourhood disintegration pod. Back on Earth, in Valparaiso, she had attended a secret nudist social club when she had days off from her private investigating, but she never thought she'd find herself in an entire society, not to mention planet, which was clothing optional. Well, she had found it and was quite satisfied with her discovery. She would never get dressed again, nor would her son (with the exception of diapers), unless, when he grew older, it were his wish to don some apparel. But he never would either. Kelleigh had also decided on her walk to name her son "Vega," after her favourite star in the sky and her favourite 21st Century singer/songwriter, Suzanne Vega.

Kelleigh entered the Capitol lobby with Vega and saw a naked, 32-year-old man walk by, and heard someone passing by call to him, "Hi, Senator Smith!"

"Hey, George!" the Senator jovially responded.

"Senator Smith," Kelleigh beckoned.

He turned and walked toward her and the baby. Smith then inquired, "How may I help you, ma'am?"

Kelleigh replied, "My name is Kelleigh Ransom. And this is my son, Vega. I know Sir that your government has always outlawed cloning."

"Yes," said Smith, "it is outlawed. But why do you call it my government? It belongs to all of us--you, me, and every other Mars citizen."

"I'm not a Mars citizen."

"Oh," he said, regretting his assumption, "I'm sorry. Please continue."

"My 'son' is a clone," she said as she gently took hold of the baby's left foot and showed the Senator the brand reading GENE-TECH #M48603C on the bottom of his big toe.

The Senator's eyes widened in surprise.

Kelleigh continued, "I rescued him from their Valparaiso lab yesterday, and after escaping with him, I covered our tracks all the way to New Duanesburg, and now that I'm here, I'd like to assume new identities for the baby and myself, to protect us, in case GENE-TECH's investigators are as good as I am."

"So, you're a p.i."

"Yes. You're very astute."

"Was there a homing beacon?"

"Yes. A doctor I trust removed it. Then I went on the run with the baby. On my way to Valparaiso Airport, the doctor contacted me on my communicator, telling me that three GENE-TECH investigators had broken into the clinic after the baby and I had left but she killed them all. Come to think of it, I guess GENE-TECH's investigators aren't as good as I am. They're dead and I've made it to another planet unscathed! Anyway," she said, reverting to a more modest tone, "I continued to act covertly, just in case. Vega and I flew from Valparaiso to Evansville, disguised as cargo, and we took the Earth-Mars shuttle from Evansville Space Port to Mars Port 55, disguised in the same way. Then we hitched a 450-kilometre ride to New Duanesburg in the back of a moving company skycar."

Stunned, Senator Smith said, "You've covered your tracks well!"

"Thank you," replied Kelleigh.

"I will help you in your final cover," the Senator offered. "What you've done is heroic, saving this child from cruel, inhuman, perverse slavery, and execution at the end. Anything you need me to do, I'm at your service!"

"Oh, thank you, Senator!"

"Please, call me Greg."

"Thank you, Greg."

"So how can we start?" Greg inquired.

"I'd like to change my last name and have a Mars birth certificate, and Vega needs a birth certificate saying he was born on Mars as well."

"What about Vega's toe brand? I know a doctor who could remove it and restore his original toe print. He could also alter his facial appearance, so he'd be safe from being recognized, in case someone from GENE-TECH ever passed his way."

"That would be perfect!" Kelleigh agreed.

Greg segued into another topic. "So Kelleigh, what was your reaction to widespread nudity on Mars, although I can see, by your nakedness, you approve?"

"Well, I didn't notice it at Mars Port 55, partly because I was acting covertly, and I guess the other reason would be any people I did happen to see were pro-clothing. The movers' skycar, which I hitched a ride from at the port and hid in for the journey here, had a clothed driver. I first noticed that Mars was clothing optional after the moving skycar driver dropped me off at the grassy mall between Chang Monument and the Capitol. We heard all about Mars in school and in the media, except for the nudity. No nudity on Mars was ever seen on an Earth holovision newscast. Or, if it were, I wouldn't know because I'm not an avid news media fan. But it seems the Earth establishment doesn't want us Earthlings to know."

Greg said, "Well, Kelleigh, I guess you're a Martian now." (He meant "Martian" in the newer sense of the word. The older meaning had become obsolete since no "little green men" had ever been found.)

"Yes, I am a Martian now, because I'm not returning to Earth after we have our identities changed, and I hope Vega never returns either. If the doctor removes the toe brand and changes the baby's face, however, there's no way they could recognize him," she reassured herself.

Greg added, "And growing up in this area, he'll naturally develop the region's accent, so he won't even sound like his clone brothers."

"I only wish I could have saved them all," Kelleigh lamented.

"If more people have your courage," Greg reassured her, "eventually the slavery will end and so will the cloning."

"Thank you."

"Kelleigh, I'm an incurable optimist, and I believe optimism is only useful when combined with action! So I help you because of my optimism. If I were a pessimist, I'd say, 'Sorry, Kelleigh Ransom. There's nothing I can do.'"


Kelleigh and the Senator walked out of the doctor's office two days later. Kelleigh held Vega in her arms as she admired his new face and missed his old one. And in her purse were the two new birth certificates of Kelleigh Marsfield and Vega Marsfield. Both new characters in the real drama of life were declared in ink to have been born in New Duanesburg, Mars. Vega's left big toe was now normal, without the GENE-TECH #M48603C brand on it and with his fully restored toe print in its place. Kelleigh thanked Greg and he gave her his card. She left with Vega against her naked breasts.

And as he grew, Vega did naturally develop the regional accent.


(2999 A.D., in the countryside 110 kilometres west of New Duanesburg)

As time rolled across New Duanesburg and into the open countryside, where Kelleigh had built their ranch style home at the foot of Mount Einstein of the Great Huxley Mountains, she found it hard to fathom that she was baking Vega's 7th birthday cake. And out in the field by the house, no longer a clone, but a naked boy child ran, full of joy with clothed Sara, his best friend.

As Kelleigh took the cake out of the oven, a knock came on the door. She went toward that sound and the sound of the children frolicking outside. A nude man of 30 stood on the porch. "Come in," Kelleigh said with a smile.

He obliged. It was Sara's young, widower father, Christopher Lawrence, who had come for Vega's birthday party. They lived a half-kilometre up the road from Kelleigh and Vega, in the direction of New Duanesburg. They were next-door neighbours at a countryside distance.

As Kelleigh put seven candles on Vega's cake, Christopher looked out the window at the Great Huxley Mountains a short four hundred metres away. Kelleigh's house was the closest building to Mount Einstein, which rises 3,500 metres into the sky. Christopher said, while he awed himself with the mountainous splendour before his eyes, "I'm so glad Sara found Vega! I think that after three difficult years, she's finally come to grips with her mother's suicide and accepted the fact that it wasn't her fault and she couldn't have stopped her."

Kelleigh said, "I'll never understand how Wendy could have taken her life, when she knew she always could turn to you. You and Sara loved her so much and she couldn't get enough of either of you."

"I don't understand it either. And we'll never know why. She never left a note. But my tears are over, though they creep through the tear ducts on her birthday, Mother's Day, and our anniversary. I, like Sara, have come to accept a lot of things, and we've both, through turmoil, learned to live with joy again."

"Mommy!" Vega chimed, bouncing into the house with his hand in Sara's hand.

"Daddy!" Sara gleamed as she, in her bright, flowery dress, flitted across the floor and into her father's embrace.

The combination of "Mommy" and "Daddy" sounded good to both Kelleigh and Christopher, though neither had the guts yet to admit it in words to the other.

Vega smiled and greeted Christopher, seeing through both his mother's and Sara's father's disguises covering their true feelings.

Sara, in her flowery dress, ran over to Kelleigh and jumped into the naked woman's arms and gave her a big hug. Sara was like her late mother; she didn't mind others' nudity; she just loved wearing pretty clothes, though she'd get naked, without a second thought, for a swim in Kelleigh's pool with Vega and the others.

And that's where all four headed next, to the pool, after Sara left her clothes on the sofa and Vega grabbed the towels.

Their bodies all glistened as they frolicked with each other and had water races. Vega outswam them all, as usual. GENE-TECH, which Kelleigh had never told him about, had genetically engineered the clones to be very strong physically, but not too strong emotionally, for that would certainly lead to the clones rebelling against their "programmed" life-cycles.

But Vega was emotionally strong, for genetics is not the only determiner of character. Kelleigh had spent the last seven years loving him deeply and nurturing him to be a child with high self-esteem and self-control. And she had succeeded.

The wet foursome dried off and returned to the house where Sara put her clothes back on as Kelleigh lit the candles. Sara joined Vega and her father, who were already seated at the dining room table. Kelleigh walked in slowly and led the others in "Happy Birthday" as her breasts glowed softly from the candle flames in front of them.

She set the cake on the table and Vega looked at everyone around him and hoped that someday they would all be one family. Then, he blew out the flames.

Christopher said, "I know it's not tradition, Vega. But if you tell us what you wished for, we'll see what we can do."

Kelleigh and Sara nodded yes.

Vega, looking straight at Christopher, piped in, "You want to know my wish? Well then, here it is! I want you and my mother to look into each other's eyes and see what you're both missing . . . each other!"

Christopher and Kelleigh looked into each other's eyes, into Sara's eyes, and then into Vega's eyes, shocked and astonished that a 7-year-old could see into their souls with such devastating clarity.

Once they caught their breath, Kelleigh postponed cutting the cake and told the group it was time for Vega to open his presents.

They moved to the living room, and Sara quickly ran outside and came back slowly with her gift to Vega. "It's fragile," she said.

"I'll be careful." He opened a decorated box with air holes, and with a light kiss on Sara's cheek, he lifted out a puppy Shetland Sheepdog. "How did you know?" Vega squealed with joy.

"Kelleigh told me."

"Oh, thank you, Sara!"

"You're welcome," she smiled, and began to blush. "And thank you for the kiss."

"Sorry. I got carried away. I won't let it happen again."

With a glint in her eye, Sara countered, "Now, what was that you were just telling our parents about looking into each other's eyes to see what they're both missing?"

Now, Vega was shocked and astonished that a girl could see so clearly into his soul and what he truly wanted.


(3013 A.D.)

Vega Marsfield and Sara Lawrence, both 21 now, and much taller, stood hand in hand on top of Mount Einstein, high above the house Vega grew up in, now a mere dot on the kilometres of fields from this height which was still immeasurably lower than their infinitely high love for each other. Sara was naked now. When Vega had proposed and she accepted, to his surprise, by disrobing, she decided never again to hide a single cell of her body from his view or anyone else's. She sent all her clothes to relatives near Mars' North Pole. Ninety-five percent of Mars' tropical zone population was nudist, but Parkas and snowsuits were the main order of the winter days in some other areas of the planet.

On the rather cool mountaintop, warmed by love, Vega said, "I do," and Sara followed with the same. The minister said, "You may kiss the bride."

And as they embraced and passionately kissed, Sara Marsfield's bare, voluptuous breasts caressed Vega's naked, muscular chest.

Christopher and Kelleigh Lawrence, in tears of joy, watched their children who had become step-siblings at their marriage thirteen years earlier. Kelleigh and Christopher had decided not to adopt each other's child, leaving Vega and Sara free to make that same commitment of matrimony.

Vega's seventh birthday wish had come true. They all had, indeed, become a family.


My play, "OUR KIDS AREN'T RACE HORSES," is a sequel to this short story, picking up where "IT'S BETTER ON MARS" left off.


Robyn said...

What a sweet, beautiful story. Even Heinlein couldn't have written it any better!

JTK.CA@JTK.CA said...

Dear Robyn,

Thanks very much for that wonderful review. I'm honoured!



Ton Dou said...

You've written an exciting and wonderful story Tad, I really enjoyed it!!

JTK.CA@JTK.CA said...

Thanks very much, Ton Dou! And thank you for being "an exciting and wonderful" friend. ;-) <3