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This is my entry for Chuck Wendig’s latest weekly flash fiction challenge, which asked us to write what we know, but with a fictional twist. Here’s “Before the Dawn” for your enjoyment.

My father wakens me before the dawn. I dress myself in the dark, preparing to go to work with skill born of endless days of practice. Within minutes I am ready, and I leave my bedroom to find my father seated at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee before him, a glass of orange juice at the seat next to his. I sit beside him, questioning him about the day ahead of us and what it might bring. He is tired, though he tries not to show it. Work has been hard on him for the past few weeks, more so than normal. It’s harvest season, and it’s nearly over.

I glance out the window and I can see the last traces of the second moon fading as the sun peers across the distant horizon. The red tinge of our world is barely noticeable in the larger cities like Valentine, but out here, Mars is still Mars,  and it still feels like home. My family and I have lived here my whole life, and soon I will come of age, but not yet. I find myself dreaming of Earth sometimes, but I am grateful for the opportunity to be where I am. My mind drifts to what a boy my age on Earth would be thinking as my father tells me that it’s time to go.

We climb into the truck and head north, toward the field that we finished cutting last night. Since the terraforming, wheat has grown better on Mars than it did in the last hundred years or so on Earth. We’ve got almost a thousand acres left to harvest, but our crew is great this year. Two of my uncles, my grandfather, and a small army of cousins will be reaching the field soon, but since it’s one that’s close to our house, Dad and I are the first ones there.

I stretch as I climb out of the truck. A cool breeze is blowing across the stubble, and I think about how wise it was to bring a thermal sweatshirt this morning. Dad is already starting his half of the pre-harvest tasks, preparing the combine for operation. The equipment that we use was manufactured here on Mars, assembled by my grandfather and his brother from pieces that were printed upon their arrival on the planet. It was the only practical way to get the necessary machinery to another world, and it was achieved using Martian minerals. The technique had proven itself on Luna, and had only seen improvement by the time the terraforming process was complete on Mars.

My side of things is relatively simple. As has been my job since I was thirteen, I prepare the grain cart and the tractor that pulls it. I pull our truck alongside the tractor, lining up the fuel tank in the truck’s bed with the  tank on the side of the tractor. Once the fueling is in progress, I grab a grease gun and a rag from one of the tool boxes and begin the hunt for the the various zerks that are found on bearings around the tractor and the auger on the grain cart. Dad likes to tell me that farming has changed very little since he was my age. The only real difference is in location. And a little bit of gravity.  Okay, quite a bit of gravity.

I jump up to the top of the auger, greasing the bearing there before dropping back to the ground. Greasing the grain cart takes about ten more minutes, and the fuel pump clicks off just as I’m finishing up. As I’m wrapping the fuel hose back around the pump, the rest of the harvest crew arrives to service their machines. A swarm of family members pours out of a handful of other pickups, quickly preparing the other four combines, the tractors and grain carts, and the semi trucks that will haul the wheat away.

As the sun rises higher, the crew piles back into their various vehicles to make the move to the next field. We’ve got a fifteen kilometer trip there, so we form up into a convoy with the combines at the front and the pickups at the rear. At the max speed for the combines, it takes us about forty-five minutes. Upon our arrival at the new field, my grandfather takes the lead with his combine, cutting a small swath in the corner of the field where the rest of the vehicles will initially park. Once he’s done, he begins to cut a path through the wheat at the field’s perimeter. My father and uncles and one of my cousins follow suit, taking the next header width in. As my grandfather finishes his first round, the hopper on top of his combine is nearly full. It’s a good sign of the quality of the wheat, a sign of a good yield on a field this size.

Seeing this, I slip my tractor into gear, driving across the stubble to line up with the now-extended auger on the combine, matching my speed to his as the auger begins to feed wheat from the combine into my grain cart. My cousins fall in alongside the other combines, and as each grain cart is slowly filled we peel away to transfer our loads to the semis.  When the semis are in turn filled, other members of the crew will drive them to a storage facility on the outskirts of Valentine, about twenty-five kilometers away. It’s a familiar operation, one we’ve carried out every summer for as long as any of us can remember. We stop in shifts to eat packed lunches in our tractors and combines, and the day goes smoothly. Soon we will have provided a good portion of the wheat necessary for the growing colonies.

Dad calls me over to his combine as the sun begins to set and Phobos and Deimos appear in the sky.

“Good work today, sonny boy,” he says.

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