Writer’s prompt: Take the following poorly written story and turn it into an amazing one of 400-600 words:

The door was opened and they looked out. She was very surprised. He looked very worried. They went quickly to find out more. She slowly picked up the object and it finally all made sense.

[Writer’s note: This piece was written in response to a specific challenge, initially to be included in the MarsLives! series of stories. While it received a commendation for world building, I have determined that most of the material does not fit within the rest of that universe, so I will be using this material only tangentially in the final work. I thought it might be interesting, though, for people to see how stories evolve in fits and starts.]


The lightness of Canara’s even, brown skin had less to do with genetics than with having lived her entire life under the dome that held in the air but kept out the sun’s harsh radiation. She stood looking through the ClearSteel viewport at the network of tunnels crisscrossing Level 2, yellow-zone region, New Mars settlement. Otthin sat behind her at a small table in the stark four-by-six-meter steel-and-rock room identical to all the crew quarters of the sector. His dark hair and pinkish skin told of a more recent immigration to the Red Planet. But both were miner moles through and through, better adapted to the depths of the planet than to the bright surface. They barely ever made it topside.

This sector belonged to Salvino Corp., an Earth-based mining outfit with sole rights to Mars ore extraction. They had staked their claim almost 150 years ago, first sending up automatic equipment, then people to establish the bases and crew the operation. Luna served as the go-between point, allowing equipment and ore to flow more smoothly between the planets than if the ships and stores had to go through Earth’s gravity. The system had worked seamlessly for most of that time, until about 20 years ago. The miners, feeling they were treated little better than slaves, had gone on their first strike, halting operations for almost two weeks before the company’s enforcers beat them into submission. And once they got replacement workers into orbit, they filled the mines with poison gas to rid themselves of the troublemakers. Tensions had been running high ever since.

“What you lookin at?” Otthin queried.

Canara startled from her reverie. “Um, nothin. Nothin.” She moved away from the port and sat down at the table.

“That’s whole lot of nothin.”

“I thinkin ’bout the food. You know Salvino just gonna starve us out, you know?” A third-generation Martian, Canara’s accent was decidedly more pronounced then her companion’s.

“They sure try.”

“We no got any leverage. We no put in the work, they send in skippies. We good as dead. It be ’05 all over again.”

“Maybe not. We got Luna on our side now. They gonna get ‘tween us. This could end better.”

“You dreamin’ Otthin. We still miner moles. We nobody. We strike, no helpin us.”

“There be less ore now. Maybe they cut their losses. Figure givin us something better than the cost of shippin skippies. We should wait it out and see.”

There was a sudden sound outside the door to the compartment, a small “thump.” Canara and Otthin got up from their seats and walked over to the hatch. Silence. Canara opened the hatch door. A few feet from the doorway rested a circular metal object, about the size of a fist.

“What is it?” He couldn’t see past her.


They both walked out the hatch. Looking outward, Canara saw that such an object rested outside all the other compartments down the row. She stared at all of them with puzzlement. Otthin looked worried. They were the only ones out investigating.

Canara stooped down, picked up the object, and turned it over, feeling the depression switch on the grenade even as her thumb passed over it. It all made sense now. Salvino wasn’t going to starve the workers out or send in skippies, they were going to blast the rock open and make the remaining ore more accessible to their automated equipment. She had just a brief moment of clarity before the world exploded around them.

(c) 2017 Miriam Ruff All Rights Reserved