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Mars 27: Catalyst on the Plains

written by Christopher Birkbeck on August 20, 2003 | contact me
number of views: 76957 |   printable version (text) (PDF)

Chapter I: Red Horizons

The sun was setting over the reddish-pink sky and flat lands bellow. The temperature was bellow freezing. In fact, it was cold as Antarctica – literarily. Yet, the sky was full of carbon dioxide, a gas that traps heat warm up an area, yet did nothing. The ground was rust (or ferrous oxide to use the scientific term). This was Mars, fourth planet from the sun, its star. The land was a seeming desert, a place that did not deserve study, much least inhabitation. The planet seems to have reject life. And all living things that could survive had to live a hash and unforgiving existence.

How depressing, thought Mark Alexander Townsend, an adolescent aged 7 (In Martian years, about twice a Terran year). This was cold, toxic and hash land and yet, -- this was home. He was a native of Mars, or as native as a human could get to this planet. Looking up at the east, he saw two bright stars, one yellow and another blue. He stared at the blue one or the pale blue dot. That was not a star. That was – that was Earth, the primordial homeland of humans, of life, as they know. It was centre of human affairs, were billions of people were, and still were, born, lived and died. Mark thought how could some have an impact on the world, on history. How can –

Suddenly, a large ball hit Mark’s head. “Ouch, what the… ” said Mark, who had lost his balance and focus. He looked around in the large passenger room. He was very annoyed. “Michael, you should know the Julies Verne’s window could be broken easily. “Can please act your age. My God…” yelled Mr. Moore, local areography teacher at Goldenville (Mars International Settlement Base XXIV, officially), Marks’s hometown, and instigator of this trip.

A lean, dark skinned adolescent looked up at Mr. Moore and smirked. “Yes, Mr. Moore, I know that. I guess… I kina forgot.” Slick and smooth, thought Mark. Classic Michael. Then Michael turned around and said, “You okay there?”

Mark responded, quite quickly “Ya, I guess.” He was not too happy to have his line of thought interrupted. Feeling hungry, he walked out into the long central corridor of the dirigible, looking for the cafeteria. Just then, a tall slender girl around the age of 8, with face that, unlike Michael, demonstrated and betrayed every thought and feeling that she had on her mind, walk up to Mark. He was startled by this, but pleased. “Hey, Penelope.”

She smiled a warm, friendly smile. “Hi Mark. How are you?”

“Fine. Wished I never gone on this stupid trip.” Mark responded, reneging though when he saw Penelope’s flowing hair.

“I like it. At lest don’t have to do any homework,” she replied.

“Hum, good point. Still, why going t …” Mark paused, racking his brain for name of their destination.

“New Manila,” she added. “Mr. Moore wants us to see the water pumps. Not to mention the Vasitas Borealis.”

“Oh, yah,” Mark smiled. “Where are you going?” he asked.

“To the rec room.” She responded, “There’s a game of chess. What to join?”

“No thanks.” Mark said. He hated chess, even though Penelope did. In fact it was very weird, we one thought up all the stereotypes and typecasts they fitted in.

“Oh well! Bye!” and she rushed out of the room.

He rushed down the corridor to the cafeteria. The room was the largest in the blimp, though that was not large. He looked down at the landscapes bellow though large window. There the Southern Highland where giving way to the Northern Lowlands, an ancient seabed or impact carter, depending on how looked at it.

He looked around to see his friend, Grant. But good old Grant saw him first and waved and pointed to a seat next to him. Alex gladly sat next to him.

“So, what been up to, Mark?”

“Not much,” Mark said to old elementary school friend, “but I see you kept busy, ” looking the burger, fries and soft drink, “God, how can eat this all and still be thin.”

“Hey, it my genes, maybe I sell it to you,” joked Grant with a smirk, referring to the sale of genomes, illegally occurring on both Mars and Earth.

“Ha, ha” laughed Mark. “So, where’s Jenny?”

“Oh, she went with Michael to the recreation room” he answered with a bit of worry and apprehension.

As Mark was going to reply, an announcement came on the ship’s intercom: “Attention: If look at the starboard, you see our destination, Mars International Settlement Base twenty-seven in the twenty-seventh International Martian Province. We will be landing in ten minutes, Martian time. Thank you for flying Roman & Applegate Airways” The voice changed “Ici la Province Martian Internationle… ”

The two friends, was well as the rest of the passengers in the cafeteria looked at windows and gassed out. Towards the horizon, a small cluster of domes coved except for some small windows here and there, cropped up over the flatlands. Around it was a ring of glassed-in domes revealing the plants growing in there. To the west a bunch of seemingly innocent building were surrounded by a bunch of barrels with radiation and biohazard symbols on it, if one from the blimp were look though binoculars. To the east another set of domes would appear, with only retractable uppermost areas.

“Wow, that quite something,” Mark exclaimed. But in his heart in knew it was nothing, nothing even compared to Mars and Earth. A spec on another spec. He sighed with a bit of that earlier melancholy creeping in.

“Hump, it okay but does not beat Goldenville” Grant said with a kind of arrogance in his voice. The voice changed again. “What are they doing?” said a person next to them. “They already said it once.”

“It’s Spanish. They have to say everything English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Chinese. It’s the law.”

“By who?” he asked.

“By the United Nations and United Nations Space Settlement Organization” Mark said with some smugness in his voice. “There are the six languages of world.” He looked at the boy, a young guy around the age of class, “Who are you? Your new here, aren’t ya?”

“Norman Cain Davis” he countered with an equal amount of snugness. “I just come from Toronto. Mine father got a job here.”

“Just don’t ask any stupid questions, okay?” Mark responded and quickly left with Grant by his side.

“Gee, Mark, why did you go hard on Norm.” Grant said.

Mark looked at him, “You made friends with that guy!”

“Ya, so what.”

“He’s bad news.” Mark retorted. “I don’t trust him. I have a bad feeling about him.”

“Everything bad news to you,” Grant snapped back.

Another voice came on the air “Attention: 5 minutes to landing. Would passengers come to the Passenger room.”

The Julius Verne was descending now, toward a dome with a top that had retracted and allowed the dirigible to land. With a thump, and they land into the heated dome. Mark thought, if ground were safer, why did have a gut feeling of some impending disaster?”

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