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September 22, 2153. 23:59 Earth Time
Control Room, Mars Scientific Base 27
Private Jonathan Humanns
Another night on com duty…fun. Fifteen reports flow in from around the station's different posts and maintenance patrols as we hit 24:00 on earth time. Another hour of nothing again, of course it's not like anything has ever happened in this little rinky-dink station. I don't even think the larger stations have anything happen besides the occasional earthquake. No, nothing ever happens, I don't even understand why we have regular reports. But I guess the government must have its reasons, however ridiculous, such as possible alien life forms attacking the station. As I said, ridiculous. I don’t think we even need these humongous stations. It's not like we need some gazillion dollar station to look at rocks. Although that's basically what I'm doing right now, flipping a Mars rock in my hand, looking at the different patterns in the sediment. My thoughts are suddenly interrupted by a call through the radios.
"This is Blue Team requesting permission to exit through door two." says a familiar voice over the radio.
I grin as I respond "You'd better not be goin' for a joy ride on the rovers."
I hear a slight chuckle on the other end before I hear "Nope, strictly business, although that does sound like fun." Says Levi Humunsky, leader of Mars team Blue and an old friend of mine.
"Permission granted, be careful out there." I say as I press the button to airlock 2.
"We will, don't you worry about us." A small light signals the doors proper functions as the team exits onto the surface of Mars. I look out the small window behind me and watch the four figures go across the surface of the planet in long, jumping strides to take advantage of its low gravity. I turn back to the control panel and take in the various buttons and lights another time. One of the large oxygen tubes signals a red light. Well, finally something's happening.
I key the button for the radios and announce "Hey, is anybody in the vicinity of oxygen pipe…" I pause as I check the number on the panel "… seven, I think we may have a leak."
"Ten-four, were on it." I hear in return. I hope that doesn't turn into a major problem, I don't want to have to evacuate, however much I hate this place.
When I signed up for this job I thought of driving big, fancy rovers, flying the latest recon ships, and testing out some of the new mining robots that now accompany astronauts such as my friend, Levi, into the craters of Mars. I didn't think of getting put in a cramped room with about a thousand buttons and being forced to sit there for hours on end. I also didn't think about surviving off of liquid meals and having to strap myself into bed to avoid jerking off the edge while listening to my comrades snoring their teeth loose in the bunks around me. Basically, this place sucks. But I can't leave unless there's an alien crisis or the station goes into a state of dormancy or malfunction, which would force us to evacuate or suffocate in our sleep, which is also a big bonus of being here. And then there's cleaning duty, which falls to people like me and my friend Bryan, who are seen by our superiors as lazy, low-life garbage who do nothing but sit and press buttons all day. So they put us to work cleaning up after the astronauts when they come back from their various four or five day trips. This involves fun things such as wiping dust off the floor and cleaning the boots/cleats that sit under the feet of the surface suits. We're also responsible for cleaning up all of the dormitories and facilities which, thanks to the fact that nobody else has to clean them, are constantly disgusting. At least Levi has some consideration, doing little things like straightening his bed and putting his personal hygiene utensils away when he's finished with them. Of course the only reason he remembers these things is because he usually sees me in the mirror with a grimace on my face as he finishes brushing his teeth. I look at the clock on the wall, 0134 reads the numbers above the various calculations and readings of the surface around us. Man! I've been in here for almost eight hours now. I stand and attempt to stretch my legs and arms in the cramped room. I look back down at the panel and press a small, green, circular button that automatically ends my shift. I wait for someone else to show up at the door before I exit the room and make my way to the dormitories for a little shut eye. I find my bed, one of two that is actually at floor level, and settle myself in under the sheets before strapping myself down. My gaze drifts to the window and I find myself gazing into the deep black of space. I attempt to identify the constellations of Mars when a flash of green covers the window. It's gone by the time I've jerked back in surprise and I find myself blinking repeatedly. I've been up way too long. I allow myself to drift off to sleep with the green still reflecting in my eyes.
September 23, 2153. 2:45 Earth Time
Mars study point 162
Private 1st Class Levi Humunsky
"Humunsky, check the bots, will you?" I hear over the radio.
"Ten-four, on my way." I answer. I begin bouncing towards the robot installment about twenty yards away from me. I reach the small machines and check the hatches in their fronts for anything interesting. Most of them carry the usual red rocks, with the exception of one. I pull out a small green crystal from the hatch and flip it through my fingers a few times.
"Hey, one of the bots picked up a little something." I say over the radio.
"It'd better not be another candy wrapper." Says Private Jenkins with a small chuckle.
I smile. "Nah, I don't think so, I've never seen anything like it."
"Well, bring it over to the scanner and we'll check it out." he says insistently.
"Yeah, be there in a sec." I reply before turning towards the scanning station. It takes me a minute or two before I actually manage to reach the scanner.
"Can I see it?" Asks Jenkins as I reach him.
"Yeah, I guess." I say as I hand him the small stone. He grabs it and stares at it intently.
"That's weird." he says, mystified.
"Yeah, well it's gonna stay weird until we put it into the scanner." I say as I put my hand out.
He looks at my hand, "Yeah…" he says as he puts the stone in my palm, "…sorry." I turn to the small metal box, open the transparent hatch on the front and place the crystal inside. I seal the door and press the button on the side. I watch through the glass opening as red lasers pulse along the sides of the rock and shut off. The small screen lights up with readings.
"Holy cow!" exclaims Jenkins as we read the small data display. "Look at the energy readings."
"Yeah, I can see that." I say as I wave for quiet. "Call in the rest of the team, we're taking this back to the station."
"Blue Team, round up, we're goin' home." Jenkins sends out.
"Copy that, we're coming." says Samuel over the radio, "Why are we leaving so early?"
"We found something." I answer. "I'll tell you when you get here."
"Whatever you say boss." he replies, and the radio goes silent. A few minutes pass before I see the reflective visors of my teammates come over the edge of a small crater. They reach us and I briefly explain the known properties of the mineral.
"You think this might be some kind of new energy source?" asks Amanda, excitement spreading across her face.
"I doubt it, it's the first piece we've found and we've been here for years." I say as I watch the excitement disappear from her face. "Sorry, but we can't get our hopes up until we know more." I say.
"Oh…okay boss." She says as her shoulders straighten back up.
"Let's go, I want to use the big scanner on this thing." says Jenkins. We take a few minutes to gather up the more expensive equipment and make the short trip to the tripod rovers. The small transport vehicles have two wheels on the front that suspend the spherical cockpit and the front of the craft off the ground. One wheel at the back keeps the orange and white contraption from dragging on the ground and helps push the vehicle forward. I load some of the equipment and the crystal, now in a metal container, into the compartment behind the cockpit of my personal trike. I lift the windshield off the front and climb in before sealing it behind me.
"Ready team?" I ask over the radio.
"Ready." Says Samuel.
"Ten-four." replies Jenkins
"I'm following you." announces Amanda.
I look down at the controls and turn on the solar charged motor.
"All right, roll forward." I say and push forward on the throttle to my right. We make our way over the rough land of Mars, allowing ourselves to go over the ramps of dirt in the terrain and fly for long distances in the low gravity before landing and doing it again.
"Careful where you land guys, we don't want a wreck way out here, I already told Humanns I'd be careful. I think that includes not wrecking the trikes." I say as Samuel pulls an accidental wheelie on landing.
”Yeah, sorry about that." He says over the radio. I swerve to the right to avoid hitting a large boulder and hear laughter over the radio.
"Glad to see you can keep to your own rules." Says Jenkins, obviously doubling over with laughter.
"Shut up." I say as a smile spreads across my face. I look at the electronic map above my windshield and see that we are approaching the station. "All right guys, pull to the right and into the canyon." I say over the radio. We all go into the regular canyon that the station rests next to for study and vantage point reasons. I stop as we reach a ten foot metal wall with a large door.
"This is Blue team requesting permission to enter elevator 2." I relay to the station's control room.
"Yeah, one sec." says the voice of Bryan Lonver, "There you go, come on in."
"Thanks." I say before driving through the now open door. "Hey, is dinner ready?"
"Yeah, I got all of your guys' containers filled with juice." he says.
"Gee, thanks." I say as yet another smile spreads across my face. "Hey, we've brought back a little something, would you mind asking Humanns to start up the scanner?"
"Not at all, what'd you bring." he asks.
"Some kind of crystal, I'll fill you in once we're at the scanner." I tell him.
"Whatever you say." responds his anxious voice. The elevator reaches the top and we exit and unload the trikes before taking the crystal inside for scanning. I radio to the control room again.
"This is Blue Team requesting-" but I don't finish my sentence because the door is already opening. "Oh! Well someone's anxious." I say smiling as we enter the airlock. The regular hissing sound of the Mars air being expelled and our oxygen being put in. We make our way through the one person halls to the scanner room. A small transparent hatch similar to the portable scanner at the excavation site sits in the wall. I open the small container holding the crystal and open the door to the scanner. I place the stone inside and close the hatch.
"Ready guys?" I ask the group. I'm answered with a chorus of murmured 'yeah's and mm-hmm.
"Okay, here we go." I say as I press the scan button. The familiar red beams slide across the side of the rock and data begins flooding onto the electronic display.
"Look at the energy-" starts Humanns, but I cut him off.
"Yeah, we know about that, but I want see if we can drill into it." I look at the controls and activate the drill. The small device descends out of one corner of the container and begins pushing into the stone. I see and electric spark before the whole room's lights shut off.
"Whoa!" exclaims Amanda.
"Yeah, I didn't see that coming." agrees Samuel.
"Someone hit the emergency power switch." I say. The lights suddenly come on and I see Humanns standing by the emergency power switch.
"What happened?" He asks me.
"I think the little thing overcharged the system through the drill." I say as I put my face right up to the glass. "Jenkins, radio and tell Lonver to radio home base."
"Yes, sir." He says before walking to the radio on the wall. "Lonver call home base, we need to report this thing." He says.
"I'm on it, did you guys experience the power outage?" He responds.
"Yeah, that's why were callin' base." Jenkins says back before turning off the radio. Silence follows.
"Well…let's all head to the dormitory. I suspect command will be here in a few hours." I say and turn toward the room's door. We weave our way through the small passageways to our dormitory. I enter and climb up to the top bunk on my right side. I lay down and look around the room.
Samuel packs up his personal gear and checks the photos of his family on the wall. He's big, but not in the fat way, in the huge muscle bound freak sort of way. He tends to be the guy that carries around the rover or whatever's heaviest when we go to the study sites. He's also the guy that tends to have a more…social life back home.
Jenkins is actually finished putting his stuff away and has actually started playing on his little old fashioned Xbox portable. Playing some old game called Halo 6. It's got some pretty lame graphics, but an interesting story. Humanity is supposed to have inhabited different solar systems and is fighting a religious alien alliance; ridiculous, but interesting. I still don't understand how he managed to get that through security back home.
Humanns is already settled back in his bed, his personal data pad in his hands, no doubt checking the American Football stats from back home. I wonder what time of year it is; is it even football season? Or is it baseball? Or are they the same thing? I've long forgotten.
Amanda is still organizing her space while half occupied cleaning her face with a little bowl of water next to her. I still don't understand why she thinks of little things like that, it's not like anyone is going to care here. We're all covered in red dust, no matter how much we shower, it's stained our skin.
And I'm just sitting here, staring at my perfectly organized and cleaned personal belongings and wondering what to do. I don't have anything for personal entertainment. I have my data pad, I guess I could try that. I look up at Sam and hold up my pad.
"I challenge you." I say.
He smiles, "You're on boy." He says as pulls out his own.
We both lay back on our bunks and start playing a game we invented about a week after we got here. I started hacking into Sam's data pad to see what he was doing because I was afraid he was up to something. He wasn't up to anything but I found out that he's pretty good at catching remote controlled hacking systems through his own AI systems. I began jumping into his pad just so he could catch me and send me back to my own. We play this for hours, me hiding in small system files and reading his personal information while he tries to find me. It's like hide-and-seek at a much larger scale, only smaller. Does that make sense? Read that sentence a couple more times. If you read those sentences, you're really slow and I don't care if you don't understand. Eventually we get bored after two or three rounds and everyone else is already asleep. We turn off our pads and turn in for the night. Tomorrow should be out of the ordinary…with people coming from Earth.