finally done third edit…. yawn…
now need to redesign cover… more yawn
finally done third edit…. yawn…
SHIP IN PROPHET OF MARS
List of ships and sources used for names
BODE: (Early Mars) Johann Elert Bode German astronomer (1747 – 1826)
INANNA: (Mission to Venus) Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility, and warfare
VULCAN: (Mars colony ship) Common name for SF spacecraft or spaceships. Roman god of lava and smoke, including the fire of volcanoes.
BERIAULT: Michel “Mitch” Beriault (Friend
MUNDELL: Col Hugh Mundell (Friend)
THOLEN: David J. Tholen American astronomer at the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaii, who specializes in planetary and solar system astronomy.
DEIMOS Larger Moon of Mars
AMAGIRI: WW II Japanese destroyer, sank John F. Kennedy’s torpedo boat PT-109
NEVSKI: Medieval Rus warrior Prince (1220 – 1263)
ZAVALA: Manuel Lorenzo Justiniano de Zavala Mexican and Texan politician 1788 –1836)
PIAZZI: (Pro Mars) Giuseppe Piazzi Italian priest mathematician, and astronomer (1746 – 1826)
REDEMPTION: (Pro Earth) Good name for a warship
JUSTICE: (Pro Earth) Good name for a warship
NUMA: Numa Pompilius second king of Rome (753–673 BC; reigned 715–673 BC)
POMONA: Roman goddess of fruitful abundance. Child of Mars
VERTUMNUS: Roman god of seasons, of change and plant growth. Child of Mars
EXODUS FLEET SHIPS
CALLISTO: Moon of the planet Jupiter
CERNUNNOS: Celtic horned god of polytheism.
HAYYAN: Hayyan al-Qurtubi Muslim historian (987–1075)
LEONIDAS : Spartan king Leonidas died Greece at theBattle of Thermopylae
LOVELL: James Arthur Lovell, Jr., NASA Commander of the Apollo 13 (1928-)
MAHABAD: Short-lived Kurdish republic 1945-46
ORION: Common name for SF spacecraft or spaceship
DEX ARIZONA: Named for alias of Graham Robertson (Friend)
DEX ATCAMA, DEX AUSTRALIA, DEX NOVA ZEMLYA, DEX PATAGONIA: Random geographical names for other DEX class ships.
I must get back here soon
“That I don’t doubt, I think I can find my own way later”. Roselyn hissed back as she closed the office door and returned to work. “Men, different planet, same animal.” A smile crossed her face, but it was not one of amusement.
Sitting down at her new desk, in her new quarters, she looked around at the cold stark walls. They were as featureless and blank as what she knew about her future here. She turned and looked into the video camera, cleared her throat and began talking with a voice somewhere between relief, anxious anticipation and fear.
“Hello self, I just cleared decontamination and got assigned my room, so the first thing I am going to do is document the whole new experience on Mars, for whatever reason I don’t know, but I am sure some scholar 200 years from now may feign a passing interest in it But I am not the first one here, not by a thousand or so, and I will be just one of the countless number here over my lifetime, so if anyone reads this in the far distant future, they will either be bored, crazy, both.
First I want to say I like the bed; it is a real bed, not a space hammock like the ones on the ship. Damn, the last 10 weeks almost killed me. You can’t sleep on your back, front or side, only in a fetal position. Another reason the bed looks good is after the point 16 gravity, on Luna and the near zero coming out, the .38 here is making me feel like a great lard-arse. Traveling in space is not what evolution designed us for. On the other hand living on Mars ain’t exactly Mother Nature’s idea of a smooth cup of tea either.
So I won’t be doing any unpacking or moving in and decorating, like I brought a lot. But what I have can wait, first a long nap followed by a good long night’s sleep, then maybe I will sleep in. Got two days off, and I intend to use them both horizontally.
Signing off, Roselyn St Croix, one of many on Mars… **ON** Mars, REALLY ON FRIGGIN’ MARS !!!!!”
Her dreams on Mars were as uncomfortable as those she had had since she was a child back on Earth. Images of bodies floating, screams, dark images of clouds being rent from the angry skies. In her dreams voices were always calling from the dark, voices calling from beyond her field of vision, and when she turned her head the voices and images vanished. Tossing and turning through the night, uncomfortable as her mind was, her body had slept though.
Seven hours, later the base wide intercom in Roselyn’s quarter chimed and a male mechanical voice softly yet firmly requested that all new comers report to the main assembly hall in 15 minutes. A few minutes later ambling down the corridors, Roselyn feeling pretty much self-assured only need to ask for guidance once, and she was pleased to find out that although she was confused she was headed in the right direction. The halls were all at strange angles with sudden turns of 30, 45 60 and 90 degrees every seven or eight meters. At each corner was a massive automated door, whose function was to slam closed in the event of any breach in the outer walls of the base. Each door was equipped with a deadman’s pressure lock. Once the door closed and the pressure on one side of the door dropped to a certain point the lock engaged and it was impossible to open it from the lesser side. The designers had thought, “It is better to lose a few than all”. That thought caused a chill to run down her spine. I all her time on Luna there was only a handful of casualties and human error was to blame in most cases.
The assembly hall was full of the familiar faces of those that she had traveled out here to Mars with. A hand reached out to rest on her shoulder, turning she it was Mike Benoit, a somewhat pleasant fellow, good looking, but a bit towards being a little too rotund. He was a solar engineer, that not withstanding he had the most annoying laugh, she had ever heard.
“What do you think is up, Roz? They said we had fifty hours of down time to work out the space kinks, and nobody here looks too happy to bed rousted out of bed.”
“If I knew what was up Mike, I am sure you would too, I am so far down on the feeding chart here to know anything, I likely won’t know why we are here now until next week”. At the moment she realized her error, she said something that Benoit would find funny. As, if on cue, he let loose with a whining nasal giggle.
All eyes turned towards them and a few mummers rose and moved through the crowd. Just as Roselyn felt herself turning red with a wave of embarrassment for both her and Mike, and thinking things could not start of worse, a very austere youngish looking woman moved to the front of the crowd and in a strong but surprisingly soft voice said, “If you two over there are done with that, and I may have your attention.”
“I am Commander Karin Winters, I run this base, my word is law, and if you piss me off, or screw up I will space your sorry ass, and as you may have heard the air on Mars sucks, and that is why we are here. Now who are you two? You, two laughers?
Now knowing she was turning a deeper red, but for a different reason, Roselyn answered, “Assistant Hydrologist, Roselyn St. Croix.” Mike answered with, “Michael Benoit, Solar Array Technician, Ma’am.” He reach over to hold Roselyn’s hand, she was unsure whose palm was the coldest, clammiest and dampest. He squeezed he fingers a little too hard but she found it oddly comforting. Any distraction including pain was better than how she felt from being singled out, looking foolish and be getting on the wrong side of her news boss was make her feel. So much for sleeping.
“Okay, the reason you all are here, is this, it the only way to show you that this little life altering jaunt you have decided to take is in no way a laughing matter, this will illustrate the seriousness and finality of life on Mars. This will be upsetting, to some but now is the best time, and I don’t want any of you doing anything stupid, more than that I don’t want you screwing up anything on my base. About an hour and twenty minutes ago, we lost 5 good people outside. That we know for sure, and we have another five or six workers unaccounted for. What we are going to show you is the recorded live feeds off their helmet cams. This is not pretty, and it is not something we wanted to show you, but it will, in no uncertain terms show you what life and death is all about on Mars and that the transition from life to death is in an instant.”
On the wall behind Winters, the images of workers from six different camera shots appeared. All of them were working in what looked like a tunnel and audio feed was filled with 3 or 4 audio feed of what sounded like typical workers discussing various tasks interspersed with occasional lighter banter. Then without warning and in an instant one of the feeds went from a clear image of a rock face, to a red mist, then white static, and then finally simply black. The sounds of something like the low rumbling of thunder shook the room and screams filled the air and half the displayed images went blank.
Winters spoke up, “I want you to watch this closely, and one image, that of the first signal lost filled the wall. Winters spoke as the image replayed. “You see the rock face looks normal, it is not. It is about to collapse outward towards the work party and then the red on the screen is blood misting from a ruptured helmet.”
Roselyn knew from her time and training on Luna that the static from the camera meant it was dying and the black was a total loss of signal. She also knew that before the camera died, the person in that hard vac-suit was dead. Two of the other feeds showed the same black and static.
Winters continued. “These teams were in a cavern or natural tunnel installing new ice water reclaimers. They all knew their jobs and tasks well. They were all veterans of a few years out here. We still don’t know how many are dead. But this time next week that could be you. That is all at this time, return to your quarters of whatever you were doing. Oh, one more thing, you, Roselyn St. Croix, I want to see you in my office now, everyone else is dismissed.
Roselyn’s hand slipped out off Mike’s, she stood their silent and alone, surrounded by a few dozen others. Not hearing anything until Mike shook her and called her name.
“What the hell would Winters want with you? I was the one laughing out loud, I should be the one called up on the mat, not you kiddo.”
“No, Mike, I think this has nothing to do with that. Those folks died doing a job I am here to do. I think this is strictly work related and not in a good way. I will fill you in with the details when I can, until then wish me luck.”
“Yeah, luck, I think we will all need a bit of that.” Mike answered as he walked off somewhat wondering about why Winters had wanted to see Roselyn. The murmuring crowd around her parted to allow her through, no one said anything to her and no one, she felt even looked at her. Images of the dead flashed into her mind as did a few fleeting memories of her dream. Was the dream a premonition of what just happened here? The thought of that scared her, but she had been having those dreams for years and they showed hundreds dying, and that suddenly scared her a lot more.
She had walked slowly over to a wall, which had a map of the base’s layout on it. The crowd for the most part had left immediately, Mike Benoit had left her and she was feeling like she was standing alone on Mars.
The base was a mix of subsurface tunnels and caverns, natural and manmade tunnels and hex modules. Hex modules were large six sided containers joined directly to one another, side to side or by access passages. Some were stacked on others, other were partially or fully buried. The design of the base was dictated more by the local Martian topography than by logic or planning. Parts of it were deliberately covered to protect those areas from solar radiation, other lower lying hexes just had Martian regolith dumped on them because it was easier than hauling it away. The entire base was surrounded by a large number of semi-pressurized plastic domes use to grow foodstuffs or function as loading docks and maintenance garages for surface and orbital vehicles. Beyond those were the solar energy collector arrays and further out were the cool and warm fusion generators. From far above, the seven square kilometer “footprint of humanity” on Mars looked like a child’s play set strewn across a rocky sand box in the yard of some giant. From space, if the sun was at the proper angle, the whole complex shone like dozens of diamonds scattered on, a deep dark crimson velvet. From Earth, or in the opinions of most on Earth, it was just a waste of money, great sums of money and served as a dumping ground for freaks and malcontents.
St. Croix was shown into Winters office, Winters, without looking up just said. “Sit down.” For the next few minutes Roselyn sat in silence as Winters tended to the paper work before her and it seemed to Roselyn that Winters was deliberately trying to avoid talking to her.
“Ma’am, if I may…”
“Quiet! One; No you may not and two, I am almost done here, I will get to you when I get to you.” Winters had still not looked at her and was still signing and shuffling papers.
Roselyn was felling more disturbed than nervous, surely she was not here because she made Mike Benoit laugh, and yet if it was anything more important or serious, why wasn’t Winters dealing with it immediately. She was just about to speak again when Winters straightened up the papers in front of here and took her first look towards her. Winters eyes were a soft green, but they seemed able to see into and through Roselyn, for a long minute Winters just stared at her and final spoke.
“The reason you are here Assistant Hydrologist Roselyn St. Croix is directly related to what you saw in the assembly hall. I know you saw more in those images that most. You know the look of rock, of sub-strata ice fields and you know that there are dangers in underground work. Your record on Luna shows you are very able and adept at your job, that is the kinds people we need here. In the first few dozen of what Earth likes to call ‘Colonists’, most people were useless. You on the other hand are the kind of person we need and you have the skills of what we need. That was why you were selected on your first application to come to Mars, now at least there are standards.”
“Thank you Ma’am…”
“Shut up, I am not done talking and I did not tell you to speak up, what happened out there today was a massive breach in an undetected liquid water deposit in a fissure. The fissure suddenly ruptures and that created a rock fall and that results in deaths. We know now and have a confirmed casualty count of eight dead, another four injured. Among the dead were Dr. Aaron Bild and Rebecca Voltermann, the department head of hydrology and his assistant. I just finished off the company paperwork to promote you in the company. You now, know you have the most experience of anyone in the fields of hydrology and ice mining of anyone on Mars. You do not have to remind me with a litany of details of how Luna ice recovery than recovery on Mars, or how it is different in practice, but not so different as you will not be able to adapt in a week or two. So as of now you are the Head of Hydrology, the paperwork has been complete and filed, I am sorry that you had no say in this, but not that sorry that I will allow such trite things get in the way of getting things done here. As we speak your things have been moved to you new quarters, you likely have not had time to unpack much, so it is probably done by now. My aide out side the door will show you to your new office and all recent reports and statistics are on your desk for your review. There is a department head meeting at 08:00 tomorrow, be there promptly. I will not expect you to contribute much, other than introductions, you have a long night ahead of you catching up on what we are doing here.”
As Roselyn stood up to leave, Winters rose up, walked around her desk and shook Roselyn’s hand. She still felt as if Winters could see through her, but she felt somewhat relieved and somewhat comforted by her gaze.
“Speaking not as you Commander but just as another refugee on Mars, I want to say, Congratulations, Roselyn, I know it has been a helluva first 25 hours, but according to your record, you can pull this off. For the next little while you have a direct link to this office. You have a few extra staff to help in the transition and, trust me; I would not look twice at you if I did not think you have the stones for this job. That is all, and good luck.”
Winters’ aide walked in and nodded to both women, turned and waited for Roselyn to leave and then walked with her to her office. He opened the door for her and walked away without saying a word. The office was large, it was located on the outside rim of one of the hex-mods, and as such is had a window, or at least what passed as a window on Mars.
On the bases on Luna, the windows were ultra clear Lucite, up to a meter across; special reinforced ones could be 5 or 6 meters offering panoramic views of the surrounding moonscape. On Mars a window was a small clouded and scratched oval about the size of a medium sized adult’s head. Beside each window was a control panel for a heavy metal shield that was designed to cover the window during any storms. It was the fact that on Mars there was weather and that was going to be the greatest change from living on Luna. The weather here often was deadly as often razor sharp particles of basalt and obsidian were blown through the air at speeds of more than 200 kilometers and hour, able to shred a soft spacesuit in mere seconds.
Roselyn looked out the window, the sky above seemed blacker than on Luna, but that was more her mental outlook than fact. The sky was a very faint violet with a fainter thin band of a mix dark brown and crimson lay close to the horizon, and if she looked intently, she would have seen wisps of lighter ocher clouds just above the distant dark hills. She could not see the Sun, which on Mars you could look at directly unlike looking at the Sun from either Luna or Earth. Both the distance from the Sun and the atmosphere on Mars meant you could look at the Sun, but it was only about a third of the size it appeared to be on Earth, and that change in size showed both the scale of the Universe and the distance Mars was from everything that once mattered.
The paperwork on Dr. Bild’s desk, or on her desk, as Roselyn swallowed hard as she realized it was her desk, was meticulous in detail and very well organized. She sat down to acquaint herself with the situation here and lost herself in the stacks papers and reams of information until a rasping sound drew her interest out of her task. Someone was just outside her door, making some kind of scuffling noise. Opening it, a uniformed maintenance technician almost fell upon her.
“Sorry, I did not know anyone was in there.” He replied after both had expressed a gasp of surprise. “I am just putting up a nameplate on this door, so I assume you are this St Croix person?”
“That would be Department Head, St Croix to you, and who exactly would the you be in that, to whom I am speaking?”
“I would be Jason DiCadimain, I am I guess the best Radiation Specialist on base or the department head there or so my papers say and I have been told that I am an overall nice guy, well some people seem to say. I was just over at one of the machine shops, and as I was coming over here, and they had this ready as I was heading this way I said I could install it now. He handed Roselyn a metal plaque, which read: “Roselyn Jennifer St. Croix, 1st Officer of the Ice and Hydrology Department.”
Another cold chill shook her, as she stared at the plaque, saying almost to herself. “This could be nailed to my tombstone as well.”
“Well unless you plan to be dead in two places, that might work, because I already put one on your new quarter’s door.
“You what? I don’t even know where my quarters are and some guy I just literally bumped into already does? Things seem to work fast here on Mars.”
“That Ma’am they do, and I would be more than happy to take you to your new quarters anytime.” DiCadimain grinned.
“That I don’t doubt, I think I can find my own way later” Roselyn hissed back as she closed the office door and returned to work. “Men, different planet, same animal.” A smile crossed her face, but it was not one of amusement.
The buzzer in her office chimed at 07:15, waking Roselyn up from an uncomfortable sleep in her office chair. Her thoughts of her bed in her quarters from yesterday were just memories, figuratively and literally as were those quarters and even who she was. It was just enough time for her to get to her quarters, shower, slip on some clean clothes and wolf down a coffee and a random pastry for breakfast in the cafeteria called the Red Oak 01. The name she thought made no sense as there was a large red ‘03’ painted on the emergency airlock doors at the main entrance and the entire interior of the room was a washed out blue-green plastic.
St. Croix was not the first to arrive at Winters’ office, but neither was she the last. She felt a bit unsure of where to sit, not knowing if everyone had been assigned a seat or had a usual favorite seat or if it was just a free-for-all. The only face she knew in the room was that of DiCadimain the on the spot Lothario from last night. He grinned at her and she slipped into the chair next to a very tall, athletic black woman.
“Hi, I am Roselyn St Croix, from Hydrology” offering out her hand.
“Yeah, I know who you are, you had better be good to be even half the person Aaron was. I am Vivian Septien, Geology” was the reply with a cold and brief handshake. It was not that Septien was trying to be aloof, it was just that she had been the one to personally sign off on the stability of the rock fracture that had killed Roselyn’s predecessor, and she now found Roselyn’s presence and proximity uncomfortable and disconcerting.
Winters entered and sat at the head of the table, looking briefly at everyone she paused a few seconds longer on Septien and St Croix. “Okay, we are all feeling Aaron’s loss, and the loss of the others, and we will for some time. We can grieve in our off time, now we have business and a base to run.
She introduced Roselyn, giving her a glowing introduction and listing her abilities, and then went around the table naming off everyone else. She started the introductions with, Vivian Septien, Chief Geologist, who was sitting beside Roselyn. Then Jason DiCadimain was introduced as the Radiation and Power Coordinator.
“Yes, I met with “Department Head” St. Croix last night, he said putting an emphasis on her title, Roselyn felt every eye in the room staring at her. She felt that being singled out was getting to be a reoccurring and unwanted occurrence.
Then, in turn was a very well built Mike “Crash” Katz, the Base Exterior Maintenance Chief who flashed her a big toothy. Miguel Santiago the Base Construction Chief seemed like a very reserved quiet man who barely nodded his head at her. Robbie Alma the Director of Landing Bay Operations, was a tall lanky red-faced outdoorsman type. Michelle Enzinger the head of Space Flight coordination, looked at Roselyn with a glare and suddenly a laugh and a smile. She said, “Oh My God, I know you from Shepard-Mitchell at Fra Mauro, from about three years back… we have got to talk.” Winters glared at her and Enzinger sat back.
Kell Rivers the Chief Agricultural Manager, seemed polite and silent. Roy Ellards and Virginia Lin were the Mars Base Chief Medical Officers. Followed by Greg Fredenberg Recreational Health and Safety Officer who always seemed to be grinning and finally Evan Du Plessis-Pye, the Company Liaison on Mars, he looked the part, a middle level balding bureaucrat with a nose for figures and as humorless as a middle level balding bureaucrat who was a lifer with mind that only saw strict company policy.
Everyone presented a report from the last week of eleven days. Lin added a longer report on the causes of death of the eight fatalities of the day before. Ellards followed with an update on the injured. Then all eyes turned to Vivian as she presented a detailed report on the rock in the area of the collapse. She went into great detail about the age of the rock, the development processes, the interaction of the rock with both warmer air and liquid water. The stress and strength of the rock, none of which gave any indication of any fracture or localized shearing.
Winters looked around. “We need that frozen aquifer back on line as soon as possible, I want you, Katz to send up a reinforcement team with all at material you need, Miguel, you loan him anyone or anything he needs. Jason I want you to fly Ms. St. Croix and the other outside Newbies to all of the other ice fields, reservoirs and aquifers. You have time on your hands as you just completed your monthly round of inspections on the power grid. Your general expertise will help her and them learn the ropes around here. Vivian, gather what you can about the rocks from the collapse and check it against every other rock wall we have in every tunnel, mine cave, borehole, hollow and vent.
Roy, tell the injured I will be coming around to see them today, everybody else carry on. Oh, yes Greg is getting together a service for the fallen to be held in two days at 25:00, make up your schedules to allow those who want time off to attend. Dismissed.”
Less than eighteen hours later, Roselyn found herself in the co-pilot’s seat of a Mars Hopper. Mars Hoppers were designed as a short to medium length surface trip flyers. They were called “hoppers” because as the four large-tracked vehicles with wheels on each side indicated it was designed for land travel it could fly for “hops” of up to 300 kilometers. Rarely did anyone drive anywhere beyond the immediate vicinity of the base, there was no need to. Whatever was found more than seven or eight kilometers from the base could be found nearer the base, and that was never much more than iron oxide covered rocks. The base was in a fracture field, which was an area of an ancient volcanic lava field, littered with rocks, boulder, crags and crevasses and which was shattered by a countless number of Marsquakes and pummeled by eons of meteorite bombardment.
On this excursion they were traveling far from the base to a dozen water sites, ice fields, sub surface aquifers and storage facilities.
From the seat, she looked out at the vastly changing surface of Mars, the plains, rock fields, the canyons, hills, rills, and ancient sea and riverbeds. Mars had the largest canyons, the highest volcanoes and even the largest impact basin. But what struck her most were the innumerable shades of reds, rusts and ochres that painted the planet. After being on Luna with its almost monochromatic grey or total black, on Mars the hues were overwhelming. This was her first trip across Mars, she and two other newcomers were on a working orientation tour with Jason DiCadimain and Vivian Septien’s brother, Marc.
She was a bit startled and brought back to reality when DiCadimain spoke to her, to point out the low rising hill on the side of a larger hill to their left.
“That, newbie, after the last seven reservoirs is our new destination, and trust me it is as different as the tropics on Earth are from the icy heart of Europa. That little hillock with the cairn of rocks on the slope, in the middle of that clearing is what is the Tomb of the Prophet. Every newbie is taken out here as part of their orientation. The most venerated place on this rust ball planet. Why anyone would build a tomb for an old poet way the hell out here is beyond me.”
Roselyn, nodded in agreement, she knew about the Prophet as much as anyone who choose mars would know. She knew of his writings and what were called the Hymns of the Prophet, a collection of poetry and prose which at the time of their writings dismissed as prattle, but as man began to explore space again were uncovered and to the surprise of many, were used as a tool of motivating people to dream of Mars. Later as some people examined them closer, there almost seemed to spell out a method and timeline for exploring, developing and finally colonizing Mars. But she was unsure exactly how she was to take DiCadimain’s phrase ‘out here’. Was he meaning it as ‘this far from the main Mars base”, or “this far from Earth”, which would be quite a bit of a much more ‘out here’.
After donning their hard-vac helmets and checking out each others excursion vacuum suits, she, Jason and the three others walked the short distance over to what looked like a natural cave entrance, which was a surface point fracture of a long extinct volcanic gas vent. Just inside the vent she found herself and her companions standing in what was a small, carved chamber with a high machine carved vaulted ceiling. Looking around at the wall here were six small empty niches carved at eye level height. Each niche was distinct with its own unique stylized characteristics they looked like gothic reliquaries awaiting the bones of saints. Suddenly part of the wall in front of her swung open like a set of massive doors and what was a long straight machine groomed slope appeared beyond the door. The slope seemingly went on forever down into the dark bowels of the planet.
“C’mon,” DiCadimain said, slapping her shoulder. “Pick up one of those packs, and get ready for a bit of a hike.”
The slope was almost two-kilometers long, perfectly smooth as were the walls. The lights were placed in equal distances down both sides barely illuminated anything other than the black basalt walls and floor. At the end of the journey was a black metallic air lock door, with a large buttoned keypad, the keys able to accommodate the fingers on the gloves on the space suits. This led to large empty airlock area between the two doors. Beyond the inner door of the airlock was a small anteroom, which led to a “suiting up” area with about a dozen open closets for space suits and racks for helmets. Marc Septien walked up to her, making a sweeping gesture with one arm directed her towards a stone archway. Just beyond it, was what seemed like a genuine wooden door leading to very large circular room. Roselyn brushed her hand across this door and it was indeed wood, before she had time to take a closer look, Septien brushed her forward. This was perhaps the last thing she expected to find beneath the Martian surface, a wooden door. Surprises for her kept coming, she gasped as she looked up into a vast spherical room, it was as if the room had been designed by someone inspired by Jules Vernes, it was like a science fiction dream form the late 1900’s. Everything was metal and wood, both materials covered with ornate carvings and machine work. However rather than the image of the Victorian use of brass work, everything in this room was nickel, brushed to a soft grey colour. The room was entirely lined with staircases and ladders leading to various walkways around the entire circumference of the space. In the middle of the lower area in the centre was very small work area, the only part of the ‘room’ that had a flat floor. There were four computer workstations each with half a dozen monitor screens all on a group of massive dark wood desks and large overstuffed green leather chairs. In the middle of these was a large raised circular area surrounded with a double golden railing and a rose colored column covered in what looked like some bizarre Victorian nightmare sculpture. It was about twice the height of a tall man. On the top of it was a glass sphere fill with a blue bubbling liquid, lit from within it seemed to be radiating both light and heat.
Looking at it, Roselyn could not figure out what it was, she thought she had seen all the types of equipment required for manned occupation of other planets. She stared at the flowing and pulsing blue liquid in the sphere, mesmerized by the small brilliant flashes of miniature bolts lighting within.
Jason leaned over to her and whispered, “BOO” in her ear, and action, which almost cost him his hearing in one ear as Roselyn left out a piercing shriek.
“Damn you!” she yelped, taking a half-hearted swing at DiCadimain’s head. “I hate when people do that, what if I was doing something important or was carrying something. What would you have done then, Mister Smart-Ass?”
“Well, I likely would have done the same thing. We are on Mars, on right now is actually ‘in’ Mars, about 500 meters down, 175 million kilometers from Earth, 5 or 6 months from help. We are even a 6-hour flight to the nearest way to call back to Earth for help… what could go wrong. I mean we only had one rock fall collapse this week, what are the chances of another one happening right here, right now?”
DiCadimain would later swear that Roselyn jumped almost a meter off the ground as Marc Septien snuck up behind her and clapped two clipboards together in a very loud bang.
Jason helped her off the ground, where she had fallen after her second scare, he had expected to see anger or fear in her eyes, but as she looked into his eyes he saw nothing but the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She seemed to sense a change in both his demeanor and attitude as well as a change in her own outlook, and without doubt or hesitation she kissed him and muttered “Bastard” through her pursed lips.
She looked at him as she pulled away from him, not knowing if she hated him for being there or hated herself more for kissing him. She looked around. “What is this place? It looks like a really bad cheap-ass set from an even worse cheap-ass movie.”
“This, my dear is what is known as the ‘Tomb of the Prophet’. Why it is called that is beyond me, there seems to be no casket, urn or funereal paraphernalia, not even as far as I can find a mention of our wonderful all-seeing Prophet here. Something else that is beyond me, or at least something that was never really explained to me or anyone I know on the meaning of the décor, but the room itself functions as a number of things. As a geological monitoring base, a weather station and strangely, as a place to store and backup all the base logs and electronic material. It is an isolated research facility, all of the computers here are one way only, they can send out to other places on Mars but cannot receive, so if the main base in infected by a virus the backups here are safe, but everything has to be physically transferred here. That is why we are here now. If you look up and around you will see up on the walls, there are more than 135,000 actual books. I do not even want to guess what the cost was to lob those into space. Jason and Marc left her alone to study the room and a few minutes later they called her over to download a stack of information discs into one of the computers there. She sat down between Marc and one of the other newcomers, of who she had asked at least 3 or 4 times this trip for her name, but had forgotten almost immediately. In spite of her amazement of the room did what was asked of her, but more than the strangeness of the room distracting her, her mind kept going back to her spontaneous kiss with Jason.
She avoided Jason on the way back to Mars Base as much as she could. Given the proximity of five people jammed in a Mars Hooper for six hours, she had done a good job of not looking at him of talking to him. Maybe he was making this easy for her maybe he was avoiding her too. That second thought was bothering her on the trip home, until she fell asleep. She slept until awakened by Septien to tell her to buckle in for final approach. She didn’t think anything about DiCadimain until she literally bumped into him in the decontamination shower. Every facility off Earth required anyone entering them to take a germicidal, biological, and fungicidal cleansing shower and then go though a strong ultra-violet scan. Nudity was taken for granted and modesty had no place in space. Yet knowing that Jason had seen her naked, made her feel like she was blushing like she was a schoolgirl who just had her first kiss. She knew his eyes were watching her as she walked away and she wished she could have walked slower.