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In Times of Need

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#1 Offline Jinkmeister

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Posted Jul 30 2013 - 01:33 PM

This title is super temporary. Basically, I'm writing a sci-fi novel, but I want to get a feel for my universe first. So I'm doing a short story (maybe closer to a novella?) based on members of the Mars One project. The year is 2024, and the world has been rocked by a very short-lived nuclear war wiping out almost everything bordering the Pacific, as well as the Middle East. There's over a billion dead, and humanity is struggling to find help. This novella will follow the events from Mars, about three months after the initial strike.




                The barren red landscape stretched for hundreds of miles in every direction. Nothing but rock, dust, and clouds anywhere he looked. The surface of Mars was a bleak, desolate landscape, depicting a world once thriving, now long dead. Through the plastic window of the base, the view was astounding, just like every day.

                “Hey Aaron, coffee’s ready,” Lisa said. Aaron gazed at the vista a moment longer before turning to his wife. Though she looked average by most people’s standards, she was the most beautiful woman he knew. It had been a massive stroke of luck that the Mars One program had chosen both of them not only to be astronauts on the project, but to be part of the very first mission to Mars. That had been a year ago, and neither of them regretted the decision. Aaron smiled as he took the mug from Lisa.

                “Thanks sweetie,” he said. He took a tentative sip, and closed his eyes as it flowed down his throat like silk. Lisa was the only person he knew who could turn the freeze-dried powder NASA called coffee into an enjoyable drink.

                “So, has there been any news from Earth?” She asked as she cradled her mug. Aaron took another drink before grabbing a nearby tablet and showing his wife.

                “Riots in Washington, D.C., police helpless to stop the violence and looting...” Her voice trailed off as she read the lead story. “How long will this continue? All this fighting…can’t we all come together to solve the issue at our door?”

                “Not with the politicians twiddling their thumbs, hoping some other country will find the answer. We’re barely getting funding as it is. If Dr. White and Dr. Irussi don’t keep fighting for us, we’ll get forgotten,” Aaron replied, staring into his coffee.

                “The pollution is increasing, and more people are dying. The death toll is approaching one billion, and they still say they’re working…it’s been three months. Where’s the answer?” Lisa seemed on the verge of tears. Aaron continued gazing into his drink, lost in thought. Four months ago, life on Earth had been status quo. Then the entire Pacific rim went dark. By the time anyone knew what had happened, the nuclear strikes had already begun. China thought the US had done it, the US blamed China, South Korea thought it was North Korea, and North Korea looked toward Iraq and Iran. Before any reasonable debate could begin, attacks began, counter attacks were launched…and the world went cold. Whoever wasn’t killed by the blast was being poisoned by the radiation. The human race was in dire need, and the Mars crew could only watch.

                “We need a miracle…” Aaron practically whispered as his mind raced. The couple sat quietly for what seemed like an eternity. Then a face filled the tablet.

                “Jacques?” Lisa perked up as the Frenchman, out of breath, addressed the couple.

                “You two had better come out here, we found something.” He had barely finished speaking when the camera cut out. Lisa and Aaron shared a look as they set down their mugs, got up, and prepared to suit up.

                “What could they possibly have found that wasn’t one our scans?” Lisa wondered aloud as she helped Aaron seal his suit.

                “I’m not sure. Remember, our scan was set to look for specific elements, so there’s plenty it may have missed,” Aaron explained. His suit now sealed, he began to help his wife. Luckily, the pressure suits for Mars were much less involved than those for the vacuum of space. Aaron always caught himself feeling glad he wasn’t on board the International Space Station. Grunting, Aaron managed to close the clasp on Lisa’s helmet.

                “You’re good,” he said through the intercom. Before she could reply, Jacques came on.

                “About time. Hurry, Joakim and I are getting impatient.” Lisa shrugged as the speaker hissed and clicked. The couple moved cumbersomely into the airlock, and began to pressurize the compartment. It took only a moment, and they opened the door onto the crimson vista. The sun glared off the ground and into their visors, which quickly dimmed to provide protection from the brilliant light of their harsh solar mistress. Arrayed along the ground, for hundreds of yards in either direction, were the solar panels soaking up the precious sunlight, and converting it into power for the base. Along with a tube drilled deep through the planet into a massive underground lake, water was never an issue, either. For all intents and purposes, the quartet of astronauts lived comfortably.

                “I sure hope it’s something worthwhile this time!” Aaron quipped as the couple climbed into the remaining rover. Red dust kicked up as the vehicle began trundling off.

                “Alrighty, where are you guys?” Lisa asked.

                “About two miles north-northwest of the base,” Joakim replied. Even with his thick Swedish accent, after a year together, they understood him perfectly well.

                “Gotcha!” Aaron said as he glanced at the compass. Of course, it wasn’t a true compass, as Mars had lost its magnetic field innumerable years ago. This compass operated by a simple gyroscope, tuned to what scientist called the north pole of Mars. With an incredible top speed of 30 miles per hour, they were pulling up to the destination within minutes.

                “Okay, we’re about two miles north-northwest of the base. Can you see us?” Lisa asked.

                “Yes, turn about twenty-five degrees to your left, and drive about a hundred yards,” Jacques explained. Lisa turned, and sure enough, there were the two other astronauts, waving their arms beside their own rover. Aaron chuckled as he turned the vehicle and moved toward them. He pulled it to a stop next to the other rover and hopped out.

                “So, what did you want to show us?” He asked. Jacques motioned, and the group walked several feet to the edge of a small, shallow valley. Joakim stepped tentatively on the slope, and slid gently to the bottom. As the others slid down, he pointed at a spot on the ground. Aaron and Lisa looked closer. Then they saw it. A fossilized arm. A fossilized HUMAN arm.

                “What is that!?” Lisa screamed.

                “That’s what we want to know,” Jacques replied.

                “Remember that dust storm last month? We think that may have uncovered this. We have no idea how old it is. We’ll need the instruments at the base to try to determine what it is. Primary scans can’t pinpoint what it’s made of, there’s too much stone fused to the bones. We figured we should get your help to excavate it,” Joakim explained. Aaron’s mouth hung open in shock.

                “C’mon, let’s grab the excavation equipment and see if we can’t get this guy out,” Lisa suggest as she began running back to the rovers.




Review here!

Edited by Jinkmeister, Jul 31 2013 - 10:10 AM.

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#2 Offline Jinkmeister

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Posted Jul 31 2013 - 10:10 AM

I combined the last two parts into one, so this is going to be the new part 2. Enjoy!


Part 2:


“How could a human have gotten here?” Aaron asked as he walked over to help Lisa.

                “I’m not sure. But we need to get this guy up and back to base,” Joakim replied.

                “Too bad they didn’t send us with some archeological tools, eh?” Lisa asked, chuckling to herself as she stood by the rover. Never had anyone thought they would find a significant sign of life. Several ancient microbes, maybe, but never something like this. Especially something like this.

                “How should we get him out?” She asked.

                “Should we just use the laser drill to cut around him and pull out the rock around him?” Jacques suggested, circling the spot. “Then we can take our time chipping away at the rock.” Aaron and Lisa shared a look, shrugged, and began prepping the rover-mounted excavation laser. Thanks to advances in carbon nanotube technology, a battery had finally been developed that could power a laser long enough to cut through a significant amount of rock without weighing down the rover too much.

                “How far around should we cut?” Aaron asked. Joakim checked the tablet in his hands.

                “Well, judging by the readings, and the way the arm is facing, we should be safe cutting in a roughly seven foot by four foot square. Start about a foot and a half above the arm, and make that the center of the top of your square,” Joakim explained.

                “Understood,” Aaron said as he backed the rover up.

                “I’ll head back to base and get the heavy lifter,” Lisa volunteered.

                “I’ll go with her,” Jacques said.

                “Sounds like a plan,” Aaron replied; to Joakim, he said, “How deep should I go?”

                “I’m thinking three feet. That’ll put the weight roughly around 6 and a half tons,” Joakim said, staring at the tablet screen. The heavy lifter could carry ten, so Aaron began programming the shape and depth of the cut. Thanks to the wonder of computers, the rover would do the cutting on its own. Aaron hopped off the vehicle and walked up to Joakim.

                “Give this about two hours?” he suggested. Joakim nodded as he tapped away at the tablet, which was displaying an up-to-the-second diagnostic and status of the rover and the laser. Everything was checking out, and the cut was beginning to appear.

                “Do we have any idea what this discovery means?” Aaron wondered aloud.

                “It’s the most important archeological find of all time,” Joakim replied.

                “I just want to know why it’s so close to the surface…how old could it be?” Aaron asked.

                “No way of knowing until we get it cut out and under a microscope,” Joakim said.

                “Are we even sure it’s human?” This question caused Joakim pause.

                “If it’s not, it’s already far more humanoid than anyone would ever believe…but it certainly isn’t Martian. Look at the bones.” Joakim said. Aaron leaned in closer and inspected them.

                “They’re too thick!” he realized.

                “Exactly. The gravity here is too light for something to have bones that thick. That right there is the elbow.” Joakim pointed at an odd bump in the dirt about a foot from the hand. “So it couldn’t be proportionally thin, either. This is clearly either human, or an alien from a very Earth-like planet,” Joakim explained.

                “So if it’s not human…” Aaron trailed off.

                “It’s from at least 13 light-years away. Probably further.”

                “Then wouldn’t there be a ship buried somewhere nearby?” Aaron asked hopefully.

                “My readings say no, unless they’ve developed some form of non-metal ship. I think it’s more likely he died and was buried here. See, the arm doesn’t look like someone who struggled for life. It looks almost like it was placed that way.” Aaron saw that Joakim was right.

                “So you think his other arm is crossed right under that?”

                “Assuming their burials are anything like ours. Remember, we’re talking about a species that developed hundreds of trillions of miles from us. The likelihood of them having similar rituals and practices to us is almost impossible,” Joakim reasoned.

                “Not entirely. If it’s so human-like, as it seems now, wouldn’t it follow that there would be similarities? For example, clothing would look similar. You and I could fit in their chairs. We could use their keyboards,” Aaron replied, pointing at the five-fingered hand.

                “By the very nature of evolution, it’s highly improbable that this species would have developed to look like us, let alone follow our rituals. A chair or a shirt are very basic things, made to accommodate our shape. If they have a similar shape, their amenities would obviously correspond closely with ours. But how they bury their dude would be based entirely on their history, their religions, their cultures.”

                “What if they didn’t evolve? What if they were placed there?” Aaron suggested.

                “By what, God?” Joakim said, a bite attached to the final word.

                “You said it yourself, it’s so improbable that they would even look like us. If there’s more in common, what else could the answer be?” Aaron reasoned.

                “It would be just short of impossible for a species lightyears away to develop parallel to ours. This…being’s very presence here says that they are—or were—much further along in the sciences than us. Possibly because they didn’t let religion get in the way,” Joakim retorted.

                “Hey, I’m not looking for an argument,” Aaron said, putting up his hands in surrender.” I’m just saying, what if? Science is about exploring all the options, no matter how far-fetched they may seem,” Aaron replied. Joakim nodded, clearly not happy that Aaron was right. After a pause, Aaron spoke up again.

                “What if he’s human?” he asked.

                “Then we have a very different scenario on our hands…” Joakim said, clearly not happy with the implications.

                “This would answer the question of UFOs, abductions, everything,” Aaron realized.

                “So why would these aliens just dump their abductees on the very next planet?” Joakim pointed out. Aaron opened his mouth to reply when the heavy lifter trundled over the edge of the valley.

                “I guess we had better guide them in close,” Aaron said, already walking toward the machine, with Joakim following in step.




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