There wasn’t a dark sky anymore, all the crew could see from the cockpit the red vastity of the martian landscapes, after months of travel they finally reached the destination.
There were red lights everywhere, it was time to wear the helmet and sit in the cockpit, it was time to descent on the red planet.
Twenty seconds to burn initiation
A cold voice said.
Clair took the com “Here is the Phoenix III to Olympus base, we are ready to ignite the engines”.
They waited, they were entering the atmosphere, the sound of the thin air against the structure of the ship was frightening as if everything should fall in pieces in a matter of seconds.
Copy, we follow your descent from here Igwe replied via com.
In less than ten minutes they would land close to the base where two manned mission was creating the first interplanetary colony.
“You ok Inés?” Tzu asked.
She nodded, she was terrified and she held his hand.
“Almost there,” he said.
When the engines ignite, they felt compressed against their chairs, for ten long minutes, then the parachutes opened, they could see them by the small windows in the cockpit.
They decelerate so much that now they could breathe, unfortunately, wasn’t finished because parachutes weren’t enough so the engine continued till they hurt something, the ship suddenly stopped and the computer said.
They were on the surface.
When they opened the hatch, the air went sucked outside.
Clair Blanchard stepped on the red dust and then the crew followed, an astronaut was approaching.
At the moment, 14 people lived in the planetary base after that, eight years before, Captain Igwe was the first human being to step on the planet.
Now, all the three phoenixes were there like spires over an interplanetary species, waiting for the fuel to charge thanks to the martian atmosphere.
An astronaut approach them “I’m Igor Cherenkov, welcome on Mars”
“How was your travel?” Cherenkov asked.
“Just a normal space journey, extraordinarily ordinary” she replied, this was her third space mission, the first two was on the moon but this was beyond everything she enrolled for when she entered the fleet.
On the other side, only her second in command Worley wasn’t on his first mission, the other five was doing this for the very first time and Claire passed all the travel comforting their fears like the mother that she never was
The mount Olympus was there in all his mass, Tzu was observing it with interest.
Inés could bet that he would like to hike it, he would hike everything but that wasn’t an ordinary mountain, it was the highest of the solar system, it was 22 km high almost four times the Everest and nobody ever climbed it.
It is easy to say that nobody would do it for a long time because the mission required all the people to help in the base, there wasn’t time for fun at the beginning of the colony, they would have gone there only if science required it.
The dusk was arriving and was almost dinner time, it was an almost self-sustainable society, they were cultivating their food from years, even though that wasn’t a really good time to increase the population of the base.
The crew of the Phoenix III was concerned because, in the last months, they received communications about problems with water.
“We are struggling to find ice. If we don’t and the population increase, we have to abort the mission and come back to Earth” Igwe explained.
“The end of the dream,” Stark said.
Tzu was distant, he was looking at the satellite maps “Maybe under the Olympus mount there is ice”.
Everybody looked at him with a bemused face “Who are you again?” Igwe asked.
“I’m Tzu Chen”
“Are you a geologist?”
“No, she is” he replied pointing Meyer “I’m a doctor”
“How a doctor is able to find ice under a mountain looking sat maps?” Stark asked.
“I have a passion for geology” he replied.
Nobody replied they had to go to sleep, the next day would have been a science day.
Tzu went to his room, where all his stuff was he unpacked a little box and went to his desk, he opened it, inside there was a small device, he activated it and a disturbance noise came from it, a bip was bipping “Is close” he whispered when Inés knocked the door.
“Come in,” he said hiding the device.
“You want to go on the mountain don’t you?”
“Yes, you? You are glowing, you are happy to be here?”
“Yes, you know that the unknown is my thing, I didn’t have anything on Earth anymore”
He nodded “Now go to sleep, will be a long day tomorrow”
A team of five was outside, two rovers left for an expedition to find ice if no, they should have come back on Earth, the fail of the most important mission was imminent.
Once sure that nobody was watching, Tzu activated the device, it was a sort of compass that leads to a place not far from his position, all the other ones were far away concentrated to find rocks.
Tzu kneeled and moved the sand away on a rock with a symbol on it, it was a triangle but he knew that, in reality, it was a row, it was pointing the mountain, he was amused, is like he found what he was looking for.
“Holy shit” an astronaut replied, fortunately, he didn’t see the device but he definitely saw the rock.
“Come here guys, we have a thing”.
They tried to move it but it was deep in the soil, the first act of alien art and it was on a planet where nobody could give a penny about the presence of alien life “How did you found it?” another astronaut asked.
He used a few seconds to find an excuse “I stumbled on it” it wasn’t sure the best excuse ever found it but it worked.
When the other team came back the all converged to the place, they did pictures that they would have sent to Earth, tons of linguists would have work for years and all of this for a triangle, unfortunately, this wasn’t good for Tzu that would have needed time to work on it with his device, but he had a plan, he would have activated his plane in the night where everybody was sleeping.
When the last light switched off he took his suit and went away like a kid that escape home because is under punishment.
The rock was relatively close so he went there and do fast sync then he headed for a rover but Inés was there “What are you doing outside?”
“I needed to do a thing”
“On the rock?” she looked upset
“Yes, my business”
“What businesses you have on Mars?”
She hadn’t time for that so he detached one of the oxygen tubes from her suit “I’m sorry, go inside and stay”
She went inside, but just the time for reattaching the tube than she went outside and she saw a rover that was driving to the mountain so she took a second rover and followed him.
After hours of driving, she reached the rover that was at the beginning of a cave that went deep inside the mountain, the sun was rising.
She entered, she wanted to know what the hell it was going on and, after minutes she reached a gigantic room and she was speechless, it was an alien artifact that filled the whole room and Tzu was operating with it, a metal door shut behind her.
“WHAT IS THIS PLACE?” she screamed because he was behind a bridge that she didn’t dare to cross.
He activated the com You can come close if you want.
She scrolled her shoulders but she gets close, she didn’t dar though to enter in the perimeter of that alien sphere.
“I bet you want answers”
“I’m not from Earth, I arrived on THIS planet thanks to this device decades ago but it wasn’t nothing around, I was millions of years late for the inhabitants of Mars and fifty years too early for humans”
She was shocked.
“Then I used the ship that I bought with me for going on Earth where I worked for the Phoenix project, I needed to come here, I need to come back home”
“Why you ain’t said nothing?”
“Should have I said to humans that I am an alien? You are smart enough to know I couldn’t do it”
“Speaks with them, they will listen”
“They won’t” he replied while activating the ship “Stay behind the bridge when I leave, the machine will be destroyed”
“Because it unimaginably bends space and time, it requires a quantity of energy that only the bombs under here can generate”
“Don’t worry, you’ll be safe” he looked her “Unless you wanna come” he smiled.
“Far away” he replied setting a point in the holographic map that suddenly appeared, it was on the other side of the galaxy.
“Why should I come?”
“Inés Hidalgo on Earth you have nothing anymore, and the unknown is your thing, I’m offering you the greater adventure”
She smiled, it was like he read her mind in the last weeks “When will I come back”
“There is no way back, is a single way train and it’s leaving,” he said while the machine was activating.
She stepped inside the sphere while Tzu changed his look, it was a blue alien now, humanoid but with a strange blue skin “You’ll love it” and then a light and nothing more.
Literally, a second later, five members of the crew entered the room where nothing was but a singularity that disappeared in seconds.
They didn’t know what to think but then Igwe looked the cave under them, she launched a light and she smiled “Is ice,” she said.
Humanity just found the key point of the Mars colony but nothing could be comparable with the adventures that Inés Hidalgo will live.
This short story is just an idea of a higher thought I have about what the afterlife could mean without gods, prides and punishments. Just afterlife.
Another short story written by me, “The errants” is just about a long journey in space and how a species could relate to it.