Sunday October 4th, 2015

The exercise:

Let us see what's happening with The Colony, shall we?

Quiet morning. Natalie came over to play with Max this afternoon, so that was less quiet. But very entertaining.


I get Robbie cleaned up and sit him down on our former commander's bunk while I fetch a glass of water. It feels strange to be here but after what we just witnessed on the monitor I have zero interest in returning to my quarters. I know we'll have to deal with the bodies eventually, but Eventually can wait until Later.

"Thanks," he says when I hand him the water. "And sorry about th-"

"Nothing to apologize for," I interrupt with a shake of my head. "It's a totally normal reaction, I think. Besides, we need to figure out what comes next."

"Oh, no, I'm pretty sure I'm all done now."

"Hah, I hope so. No, I meant we have to decide what we need to do now that our commander has betrayed and abandoned us. Do we go after him and find out who he's working with? Do we just bunker down and wait for the next supply drop?"

"Can we go back home?" The expression on Robbie's face makes my heart hurt.

"That was never going to be an option," I tell him as gently as possible. "This was a one way trip, you know that."

Robbie nods slowly and leaves his head hanging down. I use exploring Vassily's quarters as an excuse to leave him alone for a few moments. I need to clear my head. I need to start making important decisions. Before it's too late. Before Vassily returns and... before...

"Computer? Are there security measures that we can execute?" I shudder slightly at my own choice of words. "You know, some way to secure the compound's perimeter?"

I watch the nearest monitor as it goes blank for a heartbeat and then fills with text.

No such procedure exists. However all external entry points can be locked. Whether that prevents forceful reentry is dependent upon what form of force is exerted.

"So if they've got big enough tools they can huff and puff and blow our walls down. That's... not ideal."

"How many entry points are there?" Robbie asks. I didn't realize he had gotten up and was reading the monitor as well. When the monitor remains blank he quickly adds, "Uh, computer? How many ent-"


"Could we lock three and leave one open?"


"What are you thinking?" I ask, an uneasy feeling gnawing at my belly.

"If Vassily returns, with however many of whoever people he's got out there, he'll know all the ways to get in. If he finds the most obvious entrance locked, he'll check the others. If we make it look like one was accidentally missed when we were securing the compound..."

"Then that's the way they'll come in." I nod as the unrest in my stomach grows. "And if that's the only way..."

"Then we can be ready for them."


Greg said...

I noticed first how short the prose was before the story, but it was only when I started reading that I realised you'd opted to spend the space writing about the Colony! Excellent as always, and it looks like we're setting up for Vassily's return next month and a closing piece in December – very neat timing. I think we might be getting the hang of these year-long tales.
I like the planning you've got going on here, and the recognition that a Mars base isn't going to be fortified or even easy to fortify so we're going to have to resort to being tricky. Though I feel like you've left the being tricky part up to the rest of us!

No-one told me this was a one-way trip. Eliza said I knew that, but I didn't. I thought I was going home after a year, when they sent out the runner-up from the reality TV show, Judith. Though I remember Patrick looking at Judith and saying the only thing he could see her being useful for is food. Patrick could be mean too. But he's dead now, and you shouldn't speak ill of the dead, so maybe I'll stop talking about him now. And Meanie Melina....
Eliza is talking about Vassily coming back but I don't want him to come back. Not after what he did... he's meaner even than Melina, and that's saying something! She found all the ways he could get in, and I suggested that we leave one of them open. That way he can get in without breaking things and maybe letting all our oxygen out. I don't know why he'd want to come back though, but Eliza thinks he will and she's a lot cleverer than me. But she wants to make it difficult for him.
I ask her why we can't just tell the people back on Earth what's happening and get them to stop Vassily and I can see her trying not to laugh. She says it'll take at least six hours to get the message there, and another six hours to get a message back, so Vassily might do things before he's ordered to stop. Well, that makes sense, but I ask if we can send the message anyway, just to be sure. Eliza says she'll do it.
When she's gone the computer puts some words up on the screen, so I read them. They say:
Atmospheric pressure increasing spinward, with circular anti-pole disturbances. Dust-storm predicted to arrive in 7.5 hours; duration estimated at 36 hours.
Well, I don't really understand all that, but I remember the dust-storm I got stuck outside in and how long it seemed to take for it to go away again.
Eliza reappears; she looks like she could use some more sleep, and she ought to brush her hair more. I point out the message to her, and she looks at me and frowns.
"Well," I say, wondering how I can be talking to Eliza like this when she's so important and clever and I just drive the buggy, "if Commander Vassily is driving over here and got caught in the dust-storm he'd be stuck wouldn't he?"
"For thirty-six hou–" Eliza stops, and her face becomes very calm. Her eyes look like they're looking through me, but when I look round there's no-one behind me. "But if we have enough time to dig a trench and they fell into that and the dust-storm hit, then they'd be buried. They'd never manage to dig themselves out, not without running out of oxygen first. And... and we've still got explosives left, we never needed them all to clear space after we landed. We could make a big enough crater... it would work, Robbie!" She hugs me, and I sit down wondering if it's my birthday or something. "We just need to keep them away from us until just before the dust-storm starts. That can't be that hard!"
"What if they fly over?" I say, trying to be helpful. Eliza tries really hard not to laugh, but she seems so happy that maybe she's not really laughing at me.
"Oh Robbie," she says, "the atmosphere's far too thin for anything to fly on Mars."

Marc said...

Greg - thanks. Yeah, I feel like the timing on this one is working better than on previous attempts as well.

Why am I not surprised that they didn't tell Robbie it was a one way trip? Ouch.

It would appear that I left the trickiness in capable hands :) It's an interesting plan... now we just have to hope there is enough time to follow through with it.

Also: that birthday line cracked me up :D