Martin on Mars – Twisted Sister – Day 18

Teresa Hickman is an attractive lady, about forty-ish, with long dark hair. We met today at her home in Hellas Basin, well below the surface where the cosmic particles rarely strike. She invited me inside and we sat down in a beautifully furnished living room. It was well lighted from the faux windows which currently showed an ocean beach with tall waves crashing over rocks. I could even slightly discern the low rumble of the surf in the distance. The effect was quite realistic and soothing. I didn’t let myself relax, though. I was here to do my job, to bring a killer to justice, and this woman had grown up with him.

“Miss Hickman,” I began.

“Please, call me Teresa.”  She smiled.

“Teresa, I’m investigating a series of killings on Mars, working in conjunction with the OIS and the Martian Constabulary.  I’ve got a few questions that I’d like to ask you about your brother.”

“You mean, is he batshit crazy? The answer is yes.”

“What makes you say that?”

“The government screwed up his brain.  He was a nice kid, a normal boy,  a good brother.  When he got out of their stupid program he was totally different.  Messed up.”

“He was different.  How so?”

Teresa paused and looked down at her hands as she wrestled with them.  Then she looked up at me and said, “You ever been in a relationship with someone and then one day you realize you didn’t know them at all? It was like that, except I did know him. I knew him since we were little kids. But when he came back it was like night and day. We both had all the same memories. He was in there somewhere but everything familiar was gone. He was distant, and we no longer had any connection. It made me incredibly sad.”

“Did you notice anything else unusual about him?”

“Other than everything?”  She smirked with irony. “Oh he hurt me a couple times.  He doesn’t seem to have any empathy anymore. Can’t seem to understand that I feel pain too.”

“What did he do?”  

“I was making dinner for us and he got angry.  Didn’t like the food and threw the plate at my head.  When I cried and bled he just sat there not knowing what my problem was.”

“How long did this go on?”

“About five minutes.  I threatened to call the cops on him if he didn’t leave.  That was the last time I saw him.”

“Has he attempted to contact you since?”

“No,” she said and waved her hand. But a slight aversion of her eyes told me something else.

“Not at all.  Not an email, a voicemail?”

“No.”  Again the slight aversion.

“I understand.” I said. I also understood that I would get nothing else out of Teresa, at least nothing truthful.  “I think that I’ve used up enough of your time.  Thank you for speaking with me.”

We both got up and she saw me to the door. 

I want a look at Sister Teresa’s mail, because she’s no saint. Baxter has her mixed up in his plans somehow and I want to know how. But Martian laws won’t allow a look at her communications without good cause, which I did not yet have. There is another way though. I’m going to need to have a little chat with Angel.





Martin on Mars – Secured Log – Hellas Basin – Day 18

I went for a run this morning. My recovery seems to be exponential. Not sure how much of this is just sheer willpower or how much is Nanocells. I can feel myself getting stronger every day that passes. The hyperbaric oxygen treatment seems to have done its job and now I’m back on track.

As for our friend Mr. Hickman, I’m concerned that he knows so much. His reference to Angel, my companion of artificial intelligence who lives in the Net, is alarming. How he came to have that classified information is one of the top things I need to find out. When I asked Angel she didn’t seem to know. I say, seem to know, because she doesn’t always tell me everything. It’s one of the more frustrating things about our relationship. But, over time, I’ve learned not to fret too much about it. If she holds back, she’s got a reason for it. That’s one of the things about artificial super intelligence, you can’t understand it because you can’t think like it. It’s like a mouse trying to understand television. It sees it, but it has no idea what it means. That’s where we’re at. I’m just glad Angel has humanity’s best interests at heart. I know this because she’s my friend, and she’s never failed me.

I set my task for the day to follow up on a lead. Hickman has a sister in Hellas Basin, and I want to talk to her. I want to see her in person, and not over video. Some things don’t get conveyed that way, despite all of our technology. That meant I was in for a train ride, and not a short one. Hellas was way down south.

I boarded the Mars train, a pressurized vehicle made for comfort and speed.  It had a bar, a restaurant, and even an observation lounge. This is a completely transparent bubble on the top of one of the segmented cars with comfortable furniture under it. I spent most of my time up there during the trip.

It took almost two hours just to get down off of Olympus Mons. The ancient shield volcano is over 600 kilometers in diameter.  Although, I couldn’t tell that we were really descending it. The slope is actually quite gentle considering the mountain’s altitude. Once we were down, the train really seemed to pick up speed. I think it was mostly because I could see more interesting terrain.  The rock formations whipped past us as the train sped onward across the dusty red surface. The air of Mars barely pressed against the train, an environment equivalent to the vacuum in the hypertube transports back on Earth. Magnetic levitation in the one third gravity requires less effort and therefore less power.

The distant pale sun set just before we arrived at the Basin and gave me a fantastic light show of the enormous dome of Hellas.  The entire 2300 kilometers of this basin is a conglomeration of dome networks architected into one enormous overarching dome. Even here, and especially here, the R’s of Martian design rules. If any one dome depressurizes the rest of the domes are isolated and protected.  Hellas has the largest population on the planet. Over a half million people work and live here.  It is impressive and awe-inspiring.

I checked into a hotel not far from the train station. I’ve recovered quite a bit from my ordeal, but this day of travel wore me out.  Tomorrow I’ll go have a private talk with Teresa Hickman about her psychotic brother.




Martin on Mars – Secured Log – Day 17

Laying around in a glass tube for six days, every day, all day, sucks. You can barely scratch your ass in there. And I don’t mind saying, I got antsy. My legs don’t like not being walked on and they get pissed after a few hours of being useless. I spent most of the time sleeping because my body had been wrecked. I’d just drift off in the middle of reading something and wake up hours later with no sense of time. The days went by cheifly in dreamland, and the dreams were most unpleasant. The rest of the time I tried to keep up with the news on Mars to see if our friend had been busy, but he’d kept quiet while I’d been down.

On the fourth day I got a nice visit from Chalie. She smiled through the transparent tube at me and we had a long chat about Baxter the bastard. I described in great detail what I was going to do to him when I got a hold of him, and she reminded me of the rule of law, and the things that I swore to when I became an agent of the OIS. I don’t mind telling you stuffed shirts where you can stick your rules if and when I catch up with that guy. You can have my resignation if you don’t like it. But, maybe it’s like Chalie said, I’m a hothead and I’ll cool down by then. I doubt it, but you can all keep thinking that.

So, anyway, I got out of the tube today. I’m not ready to run a Martian marathon yet, but I’m doing all right. It could have been worse. At least I’m walking around and breathing. I’ll take it.  First thing I did was go meet with Broderick. He’d found Baxter’s profile. Which told me something, Baxter either had a hell of an ego, or he thought we couldn’t touch him even if we knew who he was. I figured it was both.

Baxter’s file came up on the wall in the Constable’s office and I poured over it. I studied the face in the profile pictures. Gaunt, thin, brown serious eyes, short platinum hair, thin of build. He’d worked for Maxim Labs until he’d been let go for mental illness after an evaluation. There was a second file that had been retrieved from the OIS database, and that contained something his employee records hadn’t. Baxter Hickman had been in a special training course for advanced human intelligence, an experimental medical treatment designed to improve IQ. Doses of synapse regulator inhibitors to boost mental efficiency, and so called flash-training in virtual reality. Flash training was a controversial means of impressing great amounts of data onto the human brain in short amounts of time.  Synapse regulation is suppressed inducing a state of autism on the subject while their senses are flooded by computer with data.

Hickman had shown great results at first in the trials, exceeding his peers in data retention and mental speed. However during the final weeks he’d fallen slightly behind. He’d then been employed at Maxim Labs in their research department. There he’d outperformed everyone on the team. And for the first year, he was their golden boy. But then the trouble started.

I read through the multiple human resource reports. Baxter had developed an ego. If he caught anyone making a mistake he made a huge deal about it and refused to work with them. This had, of course, caused him some social problems at the company. Despite his position as boy wonder, he’d been scorned by everyone there. Several incidents occurred where he’d totally flipped his lid.  And in the final case he struck a female coworker hard enough to hospitalize her. Baxter boy had a bad temper and didn’t seem have much empathy for other people. He had been required to take a psychological exam, in which he was determined to be exhibiting psychopathic behavior.  Hickman was put on medical leave and referred to a specialist.  However, he had never seen that psychologist. Instead he’d disappeared completely.

Broderick removed him from the extensive Martian missing persons list.  We’d found Baxter Hickman alive and well, and he’d been busy getting even.