Martin on Mars – Aftermath – Day 21

The capital dome shook violently in an explosion that rocked under our feet, throwing the tram passengers against the glass walls to cling desperately to the handrails.  Some of them held on, some of them fell to the floor scrambling as they tried to get back up.  A grey haired woman in her fifties screamed in terror as she was thrown sideways.  I reached out and quickly and stopped her from impacting the wall. A short, squat man at the other end of the car was not so lucky.  His head cracked on the glass leaving a bloody smear behind as he slumped to the floor.  The tram continued to rock back and forth until there was a loud metallic snap from above. The front end of the vehicle dropped suddenly and we all slid into a pile of bodies at the narrow front end.

People screamed in terror, and some groaned in pain. I was pressed against one of the transparent walls and looking down at the ground about two hundred meters below. This end of the tram pointed down and swung back and forth like a pendulum, supported by whatever remained of the tram track that attached to the other end. Below, I saw the trees swaying in a wind that blew straight for a massive jagged hole in the side of the dome, and I saw a something that I won’t forget in a dozen lifetimes. Several human figures flying through the air with other debris out into the red martian landscape like leaves in a hurricane.

The more lively and terrified of us flailed frantically as they tried to extricate themselves from the human pile. I heard them wounding the already wounded as they pushed and struggled.

“Stop it!  Don’t move.”  I yelled out.  “You’re hurting people.”

The struggling ceased, but the moans of the injured continued. I couldn’t tell how many were hurt, but I figured it out was about half of them.

“I can’t breathe, we’re smashed in here,”  a woman cried out.

“We’re going to get out of here.  We’re going to work together and get out of here.  Linda, does this tram have its own life support?”

There was no reply, and finally a man said, “She’s right next me. Her eyes are closed… oh my god… she might be… no, she seems to be still breathing.”

“Alright, we’ve got to get off our wounded.  Everyone that’s on top and still able to move, use the hand rails to pull yourselves up the wall.  It should be easy, this is one third normal gravity.”

I could hear grunting and motion from above and some weight pressing down. People protested as someone invariably stepped on someone else in the process.  But then I felt the weight lighten some and was able to sit up and look around as two other persons got off my back. I looked up and saw four people shinnied up the hand rails on the sides of the car. They’d found purchase for their feet on supports where the rails were attached to the glass alloy. I stood up out of the pile and about three others with me.  This created more space on the cramped floor area that had been the narrow nose of the tram.  I could see five people injured laying on that floor.  Two were not moving.  The squat man with the head injury, and our knowledgeable tour guide, Linda.  A young redhaired woman holding her arm likely had broken it during the fall. A middle aged man lay on the sprawled with a leg twisted at an unnatural angle, and elderly woman held a hand to her bleeding forehead was still conscious.

I looked down at my beautiful shirt and tore a strip from the tail of it.  I bound it carefully around the woman’s brow to stop the bleeding.  The other two guys left standing tended to the others.  I joined the one looking at the man with the broken leg.  There was no external bleeding that we could see but it was an obvious fracture in the lower leg.  He moaned in pain and tried not to move the leg, but did so anyway as it he could not help it.

I was not about to go about trying to set the bones straight with traction.  Last thing I needed was a stray fragment of bone to sever an artery or break the skin. I looked around for anything that might serve as a splint.  I remembered the brochures that they’d given us for the tour, a thick booklet with maps of the domes and attractions.  It was still stuffed in my back pocket.

“Everyone toss me your tour brochures.”  I said.

About five booklets dropped around us and I started pulling out the pages and forming them delicately around the mans leg.  I then removed my shoe laces and tied them snugly around the pages to create the worlds’ worst splint, but hopefully it would be enough to keep the leg from being damaged further.  it seemed to do the job as I elevated and rested it over the lap of our unconscious tour guide.  She looked very white and didn’t move, her breathing was shallow.  There wasn’t much I could do for her.  I checked the short little guy next.  No breathing, no pulse.  He was gone. His head injury must have been very severe.

A silence passed over the car then as I stood looking down for a long moment at the man.  In a brief moment he went from living to dead, with no warning. I’d seen it too many times.

The swinging of the car slowed to a barely perceptible motion.  I looked down and saw that the wind had died out now that the air was totally gone. The air in the car would hold only a short time.  There were a lot of us in this confined space, and none of us knew what the emergency procedures were.  The only person who knew that lay on the floor, and she wasn’t going to be of any help now.


Martin on Mars – Dome of Domes – Day 20

I hung around Hellas Basin after talking with Angel. The first thing I did was check out the records she’d sent me. It was almost an exact replay of what I’d experienced in Baxter’s cell. Only Baxter didn’t tell his god to fuck off. He wept, and bowed, and lay prostrate on the floor of his apartment as the projection played out and the sounds of the waves filled his room. Brainwashing at its finest. I wondered, though, about all the events that led up to that point. What they’d done to him in that government program to enhance his intellect. What tortures had he endured, until he was reduced to this groveling thing that I saw in the recording? It was probably best that I didn’t know. I didn’t want to feel empathy for this killer. What I did want to know was who had done this to him, and why. Who was pulling his puppet strings? They were even more dangerous than Baxter, and this job had just gotten a whole lot bigger.

Angel is back in my head again, twenty-four seven. As much as I find it annoying, embarrassing, and invasive, I also find that I’ve missed her. She doesn’t judge me as harshly as I judge myself, and I can learn some of that from her. That’s a great thing here on my second round of life, because the more years I put behind me, the more things I remember that I’d rather not. And with self replicating nano-cells buzzing through my bloodstream, I’m likely to be around for quite a few more. That is, unless Baxter and company figure out how to stop me.

I had to think about who was manipulating Baxter, but nothing was coming to me. Today, I decided to take a little tour of Hellas Basin, the vast multi-dome complex. I figured it would help me think. I booked myself on a tour with about a dozen tourists. I even wore my vacation shirt that Angel hates so much. She didn’t say so directly, but when I wore it she said, “You’re not wearing that today, are you?”  I wore it anyway.  I love this shirt.

I arrived at the visitor center on time. It was bustling with people not accustomed to Martian gravity.  You could tell by the way they walked.  A little too cautious, and little too high wire act, walking an invisible tightrope of lighter gravity and hoping not to spring off.  I’d had a couple of weeks to get used to it, definitely not attuned as a Martian, but certainly not as funny looking as these tourists.

A woman appeared behind the counter and waved for our attention.  “I’m Linda, and I’ll be your tour guide today.”  She gave me a short, slightly uncomfortable look.  I assume that she was admiring my shirt.

Linda continued, “If you will gather at the end of the building, we will board the dome-tram and get started on our trip around The Basin.”

We all shuffled that direction in a disorderly fashion, as groups of people do in crowds.  Double glass doors opened in the way, and we filed into the completely transparent box that was the tram.

“Dome-trams are the major mode of transportation and are built into the design of each of the domes in Hellas Basin. They were used initially to build these great structures and now provide an easy way to travel within and between the domes.”

The tram car gently accelerated under our feet. The gravity rookies all grabbed for support bars around the sides of the traveling glass room. Outside, the Martian sun shone in weakly from the East on the city landscape as we slowly rose above it, gaining speed every second.  This dome is probably about a quarter the size of the one over Olympus Mons, but it is still huge.  Buildings jutted up from the planet surface below. Lamps attached to outer shell of the dome also lit the city from above to give the equivalent illumination of a nearly sunny day on Earth.

“The dome we are currently in is a foundation dome and rests directly on the surface of Mars.  At the one hundred degree apex of each foundation dome a bubble dome connects to it.”  Linda gestured out the transparent tram car.

As the car carried us higher and higher along the inner curve of the dome I could see the other side more clearly.  In the distance, the spherical shape of a bubble connected at the other side.  The lower third of the dome was dark, while the upper two-thirds was brightly lit, filled with a network of buildings and sky bridges. The tram reached the apex of the dome’s center point and began descending down the other side toward a familiar circular structure that I’d seen too many times lately, an airlock.  The car slowed smoothly and we docked.

The double glass doors parted and we walked directly into yet another tram car. There was no noticeable change in air pressure during this, which I was thankful for.  We all migrated to the front of the car to look out over the large bubble dome in front us.

“The lower third of each bubble dome is below the ground level.  This contains all of the equipment necessary to provide power, air, and other utilities.  Each dome is completely self sufficient, in line with the the three R’s of Martian architecture.  Redundant, resilient, and reparable.”

Those three R’s were slightly different words, but lined up basically with what I’d heard in The Tubes.  As we approached the apex of this bubble dome, something got brighter and brighter and dazzled my eyes.  I was about to ask Linda what it was, but she beat me to it.

“Ahead you’ll see one of the large sun mirrors used to distribute light through the dome complex. A cubical mirror sits on top of each bubble dome within the structure which carries light from the outer edges into the interior domes.  This reduces the need for artificial lighting and power requirements.”

It made sense to use the available light of Mars, and concentrate it using mirrors.  Especially since I already knew about the agricultural domes that existed in Hellas Basin.

“What about radiation?” asked a man in his forties, with slightly greying sideburns.

“The domes are made of radiation resistant ceramic alloys that reduce Martian radiation exposure by sixty percent.  This is approximately at Earth normal levels.  It’s a relatively new technology and was not used in older Martian architecture.”

We transferred through several domes in the next two hours, and I got to see some of the agricultural domes.  We walked through small forests and flower gardens where birds flew freely through the air and small animals scurried among the bushes.  For the first time since arriving on Mars, I almost forgot that I was in an artificially created world.

As we continued our journey to the top of the dome structure in a seemingly never ending series of tram car arcs and airlock transfers, it all became sort of routine and I started to lose my initial awe at the structure.  I suppose after a few months here it would all seem perfectly normal and boring. But at first, it was quite overwhelming to realize that these structures had all been man made and fitted together like worlds in a Martian universe placed into a large impact crater created billions of years ago.

“This is the capital dome of Hellas Basin.”  Linda announced with some flair, as we made another airlock transfer.  Before us, we could see stately buildings of white and martian-red concrete.  Beautiful architecture spread out everywhere across the dome.  Statues of important persons, flags wavered in an artificial breeze.  Parks with grass, flowers, streams and ponds dotted the landscape between bureaucracy.  People milled about enjoying the parks, or marched purposefully along the sidewalks between buildings.

Linda droned on about the political buildings and pointed out some of the prominent ones, describing the purpose of each.  I tuned her out and just enjoyed the scenery, which you could see better now as we gained altitude along the dome wall.  I’d almost forgotten about all the stress of the case, the close call I’d had in Baxter’s cell, the existence of yet another adversary.

And then the dome exploded.