Martin On Mars – Twisted – Day 30

I barely recognized Van Desoto.  He was covered in grey dust so thick that he didn’t even look human. Carly and I carefully took hold of his jacket and pulled him slowly into the safe-room.  Then Sledge hit the red button and the door swooshed closed. Desoto lay there in the middle of the floor, moaning.

I took a knee down next to Van on the floor, and tried to make an assessment of his condition.  After this much time, he was definitely dehydrated, but there was some wet mud patches along his side.  If he had internal injuries, it wouldn’t be a great idea to have him guzzling down water just yet.

Van coughed, dust scattering off of him as he did so.  “He’s out there,” he rasped.

“Who? Who’s out there, Van?” Jake asked.

Another long coughing fit, then, “Baxter.”

“He lost his shit.” Sledge muttered in my ear.

I wasn’t convinced of that, but I had to stay with the priorities.  With Carly’s help, we removed his jacket as carefully as we could so I could get a look at his ribs. I was right to be worried about those mud patches.  Desoto had a compound rib fracture sticking out of his right side with the bone exposed. I put my ear down to the bleeding mess, but I couldn’t hear any hissing or gurgling.  No puncture of the lung, which seemed like a freaking miracle, until I realized that rib was too low to hit a lung, and the other end was probably stuck in his liver.  It was impossible for me to know how much blood Van had lost.

Jake rummaged through the cupboards and came back with the first aid kit.  This wasn’t one of those Bactine and Band-Aide kits. This was a serious kit, like a medic would have on the front lines. Like the ones we trained with in special ops, and I was damned glad to see it.

Desoto needed surgery, there was no way to get around it.  But we couldn’t go yanking rib splinters out of his liver here. The internal bleeding would eventually kill him from blood loss and low blood pressure. And there was not one thing these big old meathooks could do about it. But I had an idea.

I dug around in the kit, frantically hoping. And there it was, a field transfusion pack.  Not only am I a type “O RH D” but I have something even better swimming around in that universal doner blood—latent maintenance nano-cells with a license to heal.

Carlie got Desoto’s arm cleaned up, and I plugged the needles into him and into me. While I gave Van a refill, Jake and Carlie went about plugging the hole in our patient. That rib was in the way, big time, and it had to go. There was a surgical laser in the kit, and they cut that bone back without moving it, then slapped a skin patch over the hole.  If we got out of here alive, that would be a problem for real doctors to solve later.  For now, we just had to hope those nano-cells would sort out the internal bleeding.

We left the transfusion on until Van’s blood pressure started to come back to normal, then switched him to an IV to deal with the dehydration. About three hours later he started to come around again.

“Baxter,  he’s out there.”  He said again.

“What happened?” I asked.

“That asshole tortured me,” Baxter said. “He asked me to confess my sins to his god. I told him to fuck off, and he put his hand over my face and suffocated me.  He did that over an over.”

“He’s a twisted fuck.” Sledge punched the door button and it whisked open.

“Sledge, you can’t get through that tunnel.  You’re too big for it.” I said.

“The screwed up thing was, he never even waited for me to respond. I would have told him whatever the hell he wanted at that point.” Van coughed, and this time something came up, and he spat blood onto the metal floor. It looked coagulated, and I knew why.  His dose of nano-cells were working overtime.

Sledge hadn’t listened to me. He was digging out chunks of rock from the little tunnel Van had crawled in through. Then Jake gave him a hand and they started moving pieces of rock around outside the door like a puzzle, making the hole bigger.

“Hey Baxter!  You wanna play some games with me? I’ll confess something for ya,”  Sledge bellowed out the doorway. I didn’t bother to try and stop him. I could tell that would be useless.

So, we said the hell with protocol, and we teamed up on the tunnel and started working our way out. It’d been two days, and the company hadn’t been down here to save us yet. I had a sneaking suspicion they’d never even tried or would. I think Baxter’s god was making sure of it.

After a few hours work we were able to track back to a mud patch of blood in an open space of the fallen debris. This was likely where Desoto had gotten trapped in the collapse before he tunneled his way to the safe-room. And beside that patch, drawn in the dust of the cavern floor, was a smiley face.

Martin On Mars – Hello? – Day 29

Hello Martin. I hope you are enjoying your stay deep underground. Miles deep under the suffocating ground. Eventually your air is going to run out, the water is going to be gone, and you’ll die there, forgotten and useless. You should have answered God’s call. But now you’re going to die.

I’m sorry that I had to do this to you, but I couldn’t have you interfering. You see, I have a mission to complete. And now I have enough industrial grade explosives to finish the job, just like I’ve finished you.

I know that you think that I’m some twisted religious fanatic that is out to kill all of the poor stupid people that don’t believe.

There are no stupid people.

People aren’t stupid. I get so tired of hearing all the raging about those stupid people, those idiots, those Darwin Awarders, those inferiors.

People aren’t stupid. They’re smart. No, think about it. They get what they want by acting the way they do. They’ve evolved in ways to get what they want by their behavior. People aren’t stupid, they’re selfish, self-centered, ignorant, impatient, rude, egotistical, wrong, misinformed, warped, misled, twisted, rotten, maybe even evil. But they’re not stupid. Seventeen billion of them out there competing for limited resources and they all have to get what they need, or want.

You know the guy, the one that has to be at the head of the pack, and it doesn’t matter how many people he cuts off to get there. Or the ones that run you over getting into the elevator before you can get out. Or the agitator that takes the time to tell you off about getting in his way. Hey buddy, we’re all trying to get somewhere. It’s not stupidity. It’s lack of character. It’s selfishness. It’s ignorance.

As they say, some people just want to watch the world burn. I would also add some of you just want it all for yourselves. So, you’re not stupid. You just suck. You suck because all you think about is yourself, and you haven’t bothered to think about others. You suck and you’re just damned lazy. Because doing something for others requires extra effort, and you’re so absorbed in the overwhelming universe of YOU that you don’t have another thought in your head. The all encompassing deity of yourself; the god that you worship night and day. And it’s just all about you.

Stupid? No, I don’t think people are stupid. They have very clear reasons for doing what they do to get what they want. And I mean to see that they don’t get it.

Martin On Mars – Buried Alive – Day 28

We spent the night in the dark keeping the lights off and conserving whatever battery power remained in the safe-room. I tried and tried to get a connection to Angel, but here deep under the ground the signal was blotted out. If only we’d had one of the new QE (quantum entangler) comm devices.  But when Angel had performed surgery on my brain implant that tech hadn’t even existed yet. Now the NET had expanded to thirty-six worlds in real time connection thanks to QE. And here I was buried on Mars, the redheaded stepchild of planets, forgotten and abandoned among the shinning new worlds being discovered out there beyond the warp bubble.

This wasn’t the first time I’d been buried, but last time I’d been dead. This time I had to experience it. The dark just made it worse. The dark was like when Medicore first brought me back to life. When I couldn’t see anything or even understand what was going on. It closed in around me and pressed into my mind, suffocating me. Just like all those airlocks I’d been in lately. Claustrophobia got the better of me. My breathing became rapid, and my pulse rate shot up. I was covered in a cold sweat and I couldn’t calm down. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder.

Carly’s voice whispered in my ear. “Settle down, Chase.  You’re scaring the women.”

I heard Jake chuckle softly.

“Name’s not Chase. It’s Coswell,” I gasped out.

There was a short pause. “Okay Coswell. Time to get it together. We’re in a safe-room designed to provide food, water, and air for a week, if necessary. They’ll be getting us out of here any time now.”

“Right.  Okay, I got this now,” I replied. I didn’t really believe it, but the act of saying so made my heart stop pounding so hard and my breathing evened out. In a few more minutes the panic left me and I could think straight again.

“That’s better.”  Carly said.  “Don’t need you going batshit in this enclosed space. Don’t make me knock your ass out.” She laughed.

“What about Desoto?” I asked.

“He either made it or didn’t.” Sledge said. “It’s possible he’s in a gap out there somewhere. The Protocol is to stay in the safe-room. We aren’t equipped for rescue. It could just get someone else killed.”

“They better hurry up.” Stumpy said.

But they didn’t. After a long time of silence, Sledge had some questions.

“So, it’s Coswell now eh?”

“Yeah.” I replied.

“What are you running from?”

“He’s not runnin’. I heard about this Coswell guy. He’s OIS. He’s after the Mars Slasher.”

“Mars Slasher?” I asked.

“That’s what the news is calling the guy. You know, the serial killer.”

“OIS, huh?”  Sledge said.

“Yeah, I figured it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to let the killer know who I was.” I replied.

“Unless it’s one of us.” Jake said.

“No, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t bury himself in here.”

“You think he did this?” Carly said.

“Pretty certain. When’s the last time you had an accident like this?” I asked.

“It’s been years. Back in the 40’s.”  Jake said.

“Well, Baxter, the Mars Slasher, has a new hobby with explosives. A few days ago he blew the capitol dome. Somehow he figured out I was looking for him here. And now this,” I said.

“He’s a real fucker.” Sledge said.

“The worst kind of trash,” I agreed. “But it’s his god that I’m really interested in. That’s the one behind all of it. The one that’s been pushing Baxter further and further. And now it looks to be politically motivated.”

“He did seem pretty fanatical.” Jake said.  “Always going on about God wants this and God wants that.  We just ignored it mostly, but it did make for some great jokes.”

“How’d Baxter take that?”

“Not well, I can tell you. He got that dark look, where he’d stare out at you out the top of his eyebrows. Gave me the creeps,” Carly said.

“I don’t get it. How is God behind Baxter killing people?” Stumpy asked.

“Not the almighty God. A fake imitation. Baxter isn’t making this stuff up. Someone really is talking to him. But they are using tech to fool and control our fanboy,” I said.

“Wild shit,” Stump said. “Why would they do that?”

“I’m not sure yet, what their goal is. But the attack on the capitol was more than just an attack on me.  It had a purpose.”

“Well it’s scaring the shit out of people. I can tell you that. Everyone is freaking out about it,” Carly said.

“That right there can drive changes. And I need to find out what God is up to, and stop the killing,” I said.

“You need to get out of here first.” Sledge said.

“They”ll get to us soon enough.”  Carly said.

But they didn’t. The night wore on and I didn’t sleep but just a few moments of conscious lapses here and there. The next morning we dug into the rations and turned on the lights for a bit while we ate. Then it was lights out again and sitting in the dark. We tried talking about whatever we could to keep our minds off the situation, but as time wore on we just got more and more silent as we ran out of things to say and energy to say it.

It was well into the next night when I heard it. The sound of rocks sliding and thumping  around outside somewhere and echoing into the metal of the safe-room. Then someone banged on the outside of the door. Sledge turned on the lights and Carly hit the button to open the door. And there laying in the dust under a little tunnel of debris was Van Desoto.








Martin On Mars – Just Another Day in the Mines – Day 27

This morning it was back to the mines. We were sent to a new area to drill and blast. Sweat poured down my back as I wrestled the heavy drilling equipment that provided a constant pounding to my body. I felt the familiar soreness in my muscles that bordered on mild pain and a mix of euphoric itchiness that indicated to me that I was adapting quickly to the new challenges of my mining days.

Eighty percent of my nanocells deactivated and flushed themselves out of my system after resurrection. The other twenty percent are maintenance nanos and stay in my body, replicating themselves when they begin to wear out. Through a communications network, they coordinate to provide maximum efficiency. They fill in when my body can’t. I could feel them helping to compensate for the extra load on my muscles. Triggering dosages of hormones, repairing cells, and building muscle tissues.

The noise of the drill was masked by the ear plugs. Through them a constant muffled barrage, like a hurricane of grinding, pumelled my brain. It dulled my senses and made me feel numb to my surroundings. The gritty dust settled all over, making its way past clothing and seams to rub against my skin and irritate it. This was a nasty, dirty job, and somebody has to do it. I’d rather not, but I’m doing it because I want information. The best way to get it, is to be here with the people who last saw Baxter.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see Desoto give a hand signal, his hand flat and pressing down with a motion which meant to shut down the equipment. I did so, setting the drill down and taking off my gloves. Dust poured out from the inside of the gloves and I sighed with relief. The crew headed to the makeshift break room that had been dropped by one of the loaders. It was was one of those safe rooms, with a table inside and some lights strung to the ceiling. A water cooler stood at one end with some cupboards containing a few meager supplies of food. Dry biscuits and some kind of sticks that were supposed to pass as pepperoni. It was calories and they were free, so they all dug into them whenever they could. They didn’t taste too great, but didn’t taste bad either, unless I remembered that they were probably ground silkworm from the farms.

The miners chattered around the table gruffly berating each other: Sledge, Jake, Stumpy, and Carly. Carly, among the worst of the group at times, appeared to compensate for her femaleness in the midst of all the testosterone. She held her own.

“I saw Carly down at the Dockside hitting on this hot redhead,” Sledge said, a grin played at the edges of his mouth.

“Bullshit.” Carly snapped.

“Yeah, so what’s the deal, Carly. You swing both ways or just one? Am I going to come to work some morning and see you snuggling up with Sledge in the munitions shack?” Stumpy joined in.

This prompted a round of guffaws from the rest of them. And Carly landed a good open handed smack to Stumpy’s unprotected head. Stumpy winced and cowered away, still laughing.

“So what was this Baxter guy like?” I asked.

“I dunno. He was sort of all religiousy,” Carly said.

“Yeah, he was like that. Weak as a babe when he started here. Sledge whipped him into shape though. Nice enough guy, if you didn’t listen to his God jabber.” Stumpy said.

“Blew himself up…didn’t make no sense. No sense at all,” Sledge reinterred his description of the event.

“Did he have any family? Anybody come and get the remains?”

“I dunno. The company-men came and got what they could find. We didn’t hear much after that.” Sledge replied.

“They don’t really tell us much.” Jake said.

“Other than where to drill and how long, that is.” Carly smirked.

The fact that there wasn’t much left of Baxter’s corpse, meant to me that there hadn’t been one. Baxter was still around, and he was going to be up to no good soon enough, and very alive. But he’d had to have had some kind of help to make that disappearing act fly, and the fact that the company-men had been involved smelled to me like the company itself was in on it.

“That reminds me. I was having a beer at the the bar next to the mine entrance…” I started.

“Dockside,” Stumpy interrupted.

“Yeah, at the Dockside. And I ran into this old-timer there by the name of Laurence, I think they called him. You guys know him?”

“Yeah old Laurence, he’s been around a long time. Freelancer he was, until his stake got wiped out. He’s been sitting up there on that stool for years telling that woeful tale.” Jake said.

“He’s what the company-men call a malcontent,” Sledge said. He pronounced it like mall-contant. “It don’t do no good to sit and moan about how things are. They just are, and that’s the way of it. This here’s Mars. It’s hard, and it don’t change for nobody.”

Sledge got up then and the rest followed suit. I reluctantly did the same, my muscles had stiffened a bit while we sat. I made my way towards the door, but before I took even two steps, there was a large explosion. The floor rocked beneath us and dust poured in the door of the safe house. Carly reacted first and slapped her hand into the big red button by the door. A thick metal plate slammed into place over the open doorway and sealed us inside. Somewhere out there in the rocks, dust and destruction, Van Desoto fought for his life. And that bothered me, because I was starting to like that guy.