Martin on Mars: The Day The Wall Fell – Day 31

The smiley face kept me awake.  I couldn’t sleep and the snoring of my smelly dirty mining roommates didn’t help either.  I just about jumped out of my skin when the ding of a message emitted from my wristband computer.  It had stayed dormant for so long that I’d forgotten about it.  And that’s when I got dipshit Baxter’s log message that he’d left. That was it, nothing more came through. He’d arranged for his message to come through to me, somehow. Just so he could gloat. So I would know for sure that he was the one who’d done this. So he could get his last dig in before I died down here. But all I could think of was, the bastard is down here with us, and I’m gonna find him.

We set out into the tunnels and dug our way through. Martian dust has a unique smell.  Percolates, which are various types chlorine salts, mixed with the smell of gunpowder. Gives you sort of the ambience of a firefight at the pool. I haven’t figured out just what causes the gunpowder smell. Maybe it’s the sulfur, and maybe it’s just me, or maybe all those meteors that plowed into Mars over the last couple billion years put some of the same mix on it that they did on the moon.  I dunno. But we were kicking up plenty of the dust as we moved through the tunnels, clearing the debris and digging ourselves out.

Carly and Jake dragged Van Desoto behind them on a makeshift travois made from parts of the table in the safe house. He protested frequently that he could walk much more comfortably than being dragged along the dust on a frame of metal.  But I told him to stay put because I wasn’t sure how far along the nano-cells had gotten with the healing process.  They had been tuned to my genetics, and while they may be doing a great job clotting up any internal bleeding, I was sure that his gene sequence was going to give them fits.  They would probably halt and allow themselves to be flushed out rather than possibly do harm. There was an incredible amount of sophisticated programming involved with those tiny machines. Alone, a single cell was pretty simple, like some bytes of computer memory, like a few microscopic transistors on a chip.  But together, in millions, they combined their resources into a very smart hive mind of medical genius. It was hard to predict what they would do.  So I was prepared to get some heat over giving Van some of my blood. First for risking his life, which in my view had already been at risk.  And second for unauthorized distribution of nano-materials, which is a federal offense. Fortunately, I work for the feds. So they can just piss off.

We made steady progress for about four hours and then ran into a completely collapsed tunnel.  Everyone was exhausted and we just couldn’t deal with trying to dig it out at the moment.  Besides, as I looked at the tunnel I realized that there were some pretty big rocks in there that neither I nor Sledge could likely budge.  So we sat down in the dust that smelled like gunpowder pool, and we just rested a good long time.

I was feeling pretty dozy, when Carly came up to me and gave me a nudge. “Martin,” she whispered.  “I heard something down the tunnel.”  She gestured back the way we’d come.

“What did you hear?” I asked.

“Some kind of shuffling noise, then a a little bit of rockslide. It might be nothing, but then it…”

“Might be Baxter,” I finished for her.

“Yeah,” she nodded.

Her face was set with grim determination to be brave, but inside I could see her shaking.  Because Baxter had gotten in to some of the crew, like a freaking ghost demon. Larger than life.  And I knew that the little bastard was just a man like any one else, except for a very messed up brain.  And that might give him an advantage on some points, super intelligence, whatever.  But when it came down to it, he’d bleed like anyone else.  Well perhaps better than myself thanks to the tiny robots in my veins. The point was, it pissed me off that he’d gotten to them.  He didn’t deserve to own that kind of power over them, and I mean to see that got corrected.  ASAP.

“Carly.  Believe me when I say this.  I’m going to take him out.  He’s going down, and it’s going to be quick and its going to be soon. I promise you.”

“You do that Coswell.  And I’ll have your back.”

“I’ll be honored to have that,”  I gripped her by the shoulders and gave them a good meaningful squeeze.  “Now lets have a look down that tunnel.”

I took one of the crowbars we’d brought from the safe house to move rocks with and swung it experimentally. This would do just fine.  Carly shone a flashlight ahead of us and we crept along the tunnel with me in the lead.  I knew I was sticking my neck out here, but I also wanted Baxter and I wanted him bad after what he’d done to Van.

We hadn’t gone more than a hundred yards down the tunnel when we heard tapping of metal on rock.  Then the sound of rocks and gravel sliding, then some more of the metal sounds again.  Ahead I saw the dust kick up and then a light poured in from the side of the tunnel. I gripped the crowbar tightly in my right hand ready to lunge on Baxter if he showed his face.  He wasn’t going to take us by surprise again. Now that he was caught down here with us in a collapse that he’d caused, it was the perfect opportunity to get him.

“Martin?”  A light shone right into our faces.  I couldn’t see the person shining the light, but I knew that voice.  It was Chalie.

 

 

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.