TRAVELER — PART VII
An Unexpected Answer
Mars had declared its independence from the governments of the Earth something like thirty years ago. There had been a concern about history’s first interplanetary war, but it didn’t go down like that. The colonies of Mars were self sufficient and simply wanted their autonomy from their respective governments (in this case, the United States and China) to exist how they wished.
Donna had been working as a US Ambassador to Mars at the time and she had been back and forth between Earth and the Red Planet more times than I’d like to recall. We had just gotten married and it put a strain on things, but we managed. It helped knowing she was doing something important for not only Earth but for Mars as well. When it was finally done, I remember the marathon sex and her unending need to eat real food, instead of that stuff they make with the food replicators.
I think of this now as Earl and I touch down on Mars, because right now we’re looking at the very colony Donna had gone to in order to do her work. The Armstrong Colony was situated in the Valles Marineris and had been the site for many of the negotiations between the US, China and the United Colonies of Mars. They didn’t have much of a military back then, but what they did have was enough to make taking the colonies back by force more expensive than either nation was willing to pay. In the end, it always comes down to money. As we look at the massive anti-starship batteries and the milling of troops coming in and out of the large, domed complex I see a lot has changed in those thirty years.
“Shit,” Earl began, “Look at all that hardware. Those are M-76D hover-tanks!”
“Yeah, US military hardware, but how did they get those? Any of this stuff?”
“Dunno. But this doesn’t look like a colony anymore than my mother-in-law looks like a woman. Suppose we have a look around and see what’s goin’ on here?”
“Probably a good idea. Let’s go.”
My first inclination was that they were on high alert because the Earth was basically obliterated. Without the Earth, Mars’ own orbit would be effected, though it’s impossible to say how. Could it be the result of an alien invader? We’ve not exactly scored well diplomatically with the Alpha Centarians or the Skull Nebula Confederacy but neither has been war-like. Not like this. Even as advanced as the Skull Nebula Confederacy is, they were more interested in hustling us their old technology for mining rights on the Moon than blowing us up. The implications of what could have happened were staggering.
Earl and I floated past the myriad of soldiers and military equipment towards the colony proper. It was a huge, domed complex that was built around a giant terra-forming tower. Because the fusion reactor within it gave off so much heat, a thermal dome was built around it to help create a habitable environment for humans while the atmosphere composition was being changed. It would likely be another fifty or so years before people will be able to live outside these domes, but the change will be a leap for Mankind.
It was amusing to me that Earl and I could simply cross the threshold and move about the busy colony complex without being detected, detained or questioned. We drifted through bustling crowds and the botanical garden stations that made up the majority of the colony dome’s interior, until we came to the center pavilion. What I saw there struck me dumbfounded.
“T-That’s Donna.” I managed to stammer. “Why is she kneeling before that Alpha Centurian?”
End of Story One