Authors: Michael Burnside
On the 31
January 2178, a life pod from the Hercules XXI, which was on a delivery mission to the Clarke station orbiting Mars, was picked up by a rescue ship. The location of the pod was in the vicinity of a recent explosion, the source of which has not been identified or revealed.
board the pod was one survivor in a serious but stable condition. A deceased crew member was found in a body bag. The cause of death is currently unknown.
A journal of the last few weeks has been found and is currently being inspected.
THE MARTIAN JOURNAL
Johnston Log 0001
I’ve been staring out the window of my cabin for what must be an hour now. I’ve been to the Aldrin station several times but this is the first time I’ve spent longer than a day here. Normally after the five month journey from Earth, it’s just a case of unloading the cargo, filling in the paperwork and heading straight back to the big blue ball. If the company purse men weren’t on my back so much I’d probably arrange for the crew and myself to spend a few days just relaxing. As much as I love the old Hercules XIX, sometimes five floors just isn’t enough when you’re cooped up with a dozen other souls.
After nearly half a year living like that, the Aldrin is a buzzing metropolis, no pun intended. I never really got a chance to see much of it on the other visits but this time is slightly different. The Aldrin is merely a stop off for the next part of my journey. In three days time I’ll be heading out on the two and a half month voyage to the Clarke outpost science station orbiting Mars. All with a brand new ship and a brand new crew.
I’m pretty excited but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous. The Clarke is one of the most infamous and, ironically, secretive research
centres. And aside from the twenty or so scientists based there, few people have ever gone that far into space. An honour indeed and of course the triple rate pay will be more than welcome.
I feel maybe this should be my last deep space job. When I get back to Earth, I’ll see if I can get a cushy route from the Mir III to the Armstrong Moon base. I’ve talked about it with Karen before I left for the Aldrin. It’ll be a smaller payslip at the end of the month but her research job at the Armstrong is more than enough. And she will get to see a lot more of me. Wonder if she sees that as a plus or a drawback?
The Aldrin just seems to get more and more impressive. I always thought it was amazing from my fleeting visits but now that I’ve had time to really explore it, it really is a wonder.
Hard to believe over six and a half thousand people are living and working here so far from Earth. It’s totally self-reliant for food and energy, thanks to the farming dome on the lowest level. I tried to get down there to get a closer look as I heard it was like an indoor rainforest, but I was shooed away by some jobs worth in a white lab coat. I imagine if I did that aboard the Clarke I’d be thrown in shackles, tried on the spot and then ejected out of the airlock before I could explain I was lost.
There really is a sense of
tranquillity and peace here. The air feels so much fresher and the people here are genuinely happy and friendly. Well, except the guy in the white coat.
I’m sitting here in the central dome looking up at the huge glass ceiling and wishing that I had a few extra days to relax here. Unfortunately, tomorrow morning I have my meeting with the government official who will give me the usually standard run down before we shoot out on Thursday. I’ll meet the crew there as well and with a bit of luck they’ll be a solid bunch. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a tin can in space for months on end with a bunch of jerks.
Unfortunately my meeting with the official has been moved to Thursday with the launch now on the Friday. A report came through of a bomb that went off in Florida at one of the launch sites. They’re still waiting for the so called Earthbinders to admit responsibility, along with their usual message of how mankind should not attempt to pollute the universe like they have done to the Earth. I never understood why whenever incidents like this happen on Earth, it puts a slight hold to the space stations. If they’re that so against space travel then they’re hardly likely to be able to come up to space to cause trouble.
Needless to say, the official, whose name I’m told is Sarah Connelly, is busy today with double checks, emergency protocols and other red tape nonsense. On the upside, I still get to meet my new crew later on tonight. They’ve reserved a room for dinner and drinks for us in one of the special VIP guest lounges. I could get used to this special treatment.
An interesting bunch to say the least. Initially it started off bad when the first person to arrive was the white coat who chased me away from the farming deck the day before. He looked equally pleased to see me. Introduced himself as Dr Leonard Lloyd, emphasising the doctor part, before examining the cutlery at the table. I thought best to leave him as there would be plenty of time to get acquainted during the journey to Clarke. I’m hoping he’s one of the scientists who we’ll be leaving on Clarke along with the cargo as I’m sure he may not survive the return trip back.
The next one to come through was the complete opposite, although I’m not sure if that’s much better. He was a bear of a man who loudly introduced himself as Hutchie and told me he was the
ship’s engineer. I prayed nothing would break down. The smell from him told me that he must have had a few drinks already. Although I did warm to him slightly after he walked over to Lloyd, gave him a slap on the back and asked for a beer for him and his new ‘bud’. The look I got from Lloyd was priceless and I did my best to stifle a smirk.
The next two came in together.
They were brothers, twins
Frank and Aaron Harris, both navigators and will be the ones who keep us on course. Totally identical except that Aaron has a slight limp. Hutchie made a joke that he must have drunk too much already and was seeing double. The Harris brothers seemed to accept him better than Lloyd did and took him up on his offer of a beer for each hand.
Finally an elderly gentleman entered the room. He quietly introduced himself to me as Malcolm Callaghan and he would be a passenger on the voyage rather than a crew member. I actually had to strain to hear what he said, although the noise Hutchie was making didn’t help. Having said that, once Hutchie noticed Malcolm, he immediately fell silent, almost embarrassed by his loud behaviour in front of such a senior citizen. Malcolm simply smiled and told him not to let an old man like him ruin the party. This started Hutchie up again and called for another beer for Malcolm.
The meal was one of the finest I have ever had. Steak cooked to perfection and the potato wedges were the best I've tasted. The new crew all seemed to blend well with the exception of Lloyd who remained silent. He seemed to obsessively inspect each piece of his food before eating it while Hutchie on the other hand, shoveled it in while joking and telling some inappropriate stories. The Harris brothers seem to have taken to him. While I can see that part of them would share Hutchie’s enthusiasm for a good time, I sense a strong sense of duty and pride from them both. Even Malcolm, so much senior seems to have gelled well, even if he is just merely smiling and nodding at the jokes.
I tried engaging Lloyd in conversation but I just received short, sharp answers so I thought best to leave him in peace. I did find out that much to my pleasure, he will be remaining on Clarke when we return back. I asked Malcolm why he was travelling with us and he replied softly that he had business there. He didn't say anymore about it and I didn't want to push it. Clarke is after all
, full of top secrets and people have probably been ordered not to talk about it. Perhaps Lloyd has good reason to be the way he is.
Lloyd and Malcolm both excused themselves after the meal to return to their quarters. Malcolm stating he's not the young man that he once was while Lloyd gave a quick 'evening gentlemen'. Hutchie and the Harris brothers had no intention of turning in just yet. As much as it would be a good opportunity to get to know them, I thought it best to keep the distance between captain and crew for now. I bid them good evening and told them not to over do it. Hutchie stood up straight and gave a mock salute, which made the brothers and I laugh. A likeable guy, although I wonder if I'll still be saying that at the end of the journey.
More information came through about the bomb in Florida this morning. Seems it was a lot larger than they first reported. Seventeen dead and scores more seriously injured. Still no statement from the Earthbinders but every world leader has come out of the woodwork to condemn it all. As usual the
People of Earth party spokesman released his statement saying that while they share the basic beliefs as the Earthbinders, they do not agree with their methods. I can almost recite it word for word I’ve heard it that much. Still, that’s the advantage of being in deep space; you don’t have to worry about these nut cases running at you with a bomb strapped to them.
I met Malcolm in the central dome later on in the morning. Seems like myself he enjoys staring at the stars above. He asked if I’d heard the news of the bomb back on Earth. I told him I could hardly get away from it, even up here. We both wondered if the
People of Earth and these Earthbinders could just come up here for five minutes, would they change their beliefs.
I asked if he was coming along to the briefing meeting at noon but he said it wasn’t necessary for him to be there. He said he would be happy spending the day in the central dome. Just as I was leaving him, I spied one of the Harris brothers jogging through and called over to him. Since he was walking without a limp I safely assumed it was Frank. I asked him how the rest of the evening went. He smiled and said it was an enjoyable one but him and Aaron left shortly after I did. Hutchie apparently stayed on much longer and was informed he was getting quite friendly with one of the older waitresses. He told me he and Aaron would be there at the briefing but he didn’t know if Hutchie would be in much of a healthy state. He carried on jogging, leaving me to wonder how our engineer is going to work out.
I arrived at the briefing and was pleased to see that everyone had made it well in time. Hutchie sat in the corner, quiet with his head in his hands. Obviously paying for the night before. Lloyd sat on the opposite side of the room, looking at Hutchie with a mixture of bewilderment and disgust. The Harris twins were sitting chatting amongst themselves and I was just about to take a seat beside them when I heard a woman’s voice call my name.
She introduced herself as Sarah Connelly and shook my hand. At first I was amazed at how young she was, barely in her twenties and then I was amazed at how hard she shook my hand. I noticed from the corner of my eye that Hutchie had perked up when the attractive but rather straight edged woman was introducing herself. Unfortunately for him the feeling was far from mutual judging by the appalled look she gave him.
Lloyd also introduced himself, emphasising once again the doctor part, but with a slightly better tone than he gave me. The Harris brothers just gave polite nods and when she looked down to check her notes, they gave each other a knowing smile.
When she began the briefing I hardly took anything in. I’ve been to so many of them and there’s never anything different said at any of them. The destination, the time frame, health and safety procedures, confidentiality and all the usual legal stuff were all read out to us. I could have sworn Hutchie fell asleep at one point. I might have fallen sleep myself if I didn’t catch her mentioning that they were seven people travelling to Clarke. I counted six and when asked who they were she named us all, revealing Hutchies real name is Lindsey Othello Hutchinson, and then added her own name.
I sensed the others perking up, knowing they would have female company for the trip, but I wasn’t too thrilled the idea of a government official watching over us. I asked what the need was for her to come along. Before she could answer, another female official knocked the door, and told Sarah she was needed. She excused herself, concluding that she had covered everything and told us she would meet us at the launch. She left the room before I had a chance to hit her with a barrage of questions. Hutchie waited until she was safely out of hearing distance, before turning to the twins and giving a loud, filthy laugh. The twins themselves reciprocated polite chuckles, while Lloyd quickly exited the room without saying a word.
I’m really not sure what to make of this voyage now. I suppose I’ll find out soon.