Transit to Mars and the Jodie Foster Game


I don't see what all the fuss is about. It doesn't look any bigger than the


You can be blase about some things, Rose, but not about Titanic. It's over
a hundred feet longer than Mauretania, and far more luxurious. It has
squash courts, a Parisian cafe... even Turkish baths.

	“Who chose the fucking movies for this fucking fucked up mission?”, Hammer said, leaning back with his arms crossed across his chest in derisive scrutiny.

	Emerson flipped some switches on his console to recirculate the air tanks of the Pegasus from the environmental station and turned around.

	“Well, they did cut half a billion dollars from this mission.”

	“Hey, didn't the Mauretania sink also?”, asked Hammer.

	“No, I think that was her sister ship, the Lusitania”

	“How would you even know that, Emerson?”

	Emerson laughed, “I don't know. Pensacola is a Navy Town.  There's a museum. I think the Lusitnaia was smuggling weapons.  Or at least that's what the Germans said.  That was one of the events that drew us into World War I.”

	“You know it might have been the same person that put two death row niggas on a mission to Mars in a spacecraft named after the Planet of the Apes”, Hammer pointed out, “which is a fine, fine science fiction movie, by the way.”  Hammer was a fan of old movies.

	“Are you sure it was the Pegasus?  I thought it was the Phoenix?  Wasn't Pegasus from Battlestar Gallactica or Star Trek?”

	“It wasn't the Phoenix.  You're thinking of The Flight of the Phoenix or the polar lander where we're going.”


Honestly, Cal, if you weren't forever booking everything at the last
instant, we could have gone through the terminal instead of running along
the dock like some squalid immigrant family.


All part of my charm, Ruth. At any rate, it was my darling fiancee's beauty
rituals which made us late.


You told me to change.


I couldn't let you wear black on sailing day, sweetpea. It's bad luck.


I felt like black.

	Hammer slapped his knee and said, “Well, I got some black right here for ya' Honey!”, 

	Emerson laughed out loud.  He couldn't remember the last time he laughed like this.  “You gonna bring her the Hammer?”


	“Yeah, this movie is pretty horrible...How did you get that nickname anyway?”

	“After Hank Aaron, my Grandfather was at the game when he broke Babe Ruth's record.  My full name is Henry Aaron King.  But it's got a little Elvis Presley in there.  Know what I'm sayin?  Anyway, he gave my father a copy of his book,  I Had a Hammer:  The Hank Aaron Story.  Did you know he was from Mobile?

	“My Father named me after Ralph Waldo Emerson.”

	“Why did he do that?”

	“I don't know, he left before he could tell me.”
	“Probably so you could be a rugged individualist, eh, Emerson Free-Man.”  Hammer chuckled.

	“Emerson first man on Mars.”  He retorted

	“Emerson SECOND man on Mars.”

	“Not like they'll tell anybody.  They'll wait till' some white people arrive.  It'll be just like Columbus and the 'Indians'.”

	“True dat.”


Those mud puddles were certainly a waste of money.


                      (looking at a cubist portrait)

You're wrong. They're fascinating. Like in a dream... there's truth without
logic. What's his name again... ?

                         (reading off the canvas)



                      (coming into the sitting room)

He'll never amount to a thing, trust me. At least they were cheap.

A porter wheels Cal's private safe (which we recognize) into the room on a


Put that in the wardrobe.

47 IN THE BEDROOM Rose enters with the large Degas of the dancers. She sets
it on the dresser, near the canopy bed. Trudy is already in there, hanging
up some of Rose's clothes.


It smells so brand new. Like they built it all just for us. I mean... just
to think that tonight, when I crawl between the sheets, Iill be the first--

Cal appears in the doorway of the bedroom.


                             (looking at Rose)

And when I crawl between the sheets tonight, I'll still be the first.


                        (blushing at the innuendo)

	“Not if she felt like black!”,Hammer cackled.

	“Fool, there aint' a single nigga in this whole movie!”
	“Naw, they had those Irish niggas, instead.”, Hammer pointed out as he shook up some Purple Tang in a plastic sip bag, “If they had real niggas it would be a good movie.”

	“If they had real niggas, it would be Amistad.”

If this were Amistad, Them would be some pissed off Irish.  Just like The Terminator killlin' rich white folk.”

	“Now that was a bad movie.”

	“Pfft...Whaaaaat?”, Hammer spit up his drink, astonished.

	“Dude, it's a total ripoff of Fahrenheight 451.”

	Emerson did his best impersonation of actor Michael Biehn, “It can't be reasoned with, it can't be
bargained with, it doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear...and it absolutely will not stop, ever, once it has been
targeted.  Unless it's destroyed."
	Hammer looked at him quizzically.
	“It's the same description as the Mecanical Hound.”
	“You're saying Arnold Shwarzenegger is the Mechanical Hound?”
	“Well, he was with that Mexican housekeeper bitch.”  They laughed.
	Emerson grabbed an electronic tablet and pulled up Ray Bradbury's passage from the book:
	  Mechanical Hound never fails. Never since its first use in tracking quarry has this incredible invention made a mistake. Tonight, this network is proud to have the opportunity to follow the Hound by camera helicopter as it starts on its way to the target... 
	“I don't know, that's pretty thin.  That's, that's quite a stretch.”, Hammer was skeptical.
	“It's not just that.  The way he descibes it.  Smelling of blue electricity and green glowing neon eyes, hypondermic needles for fangs?”
	“Nah. I don't see it.  That part reminded me of the O.J. Simpson chase with the helicoptor and everyone watching on their portable televisions.  Kind of eary how accurate he was about the future when you think about it.  Now, The Book of Eli, THAT is a ripoff of Fahrenheight 451.  Only instead of several guys memorizing the Bible, it's one guy with super Jesus Shaolin ninja skills.”
	“And Mila Kunis, I agree.”
	“And fine Mila Kunis' fine ass!”
	“Hey, Hammer, if you could have sex with any science fiction girl, who would it be?”
	“Hmmm.  Well now, that's a tough one, Emerson.  Grace Park from Battlestar Gallactica.  Jeri Ryan from StarTrek Voyager.  Halle Berry from The X-Men.  Jessica Alba from Dark Angel.  And Slave girl Princess Leia goes without saying.  How about you?”
	“Linda Hunt from Dune.”  Emerson tried as hard as he could to keep a straight face, then they both starter to laugh uproariously.
	“Damn,” Hammer coughed between giggles “She didn't get hit with the ugly stick.  She fell from the top of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down!”
	“Impressive, since there are no trees on Arakkis!”
	“You are a SICK, SICK man.”
	“Hey, can't I get a shoutout for Shadout Mapes in the house?”  Emerson pushed his palms to the roof as if to raise it.
	“She's a great actress though.  She was great in The Year of Living Dangerously.”
	“Word.”  They fist bumped.


At Cherbourg a woman came aboard named Margaret Brown, but we all called
her Molly. History would call her the Unsinkable Molly Brown. Her husband
had struck gold someplace out west, and she was what mother called "new

At 45, MOLLY BROWN is a tough talking straightshooter who dresses in the
finery of her genteel peers but will never be one of them.


By the next afternoon we had made our final stop and we were steaming west
from the coast of Ireland, with nothing out ahead of us but ocean...

	Hammer snorted, “Shouldn't Kathy Bates big fat ass be puttin' some Misery on Jame Caan?”

	“I think she uses him as a floatation device at the end of the movie”, Emerson giggled.

	“The UNSINKABLE James Caan!”, Hammered made a pose like a floating corpse.

	Just then, a Klaxon whined.  It sounded like the bonus ship at the top of the screen in space invaders. The white LED cabin lights went out as red lamps pulsed dimly. Emerson and Hammer instantly sprang to action.  They had done this drill hundreds of times.

	The first part of the solar flare drill, was to turn the ship into the storm so the heat shield and the “North” pole of the Electromagnetic Field would take the brunt of the aurora.  Then they shut down all the computers, taking precautions that they don't fry themselves with electrostatic charge by flooding them with with Flouronert.  Then, theyy packed up all the removable storage and put it in a lead laced bag marked PANIC ROOM.  Special mylar slats were popped off the wall and secured to the computers and other electronics to disperse radiation away from them like a stealth fighter.

	Next they scrammed the nuclear reactor and flipped over to battery power.  It wasn't all that unlike what you might do in a diesel electric submarine going from 'sprint mode' to 'drift mode' during silent running.  Now, they put on their spacesuits and went into their radiation shelter in the core of the ship, which was a freezer surounded by 500 gallons of ice.  

	It was three layers of radiation protection.  First there was the electromagnetic shield that simulated the Van Allen belt on Earth.  Second, there was the layered mylar paneling with it's dense hydrogen chemical composition.  In between the panels and the hull, water circulated through polyethylene pipes.  Lastly, there was the ice within the poyeurethane walls of the cold storage shelter.  Nothing, was made of aluminum or lead because of the secondary particls created by cosmic rays.  All of these things were used to redirect, diffuse, or absorb radiation.  Spare parts were kept in the core in case anything burned out, despite their precautions.  The only light inside the shelter was the green and red safety lamps and a big liquid chrystal clock letting them know how long they were in the shelter.

	Of course, there was absolutely nothing to do inside the panic room.  The tiny box they were sheltered in was built to the most redundant, minimalist specifications.  This is because it absolutely HAD to work.  It had to work every time.  If it didn't work, it had to be easy to fix and if you had to fix it, it had to be fixed quickly.  Comfort was not a consideration.  Emerson and Hammer laid in a foam cylinder six inches
 from each other.  A few minutes of silence went by.

	“Hey you want to play a game?”, Hammer asked.

	“What kind of game?”, Emerson wondered .

	“Well you know that drinking game called Bizz Buzz?”

	“Yeah, isn't that the math game where every time a number is divisible by five or seven you say 'bizz' or 'buzz' instead of the number..  Some nerds at M.I.T. or Princeton came up with it, right?”

	“Right, Emerson, except the name of this game is Jodie Foster.”

	“Okay, why is it called Jodie Foster?”

	“Well, you remember theat movie Contact?

Yeah, now THAT was a great science fiction movie,  I loved how they explained everything.  I hated the ending, though.”

	“Right, well, do you remember how the alien signal was all in prime numbers?”  Hammer rubbed his cold hands together partly in anticipation.
	Emerson rolled his eyes as he put it all together, “So we have to say Jodie and Foster alternately if it's a prime number?”


	“Well, okay,”  Emerson agreed, “sounds hard, but I'll start.  One.”




	“Bizz, no wait, wrong game.  But five is a prime number, so Jodie.”

	“Too bad, you lose!”
	“Let's start over.”

	The proton storm started over 100 Million miles away about nine minutes earlier.  Deep within our star a thick nuclear soup was boiling under  two nonillion kilograms of gravitational force.  There, deep in the eddys and whirlpools at the core, 696,000 kilometers deep some heavier elements formed pockets upsetting the stars normal balance.  Under the pressure of 250 Billion atmospheres it churned like a molten butter at 15.6 Million degrees Kelvin.  Out of this shot a ribbon of plasma flying across the trajectories of the inner planets to wash over the tiny spacecraft like a tsunami over a single grain of sand.  It's milky helium ions and free protons splashing transversally wide over an entire astronomical unit, broadsiding the plane of our solar system.

	Four hours later.

	“Jodie” Emerson said with a sigh of anguish looking up at the red lamp.  “Godammit is this thing ever going to end!”

	“7122.  How much battery do we have left?  Twenty hours?”  Hammer was becoming concerned.  It seemed like they were in here for days, already.

	“7123,  Yeah, you'd think with our lives depending on it they could make our reserve power last longer than a cell phone.  So, if we run out of battery power and the hazzard light is still on, who goes out there and tries to fire up the reactor? ”

	“The loser.  7124.  Well, we're not real people, remember?  We're animals, explendable like Sputnik or Lika.  They told us this was a suicide mission.  They always send the niggas on the suicide missions.”

	“So that's why you came up with this game.  7125.  Yeah, we're the death row suicide squad.”

	“Hey I like that!”, Hammer thought long and hard about his next move being a bit brainweary, “ hundred...aaaaaand twenty six.”

	“Foster.  Dammit!  I was hoping this game would end.”  Emerson was getting tired, too.
	“7128.  You know, that would be a great name for a band.”

	“Jodie.  Yeah.  It would.  The first band on Mars!  We'll have to make our own instruments,  I wonder if our 3D fabricator can make a functional horn.  That;s what I play, the trombone.  How about you Hammer?”

	“Drums.  7130.”

	“7131.  Should have seen that coming.”

	“But, when I play drums they call me 'Hepcat'.  7132”

	Then, finally, the threat lamp went from red to green and Emerson popped the hatch of the panic room.  “Wait,” Hammer said, “Don't you want to finish our game.”  Emerson looked at him the way you would look at a crazy person and they both climbed out of the ice box.  They readied the cabin for normal flight operations, then went back to their movie.


Don't do it.

She whips her head around at the sound of his voice. It takes a second for
her eyes to focus.


Stay back! Don't come any closer!

Jack sees the tear tracks on her cheeks in the faint glow from the stern
running lights.


Take my hand. I'll pull you back in.


No! Stay where you are. I mean it. I'll let go.

	“Oh, please.  Just let the bitch die.”  Hammer growled.

	“You don't like Kate Winslet?”

	“No, it's not that.  It's class warfare.”

	“Class warfare?”


No you won't.


What do you mean no I won't? Don't presume to tell me what I will and will
not do. You don't know me.


You would have done it already. Now come on, take my hand.

	Hammer complained once again, “JUST LET HER DIE Or PUSH HER IN !!!  She won't return the favor later when there is plenty of room on that board of hers.”

	“Oh not this again.  Didn't they do an episode of Mythbusters about that?”

	“He never shoulda' went back for the bitch anyway.  All those rich mother fuckers are gonna' be war profiteers on the Mauritania, anyway.”

	Emerson corrected him, “Lusitania.”

	“That too.”


Ever been to Wisconsin?





Well they have some of the coldest winters around, and I grew up there,
near Chippewa Falls. Once when I was a kid me and my father were
ice-fishing out on Lake Wissota... ice-fishing's where you chop a hole in


I know what ice fishing is!


Sorry. Just... you look like kind of an indoor girl. Anyway, I went through
some thin ice and I'm tellin' ya, water that cold... like that right down
there... it hits you like a thousand knives all over your body. You can't
breath, you can't think... least not about anything but the pain.
Which is why I'm not looking forward to jumping in after you. But like I
said, I don't see a choice. I guess I'm kinda hoping you'll come back over
the rail and get me off the hook here.


You're crazy.

	“That Leo Decaprio pussy wouldn't have lasted a day with us in Antarctica!”, Hammer was incredulous.,  He scrunched his nose up and spoke in a mocking voice “Let's see him hump his ass up Vinson Massif with a hundred pound ruck over Kate Winslet's precious ass.  Shit.  I would have thrown her in a crevace for a warm penguin fuck. ”

	Emerson's thoughts went back to that first day of training with Sargeant Limpdick, stripped down naked and blasted with a firehouse.  Twenty death row inmates competing for two spots   Three months of non-stop conditioning, over a hundred mile hike over a white sea of nothing, then scaling the tallest mountain at the bottom of the world.  Only the two of them were left.  They say that extreme experiences bring people close together.  Back then, they would have stabbed each other in the back for a hot grits. They were competitor in a deadly game   Now he trusted Hammer with his life.  He HAD to trust him with his life.  But he didn't know anything about him, until now, and  they literally had the rest of their lives to get to know each other.

	“Hammer, have you ever read any Robert A.Heinlein?”

	“You mean like Starship Troopers?  No, but I would hit Denise Richards' fine ass from the movie.”

	“Ewww!  Even after that skank fucked Charlie Sheen?”

	“Well, maybe after Wild Things.  Terrible how Charlie died though.”

	Emerson agreed, “Yeah, I wouldn't want to be the one who had to clean  up that mess.  Anyway, you ever read a story called Logic of Empire?”

	“Naw, what's it about?”

	“Well, there are these two Lawyer at a bar having an ethical argument over an investment they have in a Venus Colony.”

	“Go on.”
	“So they get really drunk and make abet on it.  When they wake up the next morning, they discover they've enlisted to a work camp and are on their way to be sold into slavery on Venus.  They get separated and one of them befriends a plantation owners daughter...”

	Hammer interrupted, “Is this like a Richard Wright Native Son  kind of thing?”

	“No.  He doesn't have sex with her.  I think she was,like, thirteen and pimpled.  He does get hunted though after he makes his escape and starts to lead the revolution.”

	“Sounds pretty good.  What happens to the other guy?”
	“He buys their freedom and they both go home.”

	“That's it?  What kind of fucked up ending is that.”

	“It's just capitalism.  It's what happens during colonialism.”

	“It's what's happening to us.”

	“Yeah,” Emerson was in agreement, “but maybe were more like Huck and Jim in Huckleberry Finn.” Emerson did his best Tobey Maguire impersonation from Pleasantville. Huck and the slave. They were going up the river, trying to get free. And, in trying to get free...they see that they're sort of free already.”

	“Which one of us is Jim?  I seem to remember it didn't end so well for him.”


That's what everybody says. But with all due respect, I'm not the one
hanging off the back of a ship.

He slides one step closer, like moving up on a spooked horse.


Come on. You don't want to do this. Give me your hand.

Rose stares at this madman for a long time. She looks at his eyes and they
somehow suddenly seem to fill her universe.



She unfastens one hand from the rail and reaches it around toward him. He
reaches out to take it, firmly.


	“What a fool.”, Hammer glowered, “I would have set all the lifeboats on fire and sail away as those white devils burn.”

	“So, Hammer, did they lock you up for arson?”

	“No, I killed a cop who killed a kid in my neighborhood.”

	“Well then, I think I know your favorite paert of The Terminator.

	“How about you Emerson.  You don't seem like the killin' type.  What'd you do?”

	“I got drunk and blacked out. When I woke up, I was covered in my girlfriend's blood.  They said I killed her.”

	Hammer paused, “Do you believe that?”

	“Yes. I do now.”

	There was a long uncomfortable silence made almost uncomfortable by Celine Dion's screeching dying-catlike voice.

	“...It was the Icarus.”, Emerson said, changing the subject.


	“The Icarus was the spacecraft in the oriignial Planet of the Apes.

	It was also called Liberty I.




Emerson was half awake in his greenhouse one Martian morning, when he felt something crawling on his eyelid. The fluttering of his rapid eyeball movement curtailed as his right eye complained itself in to something like being awake. His iris darted about to his forehead where the trespasser had vacated to, a place where his pupil couldn’t focus. He felt its six tiny legs peddaling over and between his eyebrow hairs, deftly, with the ease of an Olympic hurdler, in an impossible percussive meter; 3-2-3-1-1, 3-2-3-1-2, 3-2-3-1-1, 3-2-3-1-2.

Yep. It was a bug all right. What the fuck?

He slapped at his forehead and squashed it flat, snuffing out the tiny little spark of it’s life, but, ow! Not before it had bitten him. He scraped his hand off his brow to inspect his kill. Even though it was all smushed up, he could make out legs jutting out of what once was the main body of the creature’s segmented thorax and crooked feelers coming out of what was left of it’s head. It was an ant.

But, what the fuck? How did an ant end up here with him on the planet Mars? What the Hell. This was not the way to wake up in the morning, or whenever the Hell this was. There was no coffee sent with his rations. Mornings without coffee are the worst kind of hell. Emerson rubbed his eyes and rummaged through his equiptment for a microscope slide and a magnifying glass to make sure it was what he thought it was. Then he triple checked it with his microscope, taking pictures of it with his webcam, making sure to make several poses of it’s mangled little body with a pair of tweezers. He then sent the images through the sattelite uplink to Earth on it’s four minute voyage to Mission Control in Houston. What do you make of this?

About ten minutes later, Emerson received a reply. Processing, please stand by.

Great! They were processing. Wasn’t that fucking special! In the meantime, he had counted three more ants crawling around his habitat. He tried to catch them in his fingers, but ants, it turns out are surprisingly slippery little creatures. You either squash them or they end up crawling on your finger, and Emerson was stung on his knuckle figuring this out. He finally caught one with his tweezers and was able to imprison one in a petry dish. He took some more photos and sent them through the uplink. Look, there are more. This is a live one! Right after he sent it a message came in. Yep. It looks like some kind of ant. Need a live sample to identify it.

No shit sherlock. Tell Jodi Foster I made contact and go fuck yourself. This was America’s best and brightest. Emerson was not amused.

After about ten more minutes there was another reply. Good. Stand by. Then another reply came over the satellite. Subject Identified as Solenopsis Invicta. Hybrid South American Fire Ant. Check your onions.

Emerson made his way to the 3’x10′ rows of sweet onions he so proudly cultivated in the delicate Martian dirt and combed through the pulpy green knee high stalks. It didn’t take long to find the colony, a lightly perforated mound of soil about the size of a popcorn bucket. Out of the little tiny holes, hundreds of little workers went back and forth in slavish subservience to their Martian Queen. This wasn’t what Edgar Rice Burroughs had in mind, but still, it was the first city on Mars.

The story of these ants was altogether more impressive than Emerson’s. They survived much worse things to establish this colony on Mars. Their journey started in an Andean rain forest valley of Peru, on the edge of the Amazon river. Their habitat slash burned and bulldozed for farming, their home bombarded with chemical weapons, a small enclave of refugees made their way to a Costa Rica, thousands of miles away. There they faced a similar ordeal at a coffee plantation, before migrating to Honduras, where one of their queens and a small entourage of workers found their way to Mobile, Alabama with the dim-witted trophy wife of a NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab scientist. There, her spoiled brat five year old distracted the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beagle Brigade with a slice of Carnival Cruise Lines’ pepperoni pizza and a perfectly timed temper tantrum. There, it made it’s way with him to work in the back of his jeep, as part of his daily lunch.  There they hitched a ride on some onion bulbs and made they’re way 140 million miles in refrigerated hibernation to Mars. Here, within a matter of months, these vagrants built a small, vibrant metropolis with little more than the single minded will of their hive. By comparison to Emerson, the distance they travelled would have been to Proxima Centauri, 4.22 Light Years away.

How the first Martian city was born.

Let me tell you how the first Martian city was born. It was me and a shovel. Just the 750 cubic foot Zubrin Habitation Module (or HAB) and a hole in the ground. After locating the rocket-less Earth Return Vehicle Module (ERV), I exploded the inflatable geodesic greenhouse unit and secured it with spikes to the soil. Then after setting up the aqua drilling unit, I grabbed my Russian entrenching tool and began to dig. Then, I dug some more. When I was bored, I would dig, which is pretty much all the time when you are alone on Mars. When I wasn’t bored, I would also dig. When I was happy, probably from a good day of digging, I would dig. When I was sad, probably from a bad day of digging, I would dig. I would dig by day. I would dig by night. I would dig in the haze. I would dig in starlight. I dug so much, I began to think I was Shia Labeouf in the movie Holes.

Although “happy” was a relative term here on Mars back then. It isn’t orange like in all those NASA photos. It was really drab depressing colors that reminded you of a toxic waste dump. The abundance of ferric oxide dust, sometimes a few feet deep, gives you that reddish impression from a distance, but up close the soil was mostly a puke butterscotch. Walking over to the ERV, which made rocket fuel, to refill the Methane tank on the drill, from time to time you would see more colors. This spot, roughly ¾ of a mile from my landing site, was an ancient river bed roughly 2 Million years ago. These are the round gray pebbles Pathfinder found, like you would see on Earth. Black titanium magnetite, feldspar, some greenish rocks containing chlorine, tan and brown hematite, and aluminum rich zeolites littered the area. This would later be a good area to excavate for gypsum to make a crude kind of concrete and the zeolites would be used for water purification. But for now, it was like everything else in the mission: everything was simple and redundant. That way nothing could go wrong, or so they said.

I spent my time in half hour shifts. First I would spend a half hour working. Then I would spend a half hour resting, and wishing I was dead, in my doghouse of a space capsule. I had to re-hydrate myself frequently with a machine that recycled my own piss into “water”. Then I would be digging my gigantic hole, again. Initially I tried to separate dust and rocks in to piles, but the dust devils that frequently scurry by made the dirt piles a waste of time. I quickly learned to re-purpose one of my three re-entry parachutes to keep them from destroying my work between breaks. Later, I realize I had so much parachute that I could use it for nearly everything. I would do this for all 24 hours, 37 minutes and 22 seconds of the Martian day. I did this every day. I dug a hole. I dug a a great big hole. I dug deep into excruciating despair. I thought I was digging my own grave. I thought I was digging a tunnel to hell. I thought it would never end and nothing would ever change.

Then one day, something different happened. I was putting my aching shoulder to the wheel, when suddenly, it started to…snow? I crawled out of my hole to see my drilling unit blasted slightly a kilter and a snowflake geyser spewing up a hundred feet up in the sky. Suddenly it was Christmas all around me as it swirled with the light Martian wind, making everything an ice cave blue. I laughed out loud with such boundless joy that I lost control of myself. I was dancing around like Gollum at Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings, except I wasn’t nearly as sane. I was so excited, I started doing snow angels in the Martian sand. I don’t know how long it took me to compose myself as I realized I needed to cap the well. Still I couldn’t stop grinning, because now I wouldn’t be drinking my own piss anymore.

Initially, I took a piece of my never ending parachute cloth and covered the hole with some of the rocks from my pile. That stemmed the tide enough to where I could put together the capping unit, which consisted of a big aluminum flange from the retro rockets of my capsule and a series of pressure reducing PVC pipes that fit together with different densities of steel mesh. Then I removed the rocks and cut a hole in the parachute cloth. After inserting the pipe unit in the well, I bolted a big plastic collar over the flange, covered the flange in dirt, then rocks again. Finally, I bolted a valve to the top of the pressure reduction unit and closed it. After adding a hose, I then had running water.

When, I checked the chronograph on the drilling unit I was surprised to see that the bit had only been grinding for three days! It felt like three months, but the bore was exactly 37 meters deep, which was precisely what the Ground Penetrating Radar had predicted on the Martian Global Surveyor so many years ago.

Now, I could start farming. But first, I had to fill the hydroponic tanks of the greenhouse unit. At first sight, this wasn’t much more than an inflatable exploding tent with mylar windows, but there were some space age materials embeded all over this thing for insulation, heat, and power.. For example, there was a coating on the mylar of pencatene and silicon invented by Maxim Tabachnyk of Cambridge Universy that was 40% more efficient at producing Hydrogen from water than chlorophyll from plants. This made the unit an effective solar still and alllowed you to control the humidity. There was also artificial leaves from nano-proteins invented by Julian Melchiorri, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, that produced oxygen embeded in the cloth that made a beautiful mosaic. Together, they produced enough electricity to run a small fan at the base of the unit and some impellers for the hydroponic tanks. The floor of the greenshouse was also lined with a Silicon Boride-coated nanoshell material that turned 90% of captured light into heat invented by Sungho Jin, Zhaowei Liu, and Renkun Chen at the University of California San Diego. This way even if the plants died, you could breathe long enough to starve to death.

From here everything was straight forward and by the book. The first tank was for growing algae and there was a pre packaged slurry in a frozen bag that went into it. After a few days there was a seperate packet containing frozen fertilized Pond Loach eggs. The other tank was for rice, soybeans, and Azolla specially designed to live in this environment. Azzola was the critical crop, because it was a nitogen fixer for the nutrient poor Martian soil. It could pull Nitrogen from the air and put it in the soil. All these things were the first stage of agriculture on Mars. This and vitamin supplements was the “Martian Diet” developed by some Japanese researchers and you could certainly tell by how bad it smelled. It was worse than piss water. 500 hundred days of drinking my own urine and now I had to eat this shit! I wanted to kill those motherfuckers.

But it did get better. After a few days, I had a nice tank of algae which made for a nice toilet. A few days later, there were fish swimming in it I could eat! Yep, you guessed it, all part of the plan. All of these M.R.E.s they sent with me are as Nitrogen rich as they come. That nitrogen gets metabolised by the algae, the algae feeds fish, the fish feed me. It’s all part of the circle of life. Although in this case, the circle is as big as this letter o. If you haven’t tried loach before, let me describe it to you. It tastes like a cross between chum salmon and a goldfish. But hey, it was fresh meat on Mars! And it really wasn’t like I was eating my own stool, either, because the zeolites and other carbonate rock made a nice fountain filter. I was taking bits of riverbead that was dead for 2 Million years and bringing it back to life on a miniature scale. How cool was that? The sound of the running water was very meditative to listen to and did wonders to lower my anxiety level, being alone on Mars and all. It was the only thing that kept me from going totally insane.

Now that my well was working, I could dedicate my methane/oxygen collector to the rock grinder and centrifuge that were provided with the HAB. While everything could run on battery or solar panel these two things, as well as my drilling rig, could run on Methane. If it wasn’t for all those Btu’s I am certain I wouldn’t be alive now. How long would it have taken to drill 37 meters on solar power here on Mars? That would have been a lot of piss drinking and I don’t think the HAB modules purifier would be efficient enough to keep me alive that long, because you lose a little percentage every time.

Luckily, the sand by ancient riverbed proved to be much more geologically rich than I had anticipated, so I didn’t have to grind up so many rocks at first. When I first ran the centrifuge all of the compounds with heavier with things like lead, iron, titanium, fell to the bottom but at the top rose a nice creamy layer of feldspar and basalt. The basalt was critical. While there were many ways scientists had theorized you could make concrete on Mars, the problem with making it was two-fold. One was the scarcity of water on the surface. That problem had been solved at least partially. The second however, was getting a binding agent for the cement to hold the aggregate together. This ultimately would take time intensive mining and/or processing for things that are rare, like gypsum, since limestone is non-existent here. But with an absorbing agent like Basalt, you could make something like pycrete, a kind of frozen concrete, to make the first igloo on Mars. It wasn’t that radical of an idea, really. It was name after Geoffrey Nathaniel Joseph Pyke who, faced with a shortage of steel and aluminum during World War II, suggested building an unsinkable British Aircraft Carrier out of ice. About 70 years later, a televison show called Mythbusters proved the concept by building a functional boat in Alaska. While the concept of an ice boat has some temporary drawbacks on Earth, a warm day on Mars is like a cold day in Antarctica, making it a practical building material.

It was really quite easy from there. Inside the paneling of both spacecraft sent on this mission were rolls of Geocells. Invented right after Hurricane Katrina, these were ultrasonically welded high density polyethylene strips that expanded to form a honeycombs you filled with dirt to form flood barriers. They were faster to deply and had much less seepage than sand bags, and when it was discovered by NASA that polyethylene performed well as an atmospheric disburser of deadly cosmic radiation, that was when the Geocell contractor, already in a benificial relationship with the U.S. Army Core of Engineers pitched the idea of repurposing it.

But that wasn’t the only thing that was repurposed. The eight rubber rings of the inflatable skirt underneath the heat shield of the HAB were inflatable composite lifting arches made by Goodyear. They were first used in Operation: Enduring Freedom for when a 70 ton Abrahms tank fell into a cellar or became submerged after collapsing a bridge. Now they were being used as the skeleton to suport a roof atop and bracketed by a geocell foundation in a hole that was the size of a backyard swimming pool. Again, the parachutes were repurposed, fastened to the arches, pressurized, and covered with soil. The first house on Mars was built in a little over a month. That was phase one.