The Extinction Protocol – Part 2

SOL677 Olympus Colony:

“Colony Log Commander James O’Neill: It’s been 7 sols since the news was delivered, in only twelve days Earth and everyone on it will cease to exist. Well the Earth might still be there, but no people, no oceans, no… nothing that made it home for us humans. For me.”

O’Neill paused for a moment to think.

“Everyone here has been handling this well, I’ve given them a ton of stuff to think about no one has had chance to think about it much. Including me. But I know there will be a time when it will hit us all and in all kinds of crazy ways. Melissa was right, just because we’re here does not mean we’re safe from human greed and the need to survive. I need to prepare and be ready, for what I have no idea yet.”

Again he paused, thinking of his family, doomed back on Earth and unable to talk to be with them or even talk to them. In a few days everyone was going to be granted a final communique with Earth. O’Neill appreciated the sentiment, but what the hell was he going to say?

“Right now I need to to help the human race to live, survive here and right now. I don’t know how that’s going to happen or for how long. If things go well we have at least three years apparently. But if that’s what we have to look forward to then is it really worth it?”

O’Neill signed off.

“If we can’t get these resources from Earth then we might as well walk into the Martian desert and take off our helmets tomorrow becasue we’re just delaying the inevitable!” Stitch was always a fighty character but lately he had been much more so. “We need either solar panels or raw materials to attempt to make our own! You need to tell them James!”

“I’ve told them! I’ve told them at least twice a day since you told me this and I can’t get an answer out of them!” O’Neill shouted back. He was starting to lose his patience with the engineer. It seemed he was expected to suddenly be able to make things happen from 50 million miles.

This was supposed to be a calm rational plan to go over the plan as it stood right now.

“If you boys have finished!” Melissa cut in sternly, “I do have good some news. The earthworms we brought with us in stasis seem to have mostly survived. We brought with us a small sample of Earth soil to see how Earthworms would respond to living on Mars.”

“That’s right I remember this, what do we think the prospects are of expanding this to providing us with supply of sustainable soil that we could use to grow food with?”

“This is a tough question, we need to be very careful and make sure we keep these worms alive and even if we can get them to reproduce and make soil it’s going to be years before we’re at the kind of levels we need to sustain crops. We also need to make sure we keep quantities back as a safety measure in case of accidents. If we put it all in the new dome then we lose everything!”

Stitch grumbled “No good if you don’t have power for heating!”

“Save it will you?” Melissa shot back at Stitch. ” We are going to need you to get dome built and the sooner the better!”

“Yeah it won’t take five minutes you know!” Stitch grumbled back.

“No, but we still need it!” O’Neill cut in, hoping to stop another argument. He thought that now was not the best time to see if additional domes could be built. This one was planned anyway, any others would not be. O’Neill looked at the two men across the room, one small without much hair and round glasses, the other a grey and bearded man in his fifties. O’Neill wondered how these two got here, neither physically ideal to make the trip to Mars, but they both had good heads.

“What about you two? Have you found anything useful?”

The smaller man coughed softly and straightened his glasses. “Yes we have. As you know we have been examining core samples of the soil from all over Mars. This had originally been to look for signs of microscopic life but we have started going over the samples again from a materials extraction point of view and have found some interesting things.” He looked over to his grey haired colleague.

“As you know, there’s a lot of materials we already knew about in the Martian crust, like Iron, magnesium and Silicon we have been looking for elements that could be useful like copper but we haven’t found any evidence of it yet. We think there may be some areas in the mountains to the east of Olympus Mons which contains trace elements we can’t yet identify, but we don’t know what it is or how much of this there is.”

Stitch started up again “It’s fine having the raw materials but solar panels don’t just grow out of the ground, we are going to need a lot of power to process these materials even if we find them! I think we haven’t yet got any semiconductor fabs on Mars!” Stitch started looking through papers, flicking over and over “Nope, not one here yet! This is a waste of time!” Stitch got up and walked out of the room.

for a moment the four remaining sat in silence, O’Neill broke it. “We are going to have to find ways to create power. Whether that’s solar or by some other means.” He stated calmly.

The man with glasses spoke up again nervously. “Yes we have been coming to the conclusion that solar energy may not be viable in the long term here on Mars, we do have some other suggestions.”

“Like?” O’Neill was interested.

“The may be some scope for geothermal energy, or using solar in a similar way on Earth the generate energy from heating water.”

O’Neill groaned “Water is not common here on Mars”

“I Know.” The man answered “But it will be easier to create water than silicon panels.”

O’Neil nodded agreement reluctantly and dismissed the meeting. Miranda remained as O’Neill buried his head in his hands. Realising he was there, without looking at her.

“We’re fucked aren’t we? I’m starting to think Stitch may be right.”

“Really? Miranda shot back at him. “I can’t believe you think that!”

“No. But God this is going to be tough!”

“Yes.” Miranda agreed. “But not impossible!” Miranda left O’Neill to his thoughts. But not for long, a buzz came through the speakers.

“Commander O’Neill?” The voice asked.

“Yes, what is it?”

“You’ll want to see this.”

“Is it bad?”

“You just need to some and see. It’s simpler.”

“On my way.”

In the control hub O’Neill walked to the ops area. “What is it Lewis?” O’Neill aske a young man in his twenties, he had a military look about him. Even though he was primarily an analyst he could easily pass as a Marine.

“I’ve been getting the inventory data through on the Martian conveyors coming in and there’s something I don’t understand.”

“In what way?” O’Neill asked.

“I was hoping you might know, you said we were expecting some new human resource but I thought the rest was supplies?”

“That’s what I was told.”

“Well what’s this?” Lewis pulled up a computer graphic of the ship on the main screen, he pointed at the section between the small habitation module and drive section. The Martian conveyors were predominantly unmanned, their path taking them back and forth between Earth and Mars to ferry supplies. Modules would be sent up, dock with it and then sent to Mars where they would land. It was the most cost effective way of supplying the Martian colonies.

“They look like habitation modules don’t they?” O’Neill said out loud.

“That’s what I thought.” Lewis agreed. “They have literally plastered the conveyor with supply modules as well, I’ve never seen a conveyor so loaded before. But with ten modules housing twenty people that’s a maximum of two hundred people potentially coming here.”

“We can’t support that. Not a chance. What the hell is going on? Have you been able to raise control yet?

“No. They won’t answer any messages.”

“Me neither.” O’Neill was thoughtful, he knew that Earth had a lot on but there were loved ones here and there that wanted to say their last words. But then maybe society had destroyed itself already. Sighing for a moment he despaired, the reality of what was going on was starting to sink in to him and everyone.

“Is there anyone supervising the conveyor?”

“Not sure.”

“Try and find out and find out what’s going on and what exactly we’re getting.”

“Ok. This conveyor has only just started towards us and is some months away. But conveyor two is only a few weeks away and I’m not able to get inventory from it.”

“What the hell is going on?” O’Neill was wondering how long this had been known about, how long had they been kept in the dark. “Find out what you can Lewis, we need some answers.”

“Commander” A young female voice came from behind him. A young brunette that looked younger than her years addressed him.

“Yes Jess what’s up” O’Neill sighed.

“Sorry but I’ve just had a garbled message from a lone rover that’s stopped some distance form the base, the only thing I can get is that the rover has a serious malfunction. I assume they need assistance but apart from that I can’t gt anything from them.”

“How far out are they?”

“They’re 124 k’s away.”

“That’s about a day there and a day back, if we’re lucky.” O’Neill thought through his options for a moment. It seemed to him that events were rapidly getting out of his control. He had to reign things in or at least appear to to attempt to maintain any kind of morale.

“Get the EBA team to prep a rover for a long distance rescue mission!”

“Already done that!”

“Great! Well done Jess.”

“Who shall I assemble to go?”

“I’ll need you as you’re the most qualified field medic, I also need Melissa” O’Neill instructed.

“Will she command?”

“No, I will. Ben will command while we’re gone.” O’Neill had a chill in his bones, leaving the base and putting anyone in charge could be a risk. But it could also show the true colours of his people. The only way of knowing if was worth the risk, was to do it. Jess picked up her EVA kit and headed for the rover bays. O’Neill had a few things to pick up before he followed. But he was all too aware that it might be the last time he left the control hub.

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