The First New Martians
A Novel by Eric W. Deakin about how Humankind began the ascent to the stars via inner space and those who made it possible. How an old soldier, his dog and a young Aboriginal girl, with help from the Axis Engineers, changed the history of humankind forever. How more money than the collective wealth of the entire world was spent on this mission.
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This Novel is to be one of three in a series entitled:
"The Eighth Sister of The Pleiades"
Published as an eBook on Amazon Kindle. Excerpts below, examine three secondary characters of this first novel. Note; that paragraphs and other aids to reading have not been included here, since they were removed by the web-setup software.
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Jasmine’s mother was a shareholder in Jula’s space station. The one share had cost almost a years income. No dividends had yet been paid and the share could not be sold except back to Jula. She would get a free trip into near space to inspect the station and would receive dividends if and when the project became profitable. Jasmine survived her teenage years and found herself in university. She had a scientific gift. All of science seemed to make immediate sense to her. Her studies progressed rapidly. But her head was above even the clouds. At home she would track the rapidly expanding space station with an optical telescope. Its tracking system was coupled to her tablet computer/telephone. She dreamed of working up there where in her eyes it was all happening. She was lauded by her faculty. Her research projects had yielded fame for her institution, her professor and herself. The time came for her mother to visit the now almost completed space station. Jasmine’s mother had always been afraid of heights and of flying. No way was she going on one of those tourist orbiters where she would be subject to high G forces and a period of zero G. Jasmine was an only child. Her father was killed in action, fighting religious extremists when she was but a baby. Her mother was awarded a generous pension in recognition of his bravery and her loss. She could not believe her luck. Her mother would not fly and had asked that her daughter might take her place. She would visit the space station of her dreams.
Jasmine sat in the passenger module, of the tourist venture’s mammoth orbital lifter, on the Woomera airfield as cockpit checklists were run down. A time honoured word or two was given by the human pilot to calm the passengers and she felt the thrust of the six giant turbines. The composite airplane accelerated rapidly down the wide, long strip of concrete until rotating it lifted off and climbed into the air with the slow grace only the biggest planes seemed to possess. The accent to separation altitude was uneventful. Drinks and motion sickness preparations were served while pre-recorded instructions were played. The lifter pilot announced imminent separation and handed over to the pilot of the orbiter. She introduced herself and explained that they would experience at first increased G forces as they accelerated to orbital velocity and then zero gravity as they reached orbit. They were warned yet again to secure any and all personal objects so that they would not float away.
With a slight clunk and jerk the orbiter separated from the lift plane. The lift plane fell away and the Reactive Alternate-Propellent Intelligent R.A.P.I.E.R. Engines fired up. Jasmine was forced strongly back into her seat as the smaller passenger and frieght module accelerated and gained altitude. As the sky slowly, almost magically changed from its customary blue to the darkest black, the stars came out to welcome her. The blue-white horizon below became more and more curved and whole continents could now be seen. Jasmine mused that the world was actually a lot smaller place than she had previously thought. Its peoples, though now tenuously united, were becoming more and more concentrated as the planet filled with more and more people. The thrust from the now rocket propelled engines flamed out and they were subject to zero G. Despite all the warnings, all manner of personal objects and discarded rubbish floated about. The cabin crew scouted expertly about, collecting these floaters with nets, advising the passengers that they could collect any valuables after docking with the space station. Jasmine felt her tummy seem to rise up and she no longer needed her brassiere. She didn’t feel at all sick but her head felt sort of full and her tummy sort of empty. Her feet floated free of the floor and her knees came up unbidden. Unless restrained by her full harness seat belt she felt she would float away. She had been prepared for this new environment but the actuality was far stranger than her imagined scenarios. Some of the passengers threw up into the self sealing bags provided and some just plain vomited. The smell of vomit pervaded the whole cabin overcoming the deodorants that had been released. Some escaped particles floated about and one globule of sickening vomit approached Jasmine. Thinking quickly she blew at it and it sailed away to impact another passenger who was busy emptying his stomach into a bag. Another hazard avoided thought Jasmine.
Occasionally the hiss of orientation thrusters and the clatter of their operating valves could be heard. Then a short roaring of the main rapier engines as the module corrected its orbit to rendezvous with the space station.
It was more than 2 hours before they closely approached the space station. It could be seen in the cabin view-screens and looked quite small. Soon it filled the screens and all that was now visible was the docking port. The clatter of valves and hiss of thrusters was constant until the slight jolt of contact and the heavy clunk of docking clamps. Jasmine thought she could feel the life of the station. Slight vibrations seemed to be transmitted to the module. When approaching, powerless in orbit, it had been smooth and silent. Now it seemed as if the station and its docked module were alive. She was thrilled. This was her preferred environment. She knew with a flash of prescience, here was where she would spend her life. Here was the start of humankind’s endless expansion into space.
The cabin crew opened the module’s docking hatch then turned to take one passenger at a time and escort them, in zero G, through the hatches, starting at the front and working back. The station airlock hatches were opened by station personnel and as they did so Jasmine felt a slight change in air pressure on her ears. Jasmine had been sitting well back and was able to view the process of disembarkation with ease. The clumsy attempts at movement, of those passengers unused to zero G, was amusing to watch. One young man thought he knew it all. He released his seat harness and propelled himself forward with surprising speed. He misjudged his trajectory, bounced off empty seats and the cabin roof to arrive at the hatch bruised and chastised. Jasmine noticed one girl who released her own harness and then reached her hands forward to the waiting cabin crew. The girl then played dead, allowing the crew to easily hand her forward and through the hatch. Jasmine decided to adopt the same method when her turn came. As the cabin crew-person came back for her, she released her harness holding on to the centre strap. She reached forward and the crew took her hand, She eased herself out of her seat, aligned herself with the access way and relaxed. As the crew girl propelled them both to the hatch she said to Jasmine “you’re very young to have done this before. I do wish all our passengers were trained as well as you are.” “This is my first time” added Jasmine “I just watched another whose passage was smooth and easy.” “Well” said the crew “you are observant and you were not sick at all. I assumed you were returning staff.” As she was propelled through the hatch the crew girl called out “here comes a good one” As she transited the hatch a hand reached for hers and she looked into the face of the helper who said “I know I’m here to welcome her” Jasmine was “gob-smacked” the person reaching for her was her greatest heroine.
Jula was addressing a group of employees and one of her children. In her hand she held the passenger list for the arriving orbiter module. Each passenger was assigned a guide, with the exception of two returning employees. As the passengers were each allotted their guide, who would be their constant companion throughout their stay, Jula said to her daughter “your charge has not disembarked yet.” The group slowly became less as passenger after passenger was lead away down the zero G corridor. Through the hatch came the call “here comes a good one.” Jula reached forward herself and took the hand of a pretty, young girl who looked into her eyes very surprised. “Madam President” she said “I had not known you were to be here, let alone to meet little me. Jula returned “you are more important than you might be aware. Your fame at your young age precedes you. Here is your guide. She is of my people. She will take care of you and explain all.” Jasmine was handed to a smiling dark skinned girl who introduced herself as Elaine.
Elaine helped Jasmine to propel herself down the long corridor. Soft rungs were attached to all sides, floor and roof of the corridor and made progress quite easy with practice. At the end of the corridor was an elevator the doors of which were open. They moved in and as the doors closed. Elaine showed her the floor where her feet were to be placed. With a comforting and familiar whirr the elevator began its way. A little negative gravity was felt for a moment and then was gone. Jasmine felt her weight then slowly returning until the elevator came to a halt and she felt heavy for another brief moment. As the doors opened, she found they were in another corridor. This one curved up hill in front of her she could now stand and Elaine explained that they now had 0.4G and it would stay that way unless the station was spun down. This she said this would not happen except in great emergency. It would be announced and take many minutes.
They walked a little way and turned to the left down yet another level corridor, lined each side with closed doors. Over each door was a green light. Elaine explained that if the light was red the door would not open because the air pressure behind was too low or the door was locked. All doors were pressure doors and in the event of air loss at any place they would help minimise the losses. She went through the hull breach safety drill with her. When a pressure deficit was detected a voice alarm would indicate this and she should look immediately for a door with a green light and enter, no matter what door it might be. Secure locked doors would have a red light. The doors were numbered A1-A100. They stopped at A47 and entered the small but well appointed room. Elaine indicated that this was to be her room alone during her stay and that her meagre luggage would be delivered there soon. A view screen was set in one wall and Elaine turned it on. She selected a channel and showed Jasmine how to operate the remote. “This program will show you most all you need to know about the rules, policies and etiquette of the station. I will leave you a while to familiarise and make yourself comfortable. I will come for you in an hour or two to show you around some of the station.” With that she smiled and left.
Jasmine was excited to the max. She had met the appointed ruler of the Earth who was her special heroine. Jula was known to be at least 250 years old and many others of her race were of great age. Much of the prosperity and peace of the planet was attributed to her distant, reluctant and loose administration but absolute power. Jasmine’s education had been paid for by a granted, hard won scholarship from Jula’s interests. Jula had known of her coming to the station and known of her success in scholarship. Did she meet all visitors? Was she always on the station? Would Jasmine meet her again? Her guide resembled Jula. Were they related? So many questions needed to be answered. Would or could Elaine answer them? Jasmine settled down in front of the view screen to learn all she could. No preparation could have possibly been enough to answer all her questions. Her viewing was interrupted by the arrival of her luggage. The young man knocked and entered and handed her possessions to her. He said “If you need privacy do lock your door and its light will turn red. If green anyone can enter should they wish. Have a good stay.” With that he left her, alone again to view and ponder.
After watching the introductory video, much of which she had known from her own research she had done ahead of her trip, she paged through the other channels on offer. There were entertainment channels from Earth stations and one or two locally produced entertainment and information sources. A menu for the day’s food production and work rosters for all were offered. She was surprised to note, Elaine was a technician in Jasmine’s own field of endeavour. She settled on a view of the Earth bluely, sliding, slowly and majestically beneath the station. She had found there were very few windows in the 0.4 G rotating section. Direct viewing and telescopic viewing was only available from both static ends where there was zero G. The View of the earth was mostly in darkness and she could see the lights of the world’s cities clearly. As they passed over Australia, she imagined her mother, in her radiantly lighted street, in front or her TV screen watching the news of her arrival at the space station. Would her mother know she had met the world’s president?
All too soon, Elaine returned and let herself in. Jasmine had left her door unlocked in expectation of Elaine’s return. She explained to Jasmine about the protocol for locking doors. That jasmine could lock her room while away, if she wished. There had never been a theft on the station since its commissioning. Pressure doors, left unlocked, to rooms provided a safer environment in the event of a hull breach. Rarely, meteors or space debris would impact the station. Usually the damage was slight and the self sealing walls took good care of it. On one occasion a breach had needed pressure suited workmen to repair the breach before re-pressurising the section. No loss of life or health occurred and all those in the section had been able to move quickly to a safe area. She accepted Elaine’s offer to show her around the station and they moved out leaving the door unlocked.
The entire station seemed to consist of corridors with doors to rooms both left and right. Many rooms were the same size as Jasmine’s. Some were much bigger but consisted of modules the same size as her room fitted together without dividing walls. The whole station was modular and somewhat boring in its design. But what it lacked in varied design it made up for in its position. It did have social, recreation and eating areas that were larger and more comfortable to those who were used to wide open spaces. At the very end of the tour Elaine showed Jasmine into a larger room filled with scientific equipment that was very familiar to Jasmine. It was very much like the laboratory she occupied at her university. It had more and better equipment, was brighter and lighter and smelled better. Three people resembling Elaine were working there. They welcomed Elaine and she was introduced to them. She was surprised that they knew of her and her work. Elaine said “this is where I work. I was picked to accompany you because it was known you would be interested in what we do here.” Jasmine offered “I know what you do here. I can see your work in progress. You are splicing and engineering plant genes.” Yes Elaine said “We are trying to engineer food plants to live in zero G and on oxygen poor Mars. We are working with fungi, low level unicellular animals and plants. Our best to date is a mix of all three that will grow at low air pressure and high carbon dioxide in water. We did little to engineer it. It was found growing in sub zero water on Mars. We have no knowledge where it came from. It could easily have been introduced panspermaticly on an impactor or it could be a survivor from an ancient Mars.”Jasmine was excited. She was shown the microscopic extremophiles and polyextremophiles and was able to describe them in detail. To say that her companions were surprised might be an exaggeration but certainly surprised they were. They showed her new forms of tardigrades that could live almost anywhere. It was meal time long before they had finished their discussions. They put away their specimens and filed out together to the mess room they were to share. Discussion went on long into the night and by the time Jasmine could retire to her room she was very tired and slipped into a deep sleep with no delay.
Jasmine had thought she would spend her time at the station stargazing or learning of the ways of survival in near space. She did find an observation port but the view was disorientating with the constant motion of the earth and moon sliding quickly past the port. She spent much of her time with Elaine and the other geneticists and was able to further their work considerably with her own concepts and ideas.
It too soon became time to leave. She was surprised again when Jula accompanied her and Elaine to the docking hatch. “Elaine tells me you have helped a great deal with her work here” Jula intoned. “I was made aware of your work on Earth and we hoped you would find interest here in that same work.” Jasmine listened in stunned silence as Jula offered her a position on the station working with Elaine and the others. “We do not pay wages here” said Jula. “Money is useless everywhere that we work and play. However if you should return to Earth permanently after a time, you will find yourself very rich indeed. When your studies are finished we will be in contact with you. I hope your stay here was of value to you and I hope you will give our offer every consideration.” With that, Jula smiled into her eyes, took her hand and squeezed it lightly before leaving Elaine to see her through the docking hatch.
Jasmine later mused that if she had not been speechless she should have thanked Jula for her generous offer. She was so full of emotion and regret that she did not notice as the orbiter undocked. The first thing she remembered was the roar of the Rapier engines as the orbiter slowed for re-entry. The shaking, buffeting and howl of the re-entry through the upper atmosphere was a little frightening but soon the stubby wings of the orbiter extended and it entered atmospheric flight mode. Its landing was little different to that of any airliner. Jasmine’s mother welcomed back to Earth, a very different girl. She was driven in her enthusiasm for her chosen field of endeavour. Her doctorate came quite soon and with it came Jula’s offer of employment. She knew she would have to say goodbye to the mother who she loved dearly. She had no intention of ever returning. She had additionally applied for Mars to be her eventual home. There she would rise to greatness and acclaim.
What she did not know and might never be told, was that the DNA profile that was done as part of her medical examination before flight had shown a surprising fact. There was a 98% possibility that she was a descendant of the Guardian who was not known on Earth. He who had gone out into the desert with his old dog to die and was reborn. He who was the genetic father of Jula’s children. Jasmine was Elaine’s half niece, generations removed.
James counted himself as lucky. He, the son of a veterinary surgeon, had become a medical practitioner. It was not a profession he particularly enjoyed but it provided him with a good income. He had volunteered to accompany summer exploration teams to Antarctica as their Doctor. There had been little need for doctoring. There was almost no disease and only the occasional broken bones or contusions. Most of his time was spent with the exploration teams. His wide knowledge of the sciences and his sharp intellect had made him a valuable member. His experience with the Antarctic continent was extensive and when exploration was curtailed due to political meandering, he had been at a “loose end” so to speak.
He had first thought to continue on in general practice but he received an offer of employment from a private company to lead an exploration team to Antarctica to survey volcanic sites. There were treaties limiting the exploitation of the Antarctic continent but exploration licences were being granted. He was to pick his own team and be in complete charge. He couldn’t believe his luck. This was a job he dreamed of and the salary was astronomical.
The exploration would begin on the South Shetland Islands. He was to attempt to find a system of volcanic lava tubes stable enough and not part of an active volcanic lava system to be able to be cleared of ice. The tubes were to be used for the establishment of an underground research establishment. The ice above was to be stable and suitable for a cleared airstrip.
His budget was stupendous. The company was a mining company and though mining was as yet not allowed under treaty, it was thought to be only a matter of time before mining would begin. He would have at his disposal a purpose built, ice breaking, rotary wing aircraft carrier mother ship and its crew. It would carry heavy lift helicopters and prefabricated surface buildings for temporary base camps. His contract was for three years and was subject to renewal if his work was found to be further needed. He could recruit whosoever he needed and their salaries would be at least 30% higher than any they might receive elsewhere.
All activities were to be fully recorded via written reports and video storage. He recruited news reporters and camera teams for this task. Four vulcanologists were to be part of his team. One a trusted older professor, the other three younger men were selected by him. Powerful ground radar and operators were needed. Men known by him to be reliable in the frigid environment were contracted. Civil engineers, catering staff and all the known staff needed for such an operation were recruited. This was to be the greatest Antarctic exploration team in history. Yet no news of it was to be leaked to the world in general. This was a covert operation and a security team composed of retired ASIO and AFP operatives was part of its makeup. The Australian Government knew of it only as a military secret. The Argentine Government who claimed the area knew nothing of it outwardly. They had been substantially bribed to turn a blind lucrative eye.
When found there were plans to seal the lava tubes and build entrance shafts. Power plants, accommodation, laboratories, workshops and leisure areas would be established. No expense would be spared.
James found himself in charge of the largest Antarctic base in history. The ship was long gone. In the huge camouflaged and heated aircraft hangar sat three of the heavy lift choppers and two smaller utility choppers. There were two turbo jet commuter aircraft and the air strip could be cleared of snow by robotic tractors in less than two hours. The strip was exceedingly long.
The accommodation could house nearly four thousand but was home to just three hundred at this time. The cavernous lava tubes housed massive hydroponic farms heated and lit by fusion power generators. Even sheep and cattle roamed the pasture below ground.
Though not really necessary the base was sealed and air locked. Unless in emergency outside air was excluded. Air was freshened by the hydroponic farms and sophisticated scrubbing and recycling plants.
James had now met his employer. He had travelled tourist class to the Earth station to meet Jula and others of her teams. He now knew the Antarctic station was a training and preliminary base for Mars colonisation. His employment was permanent if he wished and he could remain in charge of the base.
He, the younger vulcanologists and many of his team were asked to volunteer to help establish a base similar but larger still, on mars, in the near future. Here was a future he now knew was his.
Mike checked his survival pack yet again. He had been out on the surface in his Moon Rover for two days now. He needed to keep his radiation count as low as possible or he might find himself back on the Moon Station, doing something menial. The recalcitrant robot mining rig he was working on was almost ready to be returned to its shelter for rebuilding. It had taken a lot longer than he had thought. A micro-meteorite had damaged its cold fusion power cell. A temporary battery cell and solar array were being fitted, so that the autonomous machine could slowly return to its base. Mike ached all over. He had recently taken up residence in the new 0.75 G habitat. Years of zero and 0.4 G accommodation had weakened him despite all the exercise programs. Even though, he was acidulous in his application to the task, his bone density and muscle mass had diminished. Many, like him could never descend into a planetary gravity well again, without the possibility of becoming permanently disabled.
He had been born in the lands of the Horn of Africa, where his father had been killed in sectarian conflict. He and his mother found asylum in Australia. The desert regions of central Australia were not unlike the home he left behind. He found playmates with the Anangu children and had been swept up in Jula’s recruiting drives. He was so black and shiny, even more so than the Anangu, that he was known by them as Black Mike. He worked at Woomera and was swiftly moved to the Antarctic base when the world went mad. From there he had volunteered for the Moon bases.
He made either the mistake or the grace of falling in love, there. Melissa had swept him off his feet with her rare beauty and advanced sense of fun. She was a geologist and he was thrown close to her on field trips he led. Somehow, she had become pregnant. Either the drugs were faulty or she had not taken them and substituted his with placebos? The odds of this pregnancy occurring were very low, without help. Either way it was done and she would not entertain the termination of their embryonic child. They were one of a number of couples expecting children. Previously, they would have been sent to New Mars, where he might never be useful again. Melissa might recover her strength, since she was younger and was a recent moon girl. Even the 0.75 G was wearing him out and his bones, despite the drugs, were painful in their slow recovery. He did feel stronger though now in the 0.16 G outside the habitat. He hoped the predictions of his therapists would become fact. Soon in the new habitat, babies would be born. The first Moonies. Once developed, they could manage the 0.4G stations and short surface time on the moon.
When Mike had first come to the moon station from the Antarctic base, he was enthused with the enormity of the project. The sheer size of the project; of building the machinery for the Mars base’s construction and the mining and processing plants on the moon to accomplish this was staggering. Then after years of work; with Mars now being self sufficient and the cease of trade with Earth, many of the plants closed. He thought he might have to go to Mars as others had. Now, a new project, bigger if anything than the Mars construction had begun. Interplanetary ships, one hundred times larger than any before built, were ordered. They would have rotating centrifugal gravity habitats and would house hundreds. They would be like, small mobile space stations. On Earth the cost in time and money, of a project of this size, would have been considered unsustainable. There was as yet, no money in inner space. Food, habitation, recreation and all needs were provided. All were looked after well during work, leisure and retirement. It was absurd not to work. Those who would not work at all were considered to be insane and treated for this condition. A very few were spirited back to Earth and now faced the problems there. With the workforce available only foodstuffs and energy were needed. No project was too big. Crops and livestock, under hydroponic domes, grew well and the fusion generators were tireless. Only the time taken was in doubt. How long would all this take and how much expansion of the moon workforce would be needed. In a few years time, a new generation of Inner space children would be ready to take up some of the tasks. The life span of Humankind was now well over two hundred years and rising. Some said four hundred years of age was likely for the children. Then there were the Anangu. They seemed ageless. Known to be well on the way to four hundred years of age, they all looked to be in their late twenties. A new surge of enthusiasm had taken the moon. Mike would help build these ships. He might one day help crew one? Always there was a bright new future to come. The peoples of Earth were regarded as lazy and insane. They had the Goldilocks planet. Life was easy there. You did not have to be constantly vigilant, just to survive. Yet they seemed to achieve nothing but mayhem. They were spoiled by abundance. Who would want to live there?
Melissa was a new arrival on the moon. She had been a part of a team of geologist students, studying in the Antarctic base. She had been born in Sydney, Australia and had won a scholarship, funded by Jula. The geology and climate of Antarctica was so much the same as Mars. She was told, “In time, she might be given the opportunity to work there.” At the end of her studies, she was given the option to return to her birth home or to work on the moon and its station. Sydney had been subsumed in the march of the Asian hermit kingdom. Her only family left to her was her brother, who had become a drug addict. He now cared nothing for her. She opted for the moon. There, she had been instrumental in finding, well needed, mineral deposits. Her field trips, out onto the unforgiving surface of the moon, were often led by Mike. He was so confident. He was so capable and he was so beautiful in his total blackness. His ready smile and easy laughter was infectious and Melissa was smitten. She wanted him for her own and she wanted a child just like him.