Monday, July 20, 2015

Story Seed - Incident on Mars

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Simon checked his O2 regulator again, the needle had sunk to just 6%. The respirator on his face was uncomfortable, damp with condensed moisture from his breath, and chafing around the edges where his skin was raw and windblown. The martian shook his head wearily, adjusted his pack and rifle, and then set off again. Six percent wouldn't last his very long, but he could see Olympus only a few kilometers away. Thanks to the terraforming efforts he might even make it.

One foot in front of the other. Little puffs of red sands blew away in his wake as the still thin atmosphere whisked them off. Simon loped along in the low gravity but he was already flagging, the long klicks from Marineris Dome wearing on him in combination with the cold and the constant grit thrown up by the wind. His buggy had done him well covering more than half the distance to Olympus before it's batteries had run dry. The solar cells couldn't keep up with the demand though so he'd been forced to abandon it, with a recharge and return protocol in place.

Now that he was within sight of his goal he thought back to the events that had caused this trek. Marineris Dome had been drilling a new shaft for its mine when they'd uncovered something unusual buried almost two hundred meters under the martian surface.  The worked metal spoke of something not from Mars, but it clearly wasn't human made either. They'd excavated it, an oblong probe roughly a meter in length and half as wide. Scans had shown it was solid, and its mass backed that assessment up. It was like a great metal raindrop, and some of the miners had been quick to assume it was the remains of some meteor that had fallen to Mars in its early days when there was a thicker atmosphere.

Of course that wasn't the case. High metal content meteors would still not take on this kind of shape and refined surface quality no matter how "gentle" their impact with a planetary body. Simon had pushed to quarantine the object, but by then it was too late. As the object warmed it had begun to see minute shifts in mass and exterior dimensions. Although they were not state of the art the Dome's quantum sensors had shown readings that spoke to exotic particle generation and decay.

The hallucinations and weird behavior soon followed. What happened next was something Simon wanted to forget. He'd need to be able to report to Mars Central Security, however, so he forced himself to remember. The weird behavior had started to spread. At first people were just acting out of character; there were a lot of short tempers, but people also started to do things obsessively. When the medical officer first called him to ask if the thing's radiation could be causing mutations he had almost laughed at the man. Within days Simon's laughter had evaporated in the face of reality turned to horror.

Some of miners, technicians and other scientists were experiencing strange mutations. In hindsight Simon supposed that there was a correlation between the instance of strange behavior and that of the mutation, but at the time it was something out of fiction. As the mutated workers began to attack those who remained human things descended into chaos.

That was when Simon had fled, taking a buggy and making best speed for Olympus. Two days an hundreds of kilometers later Simon was almost at his destination. The martian man flipped on his suit's radio and tried to reach Olympus Control. Static filled his helmet and dread filled his heart. Simon pushed himself to move faster and hoped that Olympus hadn't been infected as well.

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