Friday, 27 March 2009

A Colony On Mars : Chapter 1

. Friday, 27 March 2009

CHAPTER – Tim and Carla find work
May 28, 2107 : “Hey Honey, look at this ad in the Review Classified, I
don't believe it, we gotta check this out tomorrow morning.” “Don't believe what
you read Tim, you know, if it sounds too good to be true...” “I know Carla, If it
sounds too good to be true it's not true.” “But I think this may be different. The
ad was placed by Mars Colony, Inc. They have been working up there for
several years now and they are hiring, and look at what they are paying!” “Lets
see that ad, WOW”
“WORK ON Mars, That's right, we are now hiring in all categories,
unskilled, skilled and professional. The lowest wage we pay is $15,000.00
monthly to start. Ten year contract, required. All board and room equipment
and uniforms furnished. Must be an English speaking U.S. Citizen, between 25
and 35 years of age, have a clean police record, pass a rigid physical
examination, pass a drug test and have at a minimum a high school diploma.
Bring your birth certificate, shot record, national ID and health card, copies of
any diplomas or degrees and a detailed resume to Room 2277 Hempstead
building between 8:00 AM and 1:00 PM any weekday.”
“We are here about the jobs on Mars, is this for real?” It sure is, just sign
in and have a seat in the waiting room through that door, one of our counselors
will be with you shortly.” There were about twenty others already seated in the
large waiting room. It looked as though there might be quite a wait. A large
table at the entrance was covered with stacks of printed brochures. They each
selected two or three pamphlets, and found two seats together.
The man introduced himself as Hal Bergstrom, he addressed the entire
group. “So either you people want to become Martians or the money brought
you in, either way, you are here. I thought I could thin this crowed out a little
before you go to your interview. As you probably already know Mars has the
potential to support a population of over three hundred million people, but that is
only the potential. Right now there are fewer than three hundred workers on
Mars, their living conditions aren't the best. All but twenty seven of them are
U.S. Government employees, mostly scientists and such. They presently
reside in a cavern that covers about one half square mile.
Back in 2095, almost twelve years ago the Government sent in a work
crew of five hundred men from the Army Corps of Engineers. These workers
took two years to construct the present habitat. When they finished their
project, they left to returned to Earth.
“Once the Corps guys departed the Government people started to arrive.
One of the first projects that they embarked on was mounting the telescope in a
dome that had been constructed by the Army when they were there. This is not
as large and powerful as some telescopes on Earth, or in Earth orbit, but Mars
gets to view area's of the star systems that can not be seen from Earth. On
Mars they have several large dishes mounted on the surface that allow
searches by radio telescope.
There is plenty of water available in the caverns. “Everything else that
they presently have use has been brought from Earth. Electricity is provided by
a generator located in a walled off corner of the cavern. Atmosphere is
manufactured by an apparatus brought from Earth.” Their toilet facilities are in
yet another nearby cavern. They consist of porta potties separated for men and
women. There is a tank of hot and cold water with a dozen showers and wash
basins in each bathroom. The atmosphere has a stench to it, not just in the rest
rooms but everywhere. When you first arrive you will be appalled by it but after
a while you will hardly notice it.
If you are claustrophobic you do not want to take this job. The only way
that a human can go to the surface is clad in a Mars suit, which is similar to a
space suit. They do have plenty of water, underground rivers are plentiful.
There are fish in the stream but you can't eat them they are poisonous. We
really don't even want you touching them until we know more about them.
There is a small video library and each of you will have a personal media
player. That is about all there is to relieve the tedium of daily life.
Our company has had an average of ten employees there for the last five
years, it has taken them that long to prepare, seal and pressurize a small
cavern for the three hundred employees we are now hiring. This new Company
cavern can be reached by a short tunnel from the main cavern. It was just
recently pressurized with atmosphere which made it habitable. We are now
ready to send in work crews. Mars Colony, Inc. has the contract from the
Government for construction of all the additional necessities. Much of your
work will be done in the hostile atmosphere on the surface of the planet
wearing Mars suits. A Mars suit is very cumbersome to work in. We need to
build a sewer plant, install indoor plumbing, with toilets showers, water heaters,
a geothermal electric generation plant and run the electric wiring. In a few
months we want to start tunneling toward the next cavern. Our eventual goal is
a monster cavern located about six miles from the present caverns. You will be
working a eight hour day, six days a week.
This round of hiring, for three hundred workers who will be leaving Earth
on an interplanetary ship in early July of this year. Once you arrive, the only
way you will have to communicate with Earth is by home video or letters that
can be shuttled home whenever a ship from Earth docks. There are presently
about four ships per Earth year. Mars years are twice as long as ours but don't
worry your ten year contract will be for Earth years. Any of you who want an
interview please stay in your seats. If you have any doubts about that lifestyle
please do yourself a favor and leave now.”
Eight people got up and left. Tim and Carla exchanged a long silent look
into each other's eyes and then remained in their chair's. They were then
ushered into what looked like a classroom with desks and terminals. The
instructor in the front waited until they were all seated then the screens in front
of each of them flickered on, an application appeared. After two hours they had
finished the application. Some who had already finished had been ushered out.
“There is always something that you don't think to bring, Carla remarked but I
suspect that I will have time to provide it for them before we leave for Mars.
Carla was presently employed as a short order cook in a chain
restaurant. Tim had finished high school early at seventeen. He had obtained
his degree in engineering from Texas A&M at twenty one. When Tim was a
student at A&M Carla was working as a cook in the cafeteria, that 's how they
met. They were married when Tim graduated. It was a small wedding,
attended only by Carla's family and a few friends from the University.
Tim and Carla had moved to Las Vegas two years before when Tim had
been Laid off from his job as a drilling engineer in Houston, Tim had taken
several construction jobs in the booming Las Vegas building industry just to put
bread on the table but so far had not landed another engineering job. He had
hoped to get employment in the mining industry as an engineer. There weren't
many new wells being drilled in the U.S. anymore and many of the drillers and
engineers were finding other employment. You might say that Tim just hadn't
found himself.
They had the usual amount of personal debt, car payments and credit
card bills but all of their bills and payments were current. They wanted a family
and a home of their own, someday. For the time being they both had to work on
their menial jobs just to make ends meet. The home and the family were
something the future might hold for them.
June 1, 2107 : At their interview hey were given a longer version of the
speech that they had earlier heard from Hal Bergstrom. The woman who
conducted the interview seemed to be bent on convincing them not to take the
job. They were told that if everything on their application checked out and if
they passed their physical examination, and their psych tests, they would be
hired. It was their lucky day. They were both offered jobs, Carla cooking in The
Company mess hall and Tim working on one of the general construction crews.
They would need to prepare a last will and testament and a living will. They
would each need to open a bank account where The Company could deposit
their pay checks. They would each have to have a signature card signed by the
person or firm that they wanted to designate to handle their financial affairs for
them for the next ten years. One nice thing they learned at the interview was
that all money earned while working on Mars was free of all State and Federal
Income tax.
The Psych test for each of them was scheduled on the same day. Tim
and Carla didn't think it would amount to much. They arrived at 7:30 AM on the
third and were sent back to the classroom where they had filled out their
applications. At 8:00 AM the screens on the monitors lit up. They were told to
read the question on the screen select the answer to the question and then click
on next. One at a time they read the questions and selected the best answer.
They were not told how many questions to expect but they did not imagine that
the test would more than 100 questions. There were 250 questions. Most of
the questions were preference questions, very few knowledge questions. After
answering question 250 a message appeared on the screen that thanked them
for taking the test and were told that they were free to leave. Both Tim and
Carla finished just before noon. Carla was done a little ahead of Tim. She just
remained in her seat until she saw that Tim had finished. By the time they left it
was about noon so they went to lunch at a cafeteria across the street from the
building and discussed the test they had just taken while having lunch.
“That was the stupidest test I have ever taken, have you ever taken a
test anything like that when you were attending A&M, Tim? “Nope, that was
completely new to me. I think that even though most of the questions seemed
inane and pointless that Mars Colony, Inc. now has a pretty good idea of how
our mental processes work, how we would be expected to react to any
situation, how tolerant we are of other people, how patient we are and a lot of
other stuff about us that maybe we don't know about ourselves. We are just
going to have to wait them out until the results come back, however long that
Before they left the cafeteria Tim's phone rang. He answered and was
told by the girl on the other end of the line that he had done very well on the
test. “You seem to have the exact psychological profile that we are looking for
Tim. By the way, is your wife Carla with you right now? If so please tell here
that she also did very well and fits the profile that we are looking for. You both
passed, congratulations.” “That part of their hiring process was certainly easy
enough,” said Carla. Little did Carla know that more than eighty percent of the
people who took the test had been dropped from consideration for employment.
It wasn't that they were bad people or that weren't intelligent, it was just that
their test results indicated that they would not function well in the environment
that they would be living in on Mars. The Company did not want to go to the
expense of sending people to Mars that would be unhappy with their situation
once they got there.
“My God, Tim do you realize what we are doing, you will be thirty six and
I will be thirty seven before we get back home.” “Well Hon, by the time we get
back this won't seem like home anymore, and late 30's is a great time to retire
and see the world. The way I have it figured we should have over three million
dollars in our account by then.” “Sure, if we last that long, we can return to Earth
any time we want but it will cost us five hundred thousand dollars each to
abrogate our contracts with The Company and an additional one hundred
thousand dollars each for the trip back to Earth, that is what Tony told us at our
interview, remember. No, if we go we will stick it out for the ten years, no matter
how bad it is. After all it couldn't be any worse than going to prison for ten
years, could it?”
The trust department of their bank agreed to handle their financial affairs
and they put a local attorney firm on retainer to periodically check up on the
bank and receive their mail. The firm agreed to forward their important mail at
every opportunity when a ship was leaving. For now they would get their mail
about four times a year, hopefully that would Increase to monthly before their
contract was up.
Mars Colony, Inc. had given each of them a one hundred thousand
dollars in advance pay which they had deposited in the bank, well most of it
anyway. They kept out fifteen thousand for spending money although they had
no idea where they would spend for on Mars. On the last week before their
departure Tim and Carla had paid a final visit to the Attorney Firm that would be
representing them and handling their legal affairs for the next ten years. They
had left their car with an officer at the bank two days before they left for him to
sell, pay off the loan and deposit the rest in their account.
They had visited their families, their friends, their dentist's and their
doctors. Carla had a hard time saying goodbye to her parents and her brother
but Tim only had his father to say goodbye to as his brother had been killed in
Iraq in 2106 and his mother had died of cancer when he was a child. His father
had remarried when Tim was a junior in high school. Tim never cared much for
his stepmother, the feeling was mutual. Tim had an easy time of saying his
The night before they their friends had thrown them a big going away
party. They were wondering if they could get any sleep at the Earth Orbiter or
on the ship after boarding. They were both a little under the weather.
July 7, 2107: It was already over ninety degrees at 7:30 AM on the
morning of their departure. After check in they made their way to the tarmac
boarding area of the North Las Vegas airport where they were ushered aboard
a Shuttle for their flight to the Earth Orbiter. The Shuttle looked a lot like one of
those little commuter jobs but this was one that could take off from a runway on
Earth, fly through the troposphere, stratosphere, Mesosphere, Thermosphere,
Exosphere and on into space. Shuttle are capable of supersonic speeds but
when they are used as space shuttles they fly at subsonic speeds until they
enter space. At a certain altitude the engines on the Rocket propulsion system
kick in and the jet engines shut down. They can return the same way for a soft
landing on Earth.
From the Earth Orbiter they would board the interplanetary ship that
would carry them to Mars. The ship they were to board was called Mars
Supply Two. The other ship that made the Mars run on a regular basis was
called Mars Supply One. They were told that each ship made two round trips
per year. “Impressive names for one of mankind's greatest achievements, don't
you think, Tim.”
They were able to get a good look at the Mars Supply Two from a port
hole on the Shuttle It loomed much larger than they had expected. Since the
ship had been constructed in space and would never leave space weight was
not a consideration, nor was size. The ship was assume, It was cigar shaped,
at least four hundred yards long and appeared to be about seventy five yards
wide at the beam. It was enormous, They later learned that this would be only
the second voyage to Mars that this vessel had made. Until last year there had
only been The Mars Supply One. This ship was a carbon copy of The Mars
Supply One.
They had a some misgivings about the flight that would take almost two
and a half months, but they were given to understand that the ship would be
very comfortable and spacious. Their time would mostly be taken up by training
and orientation classes so that by the time they arrived at the Mars Orbital
Station they would know about as much as it was possible to know about what
to expect when they actually reached their new home.

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