Friday, 27 March 2009

A Colony On Mars : Chapter 3

. Friday, 27 March 2009

CHAPTER - Tim and Carla arrive on Mars
September 28, 2107: Mars now loomed bright as they looked out through
the port hole in their stateroom. It was mysterious and fascinating, they sat and
stared at it for hours. They were notified by Damien their room steward to be
prepared to disembark at 0800 the next morning. The Mars Orbiter was still not
in view but they knew it was out there and the Captain was sure to find it.
They were awakened by a loud clanking sound at 0345 They peered out
their porthole and could see nothing but the planet rotating below them. It was
an eerie feeling, like they were just hanging in space. Carla noted that the
planet really was Red. Carla went to work at her regular time but was told that
all she had to do was serve at 0600 and they would handle the clean up. After
breakfast they returned to their stateroom then went out and wandered in the
hall. They had never seen the hall that crowded, everyone was out wandering.
They were allowed to keep their work clothes which is what they were told to
wear. Their meager luggage was turned over to the baggage crew to be off
loaded to the orbiter. They were scheduled for 0800 departure. The Shuttle
Craft which was much like the one that had carried them Las Vegas to the Earth
Orbiter would be making round trips for the next week. When they boarded the
Shuttle they noticed that it was designed more to ferry cargo than people.
There were sixty people at a time loaded on to the Shuttle , Tim guessed that
the others would have to wait for the Shuttle to deliver them to the surface then
come back for more. They took a seat on a bench along one wall of the Shuttle.
The Shuttle was equipped to handle 15 passengers along each wall and thirty
more in the center sitting back to back. They located their seat belts and
strapped themselves down. As they broke the connection and eased away
from the orbiter they noticed another Shuttle arriving from the surface. The
reentry flight took just over an hour. It was not scary at all, the Shuttle just
glided into the hostile atmosphere and descended smoothly to the surface.
On the way to the surface the passengers got a good look at the
observatory. It was situated about two hundred yards from the freight elevator
at the end of the runway. They also saw the giant radio telescope dishes
mounted on the surrounding hills. They landed on a long smooth runway and
taxied to a small cement building adjacent to a platform that was apparently
large freight elevator. Twenty feet above the freight elevator was a another
platform that served as air lock when the freight platform was in the cavern.
The airlock was connected to the shuttle and they disembarked into the
elevator then the airlock was closed. Both the elevator and the Shuttle were
pressurized. They stood as the elevator descended the equivalent of twenty
five floors and came to an abrupt stop. The door slid smoothly open and they
stepped out into a Mars cavern. Two hundred yards from where they had
stepped off the elevator Tim noticed another elevator shaft running up the far
wall and continuing on through the cavern ceiling.
Tim and Carla took a deep breath, “Do you smell the stench, Carla?”
“Yes, sure I do but they say you won't notice it after a while thank goodness.”
“To me it smells like a sewer,” Tim added.
The lighting was a little dimmer than expected, otherwise, thanks to his
classes everything seemed as he had imagined it. They were greeted by both a
Government representative and a Company Executive. The Government man
appropriately declared, “Welcome to Mars, My name is Walter Potts, I am the
project director and this is Thelma Potts, the Mars Colony, Inc. manager, she is
also my wife of seventeen years. We both came up here with the Corps. Of
Engineers twelve years ago, when we had to live in our Mars suits at all times.
We are the oldest living residents of Mars and we are only in our forties. We
are over age for being here but our duties require little physical exertion, you
young folks are here to do the hard work. Do you want to add anything
Thelma?” “No I just want to welcome these nice people to Mars and I hope to
get to know you all personally as time goes by. I would like to tell you folks right
now that things are different here.” As timing would have it just as Thelma said
that a chicken flew by over their heads. “See what I mean,” she added. “Don't
worry about the chickens, they come and go as they please but always go
home to roost,eat and to lay their eggs.”
“Do any of you have any questions that you would like to ask us now?”
“Yes, I do, my name is John Prince, I played a lot of baseball up until the time I
took this job. It never occurred to me that Earth sports just would not work on
Mars, my question is are there any sports that you have here that we had on
Earth?” True there are a lot of sports that can not be played in low gravity but
there are several that do work and we play them, these include chipping a golf
ball and putting, croquet, shuffle board and horseshoe pitching. There are
some modifications to all of these sports to take low gravity into account but
they all work and are interesting to play.”
“There is one more but it really isn't a sport, it's low stakes poker, which
is a very popular pass time. We started out playing no limit games but things
got out of hand because everyone here has so much money. Some people
were getting hurt badly at no limit poker so we set a five dollar limit on any bet.
It is enforced on the honor system but I have heard that higher stakes games
still go on. If caught playing in a game that allows higher stakes you could be
facing a $5,000.00 fine. If anyone was actually fined the money would go into
the recreation fund.”
“Now if you will please follow me and I will take you on a brief tour of the
facility,” said Walter. The Government facility was quite large, about 320 acres,
or about the size of six tournament golf courses on Earth. There were several
hundred cement buildings, of various bright colors, some bore signs declaring
their purpose, others just numbers, “Look at that Carla they even have street
addresses.” “Watch out!” Carla yelled and yanked Tim aside, as a man in his
thirties skipped by.” “That is what I have been interested in seeing and trying as
soon as we got here,” Tim said, “We learned about it in class and I can't wait to
find my own gate.” As they looked at the people moving about in the clearing
they noticed that no one walked as people did on Earth. They each seemed to
have developed their own way of moving along. Some skipped, some hopped
like a rabbit. The kangaroo gate seemed to be popular but they were all moving
about as fast as an athlete could run on Earth. “I meant to tell you folks about
getting around down here, it is different than on Earth there are things you can
do here that you can't do there and visa versa. Here it is easy to jump up but
you must be careful not to injure yourself when you come down. My advise is
to just cautiously experiment with moving around until you find out just what
your capabilities are and what works for you. If you jump down off of something
you don't land as hard as you would on Earth but it is easy to fall into the trap of
thinking you can jump down from three times the height that you could on Earth
and you can but we do get a lot of serious sprains and broken bones that way.
Here you can jump high enough to be pretty certain that you are going to injure
yourself on your landing. The human body was designed to move around
safely in one g of gravity. Here things are different, all things considered I think
I like this atmosphere and gravity better but it takes some getting used to. For
the first month you are liable to accumulate quite a few black and blue marks
from bumping objects too hard. Watch how other people, who have been here
a while are moving and then try some of the maneuvers you see them
performing. Whatever you do don't hit anyone else and don't try any Martial
Arts moves on anyone else. Serious injury is inevitable if you do. Just be vary
cautious while you acclimate and you will do just fine.”
“Over here we have our gym, I am told that you were introduced to the
gym routine while you were on the ship. I just can't over emphasize the
importance of your daily workout, taking the vitamins you are issued daily and
getting your shot monthly for as long you remain in low gravity. The gym that
we have here is the same as the gym you were working out in while you were
on the ship. Our classes start every hour on the hour from 0600 through 1800.
You will have to sign in. If you miss a day of taking your vitamin supplements or
doing your exercises then it will be necessary for you to seek medical attention.”
One member of the group asked “I was told that you had a cavern for
The Company employees all sealed and pressurized, could you show us our
new home?” “Sure just follow me and try to keep up, I'll go slow so as not to run
away from you.”
They came to a tunnel entrance on the right side of the Government
cavern. The tunnel was approximately fifteen feet high and twenty feet wide.
They followed it for about fifty yards into a three times the size of the
government cavern. “I want you folks to know that everyone at this station has
been working their buns off getting this place ready for you. We even leveled
your floor which I didn't think we could get done but we did.
The Government handles the administration of this facility and the
research but Mars Colony, Inc. is the prime contractor. The Company is
responsible for facilities management. If there is any plumbing or wiring or
building to be done you are the ones who will carry out the tasks. You will be
responsible for facility development and maintenance. The Government takes
care of the atmosphere, I am sure you have already been briefed on your
responsibilities and project objectives. The Company plans to send as many
new employees as possible for the next three years. I am sorry that we were
unable to do more for you but we did all we could. The Company had only one
crew here until your ship docked. I think Thelma has some plans drawn up for
what will go where in this cavern but they are not written in stone and certainly
subject to your input.”
The lighting in the empty cavern was very dim but you could make out all
of the walls. The nice thing Tim Noticed was that there was a small river or
stream, that ranged from fifteen to twenty feet wide, that meandered through
the cavern dividing the front two thirds of the cavern from the back third. There
was even a water fall where the stream entered. It flowed into a small lake that
covered about ten acres. The river ran out of the far side of the lake for about
ninety feet before disappearing through the far wall.
Carla commented, “I am sure glad the ceilings on these caverns are so
high it keeps me from feeling claustrophobic. That is something I was worried
about.” Walter overheard Carla's remark and responded,“ The average ceiling
height in these two caverns is 254 feet. The highest point is 412 feet and the
lowest 196 feet,” just for your information.”
Tim noticed that the water coming down the falls was liquid but along the
edges of the stream there was a two Inch thick crust of ice and there was a
layer of ice about one Inch thick on the surface of the lake that covered about
five feet out, around the bank. “Why is there ice in the lake and river but not on
the falls and the river above the falls,” Tim asked Walter. “I asked that very
question of one of the geologists, Tim and he told me that the water above the
falls is only 31 degrees but because it is in an unpressurized atmosphere it
remains a liquid, once in enters this pressurized cavern it starts to solidify. If we
don't do something to warm this water, at least a little we will end up with an ice
skating rink instead of a stream and a lake in a few weeks. decreasing the
pressure raises the freezing point of water. That is why the water in the
unpressurized river was below 32 degrees but was not frozen when it entered
the cavern but began to freeze once it was exposed to this pressurized
environment. “That is interesting, I thought water always froze at 32 degrees.”
Note that we have installed a concrete plug at the river entrance and
another at the river exit. You can see that water flows beneath the plug, that is
so our precious atmosphere does not escape.”
“By the way how deep is the stream but more importantly how deep is
the lake?” “The stream is pretty shallow, only six foot at it's deepest point but
this lake is twenty foot at it's deepest point. The engineers tell me that it would
be easy to make the lake larger or smaller depending on our needs.
“That is a beautiful little stream but the water is very cold. I'm afraid we
won't be able to go swimming until we have geothermal heat installed. We
hope to, one day, be able to raise catfish in the lake as a food source. The
water is just a little brackish but very usable once you filter it through a reverse
osmosis system. Do not however drink it or bathe in it until it is filtered. We
have done so with no ill effects but it is taking a chance, we don't know where it
has been. “We do know that it contains unknown strains of bacteria and algae.
What we have tested is harmless but new strains of bacteria keep appearing.
There are Martian fish that occasionally seen swimming through. Some
of the fish are edible but they are like mushrooms, some are harmless and
some are lethal. One of your early projects will be to install a fish trap below the
falls to catch any fish that enter the cavern. New varieties of fish keep showing
up also, so it is best that you do not touch any of them, and certainly don't eat
any of them until we know more about them. Once we can positively identify
the edible ones we could begin raising them as a food source, the ones we
have dissected are pretty bony and don't appear to have much meat on them.
It might be better to bring fish in from Earth and try raising them but first we
have to prepare the ponds for them. Probably the next ship to arrive will carry
some fresh water fish, some salt water fish and fish food. I sure hope so, our
diet here is a little monotonous. Fish and Chips would sure be a welcome
“For the moment you new arrivals will be issued some basic necessities
and invited to put your air mattresses anywhere you can find room. We are
going to offer meals at our mess hall doubling the hours for all three meals.
Your kitchen staff will work with the present staff. Until your field kitchen is set
up we won't have enough cooking capacity to offer more than one hot dish per
meal, so get ready to eat some cold cuts for a couple days.”
Their hosts then lead them back through the tunnel to the Government
cavern where Thelma pointed out the supply building. She instructed them to
return to this building later in the day for their necessities. Each of them would
be issued an air mattress and a blanket. Hopefully tomorrow we will have the
rest of your equipment available but some of it you may have to wait a week to
get as it will take that long to unload all of the freight from Mars Supply Two,
which we frequently refer to as MS2. They were then given a phone book
containing over six hundred names followed by six digit numbers. Carla noticed
that all of the numbers started with 000. “What are these phone books for?”
asked one of the newcomers. “That is the Mars phone book my friend, it
contains the phone number of everyone living on the planet. On the front page
you will notice a special listing of important service numbers, we even have 911
service for emergencies.” “That's all well and good one newcomer responded
but we don't have phones.” “You will have as soon as your ship is unloaded
which could take, as I said before, anywhere from a day to a week and another
couple days to get them activated and programmed.”
Walter interrupted,“Now I have some other very interesting things to
show you.” He lead them to the other side of town where he pointed out a
building bearing a sign that read MARS-TV. Yes we have our own live TV news
twice a day, there is occasionally other live programing, the rest of the time they
show recorded video . They operate five channels during prime time but at
least one channel 24 hours a day. All of that is complements of the five major
Networks. In addition to the Government and Mars Colony, Inc. the networks
have a dozen employees here in the colony.
At the moment you are standing in Colony City, the capital city of the
Mars colony. And we are standing at the corner of Front Street and Colonial
Parkway. The other three streets are Main Street, Broadway and Industrial. I
am now leading you down to the equipment storage and supply lot at the end of
“Here you will find all of the tools and equipment that you will be using.
On the other side of the lot is where we store all of our material's. A lot of our
equipment is old and due for replacement. Thanks to Jake, our motor pool
genius, most things are usually in working order. There is supposed to be a lot
of new equipment arriving on the Mars Supply Two that you arrived on. Even
more is expected when Mars Supply One comes in about four months from
“You folks just make yourselves at home and look around at anything
that interests you. The only restricted area is the observatory, to go there you
must be accompanied by an authorized employee. If you would like to visit the
observatory just flag down someone wearing a blue and white ID card pinned to
their jumpsuits. You are welcome to explore anywhere else in the city but it
would still be impolite to enter someone's home unless you were invited in.”
As promised lunch was mostly cold cuts and a bowl of soup. There was
a large bowl of pickled mushrooms on the chow line as well. “Where do the
mushrooms come from” Archie ask one of the cooks. “Mushrooms are the only
food that we currently produce here on Mars. We have a walled off room at the
back of this cavern that receives little light. We had some steer manure and
straw brought up from Earth a while back and the mushrooms thrive in it. You
will eat a lot of mushrooms while you are here.
Some of the scientists are raising a test vegetable garden under grow
lights but so far without much success, It takes so much electricity to power the
grow lights that it is cheaper to bring canned vegetables in from Earth. It would
help more than you could imagine if we had plenty of electricity.
The kitchen staff could recognize the members of our kitchen staff by
their white work clothes. Our kitchen workers were collared immediately and
put to work. There were about eight of ours already on the planet the rest were
still on the ship, or en route to the planet in one of the Shuttles.
There are three Shuttles but Shuttle three is already moving cargo from
the ship to the elevator pad which crossed through a double air lock to ground
level where men with electric fork lifts were removing pallets and placing them
in a preprepared area of the supply yard. As the fork lift drivers placed the
pallets in the holding area they spaced them out so workers could see and get
at the contents of each pallet. Tim found the foreman and was put to work
unpacking crates. “Lumber here is a precious commodity so we are very
careful in dismantling the wooden packing crates and the pallets. Everyone
wants wood to construct furniture and construction crews have an insatiable
appetite for wood for all sorts of things. We even straighten the nails and save
the screws and binding strips for future projects, so take your time and stack the
material that they contain so that people seeking that particular item can easily
locate it. Sort the lumber and nails and screws and put them into inventory in
those racks and bins over there.”
Tim had only unpacked a few things when he noticed it was almost
dinner time. He went to the mess hall where they once again had soup and
sandwiches. While he was eating, an ordinary house fly lit on the half sandwich
lying on his plate. Casually and without giving it a thought he shooed the fly
away, then it occurred to him, This is Mars, what are flies doing on Mars. He
asked Carla Later and she said “Oh, yeah, we see them all the time in the
kitchen, kinda reminds you of home doesn't it?”
After dinner he unpacked a few more crates while Carla was still working
in the kitchen. Then on his way to the kitchen, as he was rounding the building
what should he behold but an ant hill and hundreds of the little critters working
away, carrying bits of food from the kitchen. Carla said later, “They must have
been transported up from Earth with food stuffs and had just made the best of
The group that Included Tim and Carla had returned to the supply
building and drawn out a mattress, a blanket a porta-potty, two rolls of toilet
paper, some shaving depilatory, some after shave and several other items. The
bags with their belongings in them were also now available at supply. When
they had their items selected from the shelves they took them to the desk at the
rear of the room where the clerk scanned them and bagged them. “How do we
pay for these things?” Carla asked “Oh, there is no charge they are all free to
employees, even though you don't have your permanent ID cards I can see by
the cards that you are wearing that you just arrived today.
I have some good news for you. We have your cell phones in, they
apparently came off the ship in the first load. What are your phone numbers, I
will get them for you? Carla quickly consulted the phone book she had been
issued and gave the clerk the numbers. He disappeared into a back storage
room momentarily then returned with two cell phones. “Are you familiar with
these,” he asked. “No, you better show us.” “You just strap them to your wrist,”
he showed them his. “To make a call you push the big blue button beneath the
dial then speak the word 'CALL' followed by the name or number of the person
you want. ”He pushed the button on the face on his phone, then said “CALL'
Carla Erkin.” Carla's phone rang. The clerk then told Carla to depress the blue
button and immediately release it. Carla did as he had instructed and she
heard his voice coming from her phone. “Now Carla, to change volume
depress the red button on the top of the watch. There are four volume presets,
it starts at the lowest setting then keeps getting louder until it reaches maximum
volume then starts over at the lowest setting. When you want to disconnect
depress the blue button again and release it. Had I said “CALL” 000565 then
Tim's phone would have rung. You can either use the persons name or number
and it still works. There is a yellow button on the side of the watch, if it is
blinking that means you have a missed call. Depress that yellow button for
information about the call you missed. We already have a cell relay set up at
each end of The Company cavern so you can use your phones anywhere even
in the tunnel.” Tim and Carla started picking up their items but the clerk
interrupted again.
“Not so fast, I have one more little gadget for you, it is your personal
radio receiver. Bob produced two small plastic gadgets obviously shaped to fit
inside the outer ear like a hearing aid. There were two tiny buttons on the
outside. The clerk who's name was Bob removed his pen from his pocket and
depressed the red button several times and they could hear pop music coming
from the device. Bob then depressed the yellow button and the music changed
from pop music to Country and Western. He depressed it again and soft and
melodic music could be heard. One more time and they heard a voice talking.
“I guess that was pretty obvious,” he said. The red button turns the set on and
sets the volume. You need to Increase the volume by punching the red button
several more times in order to hear it while it is in your hand. Then you press
the yellow button to change stations. After changing stations depress the red
button again twice in rapid succession and it turns the device off then depress
the red button again and it comes back on at the lowest volume level. Hold it
up to your ear and if you can hear it all right put it in your ear. If you want it a
little louder depress the red button once or twice more to Increase the volume to
where you want it. Then insert it into your ear. There are five volume settings
and there are four radio stations always broadcasting. One plays pop music,
one plays C&W, one plays elevator music and the fourth is talk radio. Talk radio
is the most popular. We have ten or so talk radio hosts, most of them invite
listeners to call in and give their opinion about the subject being discussed. The
three music stations are automated but the talk station is live, it comes on at
0500 every day and goes off at 2400. Up until now we only had three hundred
people on Mars so we didn't get all that many people calling in but now with
over six hundred people there will probably be a lot more call ins. When no
one calling in then the host reads news or just blabbers on with his or her own
opinions and views. If there is an emergency the host can over ride the music
broadcasts and switch everyone's set to the talk station while they describe the
emergency or make the announcement that management has given them that
effects everyone. They even break in on the music to remind people that the
dining room opens in five minutes or lights out is in ten minutes, stuff like that.
You don't have to have your radio on at all times but it is a good idea to keep it
on so you don't miss an important announcement.” Tim and Carla adjusted their
volume and of course selected talk radio and inserter the devices in their ear.
“Most people just remove the device if they are having a live conversation with
someone and don't want to be disturbed by their radio for a little while but many
of us have gotten so used to them that we can hold a private conversation with
the radio on. Whatever works for you. The battery is good for about a year but
if it goes dead just drop by and I will put a new battery in for you.”
“Any time you folks think of anything else you want between the hours of
0800 and 2000 just drop in and pick it up. I might suggest that you take one of
those first aid kits over there because you are bound to get some cuts and
scratches during your first few days. The atmosphere here in these caverns is
richer in Oxygen than you are used to on Earth so be sure and take one of the
Oxygen pills if you get light headed and the condition will clear up immediately.
They took a first aid kit and the clerk, Bob scanned it and put it in their bag.
They also noticed a plastic privacy shield that stood four feet high and was
supported by four plastic posts, they could tell by the picture on the label that
they were intended for use with the porta-potty, so they took one of these also.
They then selected a pair of clean work clothes each.
“When ever you folks want clean work clothes just bring back the dirty
ones and deposit them in the big hamper out front, then come in here and draw
clean ones,” Bob told them. “We have some big washers and dryers set up in
the building behind this one.” “What happens to the waste water?” Tim asked.
“There is just a sump hole in the public rest rooms and all the waste water and
stuff goes down that hole, we never see it again and really don't know where it
goes from here. Maybe it comes to a river down there somewhere and just
flows off into uncharted territory. One thing for sure is that this planet can use
all the bacteria it can get from us humans.” Maybe so, thought Tim, now that we
have finished polluting the Earth we can start polluting Mars. Of course, the
handful of people that are here now are just surviving the best they can but
someday soon someone is going to have to address waste disposal before it
becomes a real problem.
After they left Tim told Carla, “On Earth now they have equipment in third
world countries that can process human waste and kill all the harmful bacteria
and germs but leave a useful top soil material that can be used safely to grow
crops. There are plenty of nitrates in this Martian soil that we find below the
surface of the planet. These Nitrates are one of the main components that
enable plants to grow. The Nitrates feed the sugar bacteria produced by the
process of photosynthesis. We have plenty of nitrates on Mars and after all that
is the backbone of producing a fertile top soil that will support growing plants. It
also produces the Nitrogen that makes up the bulk of our atmosphere. The
action of the nitrates feeding the sugar bacteria is what enables the plant to give
off Nitrogen. Lack of fertile top soil containing nitrates is one of the biggest
problems in the third world. Top soil is an even bigger problem, there are parts
of Africa that used to support farms that now lay barren because the top soil has
all blown away. Even in the United States back in the 1920's they had what
they called the dust bowl, where all the topsoil was either covered with fine dust
or had blown away. Thousands were driven from their homes in Oklahoma and
North Texas.”
Tim wrote a report about what he knew on this subject and passed it off
to one of the scientists that he saw walking through the compound. The
scientist stopped long enough to read what Tim had handed him then told Tim
that, “a machine like that is already en route to Mars and they should have it on
the next ship. We have not had one in place sooner because it hasn't been our
highest priority. With the addition of all you new guys we know that good top
soil proper waste disposal will now be of greater importance. We have tried
killing the bacteria in human waste on the surface but when we get it back down
here in the cavern it is just as useless as all the other Mars soil. Those
unfiltered UV rays on the surface kill all bacteria. Including the bacteria that our
bodies are composed of.”
Tim said when they left the supply building that he would like to spend
his first night near the public rest rooms because he did not relish using the
porta-potty. Carla wanted to be close to the Mess Hall also so they located a
spot between two permanent houses then asked the occupants if it would be
OK if they camped there that evening. “Sure, If there is anything you need or if
I can be of any help just let me know.”
“I can't get over how friendly and accommodating everyone is here, “
Carla remarked. “Yeah it's sure a lot different from Earth, it's just like being on
another planet, Ha Ha.
Little did any of the more than three hundred people who had arrived on
the Mars Supply Two that day that only fourteen of them would ever return to

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