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Mars by Stealth
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The door Brian had locked Victoria and Keith behind had a small porthole in it. This meant they could just see the computer screen Brian was working at. He was sending email. He was sending two. The first one notified NASA that everyone was safe and that full communications would be restored soon. He said the second email was a private communication to members of his family that might be concerned. It was not. He was placing an order to purchase a section of land on Mars. He was buying the ice lake.
Once this email was sent Brian relaxed. He broke open the nail gun and held it up to the little porthole to show Victoria and Keith that it never had any charge in it. He opened the door and said if they wanted to lock him up or punish him in some way that was fine with him. He had everything he wanted now.
Victoria was way ahead of him. It was not Anna but Brian who had been sabotaging her. It turned out he had planted a lot more fake evidence than Victoria had found. The only purpose was so Brian could take Anna's place on the walk to the base camp. He was convinced that everyone had had the same idea. The first person to the base camp had the first opportunity to stake their claim on the ice lake. This was a licence to print money.
Victoria was shocked and disappointed. She had always thought of Brian as such an idealist. He obviously didn't value that as much as Victoria. Not any more anyway. Where had it gotten him? Always the dreamer, he always had the big impossible ideas that never got him anywhere. But now he was set for life.
The source of the explosion was a long way off but the ground shook under their feet. Victoria rushed to the window to see a huge white cloud of something over the location of the ice lake. She whipped out her little telescope to get a better look. Huge chunks of ice were raining down everywhere. She searched around. Where were they? Then she spotted them two figures in space suits accompanied by…? By the airlock?
Victoria looked around to see Keith bundling Brian into the next room. Brian beat on the door in protest as Keith secured the door handle. Keith then went to the computer terminal and sent email of his own. This was also an order for Martian real estate. But he made the purchase in the name of five people, all the members on the team except for Brian. The land he bought was just down hill and to each side of the now empty lava tube.
Keith stayed with Brian to make sure he would not be any more trouble while Victoria got in the rover to go down and pick up the others.
As Victoria drove Anna, Max and Stewart back to the main base she filled them in on what had happened with Brian. Even for those who were not so close to him it was hard to take. The idea that one of their number could betray them was so disheartening.
On arriving at the base Keith announced that they were now all owners of the land the ice had been redistributed to. He said he planned to donate his land to NASA. It was up to each of them what they did with their share. Keith was pleased to see none of them had any trouble following suit to also donate their land to NASA. When the question of what to do with Brian came up Keith strongly suggested they do nothing. A public hearing would hurt the space program much more than it would hurt Brian. It was good enough for Keith that all Brian was left with was a hole in the ground. Everyone agreed and Brian had no choice but to do as he was told. This was the first time Victoria had seen Keith's aspirations for this new world made real. It was a small gesture but an important one. There were still a lot of things to iron out between Victoria and Keith but this gave her the confidence that it was possible and worth the effort.
They eventually got the communications network fully operational so they could send and receive video and audio. They gave a report on the mission so far and said their hellos to friends and family who had been rushed to the base. After all the necessary business had been taken care of there was one more important transmission, not to send but to receive. It was the 'live' broadcast of the first landing of humans on Europa. There was something pleasing in the knowledge that Victoria's team was actually hearing it many minutes ahead of everyone on Earth. Everyone listened in rapt silence to the simple words that marked this moment in history. Anna was touched when one of the team she had trained with remembered her and took this occasion to extend his warm greeting to her.
A couple of months later the terraforming team arrived as planned. On sight of each other the two teams broke ut in spontaneous laughter. Even after their long journey the new team's suits seemed to be immaculately white and pristine compared with Victoria's team whose suits were nearly as red and ragged as the Martian landscape.
They welcomed them to the main base. It now was fully functional with all the systems running to make it as efficient and comfortable as possible. They had even found time to modify tanks from the wreck to provide an added luxury for anyone who stayed at the camp. A bath tub.
A full 3D illustrated description of the Red Igloo construction system can be found here.
Copyright Peter Rasmussen 2001