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Mars? No Thank you

by Michael Trigg 11 months ago in Climate
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It should never have happened.

Image By: YODA Adaman, Unsplash

The lake had long ago dried up. A lonely dock stood perched on its pilings looking as out of place under the burning sun as an iceberg in tropical waters. Even with the evidence of past water indicated by the bathtub-like rings meandering around the periphery of the lake bed, it was hard to believe this was the remains of a once-thriving vacation destination.

The sun was brutal. Even with a hat and a sun umbrella, I could feel it drilling into my head. Looking around, there were a few wispy clouds in the sky and some billowing dust clouds in the distance. I had left my jeep running with the AC full on. I had made the mistake of shutting it off - once. The interior had been like a blast furnace when I climbed in even with the extra insulation installed on the cab roof.

"Where to begin?" I said out loud. Past the dock, the old buildings shimmered in the waves of heat radiating from the parched ground. What was left of them I should add. As good as any place to begin my search.

What remained of the building I had driven out here to find was a skeleton of what it must have been. Two stories, expansive and built to accommodate several families. One front door was hanging off a hinge. The other missing. The glass in the large picture windows that once looked out over sparkling water dotted with canoes, sailboats, and paddleboards was long gone. The hot wind sweeping down from the mountains made an eerie whistling sound as it blew through the empty building as I stepped inside. The floor was covered in sand that had drifted into the corners.

By jean wimmerlin on Unsplash

Any furniture or fixtures had long been carried off, by who and for what purpose, who knows. Since the CD index initiated in 2025 had climbed over 700 PPM several years ago, it had not taken long for the earth's population to be decimated. Both human and animal. Many areas of the continents now resembled Mars as it had looked when the first robots had begun exploring back in the early 2000s. Colonization of Mars had begun in 2030; mandatory evacuation of the earth's remaining several million inhabitants in 2050 with scientists of every genre ordered aboard the giant transporters.

Ironically, it was the large icefields discovered under the Martian surface that spurred the governments to begin transporting the first volunteers to the newly created underground bases. With the earth's arctic and antarctic ice long gone, ice on earth was in short supply both natural and manmade. The oceans that covered seventy-five percent of earth's surface had shrunk to just twenty-five percent and were now just uber-salty seas, devoid of everything but the most primitive life. When the final big wave heat wave began, everything we considered normal began to disappear. Then it was going, going, gone. Much faster than even the most pessimistic science experts had predicted. I'm not going to dwell on it. For what purpose? We had years and years of warnings going back to the 1960s. Possibly before that.

Now I was looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, but I knew that when I agreed to set aside my loyalties in favor of my old boss, Chuck Walters, and look for his daughter. What now seems like eons ago, I was a homicide detective in Sacramento. After everything fell apart I was ordered by the remains of the US government to help round up the remaining scientists. Sharlene was on my list but my loyalty lay with Chuck. I would find his daughter Sharlene, his only child. Or the remains of his daughter I had thought at the time. I didn't voice those thoughts to Chuck. As if it mattered, he provided me with a photo of her. In her mid-thirties, blond and tanned, nice smile and sense of daring in her look. I hadn't seen her since her sixteenth birthday. At that time, I was Uncle Charley. In the last conversation Chuck had with her, she said she was going out to the family vacation place one last time. It was her favorite place in the whole world Chuck advised. She had never returned and had not been in contact with her father since her call.

Sharlene was an astrobiologist. She had been sequestered and ordered to attend an orientation prior to boarding Marship 4, the craft dedicated to transporting the most important of the various scientific community required on the now burgeoning Mars community. She had not shown up. Chuck was worried. A couple of years ago, Sharlene had hooked up with a group called Earth Survival, a fringe group dedicated to remaining on earth, convinced they could save the earth, defying the government evacuation orders.

The family vacation cabin at Spirit Lake was one of the first built at what would become one of the most popular vacation spots in eastern California. It had been passed down from generation to generation, with each new generation adding on to or improving on the original structure. Now the village at Spirit Lake was a ghost town, a collection of bleached buildings gradually being reclaimed by the desert.

There was no sign of life as I made my way from room to room. The grand staircase was still standing. I gingerly made my way up the stairs keeping to the outside after some ominous creakings from the first few steps. Reaching the top, it was obvious it was in as bad a state as the main floor, with daylight visible through a number of holes in the roof.

I headed back down the stairs and after a second cursory look around the main floor, headed out into the heat. Most of the buildings were in the same state. There was no sign of life anywhere with the exception of a small square of weeds that caught my eye, inexplicably growing through the sand alongside the warped remains of an old fence. I walked over and crouched down, brushing the sand away from the weeds. There seemed to be seepage of sorts coming from who knows where nurturing the weeds. I stood up, shaking off a bit of lightheadedness. In another hour or so it would be unbearable. Then, something caught my eye. A shadow? An illusion created by the burning desert light? Or my own imagination?

At the end of the next block was a building that was probably one of the last built in Spirit Lake. It actually had a door. It wasn't until I pulled the door open and felt the barrel of a gun in my back that I realized too late I had noticed there was no build-up of sand at the door. Great detective work I thought to myself.

"Put your hands against the wall." This was followed by a hard nudge from the gun barrel and my feet were kicked back. My gun was slipped out of the holster.

"OK. Turn around, slowly."

I turned to face a man and woman, both holding Mac10s. The man, I had never seen before. The woman, Chuck's daughter, smiled.

"Hello, Uncle Charley, fancy meeting you out here."

"Hello, Sharlene. Who's your friend?"

Sharlene nodded, not taking her eyes off me.

"This is Doctor Roger Stephens. Quantum phycisist. You might recall his name."

"Interesting that a couple of world's top scientists seems to be pretty handy with guns."

"We are protecting what we feel is the right thing to do. We don't believe the future of the human race is on Mars. We believe it's here."

I glanced from one to the other and nodded.

"I get it Sharlene. I didn't come out here to take you into custody. I came out as a favor to your father."

"OK, Charley. To be brief. I, Stephen, and many others have created an underground base. We have tapped into a previously unknown aquifer that can support our group indefinitely coupled with the systems we have developed. I'm not going into the details of what we have created. If you want to join us, you are welcome. I didn't mean to hurt dad but at the same time, the little that remains of the US government would not hesitate to use dad against me. It was better I just disappeared. We are not holding you here. You are free to go. But, I want dad to know I'm alive and well."

She lowered her gun and unclasped a chain from around her neck. Hanging from the chain was a heart-shaped locket. She handed it to me.

"Give this to dad. He'll know that if you have it, it came from me and I'm alive. If you decide to bring the authorities out here, you will not find us. Letting the weeds grow around one of our entrances was a mistake. It won't be repeated and if you came back, you would not find it. In a million years. Now get out of here Charley. Give my love and the locket to dad. He'll understand."

Back in the coldness of my jeep, I sat there for a few minutes taking one last look around. I knew Chuck would be happy knowing his daughter was alive and well. However, in my opinion, it was six of one and half a dozen of the other. Whether Sharlene perished out here in the remains of Spirit Lake or shipped off to Mars, either way, Chuck would not be part of his daughter's life. He was an avowed anti-mars plan protester and had advised me in no uncertain terms he would not be setting foot on that shitty red planet. His words, not mine.

The Author

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About the author

Michael Trigg

I love writing and I think it shows in my posts. I also enjoy feedback, particularly of the constructive kind. Some people think I am past my "best before date" but if that is true, it just means I have matured.

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