Martian Mission


Originally Transmitted in Randomness Issue 63

Mars was definitely not what Sid had in mind when he thought of "moving". Moving meant packing up and travelling horizontally, staying on Earth--in Canada, even--and ending up in a church somewhere nice and happy--Calgary or Ottawa or Victoria or even Rocky Mountain House! But . . . Mars? Joe found the idea of moving to Mars very exciting. He expressed his delight every chance he got. Sid would punch him, declaring that Joe had no idea what he was talking about because he was only in Grade Seven. Sid knew much more about Mars because he was graduating from high school that year.

The other boys at school mocked Joe when they discovered his father's plans. They asked where they would get the money for such an expedition. Would it fall from heaven? They laughed at that suggestion and called Joe "Joey Blowy"--to a child in Grade Seven, this is a horrible fate. Of course, God has some sort of a sense of humour about these things. A week after the suggestion that the money would fall from heaven it did. To be more precise, a billionaire fell from somewhere in the sky and landed in their pool (everyone in 24th-Century Canada has a swimming pool in the back yard). Had Andy been a moment too late, the billionaire would have drowned. Had his wife, who knew First Aid and CPR, been a moment later the billionaire still would have died. As it was, the billionaire lived. He decided to give the Darnell family one million American dollars, which was worth over twice as much in Canadian dollars. This money was able to pay for the spacefare of the family to reach Mars. The boys at school decided Joe was still worthy of mockery and they made fun of him because his dad was a pastor. Joe endured.

Andy prepared the church for his departure. He pointed out that they had two years until the money and team would be ready for leaving Earth; time was more than ample to find a new pastor and give Andy a smooth farewell. On August 16, 2302, they bid the Darnells farewell. They moved to Edmonton as there was a large UNSA launch site just outside of Leduc. Joe was to be homeschooled for the year. Sid was off enjoying himself at the University of Calgary studying Mediaeval and Renaissance literature. His desire was to follow in the footsteps of CS Lewis (minus the atheistic pre-Christian part). Everyone informed Sid that in order to follow in CS Lewis' footsteps he would have to move to Britain. He told everyone that he would.

Over the next year, preparations were made to go to Mars until, on September 23, 2303, the Martian Mission went on its first interplanetary cruise on the SS Paul.

j j j

Frank woke up with a start. It was his first time off the Moon and he was quite jumpy. He wasn't used to the weightlessness of Space. But he knew this was what he had to do. He was born on the colony of Neapolis on the Dark Side of the Moon. Most of his life had been spent under the shelter of domes breathing artificial air. He'd known artificial sunlight and plants grown in well-watered arboreta. He'd also known the heavy glare of the stars as he moon-walked on the soft-sanded lunar surface. Now he was going to Earth before making the journey to Mars. In all of his twenty years he had never done anything so daring. His mother had shook her head. She declared that he'd gone mad since the "conversion experience".

"Sir," spoke API-15, "you seem concerned."

"Its nothing, Appy," Frank smiled at the android. "I've just never been off the Moon before. It will be bizarre to be on a planet with a heavier gravitational pull."

"I am certain it will be," replied API-15.

API-15 was state-of-the art robotics technology. He had been built at the Robotek factory in the Lunar Highlands. He was the first of the android series. He looked human, as the word "android" suggests. He was also the first robot with an Artificially Intelligent Positronic Brain. Hence the designation API--Android Positronic Intelligent. Since the prototype, API-15 was the fifteenth of his kind. He looked unerringly human. His hair was a light, golden colour, his nose aquiline, his eyes a blue that literally glowed. The plastiflesh covering his mechanical parts was convincing.

"Tell me, Appy, can you . . . feel?" asked Frank.

"You know I cannot," answered API-15.

"No, no. Of course not. You are artificially intelligent--not emotional."

Frank peered out the window of his cruiser. The blue disc of Earth grew larger with every moment. As they drew nearer he saw the Station in its orbit. It would be from there that he would catch an aerospace jet to Edmonton to meet the rest of the Martian Missionaries. Soon, the ship was docking. The door slid open and he floated out into the Station, API-15 following him. They were greeted by a floating blue globe with eyes, a nose, and a mouth.

"Greetings," came a monotone voice from a microphone somewhere in the robot's depth.

"Hello," answered Frank.

"You are Francis Jethro McCartney?" asked the hovering sphere.

"Yes," answered Francis.

"Thumbprint scan," a pad appeared where the robot's nose should have been. Frank pressed his thumb to it. "Retina scan." Frank stood tall as the blue robot scanned his retinas. Then he felt nothing.

API-15 struck the spherical robot with his left arm so hard that it cracked the window upon impact. He turned to see shot of blue lightning. Then he thought nothing.

j j j

The spaceport was quiet. The Martian Missionary Team stood quietly on the deck. The three Darnells stood with Juan Santos, a Mexican who had a heart for God and an appetite for adventure; Dr. James McGillicutty, a former Scientologist who felt he could be of use in reaching the Scientologist colony as well as with his skills as a medical doctor; the five members Underhill family who had a calling from God to go to Mars; and Alexander Rufus, a red-haired scientist who was coming to help the Martian Mission. The only two they were missing were Frank McCartney and his robot. His aerospace jet was due in five minutes.

Soon, the aerospace jet came hurtling from the sky, the engines causing a horrible racket. The MMT watched it come down upon the landing strip. They walked to Platform Three and watched a lot of space-weary travellers come out of the big, glass sliding doors. None of them was Frank. Juan began spouting out Spanish. McGillicutty decided they'd best talk to someone. He vanished. The two families stood silently, Joe tapping his toe to the rhythms of his music. Rufus scratched his head absently.

"Well . . ." Andy said.

"Wonder where he is," noted Mr. Underhill.

Momentarily, McGillicutty returned. Frank had not been on the aerospace flight.

"Thats not very economical of him," noted Rufus.

"This is not good," remarked Juan.

"No, no it isn't. We leave in a few days. We need McCartney before then, preferably," Andy sighed.

Copyright 2002, Matthew Hoskin