Martian Mission


Originally Transmitted in Randomness Issue 65

Frank awoke in a white room, bathed in a pale white glow from the dome above. Weightless, he was strapped to something yet touched only his binds. The straps, which bound his wrists and ankles, kept him in place. He heard the ka-shling of an opening door to his right. He looked over and saw a man walking towards him.

"How are you walking?" asked Frank.

"My shoes have a plethora of little suction cups on their soles," was his response. The man was tall and broad-shouldered, with fiery hair and green eyes. A small moustache danced upon his upper lip. He wore a beige jump-suit, a variety of small pockets and zippers throughout its surface; shining white beneath it were the suction-cupped shoes. The man stepped, and Frank heard the faint sound of the suction cups pulling off the floor.

"Interesting," noted Frank.

"There is no need for small talk here--it matters not who I am. I have kidnapped you. You are on my small, personal space cruiser drifting through space. We are on the other side of the Earth from the Moon and will continue in a course keeping the Earth between us and it. That is all that matters."


"A several greats uncle of mine was a Roman Catholic Cardinal in 2100. The Roman Catholic Church, if you will remember, was the largest and most powerful denomination in the Christian Church. When Pope Pius XIII called for the unification of the Church, my uncle lost his seat in the College of Cardinals . . ."

"Is it not true that the College of Cardinals was unanimous in its decision to unite with the other Churches against the threat of the Religion?" asked Frank.

"Bah! How could he vote against it when everyone else voted in favour of it!? But with the reorganisation of the Church, the loss of the time-honoured institution of the College of Cardinals, and the dethroning of the Pope, my ancestor lost his job. So much of the ancient tradition was lost. My uncle moved to a hermitage and lived out a life of piety, poverty, and prayer!"

"What is wrong with piety, poverty, and prayer? Are those not things that our Lord Jesus himself advocated?" Frank realised that this man was angry at him because of something that had happened two hundred years before. Was anyone so...absurd?

"You went to Bible school didn't you? Life, my friend, is not as clear-cut as they tell you. And certainly not at the Apostolic Bible schools. Bible school on the Moon! Phagh! But I have not reached my point yet. I kidnapped you because you are part of the Martian Mission Team. Both the Holy Catholic and Holy Apostolic Churches declare this as a step towards greater unity! Imagine, a mission on a new mission-field, comprised half of Apostolics, half of Catholics! They proclaim that it could be like the ancient days, that some day we could be like the Church of old. But they are wrong. The union of the Roman Catholics with the purer Protestants signalled the loss of centuries of traditions for each Church. Imagine the loss of tradition in the total, official unity of the Church! It will be a sea of theologies, philosophies, traditions--we will lose our identity as Christians. I will not allow it to happen. The MMT will not leave the ground, let alone the Earth's atmosphere."

Frank looked at his captor with a mixture of compassion, anger, sorrow, and puzzlement. He sighed. He did not even have the will to oppose this red-haired man with flaming green eyes. Only then did Frank remember to close his eyes and pray. The man turned and walked carefully out, the sound of the suction cups reverberating throughout the white chamber.

j j j

"I'm sorry, Reverend," the Station Commander said, his red suit glistening under the artificial glare of the lights in his office, "Mr. McCartney never docked his ship at the Station. Perhaps you should contact his mother on the Moon. She would have been the last person to see him. If twenty-four hours pass, notify the authorities that he has gone missing. I wish I could be of more assistance."

"Thank you for your time, Commander," Andy replied. "At least we know where he isn't. Every little bit helps. Good day."

"Good-bye, and good luck." The Commander disappeared from the screen.

Andy stood, removing the earpiece. He walked from the pay vidphones towards the MMT, shaking his head. Everyone looked at him expectantly. He was their leader. He was the one they turned to for guidance. He was the one they expected answers from. He wondered how it was that God chose him to serve as the leader of the first interplanetary mission. He felt immensely inadequate. He felt lost and overwhelmed. Andy sighed.

"Well, it seems McCartney never docked his ship at the Station. We'll have to e-mail his mother on the Moon," he informed them.

"It is a nefarious plot by the Religion, I am certain," Juan announced. "That Station Commander is in on it. He looks Indian--I know that all Hindus have joined the Religion. They do not want us to set up a mission on Mars. They are stopping it. McCartney is probably floating his way back to the Moon."

"I doubt," interjected Mr. Underhill, "that there is a nefarious plot afoot. In all likelihood, something kept McCartney from making it to the Station. We must discover why. Andy, are you going to e-mail Mrs. McCartney?"

"I suppose I will have to. If that doesn't work, what should we do? Call a private eye? I just have no idea what to do," said Andy.

"How about we pray," suggested Felicity, Andy's wife.

There were general noises of agreement from all involved--all except for Joe who had to have an earphone pulled out to be informed that they would be praying.

j j j

API-15 bounced off the atmosphere of the earth. He attempted re-entry again. This time, gravity got the better of him. As he began falling, he spread out all his limbs to keep himself from speeding up too quickly. API-15 knew that the odds had been working against him since the spherical robot attempted to destroy him and Master Francis. The chances that his backup system would have kicked in on time were slim, yet it did. As a result, he had all of his integral parts intact--the lost synflesh, an eye covering, and clothing were not integral. Now he realised that the chances of surviving the fall to Earth were the slimmest he'd encountered yet. As his self-preservation law could not counteract this fact, he awaited putting a hole in the ground with what would be called patience in a human.

He rotated his head backwards to examine the Station as it grew smaller. It was comprised of one large, central sphere from which protruded various smaller spheres and domes. Docking tubes stuck from it like spikes. Lights from various places blinked.

Before he could turn his head around, API-15 crashed into an aerospace jet. He spun his head around, bouncing and sliding along the roof. He rolled onto his front and let his fingers slide along the seamless, black metal. If this was indeed the sort of jet hed identified it as, he would catch his fingers on a five-centimetre ridge near the back. This ridge would prevent him from being hit by the rudder and falling to his doom. API-15 had calculated correctly. He looked ahead and noted that the jet was angled slightly down. He was on his way to Earth. It seemed that, despite the odds, he was going to make it out intact.

j j j

Andy let out a big sigh. He looked to his right. The pale blue glow of his small, spherical clock indicated 2:07. He sighed again. He had e-mailed Mrs. McCartney as soon as they got home. He wished they could have phone conversations, but that was impossible with most inhabitants of the Moon--especially those from the Dark Side. And, of course, Mrs. McCartney lived on the Dark Side of the Moon. Hopefully in the morning an e-mail from Mrs. McCartney would be there. He saw no way out. Where in Space was this guy? It was September 20th. Oh no, it was September 21st by now. They left on the 23rd. Andy prayed he would show up by then.

"Can't sleep?" asked Felicity.

"Somewhere between us and the Moon a man has gone missing. Maybe he never left the Moon. Maybe he did. If he did, where is he? I am supposed to be leading a group of people to Mars. Mars is a very long way off. The first missionaries were going from, like, Jerusalem to Rome. Jerusalem and Rome have only the width of an ocean between them. People walked from Jersusalem to Rome on roads. Mars is an almost incomprehensible distance away. And we are going there to minister to three isolated settlements of people, some of whom may never have heard the Gospel. Or, if they have, they'll have heard the pluralist account from the representatives from the Religion. One of these colonies is populated by Scientologists, another by scientists, the other by a mixture of Netherlanders, Indians, and Ecuadorians. How many people were in our last parish?"

"Eighty?" ventured Felicity.

"Eighty. Eighty people who knew the Gospel. The town had 10 000 and six other churches the same size. That's 480 Christians. On Mars, there are at least two million people. There are only twelve of us, thirteen if you count McCartney's android. And I am to be the spiritual leader for these two million people! Most of them probably don't speak English! We have Underhill and Rufus, both of whom are multilingual. And Santos, who is bilingual in English and Spanish.

"I feel inadequate. I'm going off, and I have no idea what I'm getting into. A member of my team has vanished with his robot and we leave in two days. Our son can't take his earphones out for more than a second. I have trouble keeping my focus on God. Who am I that I am to bring the Gospel to these lost souls on another planet?"

"You are the servant of the Lord," suggested Felicity.

Andy stared at the smooth, white ceiling. It was slightly blue where it reflected the glow of the clock. "Rufus told me today how thankful he is for my leadership. He is so glad the team has been brought together so smoothly--apart from this little snag. He says that I am an example of how we are to follow and imitate Christ. I feel as though I am nothing."

"What is mankind that you are mindful of him, O Lord?" quoted Felicity. "God has chosen you, has chosen us. I am overwhelmed. I've had to feed eight strangers for a month!" she smiled. "I didnt have this in mind when the Spirit called us off the surface. But here we are. Maybe we are inadequate. I feel small, minuscule. Yesterday, staring up at those stars, that vastness, I wondered how we could do it. How could we go there? Its so...big. I don't even know where Mars is. I am often overwhelmed. But then I remember Moses."

"Yeah, but he was Moses."

"What? Andy, Moses was a man. Moses was a scared man. He was so scared after he killed that Egyptian he ran off and lived in the wilderness. And then he encountered God. He felt so inadequate he gave God a list of reasons why he wasn't the man for the job. Well, Moses, surprise. Here is I AM, your God, your people's deliverer. And he wants you. Guess what? There has never been a prophet greater than Moses."

"Are you preaching to me? I thought I was the preacher," smiled Andy.

"You are, and the Holy Spirit has called you into a strange and glorious place."

Smiling, Andy said, "And His grace is sufficient. Yeah, maybe we are inadequate. But He isn't."

Copyright 2002, Matthew Hoskin