Martian Mission


First Published in Somniare, Issue Duo

Joe awoke. He was ready for a normal day. He would stumble half-awake to the kitchen, have some cold cereal for breakfast, meander into the shower, then slump down upon the couch and vegetate. His house was a "manufactured" house. This meant that not only was it inexpensive (something sought for in a temporary domicile), but it was also...drab. He felt that machines had designed it as well as built it. To liven up his room that someone(thing) decided would be great as an oversized egg, he had covered the wall/ceiling with posters of anything he could get his hands on. He also had three projection movie posters that actually moved and could play music from their projector behind them on the wall/ceiling if he wanted to. These made the dome more liveable for him, along with his "stuff" placed carefully or not-so-carefully around the room. At the top of the egg was a pale white light that glared sickly down upon him if turned on. He peered out the circular window of the egg. Nothing unusual out there. He walked to the door and pushed it open with the handle. Although the home was manufactured, it would be more expensive if it were actually automated.

Joe passed the living room to his left as he walked down the eggshell, lifeless hallway where floor and ceiling actually met at right angles. Mr. Underhill sat on the couch with a cup of coffee in hand. His daughter Elizabeth sat beside him. Dr. McGillicutty reclined in a La-Z-Boy 5000 ("The Armchair for a New Age"). Rather than watching something entertaining, such a rerun of one of the seventy-eight varieties of Star Trek, which were guaranteed to be showing on some channel twenty-four hours a day, they were watching the news.

Joe paused to look at the image floating in the air when he heard a New Brunswicker declare, "Me and the wife was goin' uptown, and here's this man fallin' from the sky. He fell into the old Stone Church. We were very surprised--especially since he lived!"*

St. John's, the so-called "Stone Church", appeared on the screen. It was all stone, in the neo-Gothic style of the 19th century. On the bell tower was a circular window with a Star of David in the centre. Behind the 475-year old building the spires of the city reached into the clouds. Aerocars made their way in the air according to designated paths. The picture moved on to the roof where a hole gaped up at the sky. The projection showed the inside of a sizeable church where a pew was broken in the shape of a man. "This is St. John's, the site of the android's crash. The android fell here last night, after falling from the back of an aerospace jet. The robot identifies itself as API-15 and claims to have been pushed from an airlock in Statio Terrae X--commonly called the Station--after his owner was incapacitated by a spherical robot."

"Hey," declared Elizabeth, "isnt API-15 Francis McCartney's robot?"

"I know the pastor at the Stone Church," Joe's dad said from behind him. Joe turned to see his father seating himself at the vidphone console while shoving his pastor's collar into his shirt.

Joe felt it appropriate to continue his trek to the kitchen. He opened a cupboard door and peered inside. He pulled out a cardboard box of Goodies, "The Cereal of the Future". Goodies had everything a parent wanted. They also tasted better than anything else. Goodies were the perfect breakfast cereal, the epitome of an industry that strove to feed humanity and scintillate its taste buds at the same time before humanity went off to start another day. Joe slid open the flap and poured the cereal into his stoneware bowl. He walked across the kitchen and place the bowl under the milk dispenser (this came with them from their old home). He pushed the button, allowing just the right amount of milk to spill onto the cereal. He did these actions instinctively, not a single thought passing through his mind the whole time (a state of being not uncommon to young Joe Darnell). He sat down at the bright blue table, spoon in hand. Joe Darnell ate breakfast.

Joe wondered was exciting things he would do that day. Juan sat down across from him, eating an Invicta Energy Bar. The Mexican smiled at Joe who cordially smiled back. He decided he would be more congenial after a shower.

"You just get up now?" asked Juan.

"Yeah," replied Joe.

"You're sleeping your life away! I have been awake for four hours! I have run, worked out, prayed, read the Scriptures and had a bubble bath!"

"A bubble bath?"

"I find that the soothing warm water and bubbles keep my muscles from getting sore," replied Juan. "This fine body was given to me by God. I will do what I can to keep it in good condition. And this day is a gift as well. I will not waste in bed."

"Neither will I."

"You can't--you already have!" Juan laughed, walking away.

Joe finished his food and went off to shower. Sadly for him, someone was already in the shower. He went to his egg and put on a crystal Micro Disc. He tapped his foot to the sounds of Gerald Williams, the amazing nova-rock guitarist. Joe liked music--so long as it had a beat. His mother appeared at the door.

"Joseph, could you turn that down?" she asked. Joe complied. "Thank you. Oh yes, do finish packing," she said and walked off.

Joe lay down on his bed, staring at the wall/ceiling.


"I'm sorry, Reverend Darnell, I do not think that sending you the robot is a viable prospect," Bishop Brown said.

"Why, sir?" asked Andy, sitting at the vidphone console off the hallway of his house.

"Because, you see, we have spent more than enough money on the Martian Mission already. Although the cost of sending a robot across the country is minuscule compared to sending thirteen people to Mars, we cannot afford it. Have you any idea how many homeless people in St. John we could help with those hundreds of dollars? Or how many Bibles could be printed? I'm sorry, but you'll just have to go on this mission with no robot." Bishop Brown disappeared.

Andy clicked off the video telephone. He sighed. The android had been a glimmer of hope in the dark onslaught of McCartney's mother's e-mail declaring that Francis had left the day before. Mrs. McCartney had made matters worse by declaring that if anything happened to her boy, she would hold both Holy Churches responsible as a result. He desperately needed the android. This was God's ticket out of inadequacy. An idea hit, and Andy pushed the "on" button, dialling a local number. After a couple of rings, the screen came to life, showing a Chinese man sharply dressed in a shiny green suit.

"Good day, Andy," said the man.

"Good day, Alban," replied Andy. "I have a request."


"It concerns a robot that crashed through the roof of a church in St. John, New Brunswick. As it turns out, this robot belongs to a member of the MMT. Our bishop in New Brunswick does not feel it appropriate to spend any more funds on the MMT. He says that the costs have been exorbitant, so we will have to do without a robot. Could you give me the number of the overseer for St. John?"

"Sure," said Alban. He punched a few keys, and Andy saw a phone number appear on a lighted panel just below the screen of the vidphone.

"Thank you," said Andy.

"No problem," Alban told him.

"Good bye, and God bless."

"Same to you!" Alban disappeared as Andy clicked off his phone. He dialled the number Alban had given him. After a single ring, a man appeared. He saw that this man was seated at a desk. He was a genial, plump man by the name of Frederick Wagner.

"Hello," said Wagner.

"Good day, Mr. Wagner. I'm Reverend Andrew Darnell, of the Martian Mission."

"Ah, nice to see you. What business causes you to phone me?"

"Well, sir, the robot that fell through the roof of the Stone Church is supposed to be on the MMT with us. Its owner seems to have been kidnapped, and we hope that it will be of help in finding him. The Holy Catholic Bishop Brown does not feel it prudent to spend more money on the MMT. We were wondering if you could fly the robot out here. Bill Henkinson is the vicar at St. John's, and the android is with him. Would you be willing to do this for us?"

"Yes, of course, Reverend Darnell. It is too bad your bishop was not inclined to send this robot out to you. I'll get on the phone with Henkinson as soon as possible. Good luck on the mission!"

"Thank you sir. Good bye." Wagner disappeared. "Is anyone willing to go on a trip with me to the police? We need to get help if were to find McCartney."

Dr. McGillicutty volunteered. He and Andy went out to catch the train.

The Greater Edmonton Police Station was built in the latest style--triangular. The front half was a big, shiny blue triangle. The back half was a big, shiny, upside down red triangle with a garden on top. Jutting from the front were two massive triangles, like buttresses. They flanked the seamless walkway to the shining doors--which were rectangles, not triangles. Triangles proudly displayed the Canadian, Albertan, and GEPD flags on poles. The two men walked up the seamless pathway, looking at the holopictures depicting the history of policing in Alberta from the North-West Mounted Police in the nineteenth century to the GEPD in the twenty-fourth.

"This building is somewhat hideous," noted McGillicutty.

"Not as bad as my house," replied Andy.

"True, true."

The glass doors slid open, breaking into eight triangles vanishing diagonally into the building. Just inside was the front desk. Nothing else was visible. Whether it was skilful design or holograms, one couldn't tell. A policeman in a pale blue jumpsuit that glistened like metal under the hovering light globes stood behind the desk. At his side for all to see was a state-of-the-art chrome laspistol.

"Good day, gentlemen," he greeted them. "What brings you here? Parking ticket?"

"Good day," Andy said, "and no, thankfully. A colleague has been abducted."

"Abducted, you say. Are you certain? He could have just gone off on a pleasure cruise to Jamaica. Maybe he's skiing in Colorado. He could be anywhere. Because he told you nothing does not mean he's been abducted. What evidence have you got?"

"His android says he's been abducted. The android barely survived intact. It got blown out of an airlock and--"

"An airlock? Airlocks are not our jurisdiction. Airlocks imply outer space. We deal with Greater Edmonton. Hence our name--the Greater Edmonton Police Department. What airlock was he blown out of?"

"One on Statio Terrae X."

"Ah, the Station. Not my jurisdiction. Maybe you should talk to them."

"Their records do not indicate that our man ever docked there."

"Maybe the android was tampered with."

"Maybe the records were."

"Well, whatever the case, we cannot help you. Good day," the policeman looked at Andys neck, "Reverend."

The RCMP was useless as well. The man in his deep red uniform just looked at them and simply said, "We don't work in space. Try a private detective or the International Space Authority."


Joe sat at the edge of the pool, dangling his feet in the water. His mother, Mrs. Underhill, and the younger Underhill children were at the Super HBC--the Hudson's Bay Company (North America's oldest corporation) had taken over half of Wal-Marts stores in Canada and replaced most of them with Zellers or Super HBC stores. Mr. Underhill was with Juan at the airport getting API-15. Rufus was in the top half of the cylinder that made up the bulk of Joe's house. He looked forlornly at the egg he called his room, sticking out of the side of a big cube at the base of the cylinder. Someone had lost his mind creating this house. Beside him sat Elizabeth.

"Why aren't you at Super HBC?" he asked her.

"Because I dislike the superficiality of such centres of commerce," replied Elizabeth.

"I see," answered Joe. This girl was not only from the same planet as he but also the same age. Since when did anyone care about superficiality or use the phrase "centres of commerce"? Elizabeth was around fifteen centimetres shorter than Joe who was 183 centimetres tall. She had long brown hair and blue eyes. Her skin was lightly tanned, but not too much. She looked at him with those blue eyes that made him swallow hard.

"Why aren't you?" she asked.

"Me?" Joe answered, raising an eyebrow. "I'm not a fan of shopping. You know, I buy what I want."

"Like nova-rock discs," suggested Elizabeth.

"Well . . . yeah," he answered. "But I won't go wandering the hallways and floors of a Super HBC looking at nothing for hours on end. If I want a new disc, I know what I want, go in, buy it, and leave the store."

"I see," Elizabeth replied. Somehow things didn't seem to be going well. Joe sighed. "Do you ever dream of Mars?"

"Mars? No. I dream of grey mountains with bases of green forest, not red mountains in the middle of red deserts on a red rock in the middle of space."

"I do," Elizabeth said. "But it will be hard to leave home."

"No kidding. At least..." Joes voice trailed off.

"At least what?" she asked.

"Nothing," Joe sighed.

"Oh, okay," Elizabeth replied.

They were silent for a while. Joe looked at the sky behind his house. It was blue, covered in the unique patterns of Albertan skies. There had once been a day when there was a hole in that blue. And soon, he would no longer see that placid blue. He yawned. Then Elizabeth splashed him. He looked over at her, at those blue eyes that made his chest pound. He gave her a very stern look before grabbing her and pulling her into the pool. Elizabeth squealed with both glee and feigned fear. As he let go, she grabbed his ankle and pulled him under, pushing down his shoulders. Things weren't going so badly after all.


Andy Dandy and James McGillicutty zoomed up the outside of one of Edmonton's towers in an elevator that seemed to be nothing but a plate of glass beneath their feet. Apparently it was surrounded by force fields. Andy hoped first of all that the power wouldn't cut out. Second, he hoped that this man, with the assistance of API-15 would help them locate McCartney.

"We live in a society that is very sure of itself," noted McGillicutty, staring at the plate of glass beneath them.

"Indeed," Andy replied. "If there were a power failure, I have a feeling we'd be dead."

"But there has been no power failure in over fifty years," noted McGillicutty.

"Remember what they said in 2015? There has been no war on Canadian soil in 200 years. Now, I ask you, where is half of Calgary? Toronto? The old parliament buildings? Cape Breton Island?"

"Indeed," noted McGillicutty. "And it was war that brought the modern dream to a halt. I guess if it hadn't come, we might have sent missionaries to Mars two hundred years ago."

The plate of glass stopped. The wall opened. They stepped into a waiting area. A blue robot behind a desk looked up at them.

"Do you have an appointment?" it asked.

"No, I'm an old friend," replied McGillicutty.

"Name?" asked the monotone voice.

"James McGillicutty," answered McGillicutty.

There was silence. The blue robot spoke up a moment later, "You may enter."

They approached a golden circle that split in half and stepped in. The room was curved at one end, matching the circle of the tower's base. A wood desk sat in the middle. From the look of it, it had to be 150 years old. A light globe hovered in the air, casting a yellow sun-like warmth about the room. At the desk, in front of a huge window revealing the sprawl of the city below, sat a large black man in a golden suit with a short jacket and no buttons. Beneath the golden suit was a shimmery black, collar-less shirt. He held out a metal hand. McGillicutty took it firmly. Andy followed suit.

"Good day, James! Lost the hand on a case that took me to the United States. They are not a happy people. After two hundred fifty years of reconstruction, they still haven't adjusted to the new balance of power or outlook. Thankfully, the lasrifle sealed the wound so I could live. What brings you here?"

"We need to hire your services," stated McGillicutty simply. "A colleague has been abducted. He docked at the Station, but was kidnapped and the records were forged. His robot survived and is on its way here as we speak."

"You want me to find him, then," stated the man. "Well, missing persons aren't exactly what I'm used to. I usually search for inanimate objects. But a kidnapping and a theft arent too different. Tell you what, James, I'll even do it for free. Just in memory of what you did for me."

"What did he do for you?" asked Andy.

"Saved my life. We went to the University of Ottawa together for undergrad. I thought I'd do a little detective work of my own on Parliament Hill. Of course, Parliament Hill has a big hole on the top. That didn't phase me. Neither did the fact that this hole is a little...radioactive. So, there I stood at the edge of the hole with a little camera, taking pictures. Around the hole is a low wall. I think there's a force field around the hole as well. But that was installed a week after my little escapade. You see, I kind of got on top of the wall--then fell. Head first. Suddenly, this Bio major is grabbing my ankle and heaving me out. The hole is very deep. They say the bomb was designed so it would take out only the area of the buildings and then explode straight into the ground. How anyone designed that almost 300 years ago beats me. Anyway, I probably would have broken my neck. So I owe him one. And Ed Ralston never forgets a debt. But the next time you come here, you're gonna have to pay me!" Ed smiled wide.

"Why, thanks Ed. Are you sure?" McGillicutty asked.

"Of course I'm sure. Besides, I'm filthy rich. I can afford to not get paid," answered Ed.

Ed spent the next hour asking them questions about Frank and the mission.


API-15 stepped off the airplane. He was in Edmonton. His route had been sort of roundabout, but he didn't mind. He wasnt capable of actually minding. It was true that being pushed out of an airlock and crashing through the roof of a historic church in St. John had been an inconvenience, but his programming didn't let that bother him. Two men approached him. From his data files he recognised the tall, pale one with brown hair as Mr. Alexander Underhill. Beside him, the broad-shouldered, dark man was Mr. Juan Santos. Both of these men were from the Martian Missionary Team. They must have come to collect him.

"Good day, gentlemen," he greeted them.

"Good day, API-15," responded Underhill.

"Buenos dias," said Santos.

"Come this way, API-15, and we will take you back to the Darnell . . . residence," Underhill stated.

"So," Santos said, "what happened?"

"When we arrived at Statio Terrae X, the IDR floated over and began to scan Mr. McCartney. Unfortunately," API-15 was able to feel regret concerning his inability to protect his master--most robots are programmed that way, "the IDR was equipped with some sort of stun device. Mr. McCartney floated in the air stunned. My programming for the defence of my master overrode everything and I smashed the blue sphere into the wall. A half-second later, I heard the sound of many suction cups removing themselves from the floor. I turned and saw a man in a white jumpsuit with an open red jacket and red hair. From a black device which I could not identify, he fired blue lightning through the air. My sensory capabilities were lost. When they become functional once again, I was in an airlock. Some men were there. One had a knife and removed all the synflesh from my right arm," API-15 showed the men a skeletal hand with metal bones and synthetic tendons with wires running through it. "I noticed that my left eye covering was gone," he pointed to an empty eye-socket from which shone a circle of blue light, as opposed his right eye that looked like a regular eye, only shining as well. "They had my clothing. Someone with robotic know-how had also removed my primary function cell. That explained the hole my sensors indicated to be in my back. My back-up systems had just cut in. They serve me just as well as the primary function cell. I struck the man with the knife in the head. He flew across the room and bounced off the wall. I pulled my straps from the floor of the airlock and kicked another in the ribs--"

"Wait," said Underhill, "I thought robots couldn't harm people."

"That is a myth. Any robot produced in the major robot-producing nations of Earth is unable to harm a person. I am merely unable to kill a person, leave a person in the hospital for over one week, or remove any limbs from a living person. Other than that, I can do what I please. I am a lunar robot. No robotics laws governed my production."

"Oh," replied Underhill.

"As I was saying," continued API-15 as they walked, "I incapacitated them. They quickly retreated out of the airlock via a secret exit. I had no chance to stop them and they blew me into space by opening the airlock. After a few tries, I managed to get inside of Earth's atmosphere. As I fell, I landed on an aerospace jet. I flew on that until it took an unexpected bank to the right above St. John. I fell into the Stone Church and broke a pew inside. The vicar gave me clothing and plugged me into the wall to recharge the back-up system. This morning, the Apostolic Overseer for St. John sent me here at Rev. Darnell's request."

"You see," Santos told Underhill, "it is a nefarious plot. I am certain that the Religion is behind it. Maybe even the government!"

They got onto the bus and went home.


Frank looked at his red-haired captor. He held a hypo-spray in his hand.

"What is that?" asked Frank.

"A sedative," replied the man.

"Why don't you get your robot to zap me again?" asked Frank.

"Because your robot smashed him," replied his captor.

"Ah, good ol' Appy," sighed Frank.

"Yes, good ol' Appy who cost me upwards of one hundred dollars with his ferocity."

"Where is he now?" asked Frank.

Frank felt the cold end of the hypo-spray against his neck. For the second time in as many days he felt nothing due to involuntary incapacitation.

*No slight to New Brunswickers intended.  I like New Brunswick and New Brunswickers very much.

Copyright 2002, Matthew Hoskin