The First Colony//Andrew Hughes

August 18th, 2058
Dear Mother and Father,

Today has simply been the best day of my life.  It finally happened.  After five months in the ChrioChambers, the head toxicologist, his name is Arthur, brought us back and it’s wonderful.  I don’t think anyone who’s never been to space can experience the pure joy of looking out the porthole for the first time and seeing the whole world.  Earth!!  And not just that, there’s a whole expanse of stars and the planets and the astroids streaking by.  So much vast, black, open space.  It makes you feel humble, it makes you feel alive, it makes you feel like you have a purpose.  I am in utter awe.

It’s everything they teach you at The Academy except more, they can’t explain the feelings, they can only explain the sights and the why and the how and the what we need to do about it.  The only time I ever felt this close to excited was on my first day of The Academy.  Standing there on the dock, the launch pad a mile out into the water.  Just watching the Q92 engaging its launch sequence, the outer supports peeling away, the squeal of the rockets like a million birds taking flight all at once, and then the blast of light as it took off, the first manned flight to mars jetting off into space, the tight white tornado of exhaust at its back.  You saw the launch on the news.  You can probably understand what I mean.  I hope so.  And now I’m on the second mission!  Sometimes I still can’t believe that this is real.

I know that you won’t be able to respond to this letter, not for a long while anyways, but I still want to know how you guys are doing.  How’s Molly?  Is she still wearing diapers? Is her tongue always hanging out?  Man, I wish that they allowed dogs on the colonization missions.  They kept saying no, so nobody pushed it after the second time.  All of us bright kids saw what happened to the guys who caused too many problems.  You see, at The Academy, it wasn’t just your grades that got you selected.  Of course you had to be smart, and you had to be kind, and good looking (thanks for the good genes guys haha!) but you also couldn’t cause too much trouble.  This is the first real colonization attempt after the soldier and engineering team.  They didn’t want any hot heads.

Anyways, it’s almost chow time so I’m going to get going.  I hope all is well, and most of all, I hope you reconsider the next expedition.

Missing you always,
Conner

 

 

USSP – TOP SECRET
MISSION TRANSCRIPT: FFX37HQ992
DATE: 19TH DAY OF MAY 2055
FOR SENIOR DIRECTOR HUNNELY:

Day 753 on board the shuttle and landing on the red planet became imminent.  Late in the night, SGT Phillips corrected the calibration with the satellite bearing rod.  All corrections were accepted and the landing gear engaged.

Musk may have gone off the handle there at the end, but he was right about one thing.  Upon landing, the troops fell into position by the doors, engineers at the rear of the brigade, the doors slid open to a red clay sky.  In the early, seafaring days of earth, this sky would have meant blood was shed the night before.  Now, it is our eternity.

We touched down at exactly 04:23 and the landing zone was cleared.  No threats were found.  No life forms found.  It is quiet here.  The rover Zion 12 was met upon arrival.  He appears to be intact as suspected.  The lens of his camera is indeed shattered.  Repairs will take place immediately upon full construction of the landing zone.

At 14:09 construction of the first dome was finished.  The TOM C. HUNNELY barracks is complete.  We then begun work on the excavation trenches.  They were completed at 17:48.  At this point, I instructed the regiment to break for meal.  A feast began.

In reference to yesterday’s transmission, Private Degum’s sickness has improved minutely.  His complexion is pallor and he still presents with a high fever.  The doctors do not know the cause of such a sickness.  He is quarantined to my former cabin in the ship until further orders.

CAPTAIN TYSON SIGNING OFF.
USSP – TOP SECRET

 

 

November 12th, 2058
Dear Mother and Father,

I know that it’s been a few months and I meant to write a lot more often to let you know how I’m doing, but trust me, it’s been crazy here!  I’m not quite sure where to start but I know what I’m most excited to tell you about.  Mom, you’re going to be so proud.

But first, I am still doing great in school.  With the advanced learning protocols, six hours a day in the classroom, and then three hours reading and three hours with private lectures, I’m on track to have my Masters by the time we arrive up there.  If I keep it up, I might be able to have the first PhD in martian physics haha.  Of course, all of that goes through The Wizard.  (We call him that because he knows so much.  He has seven doctorates and his law degree and he’s only thirty!  Not to mention, he’s really funny.)

But, that’s not what I really wanted to tell you guys.  Guess what mom?  I’m getting married!!!  That’s right, I met a girl!  Well, we met a while before, and with the fifty fifty split of the mission there was always a guarantee that I would be paired up, but we decided even before they engaged mandatory mating protocols.  And what’s even more?  She’s awesome.  Her name is Caroline and I’ve never felt like this about anyone else.  She grew up in Portland and her dad owns the Bath Ferry Company.  She was a gymnast in high school and she’s so pretty.  She’s studying with The Wizard to be a medical doctor and want to know the best part?  We like all of the same things!  We talked about Crashed on Carbon for seven hours yesterday and then I made her laugh until she had to rush to the bathroom.  It was so great.  I wish you guys could meet her.

It gets even better though.  We’re going to be married as soon as we arrive there.  We’re going to have the first Martian wedding.  Can you believe it?  And even more, we might give birth to the first Martian.  I’ve never felt this happy you guys, I feel like I’m going to cry just writing this.

I hope all is well down there.  I miss you guys and Molly so much.  I’m always thinking of you.  Can’t wait until we get to Mars where hopefully they’ll have the communication system up and running so I can send these to you.

Love always,
Conner

 

 

USSP – TOP SECRET
MISSION TRANSCRIPT: FFX37HQ1040
DATE: 28TH DAY OF JUNE 2055
FOR SENIOR DIRECTOR HUNNELY:

Day 40 on Mars and the building process has exceeded all expectations.  Construction of the ninth dome was completed at 07:19.  All extraneous material from Q92 have been unloaded and assembled within their designated structure.  The only material that remains on board is within my former cabin.

Private Degum’s condition has not improved and he continues to be a drain on resources.  In accordance to your orders balanced with the doctors advice, forty days were requisite to give a proper prognosis.  At this point, no one suspects him to recover.  He has become weak and cannot walk.  He poses a risk to all of us, either through consumption of resources or the spreading of his disease.  I will take care of the matter myself at 20:00 as is with your request.  It will be painless.

Within the farming dome, we have seen progress with the growth of potatoes.  The plants have begun to bud and the engineers predict edible products within the next few weeks.  This will be a happy reprieve for the troops.  They have grown tired of the freeze dried rations.  In addition, the water excavation mission was a success and the lake was found, thanks to Zion 12’s direction.  We have begun the desalinization process.

No threatening life forms reported, but the scientists continue to fascinate over the parasites found in the dirt.  So much so, Dr. Frenz, the telecommunication’s expert, only attended his work this morning under threat of reduced rations.  Those damned microscope hounds will drive me mad.

CAPTAIN TYSON SIGNING OFF.
USSP – TOP SECRET

 

 

February 1st, 2059
Dear Mother and Father,

I’m writing you today as a married man!  That’s right, we couldn’t wait, we’re too madly in love.  I decided we had to get married a few weeks ago after we passed through an asteroid storm.  It was a real bad one, rocks flying like cannonballs through space, Captain Carson doing his best to dodge them, but it was no use.  They kept hitting us, and hitting us, and we were all cowered in our cabins, and she was there with me and we were crying and she held me and I held her and when it was all over, we went downstairs to the viewing platform with its wide window and in the distance we could finally see the red speck of Mars and the sun came into view and there was a blast of white light and everything felt perfect.  I went down on one knee, and oh goodness mom you’ll kick me, but all I had was this piece of string I’d pulled from the blanket when we were hiding in the cabin.  But she said yes and I tied it in a loop around her finger and she was so happy.  Everyone was there.  We both cried.

I wrote Caroline’s father a letter asking for her hand, but of course he won’t get it.  But, I think it was important I ask.  Caroline say’s he would like me though, so that’s all that really mattered.  We asked The Wizard to marry us and he said yes, and Tom McCormick from The Academy agreed to be my best man.

We held the ceremony right before the sun slid out of the cabin’s view two week’s ago (it was the seventeenth of January,  I know mom will want to know).  That’s when the lighting is the most beautiful.  We stood at the very edge of the bay and The Wizard performed the ceremony and we swore our vows on the stars.  It was beautiful.  I am so happy.

It gets even crazier though!!  Captain Carson was so amazed by our dedication that he even gave up his cabin for the week for our honeymoon.  He was a private bath and a kingsized mattress and even an old DVD collection.  It was amazing!

I know I keep saying it, but it does keep getting even better than that.  Yesterday, Caroline saw doctor Smuthers and it’s true.  You’re going to be grandparents.  We’re having a baby!!  I still can’t believe it.  I hope all is well at home.  My only remorse comes from wishing you were here.

Love always,
Conner

 

 

USSP – TOP SECRET
MISSION TRANSCRIPT: FFX37HQ1075
DATE: 2ND DAY OF AUGUST 2055
FOR SENIOR DIRECTOR HUNNELY:

Something has gone wrong.  Last night, at exactly 23:07, two hours and seven minutes after lights out, a patrol of the scientist’s quarters discovered an inconsistency.  One of the twenty four beds was empty.  The patrolling officers performed a quick scan of the dome and no trace was found.  The bed belonged to Dr. Donald Frenz.

According to the lead engineer, Frenz had been acting strange since the discovery that the microscopic organisms in the dirt, the ones that Frenz had begun referring to as shock probes, actually carry a minor electric charge.  The other engineers claim that Frenz had become obsessed, often leaving his work unattended to observe specimens.

I was awoken by the patrolling officer, Private Emertiz, and after a debrief, I ordered a search of the entire base.  This search took place between 00:14 and 02:26 with no avail.  No signs of Dr. Frenz were found during this time.  The only clue to his disappearance was found today at 09:14 during a routine equipment check.  The other twenty three beds in Franklin Barack’s were occupied at the time of the disappearance.  There were twenty four space suits in the bay.  Wherever Frenz went, he left without a suit, an oxygen tank, or clothes as far as we can discern.  No footprints were discovered in the dirt outside the dome.  No one has been able to come up with an answer to Frenz’s disappearance.  A state of paranoia has set in.  A storm is brewing in the distance.  Honestly sir, I am worried myself.

To make matters worse, before his vanishing, Dr. Frenze implemented a biometric security lock to the telecommunications system.  We are currently trying to bypass it.  Until then, we will be unable to transmit.  We are alone.

CAPTAIN TYSON SIGNING OFF.
USSP – TOP SECRET

 

 

October 12th, 2059
Dear Mother and Father,

We are terrified.  No help is coming.  This may be my last testament.

Yesterday, we touched down on Mars.  There was a celebration as we came in for the landing.  We could see the domed base through the portholes.  I couldn’t stop shaking as Caroline helped me into my suit.  Mars.  We had finally made it.

After touchdown, the doors dropped with a hiss and we walked out dignified and respectable even though everyone of us was longing to run, to shove each other out of the way and set our first foot down on the alien soil.  The Wizard and Captain Carson lead the landing party.  We knew things were wrong as soon as we reached the base and saw no one came out to meet us.  They have radar, they knew we were coming.  We didn’t understand.  We had been in short distance communication with the command there, Captain Tyson.

It made sense why they didn’t meet us when we opened the first dome, and then the second, and the third.  All of them.  They were all empty.  Empty and cold, chilled frigid.  No signs of life.  As we walked through, I felt my spine lock into place and I stopped to check my oxygen, it was so hard to breath.  Everyone was scared, so scared.  Caroline even broke orders to hold my hand.  He fingers felt so lumpy in her space suit.  Mine are too, we couldn’t even hold them, but they were touching and that made me feel better.

We noticed even more as we went through.  All the suits, they were in the bays exactly where they should be.  The rifles, the gernades, the rations, they were all in their slots.  The farming dome, it was well maintained, leafy plants sprouting out of the red, Martian soil.  There was no dust on anything, it was all perfectly maintained.  But, there was no one.

The only clue, the only thing we found was in the captain’s chambers.  Captain Tyson.  Behind his bed, we found scuff marks on the floor and carved into the wall: GO BACK.

We are all afraid.  We sit in our cabins back aboard the ship.  The Wizard removed the communications system from the base.  He is currently trying to unlock its biometric scanner.  We have armed ourself and pilfered the rations from the base, but it’s not enough.  There is no fuel.  We cannot go back.

As I write this, I am sitting at the desk in the corner of my cabin.  I have a pistol by my side.  Caroline is asleep on the bed behind me.  She is showing heavily now.  Our son will be born in two weeks the doctor’s say.  If we make it that long.  I’m tempted not to wait.

I am afraid.
Conner

 

 

USSP – TOP SECRET
MISSION TRANSCRIPT: FFX37HQ1077
DATE: 4th DAY OF AUGUST 2055
FOR SENIOR DIRECTOR HUNNELY:

Jesus fuck, they came out of nowhere.  Mayday, if you get this transmission fucking abort.

They came with the storm.  Jesus.  We were never prepared for this.

The appeared as blue forms, floating, not touching the ground.  They did not stop when we yelled.  Warning shots did not phase them.  Neither did the bullets.  They continued like fucking phantoms.  Grenades, nothing worked.  When they reached the troops, one touch and the soldiers fell, every goddam one of us, nothing could stop them.  They passed through my men like phantoms.  After the first line of defense fell, the troops fled to the barracks.

It’s worse.  Jesus, it’s so much worse.  I ran with Dr. Thomas and when we reached my cabin.  He confirmed it.  They had been talking.  The blue forms had been talking.  Speaking fucking English! And they all had Dr. Frenz’s voice.

We’ve fled to my quarters, barricaded ourselves in here and while he got this fucking piece of shit working, I left a message in the wall.  A warning for anyone else.

I can hear the grenades going off outside my door.  They’re coming they’re fucking coming.  Something is punching the code in, using the biometric lock.  Oh Jesus.  Thomas has gone to see and oh god.  Oh my fucking god.  It has hands.  Human hands.  And a face.  Frenz’s fucking face.  Oh god.  Oh my god.

CAPTAIN TYSON SIGNING OFF.
USSP – TOP SECRET

 

 

Andrew Hughes currently works as an easily distracted EMT who dreams of writing lofty novels that high school teachers will make their students read. Thus far, he has published stories in “Five on the Fifth” and “Brilliant Flash Fiction”. Originating from Portland Maine, Andrew now lives in Nashville Tennessee. He plans to return up North or maybe to move to Guatemala to live in a shanty or maybe to go to law school. Really, he has no idea.

 

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