Following the journey of an astronaut bringing little pieces of home onto a new planet.
Layla Smith looked out the window of the room, feeling both nervous and excited for what was about to happen. She watched a little bird fly around, making its nest. Zoning out, Layla didn’t realize her friend James Lewis was trying to get her attention. It wasn’t until he tapped her shoulder. He pointed to the speaker, Dr. Trey, and she rolled her eyes and she impatiently tapped her foot on the floor. I can’t wait to go to Mars! Layla thought.
Finally, after five more minutes, Dr. Trey finished. “That will be all. Thank you for coming to learn more about our space rocket, Valor, and our cadets who will ride it to Mars and live there for a year.” He turned to Layla. “Layla Smith, one of our cadets going to Mars, please come up.” Layla gulped, her heart beating so fast it felt like it would jump out of her chest. She rose and...
|...tripped over a foot that was stuck out in the aisle. Cheeks warming, Layla slowly peeled herself off the floor and felt her face grow red. Her armpits started to sweat and she turned to see her tripper, a young man with a mischievous grin. Layla’s eyebrows furrowed angrily and she opened her mouth to speak, but Dr. Trey cleared his throat and she decided to just ignore the guy. |
Walking to Dr. Trey, she puffed out her chest and lifted her chin like nothing had happened. Stopping right next to him, she turned around and faced everyone at the meeting, and James gave her a smile. She smiled back and confidently met everyone else’s eyes while Dr. Trey gave a small monologue about why Layla was chosen.
He then turned to Layla and said...
|“Welcome Layla, please tell us a little about yourself and how you’re preparing for this great adventure.|
Layla took the microphone.
”Thank you Dr. Trey for the wonderful opportunity I’m being given. It has always been a dream of mine to be an explorer, to go where few people have been before and to test myself. Living on Mars for a year is going to be amazing but I’m sure there will be times when I miss the familiarity of home and of course my friends.”
She smiled over where James was giving her a big thumbs up sign. She continued, “Although we are limited in what we are allowed to bring, space has been allocated to bring along a few items to make our stay more comfortable.” Layla could see the audience were perhaps thinking of what they themselves would take along. “Some of the things I decided on were an easy choice to make. A photograph of my family of course and...
|...”a bag of marshmallows.” Layla thought back to when she was younger and how she always brought marshmallows with her wherever she went. Layla smiled as she continued. “I thank you all for coming, and I thank you, Dr. Trey, for choosing me to go on Valor.” |
The lights dimmed and the audience left. Dr. Trey put a comforting hand on Layla’s shoulder and she smiled. It was hard to believe that she wouldn’t see anyone else except a few people on her mission trip for a year.
“Let’s go Layla,” Dr. Trey said. She nodded, and they walked out of the guest room and towards the launch room. As she walked in, she noticed...
|the others already climbing into their space suits. Her suit was hanging in its place. The reality of what was about to happen made her frightened and she wondered if it was too late to back out.|
“The launch staff will assist you to get into your suit,” Dr Trey said, shaking her hand, “I wish you Godspeed Layla.”
The countdown was already in progress with just over two hours remaining before she would be shot into space on a journey into the unknown.
Her fellow travellers, Steve and Mark, were two young men with whom she’d been training for nearly two years. The three shook hands and climbed into their allocated seats, strapping themselves in for the ride of their lives.
The main engines ignited, the entire cabin rattled and shuddered like a skyscraper in an earthquake. A deep rumble shook the cabin as the main engines came up to full thrust and .....
|...Layla ground her teeth as the roof of the building opened and the rocket started rising. The force of the engines as they pumped power was a little frightening but exhilarating to her. Her heart beat quickly and palms sweated as she heard over the intercom—5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Blastoff! A bit cliché, Layla thought, but she smiled anyway. She thought back to the television programs she would watch when she was younger about rockets launching into space. |
Suddenly, the rocket pushed forward and she was pulled towards her seat forcefully. Layla could feel it bruise. She grimaced, and the g-force pulled her lips open. With much effort, she turned her head towards Mark, the fellow astronaut on her right, and saw he...
|had passed out from the g-forces. Eventually the pressure on their bodies relented and they were able to move around the cabin. In zero gravity Layla floated around, it was a realisation of a dream. With just a little push she was able to glide as if she was a character in a science fiction movie.|
Steve and Mark joined her, exhilarated at surviving the most dangerous part of the mission. They were on their way to Mars at last!
After several months in space, preparations were in place for the landing, Mars was about to come into view through the portholes. The three astronauts were in daily contact with the crew already ensconced on Mars, who were desperately waiting for urgent supplies which Layla’s mission was carrying.
At last the day arrived when they touched down on the red planet. Donning their space suits they exited the space craft, stepping down onto the rocky surface and...
|...checked their harnesses. Over the speakers in their suits, they talked to each other about the weightlessness and making sure everyone had their connector on. After everyone said yes, Layla took the opportunity to jump onto Mars, their home for a year. She laughed with joy at the low gravity and felt like a little kid. She turned to Steve and watched him as he jumped off right after Mark. They all laughed together but then Layla saw something happening to their ship. |
It seemed to happen in slow motion actually. One minute the ship was perfect, the next, it blew up. Transfixed, Mark watched with Layla as Steve quickly jumped forward. However, because of the low gravity, he didn’t get far enough and time and was blasted, hurtling far over the other side of the planet. They realized his connecter had disconnected and tried to radio him but there was no response. Layla and Mark barely saw that the rocket had turned into Mars Bubbles (where they will live) and that all their luggage was floating free.
Layla started crying and told Mark over the radio...
|“Mark, this is really bad, do you think Steve is still alive?” Mark was as shocked as she at the turn of events but tried to comfort her.|
“It’s possible he survived Layla but we need to keep in control, let’s get inside the Bubble and then we’ll decide what to do.”
They gathered what they could salvage and entered the calm of the main Bubble.
“We’ll radio the other team to let them know we’ve landed and explain about Steve, they may be able to help.” Layla said, calmer now.
They looked around at their accommodation it was simple but comfortable with all the facilities they would require to survive on this harsh red planet.
Able to dispense with their space suits whilst in the Bubble they unpacked,
she wept at the photograph of her family, she missed them so much. Mark radioed their position and waited for contact from the others who were camped over a mile away. They would be departing to return to Earth now Layla and Mark were here, leaving them with no way of getting home.
A meal was the first priority using the dried food supplied in the Bubble followed by a marshmallow from Layla’s precious supply.
With still no word from the others, the two astronauts began to feel that perhaps something had happened to them. Maybe they were dead?
The pair were so exhausted they slept, unaware they were not alone....
Cráter, a Martian, heard the explosion. He was with his sister, Réd, and they spoke to each other telepathically. I wonder what that was, Cráter said. I wish I knew, Réd responded. They frowned and Cráter heard something whistling. Before he could say anything, his sister was rammed into by some strange projectile. "Réd!" he called, but she only grunted. Cráter pulled off the strange thing that had rammed into his sister and found it was alive. Inside the white cloth, the living thing inside moaned. I am going to investigate where this being came from, he said to Réd. I will be back soon. She nodded in response and Cráter summoned wings onto his back and flew away.
He traveled back from where the sound came from and where the being flew from. Soon he could tell he was near because a strong smell of unknown chemicals floated in the low gravity. There was also a strange sphere with little modules and see-through parts hovering a few feet above the surface. Cráter stopped mid-air, squinting. There was movement in the sphere for a few minutes until the lights turned off and he couldn't see anything anymore. Gliding closer, he landed over the largest transparent part. He peered in and saw...
|more of those creatures he and Red had disposed of weeks ago. He watched noticing their stillness he thought that maybe they were not working or broken.|
He would keep watch he decided before telling Red, she would be busy investigating the other Alien which had knocked her over. She had a bit of an anger management problem and he knew she’d be in a bad mood at the moment. He settled down for a while outside of the Bubble occasionally peering in to see if the Aliens had moved. It was then he spotted the marshmallows, he wondered if they could be alive. Were they tiny aliens, pink and white little balls? He extended his telescopic sensor and tasted the sugary air inside the Bubble and...