A freight ship captain is curious about what he is hauling to a Mars colony.
“Hello Captain Grace. How was your trip?”
Grace shrugged. “Eh, I’ve been transporting cargo to and from Mars for over a decade.” Grace suddenly became stern. “This is the only cargo that I don’t know what is inside. Why is it top secret?”
“I could tell you but I’d have to kill you,” Dr. Floyd said with a smirk. “Come with me. I want you to meet one of the families on Mars.” Floyd led Grace through a tube-like walkway with thick circular windows. They went through a hatch and saw a handful of people smiling. “These are the Smiths,” said Floyd.
A teenage boy walked up to Grace. “I’m Rick. I saw your ship land through one of the windows. It’s rad!”
Captain Grace was introduced to the family that was made up of two girls, Rick, the only boy, and a couple in their mid-thirties.
“Here, I’ll show you to your living quarters,” said Dr. Floyd as he turned about and exited the room. Grace followed him through the tubed walkway and they approached another electric door. Inside was a room all in white from the walls, ceilings a bedded and sheets.
“What is there to do around here?” asked Captain Grace.
“There is a recreational facility a few junctions away here. Are you a gamer?” asked Floyd.
“I am. I have a PlayStation Five on Earth.”
“Well we have all the top games on console and computer.” He paused. “The real fun is dune bugging outside.”
“That sounds fun!” exclaimed Grace.
“Well, I’ll let you explore. If you have any questions the science section is on the large dome compound you see over there,” said Dr. Floyd, pointing through a window.
“Thank you doctor.”
Dr. Floyd patted Grace on the back and walked off. The excited captain admired the red dust-like sky of Mars through one of the windows of his room. He reclined on his bed and rested his head on his hands. “It sure would be different to live here. I’d miss the sun and blue skies of good old planet Earth though. In the meantime, Grace pondered what could possibly be in his cargo. Maybe weapons? No there would be no need for such a thing.
Night was arriving and sleep sounded like a good idea. He dreamed of dune bugging and a future of the colony as a utopia filled with large, tall structures filled with people.
The next day Grace was awoken by a rap at his door. He sat up, walked to the door and pushed a button that opened the electronic partitions. Before him was Rick who had an ecstatic face. “Captain Grace. I heard something about what is in the cargo you brought.”
Captain Grace frowned. “How do you know about that?”
“I am very good at eavesdropping without notice. I’d tell my parents but they dislike when I do that. I’ve snuck into the science section many times.”
Any idea of reprimanding the boy was eclipsed by Grace’s curiosity. “And what did you hear?”
“They’re making some sort of machine and all the cargo are components for building it.”
Grace’s eyes widened. “When did you learn this?”
“Last night. I followed a scientist into the staff only section.”
Grace put his hand to his chin. “Why is it confidential? What could this machine be for?”
“I don’t know but I’ going to find out. I’m sneaking in again tonight.”
“That is not right. You shouldn’t go where you’re not supposed to be.”
Rick looked down and sulked. “Okay. I never should have I told you,” he said trudging away from the door.
For the duration of the day, Captain Grace went everywhere he was allowed to go. He played video games and ping pong with the families of the colony. Later he worked out at the exercise room a few corridors away from his quarters. Soon the day came to a close and Grace was tired and fell asleep the moment he laid down. It was around 3am that he heard pounding on his door. He jolted.
“Who in the world!?”
The door slid open and there was Rick with an ecstatic but overwhelming expression. “Captain Grace! I know what the machine is!’
“What? Slow down. Tell me what you’ve found.”
“They’re building a giant drill.”
“Drill? For what?”
“That is what is the most unbelievable. I snuck into one of the restricted computer terminal rooms and hid behind one of them. I heard them say they had used something called a subterranean bio scanner and found life signs beneath the ground! They’re trying to reach whatever is below ground.”
Then Dr. Floyd’s voice came from behind Rick. “So you found out the nation’s biggest secret huh?”
The two culprits froze.
“Now that you know, I either kill both of you or you never speak of this to anyone and remain in a secluded part of the compound for the rest of your lives. Rick, that means you will never see your family again.”
The boy teared up. “Please no!”
“Rick, don’t worry. We’ll have each other.”
“I want my family! I promise I won’t tell.”
“It’s out of my hands young man,” said Dr. Floyd.
Rick kept pleading and crying but to no avail. After an hour, he finally gave up. “I’m sorry for spying on you.”
“Tell you what. I’ll let you two see the drill that we have been working on to reach the aliens.”
With that, Floyd told Rick and Grace on suits and were driven to the drill site two miles away. The drill was an engineering wonder. Perhaps in the future they would meet these aliens. That prospect is what would sustain their spirits.