We have landed on Mars! What we find could explain the origins of the human race...
Return From Mars Adam.R.Crump
It didn't take too much time to figure out that something was seriously wrong with the astronauts. The best scientists and doctors available put the three living astronauts through a barrage of tests.
Price was fine, apart from memory loss, and a small deficiency in muscle development; all other functions seemed normal. It was the other vegetables that the scientists were worried about. They showed no sign of cognitive awareness, their heartbeat and breathing pattern was so slow that it was like they were hibernating; like they were waiting for spring to begin to warm the air around them or like they were waiting for something to happen.
Chris (the dead astronaut) had been given an autopsy, and it had been decided that the cause of death had been stress to the heart; a cardiac arrest. The scientists seemed to think that he had died of fright.
The four astronauts that had gone to Mars had had months of deep space training; months to prepare for what Mars had thrown at them, but the simple fact was; they had not been ready for the threat that had faced them in that cave.
Things went wrong on the third night they had been in quarantine. I had been talking to Captain Price, a habit I had developed since she had arrived back at Helios. I had felt sorry for her, being cooped up in a small cell with nothing to do, so I had taken it upon myself to go and talk with her.
She hadn't said much on that first day. I informed her about what had happened on Earth while she had been away. I had also taken the liberty to update her on her family situation which I think she appreciated. On the second day she had opened up a bit more and we talked about the town she had come from and her life before the army.
By the third day I had come to look forward to our talks and had stayed in there for the majority of the afternoon, and much of the evening. She had informed me about the deep space flight to Mars and back. It had been a very interesting conversation and I had discovered some fascinating ways that Price had kept herself entertained during the flight back. A lot of it had involved exercise.
I had bid Price goodnight, and had walked out of quarantine. As I was heading towards the sealed door I heard a noise. It was a clanging sound and it was coming from the morgue. I frowned and checked the computer schedule; I had not remembered anyone coming or going from quarantine since I had arrived. No one had logged into the area, so I wandered over to check the noise out. It got louder as I approached and then suddenly it stopped.
I got to the door of the morgue, which only had a small vertical rectangular window on the right side of the door. I looked inside, but I couldn't see anything on the viewing angle, so I depressed the open button and pulled the handle.
I was still in my pressure suit and moving was difficult, but I managed to get in. As I turned around I saw a sight that has haunted my dreams ever since. The dead astronaut; Chris Bertrand was standing at one of the morgue cells chowing down on Jennifer Lightbody (a Helios Base coms officer who had died of a brain haemorrhage a day before the astronauts had arrived home). With the base in lock down her body had not been sent back to Earth and was in the morgue awaiting its return to Earth. The noise I had heard had been Bertrand smashing open the door to one of the morgues refrigerator closets.
Chris had slowly turned around when he had heard the door open and now stared at me hissing as a cat would when poised to strike. My eyes widened;
"You've gotta be shitting me." I turned to run, out of the corner of my eye I saw Chris leap; and as I reached for the handle of the door I was knocked to the floor by the weight of his body. Even through the suit I could smell the decay of flesh, his body half-way decomposed but still functioning. I heard myself screaming, and then in the midst of my terror a funny thought came to mind. The advertising line from an old movie called 'Alien,' the title had been 'in space no one can hear you scream.'
I saw Chris' teeth zone in on my neck, and he transferred his weight to the front of his body, lucky for me the suit stopped any penetration of his teeth into my neck and I was able to push him off using his own momentum. I grabbed the door handle and pulled myself up, opening it in the process and scrambled out of the door.
I slammed the door shut and turned, finding myself face to face with four Delta Force troops. I almost couldn't say it, but I managed to blurt out the two syllables that I felt would warn them of the impending danger.
It felt insane to even suggest that that was what Chris was, but there was nothing else for it. He was a dead body reanimated. I had thought the soldiers would laugh at me and send me off to get tests done, but their leader only nodded.
"We saw it on the monitor, Mr Celtigar." He said. "You have better leave now!" he suggested as he pulled a knife the size of his arm from a sheath on the side of his leg, yet another weapon in the seemingly endless armada of Delta Force.
I needed no further encouragement and ran out of quarantine as fast as my legs could carry me.
Things changed after the 'incident' as I now like to call it.
The Delta Force troops took Chris to pieces with their knives, in a nasty close quarters fight. Chris didn't go out quietly, and had killed two of the soldiers, maiming a third; the fourth was like to die in the next few hours from injuries sustained in the attack. Under orders from Armistad the body of Chris, and the two soldiers were burned, and ejected into space to stop any more contamination of the base, and that was when things got really scary.
Once Armistad had identified the astronauts as being a threat to the security of Earth, he shut Helios off from Earth, and of course all the men and women as well. This caused massive pressure and tension among those of us who remained in the base.
Colonel Armistad did exactly what good leaders should always do in a crisis situation. He called a meeting and explained just what had happened. The meeting was called for 2100 hours, three hours after the 'incident.' Everyone came.
We were debriefed in the mission control room; Armistad stood at the front, the rest of us; a hodge podge of scientists, soldiers, special agents and civilians sat in chairs or stood where we could fit. The Colonel was brief and to the point. I guess that you don't make Colonel by talking about what you are going to do; you make Colonel by doing what you say you are going to do. He began, his gruff voice carried through mission control.
"At 1800 hours there was an incident on Helios. Some of you may know what happened, and in a few minutes all of you will know. The incident happened in the quarantine area and involved one of the astronauts who came back from Mars. It seems that Astronaut Chris Bertrand was somehow reanimated after his death and tried to escape the quarantine area..."
There was hushed talking and surprised gasps as the people inside mission control tried to make some sense of what the Colonel had just said.
"Silence, damn it!" Armistad cussed. "I haven't finished yet."
The crowd was silent instantly.
"The incident was neutralised, but not without a heavy cost. Three good men lost their lives today (the injured Delta Force soldier had died only ten minutes before the meeting had begun); another was seriously hurt making sure that this threat was contained. I have therefore put the Threat Level up to five..."
More hushed tones and gasps. The crowd was well aware of what the Threat Level was. It was a system invented especially for this mission. The Threat Level started at one and went to five, with one being the least threat, and five being a serious threat to Earth and its inhabitants. This time the Colonel waited until the room was quiet.
"Threat Level Five means that until we have figured out what is going on here, no one will be able to leave. I will not risk the security of Earth. We have a platoon of some of the finest soldiers to ever grace this Earth; they are trained to deal with anything and everything. We will find out what the hell is going on here, and we will take care of it."
There was a large cheer around the control room, as the hodge podge of people believed everything the Colonel had to say. I kept quiet. I had seen Chris. I had seen the way he had turned his neck at an unnatural angle, and how he had been chowing down on Jennifer. The Colonel may have been right. We may have a platoon of some of the finest soldiers on Earth, but these soldiers had never faced anything like we had here today. This wasn't a mismatched army, or a terrorist cell. This was an alien threat, and it seemed to me that the aliens were not going to play by our rules.
The base went quiet for a few hours after that. I sat in Mission Control watching the stars as the moon moved in its slow orbit around the Earth. Mission Control always made me feel calm and safe. It allowed me to order my thoughts.
As I was sitting in the corner, I heard a shuffling and looked up...what I imagined had been much worse but what I saw, was Colonel Armistad with one of the Delta Force troops. The two of them made a quick scan of the room, to see if anyone was around, but they managed to miss me, as I was below their field of vision. I turned around to listen to what they were saying, I didn't catch what the soldier said to Armistad, but I did hear his reply.
"...you are sure this will work Corporal, this course of action will be hard to explain. She is an American citizen."
"Can I speak freely sir?"
"You may." Armistad replied
"I don't care if this kills her sir. She broke the chain of command, she is not worthy of the patch that was given to her sir."
"You are entitled to your opinion Corporal, but I don't like the way you are speaking. She is a 'Captain' in the United States army, and you will show her the respect of her title, do we understand."
"Yes, sir." The Corporal replied, standing at attention.
"Now I need to know as much as I can about what I am facing here. I want information, but I don't want her harmed in anyway."
"I am not sure if I can promise that sir." The Corporal replied.
The Colonel stared down at the man; his eyes even from this distance looked menacing.
"Then maybe I need to find someone who..."
At this comment I decided to act. I had a fair idea of what the two of them were talking about and it didn't sound good. I stood from where I was sitting and greeted them.
"James...I didn't realise you were in here." Armistad stated, rather unnecessarily.
"That is obvious I think Colonel, I don't think that you would be talking about what you were in general hearing range."
"How much did you hear Celtigar?" the soldier growled.
"Enough to realise that you are about to do something that is probably not legal to a citizen of the United States of America."
The Colonel grinned, his lips pulled back to reveal white teeth and pink gums. Armistad looked after his mouth well.
"James...I have ordered martial law in the base. I have complete command here; nothing that I do will be illegal. However you know very well that I would not put anyone at risk unless it was truly necessary."
I narrowed my eyes. I knew that this was the truth; the Colonel was a good man. Working with him for the better part of two years had allowed me to make a decision about this.
"So what do you plan to do with her?" I asked.
The soldier turned to Armistad.
"Sir, I don't believe a civilian should be involved in this..."
"Corporal, I make the decisions around here and I trust in James' opinion. I have worked with him for the best part of two years, this is his project and he has a right to know."
The Corporal stood to attention once again, tight lipped, but his eyes glared at me with mistrust and contempt.
"We need to get some information from her James; I have asked the Corporal to employ a new shock therapy to see if we can pull the memories from her subconscious."
I stared at the Colonel, shocked.
"You mean to torture her?"
The Colonel raised an eyebrow.
"I mean to get the information out of her anyway that I can, to ensure that the safety of Earth."
"But you can't, this is an American citizen that you have in custody."
"Not exactly." Armistad replied. "Captain Price is a soldier in the United States Army; we own her and can under military law we can do anything we want. James I do not intend to hurt her, but we need this information. We need to know what we are up against here."
I was grasping at strings, but I had one thing that could change the Colonels mind about the torture.
"I can get the information for you." I blurted out
Colonel Armistad raised his eyebrows.
"How do you propose to do that?"
"When the mind goes through a traumatic event it shuts down the memory, so as not to cause further harm to the person, it's called repressed memory."
"You mean to say that Price has memory loss?" Armistad inquired.
"No, not really. If you think about the brain like a computer. A memory is like data that you want to upload to your hard drive, a repressed memory is saved into the brain's hard drive, but it's locked and you cannot access it. Memory loss is what happens when the brain doesn't save the memory at all."
The two soldiers nodded as if in understanding.
"In psychotherapy you use the senses to stimulate the memory, by using the touch, sound, sight, smell, and taste to recall the environment of the event you can draw out spontaneous memories about what happened. I can get you the information you need Colonel, you just have to give me time."
Armistad looked at me, and then glanced at the soldier.
"You have two days. If you have nothing then I am sending in Corporal Grant."