A terrorist attack on the Martian colony has devastating consequences.
|"The biggest problem we have is dust," explained Chief Engineer Marvin Hegel to the established dignitaries. He was standing in the astronomy center. This was a tall skyscraper built on the top of Mons Olympus on Mars. The mountain itself was 22 km high and the building extended a further one km above the surface. He was looking down, with the VIPs assembled, onto the top of Mars City below him. What they could see was a large dome covering the main caldera of the volcano. With two large pipes breaching that Dome that stretched about one km into the sky. This was the magnetic rail launch system for spaceships that saved a lot of fuel for outbound cargo ships and made the Mons Olympus site so ideal for trade.
"The dust on Mars is so fine that it seems to get into everything and clog everything up. We have drone cleaners on the Dome surface down there continually wiping off the dust. We have doors on the launch system pipes you see below us so that they only open when the spaceship is launching and so that dust is carried out of the system with the spaceship. Sometimes the dust has toxic properties and other times it is just harmless but either way, it is bad for machinery. So we sited the capital city of Mars underground in the caverns beneath the surface of Mons Olympus so that we could better filter out that dust. It also provides better radiation shielding to place our city underground. When giant dust storms hit the rest of Mars the head of this mountain is usually above the dust clouds. This allows us to continue to launch and receive cargo ships for most of the Martian year."
"Wasn't it a little dangerous to build here considering it is a volcano?" said a worried visitor looking down at the volcano.
"The volcano itself has not erupted for some two million years and the magma is about 32 km beneath the base of the volcano and so well below our habitations and factories. Nonetheless, iron channels are planned to channel an eruption off to the side of the mountain should one ever occur." Marvin said.
"Planned? So not built yet then."
"Yes they will cost a lot to build and the risk is regarded as rather minimal. Shall we continue our tour gentleman?" Marvin indicated with his hand the direction in which they should now move.
The meeting assembled in the conference hall about 10 km below the top of the volcano above them. Marvin was also at the table. He recognized most of the other faces around the table as being those of department heads in the Mon Olympus Local Government. There was a Martian military general there also and one of the VIPs from the morning tour. The Martian president began proceedings.
"Gentleman we are assembled here today for our monthly meeting to discuss issues of interest to the City. First off the Chief Engineer will report on recent seismic disturbances in the magma flows beneath this facility. Mr. Hegel, could you please start us off with an overview of the issue," said the President.
"Yes Mr. President, thank you for this opportunity. As you might be aware our geothermal electricity facility uses pipes drilled deep below the surface to provide much of the cities power. Over time we have deepened the pipes and extended the sensor information we obtain from them about what is happening below the surface, " said Marvin.
Marvin clicked a remote in his hand and a 3D map of the volcano appeared. Next to the 3D presentation were three time-stamped 2D pictures of a part of the interior, labeled Area-127. Marvin went on to explain these. As he did so he used his pointer to highlight the part of the 3D picture of the volcano he was talking about. His audience was engrossed. They were all too aware that what he was describing was warming their proverbial backsides on the very chairs they were sitting on.
Marvin pointed to an area of the map which had the highest and closest amounts of red to the surface.
"We call this part of the magma Area-127 and this is what the timestamped pictures on the right here are describing. It is the closest to the surface and as you can see we have three pipes drawing heat from this location. Each large pipe has an internal downpipe pumping cold water and an up-pipe through which steam rises. Each pipe has sensors that have picked up a significant change in magma activity in recent months. Basically, pressures have built considerably and we are not entirely sure why."
"Is this any threat to the security of the spaceport?" asked the Martian General.
"No, because we have some 32 km of rock in between us and this activity. Also, we are unlikely to see any major change to the threat level. This is of interest only because it has started to affect our energy mining of geothermal energy. We need to be able to predict the movements in the magma to maximize the efficiency of our geothermal energy extraction."
The general nodded apparently satisfied with the answer and then seemed to lose interest stifling a yawn.
The president asked the next question,
"Do we have adequate power supplies even with this uncertainty in Area-127 to maintain normal operations?"
"Yes, Mr. President we do."
"OK, thanks. The Space Port Director will give this report next."
A small, suited, bespectacled man who looked more like an Accountant than a chief executive rose from the table and came to the front to give his presentation.
A map of Mars appeared again in 3D with Mons Olympus to one side and two long blue lines that represented pipes extending towards the polar ice caps and one smaller red line CO2 pipe that reached the rim base of the volcano.
"Gentleman as you are all aware we have pipelines bringing us water in liquid form through an underground pipe network extending to the polar ice caps. We use this water here in the colony to grow our food, for drinking, for the pools in the tourist sector, and also to create Methane and Liquid Oxygen for the space ships. Our most recent issue was a meteor hit on a water pipe. Our repair crews were quick to replace the affected pipeline and water flows have resumed. The fuel tanks are now at 90% of capacity once more."
There were smiles around the table from those who had been aware of the problem but not the solution. The meeting continued for some time after that. Just as they were wrapping up, the refreshments crew arrived pushing trollies and dressed like waiters. Marvin took the opportunity to move towards the doors to where he could skip out during the break to attend to some Engineering department issues with a nuclear reactor. A buffet lunch and some drinks were planned before the meeting continued afterward, but many of the guests would probably skip out during the interval like Marvin as all were busy men. The three waiters stood around the room at key points and Marvin noticed the Martian General eying them suspiciously. The General stood up suddenly pulling his gun out and pointing at one of the waiters who had military tattoos visible on his forearm.
But before the General could complete his action a waiter from the other side of the room yelled out something indecipherable and clicked a small device on the side of the trolley and the room exploded. Marvin was thrown through the doors by which he was standing, by the force of the blast. Dazed by the explosion it took him about a minute to make sense of his surroundings. Seeing only smoke and flame inside and unable to enter to help anyone due to the heat Marvin decided that he would instead try and get away from the scene and bring help. As he moved through the colony he heard other similar explosions. Then deep beneath his feet, he felt some colossal explosions that must have been thermonuclear in power as the whole colony went momentarily black. Every electrical system was temporarily knocked out by the EM pulses. Marvin knew that safeguards had been in place with faraday cages around key circuits since the early days of Martian colonization and a simple automatic reboot sequence. The colony was lucky that they used the same design principles inside as out so that they could ransack noncrucial systems from inside or outside for spare parts when required. It had made the interior wiring of the colony more expensive but events had proven Marvin's judgment correct on this. This had been introduced due to the effect of solar flares which had caused havoc in the early days of colonization. So the power outage would not last. Sure enough emergency lighting kicked in a second later. That did little to ease Marvin's fears as he realized the very ground was shaking. He realized that someone must have inserted mini thermonuclear devices at intervals down a heat pipe extending to the magma deep below the colony synchronizing their detonation to clear a pathway for the magma. The earthquake was the beginning of a manmade eruption designed to wipe out the colony.
I bet they used Area 127, Marvin thought to himself as it was the closest option. They are trying to break the wall between the magma and the caldera, they took out the leadership of the colony to hamper the command and control
He raced towards the underground transport network telling everyone else in the area to get out as fast as they could. He used his rebooted mobile to post a repeating message on the intercom system to evacuate the colony due to an impending eruption. He himself would board a train sideways to the CO2 production station on the side of the mountain. He thought to himself that should be far enough away from the actual eruption. When he arrived at the station he was pleased to see that the train there was full with just enough space for himself and he squeezed in as it departed. As the train sped off away from the main caldera the ground shook again. Marvin worried that the tracks beneath them would bend. He was glad this train had the old design of an independent battery that was charged daily and not dependent on a network power source as with many of the newer tracks. This meant that even if the power failed in the main colony it would not affect the train. The Martian News network was broadcasting on the screens in every carriage and every face was turned upwards to listen to the news.
The commentator read his broadcast against a background of a "Breaking News" banner headline and pictures of Mons Olympus taken from a cargo ship recently taken off from the facility.
"We interrupt our programs to bring you reports of a major terrorist attack claimed by a group calling themselves 'Martian Human Extinction Rebellion' on the capital of the Martian colony and principal spaceport on Olympus Mons. We are receiving social media buzz from occupants about multiple explosions, and earthquakes and people fear that an eruption may be underway." As he spoke a sheet of flame erupted from the colony on the news screen shattering the Dome over the colony and the pipes.
Marvin, with his Engineer's know-how of the colony, thought to himself, that was the fuel tanks which means magma has reached them already.
The massive explosion was followed by a literal eruption of Mons Olympus for the first time in 2 million years. On the TV screens above their heads, they saw lava explode out of the caldera shooting a cloud of ash and flame high into the atmosphere. Human terrorists had awoken the fiery heart of the planet.
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