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Martian Boogey Man.

Posted on Sat Aug 29th, 2020 @ 11:54pm by Passenger Emma Yonkers & Client The Narrator

Mission: Ticket To Rhea
Location: Mark Whatney Memorial Terraformer 44a.
Timeline: One week before the destruction of Deimos.

Terraformers are the modern-day alchemy of the times. Able to suck in the thin atmosphere of Mars, the already perishingly thin last gasp of another age, and through a chemical process better thought of as magic, pump out nitrogen and other greenhouse gases. Thicken the atmosphere first, then worry about the carbon cycle and oxygen levels.

This feat is all accomplished by seven thousand miles of piping, four fusion reactors, two dedicated Tripple A compliant AI's, and a single human operator mostly there for insurance purposes. In another time, on another world, on the forlorn coast of a continent, such people who sought solitude might work as a lighthouse keeper.

On Mars, there were terraformers.

Of course, unlike other countries, these modern-day lighthouses of nuclear physics and chemical miracle-working were soaking in the ether of the digital universe. Local network access, entertainment feeds, the various news services, and of course the universal sport of the solar system: soccer. Of course Martian pitches were longer and wider, owing to the fact at a 3rd of a gee Martian soccer went fast.

But that still left a lot of time to think. To be alone. To ponder the great questions all mortals are faced with. Such as why the perimeter sensor net had gone down again. Looking over the instance logger built into the barebones computer system, the perimeter sensors were there to alert if anyone tried to get close overland to steal...whatever one stole from a massive chemical processing plant? No doubt there were things here that were worth something. The logger reported that over the last 400 Sol's the fence had gone offline at least twenty times, and each time the resident light housekeeper had chosen to ignore it.

On her fifth morning, Emma decided it was time to go out and check the fencing. She had done so much work just trying to get the systems back to their standards, and clean up the messes the last guy had left. It was sickening to think that this man was allowed to continue working at this terraformer. She had covered her bases by reporting all of the different issues the wack-job had left behind.

After her breakfast, she donned her Atmo-suit and climbed through the airlock. It was a bit liberating being outside, sadly it wasn't with her Goliath armor on. Walking over the the miniature motor-pool the site had, she grabbed a motorcycle and started heading out towards the first of the breach error locations.

She was amused at the whole concept. Some of her family traced her line back to a time when Cowboys would ride the fences on horse back. Of coarse they didn't have sensor systems telling them when or where breaks would be. So off with an Yeppi-kia-yay-MotherF@**er she goosed the throttle of the bike a raced off.

The bike's onboard computer kept suggesting a better route to the first fence break. But it wasn't a very exciting one, and even though the bike's electric motor wasn't fully charged it still had all the right torque in all the right places. Soon coming out of the looming shadow of the terraformer, the first break in the fence became clear. One of the poles was leaning backwards, pulling on the fence's mesh.

Poorly planted probably.

It took her a bit to re-seat the poles and string the wires across it correctly. She was hot and sweaty in her atmosuit before she was complete. Gods she missed her Goliath with the built in AC. Once she was done with the post she put the hammer and other tools back on the bike's tool rack and flung her leg up and over. Goosing the throttle she started off towards the next problem.

The second and third such breaks were similar. Just poor repair and maintenance on the part of the previous groundskeeper. And the fact that the terraformer stations budget had gone into its fusion core and not perimeter fencing. The bike's computer was beginning to signal its battery was now at 30% charge. But with one more left to go, where was the harm?

But the last broken fence, on the far side of the terraformer, wasn't a fault of poor maintenance or design. It was missing. For a twenty meter stretch, the mesh wire and posts were gone. Not only gone but bypassed with wiring that must have shorted out some time ago, with the cable running between them covered in dust. But that was not the most alarming thing.

The alarming thing was the widely spaced rut's of a crawler clearly indented into the Martian soil, rolling out into the plains of Arabia Terra to the west. But, more worryingly so, the tracks led back towards the base of the terraformer station two kilometres away.

Cussing and growling when she first saw the set up she pulled the bike to a halt and parked it. It was going to take more then just her tools, she would need to go back to get some parts. She was working through the list when it dawned on her the tracks lined up right back to the terraformer where she was living for the next while. "Crap Crap..." Emma cursed as she got back on the bike and started racing along the tracks. She really needed to call this in.

The course was straight back to the terraformer, and then it curved around the base until it turned up onto a service ramp that lead into the guts of the massive mountain of a machine. At the top of the service ramp was a long-distance rover, its 8 big mesh tyres crazed with pink dust stains that matched the faded yellow hazard paint job. Maybe it was a servicing crew? The big rovers could hold a dozen people and supplies. Except the signage on the side, faded though it was, read 'Orbis Freight & Stowage'.

Pulling her bike up along side the large rover. Storming into the airlock and cycling it. She stood there impatiently as she waited. Once it cycled green she tore off her atmosuit and started yelling into the area, "What the hell you guys! you drove right over the damn security fencing. Just who told you that was the right way to get here. For heaven's sake there is a main transport route for that very reason!" She was whipping out her DI voice as if she had only used it last yesterday.

The guy behind the controls was a weasel of a man. Pointed nose, defined cheek bones, and hair plastered to his skull by a combination of hair oil and an aversion to vertical showers. Much like the truck, the atom suit he was wearing was second-second hand: patched here and there but still bearing the Orbis Freight & Stowage logo on the shoulder patches.

He blinked slowly, lowering the terminal he'd been using as a lurid holo vanished from the air.

"Who the fuck are you?" He said, in a heavily accented Martian drawl that really dragged the words through the mud before getting them out of his lips.

"No, Who the FUCK NUGGETS are you is the question here. Now answer!" Emma growled at weasel man. "Now get down from there and tell me what the hell you are doing at my post and just who the hell you think you are busting down my damned fencing" She was getting really pissed now as she started reaching up to pull the man out of the vehicle.

"Hey, whoa, slow your roll there!" Weasel said, getting up from the crash couch and holding his hands up, the gloves of his suit dangling from the wrists revealing skeletal fingers. "You just, ya know, startled me. Its, just a, Chucky the other guy who ran this Terraformer said it was alright to come through ya know. Said to just come on right through. It was arranged see."

He said see so often he should have been a sailor.

"Hey, I know, how about I get my boss to come back here? Yeah? Yeah he'll straighten this all out, see, got all the paper work with him."

She was first about to tear into him that she wasn't Chucky, nor did he even have a right to give him the permission, before Weasel, mentioned a second person. "Where is this other person?" She demanded, as he hand gripped the heavy spanner hanging from her belt. "Get him here now!"

"Okay, okay! Easy...boss and the other guy I'm with are just storing some cargo. This here Terraformer, ya know, it's right between Hebe and Whatneyville. Easier to drop cargo here, spare parts. And this place has a metric ton of space ya know," Weasel said with a nervous laugh. He then very carefully typed a message into his comm and grinned nervously. "Boss is on his way back, you want to meet him outside or do you want to wait in here?"

"I don't give three shits the reasoning you have to be here, you weren't cleared with the admins, and I was told no one is supposed to be here. We shall wait right here until your boss gets here and I'll have a word with him." She was furious at this point. Once she had them gathered up she planned on calling the HQ and reporting all of this and await the proper people to handle these trespassers.

"Okay, okay," Weasel said. holding up his hands. "Suit's your self. I'm here trying to be all congenial and such, given our misunderstanding's and the like."

As he finished whining and denying Emma the good grace of fine grammar, the airlock began to cycle behind her. With a shudder, the air handlers rocked the big cargo rover as they pumped air into the lock. Then the inner hatch cycled.

Two suited figures stepped through. The smaller one, lower in stature than the first by a head, busied themselves with a control panel on the door. The more imposing one, matching Emma for body mass on the intimidation scale. But it was not the thing that caught the eye first, as the surface suit's visor automatically depolarised from a gold tint to a transparent setting.

The mans face behind the bubble of transparent aluminium was a mess. His skin was stretched at odd angles, warped in others, and mottled in a quilt of scar tissue that...patches. The Patch Work Man. But it was perhaps his one good eye, the one not scared white and lifeless by some horrific accident of the past, that said more of him than his visage. It was bright blue, almost glowing like the deep dry ice gorges at the caps.

"A pity," he said in heavily accented English not native to the Martian soil. "But no matter. Now."

"Quite a pity that your business will suffer from the fines you will be facing from the Corporation, and probably from the Government." Emma turned her attention directly on the "patchwork man." She walked over to him pulling her helmet off and standing to her full height. "Now are you the Boss? Your man here tells me you worked a deal with my predecessor, and well I hate to inform you that he never hand the rights to make such a deal. You need to clear out now, before I am forced to call the police and have you and your men here escorted off." She glared at him trying not to flinch at his features. She wondered what shit hole he picked those up or if it was from a battle of some form.

"You are a soldier. Yes? It is in your speech, your stance. A willingness to bear the consequences of your actions. In this I have a small measure of understanding," The Patchwork Man said, that strange stilted accent sounding like someone who had learned English only by reading it and not by hearing it spoken. "I have been a soldier all of my life. I have fought wars for people, for causes, and for the simple expediency that I am a professional with skills. So were you to call the authorities I would be inconvenienced."

There was the ratcheting click/whine from behind Emma. Weasel held in his hands a snub barreled deck broom, the sort of close-quarters weapon favoured by marine boarding teams for its limited range and ability to turn anything in front of it into red sauce confetti.

"This close, as we stand, if your actions prompt my associate to fire you will be remembered only as a janitor in a an overly complicated machine. But I would grant you a place among the horrors I have seen in my memory, placed between the abyssal depths of the Vesta Mining Riots and the ice plains of Oberon. Stalwart company among the remembered dead I carry," he said calmly.

"Well Fuck you too." Emma Zelda Yonkers glared at him as she worked the math. There was a chance she could roll around and take the trench sweeper from Weasel, but because the barrel wasn't touching her back she wasn't a hundred percent sure exactly where it was to grab. the probability would be high of her getting pulped. Then there was Le' Grumpo in front of her and his second, they might also be armed. All she had was her wrench.

"Looks like you have all the answers there... But how long can you keep this up before you are caught on to? And if I go missing that is two out of three janitors as you called me, to go missing? Calling a lot of attention to yourself." As she spoke she tried to back up a hair hoping to find that barrel before things got worse.

"I have been doing this a long time Soldier. Nå."

The deck broom barked. But instead of the lethal smart flechette rounds that would have turned the Martian Marine into chum, there was just the sudden icy splash of pain across her shoulders. At first, the icy chill was just painful, but it slowly morphed into a dull numbness that began to steal away the corners of her vision. Gene-gineered snake venom, a memory of Marine Force Recon training said to her, if you can feel then it's too late.

The rover went side went sideways, toppling as nerves suddenly decided to put all messages on hold.

"Ikke drep henne. Hun er en kriger, en soldat. Det minste vi kan gjøre er å gi henne en død verdig til sang." The Patch Work Man's voice said as he waved a hand towards Weasel, who was bringing the deck broom over to deliver a second blow. The Patchwork Man knelt down beside her, and tilted her suit back, to look her in the eye. "Die well later."


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