Read The God Mars Book Two: Lost Worlds Online

Authors: Michael Rizzo

Tags: #mars, #military, #genetic engineering, #space, #war, #pirates, #heroes, #technology, #survivors, #exploration, #nanotech, #un, #high tech, #croatoan, #colonization, #warriors, #terraforming, #ninjas, #marooned, #shinobi

The God Mars Book Two: Lost Worlds (8 page)

BOOK: The God Mars Book Two: Lost Worlds
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And in that moment I’m absolutely certain I’ll never
be going back to Earth.

 

 

 

5 February, 2116:

 

“I do want to assure you that we have faith in your
command, Colonel Ram,” Secretary Satrapi soothes professionally in
her latest message. “I can understand your caution. I hope you
understand ours. I any case, I feel we may have started poorly.
This is a joyful but very difficult reunion for all off us.

“In the spirit of building a bridge to our mutual
future, I can give you an update on our relief efforts. We had to
take some old equipment out of storage, re-tool our manufacturing…
The first shipments we send you will be very familiar to you,
because they will be mostly the same design with some updated
technology. Contracts for new shuttles, landing craft and
facilities are in the works as we speak. I am sorry to say we are
long out of practice at interplanetary travel, and we have a lot of
foundation to restore.

“In practical terms, expect material re-supply in
terms of unmanned drops to begin arriving in twelve months. Our
current plans have you receiving at least one significant relief
mission, including volunteer personnel, within eighteen months. Any
practical restoration of the pre-disaster shuttle system is at
least three years away, and it will at best resemble the early
colonial flow that predates even your arrival on Mars.

“I know that’s a long time to wait. Know that our
thoughts and prayers are with you in the interim. And please
continue to send us updated intelligence regarding the survivor
groups you encounter, including their locations and needs…”

I key the message off, but keep the flashcard
balanced in my hands as I sit on the reasonably comfortable flat
rock I found overlooking our growing greenhouse.

“One Earth calendar year,” Abbas digests
thoughtfully, sitting beside me in his bulky gear and armor filled
robes.

“A long time to wait for more coffee,” I joke, then
pop another of the almond-like seeds he’s brought (a delicacy from
the Coprates food trade routes) under my mask and savor it.

“Are none of your people eager to go home?” he
asks.

“A few,” I tell him with a shrug. “But the more we
hear of home, the less calls us back. I think this may be a bigger
shock than waking up and seeing what Mars has become in fifty
years.”

Sakina squats in her cloak a few yards away behind my
left shoulder, watching over me as she always does, still showing
no public sign of the boundaries we’ve crossed when we’re alone at
night in my quarters—when she is Sakina Rashid and not the Zauba’a
Ghaddar.

Abbas’ son Jon sits next to his father; I watch his
gaze keep drifting to Sakina. There’s a mixture of awe and
curiosity in his blue eyes, but I don’t see real fear. His eyes
turn quickly away when she glares at him, only to drift back like a
wayward compass needle. I stifle a grin at the thought of what
Sakina would do to him if she decided to give him the same “care”
as she has been giving me. Youth may have an advantage in
endurance, but experience has been a much greater asset given what
she enjoys—and is capable of—doing.

“Why do they not trust you?” Abbas brings me back.
“They say they do, but only after telling you that they do not want
to.”

“History, my friend,” I tell him, raising my face
into the brisk breeze, staring up into the wispy pink sky. “The
same reason they haven’t relieved me in favor of one of my senior
officers. I’m doing the same thing I did before.”

“Standing with your enemy against your own masters?”
Abbas sums up the “legend.” Jon is now looking at me like a rapt
pupil.

“There are clearer ways of putting it,” I explain
with a sad chuckle. “What I did before was discover that a number
of the key players behind the United Nations Counter-Terror
Committee that coordinated us had been complacent in manipulating
terrorist attacks to further their own political agendas. This
included some powerful government and corporate figures. It was one
of the most wanted terrorist masterminds of the time that had
brought me this intelligence, and I found myself working with
him—despite what atrocities he himself had committed—to expose and
destroy this conspiracy. Needless to say, a number of my former
‘masters’ tried to kill me to protect themselves—and tried to
eliminate the other members of my team who may have supported me.
Colonel Burke himself suffered a great loss: the woman he’d loved
was killed by a sniper’s bullet meant for him.”

“But you did what was right,” Abbas half-praises and
half-reassures.

“I hurt them back because they had used me,” I
rephrase bitterly, “used me to kill. And they’d killed many
others—many innocents—in their bloody games. I was beyond rage.
What was ‘right’ was incidental. I only cared about what was
wrong
.”

Abbas digests it. Smiles a little under his mask.
Nods. Chews a few seeds. Sips from his water bottle. Jon is looking
at me like I just told him God is an asshole.

“Is that what you did when you came here?” Abbas
challenges gently. I think about that for a few seconds, shake my
head.

“Same man, just older,” I answer. “They use me
because I’m good at what they want me to do, but they also know I
never fully trust, not unless I’m sure, not until I see for
myself.”

“Would they not have anticipated that, sending you to
fight more of their ‘villains’?”

I shrug. “Maybe some did,” I allow. “Maybe I was
their way of undoing something ugly. Or maybe they just figured I
would get killed and they’d have a martyr in the deal. But they
certainly never meant me to be placed in command of their entire
planetary operation. Colonel Burke and I were only assigned as
ground force commanders, guns in the fight.”

I see him smile under his mask.

“But you did a great right in your rage against the
wrong, friend Ram,” he soothes paternally. “You are an instrument
of something larger than yourself, larger than them. I believe
this. And not only because I am a Muslim.”

“And what am I doing now?” I ask wearily.

“Those who would be your masters now are the
children’s children of men you did not trust in their own time,” he
shrugs. “Do you have good reason not to trust these people?”

“I don’t fully believe what they’re telling us,” I
admit, realizing I’m doing something my new handlers would deeply
disapprove of. “It isn’t about trust—some may just be doing their
duty, following orders whether they agree or not. I don’t know them
well enough to trust or not trust, but I have doubts, questions.
What they say about the delay in responding to us—I don’t believe
it was innocent ignorance or confusion. There’s more fear driving
their decisions than they’ll admit. And I admit I am very hesitant
to tell them anything about this world that might feed that
fear.”

“About us?” he asks offhandedly. I shake my head.

“I worry more that they’ll be eager to study you like
some kind of new species,” I consider. “You’re safest as long as
they think you’re harmless.”

“They are afraid of the Jinn,” he assesses
directly.

“They are
terrified
of the Jinn,” I clarify.
“And not just because they’re afraid of the ETE’s nanotech. They
know the ETE control this world. Any claims of benevolence don’t
matter.”

“And the Jinn have not been so benevolent lately,”
Abbas adds, his voice weighted with something beyond idle
assessment.

“What have you heard?” I ask him.

“Do you want to hear when it is your duty to report
what you hear to Earth?” he offers me an out.

“My duty is my own burden,” I commit. “And I have a
more pressing duty to ensure the survival of those under my command
and care. So yes, I do want to hear.”

He digests that, nods thoughtfully, then gives:

“We see their silent airships more and more. They go
to Shinkyo. They go toward Zodanga. They go toward the PK Keeps.
Sometimes they come back damaged. Sometimes we hear gunfire and
bombs in the distance, see smoke, or dust storms where the wind
isn’t. It feels like war—war we have seen only in our history
recordings…”

Jon is nodding heavily.

It’s only a little more than we’ve seen ourselves,
but enough to indicate that there has been violence. Whatever the
ETE are doing to keep their peace, the survivor factions are
resisting
.

I check my canisters. It’s getting to be time to go
back inside. I point to my gauges and stand, brushing the dust off
of me. Sakina is already up and at my side.

“Stay and eat,” I invite them. “Sleep here before you
travel back.”

“I would like that,” Abbas agrees. “I will meet with
my people in your greenhouse and join you later?”

I nod. Then I look over the greenhouse. “We have done
some good things together.”

Abbas smiles, but then gets serious again: “When they
send their own men from Earth, they will replace you?”

I give him a shrug, look around tracking the horizon,
the visible boundaries of the life-sustaining valley.

“This is my home now,” I tell him.

Abbas smiles and clasps his hand on my shoulder.

“You would be most welcome among my people, should
the need or desire arise.”

Then he goes down to see what we have grown.

 

 

Chapter 3: Here There Be Monsters

6 March, 2116:

 

I keep delaying more distant and riskier contact
attempts as long as I can.

I can’t deny the need for intel regarding the
survivor tribes, but I have to tell my new command chain it’s a
matter of needing to protect the people I’m responsible for, and
that our resources are just too limited and fragile. Unofficially,
I feel like I could be handing un-contacted factions—pristine and
vulnerable cultures—over to a foreign superpower whose motives,
however benign they insist they are, will likely prove
devastating.

My reluctance to carry out priority orders is likely
threatening my continued command. In truth, I am probably unfit to
be their commander on the ground, but I don’t think Matthew or Lisa
would be more dutiful to them. I’m sure my passive-aggressive
tactics have been duly noted by whatever leadership is behind the
new UNMAC.

But now Earthside, using Richards as its primary
voice (no more warm fuzzy greetings from Secretary Satrapi), is
hinting that they might actually delay relief on the launchpad
without a better census. They do seem less concerned with the
numbers and conditions of survivors than what technology they might
be in possession of. So given what they’re likely to do next if I
continue to be obstinate, I need to throw them something.

 

My concerns for our resources aren’t exaggerated:
After the battering we took from the Shinkyo, Aziz’ Nomads and then
the Zodangan “pirates”, Morales has managed to keep only four ASVs
and our one AAV even remotely air-worthy.

The Lancer flies fine, but the once-pristine black
hull has been dented and stripped of its nano-skin in patches where
it took grapeshot hits from Bly’s Dutchman. Smaller cuts betray
where his “boarders” tried to pry in—apparently they had trouble
finding the well-concealed hatches in the dark and chaos while we
tried to shake them off our hull. The only fixes Morales could
offer would be cosmetic at best, painting it the same red-camo as
our ASVs. I opted to leave it black for now, painting over the
scars so it at least looks none the worse for our self-declared
enemies’ efforts.

Given my options, I decide to send two of our better
ASVs, loaded with four squads of H-A troops. I give the ground
mission to Third Platoon, and Lieutenant Thomas and Staff Sergeant
Jones fly out as field command, with Acaveda and Jane doing the
flying. Morales makes sure they have full belts in their turrets
and a brace of missiles.

Tru lobbies hard to ride along on this one, but given
where we’re going hunting, I remind her of Paul’s and Abbas’
vehement warnings, and keep it guns-only, at least on this trip. I
add myself to that ban, which makes Matthew breathe somewhat easier
that I’m not making a target of myself for once. We set up in
Command Ops to watch over the mission on live feed.

Metzger calls liftoff at 07:00. The ships rise
smoothly and glide off to the East (the first time we’ve flown in
that direction). Toward Tranquility.

 

We get our first big payoff within the hour.

Tranquility is about a hundred miles east-southeast
of us, with no tapsites in between, so we have our pilots take it
easy on fuel. If they get into trouble, Melas Three is closer at
seventy-five miles southwest of the colony ruin. (The only reason
we opted to launch from Melas Two was the possibility that Aziz’
Nomads might be watching Three, and a flight along their precious
forbidden food route might raise more ire, or at least give them
another excuse to stir more propaganda against us).

The long wide sheer-walled trench that is Coprates
Chasma gets steadily deeper as it “flows” eastward away from Melas,
and with depth comes higher atmosphere density and warmth. Acaveda
sends us back readings pushing .35 atmospheres and a balmy sixty
degrees. And an impressive 15% humidity.

“Summertime in the Alps,” Tru assesses, almost
breathless.

There is ice frosting the cliff faces and ridge
crests to either side. Below, we start seeing the red desert valley
floor begin to dot with olive-colored scrub—patches of the fruit
and grain bearing shrubs we’ve been cultivating in our greenhouse,
clinging to the deeper ravines and washes that look like they may
have been recently flooded.

(I wish I had Paul here to give us commentary, but
I’m sure Earthside would frown on his observing one of our missions
as much as he’d try to discourage us from going this way.)

BOOK: The God Mars Book Two: Lost Worlds
2.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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