Monday, October 30, 2023

Fear and Panic excerpt

Edward watched as Phobos and Deimos raced overhead, each battling for supremacy over the Martian sky.  Supremacy, he laughed to himself.  How could two little chunks of rock with almost no gravity vie for supremacy?

Things were different back home on Earth.  Now Earth had a real moon.  Edward looked off to the east and saw the twin star of the Earth-Moon system rising just to the north of one of the giant volcanoes.  Edward wasn’t sure which volcano; he didn’t really even care.  He just wanted to get back to that twin star on the horizon, but of course, he probably never would…not if his mission failed.

“Probably not if it succeeds either,” he said aloud.  No one would be able to hear him.  There was no one else out on the red sands with him, and he didn’t even have his suit radio on, so it wouldn’t have mattered if someone had been standing right next to him; they wouldn’t have heard.

Phobos and Deimos continued their race across the sky, but it wasn’t really a race.  With different orbits, they weren’t running alongside each other.

Edward shook his head.  There really wasn’t time for this.  He had a mission to carry out, and it was a simple mission, kill the head of the Armies of Ares, Felicia Penthesilea.  He was sure it was a pseudonym, but he’d never bothered to check into what her real name was, and it wouldn’t have mattered to him anyway.  She was a target, not a person.  And she wasn’t just any target, she was the leader of one of the most aggressive terrorist organizations the solar system had ever seen.  A group that would do anything to get their Mars for Mars mantra across to anyone that was listening, but especially to those who weren’t listening.

The remainder of his mission was to take out as many of her top leaders as possible, which is what had led him to Pettit Crater on the Amazonis Planitia.  Soon, within two hours, there would be a grand meeting of most of the heads of the Armies of Ares, and Edward was determined to rupture the dome and kill as many of them as he could…and hopefully not get himself killed in the process, but his death was almost a certainty.  The fact that he was going to commit what was basically a terrorist act to kill terrorists didn’t strike him as odd.  The Armies of Ares were an enemy of Earth, and the other planets and satellites in the Allied Planets, including Mars, and the removal of the group in any way was the first priority of the newly established government.

He checked his air, still two hours in this tank, and he still had eight more tanks in reserve, enough for two days should he need it.  Deimos had now set, but he could still see Phobos heading for the horizon.  Panic was gone, but there was still fear to be reckoned with.  He shook his head again.  What a stupid observation.  He wasn’t afraid of dying; he had a mission to carry out, and if he died, it would be an honorable death, and it would assure his place in immortality.

Rovers began to appear, headed for the small dome.  The time was coming.  Checking the chronometer in his helmet, he saw that it was coming up on the end of the day and that damn thirty-seven extra minutes when the chronometer was useless, just stuck on the same time.

Adjusting his telescopic lenses with a click on the controls at the side of his mouth, he zoomed in on the dome, hating the bitter taste of the aluminum-gallium composite of the molar controls.  Even from four miles away, the telescopic lenses were powerful enough to make out the pores on the noses of the terrorists if he wanted them to.  Satisfied with just naming some of the people to himself, he watched as each vehicle headed to the dome, allowing the embedded chip in his cortex to catalog each person.

It didn’t take him long to identify the person he was looking for.  She was in the twelfth crawler to come across the sandy plains.  The chip in his head wasn’t even necessary.  He “knew” her face.

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