Copyright© 2013 by JOHNNY SACHU
David tapped the digital oxygen meter on the small consol displaying the contents of the storage tanks below the module. He was testing it to make sure it and the pump were still working properly, and that there was still plenty of oxygen on hand for the portable home he was in.
There wasn't enough oxygen on Mars to write home about, but there was some in the atmosphere. Very little of it, for sure, but it could be filtered out of the thin, mostly carbon dioxide, 'air' and stored. He was using the new Ion Transport Membranes, ITM's, as developed by SeprOx, in Texas, and he was more than a little glad to see it was working perfectly, so far from home. Inside the module, he could breathe easy and with the small space heater, David found it comfortable enough in there with his folding chair. The system was solar powered, of course, and even at this distance from the sun, it worked fine. One thing was certain, though, you didn't have to worry about cloudy days On Mars.
This was the third time he had moved his small module, having transported it to different locations on the surface, with all the volcanic activity going on all over the planet. The capsulated tube was 12 feet wide, inside, with four added triangular stanchions, fitted to the bottom, with resting pads, splayed out around the base. The capsule/module was 18 feet high, stood on end, and had three levels to it, inside, with a lead protected outer surface over the whole module that kept him safe from solar flares, and radiation damage, even though it was redundant Tec. His stasis field kept him safe from anything the sun could throw at him. But he never knew if he was going to bring someone here, someday. That could, possibly, happen.
With Mars waking up to a new beginning and her magnetic field coming alive, as Ceres orbited the red planet, it was a lively place these days. Things were looking up, you could say, in a wild and cataclysmic way. David liked it that the atmosphere was thickening and getting nastier with the new volcanic activity beginning in many places over the surface of his world. He had even collected most of the space probes and rovers he knew of in and around his area. He considered it safer for them there. The none working items he was slowly bringing back to earth and placing them in his front yard, or taking them inside his house for display. It would be nice if there were plants around that could take advantage of all that nasty carbon dioxide gas, that's what plants breathed after all, for the most part, the stuff people couldn't use, if they were around. But before that could happen, David needed to bring in water to the world, and the water source for a planet was comets. Even though comets frequented the inner solar system fairly regularly, David knew he'd have to go out to the Khyber belt, far beyond Neptune, to harvest comets and get the much needed pure H/2/O. Comets were not pure water, usually, as some were frozen methane, some Carbon dioxide and a host of other frozen gases. They were usually conglomerated in with the water ice. He'd have to chose very carefully which ones he brought back to Mars, needing mostly H2O.
David knew it was going to take a lot and a lot of analysis to get a balanced ecosystem/atmospheric condition going on around there. Maybe he couldn't make it work but he was going to try. The Martian world could and would equalize itself out, eventually but what it would turn into, he wasn't quite sure. He also considered bringing in some ice from other moons, like those circling the gas giants. One didn't play creator without a lot of experimentation and research, however, and how other moons and planets would react to his stealing some of their material was a huge unknown. He knew that first hand with his degree in applied mechanics that everything tied into everything else.
With the atmospheric pressure on Mars standing now at just over twenty percent of earths, which was still higher than it was, previous, it would be a while before he brought in comets.
The temperature at the equator was rising, too. In his current location it got up to a balmy temperature, briefly, each day, but not as dramatically as he wanted it to be. Things were still freezing back into solids at night or evaporating away. There were clouds forming, though, and that was a good sign. He didn't want the comets to dissipate as quickly as they had been doing for the last few billion years with the liquids turning directly into part of the gaseous atmosphere, then being lost to space without enough magnetic field and surface pressures to contain them, so, he'd wait. He'd have to. David wouldn't act till the pressure increased to at least fifty percent of earth's before bringing in comets.
Watching several tv monitors at once, he checked out Ceres, again, with the camera array on top of the module. The little moon orbiting Mars was forming its own atmosphere without any help from him, being closer to the sun than it had been, way beyond Mars. Vulcanism was alive and well on it, too. The air was not breathable air for humans, of course, but an atmosphere just the same was building up, raising temps and making things happen. David had already introduced plants to the land, there. They were mostly mosses and lichens, some ice-plants, but there was plankton in the oceans, too. He only hoped they could survive the tough conditions but time would tell.
He had checked out Ceres frozen ices, before they began to melt and form lakes, before introducing earth plankton. There was nothing in it but salts, minerals and other nasties. They certainly weren't fresh water oceans. The only life he'd found anywhere was on earth. Mars was dead. Ceres was, too, or had been. David was pretty sure there was nothing anywhere else on 'any' of the other planets in this solar system worth looking at for life, certainly not in these environments. No -- earth was in the life-zone and it alone contained life. Nothing else had evolved, if evolution was a factual theory. If Mars couldn't be brought into a compatible abode for even some life forms, this whole experiment of his would fail.
As always, David thought, time would reveal the truth to everything and he had a handle on time, didn't he? And if it was factual that he might possibly live forever with his device and its youthful side effect, baring accident, he would get his answer, some day.
David tore open a Clif bar and ate it hungrily, then drank a little water from a plastic cup. He wiped his face with the back of his suit's forearm and donned his helmet. He would be leaving soon.
He pressurized his suit and the thin, close fitting, insolative six layers of fabrics in nylon, wool, graphite's and a couple of metallic layers, which now adjusted for space flight and Mar's thin air, puffed up slightly. It gave David that 1950's appearance out of a sci-fi 'If' magazine look, to his flight suit. Very astronaut-like, but way thinner.
He left the shelter of the pressurized module and shut the bulging clear plastics second hatch that was man-high and a bit wider, and exited the second doorway, stepping down via some boulders he'd piled up beneath the edge.
He activated the stasis field to full, now, with the ring on his finger, it forming a nice bubble of protection around him. Then David turned off time via the device around his neck and quickly activated the propulsion engine.
David was back on earth, in his graveled front yard, within the seven minute allotted time window it now took him. There was no need to go faster. It gave him a chance to enjoy the ride at Super Hype Speed, SHS, as he'd come to call it. It was far and away beyond light-speed, but it was so routine to David, he had no thought about what a big-whoop it was, or in its amazing accomplishment, either. It was only out of his device's initial invention that all these things were possible and he had come to accept their almost daily phenomena as if they were routine. They weren't impressive at all to him, anymore.
Approaching the house, David switched off his stasis field, the house's field was far and beyond more than enough protection, and after that, there was nothing left to do for the day but to collapse on the sofa and slowly remove his suit, and maybe watch some TV. First, he needed to go over some figures in his head, possibly jot some of them down on paper, and considered burning a frozen pizza. He had plenty of soda on hand, so that wasn't a problem but he was craving chocolate, too, and that, he had none of. But being too tired to go to the grocery store, David kicked back and enjoyed the feel of sitting in front of the 'high def' of his big screen TV and watching the news.
There was the usual hoopla about the destruction of America's federal buildings, the Capitol building as well as most of the other federal monuments and buildings of Washington, almost everything of significance that had to do with the feds had been ruined. Not only in Washington D.C. but all over the U.S., in all the 50 states and territories, as well as many of the overseas embassies, military bases, support buildings, etc. Not everything, had been taken out, however, and there was enough military left for the U.S. to defend the country with, and even though the unexplained blitzkrieg of a firestorm of destruction had all occurred within several hours on the same day, way back then, the news had gone on and on about it all this time till most people were sick to death of hearing about it. It was time to move on, rebuild, think of the future, David thought. In spite of the fact that the news of the attack had raged on for so many months, though, it was still a phenomena to the media, and would be for some time to come, more than likely, as they milked anything out to its fullest, that there was not body count. He, for one, was very tired of hearing about all of it.
David smirked, however, at the government's official explanation of, Terrorists of unknown origin.
He'd been horribly guilt-ridden over his power and what he had done, at first, but after some time, he had become callous over it. It almost didn't register, these days, what he had done or why he had done it. The strangest thing about all of this, and what the news media could not get over; That not one single person had been killed in all the destruction. Not one. It was the greatest mystery of all time.
Some blamed the Masons and/or all their affiliates, some the Russians, some Islam, some the Catholics, some the Baptists, some the Nazis, and some the Grey aliens and their space ships, but none knew for certain and no one in the government circles that did know, talked about the Rocketeers. His one time alter ego.
David changed channels till he found some reruns of Hogan's Hero's. They always made him laugh even thought the TV series ended who knew how long ago and most of the actors were now dead. Still, it was simple, silly entertainment, and funny. He watched the one episode eating an apple in his underwear.
He finally went to bed after surfing the channels and called it a day. Planet building was tough stuff. He was tired.
David was in the grocery store, days later, enjoying all the color and smells of the place. He loved walking through the isles. The colors always stimulated his mind, he thought, and gave him ideas for new projects. Not that he needed any right now.
The people of the city had been allowed to return and repopulated it and go home, too. Most everything was back to normal. The official story and excuse for the government evacuating everyone in a massive exodus of this huge northern city, practically overnight, was a toxic chemical spill of an airborne deadly gas. But it had all been cleaned up and the gas dissipated they lied. They, the government, didn't dare say they 'were' going to nuke David's place and himself in the process with a hydrogen bomb, did they? It was a desperate attempt to try and take the loose cannon that David was, out of the equation. He knew that, but it hadn't worked. Out of pure dumb luck, he had discovered the plot and ended the threat before some jet jockey could drop the thing. It was the reason for his reign of terror that one day, destroying the government buildings and many of the facilities. The proposed attack on him would not be excused and would never be tolerated. David was absolutely certain, now, the government would leave him alone after what he had done. They'd be idiots not to.
He bought green apples, thirty or so frozen dollar pizzas, pocket pizzas, frozen dinners, and other frozen items, as well as the three C's; Chocolate, Cheetos, and Coke.
David checked out at the cash register with a full shopping cart. It was junk food, mostly, but David liked what he liked and it sustained him. Plus, any damage that over-refined, chemically infused junk food did to his body was negated, he thought, by the device's side effect of making him younger each time he used it.
He walked now to his 1934 Ford, three window fender-less coupe, fitted with the large displacement 345 cubic inch Hemi out of an old '57 Desoto, sitting in the parking lot. The big cast iron engine heads stuck out beyond the frame while the supercharger came out of the top of the engines sheet metal, and the exhaust system curled down to and swept back beside the gleaming car's frame dramatically. It's deep metallic burgundy paint job looked like jewelry under the smiling sun. The contrast of the car's dark body, the engine block and head's bright red paint, and all the chrome was pretty impressive. David was proud of all the time and money it had taken to get the thing working so well and finished as nicely as it was. There was an old guy there, too, admiring the car, he couldn't help but notice, and thought he had that old hot-rod-er's look about him, straight leg Levis, no belt, white tee shirt, slip on loafers.
He glanced up as David approached with his shopping cart.
"Sure is pretty son. This yours?"
"Yes," and David smiled.
"I admire the use of your engine. You don't see many of those around these days. There's nothing like a Hemi for looking big and powerful, is there? These old Desoto Hemi motors were especially beautiful, too, and rare, now, aren't they?"
"I think so. Thanks. It's gets around pretty good. Nothing too exotic to it, though. It was built for dependability but it does make a little more than five hundred horsepower. I think it was dyno'-ed at 530 or 540, somewhere around there. Lots of torque, though, and that's good, for the street."
"Well, you did a first class job of fixen'er up. I especially like how you chromed most of the running gear, especially the entire front end. Sure looks bitchin'. Must keep you and your polishing rag busy."
David laughed. "It does. I spend too much time, really, doing that sort of thing."
They exchanged a few more thoughts on cars and engines then David excused himself as he told the older gentleman he had ice cream that had to get into the freezer. It was a lie, of sorts, as he merely wanted to get away. Not that the old feller wasn't pleasant enough, but David was tired and truthfully, he did have to get all his frozen pizzas in the freezer, now. Ice cream, as an excuse, was simply more understandable, he knew, to most people and he finally rushed home.
With all the food stored, David was waiting for the stove to beep his pizza pockets warmed and done, in front of the muted TV. Lounging on one of the long, white, leather sofas, David thought about his conversation with the gentleman in the parking lot.
If I did have someone to polish my cars, he thought, I wouldn't have to spend so much time doing it myself. His motorcycle and hot rod collection was extensive enough to require David to spend more time than he liked cleaning and maintaining the machines. 'Sides, it was boring with a capitol B. But did he really want someone poking around inside his property, inside his precious garage, where he worked all the time?
He began to think of what kind of a person would suit his needs best. An older guy, like the car buff he'd met in the parking lot, would want to spend too much time discussing things about cars and bikes and be too interested in David's other projects, which he didn't want anyone to know about, especially a patriotic, obsessive-compulsive, which many car fanatics were. A young male kid would be too talkative, too, he felt, and probably couldn't be trusted around all that exotic machinery and tools. Finally, after considering several more people-type options and their rejection, David decided a young girl he could train would be the ideal ticket. Cleaning and polishing wasn't technical. She probably wouldn't chat his head off over cars and she could work alone out there in the heated garage summer and winter. He felt girls were much better at that, concentrating, if they weren't distracted. And when he didn't want her around, he could simply give her the day(s) off with pay. That would be no big deal. I can afford it, he thought, smiling to himself, billionaire that he was.
David called up the local high school, that had a four year program of freshman through seniors, and asked to speak to the shop class teacher. He told the man his name, address, and asked if he could post something on his bulletin for the job he had in mind or if he knew someone that would fit the bill. He wanted a girl that wasn't too talkative and gave him a list of other qualities he was looking for in a car finisher, their intelligence level, their ability to understand a project and take directions, and what the job would in-tale, summer and winter. David didn't have any landscaping except his huge graveled yard surrounding his house but weed control and yard work, using the old Ford tractor to grade the driveway, etc., would be part of the responsibilities. He also told him about the generous pay he was thinking of giving someone, for the part time job, and explained to him about his expensive collection of cars, how she would need to be responsible, above all else.
"Off the top of my head, that sounds like a great job for one kid that comes to mind. She's real quiet and kind of poor, from what I can gather. She's not a fashion queen and the fact that she's in shop says she's not afraid to get her hands dirty. So a job like that would be real good for her. She's probably the best student I have, too. While everyone else is making bird houses and ash trays, she's making a desk, and its a really nice desk, too. She's still in ninth grade but I'll suggest it to her and give her your number."
"That would be great. Thank you for your help, sir."
Angela Carlyle was still fourteen but soon to be fifteen, she told David. She was tallish, had that light, light brown hair he liked and she wore it long, too, past her shoulders and halfway down her back. She was quite pretty, he thought, and wasn't one of those model types. Her beauty was tangible and friendly, not intimidating or aggressive, or hauntingly egotistical. She had a great smile when she smiled, which wasn't too often, he noticed. She seemed highly alert and smart, as he'd been told, and David looked forward to having her around.
"This first week will be a test so even though you'll be well paid for it, I want to make sure you can do the things I need you to do. Don't be too concerned about everything, right now. It's just a cleaning job, and I'll show you how to go about it, but it has to be done right and carefully. I know you can do this. One thing, though, just you and you only, can come onto the property. So don't think of bringing friends here to watch you or help you. There is simply too much expensive gear and cars laying around to trust anyone but you. Okay?
"I understand, sir."
"No-No. I'm just David."
"Do your parents have to know I'll be here?"
"I live alone, Angela. I'm twenty-two years old. I know I don't look like it. I've got this baby face. No. It'll just be me you'll see here and deal with. If you get hungry, the kitchen's all yours. Feel free to help yourself to anything but I warn you, I live on junk food," he said with a grin.
She smiled too. David felt a little thrill at seeing it, but knew that feeling, that thrill, was only there because he never spoke to other people and wasn't around them much. Especially young girls. He thought he 'always' fell for any girl that was half way nice to him.
"Ready for your first lesson? It's dirty work so go get yourself some coveralls and gloves as you need them, at the auto parts store," he said, handing Angela two fifty dollar bills. "You'll just watch me today, and it'll be a short day. I want you to clean and polish half a car a day. Either inside, or outside. The outside will be the most time consuming and you'll be doing the paint as well as the metals inside and outside the engine area, including underneath the car. You'll see what I mean."
He went through the extensive array of polishing compounds, waxes, and other cleaning products he kept neatly in a cabinet, telling her what each was used for. "Don't try to remember everything right now. In time you won't think twice about any of it. You'll know what to use and how to use it. If you have a question, just ask. It's no big thing."
David thought her concentration was serious enough and he knew she'd do well. Then he let her go, finally, after some wordy explanations and a little demonstration. He watched from the end of the driveway, where his property met the road, as Angela rode away on her bicycle. He had opened the stasis field by his being in the Jeep and driving her and the bicycle taht mile or so off the property so she could pass through that strange force field, and explained to her that she couldn't come in without him, was all. It was his protection, of course, a sphere that surrounded his property but he didn't say that, but the stasis field, as David called it, and without him and his own personal stasis ring on, nothing could pass through it. Nothing.