From the journal of Dusk
Dated Mars time Phobos 5th, 1999th cycle
I woke up this morning in a cold sweat, not from this dampness in the air, but from the sheer dread I’m feeling at my situation.
With Ravage gone and our army numbers down to their worst in years I am struggling to find a means to end, and win, this war with Hath-Seth.
Of course there is always the last option. We have discussed it many times over and gone over all the possible scenarios and situations as a means to use it, and none of them seem justified in its application.
The idea of destroying our power source, whilst eliminating the cause of our war with Hath-Seth, would in turn destroy our homes and livelihood. Again, we have gone over all the scenarios and alternatives, and we have deduced that we simply cannot survive without this power source.
This surprises me too as Dr. Tewantin seems so intelligent in so many areas, from war strategies to genetics, yet he himself has come to the same conclusion I have.
But I digress.
With Ravage in our camps we at least had a glimmer of a chance in this war. Now though, I can only see more men and allies losing their lives.
We simply cannot cope as it is.
I have discussed with Dr. Tewantin about my fears and he has offered one avenue we could take. It’s risky and somewhat time consuming, but it might just work.
Ravage now seems lost to us, and when or if he discovers this tactic, well, he’ll have every right to call us the enemy.
It takes some time, but sooner rather than later I find myself back at Dusk’s barracks. Being underground as I am, I find it difficult to judge day from night. There is no means to gauge this measure, other than my body’s sleep patterns.
Feeling as I do, and looking as I am though, I don’t know if I can trust my body at this time. For all I know I could be resistant to sleep and fatigue and therefore could have been awake and travelling for days on end.
However if there was ever a place to fully discover the meaning and limits to my body’s changes it is here with these rebels.
As I slowly make my way into the camp, I see man and alien alike look at me with both awe and hesitation. I sense a feeling of tension in the area as I walk over to a small shop front.
“Excuse me,” I motion to the shop-keeper, a small man with three eyes on his forehead. “I’m looking for Dusk.”
“Dusk, hey?” I’m questioned.
“Yeah, well, its urgent, shoppie, so a little help would be great.”
“Are you an enemy?” This question throws me back in wonder. Though I suppose my exit from the barracks could be seen as a desertion.
“I’m a friend.”
For a few seconds more I wait. The shop-keeper looks me over again and again, his eyes boggling around on his head in a confusing manner. Not in unison with one another.
“Just over in that direction,” he points over my shoulder, “around to the left and not much further after that.”
“Thanks” I reply in appreciation. “Say, are you native to Mars?”
“I’m Kree-descendant,” he blurts out. I feel that I’ve offended him by asking.
“Thanks for the help.” I’ve gotten what I need from him, so I head off on my way.
Following the shop-keeper’s directions to the letter, I find Dusk’s tent. A non-descript tent similar to the many others I see littered around this area. Some tents seem barren and empty. The flaps, as make-shift doors, are flapping in this hot wind.
Funny also, that there should be a wind in these tunnels, but since leaving Hath-Seth I have felt my body rise in temperature. It’s felt good and has relaxed me somewhat.
With no pause I push the tent flap back and find Dusk at a desk, recording something into a computer. She looks up at me and it’s a sight for sore eyes.
Dusk quickly shuts down her computer and motions towards me, never rising from her seat. One hand goes into her jacket pocket and I don’t have to be an ex-army man to know what this means.
“Ravage,” Dusk speaks with a notion of good-tidings and also malice. I don’t really know how to take this.
“Dusk, I’m… I’m sorry.”
“What for?” Dusk asks as she rises and walks to her footlocker. Her hand remains in her pocket.
“For leaving.” I step forward and stop. “I met Hath-Seth.”
Dusk looks over at me and doesn’t look away. She looks so tired.
“You’re right. He is the bad guy here.” I scratch my chin despite the lack of an itch. “I see that now. What he’s doing here, to you all, it has to be stopped.”
“I’m glad you feel that way,” Dusk replies as she wipes her eyes. “I’m sorry too, Ravage.”
“You don’t have to say that….”
“No, I do,” Dusk retorts. “This situation we’re in. We’ve never seen it this bad. We’re desperate and not thinking clearly. But the measures we are taking, well, it’s uncharted territory for us. The work Dr. Tewantin is doing is ground-breaking, and it could just lead us to victory.”
I see Dusk straighten up and face me directly. “We might be going too fast in this endeavour, and flying by the seat of our pants. That’s why I’m sorry.”
“Let me help you, then. Tell me everything about just what the shock is going on here.”
Dusk leads me down a labyrinth of corridors which seem to stretch on for ages. I do notice also that we’re descending deeper into the underground.
I don’t comment, and I don’t notice if Dusk feels it or not, however I feel a heat being given off the surroundings, the further we head underground.
Given my new body, it’s difficult to register the degree of temperature. I haven’t noticed the heat or the cold surroundings in my time here on Mars, but I do notice this heat. It’s not immediate, but it is constant, and it’s radiating.
“Dr. Tewantin cannot be disturbed from his work right now. But what I’m about to show you here is the reason we’re in this mess.”
“Uh-huh,” I reply. Dusk waves a hand to two guardsmen standing before a large rock. Without another word they get in position to push the rock over with all their might. I could have easily done this for them, but, well…..
A cacophony hits me before anything else. Sound after sound not heard by me since my time back on Earth. I know what it is before I see it. It’s a machine.
A very, very large machine.
“Ravage, we’re standing at what we Martians like to refer to as the Power Source.”
This machine must be fifteen to twenty times my height, with a diameter of about ten or eleven metres. At first it’s difficult to work out where the machine begins and ends, and just what area of the machine does what. There are so many displays and buttons, dials, and levers that it amazes me. It simple amazes me.
“Wow. This is really something you have here, Dusk.”
“This power source has been fuelling our village for generations. It was here before I was born.” Dusk trails off and I wonder if she’s thinking about her future. I get that impression.
Then it hits me. I know what this machine is, “it’s a reactor core!”
“A reactor core?”
“Yes. On Earth we had more than a few. They can be very useful, if used correctly. If used improbably though, well, let’s just say I’m glad I’m here to help you guys out.”
“So you’re siding with us then?”
“For now,” I see a look of relief wash over Dusk, like a giant weight has lifted off of her. Making what I have to say more difficult. “Though I don’t think you realise the magnitude of what you have here.”
Dusk is up against my throat before I know it, holding a blade to where my jugular would be. “What are you saying? My men have died to keep this machine running. I’ve dedicated my life to keeping them alive…”
“If you’ll just calm down….” Dusk eases up, moving the blade gently away from me though clearly on the edge. “…I’ll finish what I was saying.”
Dusk moves away, the blade still firmly in her grasp. “Go on.”
“What you have here is a Department H Langkowski Snowbird. For it’s time it was originally built not only as a highly advanced weather station, but also as a means to control weather patterns.”
“It’s a remarkable machine,” Dusk enforces. “How do you know so much about this?”
“Long ago I worked in Corporate America. It wasn’t my job to know all the ins and outs on things such as this but it had ties to the end of the heroic age, and that interested me.”
“This is amazing. For years we’ve been using it but we’d only gathered a piece of what it seems this thing can do. What else can you tell me about it?”
“It was built years before my time on Earth. I’m surprised it’s still going strong.” I begin to walk around the Snowbird slowly, Dusk following me on my every word. “At the end of the heroic age Earth’s weather patterns were in a severe state of flux. There were tornadoes, hurricanes; the polar icecaps were melted beyond recognition.”
I see a large monitor with a read-out I have little hope of comprehending, “At this time the country of Canada enlisted Dr. Walter Langkowski to build this machine. And he did it. But it worked too well. Seemingly over night Canada became a super-power, and that got the other countries, and especially the other corporations, very nervous.”
“You don’t say,” I reply. “Some historians theorize that it was this machine alone which brought about the end of the heroic age. I disagree though. There must have been other contributing factors which ended that era on Earth. But I digress. This Snowbird was such a threat to Earth, it’s no wonder they shipped it off-world.”
“And here it is today.”
“Yes, it is. It’s ironic that a machine which was designed to help so many people actually ends up killing so many. Ironic too that Langkowski named it after his one true love.”
“So now that you know what we’re doing here,” Dusk begins, “what do you think? Is our course worth fighting for? Is it worth dying for?”
“Dusk, since I arrived here I’m literally been thrown into the thick of things. I mean, look at me? Look at what your doctor did to me.”
I hear Dusk’s intercom device at her side spark up with noise. In my years in the army I’d grown familiar to that noise and there is no mistaking it. It’s gun-fire.
“Our records indicated that your body had gone through many changes.” Dusk fights back, “Wait a second, Ravage” Dusk clicks the side of the intercom, “What’s going on there?! Report back immediately!”
“We’re under fire here, Dusk! There are hundreds of Dwellers!”
“Ravage, I don’t have time for this. I need to get to these men, now.”
“Dusk, I’ll help you. I know just what to do here.”
“Can you tell me on the run?” It seems Dusk responds rhetorically, already taking off down a corridor, with me in tow.
“You’re fighting blind here. You’re men don’t have to die in this war!”
“What do you mean?”
I blurt out what I’d noticed since I returned to the village. The coldness, and moisture in the air. “There’s another power source you can live on.”
“There is?” Dusk has some legs on her, as she’s keeping quite a pace.
“Of course there is. What we need to do now, though, is this. We need to give Hath-Seth what he wants.”
Dusk stops in her tracks and spins around to face me; such anger in her expression. “What did you just say?”
“If we can survive this swarm of Dwellers, we can set a trap for Hath-Seth. We can end this war.”
A smile forms at the side of Dusk’s mouth. “Ravage, just what do you have in mind?”
I smile too. For the first time since I came to Mars I feel a sense of purpose, and it feels good. “Something big.”
END OF BOOK THREE