Author : C. J. Boudreau
The algae were there! In the deep permafrost. Turning up the magnification and refocusing the cam, he could see the nuclei. They were photosynthetic, the rare green color in the frozen soil. Perhaps hundreds of millions of years old. Mars was not dead! Arturo took several samples from the most populated areas. He sealed the case, and climbed back out of the ravine to the rover. He left the case in the car and went back for his remaining tools. He probably shouldn’t have been here alone but his time here was limited and he’d wanted badly to look at this site.
He was climbing out again, awkwardly, with the tools when the side of the ravine collapsed on him. He was lucky he didn’t damage his suit.
The fall back into the ravine stunned him. When he was able to appraise his condition he found himself buried. He tried his com unit and found it wasn’t working. His suit, tough, mostly carbon, told him that it was in otherwise good condition, all its heads up displays green. Most of its controls were voice op. A couple were chin switches in his helmet. A good thing, since he couldn’t move his hands. Just one foot. He ached from some bruises, but was otherwise unhurt. Someone would come looking for him soon and see the car, and his foot. His primary concern was oxygen. If he ran low, he didn’t like to think about it, but there was the Rescue Unit in his suit, Cold sleep. Not hibernation, but freezing.
He hadn’t been there long when the storm came up. Dust storms on Mars can be planet wide and last months. This one didn’t, but it was long enough. Within a few hours he and his rover were deeply buried in red dust. When his oxygen indicator showed a quarter hour left, he initiated the Rescue Unit and icy fluid roared in.
He woke cold and aching in a white room to see a pretty, but reed thin, young blonde woman leaning over him. She said “Don’t try to speak yet, just nod. Are you Doctor Arturo Hartwood?”
He nodded yes. It hurt. She turned to someone outside his field of vision and said excitedly what sounded like “Cee! Yeti Zim! Trooz!” To him, she said “Rest now, we’ll talk later.” Another woman in white, military uniform with a close fitting cap tapped something on his arm and he passed out.
Sometime later he awoke feeling somewhat better. The militaristic nurse came in, smiled at him, said something unintelligible, scanned him with a little handheld instrument and left. Then the blonde woman came in.
“Hello Doctor Hartwood, I am Dr. Enid Veeder. I’m honored to meet you.”
She’d an accent he couldn’t place.
“Hello Doctor. How long will I be here?
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you. We must ask the medics.”
“You’re not a medic?”
“No. I’m a linguist. I’m here because I speak your English.”
” No one here speaks English?”
“Not yours. You are a great celebrity. There is a statue of you in my hometown.”
“A statue to me?”
“Yes Doctor. I’m sorry your rescue took so long. They found your car and samples quickly but they couldn’t find you. Last Sixday, an aqueduct digging crew found you while checking for buried cables. Your discovery – oxygen producing native algae – made terraforming Mars practical. But your suit is amazing. It’s protected you, frozen in the permafrost, for two thousand years. They don’t make them like they used to.”