Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

After trudging for miles through the soft, shifting red sand, I was nearly exhausted. Using all the strength that I could muster, I climbed over the lip of a crater, and ducked into the shadows. I’d be virtually invisible now. I’d be safe until Earth Force could rescue me. In the dead silence of the thin Martian atmosphere, I could hear the life support system of my environmental pack whine as it struggled to remove the excess heat, moisture, and carbon dioxide from my spacesuit. After a few minutes of studying the motionless horizon, I felt that it was safe to turn on my suit’s receiver.

“…need the modulation coil. We’ll all die if you don’t come back. Repeat, this is Base Command calling Lieutenant Thorndike. Please return to base immediately. The reactor is becoming critical. We need the modulation coil. We’ll all die if you don’t…”

I smiled as I clutched the modulation coil in the crook of my right arm. Of course you’re going to die, I thought. That was my plan. After all, it’s what you were going to do to us. I just got to you first.

“Thorndike, this is Doctor Wundt. Son, you’re sick. You’re having a breakdown. Please, come back to the infirmary. We’ll help you…”

Ah, this is interesting. First, it’s “please save us.” Then it’s, “we want to save you.” Stupid Martians.

Seconds later, a new voice crackled from his earpiece. “Honey, this is June. You need to come back home. I’m scared. Think of the children. They are worried about their daddy. Please, honey. There isn’t much time. I love you. I love you so much. Please come home. Hurry!” She began to cry.

Bastards! They’ve got June’s voice perfect. Intellectually, I knew that it couldn’t be her, because she’s on the Moon, with the kids. It would take over 20 minutes for a transmission to reach Mars. The damn Martians must have been monitoring my personal calls, and synthesized her voice. I squeezed my eyes shut and concentrated on my anger toward these abominations. Go to hell!

“Thorndike, this is Commander Andreasen. Return to base immediately. That’s an order. I swear to God, man, if you’re not back in ten minutes, I’ll prosecute the Court Martial myself.”

I chuckled. Poorly played, you green monsters. You should have stayed with June. It was tough listening to her voice. It sounded so real. I almost answered. That would have been a fatal mistake. They’d have located me in instantly. Keep it together, man. Just a few more minutes.

I didn’t hear the explosion, but I saw it coming. The dust on the ground leaped upward as the concentric shockwave raced across the Martian landscape. The ground began to tremble violently, and I dropped the coil. On the horizon, I could see a semicircular dome of debris start to expand upward following the explosion of the Martian reactor. I cheered. No doubt, this was only the first salvo in the war against the Martians. But, thanks to me, it would be a crippling one. Their base held tens of thousands of people. What? No, not people, …Martians. My head started to throb. Through squinted eyes, I followed the expanding debris cloud as it began to obscure the blue-white orb of the Earth. Wait. The Earth should only be a star-like dot of light from Mars, not a large disc. What’s going on? I collapsed to my knees; my temples pounding with each heartbeat. What’s going on?

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