Author : Sean Monaghan
Sid smiled as Alex handed him the separation results. One more test and they could announce. They’d known all along of course, since the first samples, but Mars Twelve operated on a government testing regime. No disclosure until verified. Too often the communities broadcast just to get the jump on other researchers, only to look like fools later.
But here was DNA, of a sort.
Spectroscopy, centrifuges, distillations. All the stuff he’d nearly forgotten in years of being administrator. Still, the results were clear. A microbe.
“Looks good, huh?” Alex said, grinning.
“Let’s wait for the second titration confirmation.”
“We’ll be opening that bottle of Taittinger you’ve been so precious with, huh?”
“Always so impatient. Did Jade and Mish come back from the site yet?”
“Nah. Something about digging a new line. They’ll miss the party. Imagine if NASA had sent rovers there fifty years back.”
Sid laughed. “Yeah, hindsight.”
Mish drew his multiprobe through the soil. “This is driving me nuts,” he said into his mike.
“Well, it’s not far to drive, is it?” Jade replied.
“Old joke, dull joke.”
He kept watching the readout on the probe. Nothing. Another line, still nothing. Well, it was better getting suit time than sitting in the bunker lab minding the centrifuge. He ran another two lines, then realised he hadn’t heard from Jade for a while. “Jade?”
Mish looked at the edge of the crater. “Jade? Come in.”
“Get over here, Mish.”
“Just get here.”
Sid grinned at the final results.
“Taittinger?” Alex said.
“Absolutely.” Sid clicked the press-release he’d composed weeks ago. He typed a quick couple of lines with the dates of the last tests and began the process of uploading to the server on Earth.
“Where is it anyway?” Alex said, hunting through a cupboard.
“What?” Alex’s finger hovered over the mouse key, the cursor on ‘send’.
“The bloody champagne. I can’t find anything up here.”
Mish came over the rugged crest and saw Jade crouching at a spaded hole. He bounced down the slope. “Whatcha got?” he said.
Mish slowed and looked into the small pit. “Ventifact?” he said, looking at the twisted shape. But he knew it wasn’t. It looked more like a tree branch. That couldn’t be right.
He crouched and helped her scoop soil away. Excavating around the branch they exposed a joint. It was covered in a kind of lacquered felt, bonded into the main shell.
“Artificial,” Jade said.
“Well.” Mish pushed the end and the top flexed on the joint like an elbow. “From an old missing rover? Viking?”
“Moron, Viking wasn’t a rover.”
“But it had an arm.”
“Where’s your multiprobe? Let’s do a sounding.”
“You think there’s more?” He passed the probe over.
Jade shoved the tip into the soil and pinged it. She rolled out the screen and examined the grainy image.
“Jeepers,” Mish said.
There was a buried oblong shape, with wings and wheels and tracks and long and short arms. Bigger and more complex than anything NASA had ever sent up. Different too, odd shapes having nothing to do with practicality or keeping weight down. Strange.
“Alien,” Jade said. “An alien rover.”
Mish sat back on the orange soil. “You know what this means, don’t you?” He touched his wrist to make the call back to the bunker.
“A bigger discovery? Wow. Way bigger than just a microbe.”
“Except that it means that ours may not be not a Martian microbe.”
“Oh, yeah.” Jade looked at the rover’s arm. “Extrasolar.”
“Let’s hope they haven’t announced yet.”