Author: Rick Tobin

Great, a clear connection, finally. Now I can understand your thoughts unmistakably through my brain mush. The AI translator is integrating. It was a muddled mess when techs first hooked me into their software. All I sensed were whispers and groans from visitors, but now even my caregiver’s thoughts come through as fresh as sitting across from a hot date on a barstool in Old Town cafes. I miss those days, watching rare Martian dust twisters forming across preserved barren zones, and churning gray skies. Your memories match I see. Good times, man.

Thanks for coming by and connecting. Been a while. You’re probably busy running off to your daily errands. I heard the new shuttle to Phobos increased your commute time so I’ll keep it short. I’m glad you can share a few thoughts. Relatives don’t visit. Too gruesome, I guess. Sometimes loneliness inside these wrappings, without hearing, talking, and touching makes me an abandoned riverbank fish. My old battle partner Eddy told me these synthetic bindings twisting me about the bed, head to toe, reminded him of drasis worms struggling free from ancient green mud canals, but it keeps my skin alive—bedsores are still likely until I heal. I have to believe it can happen. I’m a faither like my mother was. It’s something to hold onto.

No, not angry. Everything genuine in life has risks. Wouldn’t be a Mars without our pioneers. My great grandparents were Third Wavers. Hard to imagine their lot, isolated, freezing to death whenever resupply shuttles failed. They knew risk. Their honor is our duty. I wonder what they would have made of Cogelians. It took a hundred years after they landed to excavate Mars’s outer crust, discovering huge alien hives belowground.

I remember my great grandfather’s stories when he was a sheriff on Old Earth. Yeah, our cop blood runs blue. He complained in his journals about misused tasers. The military was furious when civilians accessed them. They finally got banished after cops were often killed when perps wrestled them away. We didn’t learn from those lessons. Now, look where I am.

You remember academy sergeants telling us lasers were non-lethal? They’d just leave light burns and stun the Weedies. After all, the Cogelians were passive plant life. They couldn’t understand pain or anything else—they were salads. We herded them to reservations. Never thought they were organized or conscious. How could they ever use a laser pistol with those fronds for arms? What a ridiculous idea. Yeah…how stupid could we get?

No, I let it go. It was a trap. Intelligence failed us. We didn’t know until later that Cogelians built massive underground cities millions of years ago. We kept frying them with flamethrowers in their underground passages until we found out too late that they were far beyond us in tech and were telepathic. Maybe I’m paying the price for our butchery…but I’m still here. There’s hope these artificial tissue cultures will bind and grow back my burned skin. Maybe take years, but the rest of my squad didn’t make it. I’ll live to tell a wild story whenever I get out of my cocoon.

Eddy told me Sandra doesn’t ask about me. She gave up. Never was that devoted. I was too busy humping to worry about her character. Painful lesson. I’ll do better next time.

And…you have to go? Hey, don’t be a stranger. Really appreciate the time. Stay safe on the shuttle. They’re still working out bumpy takeoffs. You too and say…yeah…ah, he’s gone. Oh, damn!

Hope a nurse comes around soon. I need watering.