Jan 29, 2025
“Stop yelling! I’m right here.” Kara stepped into the living room from the kitchen. Crimson and grey hair loosely hanging about her round face to the shoulders, the olive uniform of the science department unmarked but for her name on the right jacket pocket, and the red circle on the right arm demarking her as chief of research operations on Mars. Her jacket was unbuttoned and her feet bare, she wiped her hands on a towel.
Steven lurched forward with the printout, “Look at this. Did you know about this?”
“Did I know about what?”
Mickey set his hands into his pockets, performing nonchalant, “They announced the Mars Project to the public, and opened it for colonization. No big deal.”
“What? Who did? When?”
Steven stomped his foot, slapped his hand onto his hip, “Yesterday. The President.”
“He also said that we declared Mars safe for habitation.”
Steven began pacing rapidly about the room, “Aren’t you going to say anything other than ‘really’? This is a fairly big news, you know.”
“Funny. This is serious. How can say we declared the planet safe? The nitrogen levels in the soil are off by .05% and the O2 content in the air is still…”
“Nitrogen levels?” Micky laughed and stood up from the wall. Pulling his hands from his pockets, he began to waive them about over his head, demonstrating the seriousness of his point, “Four years ago the crust of this planet was destabilized by the force of multiple uncontrolled fission reactions occurring beneath the crust. Then the Kentaurans did something else we still don’t understand, and now we have a planet. And you’re worried about nitrogen levels?”
“Look, calm down,” idiots, “I doubt the President just unilaterally decided to colonize Mars without doing all the diplomatic niceties. In the meantime we just keep doing our job until we’re given different orders.”
“And the Kentauran?”
“I’ll talk to them. It’ll be fine. They’re just a bunch of scientists in the employ of politicians, just like us.”
The Sauna was actually the living quarters of the Kentauran contingent on Mars. They could get through their daily life on Mars well enough, but they came from a planet far more similar to Venus than Mars. So their housing had been constructed to provide them with environmental refuge. It was both hot and humid, thus the humans referred to it as The Sauna and rarely went in.
If the Kentaurans were to be compared to any of the life on Earth, Kara felt it would have to be the Order Chiroptera. Of course she had no way of knowing if they were even mammals since medical information was the only thing forbidden the humans. But they seemed bat-like to her; those leathery wings and the clawed hands and feet, the sharp teeth at the end of the narrow, short snout. The fact that their skin was a hard, leathery reddish-brown added to the whole milieu as well, but the real clincher was their speech. Most of their hearing and speech was well above the range of human hearing, and they communicated with barely audible, high pitched tones that generated from the base of their skull. That was definitely bat-like.
Kara walked into the lobby of The Sauna and immediately began to sweat. The Kentaurans lounged about the room in various stages of consciousness.
“Chief Kara. What a pleasant surprise.” The words emanated from a computer speaker to her right. Kara turned to see an old friend sitting at the keyboard.
“Hello, Devon. How are you today?”
“I am fine. What brings you here? I apologize, I do not have my translator on.”
“That’s okay Devon, I need to see Marcel, do you know where he is?”
“I believe he is in his office in the back. You should go over.”
“Thank you.” Kara walked across the room, navigating around Kentaurans laying across heated rocks, or soaking in pools of steaming water. A few hung from the ceiling by their feet above rising vats of something steaming. Kara desperately wanted to test their DNA against a bat. She looked for Marcel’s door. She laughed at herself for looking for his name. Of course his name wasn’t Marcel. Their names were in screeches and couldn’t be pronounced in human speech, so they took names from our culture. She recognized his family insignia, 2 interlocking curves with a diagonal line cut through, on the door and knocked.
“Hello Marcel.” Marcel looked up, surprised, turned his angular head slightly to the right side, and then walked over to his computer.
“Kara? What brings you by here?”
“There is news from Earth. Surprising news. I wasn’t sure if you were aware of it or not.”
“I do not know which news you refer to. Please, let me get my translator.”
Marcel gathered up the device, a small cylinder that rests at the base of the skull and is strapped onto the neck inputting Kentauran tonal speech and outputting human words.
She continued, “The President just told the world about the Kentaurans, the Mars project, and asked for volunteers to colonize Mars.”
Marcel said nothing. He folded his wings behind his back, and sat down nibbling on his left claw. His right claw absently playing with the end of his kilt.
“I take it you did not know. Does this mean your people did not know?”
“No.” Kara could tell by the way his flesh pulled together at the back of his skull that he was frustrated. “I could be in the same position as you. But it does not mean they do know, either. I must find out. Thank you for telling me.” He looked her in the eye and nodded, learned behavior for the liaison officer to the humans. Then he stood to leave.
“Wait, aren’t we going to talk about what we’re going to do?
“We are going to follow orders, Chief Kara. What else is there to do?”
Kara just stared at him as he walked into the other chamber and then turned and left, feeling no better than when she had come in.