General Fiction posted March 4, 2017

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Colonizing a Planet contest entry

The M.A.R.S.

by Thal1959

Colonizing a New Planet Contest Winner 

Captain Tyler, and the remaining members of the SHIN experiment huddled in their encampment in Montana, awaiting the last siege of an inexplicably fearful society around them. For starts, the SHIN experiment was not so named as an acronym or even a character of the Chinese language. It was adopted from the Hebrew letter Shin which appears as a bottom bar with three northward protruding arms. This was the shape of the preconceived structure the first attempt to colonize Mars was intended to look like - a base structure from which, as time and abilities allowed, would expand into three additional and separate units; an increased, and hopefully independent, hydroponics workspace, an advanced CO2 reclamation and oxygen generation plant, and a laboratory dedicated to the study of Martian soil, rocks, water, and whatever "other" discoveries might merit its own attention and space.

The initial colonization went not only according to schedule, but also with better results than had first been hoped for or anticipated. The initial structure was erected on Tempe Terra, a rocky, cave-bearing spot which lies as a sort of mid-ground between the massive, flat plains and the higher elevated peaks such as nearby Alba Mons. Nearby caves, though small and simplistic, served to protect the explorers from harmful radiant energies. Mars has no global magnetosphere as the Earth does. Add to that its thin atmosphere, and a significant portion of ionizing radiation reaches the Martian surface. Captain Tyler and his crew faced the expected psychological concerns quite admirably. The feelings of being so isolated, if not lost to the world they knew, were well regulated and controlled. After all, they had all survived a plethora of physical and mental evaluations on Earth before even being considered for the "great experiment."

But changes did occur within their psyche, as well as their physical bodies, that initially were so slight as not to be noticed. There was something about drinking what they assuredly believed was "purified" Martian water. Yet, there must have been something unique within its chemical composition for after a few years, there seemed to be a very slight, almost imperceptible, tint of jade green that tinged the bags of the eyes as well as the eyelids. The prevailing theory was that the long lost ecosystem of the place, if it ever had one to begin with, imbued a kind of photosynthetic quality within the cells of living entities, not just plant cells. This would allow an indigenous form of animal life the added ability to produce plant-like food within each exposed cell of its body. Something greatly desirable as the atmosphere of the planet was 95% CO2.

But this, by no means, indicates a "greenhouse" atmosphere, for the overall temperatures of the planet rival that of Earth's Antarctic; casually reaching -80 degrees below zero. But this created a sort of psychological aberration. On Earth, red is the color of heat, and blue represents all things cool, cold, or chilling. But when one has walked the vast reddish plains of the Martian surface, fully aware of the frigid temperature one's environmental suit is protecting oneself from, red becomes the color of cold, and the blue flame of the methane burners becomes the symbol of heat. For four years, these nearly imperceptible "variations" to the human nature slowly ingrained themselves within Captain Tyler and his crew. So much so that when it came time to be relieved, an unexplainable melancholy affected the crew. Oh, they pretended to be overjoyed at the reality of returning to Earth. But deep inside, it was almost as if their hearts, minds and very spirits had adopted Mars as their home - and, perhaps, in some incalculable way, Mars had adopted them.

So it should come as no surprise that the crew, upon its return to Earth, began to suffer a variety of social, cultural, and mental maladies. The ubiquitous presence of religious bigotry, political lying, nationalistic drum-beating and sabre rattling, and every other form of whining and discontent from the planet's inhabitants wore heavily on the crew who had both enjoyed the absolute peace and discipline of life on the Martian colony, as well as the wholly controlled work environment that parceled out resources to each member in total equality. Virtually every element of existence on the Earth, with its varied eddies and changing currents, became increasingly intolerable to the Captain and his crew. Even the "flavor" of Earth water was distasteful to them. Their reluctance, if not their flagrant unwillingness, to revert back to the social and cultural norms of the earth earned its own acronym; M.A.R.S. - Martian Aversion Reversion Syndrome.

In order to survive their increasingly uncomfortable re-assimilation on Earth, they banded together. At times, a member or two would engage in the theft of funds or supplies to maintain their hermit-like existence in a wild and secluded parcel of northern Montana acreage where they had "holed-up" in their self-built compound. But they were running out of time and resources. Their inability to cohabitate with their fellow man was returned in kind. Once hailed as returning heroes, they were now ostracized by a society they had victimized and rejected. The various law enforcement powers of both the state and federal government were as wolves at the door; preparing a final lunge against the once respected team of explorers.

Capt. Tyler could not understand in the least why society had dogged them with such supreme fear. It wasn't merely that they were odd, or had gained a different perspective - it was something more than that; it had to be! Then, moments before bellowing out the command to go down in a fire-fight with the law in the proverbial blaze of glory - he found his answer as he gazed momentarily into a nearby mirror. The subtle tint of jade around his eyes gave it all away. To society - they were aliens trying to colonize the Earth! He - and his crew, were the green men invading from Mars.

Colonizing a New Planet
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