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Missing to Mars
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-390-3
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 225 Pages
Published: November 2017

From inside the flap

Missing to Mars pulls you into a mysterious psychedelic extravaganza.

Paul and Fiona move to a colony on Mars to seek their fortune. Paul has rigid plans for a business empire, but Fiona wants to be an interplanetary travel-writer seeking the truth about mankind's secret history on the Red Planet.

When Fiona disappears Paul puts his own plans on hold to find her. His search takes him outside the safety of the colony, where people are living very different kinds of lives: Religious robots who worship a mind-control stone they call Bethikabox; The Sports League whose only sport is hunting humans; Dr Grobe, who creates thoughts and feelings that exist outside the human brain.

Paul finds allies in the Psych Kids, drug-dealing freaks who help him in his search and seek to open up his heart. But the truth about Fiona's disappearance challenges his conceptions, old and new. Inside Egyptian-style ruins he discovers magic and puzzles, secrets about the history of our species, and terrifying implications about the universe itself. If he ever finds Fiona, they may not be the same people anymore.

Missing to Mars (Excerpt)

Chapter 1. Ferry Lords

Naked in the full-length mirror, Paul definitely looked thinner than he had on Earth. He could even see a couple ribs. He flexed his arms. Not only were his biceps smaller, but the skin looked a little loose. In Mars' reduced gravity, would he have to work even harder to get that muscle back? He couldn't pretend that he wasn't disappointed, but his mind tingled with anticipation when he thought about all the work he had to do to. A new world to explore, and an empire to build.

Also reflected in the mirror was a large portion of the rest of his world. Namely Fiona, curled up in her bunk facing the wall and still asleep in her hibernation gown. The rising and falling of her chest beneath the cloth was the only thing that moved in their little room. The only reminder that he was not the only living thing in the universe. Across from her occupied bunk was his empty bunk with its ruffled sheets like a cast-off snakeskin. The exit stood just past the heads of the beds, leading out into the hallway that wound around the cylindrical ship. Down past the foot of the beds was a little desk and a door to the little bathroom. The walls were some kind of sick bright brown, like orange mixed with green. His gown was abandoned on the floor.

His bones hurt. He didn't feel physically good, in contrast to his excited eagerness to get down to the surface and get to work. In his guts he experienced some combination of nausea and hunger, but they wouldn't be able to eat until somebody brought them a meal. When would the crew announce their arrival? When would they bring food? Thinking about the functioning of the ferry and its staff reminded him of his massive stash of coffee stowed away in some storage bay on the ship. He felt the nervous desire to go and check on it and see it with his own two eyes, but of course that wasn't allowed.

So now, of course, he felt nothing but anxiousness. Skinnier and powerless, trapped in this little room. It annoyed him that Fiona was still asleep, and he wanted comfort so he sat beside her on her mattress and put his hand around on her belly. It was flatter than before. He rubbed it slowly and softly, pushed aside her curly brown hair, and leaned in to kiss her sleeping cheek. There was comfort in her scent, but she mostly smelled like stale body odour. He probably smelled worse.

She stirred when his black beard scraped her face. She moaned, and he kissed her cheek again. "Good morning," she mumbled. He slid his hand down to caress her thigh and she jolted awake, pushing his hand away. "Hey," she laughed. "What are you doing? I just woke up."

Paul wrapped an arm around her waist and pressed his face against her cheek. He was already throbbing and pushed himself against her. Some blood-pumping love-making would help with the nausea and inaugurate their arrival in a new planetary orbit. "It's been three months," he mumbled against her face as she half-heartedly resisted. "Let's make love."

She kissed him back and they silently savoured the contact until he put his hand on her breast. She groaned and used all her effort to push him away. "Put some clothes on, you caveman," she said, leering up at him with a grin. Her green eyes sparkled at him through the grogginess of lingering hibernation.

He flexed his muscles and his cock. "How can you resist this? Let's join the, like, billion mile high club."

Fiona's eyes jolted open like she just remembered something. "Wait... are we there now? Are we at Mars?"

"They said we'd wake up when we got into orbit, so that must be where we are. Nobody announced anything yet."

"Can we see it? There's a video feed, right? How do we..."

Paul found the panel beside the exit and pressed the button for the view screen. He turned to see that the full-length mirror was now a rusty brown high-definition image of the barren landscape of Mars below them. A mountain range swept across the top of the view-screen, with pointy tips like pencils holding up a red fabric, darker red fields of sand cascading up to the mountains. The image was zoomed in close enough that they couldn't see a horizon or space beyond.

"It looks like a moon," Fiona said. "It's... scary. It's so empty."

Paul shrugged, sitting beside her and putting his hand around her waist. "We already knew what it looked like. What did you expect?"

"I don't know. I guess I wanted to see it from further back as we approached. That would have been beautiful. This just looks like people don't belong here."

"What we can't see is the city, the mines, the factories. Everything we need to live is all here, trapped in the dirt or the atmosphere and just waiting for us to extract them. Remember, people have been living here for decades. They built-"

"Longer than decades," Fiona interrupted. "The Freemasons have been here since-"

"Fuuuck, don't start with that stuff again. I don't want to deal with your shitty mood when you realize there's no ancient history on Mars. This is just an extension of the global market. Everybody here is an employee of a major corporation, and that's thrilling enough without conjuring up conspiracy stories."

"Fine," she said, still studying the screen.

He didn't like her self-righteous, knowing smile. He knew she was doing it on purpose to make him feel silly. Like she knew something he didn't. The open-minded woman and ignorant ape-man. His boner was certainly gone now, and he felt the vindictive need to get that smile off her face. His ambition had brought them here, not her childish dreams. "So you're going to go chasing wild stories. You think you have the inside scoop because some dorks made up some stories about Freemasons, and you're going to embarrass yourself and embarrass me running around asking dumb questions about what, aliens? Egyptian relics? You came all the way out here to pursue a fantasy, but I came to build an empire."

"Empire?" She laughed. "You're opening a coffee-shop, Paul. You'll be working at a retail franchise, making lattes like a hipster. Meanwhile I'll be compiling stories for a bestselling book, uncovering facts to back up theories."

"Blog," he corrected her. "You're writing a blog, not a book. Who's the hipster now? Anyway, the modern world runs on caffeine. These poor Martians have been drinking freeze-dried instant coffee for decades. Wait till they taste a fresh cup of McNorth's. Plus, my empire just starts with coffee. After we have a couple kids-"

"A couple kids?" Fiona laughed again. "I only agreed to one. One baby girl."

"Let's get started now," he murmured, trying to lock in some eye contact, rubbing her shoulder.

"What the fuck was that?" Fiona stood up and stepped closer to the screen. "Paul, can you see that?"

All he could see was the shades of red, the lines of geometric features across a frozen desert. "I can see your sexy ass," he said. "Bring it back over here."

But she was staring close at one point on the screen. "You can't see this? It's moving. Zoom in. Can you zoom in?"

Paul struggled to see what she was looking at. There was some little black dot, nothing to freak out about. "Maybe it's a plane or a drone. They have lots of satellites here."

"It has a face," she insisted. "Zoom in."

Paul knelt down beside her and squinted. "It's sort of shaped like a person," he admitted, curiosity rising as his brain registered the five-pointed figure. But he clamped down on that idea, not wanted to feed Fiona's paranoid fantasies. "No. It's not even... it's nothing."