Julia Serling walked along the planted rows of vegetables in her mother’s garden. She was looking for the tomatoes that were to go with the lettuce she had already picked for the salad she was making for the evening’s dinner.
“Julia dear?” her mother’s voice rang out.
“Mother, where are the tomatoes that you planted? I need them for the dinner that I’m planning.”
“They are on the other side next to the planters of green peppers but never mind that for now your father wants to see you in his study.”
Julia looked back at her mother passed a curly lock of brown hair with her dark brown eyes and a blank expression.
“But mother he’s already given me his ‘turning eighteen’ speech and my birthday was three weeks ago.”
“I’m sorry dear he didn’t tell me what he wanted us for but he wants to speak to us together.”
Julia placed the basket with the head of lettuce on a ledge next to the planters. “I’ll just leave this here,” she said. “I’m sure it’ll be here when I get back.”
“It’ll be fine dear whatever your dad wants to talk about shouldn’t take long.”
Julia followed her mother into the house and was walking along side her when the front door buzzed.
“Now who can that possibly be?” said Donna suspiciously.
She walked over to the airlock panel and said: “Yes, may I help you?”
The door-speaker sounded with the voice of Simon Balkan.
“Donna, this is Simon. Didn’t Richard inform you? He called this afternoon and requested that I attend a meeting.”
“Yes, and me as well,” there came another familiar voice of none other than Jean Mahomet.
Donna allowed for the pressurization to complete and the lock slid open. The two men entered with their helmets under their arms.
“Come along,” she told them, “and let’s see what Richard is up to.”
Jean and Simon gave each other a puzzled look then follow Donna down a corridor as Julia sighed. “That’s my dad,” she said.
As they entered Richard’s study they walked passed pictures of past archeological digs. The first sets of pictures were of the old Cydonia dig and next to them were those of Inca City. Richard didn’t seem to notice them entering the room he seemed to be engrossed studying star charts. Shortly he looked up and said, “Sit down everyone this may take some time to explain.”
“Richard, what is this all about? Why didn’t you tell me you had people coming over?” Donna sounded quite annoyed.
“Because I needed to think about what I am going to tell you and I thought it was best to have you all here at once when I break the news. It’s too bad that Dave is delivering supplies to the miners because I was hoping he would be here too.”
Richard set up a portable projector and began working the controls. Shortly there was a projection of dotted lights that resembled stars in a three dimensional pattern around him. The lights swirled around then coalesced in the circular movement of a star system with planets.
The group watched with a look of fascination.
“Aumrill came to me about a week ago and told me about a planet that the Martians had discovered recently around a star in the middle of Orion’s belt.”
The third planet in this system grew larger and grabbed their attention secondary to the central star which resembled our very own Sol, excepting that it was blue and a bit larger. The planet was obscured by clouds but a reddish brown surface showed through.
“Aumrill? She’s the woman that you’ve been telling me about since I was a baby. Are you speaking to her again?” young Julia asked.
“Actually, my dear Jul, that’s why I wanted you here to witness all this because you’re finally going to meet her.”
“Well good because I was beginning to believe that Aumrill and the Martians were some kind of fairytale that you and Mom were keeping me entertained with all these years.”
“Oh, she’s quite real,” Simon volunteered a comment. “But it seems that she and the Martians have been rather scarce for almost two decades.”
“Yes, but it seems that our friend Richard has had a visitation,” said Jean.
“She has been here and she made a remarkable proposal. Now you see this planet orbiting this star?” asked Richard.
“How could we miss it?” Donna said, “It’s been moving in and out of your chest for about two minutes now.”
“Oh sorry,” he apologized and then he stepped to the side.
He began working the remote control and the planet grew larger zooming passed the clouds and onto its surface. “As I was saying,” he began again, “the Martians discovered this planet recently and they found artifacts that deem an archeological investigation.”
The surface features of the planet became clearer and they could see river systems and mountain ranges. And as the image sharpened they saw geometric patterns emerge seemingly in architectural proportion. The star itself became a background icon and the landscape of the planet became the forefront.
“The thing which Aumrill has proposed is an expedition for which she will provide all of our needs.”
“Hold on Richard,” Simon interrupted. “I’m flattered that you think that I can be of assistance Richard but I’ve been retired for five years. I’m not up to an expedition of this nature. I’m quite old and I tire easily. I must decline from the proposal.”
Richard stoked his own grey locks. “I’m not exactly a teenager myself but Aumrill is capable taking care of our health needs and she will make sure we are at peak stamina.”
“I’m sorry Richard I am also just tired of the work. My ambitions are mostly used up I’m afraid. As I said I’m retired.”
“Okay Simon but you do know that you are turning away from the opportunity of a lifetime.”
“Yes I know all too well Richard. Fifteen or twenty years ago I would have been the first in line but as it is I’m just not interested.”
“I will not be the same without you,” Jean volunteered a comment.
“I take it you’ve already decided to come along Jean?”
“As you said Richard it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Something like this will probably never occur again. So when does Aumrill plan to start this expedition?”
“Well she’s got all the preparations in order she’s only waiting until I can get a team together. I was really hoping that Simon consider going along.”
“Well Richard you know that Simon has worked hard and he teaches at your school from time to time. Let’s just consider that he may be suffering from classic ‘burnout’.”
“Yes I’ve considered that and I have been experiencing some of it myself but you know the Martians have ways of compensating for those things.”
“Have you contacted Robert Wilson? He may be willing to participate in this expedition and he has had experience in exploratory science.”
“Yes thank you for reminding me Jean. He’s on Ganymede working on a project there. He should have gotten my message yesterday which means I will probably get his response before the end of the week.”
“Have you spoken to Thomas Bradley Perry he could be quite helpful with his knowledge of biophysics.”
“Well yes but didn’t Brad retire to a remote Island in the Pacific.”
“Why no I’m surprised that you don’t know. He lives in the Biocontainment field in a house near the lake. I spoke to him there about a week ago. He is retired of course but he told me that he’s rather bored with the setup and that he wished he could do more.”
“Hmmm, I wonder why he didn’t let me know that he’d returned to Mars. Do you have his number? I will definitely give him a call.”
“His number is in the register. I have no need of it because I can always speak to him when I visit the ‘field’.”
“Are you really planning to go through with this?” Donna interrupted. “Do you remember our plans to visit Julia in Pensacola; she is really looking forward to seeing our Julia for the first time in fifteen years?”
“No I haven’t forgotten I was thinking that you and Jul could visit her while I’m gone.”
“So you’re planning to go without us,” she snapped and threw a crumpled piece of paper at him. “There’s no way you’re going to do something this huge without me and our daughter. What’s gotten into your head?”
“Well, I just thought . . .”
“You thought nothing you didn’t think at all.”
He dropped his head low. “I suppose you’re right I’ll need to reconsider a few things.”
“Mom you shouldn’t be so hard on dad after-all he did think of us he just assumed that it would be a good time for you and I to travel while he’s away.”
“Thank you Jul but your mother is right I should have spoken to her first. So what do you suppose we do?”
Donna approached Richard and put her hands on this waist then leaned her forehead against his. “I’m sorry I yelled at you dear. I don’t know I’ll need to think about it,” she said.
He stroked her shoulder. “Okay, we’ll think about it together.”
“I hope this means me too?” Julia walked over and stood beside them.
Richard tugged her shoulder pulled her close and kissed her forehead. “Of course dear we’re in this together.”
“It’s about time I headed out,” Simon told them.
“Yes and me as well,” Jean said. “We will be in touch.”
“Yes we will all be in communication,” Simon added and the two departed.
“What time is it in Pensacola?” Richard asked.
“Hmmm? It’s around three p. m.” Donna responded.
They walked over to Richard’s desk and he pushed a button.
“Communications,” he said out loud.
A communication screen hummed and slid up from the top of the desk.
“Communications are activated,” an electronic voice announced.
“I would like to make a call to Earth in the southeastern United States.”
“Interplanetary communications are now connected you may key in the number of the person to which you wish to speak.”
Richard keyed in the codes and waited for the sequence of signals to connect which takes about six minutes for them to reach Earth.
“I’m going to finish the dinner I started and I’ll let you know when it’s ready,” Julia said as she left the room.
Shortly Julia’s German accent came through the speaker grill.
“Hello, how may I help you?”
“Hello, Julia this is Richard and Donna. How are you this afternoon?”
After the six minute time delay Julia responded.
“I am doing really well. I was going to call you in a few days and tell you the news. ‘Donna,’ my daughter has taken a new job on Luna and I was hoping to visit Mars while she gets settled in instead of you coming to Earth.”
“Well Julia that’s quite a coincidence we were calling to tell you of the recent events that are occurring. Aumrill has contacted Richard and he may be going on some sort of mission soon.”
“Aumrill? But she hasn’t contacted us in over fourteen years. What kind of proposal has she made?”
“That is something we can talk about when you get here,” Richard told her.
“Yes, there are too many details to discuss over long distance communications,” Donna agreed, “and there are many more details to be ironed out before we come to any further conclusions.”
“Well I can’t wait to hear the rest of it. The next voyage to Mars is about a week away. Wow! That’s a long time to be in suspense.”
“Ha ha!” Donna laughed. “That is a long time to hold your breath.”
“It was nice talking to you Julia. We look forward to seeing you.” Richard disengaged the communications.
“Well it looks like that much is working out,” Donna remarked.
“Yes but as you said we still have much to consider.”
Richard engaged the communication device again.
“Communications I would like to place a call to the Biocontainment field.”
“Communications engaged. You may key in the number of the person to which you wish to speak.”
“The number is unknown could you attach the registry and connect me with Thomas Bradley Perry please?”
“Attaching the register, your call is being connected.”
There was a series of electronic sounds and then came a familiar:
“Brad you old codger why didn’t you tell me that you moved back to Mars?”
“Richard is that you? Well you old hound dog. I didn’t want to bother you and I thought there was a chance that we would meet up incidentally. How is your little girl doing? She was just a baby when I last saw you.”
“She’s not a baby anymore she just had her eighteenth birthday. We don’t go out to the facility much anymore. This isn’t a social call I call to make a proposal.”
“A proposal? You sly dog I can’t marry you I’m much too old and I would only ruin your life. Ha! Well Richard what do you have in mind?”
“How would you like to go on an expedition to an unknown planet?
There was an extended pause.
“I really think I heard you wrong. I thought you just asked me if I wanted to go on an expedition to an unknown planet.”
“You heard me right. A new planet has been found and an expedition has been proposed.”
“Well that’s certainly interesting but don’t you think that this is a pretty tall proposal for an eighty-one year old man?”
“Well in most cases yes but this expedition is being led by the Martians.”
“The Martians! Well that sheds a different color of light on the matter. The Martians usually do with ease things that we once considered impossible. When is the expedition scheduled to begin?”
“There is no time set as of yet we’ve only just begun the planning. As you’ve probably guessed Aumrill and the Martians are making most of the preparations.”
“Yes I could have figured as much the Martians usual get things under control. Why don’t you bring Donna and the kid over and we can talk it over at my hous;, it overlooks this huge lake.”
“I yes I think I’ve seen the lake,” Donna said. “It’s too bad that Bob and Dana are away on Ganymede or they could have joined us.”
“Hmmm, so Bob and Dana are on Ganymede. I was wondering where they made off to.”
“Well we should be hearing from them soon Richard sent a message to them about a week age.”
“Well it takes time to get a message from the Jupiter system this time of year because of the sidereal effect but the Wilson’s are good communicators. I suspect they will be getting back to you in a week. Though traveling from there will take several months even with our fastest ships.”
“Yes it’s unfortunate that they are working on that project at this time,” Richard said. “I suppose that if Donna and Julia agree we could catch a flight to the facility in a couple of days.”
“Sure I’d be glad to have you. I don’t suppose you’ll find the iguanas very good company though; this is the mating season.”
“Ha ha,” Donna laughed. “Brad you’re a riot I suppose we could visit the facility. It’s been a few years and I think Julia enjoys it there.”
“Very well I’ll have the guest rooms ready. I’ll talk to you then.”