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The Great Mars Escape

By Caleb Sherman All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Scifi

Chapter 1

I awoke this morning from a terrific dream, or as terrific as one might have in my situation. I dreamt of escaping this God-forsaken farm, and joining the Resistance. The fields were no longer stretched out before me and I was free to forge my own path, and ultimately I would use that path to overthrow our Martian overlords.

Alas, dreams are not fact, when I rolled out of bed I was not in a Resistance tent, if such a thing even existed, but instead in the small shanty that housed five of us ranchers. Theran was still asleep in the cot above me, no doubt dreaming of his perfect life as well, raising cattle. Below me Deimos was asleep, he had been named after the moon, his parents told him that should always be what he aimed for; did he dream of living there; that was preposterous. Alexia and her sister Aria were bunked on the opposite wall, there was no telling what they dreamed of, Alexia always had this glint in her eye though like she hoped for something more, and Aria always had this mannerism like she just wanted another helping of Martian slop.

“You’re up awful early,” came a muttering from the bunk below mine, “You sleep well?”

“I had the most wonderful dream, Deimos!” I nearly shouted, causing the others to stir.

“I doubt if it was anything compared to your wonderful babbling throughout the day, Sereth,” Theran groaned as he rolled out of bed.

Alexia came and stood beside me, “Shutup, Theran. What did you dream about Sereth?”

“Freedom,” I stated, turning and meeting her sparkling eyes, “Freedom from this wretched place, freedom to do whatever I want, and freedom for everyone else once I was done.”

Aria grumbled, “More insane talk of the Resistance?”

“They’re real,” I argued, “I know now more than ever, and I’m going to go join them, and get off this stupid cattle ranch!”

“Quiet down, Ser,” Deimos muttered, “You don’t want the wardens to hear you.”

“Yeah, don’t get me caught up in all this crazy escape and Resistance talk, Sereth,” Theran complained as he walked over and turned over a smoldering log in our small fire pit, “I’m trying to move up, not get locked up.”

“Besides,” Aria grumbled more, moving over to the small table that held our rudimentary bowls, “You’ve heard what they do to escapees haven’t you?”

Alexia shivered, “I heard they grind you up and add you to the slop,” she grimaced as she watched her sister scoop up a bowl from the food trough.

“Nah, the Martians enjoy us as a sort of delicacy,” Aria started, "They like to start with the brains and slowly slurp the muscles right off our bones," she slurped at the slop that served as our only sustenance, “Then they grind up our bones and use the powder to make that fancy paper they write everything on.”

Theran shook his head repulsed, “No way, we’re too valuable, I figure they just torture us and throw us back into the fields.”

“Nope, you guys have it all wrong. The Martians have this really advanced brain warping technology that they use to erase our memories, and then they throw us back out here as mindless slaves, like the Distants,” Deimos replied matter of factly.

Nobody could argue with that logic, the Distants were humans that worked apart from the others, they had no social interaction what so ever, and they did not seem to seek it either. They just sort of went around doing their own thing. They ate what they needed to, drank when they had to, and then worked until curfew. I mean, I guess that’s what we all did, but they did it more monotonously.

“I’m telling you man, trying to escape is ultimately just a decision between freedom to think, and ultimate mind slavery.”

“Shutup, Deimos,” Theran growled, “That’s all a bunch of nonsense. The Martians don’t have any sort of brain control.”

“Explain the Distants then.”

Alexia frowned, “Doesn’t matter guys. We’ve got to get to the fields soon, Sereth you better eat.”

“Yo, what about us Alexia? We have to eat too,” Theran answered.

“Yeah, but I don’t really care if you eat or not Theran.”

I ignored their little quarrel and wandered over and grabbed my own bowl of slop. It certainly did not taste like what I thought human would taste like. They claimed it offered all of the nutritional supplements that humans needed, and we had no reason to doubt that since evidently the Martians needed us; for whatever reason they did not tend to their animals, their fields, their mines, or their bamboo forests.

It was curious enough as it was, from my understanding the Martians had not revealed themselves to us until after Humanity had begun the process of mass colonization. We had already cultivated an entire Martian ecosystem, which was no simple task apparently: it began with the growing of trees and crops that could live with minimal oxygen, while putting out more optimal amounts, ultimately, though I don’t know the exact process, this resulted in a special breed of corn, wheat, and eucalyptus trees that did exactly what we needed; next came livestock, the entire reason behind the trees they had engineered, because grass was not something that could grow at first, grazing cattle were not available, therefore Humanity created a special koala-cow mix-breed, it was called a Zart, for whatever reason, and lived off of the special eucalyptus trees.

After humanity had established a thriving society we encountered the first Martian, a strange man with red skin and black marble eyes. They wore long gray cloaks, and that was all they ever wore from what I understand. They had claw like hands, something to the effect a cross between a human’s four fingers, and a crab claw for the thumb.

I don’t know for a fact that this was the case, that was hundreds of years ago, but based on the teachings we had received as children, this was the world we lived in. It was irrelevant, we were taught only what we needed to know to understand that the world was cultivated for the Martians, and humans were bred only to serve them.

“Time to go Sereth,” Deimos stated offering me a hand from the edge of the table; I had been staring at the empty bowl of slop for quite a while.

Aria and Theran had already set out into the fields, and were out of sight when we left our shanty. It was a short walk to the barn that held the animals we tended to here, today we jogged; the air was cool against our warm flesh. Theran was ushering out the Zarts as we cleared the hill to get our first look of the day at the field.

The field was a cleared out area that contained a series of clumped together eucalyptus plants. In some places the field also contained corn, but not here, we only tended to the animals so we only needed animal food. The field was also enclosed by much thicker, towering eucalyptus trees, standing two-hundred to three-hundred feet tall. These, from what I understood, were intended to mimic the growth of trees back on Earth, towering terribly tall and creating a sort of wall against the skyline. There were three wardens standing near the tree-line, and one watcher perched on the hill, his black soulless eyes watching us closely as we descended to the flat land.

The Zarts were always happy to be free to roam the land. There were about thirty in the barn, so the space was a little cramped, no more than our own living arrangements though. Some of the younger creatures would scamper about, leaping and bellowing excitedly. Some adventurous characters would attempt to climb the eucalyptus trees, which was perfectly acceptable, as long as it was not one of the trees that made up the field’s edge. Then we had to apply a shock to the creatures with the small cattle prod we were provided. Today, I was set with Alexia to trim some of the thicker eucalyptus patches.

“You know everyone thinks you’re crazy for wanting to escape,” she muttered as she took her shears to one of the outstretching limbs.

“Everyone?” I asked cutting my eyes at her as I caught the falling branch.

“Well,” she blushed, “Theran and Aria do. I think Deimos wants to try it, just so he doesn’t have to tend to these things anymore.”

“What about yourself?”

“Me? Well,” she hesitated then clipped another branch letting it fall into my arms, “I could care less really, if you’re crazy enough to escape then so be it.”

“Why are we here?” I asked looking across the sky as she clipped another two branches.

“A greater purpose maybe?” she laughed as she piled a few stray limbs onto my arms.

We began making our way to the edge of the field to dump the limbs, “No, I mean why do the Martians hold us here? Why don’t they just get rid of us?”

Alexia smiled and lifted her face to stare at the sky with me, “I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a game to them; maybe they just keep us humans around for service and entertainment.

I dropped the bundle of sticks in a large pile and turned to her, “Surely they have a better reason than that. What kind of a creature can draw enjoyment from- from-” I stuttered, I wasn’t even sure what to call it, “From torture.”

“They don’t torture us though, Sereth,” she frowned, “I mean this isn’t ideal, but at least we’re alive.”

“Yeah,” I shook my head, “Alive and enslaved. Living a pointless day to day existence knowing our lives are in their hands.” I pointed up at the watcher on the hill, “They’ve won so thoroughly over us that they use humans to keep us in check, and then they have one Martian stand guard just in case. One, there are three armed guards here and they have one man watching.” I kicked the pile of sticks, “They don’t need us. And they’re not afraid of us.”

“Hey!” one of the wardens was making his way over to us, “You two get back to work!”

“Yeah,” I muttered as I turned away from the tree-line, “Let’s get back to work.”

Just then I heard Deimos start shouting. I turned to face the direction I heard his voice from and saw him chasing after a Zart. It was running into the wall of eucalyptus trees.

“Alexia stay here, I’m gonna go help Deimos with that.”

I took off without waiting for a response. If the Zart got away it would be on our heads, we had never let one escape before, and this was not going to be the day. The Zart was already into the woods when Deimos and I reached the edge.

“Damn it, Deimos,” I shouted as the eucalyptus trees whipped against us, “What happened?”

“I don’t know man,” Deimos groaned, “The damn thing got to far up the hill, saw the watcher, and took off the other way.”

“Well I can’t blame it for that,” I chuckled, “Crud, there it is.”

We stopped as we cleared a very large, thick tree. The Zart was on the other side, collapsed on the ground, bleating helplessly.

“Looks like it broke a leg,” Deimos muttered as he crouched next to it, “Let’s get it back to the field.”

I looked around quickly, “Let’s run for it.”

“What?”

I nodded, “Let’s get out of here while we can Deimos. We can come back tonight and get Alexia and the others out. But for now let’s get out of here and see if we can meet up with the Resistance.”

“Dude are you crazy?” Deimos lowered his voice, “If they catch us they’ll kill us, and they might do the same to the others if we escape.”

I frowned at that. I didn’t want Alexia to get hurt. I certainly didn’t want any of the others to get killed, not on my account. “Fine, then you get out of here, I’ll claim you escaped and I tried to restrain you. That’ll save us both for the moment.”

There was a whistling of the wind, a thick rush of air washed over us. I turned the direction that the air had blown and found the watcher standing a short distance away. He had moved so fast. It pointed with its misshapen claw at the Zart and let out a low guttural growl.

“Yeah,” Deimos muttered, “Yeah we’re just about to bring it back.”

The Martian slid closer to us and eyed me, then pointed at the Zart and released a short controlled growl.

“It’s hurt,” I spat, “We have to carry it back.”

The thing barked at me.

“Look if you want to carry it back you can, I’ll take my time about it. The damn thing’s heavy.”

It jabbed me in the chest, not in a piercing fashion, but it was sure to leave a bruise. Then it growled at me again, pointed at the Zart, and slid away.

“Crud Sereth, don’t piss these things off,” Deimos grabbed the Zart’s hind legs, “Help me get this back to the field, we’ll have Alexia do some of that first aid crap on it.”

“Yeah,” I glanced sideways at the watcher who stood a short distance off, “Whatever.”

#

It took us about half an hour to drag the injured Zart back to the edge of the field. The whole way it bellowed and bleated pitifully. I had half a mind to throw the thing down and leave it there for the Martian to tend to, but Deimos kept giving me that look, something to the effect of ‘If you get us killed, I’ll do you in first.’

Theran, Alexia, and Aria were all waiting at the edge of the forest, meaning the three wardens were also not far off.

“That thing makes some terrible noises,” Theran commented, “Maybe I should have gone with you guys?”

Deimos shook his head, “Nah, you just keep doin’ what your doin’ Theran.”

“Yeah,” I grimaced as I laid the thing over, it bellowed again in response, “Besides, ol’ stink-eye over there might have got suspicious if you came out there too.”

Theran looked past me and spotted the Watcher, now standing just at the edge of the forest, still watching.

“It’s an appropriate title,” I spat, “Watcher, because that’s all it did was watch.”

Deimos rolled his eyes, “And it threatened.”

Alexia frowned and ran to my side, “Are you okay?”

I nodded, “Yeah, but the Zart’s not, think you can splint its leg or something?”

“Yeah definitely,” she looked over at her sister, “Aria will you go get me the bandaging tape out of the barn, and a couple straight limbs from the pile?”

Aria nodded, “Yeah, whatever you say sis.”

“Boys,” Theran looked me and Deimos over, “I think Alexia has this from here, let’s go finish with the trees and make sure no more of these things get any bright ideas.”

#

As the evening drew to a close I helped Deimos shut the barn door on the Zarts. The five of us made our way back to the shanty together. The watcher was still there, lingering on the hilltop until we were past him. His dark soulless eyes followed us as we left.

“I hate that thing,” I muttered to Alexia, “I wish it’d just back off.”

“If they weren’t watching how could they be confident in their superiority, Sereth?”

Deimos shook his head, “I saw the damn thing move, or rather, I didn’t see it move. It’s incredibly fast, there’s no need for us if it can move like that.”

“Yeah I noticed that,” Theran nodded, “I was watching it when you guys left the field, one second it was there, the next it was gone.”

“Creepy,” Aria muttered, shivering.

“You still wanna try to escape with something like that out there?” Alexia whispered with a slight smirk.

“Of course,” I nodded to the idea, “That’s all the more reason to get out of here and join the Resistance; they need all the able bodies they can get.”

Theran spat on the ground, “I’m telling you Sereth, there is no Resistance. Even if there was at some point, the Martians have probably crushed them underfoot.”

“Under something,” Deimos corrected, “They don’t seem to walk, and we don’t know what’s under those cloaks.”

“Yeah, whatever,” came Theran’s reply.

“There has to be a Resistance,” I muttered, “Otherwise why are we all separated? Why do they watch us so closely?”

“Just to plant those little ideas in your mind Sereth,” Theran replied, “Believe you me, the Martians have nothing to fear from Humanity.”

Deimos shook his head, “Well, except our extinction.”

Everyone paused at the shanty door and turned to stare at Deimos, he just shrugged.

“Think about it, they give us plenty of food that keeps us healthy, they don’t hurt us, and they keep us around to do yard work,” Deimos pushed open the shanty door and proceeded inside, “Way I see it, they must need us.”

“Yeah, not like they can use those claws to tend to the delicate Zarts or anything,” Theran replied as he ushered the ladies in.

It was true, though I hadn’t thought about it much, the Martians truly were reliant on us. They could not make things like we could, they had awkward claws instead of thumbs. Using any human tool was beyond them for the same reason. Surely with all the power they had access to it must have been difficult to be delicate too, so Theran was right, there was no way they could tend to the Zarts themselves.

“You suppose they’re some sort of lesser being?” Deimos asked as he sat next to the fire pit which Theran was stocking.

Aria joined him, “What do you mean?”

“Well, you know, since they don’t seem to speak any language we can make sense of, and they seem to rely on humans for basically everything, don’t they seem like lesser intelligences?”

“No,” I shook my head and sat on the bottom bunk beside him, Alexia joined me, “No, that doesn’t make sense. They have a written language; they use their claws to write on that special paper with ink.”

Deimos nodded, “I suppose that’s true, but still,” he looked over at Theran, “What are your thoughts on it, Theran?”

Theran sat down at the table with a bowl of slop, “My thoughts? Does it matter if they’re a lesser intelligence or not? They are the supreme overlords of Mars.”

“That’s true,” Aria added, “Regardless of how intelligent they are, they’re stronger and faster than us, and they’ve dominated the planet for centuries so it doesn’t matter.”

“But maybe the Resistance-”

Theran cut me off as he threw his bowl across the room, “Would you shut up about the Resistance! They’re a fairytale, just a figment of your imagination, Sereth!”

“Stop it Theran!” Alexia leapt from beside me, “If belief in the Resistance is what it takes to keep Sereth going then so be it. Besides, who’s to say there’s not a group of humans fighting the Martians right now?”

“Who? Me, that’s who,” Theran slammed his fists on the table as he stood, “If the Resistance is out there, and they are so powerful, why the Hell haven’t they come to our rescue yet?”

“They’re not powerful even to combat the Martians yet.” I grumbled, “Obviously, or we wouldn’t be dealing with the watchers still.”

“Obviously,” Theran pushed past Alexia to me, “You wanna know about the obvious man?” he shoved me against the bunk, “Obviously we don’t have time to fantasize about being rescued from this dump! Obviously some of us understand the way this world ticks, they’re gonna move up! Obviously there are others who wanna live in their fantasy worlds,” he shoved me again, “They’re gonna get killed, and they’re gonna bring down everyone around them!”

Alexia and Deimos pulled Theran back.

“Dude, calm down,” Deimos muttered, “Don’t get the wardens in here.”

“Maybe I should,” he shuffled loose of their grips and moved back over to the table, “Maybe I should just get them to come in here and freakin’ take care of Sereth there, so he’ll stop puttin' us in danger.”

“Shutup,” was Alexia’s only response.

“Maybe he’s right,” I muttered as I fell back down on the bottom bunk, “Maybe there is no Resistance, maybe I should just give up.”

“Don’t say that Sereth,” Alexia whispered as she rubbed my arm, “I’m sure there is. There has to be.”

Deimos shook his head, “We should just eat and head to bed, we have to wake up and do it all over again tomorrow.”

I nodded and joined the others at the table. We ate in silence, a pretty normal thing, and then each of us readied for bed.

#

I did not awaken with the rising sun the next morning. Nor did I awaken from another fantastic dream about escape. Instead I awoke a very few hours later, at the whispers of Alexia.

She was standing beside my bunk, her brown hair pulled tight under a dark hood. She smiled at me and beckoned me out of my bunk.

I groggily rolled out of bed, “Alexia, what are you doing?”

"We, Sereth, are escaping this Hell,” she pointed over her shoulder at Deimos and Aria, “Theran’s staying; he wouldn’t want to come anyway.”

Deimos threw me a black stitched cloak, “Put that on, it’ll hopefully hide us from the wardens and Watcher until we can get into the forest.”

I nodded, promptly pulling the cloak over my body, “The wardens?”

“Just made a round,” Aria whispered, “Hopefully they’re following the normal patrol.”

Deimos smirked, “Now or never, Sereth.”

I looked at Alexia, she smiled at me, I quickly took her arm and pushed the door open, letting in the cold Martian night air. We were off.

The night sky was dim, rust colored clouds blotted out the stars above, and the twin moons that normally illuminated the planet were blotted out as well. We ran as fast as we could toward the edge of the woods. I looked out across the field and spotted the Wardens just now reaching the apex of the hill. I sighed with relief as I saw them disappear behind the wall of Martian dirt.

Deimos saw me delaying and patted my shoulder, “Let’s go, Sereth, we have to be completely gone before they make it back around.”

We breached the eucalyptus forest’s edge and from there broke into a mad sprint. Distance was essential if we were going to make this work; the wardens may not have been much of a threat, but once a Watcher was alerted we could be assured the entire forest would be unsafe. Once or twice I saw Alexia trip, but I was there to catch her and help her along.

“So, what now, Sereth?” Deimos asked as we continued to run, “How do we meet up with this Resistance of yours?”

I shook my head, “In my dream they’re just sort of right beyond the edge of the forest.”

“It’s only a dream,” Aria scoffed, “Not like it means anything.”

“With any luck it at least means the possibility of success,” Deimos gasped out of breath.

“Don’t give out on us,” Alexia panted, “We’re almost to the forest edge.”

Deimos nodded and picked up the pace, clearing the edge of the eucalyptus forest. The world beyond tore at my heart, and ripped my hopes asunder. For miles all around there was nothing but red dirt; after a great distance there appeared to be even more eucalyptus plants. I collapsed then and there.

“No,” Alexia grabbed my hand and pulled me up, “You can’t give up now Sereth.”

“Yeah,” Deimos grabbed my other arm and supported me, “At least we’re out of there, now we just have to find the Resistance.”

I groaned, “God there’s no Resistance guys,” I looked around at the depressingly bleak landscape, “There’s nothing beyond here but more Mars.”

“That’s not true!” Alexia shouted at me, “That can’t be true Sereth, otherwise what are we even living for?”

“Them,” I shook my head and pointed back into the forest, “We live for them; for their amusement, for their sustenance, for whatever reason they want us to live.”

All at once the world was filled with light. It was blinding, and enveloped everything. I shielded my eyes against the brightness, but even with the little assistance my arm offered, I still could only make out three tall silhouettes making their way toward us in the all-consuming light.

That was when I heard the rush of wind that signaled the rapid approach of a Martian. I turned away from the light to find it outlined against the eucalyptus behind us. Sheer instinct took hold as I gripped Alexia’s arm and shoved her toward the figures in the light. We had finally made it and I was not about to let them ruin it. Unfortunately, I had no choice.

The night lit up with laser blasts as the silhouettes, whom I assumed were Resistance soldiers, opened fire upon the Martian. It was unfazed and rushed forward, I could feel it’s presence as it tore away the ground behind us and plucked me up off the ground. The men were shouting, about what I do not know, but I saw one of them grab Alexia and shove her behind him as he continued to fire frantically. I looked over and saw Deimos, he was clawing at the thing’s arm, trying to break free. It had us, and it was not letting go. The thing growled low as it backed away from the rapid blasts of heat and energy that overtook us. A sharp twist of its claw-like hand caused the entire world to fade into black.

#

I was greeted by a similar light to that which I had passed out to before. I blinked myself awake under what seemed to be a spotlight, glaring down into my face. I attempted to rise but found that my arms and legs were strapped onto the table on which I awoke. I looked around frantically, hoping that I had somehow been rescued.

No such luck. Across the large white empty room there stood two Martians, their grey cloaks covering all save their vacant faces with their void eyes, and the claw-like appendages that served as their hands. The creatures came over and jabbed at me with their crab-claws, poking my flesh and pinching me sporadically. They stared at me with those vacant eyes, assuring me of my imminent doom. That was when they produced the device no doubt intended to torture me, a sort of helmet that was wired into the ceiling, with several needles and three secure straps.

They placed the machine on my head, and suddenly I became aware of the sheer hatefulness that possessed our Martian masters. All at once, as I felt each needle pierce my skull and make contact with my brain, I found myself cursed with thousands of memories. Thousands of memories assaulted me that had been forcibly extracted from my mind; each one of a different escape attempt. So many times I had come so close, but tonight had been the closest by far. I saved Alexia, but that offered little solace as I recognized the sheer number of people I had helped escape in the past, yet I had never gotten away. The bastards were letting me free others just so I could see how futile it was, and then they were flooding me with my own wretched memories! I begged them, mentally, to take the horror away; to free me from the terror that was my repetitive life. Fortunately, they did, after all of the memories had settled in, they took them all away, all except one false memory, which I promptly recognized as my dream from the night before. Then I was unconscious again.

#

I awoke this morning from a terrific dream, or as terrific as one might have in my situation. I dreamt of escaping this God-forsaken farm, and joining the Resistance. The fields were no longer stretched out before me and I was free to forge my own path, and ultimately I would use that path to overthrow our Martian overlords.

Alas, dreams are not fact, when I rolled out of bed I was not in a Resistance tent, if such a thing even existed, but instead in the small shanty that housed five of us ranchers. Of course, it no longer housed five of us, Theran had been promoted, he was a Warden now; all of his determination toward serving the system was finally paying off. I turned to Alexia and Aria’s bunks but found them empty, my mind was flooded with ideas, but I eventually settled on only one acceptable thought, they had escaped in the night. I turned around and found Deimos lying on the bottom bunk, at least I still had my old friend.

I kicked his bunk, and he grumbled then rolled out of bed, “Looks like the sisters made an escape last night.”

Deimos looked over at the empty bunks and chuckled, “I guess so. Just you and me then buddy.”

I nodded and sat down at the table on the other end of our shanty, grabbing a bowl of slop. Deimos sat across from me, having his own bowl of slop, and smiled at me. Something caught my eye when he smiled, I leaned over and snatched it from his shirt pocket.

“Deimos, what the hell is this?”

Deimos leaned over and stared at the patch in my hand, “I have no idea, what’s it say?”

It was a patch, much like you would expect to see sewn into a shirt or a uniform. The insignia was simple, it was three crimson letters, MRM; I stared at it for only a moment before recognizing it as the same emblem worn by the Resistance fighters in my dream.

“Martian Resistance Movement.”

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