The Untold stories of Mars

A New World: Part One

Illustration+by+Kayla+Herrema+

Illustration by Kayla Herrema

Kira Krieger, Copy Editor

In his year of space exploration, Ambrose, a sixteen-year boy who had been traveling from one side of the Milky Way Galaxy to the other on his own, set his sights on the fourth planet in a solar system. After getting through the dusty red atmosphere of Mars, he’d landed his ship behind a rock formation outside of a cluttered city of tall, extravagant buildings. The air of mostly carbon dioxide stung his lungs at first, but after a few involuntary bodily changes, he was on his merry way.

In the city, the sidewalks were full of an array of people with green and red skin, but very few with his own: white. With the crowd and all the pushing and shoving and touching, along with the loud murmur of passing conversations, he began to spiral. A second before a complete meltdown and while he was mindlessly walking, he smacked into another person who was running through the crowd, sending them both to the ground. In that instant, everything in the background frozen and all Ambrose could focus on was the white figure that was clothed in black in front of him. When a voice came from the figure, it brought all the distractions around him back to his attention. “Hey, why don’t you watch where you’re going?” a male teenage voice said as he wiped the street dirt off of himself not even looking at who he was talking to.

Once he finished dusting himself off and still hadn’t gotten a reply to his question, he looked up to see a scared and lost face. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said to Ambrose, who was still sitting on the ground. “Why don’t you let me help you up?” he said, extending his hand towards him.

Ambrose just stared at his outstretched hand for a moment as his mind went through the memory of a young woman with brown hair in a bob, who lived with his family when he was younger, flashed up in his head, which included glimpses of when she told him an outreached hand could save your life if you only take it. Doing what he knew she would want him to do, he took the hand. As the person pulled him to his feet, the teenager asked, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

“No,” Ambrose said, repeating it with the head motion.

“Well, welcome to the city of Aphrodite,” he said, surveilling the crowd from which he came.

“Thank you.”

“For what?” he asked, half listening as he shifted his glance back to Ambrose then right back to the crowd.

“Isn’t that what you do when someone does something nice…?” he said, trailing off into one of his other memories where that same young woman was trying to stay gentle and calm as she tried to explain to three-year-old him to use his pleases when he wants something instead of just taking, his thank yous when someone does something for you or to help you, and that no means no and it’s not okay to throw a fit when the answer is no. “Don’t you say thank you?”

“Yeah. Yeah, nice talking to you. I’ve got to go,” he said in a rushed manner as he ran off into the direction he was originally heading.

Ambrose shouted back to him, “Bye!” with a wave and continued on his original path as well.   

As the teenager was running from who he saw in the crowd, he looked back to see Ambrose turning right at the next intersection and he nearly stopped in his tracks.

As Ambrose turned the corner, he was on a less crowded street. It never occurred to him to think why it was so deserted, not even when he was forcibly thrust up against a wall. Two green hands clenched either side of his collar as the owner of the hands began spatting at him in a language he didn’t know.

As the man continued to yell at him, Ambrose began to understand what was he saying. “What do you think you’re doing here, you colony trash?”

“I-I-I’m s-s-sorry?” Ambrose asked, stammering back in Latin, with a face of confusion and discomfort.

“Yeah, you should be,” the man said, still holding Ambrose’s shirt with his left, but had pulled his right arm back and had balled his right hand into a fist.

Midway into the man’s swing, the teenage boy grabbed his fist and said, in English rather than Latin, “I’m sorry, my cousin has never been to the big city before, it will never happen again,”

The man released his grip on Ambrose and relaxed his fist. “Make sure it doesn’t. This street is restricted for a reason.” Then he walked away and met up with another green man down aways.

 

As this situation occurred, three people of the red persuasion came around the corner at a fast pace. They immediately made a visual of the teenager, but as soon as they saw the Department of Defence officer, they vanish right back into the crowd.

 

“Why don’t we go home?” the boy asked, loud enough for the officers to hear.

“Okay?” Ambrose said, too confused to argue.

The boy took his hand, which made Ambrose cringe, and went on leading Ambrose through the crowd to the outskirts of the city. Once there, there was no crowd, not even a soul in sight. All the street lights were cracked and busted. The short and stout buildings were decaying to a point that they were adding to the planet’s dusty levels. Also, unlike the other side of town, there was a bunch of laid stone separating the sidewalk from the rest of the sidewalk.

“What’s colony trash?” Ambrose asked as they slowed down.

“You understood what he was saying?” he asked, but only got a repeat of Ambrose’s question. “They want an empire but don’t want to deal with the cultures that come with it. Even if they created their most hated one.”

“Where are we?” Ambrose asked, abruptly, finally getting the chance to look about his surrounds, which made his stomach curl and his grip to get tighter.

“Old Aphrodite. Most of it was destroyed after a big sandstorm and the rest… well… was left forgotten.”

“You? Live? Here?”

“For the moment,” he said, pulling on Ambrose’s arm since he was lagging.

“The moment?” Ambrose said as they came to a stop in front of a building

“Yeah, for the moment. Just until something better comes along,” he said, releasing Ambrose’s hand so he could pull the door open.

Inside, the warehouse-like building was full of junk and sand. As Ambrose walked in, the boy continued, “It’s not much, but ~.”

“It’s wonderful,” he enthusiastically said, cutting him off.

“Really?” he asked, turning on a lantern, which hung on a hook by the door before he closed the door.

“Why would I lie?” Ambrose protested.

“I wasn’t suggesting… I just…,” he began, putting his hand through his brown shaggy hair. “This place is a dump, why would you like it?”

“It’s better than the tin space can I’ve spent the last 366 days in.”

“A year in space th-tha… that would be amazing!” he exclaimed, startling Ambrose. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he said in a softer, but still excited voice, “but it’s just a… a year in space… You must really not be from around here. What are you like from Camelot, Cancer major, or Mai?”

“Alexandria.”

“I’ve never heard of that one,” he said, trailing off. “Where is it?”

“Um. Um. Um,” Ambrose answered, looking around the room. His eyes came to rest on a slender metal rod. He rushed over and picked it up from under the lingering trash, getting a confused look from the boy. He rushed back and immediately touched the sand covered floor with a tip of the rod. Before doing anything else, he pushed the lantern closer to the floor from eye level without touching the boy’s hand on the handle, then he drew a circle, about a foot in diameter, in the lit reddish sand. Once finished, he put a dot near the edge of the circle closest to the boy and said, “This is Mars.” Then he added three more dots an inch away from the Mars dot and each other and said, “These are Camelot, Cancer major, and Mai. Being across from the boy, he added a dot near the edge that he was close to and said, “This is Alexandria.”

“Ho-ho-how is that possible?” the boy asked, leaning closer to the drawing.

“It’s not exact, but close,” he said putting the rod back where he found it.

“That’s not what I meant. How could you get that far in so little time? It’s inconceivable,” he said, flopping onto the floor, placing the lantern between them.

“Clearly it’s not,” Ambrose said, sitting down where he stood.

“Clearly nothing,… Huh,” he laughed.

“What?”

“It just occurred to me I don’t even know your name. I’ve dragged you through town and I haven’t even asked you what your name is.”

“It’s Ambrose.”

“Just Ambrose?” he asked. When he didn’t get a response, he said, “Well, Ambrose, I’m Odin Andromeda,” sticking his hand out for a handshake.

Since he wasn’t in any danger nor in need of any help, Ambrose didn’t take his hand. Odin took his hand back, thinking of the reaction Ambrose had on his face when he helped him up when the Defence officer was grabbing him, and when he was dragging him through town and came up with this conclusion:  “You don’t like being touched do, you?”

“No,” he stated.

“Anything else I should know?” he asked, sincerely and interested.

“I don’t like loud noises.”

“Who does? Any others?”

“I don’t like change.”

“Then why did you leave your planet?”

“I don’t mean change of scenery – not to say I had a choice in leaving home,” he said, starting to wander around the small space that wasn’t covered in discarded objects of old. “It’s just the changes in the scenery that bother me,” he said, pushing the rod he used a few centimeters back so it would be completely back in its place and once it was back, he continued to wander.

“You wouldn’t like my mother then, she constantly moves things around the house,” Odin said before thinking.

“Why aren’t you with them?”

“Why aren’t you with yours?” Odin said, defensively, but Ambrose just stood there, waiting for his answer. “Ugh,” he rolled his eyes and dropped his chin to his chest for a moment, “let’s say since they don’t get along with each other,  they don’t really get along with me. And they don’t approve of my plan to become a captain in the Martian Defence force – they think I’m too much of a dreamer.” After he had finished, there was an atmosphere of awkward silence until he put one of his hands through his hair and changed the subject. “You don’t like to be touched or loud noises or things being out of their places,” he said, counting them on his fingers and got a nod every time from Ambrose, who had begun walking again. “Anything else?”

“I can either be really not focused or really focused on some…,” Ambrose trailed off, leaning into a wooden structure. “What is this?”

“I see your point,” Odin said, coming closer, with the lantern in tow. “Oh, I haven’t seen one of these in years. It’s an old pulled cart. They were replaced with flying shuttles when I was little: it was hard to keep importing wood from Earth and you really can’t domesticate Martian equine – they’re nasty little beasts.”

“How long ago?” Ambrose asked, leaning farther over the side of the cart, practically inside of it.

“I was about four, so it had to be… about… a hundred and sixty-six years ago? Yeah, a hundred and sixty-six years ago!”

After doing the math, Ambrose lost his grip, out of shock, and fell into the cart. “You’re a hundred and seventy years old!” he asked through raspy breathing as he popped up from the floor of the cart.

“Well, a hundred and seventy years old according to the Julian calendar but about 85 in Martian years.”

“Wow!” he said, sitting on the cart’s bench.

“I get that a lot,” Odin said, leaning on the edge of the cart. “You couldn’t imagine how much a lot is.”

A rhythmic knock at the door interrupted Odin’s reminiscing about his life. “Stay down,” he barked, and, being too nervous to remember Ambrose didn’t like being touch, he pushed him off the bench and onto the floor of the cart, so his head was lower than the side of the cart.

“Why?” He popped back up after Odin walked away.

Odin turns back and shakily said, “Just do it, Ambrose, and stay quiet! I mean it!”   

Ambrose sat back down on the floor of the cart, worried about him being scared, and tried to say quiet, knowing that what was behind that door was some kind of scary. He watched Odin walk to the door through a crack in the cart where the door no longer covered.

Odin opened the door to reveal the three men that were chasing him earlier. “Hey guys,” he said through a fake smile, looking over his shoulder to make sure Ambrose was out of sight, “how you doin’?”

“Not too good, Andromeda,” the nicest dressed one said, with great hatred and emphasis on Andromeda, as he pushed past him. “I didn’t appreciate your antics this morning,” he finished, being followed by his two associates: both male and dressed in tattered, black clothing.

“I wasn’t too enthused about being threatened, either,” Odin said, turning his back to the still opened door.

“I’m going to let you off with a warning this time, Andromeda, since you’re not from here. But when I tell you to do something, from now on, you’ll do it!” he said, gritting his teeth. “Now, let’s try this again, shall we? Will you help these fools rob the Remus Gallery?”

“NO! Not Ever!”

“Wrong answer,” he announced, which signaled his men to grab Odin, causing him to drop the lantern. The lantern’s crash still echoed as the leader landed the first punch into Odin’s abdomen. “I’m kind of glad you choose the hard way, Andromeda, the people in this town are too scared to let me do this as often as I like,” he continued, landing another punch.    

Ambrose continued to watch, trying to remain silent but, with every punch, it grew harder and harder. But, when the two men dropped Odin to the floor, he alerted the three men of his presence by letting out a gasp at the sight of Odin hunched over in pain.

The leader gestured his head towards the cart, ordering the man closest to it to go check it out. Odin, in response, tried to get up as he exclaimed, “No!” The leader, in returned, pushed Odin back to the group by kicking him in the side with his shiny black dress shoe.

On the other side of the room, the man who went over to check the noise was leaning into the cart with the lantern that Odin had dropped in one hand. Inside, he saw Ambrose curled up in the bottom of the cart with his legs to his chest, his arm securing his legs’ position, as he was burying his face into his knees, trying his best not to start crying. With his free hand, the man grabbed Ambrose’s collar and dragged him out of the cart and threw him to the ground.

“Why would you hide this from us, Andromeda?” the leader said, lifting Ambrose’s head so he could see his face. At his touch, Ambrose jumped back, landing hard on his hands and rear, and began hyperventilating. The three men erupted in laughter. “Now, what do you have to say, Andromeda?” he continued, still laughing. As he was talking, he snapped his fingers, making both men pull out their guns.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Odin protested, getting up from the ground.

“If I can’t threaten you with your life,” he said, pulling out his gun from inside of his jacket, “maybe I can convince you with someone else’s.” He aimed his gun at Ambrose’s head. “So What’s Your Answer, Andromeda?” he asked as he cocked his weapon.

“Still No!” Odin said, throwing himself at him, making him move his sight away from Ambrose and making him, accidentally, fire his weapon, grazing one of his own men. After regaining his footing, Odin told Ambrose to run, and he did without a second thought.

“Get him!” the leader ordered.

As the two men ran out after Ambrose, without pause to injury, Odin tried pleading with the leader. “Leave him alone. He has nothing to do with this!” He grabbed his arm.

“You should have thought about that before you ran this morning,” the leader said, shoving him to the ground hard enough, when he hit his head on some of the metal garbage around them, he was knocked unconscious. “You should have taken my warning when you had a choice,” he said as blood flowed down the left side of Odin’s face from a cut that spanned from his left temple to part of the left side of his forehead.

The leader walked out of the warehouse as he pulled out a metal object from his inside jacket pocket. He flipped it open, put it up to his ear, and said, “He’s coming your way,” into it. When he flipped it closed, he could hear sirens in the distance, coming closer.  

 

Ambrose kept a pretty decent lead on the two men until he tripped over some uprooted cobblestone. They had closed to a few feet when Ambrose tried to get up. Before completing that task, he looks at his hurting right palm and fell right back down when he saw the increasingly growing red puddle on his hand. Before the two men could grab him, though, a Defence patrol shuttle pulled in at the end of the street.

The two officers jumped out, guns blazing, and one of the shouted, “Freeze!” The two men in response ran back the way they came, but another patrol shuttle cut them off.

Over the radio of the first patrol shuttle, another team, on the other side of town, said, “The second target acquired.” As the two men were filed into the second shuttle, one of the first officers carried Ambrose to their shuttle and the other radioed the other team to apprise them that they had acquired the first.

To Be Continued…