The Untold stories of Mars Story 1: A New World

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 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 his 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 cousins 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. 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 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?”

“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 out 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 shuttled and the other radioed the other team to apprise them that they had acquired the first.

 

When Ambrose woke up, he was in a brightly lit beige room and laid on a low back, black leather couch. He sat up and rubbed his eyes trying to adjust to the blaring lights. When the room became clear, he began looking around the room and he was startled by a figure in the room, but it was only his reflection in a mirror that took up most of the upper part of the wall behind the couch. As he continued, he saw that there was a black metal door to the left of the mirror, a four-chair table set stood in front him in an alcove, to the table’s left was another door, but, besides the black set of chairs that faced the couch and a coffee table between them and the couch, the room was plain.

It wasn’t until he finished looking about that he realized his hand was still throbbing. He looked down at his right hand. In the place of the pooling blood was a white bandage wrapped around his hand and wrist. He was curiously looking about it when someone barged into the room, making him jump out of his skin and onto the floor.

A Defence officer, with green skin, began spatting at him in rapid Latin. Ambrose began scooching backward, towards the far corner of the room, as the man came closer. Terrified, Ambrose tuned out the words and only heard the yelling. He continued until his back hit the corner. Without anything else to distract him, he began to mentally shut down until he was balled up, like he was in the cart, and started crying.

Behind the two way mirror, two Defence agent, one male and the other female but both green, were sitting in a pair of chairs similar to those in Ambrose’s room. The man, sitting on the left side of the room, was leaning heavily on his left arm as his hand covered his forehead and eyes. “There goes that plan,” he told the women.

She got up from her chair and as she smoothes out the skirt of her suit, she said, “I told you, you should have gotten him if he was on vacation or not.” She walked out of the room into the hallway with a slam of the door.

Sitting alone, the man said, “I guess, I’ll go get him.”

 

Watching the numbers above the elevator door, a man with green skin thought of how much he would rather be any place other than his workplace on his vacation. When the screen stopped on S9 the doors slid wide, to reveal the Defence agent that called him. “Janus, you better have a good reason for this!”

“We screwed up.”

“You better come up with something better when my wife asks you why you called me this late at night on our VACATION!” he said, gradually increasing his volume as he briskly walked out of the elevator and down the short hall.

“A Bogey was detected entering our airspace, Atlas,” Janus said, following behind him.

“You better not have called me in for a meteorite!” He stopped in front of the only door in the hall.

The door abruptly opened to reveal an another Defense agent, but this one had red skin. “Nice of you to join us, Mr. Venice,” he said.

“Not nice to be here, Director,” he said, not worrying if there would be any consequence to his statement, as he pushed past the Director.

Letting it slide, the Director followed Venice as he walked farther into the room and Janus followed him. As they were walking through the floor’s communication hub, the Director asked, “Mr. Ides, have you informed Mr. Venice of our predicament?”

“I was getting to it, but-,” he said, getting cut off.

“I have my own job to do. Do I need to do yours, as well?”

“No, sir!” he quivered.

“Good! I want an update before tomorrow. From both of you. Personally.” Then he walked away to intimidate some other section heads.

Venice just shook his head and tried not to laugh as he continued to walk towards the door across from the one they came in. “What?” Ides asked.

“How did you get this job?” Venice asked as he swiped his badge through the door’s scanner lock and put his face up to the pupil reader. Then the door unlocked before Mr. Ides gave his answer and they entered another hallway, this time with dozens of doors on either side and continued around both corners at the end of the main hall.

“Before he became Director, that’s how,” Ides said after closing the door to make sure the Director couldn’t hear him. “Now getting back to what I was saying before, it wasn’t a meteor-”

“Then what was it?” Venice cut him off.

“If you would let me,” he said, pausing for an answer.

“I’ll leave my comments for the end,” he said, knowing he wouldn’t continue until he indulged him.

“Thank you,” he said, opening the door in front of the door they just came in. After they had both entered, he continued, “Our sensors picked up a spacecraft – not one of ours. We lost it about a mile outside Aphrodite.”

Making sure that he was finished talking, Venice waited a minute before responding. “You may have forgotten, but with my recent proportion, chasing after wild geese isn’t apart of my job description anymore.”

“No need,” Ides responded, point towards the window that Venice ignored when he entered, “we already found your goose.” As Venice looked over the watchman’s shoulder and a few monitors to see Ambrose, who was still balled up in the corner. “We found him using one of the Defense Officer’s body camera. We also have a young colonist in the infirmary that claims he’s his cousin, but we can’t find anything that can confirm that.”

“You better have called me first,” Venice said, completely ignoring what he just said.

“Not exactly, we -.”

“Your an idiot! Why do you always have to take a sledgehammer to a job for a scalpel?”

“Usually works for -.”

“On Martians, but you have no idea what he is,” Venice said, pointing at Ambrose. “Look at him, Janus, he’s scared out of his mind!”

“At least he stopped cry,” the watchman announced, still sitting towards the window.

“Crying?!” Venice said, with disappointment and disgust in his voice.

“Does that mean you’ll take it?”

Venice, in response, grabbed a small notebook and pen from his jacket pocket and began writing a short list of items. Then he ripped the page from the notebook and handed it to Ides as he said, “Get me these things and get Clio down here!”

“Already here, boss,” she, the woman who was sitting with Ides earlier, said from the doorway with another young lady. “I’ve got the records you wanted,” she continued, raising her hand full of files, which she knew that he would ask her for eventually, from waist level to shoulder level.

“Good, you can finish informing me about their stupidity,” he said, dreamy-eyed, walking towards the door.

“It will be my pleasure,” she said, with the same dreamy look in her eye.

As soon as they left, Ides gave the list to the young lady that came with Clio and told her to get everything on the list. She glanced at the list and her eyes stopped at one of the items. “Why would he need a blanket?”

“Your job is to assist in this process not to hinder it or you could just go back to the communication center,” Ides told his assistant.

“I’ll get it done. You don’t need to threaten me, you’re not the Director,” she said and left the room promptly after.

As she left, she saw Venus and Clio taking and walking slowly towards his office. “That is completely idiotic, what was he thinking?” Venice asked after Clio completely filled him in on what Ides did and his voice echoed in the hall.

“I try to tell him he should have got you, but he wouldn’t listen,” she said, sharply stopping after catching herself from getting lost in his indigo blue eyes. “So, which one do you want to hear about first?” she asked, looking at her files.

“Well, of course, the boy they tortured and expect me to get answers out of. Tell me that he’s just a colonist and this is all just a mistake.”

“I’d looked at the records for both moons and there isn’t one for him. Also, when he was at the infirmary, there were some inconsistencies in his test,” she said, flipping through her files, “like he’s only sixteen years old instead of a hundred and sixty, his EEG is different than any of the doctors have ever seen, and, most important, he doesn’t have any of the genetic modification that every colonist has.”

“You should have lead with that. What about the other?”

“He is definitely a colonist,” she said, placing Ambrose’s single file at the bottom of the stack and open one of three files on Odin. “Odin Andromeda was born in 1200 to Hermes and Isis Andromeda on Phobos Delta.”  She flipped to the next file. “He is currently a runaway. Been for the last two year,” she said as she recounted the pages. “This is his tenth time: every time preceded by a noise complaint being brought up against his house.”

In her pausing, Venice added, “At least, we don’t have to explain to any parents why their son was brought in.”

“Yeah, good,” she said, letting her sympathy affect her voice. “Well,” she flipped to the last file, “He has a concussion and a mild cut to his forehead and is being kept under sedation until we decided what to do with the both of them.”

“Where did you say they were found?”

“In Old Aphrodite. They were being harassed by three Rebrum gang members that are now in lockup, waiting for the Director’s decision.”

“Are they talking?” he asked walking into his office at the end of the main hall, in the corner.

“Unless ‘I want a lawyer’ counts.”

Inside his office, they waited together for Ides’ assistant to arrive. In this time, Venice watched and rewatched the body cam. video and the surveillance video of the time between Ambrose waking up and shutting down numerous times.

 

When the door opened, Ambrose was too afraid to look up. In fact, he coiled up tighter, anticipating more yelling. When the door closed and the yell still hadn’t come, Ambrose peeked a little over his knees to see a green figure sitting on the couch with a book open. Next to him was a blanket that had a notebook and a pen on top of it. Not knowing what to expect, he slid is his eyes back down.

For the next few hours, Venice just read his book and didn’t even pay attention to Ambrose even when he peeked out to see if the silent figure was still there. They continued this until Ambrose was asleep with his head leaning against the wall and his arms losing their grip as he fell deeper asleep. When Venice was confident Ambrose was a hundred percent asleep and had finished his chapter, he closed his book and walked over and placed the blanket over him.

After he picked up his book and notebook, he walked back to the observation room to be met by a confused and frustrated Mr. Ides. “What was that?”

“Exuding calmness, you should learn that. When he gets comfortable around me, it will be easier for me to talk to him, hell, he might even start talking to me.”

“Good work, Mr. Venice,” the Director said from the doorway, “anything else to report?”

“Good for us: he’s curious. Bad for us: he’s easily scared.”

With a nod of his head, he went on to ask, “Mr. Ides, any progress?”

“We’re searching for the spacecraft, and running his DNA and comparing to every species we’ve met, but no luck on either front yet.”

“So none then,” the Director concluded. “Nice work, Venice, keep it up,” he said, moving on to the watchmen.

After the Director finishes talking to him, Venice left the room and Ides followed, saying, “Where are you going?”

“Home! Bed! Don’t worry I’ll be back before he wakes up,” Venice replied after unlocking the exit door.

“And what exactly do you want us to do if you don’t?”

“I’ll be back before he wakes up! But, if by some chance in hell, I don’t, leave him alone. I mean it! Also, while I’m gone, don’t let anyone in that door or, god help me, I’ll shoot you.”

“You must be tired, you only threaten me when you are. Don’t you sleep on vacation?”

“Sleep is a rare commodity when your married and have children, but it’s worth it,” he said, leaving, slamming the door behind him.

“Alrighty then,” Ides said, walking back to the room that they came from, to see that the Director still talking to the watchman, in hushed voices. When they noticed that he had come back, they became as quiet as church mice. “Should I come back?”

“No, we’re good,” the Director said and began to leave.

“One last thing before you leave, Director,” the watchman said before the Director made it to the doorway. “What do you want us to do with the Rebrums in holding.”

The Director paused and thought for a moment then he said, without a stutter, “Kill ‘em.” Then without a second thought or hesitation, began walking on.

“Kill them? Director?” the watchman asked getting a smile from Ides who knew and was very familiar with what happened to people when they questioned an order.

Ides waited for all hell to break loose as the Director turn back around, but he was surprised when it did come. “Yes, kill them. We can’t afford them telling the rest of the Rebrums that the Defence Directorate is willing to use gangsters to kidnap Martian citizen let alone let it spread through Mars and its Colonies that we kidnap people. I want it done by morning and all records of their stay deleted,” the Director said, finally getting to leave.

As Ides sat down in one of the chairs, he watched as the watchman send the information down to holding. When he was finished, Ides said, “If you keep this up, everyone’s going to think you’re a rat.”

The watchman stopped what he was doing and, for the first time, completely took his eyes off the window. “It’s better to be a snitch than to be you,” he said, then returned to his original position, checking the monitors of the different angle of Ambrose’s room.

When Ambrose woke up in the morning, Venice was back where he sat the day before as though he had never left. Ambrose brought his legs back up to his chest but this time he folded his arms on top of his knees and his chin above them, so he could watch the man. It wasn’t until Venice looked up, that he pulled his head back in like a turtle.

When he looked up after feeling sure he wasn’t being watched anymore, Ambrose lift his head to see Venice writing in his notebook. Curious, Ambrose, leaving the blanket where it fell, moved up closer to get a better look, but only moved a few inches before Venice closed the notebook and began reading. He continued watching him, until Venice, like before, looked up and scared him back into his shell.

For the next few hours, they continued this pattern of Ambrose warming up, moving a little closer, then shutting down when Venice acknowledged him. It only stopped when Ambrose finally inched his way onto the couch next to Venice. He watched, in a trance, as the pages turned one after another until Venice was finished his chapter and closed the book, causing Ambrose to jerk back, into a sitting straight up position, since he never seen anyone close a book without finishing it.

 

From behind the window, Clio and Ides, without the watchman, watch in waiting to see what would happen next. When Ambrose looked like he was about to talk, Clio turned off the systems of sound and video. “What are you doing, Clio?” Ides protested.

“Altas isn’t your entertainment.”

“Says who? Turn that back on!”

“I don’t take orders from you! And if you touch any of those buttons or have someone turn those systems back on for you, you’ll have to deal with Atlas and you know how short his temper can be!”

“Can you tell me when I stopped being the lead agent on this case?”

“That’s easy, you never were!” she said over her shoulder as she left the room and switched off the lights.

Left alone in the dark, Ides, reluctantly, choose to follow her out.

 

“Wh-what are you do?” Ambrose said, starting to hyperventilate.

“It’s alright,” Venice said, switching into a more relaxed position and placed his right arm on the back of the couch beside Ambrose, making sure not to touch him, “there’s no reason to freak out.”

“Bu… bu… bu,” he tried to say through his laborious breathing.

“Do you like reading?”

He stopped for a moment to think, and, with his breathing back you normal, he said, “I don’t know how.” As Venice sat speechlessly, Ambrose had series of memories flowed through his mind of late nights of peering over the woman’s shoulder as she read aloud from a variety of books lit up by a hurricane lamp. “But, my aunt use to read to me all the time.”

“Use to?”

“She died,” he said and images of explosions, people running and screaming in terror, and Congeries foot soldiers marching triumphantly through the corpse-laden streets of Alexandria. “She’s dead,” he whispered as he ended at the memory of her last breathe.

“I’m sorry for your lost,” Venice said, almost placing his hand on Ambrose’s shoulder, stopping a few inches above it.

“Why? You weren’t there.”

“I don’t know? It’s just something people say,” Venice said, unknowingly repeating Ambrose’s aunt, almost verbatim, which made Ambrose smile and relax his uptight posture. Noticing his change, Venice, as he opened the notebook, went onto say, “Do you mind if I ask you a couple of question?”

“Okay,” he said more to his aunt than to Venice.

“Alrighty then,” he said, pen at the ready and asked his first question.

They continued to go back and forth, with Venice asking questions about him and his family, why he was he here, and how did he get here and all of them were met by an immediate answer from Ambrose until one question: “What can you tell me about your cousin? About Odin?” Ambrose didn’t answer the question and sat, waiting, like a question wasn’t asked. “Ambrose?” Venice said, placing his hand on Ambrose’s shoulder, out of habit. Ambrose jumped forward to get away from his touch and, being on the edge of the couch, he landed on the floor. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Don’t do that again,” he said, long-winded. He remained on the floor as he tried to catch his breath and after a moment, he added, “Please.”

“I’ll try,” Venice said, switching from his caring tone to his business voice, “but I need you to try to answer my question.”

“I don’t know if I should.”

“Why?”

“Well, I only meet him yesterday. I don’t know much about him. The only things I know about him, he told me yesterday and Dixie taught me not to tell other people’s secrets.”

You’re kidding me, Venice thought as he rolled his eyes, remembering all the times his aunt had been brought up in the last hour and every time was him using her as the reason why he couldn’t answer his questions. Trying not to lose his already strained temper, he said, “Didn’t you also say that she told you it’s rude not to answer people’s questions?”

Ambrose sat perfectly still as he thought about which one of his aunt’s rules to listen to and which to break. When he finally did speak, Venice shocked by his answer since he had found a way around the issue: “As I said, I only met him yesterday. I don’t know much about him.”

Trying to rethink his approach, Venice said, “Then why don’t you start from the beginning. Tell me how you met.”

“He ran into me on the street.”

“You had never met him before then? How did you know he was your cousin?”

“I didn’t, but he told that one man that he was my cousin, so I guess he is.”

“Are you sure he wasn’t lying?”

Ambrose turned around and looked at him, in response, and asked, “Why would he lie?” as his breathing became ragged again.

“Ambrose it’s okay,” Venice said, trying his best to keep his promise. “It’s just a question. You don’t need to be afraid of a question.” After waiting for Ambrose to relax, he asked, “What happened next?”

“He took me home. It’s small and broken, but I liked it.”

“And while you were there?”

“We talked. Well, I did most of the talking. He asked questions, like you.”

“Did he tell you anything?”

“A little bit about his family, that he wanted to be a captain – why do his parents call him a dreamer for that?” Ambrose asked, catching Venice off guard.

“Colonist and Aliens aren’t allowed to work for the Defence Directorate.”

“Why not?” he asked, turning back towards Venice again.

“Um,” Venice said at a loss for words. However, he was saved from not answering the question since Clio walked in and distracted Ambrose from the question.

“Excuse me sir, but your wife called. She says it’s important.”

He waved her over, knowing she took a message like she always did. With her hand gingerly on his shoulder, she whispered it to him in a way so Ambrose couldn’t hear it. When she was done, he arose and looked down at Ambrose, who was in his own little world. “Do you mind staying in here with him?” he asked Clio.

“Yes, it’s alright.”

“Okay. I’ll try to get back here as soon as I can,” he said as he walked to the door.

“Bye,” Ambrose said, waving at him without looking up from the spot on the carpet he was staring at.

With a wide smile, Venice walked out of the room, but walked into Ides’ assistant and dropped his notebook. “Excuse me, Camilla.”

“It’s entirely my fault,” she said, as both of them went down to grab his book.

After they bonked heads, Venice insisted on getting the notebook himself and went onto say, “I know you’re Ides’ assistant, but do you mind getting me some more paper and… a map of the empire.”

“Can I ask why?”

“A hunch. And thank you,” he said, moving hastily towards the command center door.

 

Back in the room, Clio stayed standing where she was, in silence, for a while. When she did finally sit, she sat on the farthest end of the couch from Ambrose, and he scooched to the other end, out of fear of the stranger. They stayed in silence only being interrupted by Camilla, who brought in with her a stack of plain paper and a map, which she placed on the table in the alcove. After she left, they were left back in silence until Clio realized Camilla mistake. Leaving Ambrose alone in the room, she went to rectify the mistake before Venice got back.

Without the stranger’s eyes burrowing into him like daggers, Ambrose warily began to search the room, beginning with jingling the locked doorknob and ended at the table. He unfolded the map, curiously, and he became mesmerized by all the colorful circles upon the white, dingy page that was beginning to fray at the folds. He took a seat in the chair to the left of the main one and touched everyone as he remembered them popping up on his ship’s monitor. Using the pen Venice left behind, Ambrose fixed the names of the planets that were different from what the screen said. Once he was finished going through the map of the solar system that he was in and a system on every side, Ambrose knew it was less than incomplete. After a few minutes of thinking, he hesitantly reached for a piece of paper from the stack Camilla left and began drawing the solar systems that he ventured through to get there.

 

As Venice walked hastily back towards Ambrose’s room after his return, Clio pulled him into the viewing room. “What the heck? Clio? I thought you were staying in there with him?”

“I was at first and then Camilla forgot you were from the provinces and one thing to lead to another. But before you start yelling at me, look,” she said, pointing towards the window.

Indulging her, he looked to the window and replied, “What is he doing,” in mostly with curiosity, but with a little hint of anger he couldn’t hold back from when he was getting ready to yell at her.

“It looks like he is adding on to that map,” she said slowly as she zoomed in on one of the screens’ feeds.

Venice changed his gaze to the computer and said, “Interesting. Very interesting.” He straightened up, with a thought in progress.

Before he could speak and after she shut down the camera system, Clio abrupted, “Take this tape dispenser with you,” as she took one, which lied next to the keyboard and placed it in his hand and made his fingers grasp it.

“What would I do without you?”

“Let’s not think about that, okay,” she said moving her hand from his hand to under his chin and he grabbed her other hand as he put the small dispenser in his jacket pocket with his other hand. Hearing what sounded like footsteps nearing the still open viewing room door, she removed her hands and left. He followed out of the room but, reluctantly, stopped at Ambrose’s door as she continued down the hall while the sound of her heels on the marble echoed in the otherwise empty hall. When he opened the door, it was met by two thuds: one when the door hit Ambrose and another one when he fell to the ground. “Ambrose, what were you doing at the door?!” he exclaimed, without watching his volume.

Ambrose scooched backward with a scared expression on his face along with tears welling in his eyes as he attempted to say, “I heard you a-and Clio, so I waited by the door. I guess too close,” through heavy breathing.

After closing and locking the door, Venice extended his free hand towards Ambrose and he took it without hesitation. When he pulled him to his feet, Venice asked Ambrose, “Why don’t you show me what you were working on,” as he handed him his handkerchief.

In awe of the fact that Venice was interested, Ambrose forgot that Venice wasn’t in the room when he was working and there was no way, to his knowledge, that Venice could have seen him.  Giddy, he nearly ran back to the table and when he looked back to see Venice still standing by the door, he pushed the chair at the head of the table out and patted on the cushion, like his aunt use to do.

With a wide grin, he walked over to the table as he took off his suit jacket and placed it on the back of the chair Ambrose gave him. After a quick scan of Ambrose’s addition, Venice concluded, “The lines are the orbits and the circles are the planets,” pausing after each comment to get confirmation from Ambrose. “Then what are the orbits without planets?”

While Ambrose thought of how to explain, his eyes’ contact fell and glided down until they landed at Venice’s weapon holster, which Venice put on out of habit. As he starred and the weapon, Ambrose shakily said, “They’re bad planets. Very. Bad. Planets.”

Venice didn’t understand why he seemed so scared until he followed his gaze. He knew immediately what was scaring him: the only empire that Mars had known that rivaled their own. “It’s okay Ambrose, there haven’t been any Hekau soldiers here in a century.” After hearing this, Ambrose perked up and Venice switched the subject by asking, “Do you mind if I keep these?”

“Why?” Ambrose asked, straightening one of his papers out.

“Because I want to attach it to our map. Make them correct.”

“How?”

With a laugh-like smile, Venice grabbed the dispenser from his pocket and said, “Put out your hand.” Ambrose hesitantly put out his right hand, palm up, and Venice took a little piece of tape and placed it on Ambrose’s index finger. Ambrose rolled up his other fingers and intensely stared at it. He flipped his hand over to make it fall off, but when it didn’t, he shook his hand hard enough to tip the chair sideways, making him crash to the floor.

Trying not to laugh, Venice tipped the chair upright and waited patiently for Ambrose to pick himself up. Ambrose took his time, making sure that the sticky menace was gone from his body. However, when he got up, his band warp was beginning to unravel due to him constantly moving and repetitively falling to the floor. It didn’t bother Ambrose at all, but it was very distracting for Venice. “Can I check your hand,” he asked Ambrose, who forgot it was even there.

“Alright,” Ambrose said, sticking out his right hand again.

Venice, in turn, began unwrapping it and Ambrose starred intensely and mimicked the movement of the warp with his head until he closed his eyes as hard as he could because Venice began to get reveal his palm where the cut was and he didn’t want to faint again if it was still bleeding. To Venice’s surprise, the cut was completely gone: he remembered reading in the files that their healing catalyst didn’t work so there wasn’t any way that the cut should be gone based on the information in those medical files. On the other hand, once Ambrose cooked up the courage to sneak a peek, he had no worries, especially now that the cut was gone.

Venice was still awestruck when Ambrose started talking. “What about the sticky stuff and my pictures?”

“What?”

“What about the sticky stuff,” Ambrose repeated, pointing at the tape then moved his hand over his picture, “and my pictures?”

“Yes! Why don’t you line them up and I’ll tape them down?”

With a nod of Ambrose’s head, the two of them went to work. Without mistake, it came together piece by piece. The only sound was the shuffle of papers and the ticking from the clock in the viewing room. As the ticks progressed, the time on their project came near an end after a half hour of tedious precision that added to Venice’s accumulating frustration.

After they were done, Venice got up and walked away to cool his nerves before he did something he would regret. Ambrose followed him, concerned about his friend. When Ambrose got the speed to get in front of him, Venice didn’t look at him. “Are you alright?”

At first, Venice pretended not to hear him until heard the clicking of heels coming down the hall, towards them.  He perked up and said, “Everything’s fine.” Delighted, Ambrose lost his concerned expression and continued on walking to the couch. Venice followed, but when he heard the director starting a conversation with Clio, he stopped in his tracks. “Miss. Clio, I’ve been looking for you.”

“Director?” she said, surprised by his silent and sudden appearance.

“I’ve heard that Mr. Venice took a little field trip. Again. This time for a few hours. What do you have to say on the matter?”

Before Venice could hear her response, he was interrupted by Ambrose’s blurred voice. “What did you say?” he asked Ambrose, who had also stopped and was facing him.

“I asked,” he said, as he rubbed his left eye, “do you care about her?”

Losing his temper, stepped a bit closer and, in a brute manner, said, “What!”

Scared, Ambrose tried to step back, but he trips of his own tired feet. With delayed reaction, he hit his head on the corner of the coffee table. Before losing consciousness, he, dazedly, saw Venice leaning over him, trying to talk to him. Then two other blurry figures came into view a few seconds before his eyes closed.

 

When he awoke, his head was pounding, and he was in a different room.  From the vibrating of the engine, he concluded that he was in one of the shuttles Odin told him about. He looked around the cluttered room and on the other side, he saw Odin, who was slowly beginning to wake up from the sedatives that have been pushed through his system the last two days. Ambrose jumped off the high, hospital-like bed and ran to Odin’s side. “Hi, Ambrose,” Odin said, delirious and loopy.

“I’m sorry I left you.”

“It’s fine: I told you to.”

“Are you alright?” Ambrose asked, looking at the slight mark on the left side of Odin’s forehead.

“It’s perfectly fine, but are you alright?” he asked, pushing away the hair over Ambrose’s forehead while trying not to make skin contact. By moving his hair, he revealed more of the still fresh, red cut on the right side of Ambrose’s forehead that had little white bandaids pulling the sides of the cuts together.

“I fell,” he replied as he pushed Odin’s hand away.

Not knowing he’d lost two days, Odin shrugged it off and thought he must have fallen and cut his forehead while being chased by the Rebrums.  “Where are we?” he asked, looking about the room.

“I don’t know. We’re moving?”

As Odin thought about why they were in a shuttle, Ambrose pulled up a wheeled stool and leaned his head against the mattress as he held Odin’s hand. He was almost asleep when the sound of the door opening startled him. Venice was in the doorway when Ambrose turned his head and Odin sat up. Ambrose squeezed Odin’s hand as Venice came closer, but Odin didn’t feel it. “Ambrose, why don’t you lay down?”

Too scared and too tired to fight, Ambrose got up and only let go of Odin’s hand at the last possible second. Venice waited to sit down on the stool until Ambrose had crawled back into his bed. As Venice sat down, Odin asked, “Who are you and how do you know Ambrose?”

“I know this is going to be hard to hear, but you’ve been unconscious for the last two days. For those days, I got to watch Ambrose. For myself,” he said as he unhooked his badge from his belt, “I’m Agent Venice.”

“Okay?” he said, trying to come to terms with the fact that he lost the last two days. “Then how did he get the cut on his forehead?”

“He was tired and tripped,” Venice said, regretting his action. “Now, onto business, if you want to become a captain one-day ~,” he said, switching topics and getting interrupted by Odin’s eye roll that ended with him glancing, glare-like, at Ambrose. Venice looked back to see Ambrose fast asleep. “Don’t blame him: I’m a trained investigator. But back to my point, if you want to be a captain, you’re going to have to stop this running away stuff,” he continued, getting another eye roll from Odin, “and look after your cousin; he’s a hand full. Why don’t you get some rest and think about what I’ve said.”

Odin did what he was told and laid back. Thoughts of how Agent Venice was the nicest Martian Mainlander let alone directorate agent he had ever met accompanied him as he drifted asleep.