Message to Mars – flash fiction by Suzy Rowland

The sky turned blue as the MARSO, an official order from Mars Command, flashed across the sky:

‘Urgent request for water, supplies are running low.. Blink! Blink! Blink!

MARSOs logged directly into the mainframe, so the operating team didn’t need to do anything but watch through the clear glass screen, as the giant subterranean reservoir four hundred metres down the corridor, filled with water. The reservoir, RES1, was supported by steel girders, due to the extreme pressure it contained.  Earth Command Crew watched the process intently; most of them had family on Mars; who had been elected to live there by State One, because they were either over sixty or critically ill.

It was a long time since this process had been activated and the anxiety of it made the atmosphere in Command Centre sticky. A few of the crew noticed that as the reservoir filled, large green areas of planet earth on the monitor, started to turn brown. Species Watch was starting to glow orange, as earth’s reduced water levels signalled automatic extinction for a variety of critical sub-species in our swamps and riverbanks, invisible to the naked eye but vital to our eco-structure.

Marion started to laugh uncontrollably. At 59 and clinically depressed, she was the perfect candidate for the next batch of Mars migration. Her heart racing wildly, she slipped out of Command Centre. No one noticed her leave, slim with shoulder length dark-hair and glasses she was used to disappearing into to the background, not being listened to.

Slowly at first and then with increasing urgency, she broke into a fast trot, sprinting down the long corridor towards RES1. It was a six minute walk from Command Centre, but she needed to be quick before her absence was noticed. The heavy grey slab door was bolted, but Marion had been entrusted with a microchip implant when she passed Security Level Three, as well as a slim iron safety key. She was given this before her beloved aunt was sent away. Aunt Sarah had believed in her as a child, encouraged her interest in science at school, paying 80% of her undergraduate tuition fees and had been a stalwart supporter of her career. She had also counselled her through her divorce. Her love for Aunt Sarah rivalled the love she felt for her parents, her selflessness, her spirit of adventure.  She was doing this for her.

She scanned her wrist, punched in the code and the giant door pad seemed to  glowed a green smile at her. The key slipped into the lock like a ring on a bride of many years. As it turned, Marion released a primordial scream that ricocheted across the complex, amplifying the security alarm’s siren. Within seconds she had pressed system over-ride, enabling full capacity for the last of earth’s water reserves to flow to Mars via the reservoir.  The water in RES1 danced in wild abandon, away from earth, gaily through the reinforced channels to hydrate the red planet, unaware of the devastation that would befall planet earth.

The rest of Command Crew could see what was happening, but they were frozen, blinking in horror at earth’s imminent demise. No-one else on the planet knew it, but it was just  a matter of time before the water shortages became commonplace and the rioting would begin.

Deranged tears ran down Marion’s face, she could think and feel more clearly than she had in years. She felt she was rebalancing the injustice of the universe, giving something back, this one’s for you Auntie! And for the others like you who didn’t have a choice.

It was 3018. Earth glowed another red hot summer. There were only two seasons now: winter and summer. This summer was causing earth dwellers some problems.  Earth Command Crew beamed a blue message across the sky to ROSS 128b.

‘Urgent request for water, supplies are running low!  Blink! Blink! Blink!

© Suzy Rowland