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Husband, father, and writer working on a short story project and submitting my novel, The Windsmith, to agents.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Life and Times of Aries Webb, Part 1: Welcome to Mars, Aries Webb

Charles looked out the window and the shifting red sands that were blowing down the side of Olympus Mons. A storm was brewing, he thought. Fitting, considering a storm of a different type was brewing in his office. He looked back at his desk where the video phone he just had his conference with Earth still sat. It seemed to stare at him in mockery. He was tempted to throw something at it. Instead, he clenched his fists, gave a deep sigh and returned to looking out his window.

“I take it the call with Earth didn’t go well?” Ju said as she entered the room. He turned to look at her. At 8 months pregnant, his wife was beautiful. She glowed with the energy of the new life within her. Charles always through that his devotion to science would leave him a batchlor his whole life. It took coming to Mars as part of a joint project with the Chinese for him to find the woman that would make his heart stand still.

“No,” he said in response to her question. “They seem to be completely unwilling to understand that we need resources if we are to provide them with the discoveries we came here to make.”

“What demand did the joint chiefs make now?” she asked. She always knew what had happened, even though she was almost never in the room when he talked to home. She had her own call to take from her government. The had both discovered the two governments that funded their colony on Mars, while claiming to have different motives, were amazingly alike in the way they conducted business.

“They want the energy cells,” he said. “And they’re demanding a sample be sent to them by the end of the month.”

“That’s ridiculous,” she said. “Didn’t you tell them that we’ve had trouble getting the energy to remain stable? Every time we’ve used one to power even a simple device, the power cell explodes.”

“I know that, and so do you,” he said. “But these morons think they can motivate us by threatening to not send a new generator.”

“What?” she replied.

“I know,” he sighed and then slumped into his chair. “I just saw the latest readings from Chen. Our current generator will likely fail to meet our power needs in a matter of weeks. I’ve even sent that report to the Joint Chiefs. We’ll just have to find new ways to conserve power.”

“How?” she replied. “We cant shut down more projects. Many of the scientist's here are already not working.”

“I don’t see what else we can do,” he replied. “I’ve asked Chen to draw up a list of projects that are not essential for our continued survival.”

“And?” she demanded, her voice getting tense. She already knew what was coming next, he could tell. He hesitated in answering. “Charles Webb, you answer me right now. Who’s project is getting cut?”

“I’m afraid that yours was at the top of the list,” he said. “I’m sorry, honey. It has to be done.”

She narrowed her eyes at him, wrinkling her round face in a rather unattractive way. He tensed, ready for her outburst. Instead, she stormed out of his office, slamming the door on her way out. He sighed again. He looked back at the video phone once more, and this time he did throw something at it.

****

Ju stormed down the hallway. She hated how emotional she was, even at this stage in her pregnancy. Still, she was angry at her husband. His projects always seemed to get more priority, even according to her own government! When China agreed to set up this facility on Mars with America, she imagined that the leadership would be joint as well. Instead, a charming and handsome American scientist was assigned as the station’s director. And she fell in love with him. Sometimes, she hated herself for that. It felt a little like sleeping with the enemy. Then, she rubbed her belly and felt the baby shift. The stooped walking and landed against the wall.

“Oh, little Aries,” she said. “I don’t know what kind of world we are bringing you into.”

She continued walking, thinking of her own phone call with the mother world. She was having a harder and harder time thinking of Earth as home. She had only been on Mars for two years, but she couldn’t help but think of it as her planet, her world. Earth was that place she left behind. And it helped that it was here that she met Charles. And also that it was here her son would be born. And it was her son that had been the focus of the phone call. It seemed that both American and China wanted to put on a big celebration for Aries’ birth. He would be the first human born on Mars, and being the son of both an American and a Chinese made it all the more monumental. She had been that a crew would be arriving in a few days. They would be planning a big party for her son’s birth, and filming the special event. This was to be broadcast back to Earth as a symbol of unity.

She rubbed her belly again. Her son wasn’t even born yet, and they were already putting pressure on him. A symbol of unity indeed. He was a human being, and more importantly, he was her child. She was going to be damned if she would let a government, even her own, use him to further their own agenda.

And now, to top it all off, her project had been canceled. By her own husband. She sighed. She had to be fair, he wasn’t doing it to be mean to her. He was doing this because he was under his own pressure. He just never seemed to understand that he wasn’t the only one under pressure. The stress was starting to get to her. She felt a headache coming on, and her stomach suddenly felt nauseous. She took several deep breaths and started walking again, this time to go to Dr. Landry’s office. She was afraid that this stress would be bad for the baby.

****

“Why didn’t you tell me they were coming?” Charles asked as he stood in the receiving bay of what everyone laughingly called the Mars Starport. The Starport was really little more than a runway for the shuttles from Earth attached to several buildings that would re-pressurize everyone so they could walk around the station without space suites. The shuttle out there now currently was unloading some needed food supplies, as well as a group of guests that Charles hadn’t know about until a few hours ago.

“I was going to when you hit me with the news that you were cutting my project,” Ju replied, her arms crossed. He couldn’t help but think she looked beautiful, even though she was pissed at him. Hell, even though he was pissed at her. Not telling him important information was just like her when they were fighting. But she was always beautiful.

“I tried to tell you yesterday,” he said. “I didn’t want to cut your project, but no other project gave us the energy savings that yours did. I didn’t have a choice.”

She glared at the airlock door, steadfastly ignoring him.

“Fine,” he said as he noticed that the door was opening. “It’s no use arguing now. Let’s just get through this and shuffle these people out of the way so we can all get to the real work we do here.”

The door opened fully, and five people in space suites stepped through. The leader of the group indicated that they could remove theirs now, and everyone started a strange strip dance. Charles, Ju and several other people there for just this purpose helped them out. Space Suites took some time and effort to both put on and off. One of the projects on this station was to fix that very thing. It, too, had been cut due to the energy crisis.

“Alex Brandt?” Charles said, looking for the person that would be conducting the interviews and filming the birth of his son. He wasn’t quite sure how he felt about that yet. A woman with long brown hair tied back in a ponytail responded. She was thin, and the jumpsuit she wore looked baggy on her.

“That’s me,” she replied. “Charles Webb, I assume?”

“Doctor Webb, please,” Charles replied. He preferred that people working with him in any kind of professional capacity spoke to him professionally, and thus address him by his title.

“My apologies, Doctor,” the woman said, smiling. “This is my camera crew, and this is Jordan Lane, my producer.”

Another woman, older with a shock of close cut silver hair, stepped forward, and Charles shook his hand.

“This is my wife, Ju, and the rest of my senior staff,” he said, making introductions all around. “Now, let’s talk about how this is going to work.”

“Yes,” Alex said. “I knew that was going to come up soon, but I had hoped that at least we could get to our quarters, and maybe dress in something more comfortable? Get something to eat first?”

“Oh,” Charles said. He hadn’t even thought of that. “Of course. Marsha here can show you the way.”

“I understand that you want to get straight down to business,” Jordan said. “I apprecaite that. After all, this is your son we’re talking about. I don’t mind doing business right now while the others relax.”

“Excellent,” Charles said. “Please, come right this way.”

****

“Absolutely not!” Jordan said. “We were sent here by both the US and Chinese government. They picked an English news crew on purpose, because they wanted a neutral party doing the filming. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a tin plated dictator of a little science base in the middle of the Martian desert tell me how to do my job.”

Charles sighed. “Mrs. Lane, I assure you that it is not my intention to tell you how to do your job...” he started to say.

“Well, it is mine!” Ju interrupted. “We’re talking about my life here, and I am not willing to let you stick that camera in my personal business.”

“As I was saying,” Charles said. “What we want is that you and your crew will not go to restricted areas, which includes people’s private quarters and the doctors examining room.”

“I would be willing to buy that,” Jordan said, “if it wasn’t for the fact that the restricted areas you’ve listed are the places that the story Alex is her to cover were where the story was at. Look, I get it, you want your privacy. But you no longer have that luxury. You’re celebrities now, and so is your son. Perhaps the biggest celebrity on Earth.”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Lane,” Charles said. “My decision is final. If you still disagree, you are welcome to file a formal protest with my superiors in the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Ministry of Defense.”

“Don’t think I won’t,” she said, standing up and storming out of the room.

Charles collapsed his chair and heaved a great sigh.

“Charles,” Ju said quietly. “thank you.”

He opened one eye and looked at her. Her head was bowed. “Honey,” he said. “There is nothing to thank me for. I may be the administrator of this building, but I am your husband fist. The fact that I can use my administrator rights to get things that benefit you is only a perk.”

She smiled down at him.

“That’s why I was thanking you,” she said. “You do realize that her complaint will lead to your bosses telling you to let her go wherever she wants, right?”

“I know,” he sighed. “But in the mean time, that gives you at least a week of breathing room. And they can use that time to focus on this party they want to throw.”

“Wait, you’re going to let them throw the party?” Ju asked standing up.

“Well, of course,” he replied, looking at her confused. “I think it’s a brilliant idea. I mean, how often does a new born get to be a celebrity?”

“They want to film my birth and air it as if it were some kind of American reality TV show,” she said, storming across the room. She placed her hands on the desk and stared him in the eyes. “This is now some New Years party, or the celebration of the end of a hard fought war. No, this is my son. I will not have him turned into some tawdry rating scheme.”

“Honey, look...” he started to say.

“No, you look,” she interrupted. “I am dead set against this party happening, and if I have to scratch out that bitch's eyes to stop it, I will.”

“Damn it, Ju!” he said in a loud voice. She backed up, and he stood. It was rare for him to get actually angry, and when he did, she took notice. “I don’t have a lot of choices here. I can either stop them from filming the birth live, or I can stop the party, but I cannot do both. I don’t have enough clout either politically or with the television station. So, as I assume you don’t want a camera looking at your private bits as Aries makes his way into the world more than you don’t want a party celebrating that blessed event, I am oking the party. And that is final. Am I clear?”

“As crystal,” Ju said.

“Excellent,” he said, quieting down and returning to his seat. He let out another sight. “I promise, honey. It will be classy. I used up what little clout I did have the the TV station to make sure that only one celebrity is coming up here for the event, and I think you’ll be happy with who it is. Nala.”

“Nala?” she said in a whisper. “Really?”

“It was easy,” he said. “I told the station that you were a huge fan, and when she heard that she had to come here. She’s a big enough name on her own that the TV station was willing to forgo the other celebrities to get here up here.”

“Oh, honey,” Ju said. “Having her here to play will be wonderful. Thank you so much for working to arrange that for me. I just wish I cold be there to witness her playing. But I can’t, because I’ll likely be in labor at the time, in case you forgot!”

And with that, she too stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her. Charles sighed again. That was happening a lot lately. He really should have maintenance check to make sure the door wasn’t going to break or anything.

****

“I can’t believe that he agreed to let them put on this stupid party,” Ju yelled in Chinese into the video phone. On the other line was her sister, Lin, who was back on Earth.

“I don’t know why not,” Lin replied. “It’s pretty typical of the Americans to televise things like this. They televise everything over there.”

“Will you lay off him being an American?” Ju asked. “That has nothing to do with it. I really don’t know what to do here.”

“Oh, my Baby Panda,” Lin said. “You’re crying. Listen, this really isn’t anything worth crying about. In a way, you’re husband has a point. Your baby is a celebrity, and there really isn’t much you can do about that. So you might as well embrace it. It will be easier to control later if you don’t make it forbidden. Besides, there are lots of people down here on Earth, even here in China, that want to celebrate. We can always use a reason to celebrate, and the fact that the first man born on Mars will be the son of a Daughter of China is fantastic. Historic on many levels. Let it be historic, let go of trying to just make it a normal birth. You’ll sleep better, trust me. Pregnancy is hard enough without you trying...”

The screen suddenly cut off then, and the lights in Lu’s room followed a second later.

“What?” she said. A few seconds later the lights and video phone came back on. The line was empty, of course, and she didn’t want to waist energy by calling again. She’ll send her sister an email explaining what happened. Right after she had found out herself. She put in a call.

“Yes?” Chen asked as his face came into view. He looked haggared. “Oh, it’s you, Ju. Got caught in that power outage did you?”

“Yes,” she said. “What was it?”

“We’re not really sure,” he said. “I’m looking into that now. Listen if that’s all this is about, I really need to get back to it so I can find out. Your husband is climbing down my neck to make sure that the air supply or the dome seals didn’t get compromised in that outage.”

“Of course, Chen,” she said. “Of course.”

She hung up and sat down on her bed. She had a very bad feeling about this. She couldn’t help but fell that things were going to get worse before they got better.

****

“I came as fast as I could Chen,” Charles said between panted breaths. “How bad is it?”

“Pretty bad,” Chen said. “The whole construction machine just fell over when the power in this section went out. Completely smashed the building it was working on.”

“A classroom,” Charles said silently. “This was going to be the first of an entire school system up here.”

“Kinda jumping the gun there, ain’t ya, boss?” Chen asked.

“Oh, not really,” Charles replied, looking back at the scene of destruction. “I don’t get it, though, Chen. This machine isn’t connected to the main power lines. How could it have possibly fallen, never mind lost power?”

“Well,” Chen said, clearing his throat. “This particular model is remote controlled. The poor guy over there was using it normally, when his controller, which was plugged into the wall just right over there, lost power. He was in the middle of doing some delicate work. So, it collapsed. Right into the building it was helping build.”

“This is no joke, Chen,” Charles said. “This represents a week’s worth of work. And what would have happened if this machine had hit the dome? I know it couldn’t break it, but it might have cracked it, and that would have been just as bad. I need to find out what is causing these blackouts, and quick. I can’t afford to cut any more projects, the ones that are left are either top priority to Earth or required for the running of this station.”

Chen smiled at Charles. “You know, boss, I think sometimes you spend too much time running this place and not enough time relaxing.”

Charles looked like he was going to say something, but Chen raised his hands. “I get you, I get you. You’re right, of course. I’ll get my team on it right away. We’ll figure out what’s causing the power outages. Last thing I want to see is the life support suddenly suffer a power outage.”

Charles sighed. He nodded at Chen and headed back to his office. His own project was getting behind, despite the excellent team he had working on it. He wanted to get back to that, but he had so many other things to deal with, including an appointment with the doctor with Ju. Despite the longer Martian day, there still wasn’t enough time to get things done.

****

Ju looked at her watch. She was going to be late to the doctor’s appointment. And what was worse, Charles was likely to be there. She was still an emotional mess. She went to the bathroom and washed her face with some cold water and soap, brushed her hair, and put on a fresh set of clothes. Since she wasn’t working on her project anymore, she didn’t feel like wearing her jumpsuit. She picked an empire waisted top and plain slacks that were comfortable and stylish at the same time. After she reapplied some make up, she decided that she looked better. She had to admit that those simple acts made her feel better too. Oddly, she learned to do those things from Charle’s mother, the night before the wedding. The fact that she was willing to fly all the way to Mars for it made her all the more lovable in Ju’s eyes. Her own government wouldn’t allow unauthorized civilians up, even for such an event as her wedding.

She took a deep breath, felt the baby kick, and smiled at the reflection of her swollen belly. Soon, little Aries, she thought. Soon. She walked out of her room and headed towards the elevator. She found herself eyeing the lights in the ceiling as she walked. That feeling that something really bad was going to happen still hadn’t left her.

As she walked down the hall, she saw someone coming around a corner and had to dodge to the side to avoid getting slammed into. Her belly still threw her balance off, and so she ended up bumping into the wall. The man coming around the hall stopped suddenly, looking up from the personal computer he was carrying.

“Oh, Ju!” Edward said. “I didn’t see you. I’m so sorry, I was reading these reports on the diagnostic for our new power cell... oh, but you don’t want to hear about that. Here, let me help you. Are you okay?”

The whole thing came out of the short man in a quick succession, making it difficult for Ju to really understand what he was saying. She smiled as the other man pushed his thick glasses up on his face and ran his hand through his shaggy black hair. Even with lazer surgery being common place, Edward seemed to like his glasses. They were a source of pride for him, that he had kept his original eyes. “As God intended,” he had said on more than one occasion.

“Thank you Edward,” she said. “I’m okay.”

“Heading to the lift?” he asked. “Me too. I’ve been having migraines lately, and I think its due to the energy cells. Or maybe I’m just stressed. Anyway, I’m heading to see Doctor Li. You?”

“I’m heading to the hospital too,” she said, rubbing her belly and smiling. “Regular check up.”

Edward nodded as if expecting this, and lead the way to the lift. The lifts were marvels of modern technology. They were a German invention, but one quickly adapted by the rest of the world, and, so Ju was told, based on an American TV show called Star Trek. Basically, they were elevators that not only went up and down but side by side, allowing quick travel through large ground facilities, like the Mars base. When they got to the lift, another woman was there waiting.

“Laura,” Ju said. The two women hugged. They were lab partners, working on a project together that involved getting plants to grow on Mars. It was not considered a top priority project, and had been canceled a few months ago due to lack of funds. But that didn’t stop Laura from continuing her research on her own. Ju hadn’t seen her in a week.

“Ju,” she said as she pulled back and looked at the other woman. “You look great! How are you doing?”

“Fine,” she said. “Just heading in for my regular check up with the doctor. So, tell me, what have you been up to? I haven’t seen you in a week. How’s the hydroponics farm going?”

“Oh, its fine,” she said, waiving it off as if it were nothing. “We’ve been asked to increase our production, but that won’t be difficult. At least one of my projects is still getting money.”

The lift arrived then and the three got in. The two women continued their conversation, catching up on little things. Edward mostly kept to himself, only interjecting when the girls asked his opinion. He was in the middle of describing his grandmothers recipie for blueberry pancakes when the lights went out and the lift came to a sudden stop. Everyone lurched forward a bit, Ju having to catch herself on the wall.

“What happened?” Ju asked, panic building inside her. She just knew something wrong was going to happen.

“Looks like another power outage,” Edward said. Ju could hear someone shuffling around and the sonds of a metal door opening. Edward made some humming noises, and bright light suddenly flooded the room, causing Ju to close her eyes.

“Emergency battery in the lift still works,” he said. “Won’t get the lift fully working, but it will allow us to make an outbound call and keep the lights on. I might even be able to get it to open the doors with some work.”

“Why can’t we just use our cell phones to call out?” Laura asked, holding hers up.

“The lifts block cell transmissions,” he said. “Interferes with the signals that run the lift. But, the internal lift phone will work, it still uses hard lines to call out.”

“Great,” Ju said. “Call Charles.”

****

“You’re where?” Charles said. He was in his office, where the power had gone out as well. According to the reports he was getting manually from his senior staff, power had gone out almost everywhere in the base. Now, he was on his cell phone in the dark, talking to his wife, who was telling him she was trapped on the lift while on the way to the doctors office.

“I’ll be there personally to help you out, honey,” he said. “Don’t worry. We’ll get you out!”

He hung up the phone and then immediately dialed Chen.

“What’s the status, Chen,” he said. “I’m getting reports that the whole station is down, and I just got a call from Ju. She’s stuck in a lift.”

“Oh, no,” Chen said. “We’ll get right on that, boss, just tell me what lift.”

“I’ll take care of her lift, Chen,” Charles said. “I want you to continue to figure out what the hell is causing this power drain.”

“We’re working on it,” Chen said. He hesitated, then continued. “It looks like most of the power has been rerouted to the mess hall.”

“Mess hall?” Charles said. “There’s nothing in the mess hall. Get over there and figure out what is happening, Chen. I want a report in ten minutes.”

“You got it, boss,” Chen said and hung up.

“Don’t worry Ju,” Charles said as he got up from his office, grabbing a flashlight from off his desk. “I’m coming to get you.”

****

“I cannot be trapped in an elevator, I can’t!” Ju was practically screaming at the top of her lungs. “This is not some American movie, I don’t want my baby born in an elevator.”

“Ju! Calm down!” Laura said, grabbing her friend and shaking her. “You are not due for a few more weeks. The only way you’ll go into labor now is if you stress yourself out. You get me? Don’t stress out!”

“Don’t tell her that,” Edward said, not looking as he fiddled with the controls for the lift. “That’s like telling someone to not think of the color blue. As soon as you say that, all they can think of is the color blue. You need to distract her with something else. Talk about something that can take her mind of our situation, like shoes or Earth or something.”

“Shoes?” Ju said. “Did you really tell her to talk to me about shoes? I’m not some capitalist consumer. I don’t need to have hundreds of shoes, thank you very much!”

“See?” Edward said, still not looking at them. “Ah, ha. This should do it.”

A click happened, and the lift moved.

“What?” Laura said. “Edward, what did you do?”

“I distracted her with shoes,” he said.

“No, to the lift,” she said.

“Oh, that,” he said. “All the lifts have an emergency routing protocol that sends them to the nearest exit in case of an emergency. Of course, that assumes power, but I rewired the recall to the emergency power in the hopes that we weren’t too far away from a door.”

“Edward, that’s brilliant,” Ju said.

He smiled, but blushed and looked back at the control panel. A few moments later, the lift stopped. They all stood in front of the doors. They remained closed.

“What happened, Edward?” Ju asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. He went back to the control panel and looked inside. After a few moments, he sighed and pulled his head back up and slumped his shoulders in defeat.

“There’s not enough power to open the doors. We’ve barley got enough to run the lights, and that will only last another couple of hours.”

“Oh, my God,” Ju said, and collapsed against the wall.

“Now, don’t worry, Ju,” Laura said. “We’ll get out of this.”

“No,” Ju said. “It’s not that. My water just broke.”

All three of them looked down at her now soaked pants.

****

“The party?” Charles said into his cell phone as he made his way through dark hallways towards the last known location of the lift his wife was in. “I don’t understand. They had their power needs approved by you. How can they possibly be the cause of the power drain?”

“Apparently,” Chen said in his ear, “the bastards decided that they needed more than I was allowing them. See, the approval I gave them was for less than they initially asked for, and they decided to just get what they wanted themselves. Something about doing the show their way despite what you said.”

“So they drained power,” Charles said, “and now we’re in a station wide black out and running on back up generators. Fantastic. Can you restore the main generators?”

“Oh, sure,” Chen said.

“But?” Charles said as he bumped into a column. He shook himself off and kept walking.

“It will take a few days,” Chen said after a moment’s hesitation. “Until then, though, the Emergency generators will keep life support and the dome seals running. We won’t have running lights in most places, but important places like the command center, sensitive labs and the hospital will all keep running.”

“I guess that will have to do,” Charles said. “Earth won’t be happy when we don’t report in tonight. Get every available person with even the smallest hint of power training and get them to help you on that generator, I want it up as soon as possible. In the mean time, try to keep people from burning out the emergency generators. Oh, and have the security detain our trouble making guests, would you?”

“You got it, boss,” Chen said.

Charles hung up and then thumbed a command into his phone to get a map of the complex and the nearest lift door. This should be where or nearby where Ju’s lift would be. When he got to the door, he thought he could hear people on the other side.

****

“Breath, Ju,” Laura was saying, “Just keep breathing.”

Everyone froze as a tapping came from the door. They all looked at each other and then back at the door. The tapping came again.

“Someone’s outside,” Edward said, and then started tapping on the door himself.

The tapping repeated, this time quicker, and they could hear someone outside. It was muffled, but it sounded like someone was calling Ju’s name, and asking that she call him.

“It’s Charles!” she said. “Edward, call him now!”

Edward fumbled away from the door to the control panel. Then he hesitated. “If I do, we’ll lose what little power we have. The lights will go out, and I’ll only get a short call out of it.”

“I don’t care, do it!” Ju yelled, and then went into another contraction.

****

“Edward?” Charles said as he picked up his phone. “Is Ju okay?”

“Listen to me, Charles, we don’t have a lot of time,” Edward said in that quick way of talking he had. He sounded stressed, though. “Your wife is in labor, and we’re almost out of power. We’re sitting here in the dark due to this call. You have got to get the doors open so we can get Ju to the hospital.”

“Got it,” he said. He was about to hang up when a thought occured to him. “Edward? You got a spare power cell on you? The ones from our project?”

“Yeah,” came the response, but it was hesitant. “Boss, these things explode in the lab.”

“I know, but I’ve got an idea,” he said. “Reroute it through your phone. Let the lithium battery be a dampener. It’s something I’ve been thinking about trying anyway. At the very least, it will give you a few seconds warning to disconnect before any explosions.”

“Okay, I’ll tr...” the line went dead. They were out of power. He immediately dialed the hospital to get Ju’s doctor over here and deliver his son. Once that was done, he started looking with his flashlight to see if there was something he could pry open the lift doors with.

****

“I don’t care,” both Ju and Laura said at the same time.

“Just try it, Edward,” Laura said. “If you can get enough juice to open the doors, it will be worth it.”

Edward had Laura hold her cell phone up for light so he could see what he was doing. He had to grab her arm once as she kept trying to look back at Ju, who was just focused on her breathing. He carefully hooked up his power cell to the cell phone’s battery and then to the controls for the doors. He hoped this would work.

“Okay,” he said. “We’re ready to give this a try. You two should probably get as far away from this as you can.”

They both scrambled as best they could to the far side of the lift. It really wasn’t enough room, but it was the best they could do. As further protection, Edward made sure he was between the control panel and the women. Then, he pressed the door open button. There was a few sparks, and he held his breath, but nothing else seemed to happen. He was about to give up that the doors would open when he saw them start to move. That’s when the power cell in his hand decided to explode.

****

Charles fell back as an explosion came from the inside of the lift. He grabbed the small metal chair he was planning on using as a crowbar and rushed to the door. It had partially opened, and black smoke was rising out of it. Coughing, he jammed the chair into the door and shoved. It took effort, but the doors opened and more smoke came out. He saw Edward laying on the floor, his arm a bloody mess. Ju and Laura were in there as well, eyes closed and coughing. Ju cried as another contraction took her. He rushed in and helped Laura pull Ju out. He could already here the medical staff coming their way.

“What happened?” He asked as he and Laura lowered Ju to the ground.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Edward did something with his cell phone and the wall, and it exploded in his arm.”

He rushed back into the lift and grabbed Edward by the armpits, pulling him out of the smoking room. There was a small fire coming from the cell phone and power pack next to it. The medical people showed up then, three stretchers ready to go. When they asked what had happened, Charles explained it quickly.

“Edward used an unstable power pack to try and get the doors open,” he said. “He used a technique I authorized, and it apparently backfired on him.”

They nodded and picked him up. They demanded that all three go to the hospital, and Laura did not argue. Charles rushed after then, catching up to his pregnant wife. His phone began to ring, but he simply shut it off. This was more important.

****

Ju opened her eyes, and then blinked at the brightness. Looking around, she saw that she was in a cold, white room that only existed in the station hospital. How long had it been? She didn’t know. She just knew that she had been given some kind of drug so they could perform a c-section. Her baby wasn’t fully turned, she remembered. Her baby! She sat bolt up right and then lay down immediately, both her head and stomach swimming in unnatural ways.

“Easy, honey,” Charles said. She looked over and saw that he was sitting right next to her. “Everything is okay.”

“Where’s the baby?” she asked, trying to not let the panic sound in her voice. She wasn’t sure how successful that was.

“He’s actually on his way here,” he said. “They had to keep him over night. He’s a month early, Ju. And he was born under some sever stress. They wanted to make sure he was okay. He’ll be here in a few minutes.”

She sat back down and sighed. Then she looked at him. “What happened?”

“Turns out those news reports were looking to get their story by hook or by crook,” he replied. She still didn’t understand all his idioms yet. But she think she got the jist of this one from his tone. “They caused a massive power outage. But, I was able to turn this all around. The Joint Chiefs and the Ministry of Defense are going to give us all the power funding we need. No more shutting down projects. Everything can go on as planned now. I suppose I should thank Ms. Brandt.”

Ju found herself laughing. She took his hand into hers and smiled up at him. No matter what their differences were, they didn’t matter, she realized. This was her husband, her scientist. She was happy with that. A few seconds later, a nurse came in carrying a bundle up blue blanket. A small pink hand could be seen peaking out of one corner of it.

“Aries,” she said, and opened her arms to receive the baby from the nurse. It was red and wrinkly and squirmy, and both its eyes were screwed tightly shut. But it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. “My son.”

“Welcome to Mars, Aries Webb,” Charles said, tickling the baby’s chin. “Make it your own.”

The End

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