Stopping to get water from the Martian ice, they did not expect to find this.

Cover for The Three Hundred

The Three Hundred ACT II

© TWScott 2020

Family

Dave headed back down the hall, passing different people who all seemed to be on a mission.  Nobody stopped to acknowledge him, which seemed rather strange.  The lights were out in his quarters, and there was a lump under the bedding.  Sam turned over with the sounds of him undressing.

“You did come back.”

The warmth under the covers was comforting while snuggling up to her.  Hours passed before there was a buzz at the door.

“Damnit!”

Tossing his robe on, he opened the door to find a young lady standing there.  Her English was broken but understandable.  “Bill, he ah sent me down here to remind you of your address to the crew.”

“What address is she talking about?” Sam asked, looking at the short blond-headed woman.

“It is right here on the schedule, 1400, address to the crew.  You are the captain, ya?”

David looked at her nodding his head.  The door shut with her still standing in the room.  “Where are your clothes?”

David looked at Sam and then back at this person.  “Excuse me, who are you?”

“Oh, begging pardon, I am Helga.  I am your assistant, butler, and go-to person.  I am also your …other.”

David was not sure what she meant, but he assumed it was a language thing.

“Oh, well I need to shower and dress, I will be along in about twenty minutes.”  The blue eyes pierced his soul as she did not waver or turn to leave.  Her short curly hair reminded him of a poodle his mother once had.

Helga left the bedroom as her short skirt left little to the imagination. She headed into the bathroom, turning on the shower, she returned.  “The water is perfect if you don’t mind.” She said, reaching for his robe.

Before he could object, she had his robe in hand while turning to reach for a hanger.  Spinning around, she looked at him, “Go; time is …fleeting.”

Sam thought it funny until Helga pulled the sheets off the bed.  “You too, miss, go help him get clean.”

Helga was unmindful to the nudity, which took Samantha aback.  Heading into the bathroom, David was somewhat surprised to see her joining him. “Do we have a keeper,” she asked?

Shaking his head, he passed her the soap.  David stepped out of the shower, and before he knew it, Helga was there with a warm towel.  That part of the treatment he liked.  Sam stepped out of the shower to see her drying him off and became jealous.  She wanted to say something when part of her ‘programming’ kicked in.  The feeling left as soon as it came up.  Helga turned to see her dripping water on the floor.  Pulling out a warm towel, she wrapped it around her before taking another to dry her hair.

“Sir…you need to hurry..” she said as she dried Samantha while setting her in a chair by the mirror.

David turned around, leaving the two heading for the closet. 

Helga watched to see that he was close to dressed before taking a brush to his hair. “Go, we will catch up with you.”

David hit the door, taking one last look at the two.  Samantha did not mind the pampering or her familiarity with either of them.

“What did you mean by, other?”

Helga looked at her in the mirror. She was rolling her hair on the brush while drying it.  She then took the time to explain it to her in detail.

The door to the main auditorium opened where David was on stage.

“Bill, why didn’t I know about this?”

“As our team makes it through the education process, they suddenly have a purpose.  Helga, who I believe you have met, is assigned to you and Sam.”

“Assigned?”

“The Ularins have different ways of structuring families, people, and social situations.  You might have noticed that we have a high ratio of women to men on this tub.”

“I hadn’t noticed, why is that?”

“I don’t want to spook you, but if the human race is to survive, we need babies.  Why do you think this ship is so large and there are so few of us?”

“Are you fu…kidding me?”

“Nope, the aftereffects of that virus have not been negated.  Samantha and others are going to be working on that.  Helga, well, she is to make sure you or Sam are not lonely or become depressed.”

David shook his head, thinking he was in some dream that he could not share with anyone.  “Tell me this, was this their choice?”

“Over thirty percent of these girls came from the red light district in different countries.  They are working girls.  Since they are healthy and have an aptitude for certain things, the Ularins grabbed them.  Yes, they are thrilled to be here, and for your edification, they were given the choice of who they wanted to serve.  There was contention for you and Sam, so they might be some sharing.”

“Oh my goodness, what will Sam think of this?”

“You, me, and everyone here has had a little tweaking of our brains; her programming will come to terms with it rather quickly, as will yours.”

“Programming, have we gone from slaves of the politicians and damned billionaires to slaves of the Ularins?”

“No, think of this as the ARC and David, we will probably never see the Ularins again.  This is our shot.”

“What is your role?”

“I am thankful that you and I were friends, I might have still been in the Congo when things happened.  Like always, you and I complement each other.  I have been given a little more of the game plan because I am detail-oriented.”

David shook his head, thinking about what Sam was surely thinking.

The background sounds in the room dropped down to dull roar as Sam and Helga walked on the stage.

Sam stood beside him, wrapping her arm around his.  David glanced at her, and she just smiled. Helga took her place directly behind the two.  She was, among other things, their manager.

Bill tapped the microphone causing the room to become still.  Sam looked at David and then said. “I will start this.”

David’s nostrils flared as he watched her step forward.

By now, you all know as much as any of us.  The world we grew up on will be uninhabitable for at least ten years.  The release of nuclear bombs has triggered multiple volcanic eruptions, including the supervolcano under Yellowstone.  As you can see on the monitor, the Earth is shrouded in clouds and particulate matter, which will block the sun from reaching the ground.  If we are right, the Earth will enter an ice age after the firestorms from all of the explosions.

After the particulate matter settles, there is the radiation that was released.  If anything survives at all, it might be sea life.

As you all have experienced by now, our history sucks.  Incredibly, this race of beings sought to save any of us from ourselves.  Those of us on this ship represent .0000009 percent of the Earth’s population, rounded up.   David and I just discovered a few moments ago that our lives would never be as they were.  Our customs and mores must be malleable.  From what I am told, there have been no serious objections.  Visit me if you have any issues, and I will see if I can fix them.

We have three months’ worth of supplies before this ship coast in the vacuum of space until we all either starve, run out of oxygen, or, we all pitch in using whatever talents we have and make this work.

It appears that I am to be a doctor.  If any of you were trained in medical procedures, I would like you to meet with me in room 259, after our captain dismisses us.

David approached the podium.  “Nice speech.”

“I wanted you to have some time to clear your head and get some thoughts together, did it work?”

He smiled and chuckled as he made his way to the podium.  Passing by the short blond in the blue ruffled dress, he glanced at her again, smiled, and turned his attention to the crowd.

I don’t think I can stress the importance of this mission any more succinctly than Sam just did.  I would like to add that we are all one rather large family.  Each of us has a job, at least one task to perform.  I would like to meet with you in the conference center if your education includes anything related to space, physics, Astro-physics, or particle physics.

“Bill, do you want to say anything?”

Yes, thanks.  While the two groups of people that David and Sam want to speak with head that way now, the rest of you stay here, I want to meet you and get an idea of what you all do.

Several people headed off following Sam.  David wondered why so many but let it go—leading many to the conference center, around fifty people more women than men followed him.

Bill stayed there with around two hundred people.

“You may have noticed we are chugging along right now because we don’t know where to go.  In this room there are pieces of the puzzle we must learn.  Once we all meet, I hope we can give David, the captain, some input as to a plan.  Any questions?” Bill asked

“Ya, I am to take care of the water.  There is lots of it on comets, asteroids, and the poles of Mars.  I would suggest we head to the red planet first.”

“Are we low on water?”

“Nine, but that large glass top up there is for farming and recreation.  Many of us are farmers, and we need to get things planted if we intend to have fruits and vegetables.”

“How many farmers here?”  

Over a hundred people raised their hands.

“Would you folks go up to the garden area, inventory what we have and what we need.  Peter, I have you down as our water person, are there others?”

Over two dozen raised their hands.  Bill learned they were trained on different systems on the ship

Red Mud

Bill met with the engineers that made the ship work. When he talked with David, they developed a plan.

They were learning that the ship was capable of faster than light travel.  That was an exciting proposition.  How much faster was the question?  The question about why a star system 300 light-years away puzzled them.

David returned to his room to find Sam and Helga sitting on the couch, talking.  “Ladies, I have been distracted by this most of the day.  How is this supposed to work?”

“We were debating those very questions.  It would seem that many of the couples and men on this ship are having similar conversations.  Helga has offered it up this way.  We have a spare room which I know you were thinking was your office.  We can make it a bedroom for her.”

Helga looked at the two of them.  That is not what she wanted.  She was looking for acceptance.

“That is not what you had in mind, is it?”

“No, I will if that is what you want, but I would rather be part of your unit.”

“Unit?”

“She means a family unit. She would be one of us.  You commented on the size of this bed, now we know why.”

“Sammy, what do you think about all this?”

“David, she not only pleases you, but she pleases me.  We please each other.”

“Bill was telling me about this, and I just about choked on my coffee.”

“You don’t want that?” Sam asked.

“I didn’t say that.  I have loved you since we were kids, and I don’t know how this all works.”

“Well, if we will permit it, that shower is more than large enough for three of us.  Not only can she dry you off, but she can scrub you too, and you can scrub her and so on.”

“When I was in college, a group of us got drunk on cheap wine.  When the bottle was empty, we all ended up in one large pile of flesh on the bed.  Sam, do you remember that?”

Helga was listening to them.  She realized that they were talking themselves into the relationship.  As they spoke, she began to undress.  The conversation stopped as both of them were now watching this blond vixen.  Not only had she been in the red light district, but she had worked on stage.  All of those talents were in use by the time she landed on the bed with them.  Kissing Samantha first, and then David, the pile of flesh was repeated without the Ripple.

Similar scenes played out throughout the ship. The Ularins had picked the ratio of more women than men for a reason.  They needed to get past their first taboo and start the process of creating their replacements. 

As shifts went on and others came off, the demeanor of the crew was much better every hour they were together. 

Setting a course for the red planet, Bill and David watched the screen as Mars became larger than life.

“I used to see this through my telescope, never in my life did I think I would be this close.”

“So we just stick a straw into the snow and suck up water,” David asked?

“No, there are smaller ships in the launch bay that have water tanks on board.  We thought we would keep this water separate from our potable water, just in case.”

“In case?”

“The planet is dead.  Anything that was once alive is dead because there is no atmosphere or magnetic shield to protect it from cosmic radiation.”

“Bill, if this is so, why not just add to our water?”

“Theoretically, it should be dead.  We still don’t want to take any chances.”

Bill headed off to speak with the team that was going to acquire the water.  Running biological scans of the water was part of the plan.

They were staring at the planet below them. David could see where water had once been.  Mars was once alive; he knew it.  Orbiting over the South Pole, the team left the ship heading to the surface.  David thought about taking one of the trips to the surface when Helga stopped him.

He and Sam had been talking when she came out of the bathroom, dripping wet. “You are not going down there.” She said.  Sam got up getting a towel to cover her, and return the favor.

“I am the captain, why can’t I go?”

“You are the captain, which is why you can’t go.  Let the women do this.”

“You mean the crew is all women?”

“Yes, we are expendable.”

“Nobody is expendable!”

Sam interjected, “she is right, there are more of us than men.  We need to be pragmatic about this and David; you are not leaving this ship until we reach wherever we are going.”

“Who is the captain?”

Helga pushed him back on the bed, landing on top of him.  “You are when we let you.”  Stopping his talking any further by kissing him, Sam watched and was suddenly very aroused by her actions.  Her milk-white skin was almost too perfect.

***

With all the crew back on board, they had acquired tens of thousands of gallons of water from mars.  Detecting Nothing in it that was harmful, they begin to farm.

The area topside was under a glass dome made in such a way that the lower the light available, the more it would reflect light to the surface.  It was a special glass that was tougher than steel, impervious to meteorites, and very transparent.

David went up to look at the farm.  Rows of different plants were growing.  Many of the farmers took turns caring for the plants.  They were forced to play the role of the honey bee, which would require the hundred or so farmers to manage it.

The warmth under the dome caused many to wear little, while playing farmer.  David and Sam went to walk through a part of the farm set up as a garden.  They noticed many topless ladies and a few men who were also just wearing pants.

“Do we have a ship of nudists?”

“If they are happy, do you care?”

“No, are they playing in the water over there?”

A girl went running by as another was chasing her with the hose. “I think so.”

“This is still Martian water, right?”

“There is Nothing in it.  We have tested it; I think some these guys have drunk from that hose.”

David shook his head.  “My gut tells me that it is a bad idea.  Doctor, I want you to check anyone who has drunk this water.”

“David, you are a little paranoid.”

The light from above cast just enough of a shadow to give him contrast of the soil.

“Sammy, that dirt has a red ting to it, why?”

The smile left her face as she looked down to see what he was talking about. “Shit!”

David yelled at all who could hear until he got their attention.

“The doctors are going to be checking each of you.  It would seem that the Martian water does have something going on with it.”

Soil samples were quickly analyzed to find that something was growing beside their plants.  A bacteria of an unknown kind was in the water and now contaminated their entire farm. 

When people began to have strange growths on their skin, the entire medical staff went into action.

Martians

“How many are infected, Skipper?”

“Bill, dammit, I knew better.  I knew it was a bad idea, and now we have alien fungus or something infecting the entire farm and all of the farmers.”

“Are they quarantined?”

“I have them restricted to the section of the ship closest to the farm.”

“We can’t set it on fire, what do we do?”

“Nothing yet, I have them tending to the plants as if there were Nothing wrong.  The fungus on the farmers is Nothing more than a minor irritant at this point.  The botanist is looking in on the farm.  The scientists are examining the water.  We need to know what we are dealing with before we react.”

“What about the people who drank the water?”

“Don’t know.  Sam thinks their stomach acid might save them.  She has applied a weak version hydrochloric acid to some fungus on one of the farmers, and it seems to have killed it.”

“We should have radiated that water before we brought it on board.”

“If we survive this, we will have other challenges.”

The medical crew applied fungicide to the growths on the farmers.  After a few days, the fungi seemed to vanish.  The botanist kept up with the farm and noticed the plants were growing much better than before.  Examining the root system under a microscope, they were surprised to see fungi that appeared to be very much like mycorrhizal fungi.

“Wait, you are telling me this is similar to what we had on earth?”

“Other than the part where it is growing on the dirt, pretty much.  It seems to have made the dirt work better, allowing a better root system for the plants.”

“Sam, what do you think?”

“I think we should sterilize that water and not worry about the plants.  It appears that the farmers were infected by playing in the water.”

Bill listened in on the conversation while thinking about what could have happened.  They could ill afford any more screw-ups.

Orbiting the planet, one of the science officers had been scanning the surface.  Finding a structure under the surface, she alerted the crew.

“What kind of structure?”

“There is a subterranean structure close to this thing that looks like a face.”

“Do you realize how many people have postulated about what this is?”

“Skipper, we have a chance to see what it is.  What do you think?”

“Everything we do risk the success of our mission.  Still, if there is a structure and that thing is not an aberration of wind-blown stone, it would be kind of cool to know for sure.  How is our fuel holding out?”

“We have well over 90 percent of it left.  This thing must get two million miles to the gallon.” Bill joked.

“Why don’t you handle the team for the surface? I need to work with the scientist to see if we can locate a source of fuel.”

“Skipper, should I go with them?”

“Do you want to?”

Bill smiled for the first time since this adventure started.  “Tell the Amazons that I said it was ok.”

He laughed as he left the board room.  David knew that they could die at any moment.  They were babes in the woods.  Mars was in their back yard. This adventure was probably a once in a lifetime chance to learn about the planet.

David met with the scientist as they pontificated about dark matter.  The ‘teacher’ had told them much, but it did not allude to where they might find it.  He sat in the board room as several of them other prattled on about different theories.

Flipping through photographs of different images captured by stellar photography, he could not help but stare at the Andromeda galaxy.

One picture after another caused David’s attention to fade.  A scientist realized that David was not paying attention to them.

“Are we boring you,” One of them asked?

“Pete, tell me, what holds these galaxies together like this?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why are the arms twisted like that all on one plane?”

“We think gravity from a black hole, why?”

David talked to them for several minutes about black holes and such when it hit him.  “What if dark matter is holding things together?”

“Between the arms?”

“Yes, what if a black hole is nothing more than an abundance of dark matter?”

“We think a black hole is a tear in space.”

“How would that create gravity?”

“We can solve this question quickly enough; there is an instrument on this ship that detects black holes.”

David looked at him.  “Do you suppose that could be like a GPS for the gas station?”

“Maybe, it is a hell of a risk.”

“What about a small black hole, don’t they have those?”

“If you are right, we have several tanks full of the stuff of black holes.”

“When Bill and the team get back, locate a small black hole, and let’s see what happens.  Also, while we are waiting, why not see if there is other equipment on board for, I don’t know, collecting things like black hole material.”

The team left the board room to explore the ship, while Bill and his team were making their way to the surface.

***

Turbulence buffeted the ship as it made its way through the thin Martian atmosphere.  Dust devils the size of mountains on Earth tracked the grounds under them.  Vectoring around one of the more giant vortices, Bill set down close to the monolithic edifice.  Once they were all in atmospherically controlled outfits, they became the first humans to step on Mars.

There were no cameras, no fancy words that would go down in the history books.  He did not even have a flag to hammer into the soil.

Those gathering the water never left the ship.  Had Dave been more protective, this visit might not have happened.

Pointing to what looked like a rectangular opening to something, the four-headed in that direction. 

They had never been off on another planet before.  The ‘teacher’ had briefed them on proper procedures for off-world travel.  Still, even with the education, they did not anticipate the lightness in their steps or the fact that they could see the wind moving sand and dust around, if they opened their visor, they would die instantly.

As civilian citizens learning about barometric pressure meant little to them.  Bill knew that there was so low pressure, it would be as if they were in a vacuum.

Standing at the base of the monolith, it was clear this was made by some form of intelligence.

“I guess this answers the question about life on Mars.”

Turning on lights on their suits, they entered the room.  Equipment, as they had never imagined, lined the walls inside.  The floor was covered with piles of red dirt that had blown in from eons of the door open door.

Recording what they were looking at, the team examined the intricacy of the gauges, knobs, and so forth. 

“I wonder how old this stuff is?”  A team member asked.

“It looks dead as a doornail, but just the same don’t touch anything,” Bill said.

“Look, there is a door over there.  If my scans are correct, that leads to a hidden chamber.”

“By the size of the doors, whoever was here must have been about ten feet tall.”

Bill walked over to the door in the back of the room.  Buttons by the door were the only way he could see of entering or opening the door.  Touching a button, the lights came on in the room.

Their heart rate jumped as they heard the door behind them closing.

“Shit!” Bill said.

“Hang on Bill, this is probably a way to keep the air pressure from the outside, effecting that beyond that door.”

They heard sounds of wind whistling.  Soon there were vortices of sorts blowing dust and sand about at first clouding the air around them.  Bill noticed the air clearing as a filtration system had activated cleaning all the sand and dirt from the room.  Looking at a gauge on his suit, he saw the pressure was adjusting closer to what they were accustomed to on Earth.

One of the team members pulled out an instrument monitoring the actual air in the room. 

“What is it doing, Dana?”

“Oxygen content is rising.  If it were to continue, this would be breathable.”

“What about pathogens?”

“Sir, this planet is sterilized dead.  That fungus we picked up is only there because there is water.  Anyway, I am finding Nothing organic.”

“Something is producing oxygen.”

“Not just that, sir,” Jane said.

“What.”

“Detecting trace amounts of humidity, something is allowing water to survive here.”

Calling the ship, there was no answer.

The equipment around them began glowing.  Panels lite up as monitors sprang to life.

“If a little green man pops out that door….”

“We have no weapons, so let’s hope if they do, they are friendly,” Bill said.

***

“David, I am not getting any signal from the biometrics of the team.”

Speaking to his science officer, David asked. “Do you have any readings on where they are?”

“There ship is close to that monolith.  They reported there was an opening, and they were going to investigate.”

“Keep trying to raise them.”

David went off to find Sam.  Heading to the galley he found many but not her.  His quarters were next on his list.  Opening the door, he saw her, with Helga.

They were engaged in pillow talk when he entered the room.  Glancing at him, the soulful look from Sam was met with the analytical mind of Helga.

“You’re not expected for another three hours,” Helga stated.

“These are my quarters, that is my bed, and that is my…Samantha.”

Sam jumped out of bed, grabbing a robe. “What is going on with you?”

Looking down at the floor, he shook his head.  “Some things are going on, and I wanted to talk them over with you.”

Pulling him to the bed, Helga scooted over so he could sit.

“David, Helga is our…too.  We can label her if you like, but she loves you as much as she loves me.”

“You’re right, Helga, this is still new to me.”

Helga looked at him, crawling up beside him.  Placing her warm body next to his, her face was now within inches of his. “I understand more than you know.” Kissing him, he forgot why he came looking in the first place.  His mind was soon drifting to these two had to offer before Sam stopped them.

“I sense there is more on your mind than an afternoon …nap..”

Sitting back up, Helga was once again planted at his left side.  His arm around her waist was more than a distraction.  Her warmth and supple skin made it hard for him to concentrate.

Standing, she sat next to Sam while he looked at them.

“Bill and his crew our out of contact with us.  Biometrics is reporting a loss of signal with their suits.   I am worried, and I wanted your opinion.”

“David, I would love to walk on Mars.  Why don’t we see if we can land the ship close to them so we can send out search parties?”

“This ship is the size of a small city.  It makes an aircraft carrier seem like a yacht.  You want me to land it on the planet?”

“It was on the moon; it was under our ocean for a time, let’s see if there is enough flat surface around there where we can put down.”

“When was it under our ocean?”

“The Ularins were examining our sea life.  I got a full lesson from one of my medical courses.”

“You have been rather subdued Helga, what do you think?”

“My mind was thinking of other things, and you interrupted that.  What I know about this ship, it will take hours to get it ready to land.  Why not tell the crew to get it ready, and then you take a nap before we have dinner.”

Samantha smiled, tossing the robe on the chair, sitting back down with Helga.

“Yes, why don’t you do that?”

Helga was worse than being drunk.  Every time he was around her, it was as if he turned into a college kid who just got the keys to his parent’s car.

He smiled at the two of them.  “I will be back in a jiff, keep your motors running.”

Author: AuthorTWScott

Author, Writer, Artist, Graphic Artist ... Over 32 published novels crossing many genres. www.authortwscott.com

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