The Space-Port was vast and bewildering, with giant panoramic windows giving onto the still dust of the moon. Its echoing acoustics did nothing to alleviate my nervousness about space-travel and leaving Earth even further behind. Mars seemed so far away and, with the rumours of the Mars crews being stranger than the Moonbies, I wasn’t so sure that accepting the writing assignment on Life On Mars had been my best idea. It did, however, present the perfect excuse for spending some quality time with Kieron and visiting my brother, Tony.
I hurried beside Kieron to stand in the check-in line. It had been daunting enough coming to MoonBase and the Space Port for the first time, all old hat for Kieron. Even so, I could see he still loved it. I tried to enjoy this experience with him but my travel sickness had gotten worse. The smell of bio-fuel and metallic steam was giving me a headache while my tummy twisted with anxiety and nausea despite us being in an earth-gravity section.
My husband squeezed my hand in reassurance and murmured, “You okay, Angie?”
I nodded and smiled up at him.
Kieron smiled back and continued his conversation with another passenger, a Moonby. “Have you heard anything new on the local newslines?”
“About the that base for the Asteroid Belt?” asked the woman, a retiree in her yellow and purple jumpsuit.
“Oh, no. That wouldn’t happen for a while yet. I meant the reports from SETI a few months ago. We haven’t had much of an update on it back home, just the initial announcements that some communications, believed to be first contact with another sentient race, had been made.”
She frowned in thought. “Wasn’t that declared a hoax a couple of months ago?”
I nodded agreement, remembering it too. It had been plastered all over the newsboards along with comments from both sides of the spectrum – those who thought that it was all a huge cover-up by the mining companies, the governments or aliens themselves; and those who believed that the Mars pranksters were infantile and ludicrous.
I hadn’t realised Kieron had been following it so closely. He’d been away when the story broke, travelling back from his fourth project on Mars. Surely, he would have heard or seen more of the event than either the Moonby or myself. So, why was he bringing it up now? I gave him a querulous look. “They released an apology saying it had all been a practical joke played by some bored workers on Mars.”
“I heard that too but there’s been other rumours going around over the past couple of weeks. Guy I know says the ETs actually got to Mars and made physical contact. Some think they may have even made it to the Moon, bypassing Mars altogether. Just wondering if you had heard anything?” He’d turned with a smile to the Moonby again.
She shrugged, frowning in thought, then said slowly, “I haven’t heard or seen anything else. It would be difficult to hide something that big in our little community. But I’ll ask around, if you like, and send you a message. I still keep my hand in, you know! Here’s Bernie. He hears even more than me.”
The debate between the Moonbies and Kieron, on the rumoured alien ship crash and first contact on Mars, consumed the rest of our check-in time. The arguments for and against SETi having made a true report and it being squashed in a conspiracy, or the whole story being a hoax, flew passionately back and forth as more Moonbies and other travellers added their views.
I listened with a growing sense of unease which had nothing to do with the thought of this being my first journey to Mars, or so I tried to convince myself.
End of Excerpt
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