Juan Villanueva’s name was often mentioned in the same sentence as Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk, and yet all he really wanted was to be alone. The thrill of starting one company, amassing a fortune from his work, and then selling it for another fortune had lost its allure, at least since Carrie died.
Carrie, his beloved Carrie. How could he go on without her?
But he did, because that’s what Villanueva was all about, overcoming challenges, even grief and death.
To say that Juan Villanueva was a genius was to damn with faint praise. He’d gotten his doctorate in Particle Physics from UCLA at age 15 and won the Nobel for his design of the world’s first fully operational Fusion Reactor at 21. Equal to his scientific genius was his business acumen.
New Applied Fusion was the first company he founded, which turned his designs into practical devices. Villanueva could have retired well before age 25, but the next challenge always called to him, and then the next, and the next.
However, the day he counted as his foremost joy, the highlight of his existence, was when he married nineteen year old Carrie Leah Diy on April 5th, 2030. He had just turned 27 and expected to live a long and happy life with his bride.
It was the one accomplishment the universe denied him. Carrie died suddenly of heart failure just short of her 22nd birthday. The culprit was hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, with focal coronary atherosclerosis. Something in Juan Villanueva died with her.
He continued to do what he’d always done, build accomplishment upon accomplishment, fortune upon fortune, but to what end?
At 35, he was the envy of the scientific and business communities, and reputedly the most eligible bachelor alive. He had his friends, some of the most influential people in the world. He was one of the five wealthiest individuals on the planet. He had women, pleasures, successes, but at night, they all turned to ashes. Carrie had been the only light in his life.
Then he discovered the Tesseract.
Most people, if they knew about it, would have said he invented it, but Juan merely found something that always existed. It had always existed, but had never been harnessed before because the technology to do so had never been invented.
Villanueva plied his science independently. He could afford to do so, hiring outside consultants and technicians only when necessary. He had become increasingly reclusive over the past year. He worked only because when he didn’t, he obsessed about Carrie, He kept busy because the alternative was depression and hopelessness.
Psychologists, he’d seen scores of them, said his grief would gradually fade, but every single one of them were wrong. Each day became more empty, each night more lonely. It had been over five years and the pain of her absence was just as keen as the day she died.
Villanueva built New House Research Labs, his private technological domain, between Altamont and the 580 freeway. Livermore to his west was the nearest large community, but he had everything he needed delivered.
He had a support staff, security guards, logistics people, sanitation, technical support, but no one but him entered the main research lab.
Juan had been experimenting with folded space applications with the goal of eventually being able to transmit data over long distances through a virtual point-to-point link. It would be sort of like Star Trek’s “subspace radio,” allowing messages to travel over planetary distances almost instantaneously.
If successful, his technology would allow data exchanges between Earth and the fledgling Martian colony to occur in real-time.
Unfortunately, he discovered the field necessary to allow this would be huge, nearly 1,000 square meters. Fortunately, fusion power was cheap, and he could generate the field in that large a space and keep it active indefinitely. Also fortunately, he’d done the math before having the lab built, so by the time the construction company was ready to pour concrete, Juan knew exactly what he wanted.
In addition to the standard scientific recording equipment, Juan had video cameras installed to capture details from multiple angles so he could analyze the results later. Villanueva powered up the transfer field for the first time at 9:36 a.m. PST on Wednesday, May 4th, 2039.
After an initial humming sound while the field was forming, there was only some minor equipment noise. The stable field was completely silent. There was no wall between the field area and the lab proper. The field was constrained by the generation grid, and it emitted no heat or other harmful radiation, so Juan could stand within a meter of it without any danger.
The relative silence is what let him hear the sound of waves.
It was coming from the field area. The sound of waves, like an ocean. He stood up from the console he’d been operating and walked closer. The field area was largely empty space with the exception of the occasional static discharge. He couldn’t see what was making the sound, but it definitely sounded like a large body of water…and wind.
Juan almost got on the phone to call the technical staff but he stopped himself. This belonged to him, whatever accidental discovery it happened to be.
He went back to the main console and attempted to adjust the field. There must be something inside, if only he could see.
After an hour, his efforts were for naught, and he was afraid if he made more radical changes in the controls, the field would collapse.
It took him a week to realize that he’d stumbled onto some sort of pre-existing conduit or corridor to someplace else.
There were plenty of miniature marine probes equipped with video and audio as well as a number of other scientific packages to gather data. He purchased one on Amazon and had it delivered the next day.
After configuring the device to transmit data to receiving equipment in the lab, he set it at the edge of the field. Then he used a small, radio controlled ground drone to push it through to the other side. In his haste, Juan drove the drone through the field as well and it vanished along with the marine probe.
Nothing. No video. No audio, and he’d lost control of the drone. Electromagnetic radiation must not be able to cross the field. But acoustics, sound certainly could, as well as physical objects like the probe and drone.
“Of course. Cable.” Juan snapped his fingers and ordered a flying drone controlled by cable rather than radio. It wasn’t cheap, mainly because it was rare, but he found what he needed on eBay.
It was Friday the 13th when he was ready for his second attempt to send a drone into the field. “Good thing I’m not superstitious,” Juan chuckled to himself.
The cable was ten meters long. He wished it could have been longer since it would severely limit the area of exploration, but it would have to do. Juan had modified the probe to contain most of the instruments the marine probe contained. He could land the drone on the ocean’s surface to take water samples.
“He we go.” Villanueva powered up the device. He was standing right next to the field. The mild discharge made the hair on his arms stand on end and swirled the hair on his head.
The drone went through at an altitude of two meters from the floor.
Everything was being recorded, but Juan had installed a small monitor on the control box so he could see and hear in real-time.
Bright light. Sky. Blue sky. Water, but not right under the probe. Just on the other end of the field was a shoreline. Reddish-brown sand.
It was an ocean. The water would have begun well beyond the further limit of the field. He aimed the camera down by adjusting the angle of the drone. There they were, just on the other side of the field, the marine probe and ground drone. If he had the courage, he could have reached through the active field and pulled them back to his side.
Air temperature a balmy 27.7 degrees C (or 82 degrees F), the drone couldn’t reach the ocean, so he couldn’t take a water sample. He did take air samples, landed the drone and had it take a soil sample, measured humidity, and directed the drone to capture video data from as many different angles as the cable allowed.
The battery was beginning to die when Juan flew the drone back to his side of the field.
It was late outside, past 8 p.m. He’d neglected eating two meals and suddenly realized how hungry and tired he was. He wanted to analyze the data right away, but he knew his concentration was impaired. Tomorrow would have to do.
It was the apparent size of the Sun that was his first clue. Juan had been more than an avid fan of the Mars colonization project. It was his fusion reactors that powered the ships going to and fro, as well as the colony’s power plant.
The apparent size of the Sun seen from Mars. That’s what he was looking at in the video recording.
The soil samples somewhat bore out Juan’s theory, but they weren’t quite identical to modern Martian soil, not nearly the same levels of oxidation.
Temperature, atmospheric composition, air pressure, all comparable to Earth. It couldn’t be Mars. It couldn’t be. Not the Mars of today.
A chill ran through Juan at the fantastic realization. He thought of a way to prove it.
He equipped the drone with a power cable parallel to the control cable, so he didn’t have to depend on batteries. His experiment was simple. Send the drone through the field, set it down, point the camera up, and wait for the sun to set.
The drone went through at approximately two hours until sunset. He fixed himself a sandwich for lunch, and watched the image on the big monitor. Not much to see. No plants, no animals, no birds, nothing alive. Just the sand, the sea, the sky, the Sun.
Then there was no Sun but there were stars, an abundance of stars. Fortunately, it was a clear night. Martian days are nearly equivalent to those on Earth, so he let the recorders do the work.
Juan spent the time studying recordings of background radiation. Again, comparable to Earth. But modern Mars had no rotating molten metal core, and thus no magnetic field to repel radiation. There was a ton of radiation bombarding the Martian surface every second.
“The constellations. They’re not ours. Not our present constellations.”
There were two possibilities. This was a planet in an alien solar system or this was Mars of the distant past. A computer analysis would confirm or refute the latter.
“Confirmation. It’s Mars. It’s really Mars, but the Mars of almost five billion years ago.”
Uncharacteristically, Juan began to giggle to himself. Then he started crying. It had been an exhausting 24 hours. He’d confirmed his hypothesis. That night, the nightmares of Carrie’s death returned.
Monday, June 6th, 8:44 a.m. PST. Juan had ordered the components he needed but what he intended to build would be huge, taking up nearly three-quarters of the field area, and it would take weeks for it to be constructed once everything arrived.
He had a large, dead weight, basically a 136 kilo (300 pound) metal cube with a large eye bolt attached to the top. Juan tied one end of the cable to the cube and the other to a the harness he was wearing.
“Atmospheric composition, pressure, temperature all within Earth tolerances along with minimal background radiation. It should be safe to go through. All I have to deal with is microgravity. On modern Mars, it’s only about 38 percent of one G.”
Juan had always laughed when he read a book or saw a film where the scientist used himself as a subject. It was the single most idiotic thing a real researcher could do. On the other hand, he wasn’t the same man he was eight years ago, five years ago, even a year ago. He wasn’t being courageous, just impatient.
He took a deep breath and walked up to the field. The usual static electricity effects took place. Another deep breath. Juan stepped forward and through the field. From the lab’s point of view, he ceased to exist. The cable ended at the edge of the field suspended in midair.
“Mars.” Juan was surprised to hear the sound of his own voice. “I’m actually here.”
He almost tripped over the ground drone and then stepped aside. His “leash” was 20 meters long and constructed of strong but lightweight carbon fiber. It was 100 meters to the other side of the field and the shoreline was about 300 meters beyond that.
Juan took a deep breath. Moist air. Slight smell of sand. He looked up. A small, bright object was practically rocketing across the sky west to east. “Phobos. In the modern era, it orbits Mars three times a day.”
He admired the scene for ten minutes or so before trying the second part of the experiment.
“Time to see if I can go home.” Juan turned around and walked toward where the cable he was attached to disappeared into nothingness. On this side, it was the only evidence the field existed. No visual cues. No sound. No evidence at all of the rift through five billion years of time.
He walked back with a sense of anticipation. He knew the field worked both ways because he was able to fly drone back, but he still had to prove it to himself.
Four meters, two, one, and then he was back in the lab. The only physical sensation of transition was tingling, like he was walking through a mild electrical field.
He blinked, turned around, and went back through to ancient Mars again just long enough to pick up the ground drone and marine probe and then take them back to the lab.
Juan solved his distance problem by hooking the control cable to a radio transceiver and putting the transceiver and the drone on the Mars side of the field. Then he stepped back into the lab and powered up the drone, sending signals through the cable and then letting radio on the other side guide the drone.
Finally, he could explore. Sure, he could have walked through again, but he wanted to limit his exposure to the ancient Martian environment until he knew more.
Still no animal life or birds. What about aquatic?
He landed the drone on the water near the shore. The camera couldn’t see the other side, so it must be vast. Researchers estimate that Mars once had an ocean that stretched across most of the Northern Hemisphere and contained more water than Earth’s Arctic Ocean. It disappeared about 4.3 billion years ago, but the field let him go back in time even further.
Juan briefly considered attempting to change the focus and length of the Tesseract. If it could take him to another planet five billion years ago, why couldn’t it take him back a mere eight years or so on his own planet?
But no. This wasn’t a doorway to just any past. The Tesseract was fixed. It was and would always be a tunnel between Earth of the present and Mars of the distant past. That couldn’t be changed. As much as Juan wished he could use it to go back and save Carrie’s life, it couldn’t be changed.
“Slightly acidic but not super-acidic. Acidophilic organisms could exist in this ocean. Hell, they exist here. I’ve been to Yellowstone. The bacterium makes really colorful patches on the rocks near their hot springs and geysers. The Martian ocean is far less acidic than what those forms of bacteria are used to.”
Juan stopped short of flying the drone with the water sample back through the field. If it contained life, extinct Martian life from five billion years ago, what would happen if he exposed it to the modern Earth environment?
“Hell, I’ve already admitted I’m not acting like a scientist. I exposed myself to the open Martian environment and walked back here bringing who knows what microscopic life forms with me. I breathed the air and nothing’s killed me yet.”
He brought the drone back to the Earth side of the barrier, proving that even the most intelligent and educated person could still be an idiot.
“There it is.” He was looking through a microscope at simple amoebas, single-celled life forms that had been perfectly adapted to the chemical composition of Mars’ ocean. “It’s a shame I can’t publish, but I’m already rich and famous, so who cares?”
Juan actually did care, or part of him did. He’d made astonishing, breakthrough discoveries. The world should know, but who cares if they know?
If Carrie was alive, he would have cared. This entire project would have taken a vastly different course, but if she hadn’t died, he might not have conceived of the technology that led to the Tesseract’s discovery.
For all Juan knew, he could be unleashing diseases into the Earth’s biosphere that would have catastrophic consequences. On the other hand, it had been over a month since he first stepped through the barrier and started tracking little bits and pieces of ancient Mars back to Earth, and he hadn’t caught so much as a cold.
He knew he was being irrational. What he was doing probably constituted criminal behavior. But if he was right, this was his chance to achieve the only thing he longed for besides the resurrection of his wife.
The construction of the HERA was completed inside the field area. HERA stood for Human Exploration Research Analog, a self-contained habitat that was first used by ARES Exploration Missions One through Six.
Of course, Juan wouldn’t need the level of protection from the ancient Martian environment that the early Mars astronauts required, but it offered excellent portable laboratories and could easily convert Mars’s ocean water into something he could drink. The hydrogen would also fuel the fusion power plant.
He powered down the field the night before the work crews were to arrive. The numbers said the Tesseract was always there and would always be there. The transfer field only acted as an interface. Juan was still terrified that when he turned the field back on, Mars wouldn’t be there anymore.
“Here we go, you big coward.” He flicked the power switch and the field came back up, flickered for a moment, then became stable. Juan listened. The sound of the ocean. He couldn’t resist.
He stood up and looked. The field area was empty. Where the HERA unit stood less than a minute ago, was now just an empty room with the occasional discharge of static electricity.
Juan left the console and walked through the field. It was there. It was all there.
HERA had made the transition. The moment Juan activated the field, everything already inside including the HERA was instantly relocated to the Martian surface of five billion years ago.
At first, Juan only spent days on Mars, going back to Earth every night to sleep (although day and night were not synchronized on either end of the field.
Then he started sleeping in the HERA. Every few days, he’d walk back to Earth to check on the field generation equipment.
He’d left instructions to not be disturbed, disabled all but one private email account, and locked the doors to the lab from the inside. Any bills and salaries that needed to be paid were handled by personnel staff and accountants. The place didn’t need him around to run. He could stay on Mars as long as he liked.
He could finally be alone.
Water came from the sea and food from automated aeroponics farms inside HERA. His environment was self-sustaining and he did not want for the basics, plus all the finest experimental equipment he required to explore Mars.
HERA came with a boat. No, it wasn’t part of the standard equipment, but he had it included with the Rover. It was inflatable and powered, so he could get a fair distance from shore. Maybe there was something out there bigger than an amoeba.
Juan Villanueva thought he was free, free of a clinging, dependent humanity that had been demanding far more of his time, attention, and talents than he currently cared to provide. He was free to be alone, free from telephones, the internet, social obligations, social causes, politics, agendas, and OPPs or Other People’s Problems.
If there were more sophisticated life forms in the Martian ocean, they must be deep. Even his little submersibles came back empty except for bacteria.
He drove his little boat back to the shore and tied it up to the Rover so it wouldn’t drift off. The HERA was so close he really didn’t need the Rover for anything except hauling heavy equipment and samples, and most things weren’t that heavy in Mars’ lighter gravity.
The HERA came with four redundant airlocks but he never used them. He kept the doors open. He was far safer from intruders on Mars than he ever was on Earth.
He’d been living on Mars steadily for a month with only brief trips back to the lab. The nightmares had stopped for a while, but for the past two nights, they’d returned.
Carrie. He couldn’t escape her even across millions of miles of space and billions of years of time. Of course not. He always took her with him.
He heard a sound. Dream?
Juan’s eyes snapped open and he took a look around the room in the dim light of equipment set to standby mode.
He thought he’d seen…no, it couldn’t be. He was dreaming of her. That’s all. There really couldn’t be someone with him on Mars.
Another day’s fruitless exploration of the ocean depths. If there was life down there, it was highly elusive. It was more likely that nothing more complicated than bacteria ever evolved on Mars. He really was alone. If only he could shake the feeling he was being watched.
Their wedding night. Juan had been a freewheeling playboy before meeting Carrie, but he never cared about any of those women. He’d been raised in a conservative family and the woman he was to marry, he wouldn’t sleep with until they were wedded.
The penthouse suite at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. Tomorrow, they were flying to Hawaii where they’d spend a week in a charming bed and breakfast on the Big Island. Tonight, it was the two of them alone finally.
“I love you Mrs. Villanueva.” They were in bed together. She was only nineteen, shy, reserved. This was their first night as a married couple. They’d spend the rest of their lives together. They kissed.
Suddenly, she was going into a seizure. Then he was applying chest compressions. She’d collapsed suddenly as they were walking to their favorite Thai restaurant. “No, dear God, no. Somebody call 911,” he screamed. He could hear sirens.
He was standing outside the trauma room. “I’m sorry, Mr.Villanueva. There was nothing we could do.”
“No!” Juan sat upright in his bed in the HERA.
“It was a nightmare. Another damn nightmare.” Juan ran his fingers through his hair. He felt a hot tear trickle down his cheek.
A figure, a silhouette, a woman…her?
“Carrie?” He wiped tears from his eyes and when he looked again, the figure was gone.
He hadn’t been able to sleep after that. It was nearly dawn anyway. He used the bathroom, started the coffee, and got dressed.
He looked around the HERA and almost missed a single, sandy footprint on the floor of the open airlock facing the ocean. It couldn’t be his because he never went barefoot. The print must be distorted because the toes didn’t look right. Were they even toes?
Juan grabbed a flashlight. Dawn was still dim on the horizon. Yes, definitely tracks. Biped. Looks almost human.
Juan stopped at each footprint and bent over close to see. Each one was different, as if they hadn’t quite been made by the same…whatever.
He retraced his steps back to the airlock, took his hand-held from his pocket (it didn’t serve as a phone or for texting anymore), and then followed the footprints again, taking photos of each one.
They ended at the shore next to his boat.
Juan managed to collect a few skin samples. At least that’s what he thought they were, but they defied DNA sequencing. Yes, he was on another planet five billion years in the past, but life had to have DNA here, didn’t it?
He was a physicist, not a geneticist. He could take samples, run them through analysis equipment, and read the output, but he wasn’t an expert. He wished he could take the risk of returning to Earth with his samples and have a real genetics lab examine them.
Earth. How long since he’d been back? Weeks at least. He was losing track of time.
He still couldn’t sleep. If he thought this was all a dream, he’d eventually resign himself to the consequences of having nightmares, but something else besides him on Mars was alive, and it was much, much bigger than bacteria.
Juan thought about going back to the lab just to catch a nap, but he didn’t want to miss anything should…whatever make a reappearance. Then it occurred to him that…whatever might follow him through, back to Earth of five billion years in the future.
No. He’d better stay. It probably doesn’t know about the field. Juan had been playing fast and loose with experimental methodology and he’d gotten lucky, but now he was dealing with a large, bipedal life form that apparently comes from the sea and can exist on land, perhaps for a limited time period, like an amphibian.
He couldn’t let it get to the other side of the field. If necessary, he’d have to shut the field down.
“What?” Something had woken him up. He must have fallen asleep at the bio-analysis console in the HERA.
“Juan, darling. I’m here.”
He jumped up and spun around and…
It looked like her, sounded like her. She was nude, smiling slightly at him. “But how..?”
“I’m here, Juan. Don’t be afraid.”
She reached out for his cheek with her right hand and he pulled back. Juan was confused, frightened, nearly in a state of panic.
“Is this a dream? No, I’m awake. I can tell I’m awake. What the hell are you anyway?”
“I never frightened you before, Juan. Why are you afraid of me?”
“Because you’re dead. I buried you. You’re gone forever. How can you be here now? Who are you? What are you?”
Juan was backed against the console, frozen to the spot. He thought about running but where would he go? Not back to Earth. There was nowhere to go on Mars.
“How can I be dead when I’m so alive in your thoughts and dreams?”
“You are lonely, dear Juan. I’m lonely, too.”
“Crap. You’re driving me crazy. What are you talking about.”
She moved slowly, gracefully, and took a chair next to him.
Juan pulled his chair out, careful not to turn his back on her, rolled it a meter further away from her, then sat, but on the edge of jumping up and running.
“You are the first…mind I have heard in a long time, Juan. I could see…her in your mind, feel your loneliness, so much like my own. I followed your thoughts to you…from under the water.”
“You’re not human. You’re a…a Martian. You live under the water. Holy crap!”
She looked quizzically into his eyes, tilting her head to the left and then right.
“I…I live here. We lived here. My…people lived here. The water is changing.”
“The acidity levels. They’re getting higher. You have a limited tolerance.”
Of course, the smaller life forms were acidophilic but more so than macro life forms. The sea must be slowly becoming more acidic.
“Are your people all gone…extinct?”
She looked at him for several moments as if trying to make sense of certain words or thoughts.
“No more of my people here. Maybe in other parts of the water. I only know I am alone here. I was alone, until I found you.”
She reached out again, moved her wheeled chair a little closer. Juan forced himself to sit still. Her hand caressed his cheek. It was warm flesh. He’d felt that hand, seen that gesture a thousand times. It was her. No, it couldn’t be Carrie. It was a Martian, an alien being who had gone extinct five billion years ago.
No. It was five billion years ago. It was now. Oh, she smells like Carrie, she feels like Carrie. Oh my God.
“What should I call you? Do you have a name?”
“You know my name. It’s Carrie.”
Juan was trembling with longing, grief, and rage. How dare this alien monster hijack my wife’s dead form and name. She said she was lonely. She looked into my thoughts. She became Carrie. Why did she become Carrie?
Their wedding night. The room at the Ritz-Carlton. It was dark, just enough light to see her face. Her body was warm, soft, smooth, supple. Her lips, so wonderful to kiss. He pressed his erection into her hip.
He slowly, softly caressed her nipples. She moaned, closing her eyes. Her mouth was an “Oh” shape.
It was their wedding night and he was making love to her for the very first time. She gasped as he entered her. He tried to be gentle, to be slow. This was her first time. He restrained his passion as long as he could and moved deep inside her. They found a mutual rhythm.
She made little cries each time he thrust inside of her.
He moved faster. He could feel himself losing control. He could feel himself…he could feel…
Juan was alone in his bed in the HERA. Wait. Why were his clothes strewn on the floor?
It was a dream, right? I mean, the dream of their wedding night. What if it wasn’t a dream?
Juan dressed quickly. He looked around the HERA but she wasn’t there. He went out the airlock pointing toward the ocean. The sky was getting lighter in the East.
He found her standing next to the boat staring out to sea. She’d taken a blanket from one of the other beds and had it wrapped around her.
Juan approached her from behind.
“I can never go back now.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can never go back to the water. I’m too much like you now.”
She turned to face him, still holding the blanket tight around her. Juan took off his sweater, put it over her and held her to him.
“To be with you, to stop your loneliness and mine, I had to…change what I was before, into what I am now. I…sampled some of…what you are made of, so I could be made of it, too. The Carrie in your dreams told me how to shape it to…look like her.”
“You gave up everything, you’re whole life…for me?” Juan pressed her to his chest.
“For us, Juan. I love you. You make me very happy.”
“She used to say that to me.”
“I know. I know her the way you know her. I am the her of your memories and dreams.”
He knew it was insane. This was an alien life form that somehow had used his DNA and his memories of his dead wife to become Carrie. She was human, or as close to human as she could manage.
She couldn’t go back to the sea and he couldn’t take her to Earth. He didn’t even know if she could survive on Earth. There could be subtle differences in the environment. Even if she could, how would he explain her presence? If anyone got wind of what she really was, she’d spend the rest of her life as a lab specimen.
He felt her move. She was looking up at him. “Please don’t leave me, Juan. You know how painful it is to be alone.”
She must realize what he’s thinking, at least on a surface level.
“No, Carrie. I won’t leave you. If you want, we can live here together for the rest of our lives.”
“I’d like that very much, Juan.”
They kissed. Not passionately, but with tenderness. There was nothing about her that told Juan she was anything but human, anyone but Carrie.
Juan made sure the HERA was set up for long-term habitation on Mars. He brought through ample clothing for her and any other supplies he thought they’d require over the long haul. Power was no problem. Neither was water or food for two. No internet, no streaming video, no nights out for dinner and a movie, no opera, no 21st century Earth.
Also, no other people, no demands, no duties, no expectations, no one screaming for the latest innovation, no tabloids, no one else.
Just an empty piece of coastline on Mars of five billion years ago. It’s just the two of them, which in the end, is all Juan ever really wanted.
On the other side of the field on Saturday, December 17th, 2039 at 7:21 p.m. PDT at the New House Research Labs just east of Livermore, California, there was a violent explosion in main lab complex. All of the equipment was in twisted, melted ruins, including plans, back up data, anything that would have told investigators what Juan Villanueva has created and for what purpose.
The official findings of the investigation were that Mr. Villanueva was missing and presumed dead. In fact though, he and his beloved Carrie had lived together for many happy and fulfilling years, and then died on Mars five billion years ago.
The original inspiration for this short story was an article at Space.com called A Promising Spot for Life on Mars. I got the idea for “acidophilic organisms” and water temperatures “between 32 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 60 degrees Celsius) and a neutral-to-alkaline pH, making the location entirely plausible for life” there.
I needed information about timelines, ancient Mars’ atmosphere, ocean, magnetic field, and Moons, so I consulted:
- What’s Killing Mars
- How Mars lost its atmosphere and became a cold, dry world
- NASA Research Suggests Mars Once Had More Water Than Earth’s Arctic Ocean
- Mars’ Moons: Facts About Phobos & Deimos
I also consulted Quartz to learn a little about the HERA habitat which was the real-life inspiration for the Hab depicted in the 2015 film “The Martian”.
And yes, I named Juan’s wife “Carrie” as an homage to the late Carrie Fisher. I needed to write something about missing her and this is what came out.