Publication date: November 9th 2020
Genres: New Adult, Science Fiction
A YOUNG SCIENTIST and her research team are thrust into a global battle for control of the greatest discovery in human history: a harmless bacteria that loves frozen saltwater—and lives on Mars.
After enduring politics, Congress, marsquakes, dust storms, and landslides, PhD-to-be Jen Z and her research team hope their successful, years-long quest to find life on Mars is finally over.
But their biggest fight has just begun.
“The you-know-what hit the fan when charming but feckless university lawyer Nathaniel Hawthorn showed up in my office. Someone was trying to patent our stupendous find, Crimsococcus halocryophilus.
“A simple microbe I gave a simpler nickname: Crimsy.
“I think it was the trillionaire investors who helped finance our mission, eager to prevent a repeat of the Martian Ground Wars, when every nation on this planet wanted their ‘fair share’ of the Red Planet: the rocks, dust – and fossils – Odysseus brought back. But a foreign space agency, Homeland Security, the Pentagon, even our own NASA might want patent protection, too.
“The patent filings triggered a law we’d never heard of, the Invention Secrecy Act. FBI agents showed up at my apartment, served my research team with cease-and-desist orders. Crimsy was now classified and would stay aboard Deep Space Gateway indefinitely.
“People called us crazy, said we were wasting taxpayer money, refused to believe. But we proved them wrong. And some fantastic developments after MarsMicro brought Crimsy to the space station make studying it on Earth all the more urgent.
“Our money, our jobs, our privacy, our lives. The muckety mucks holding Crimsy hostage control everything.
“But I’m through letting them control me . . . ”
TOSSING, TURNING, ALMOST FLIPPING, the helidrone moved farther away from the canyon wall. As it pulled clear of the dust, our amorphous nemesis took shape.
“Holy—” another ground navigator (GN) exclaimed next to me.
“Jennifer: We’re witnessing the largest avalanche any human has ever laid eyes on,” Dr. Levitt said, in a hush meant only for me. It looked like the entire canyon wall was collapsing, and at incredible speed. “This is sand on ice, people,” she announced into her mic. “No friction to slow it like snow on snow.”
“Look!” I heard.
We saw the rover on the drone cam now, a tiny David fleeing the sliding Goliath.
“Turn! Turn! Turn! Turn! Turn!” I heard. The rover made a quick turn around a corner.
“Slide’s moving at a couple hundred,” the CGE said.
“If not faster,” Levitt said. “What’s our speed?”
“Holding at twenty five.”
As the helidrone lost sight of the rover, the rover’s own cams caught it hitting bumps that became ruts that became gullies, signs of increasing water flow. The GN throttled it back, but the chief ground engineer put his hand over the navigator’s hand and pushed the joystick forward. The rover slapped the ruts, then jumped over what looked like a sandbar, landing hard and spinning. The cameras cut out and my earphones went crazy.
“What’d we hit?”
“What was that?”
“All communications offline.”
The drone cam’s screen was screwed up, too. Static and snow replaced clear images.
“Where’s the drone? Bring it in.”
“So am I interpreting right?” Levitt said. “We’re effed?”
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