the onboard clock displayed ten thirty pm, but that meant nothing to Bot. In space, time loses its meaning. his sense of time had changed, since he first entered a spacecraft. It stretched, like a stocking but it still retained a purpose, similar to a ruler.
I need to get to the colony centre by one thirty four am, he thought. Keek should be in his chair by now, checking his email as usual, with his genetically modified lunch in his lap. Bot cringed at the thought of it. He was getting sidetracked, he gripped the wheel firmly, as if trying to sober up and forced his eyes open, but after a while he couldn’t help drifting back into contemplation. It’s my upbringing, he thought, raised on a farm, I’ve always had the same values, cant adapt to new ways. On the monitor he kept a postcard, a reminder of home. “The lake district: last surviving national park in Britain” it read in a caption above a scenic photograph of the mountains. He fondly remembered the times when grass was a common occurrence. Long before the cement and the bulldozers. Bot realised he was gripping the wheel too hard now. He looked at the palm of his hand, it was light yellow.
The stars shimmered past the bridge window in front of him. If it wasn’t for the tremors pulsing through the ship, he would of thought it was an animation being played on a movie screen.
All these notions capitulated as the phone rang. Miserably he clicked on his earpiece and answered “Hello?” His eyes wandered around the stars, so he didn’t notice the relatively long pause. Again he glanced at his hand and saw the blood coming back to the surface. “Hello is that Bot Donald?” He could tell it was Keek. His voice was distinctive. A mixture of English and Martian colony dialect. “Yes, hello Keek” “Where are you now?” Keek asked. Bot looked down at the interactive map. “Still within the Van Allan belt” There was silence on the end of the line. to keep busy Bot started to fiddle with the map settings. A few seconds past by. He put the map down and hung up. Strange, he thought, that’s not like him.
Keek felt a vice like grip around his jaw. The pain seemed to sear through his teeth. God knows what’s happened, he thought. He didn’t want to open his eyes, lest he find his jaw lying in front of him, staring him in the face. I don’t remember a thing. Seconds seemed to turn into hours and the timeless nature of space became more so. It was becoming too much to bear, he couldn’t stand being in the dark for much longer. He blinked and let in the beams and slowly it became apparent that these were the ceiling lights. Whoever they are they haven’t kidnapped me, I’m still in my room. he thought more rationally now. Keek now realised, the thing that was making his jaw uncomfortable was a bit of fabric tied around his mouth. He was essentially gagged. His hands, he found tied up behind his back and he was sitting on his office chair.
Whoever done this must be out of their mind, he thought, obviously not from the Martian colonies.
Keek heard faint rustling noises coming from behind him, then a woman appeared in a grey jacket. She viewed him with the kind of look you might give a mouldy fruit. Then passed out of his blurry view again. Keek prided himself, at moments like these, on keeping calm. Didn’t all of the terra-Martian race?
In Keek’s office there was another individual, a balding man in his early thirties who stood near the ships computer, analyzing its components. He was also wearing a jacket and it was clear they were working together. “Is the gravity pump in place?” Keek picked up faint tones of voice. “good and are you receiving my computer signal?” There was another silence and some more rustling sounds mixed with the klinking of metallic hardware. Whatever they’ve got it must be a hulk to carry around, Keek thought. He looked around his office and noticed it as he had never done before. He took it for granted that the walls were unusually white. There was not even a blemish, not even a coffee stain. It was clinical and, now with this massive jolt out of his busy schedule, he finally became aware of it. But colour stimulates emotion and emotion is what lead the earth down that slippery path, he thought, Martians aren’t like that.
Martians were different, much different than humans. Earth established a colony on mars in 3178, but they turned on their masters. The rebels fought against what they considered to be human brutality, the evils of capitalism, the destruction of grass. To build a utopia on the red planet and as time went on the human species split in two and became separate animals. The humans and the Martians.
But what am I? Bot Donald thought, as his ship hurtled through space. By blood I guess I’m a human, by opinion and attitudes, well… he paused, aware of his own conflicting cultures. The ship was now moving into a cluster of small but deadly rocks. It’s too dangerous to put it on autopilot, he thought, I’ll leave going a piss until I’m out of the cluster. Around half an hour past and Bots precision handling of the ship couldn’t hold up any longer, the rocks still drifted past as if they had a secret agenda. Puck it, he thought, I’m dying to go and if I hold it in any longer I’ll arrive at the colony centre with sodden trousers. He pulled down the auto pilot leaver and left his seat.
Keek wondered how long this would take and if they would leave him alive. If I spin round to glimpse at what they’re doing then they might have me shot, he thought, but that can’t be right. They must be keeping me for a purpose. I think I’ll chance it. Keek pathetically tried to tiptoe the chair into position, he hadn’t realised it was that high up. In the corner of his eye he saw the man in the grey jacket. He was plugging several wires into the circuit core. This was more serious than he thought. Keek’s chair emitted a squeaking noise and the man looked up. He wore glasses and his hair was in a platted mess, unlike Keek’s hair cut which was rather respectable for a ninety eight year old. “You get back” The man said in a deep voice. He came up behind Keek and tightened his gag. The pain once more dug into his flesh. But this time the bright white of the walls strangely numbed the pain. They made the room seem bigger, like an endless space. What on mars are they doing? He thought, if they destroy the default settings, then the colony centre won’t be able to hold its own weight. Suddenly there was a loud grinding sound, quivering and raising in pitch, which sent vibrations up Keek’s chair. The woman in the grey jacket came into view and was right in front of Keek now. “You Martians think you’re so perfect don’t you?” She said, with a manic look in her eyes and Keek could sense the resentment. “All the while you were up here, drinking martinis and sipping champagne, while we were down there, dying! Your government could have sent help. But, instead you left us there, to grin and bear it. Do you realise the suffering you have ignored? Our earth, for the past fifty years has seen global warming, nuclear war and famine. I have seen so many people die. In your fight against us, you have inadvertently turned into the monsters.” She turned to look through the window, at earth. Keek remembered the name “Terraists”, these must be them, the ones who were on the news recently. The media had hyped them up, but Keek never saw them as a serious threat to mars. He thought there were not much people left on earth anyway and the few that were left wouldn’t have the energy or the will. But what are you going to do now? He thought. She seemed to read his mind “Now we will activate the force field, placed exactly between earth and mars, once activated it will send both hurtling towards each other on a collision course” Her eyes twitched and the manic glimmer in her eye turned to impatience. Madness, pure madness, thought Keek. Where did they get the technology from? They must have been planning this for years. She walked out of view again.
Bot was playing cards, using the onboard monitor as a rest. It was an ancient game and it seemed that he was the only one that knew of it. All his concentration was focused solely on it. Now and then, the hum of the engine shook one of the cards onto the floor. A few minutes past and he got up to make himself a coffee. He pressed the vendor and out came the gushing black liquid, into his cup. It was boiling and his hand felt a agonizing heat, he dropped the cup and it splashed into the air.
Bot’s ears were hit by a bellowing sound, his eardrums collapsed and he was overwhelmed by the white heat that was circling his ship. The impact left him against the wall. His eyes were left bloodshot. Gradually the noise dulled down. He could make out the bridge window from the end of the corridor and as the light withdrew, he saw two worlds clash. The wall soaked up the heat and it stayed there for some time. Bot felt his head warmed by this, he got up and shakily walked back to the bridge. It was as if everything was playing itself out in slow motion. Earth was being ripped apart by its larger neighbour, mars and he saw an explosion which made all the atom wars seem obsolete. He stood there, unable to comprehend. He noticed that the plastic appendages on the monitor had either melted from the heat or were in the process of melting and his whole body felt unbearably hot, as if he were the embodiment of fire itself. The forms from the window appeared to be giving way under each other’s weight and molten rock had propelled itself towards Bots ship. Before they could get any closer, Bot snapped out of his daze and reached for the steering wheel. Skilfully he swerved past them and careered forwards. That was earth, no other planet but earth, he told himself. He thought his hands would melt the wheel but he felt slightly cooler now, even though the sweat lay all over him. What now? He asked himself. He reached the conclusion, that sooner or later, the ship would lose its energy and until then all he could do was take a shower and play some cards.
Bot woke from his deep sleep. His eyes wandered around the bed. His mouth tasted as if something had putrefied within so he got up and tried the tap for water. Nothing came out, the water supply had dried up. He wondered when it would, it was only a matter of time. The ships computer wasn’t helpful. It didn’t have feeling, it couldn’t empathize with him. All it was good for was logic, which at this time was helpful, it steered the ship for him while he slept. Bot wasn’t particularly thirsty, but as he stared at the tap, he knew that eventually he would be. He looked into the mirror, at his oblong features and then at the rear window in his bedroom. He saw the spot where the two worlds met and noticed he could no longer recognize them individually. It was nothing but a red haze, and he was too scientifically ignorant to know what it meant. Who cares? I’m probably the last human alive, he thought.