Roger’s Blog

DANCING QUEEN
Once Luis figured out how Humpty was being controlled by its base (whatever that is!), he changed the radio settings of its receiver so it could only receive commands from us. Then Samantha sent pulses through her drumming, as a microphone delivered the sound sequence to the robot. After much random trial and error, she slowly accumulated a menu of commands.
This may have seemed like a frivolous activity, but the stakes involved couldn’t be higher. First, we know that Humpty is just one of hundreds or perhaps thousands of robots being commanded by a force that’s been shown to be hostile. If those robots were directed against us en masse, we’d be wiped out in seconds. If, on the other hand, we were able to wrench control of them away from that force we’d stand a chance.
Second, that force remains shrouded in mystery. If it intends to harm Earth, our only way of stopping it is by communicating our peaceful intentions. In order to do that, we have to learn to speak to one another. Currently, our only commonality are the pulses that control Humpty.

Roger’s Blog

NEW PET
When the dodos were underground they saw hundreds of robots controlled by some mysterious entity. After they returned, one of those robots appeared outside the base.
This was cause for concern until the crew observed its behavior, which was basically self-destructive. It wandered about the immediate vicinity, aimlessly running into various obstacles including the base itself.
After a few days the robot became the mission’s unofficial mascot, and the children on the orbiter were given the task of naming it. They suggested Humpty, which was met with general approval.
Despite its new status Samantha has forbidden bringing it through the airlock. Throughout the duration of the mission we’ve maintained the separation between the environments of Earth and Mars, for the protection of both worlds.
And so Humpty stays outside.

Roger’s Blog

THREAT

The dodos are back, safe and sound, after Earth’s first encounter with alien intelligence. (Yeah, it just had to be *them*.)   However, they returned with potentially alarming news for everyone back on Earth.

They were mistaken as members of an army of robots busily creating a miles-wide sphere of rocks that are fused together by an adhesive substance. If completed and launched to hit Earth it would produce an extinction-level event on par with the impact of 65 million years ago.

Yes, that’s just conjecture, and even if true we have no weapons to combat it. All we can do is wait and watch and hope we’re wrong. Not exactly Flash Gordon, but this is real life. We’ll keep this under wraps so as to avoid scaring everybody since there’s nothing anyone can do about it anyway.

Roger’s Blog

GENETIC MATERIAL
When Samantha, Ming and Jenny emerged from the flooded hole their suits were fortunate not to be breached. Nothing was torn or shredded, so they weren’t exposed to any Martian organisms (or vice versa). For the time being, the barrier between the planets remains intact.
The three returned to base, and kept their suits on during the decontamination process. That’s when Samantha discovered a six-inch double helix structure in the container she was using to obtain a fluid sample when their exploration was cut short.
It was placed in a glove box which allowed it to be examined without coming into contact with the rest of the living quarters.
She found it was identical in chemical composition to DNA on Earth, just vastly larger in size. Nothing like it could exist on the surface, leading one to surmise a rich ecosystem in the planet’s interior. Too bad it keeps trying to kill us.
Next week: an update on the dodos.

Roger’s Blog

LOST

Never accuse Samantha and the crew on Mars of having a deficit of courage. They descended into a mysterious passageway with no guarantee of ever being seen again, all in the search for two stowaways.

The danger was real, and averted only because Samantha realized that whenever liquid recedes, it tends to return with a vengeance. Fortunately they were swept to safety, instead of into the bowels of the planet.

Only after all the human crew was safe and back at the base did Samantha break down at the loss of the dodos. After all the trouble they’ve caused she genuinely grieved for them. However, that may have been too soon.

Roger’s Blog

DOWN THE HATCH
Once the dodos were in their spacesuits Luis used his rover’s backhoe extension to lower them into the hole. As Ming’s camera had shown, it was a sloping artificial passageway with smooth walls for about fifty feet, and then became roughly carved from the Martian soil for an unknown distance. The dodos were sent to investigate, and return immediately.
That was before they found a round door that appeared the scan them and open in response. A rush of air signaled a vast difference in temperature, which was confirmed when they saw liquid water flowing through an artificial channel.
The dodos’ transmission signal was beginning to degrade when they saw a figure approaching them from the far reaches of the tunnel. The closer it got, the more video and audio were lost until contact vanished entirely.
And that’s all we know. Samantha faced a major command decision, which was to follow them down there. We’ll soon see how wise that was.

Roger’s Blog

FOOTSTEPS
We’ve known for months that something was active on Mars. In fact, we changed our landing site for the express purpose of investigating it. However, we didn’t realize that it might have hostile designs on us (although the evidence was there if we’d only realized it, going back to the projectile that damaged one of the ship’s solar panels while under construction).
The threat level went up when Jenny found footprints just outside the base walls. They were diamond-shaped, and their maker appeared to be frightened away by Leonardo’s artwork. They vanished from where they came; under a fragile substance designed to resemble one of the rocks littering the Martian landscape.
Samantha kept Dave from falling through it, and after Ming’s camera revealed an artificially constructed tunnel it was decided to send the dodos in.
They wanted to be the center of attention, and now they’ll get their chance.

Roger’s Blog

GETTING DEFENSIVE
As I mentioned last week, we didn’t anticipate encountering a hostile force on Mars so we really have few options for protecting ourselves. Samantha is having everyone sleep in shifts, but that doesn’t exactly help repel anything that we’re awake for. Better than being caught totally unawares, I guess.
Up here in the orbiter there’s nothing we can do except stay hidden behind Phobos. At least the ground crew can give us a head’s up when a projectile is coming since they’re monitoring the seismic activity that precedes it.
As I mentioned on March 25, it was Leonardo who actually took a proactive step when he painted a scary face on one of the retractable solar panels. It made for a nice Halloween decoration, but odds are very low of it actually scaring away something.
Then again…

Roger’s Blog

PROJECTILE
This is a voyage of discovery, and we just discovered that something on Mars doesn’t want us here.
While Ming’s camera was investigating the deep hole on Mars, rumbling was heard and felt from the underground. Just in time, the crew realized the true purpose of the grooves on the walls, and they all piled onto Luis’s rover. He took it at top speed behind the debris pile, where they were sheltered from the resulting blast. A projectile of some sort was launched toward our orbiter, but fortunately it harmlessly crashed upon Phobos.
This changes everything, of course. However, we’re powerless to do anything about it. We have no weapons or even defensive protections. When we left last January we all assumed we were heading toward a dead planet.
As Luis points out, activity doesn’t mean life. True, but whether we’re dealing with a living being or artifacts of a long gone civilization, we’re still a target of something malevolent.

Roger’ Blog

DEBRIS PILE
Mars is a dangerous place; we knew that when we agreed to make this voyage. A significant number of mankind’s efforts to send robotic surveyors have crashed on its surface. What we didn’t know until months ago was that something has been collecting the wreckage into a pile.
Our landing site was changed so that Samantha, Luis, Jenny and Ming could investigate the twisted hunks of metal and plastic. They examined it closely, but all they could do was confirm that it was indeed of Earth origin. If Martians have fingerprints, they didn’t leave any for us to find on it.
There were no tracks around the site, except those made by Luis’ rover. (It’s possible that the junk arrived by air.) For those who think it’s only purpose is to lure us here, nothing’s been disproven.