If reading this tale of mine written years ago sounds vaguely familiar to readers of my books, it should do. Out of it came my scifi novella The Guardian with different characters and some of this story’s ideas as its basis.
While the world may from time to time experience a few relatively peaceful decades, sooner or later greed, corruption and hatred coalesce into a weapon of frightening proportions when one power hungry madman emerges, conveniently forgetting the lessons of the past.
Here on Mars it is now year thirty, or two thousand, two hundred and twenty for those still living on Earth, if you can call their existence living. Since the universal age law was passed by Earth Corp in 2190, forced transportation of all over the age of sixty began.
Anyone, regardless of their standing in the community or their occupation, was automatically rounded up and taken to the nearest space port where they were loaded onto purpose built ships bound for the Cydon colonies here on Mars. Many died during the long journey. Only the fittest survived.
Last year things changed.
My name is David Michaels and I’m now aged sixty-three. From my fortieth birthday I spent the rest of my working life back on Earth forced to toil in a factory which manufactured Psi components for the defence department contractors of Earth Corp, or be cast out to starve.
I’ve been here in colony Beta 1 since I was removed from everybody and everything I knew on my sixtieth birthday. Daily in my voluntary capacity as a greeter I meet newcomers to help them settle in our friendly community.
All of them are people like me who have spent their entire lives back on Earth keeping their noses clean, obeying the laws, working for Earth Corp in some capacity or other.
Since the mid twenty-one seventies, with the increasing numbers of people no longer considered able to work because of their age, but still relatively healthy due to medicinal advances, governments were at a loss as to how and what to do about the high cost in pension payments to the older generation.
Then in 2182, someone in the higher echelons of Earth Corp, I still don’t know who to this day, suggested that perhaps the Nazi’s had the right idea after all, back in the middle years of the twentieth century when they set up their infamous concentration camps to rid their society of its perceived undesirables, mental patients and political prisoners along with six million of old Europe’s Jewish community.
That was when the idea of the Mars colonies was born. It was the moment when mankind hit its lowest point. The older generation, stopped being people and became a nuisance statistic, a pest that needed to be got rid of.
For several months, governments not yet influenced by Earth Corp around the world, mainly non western countries, argued vehemently against the suggestion. Most politicians initially rejected the notion out of hand, purely on humanitarian grounds.
But one man, who would later become world president when he formed the first planet-wide government – James Baker, CEO of Earth Corp, held onto this idea and made it reality when he took office. His first proclamation ensured his initial popularity when he made any form of politics illegal and punishable by death. Nobody disagreed with him over that, except the former politicians themselves. But when he introduced the universal age law along with his solution to the problem, he finally showed his true colours.
The inevitability of the world’s major banking groups under the leadership of Baker, who at the time also headed the IMF, turning the whole planet into one giant corporation, ended literally overnight any altruistic thoughts about man’s humanity to his fellow man.
From then on a truly chilling Orwellian chain of events began. Every member of the human race below the age of sixty either worked for Earth Corp or where forcibly exiled to starve in the bleak wastelands of the Sahara Desert. Those like me who had reached our ‘sell by date’ were sent here to Mars. Unlike the exiles, we got the best of a bad deal.
To create future employees, Earth Corp forcibly insured the vast majority of its employees had children, only to rip them from their parents loving arms on the child’s fourth birthday. That was the last the parents ever saw of them, as the children were sent to other parts of the world for immediate indoctrination, becoming the property of Earth Corp, and therefore expendable future work units, no longer considered human.
Basically, Baker didn’t give a damn for anyone other than himself and his obscenely rich cronies. He made up his world government from the ranks of the rich and powerful exempting himself and them from their own set of rules, living in luxury, well beyond the age of forcible expulsion from Earth.
In 2185, a massive construction crew of slave labourers made up from the countless prisons back on Earth were transported to the Cydon region of Mars, close to the mysterious stone face which had intrigued us all for years since it was first photographed by NASA back in the middle years of the twentieth century.
By emptying the world’s prisons, Earth Corp closed down yet another unproductive system. Summary executions by Earth Corp thugs now took the place formerly occupied by the law, police, courts, lawyers and prisons.
The unfortunate prisoners were worked to death over a period of five years building the first group of settlements, like the one I now live in – Beta1, barely surviving on starvation rations. Nearly all felt the lash across their backs at one time or another.
Once the job was finished, the pitiful few who survived were left here to fend for themselves while their vicious Earth Corp overseers returned home to Earth.
Most died off through starvation when the remaining food supplies ran out. Some committed suicide by walking out through the nearest airlock into the hostile Martian environment, or were murdered by their fellows long before the first shipment of over sixties arrived on what is euphemistically referred to as the ‘The Mars Express’. Only three prisoners were still alive when the first batch arrived.
I forged a genuine friendship with the last of them – José Pereira, briefly incarcerated back on Earth for his outspoken political views about everything Earth Corp and Baker stood for, before being transported here for life.
By day Josè had been a journalist for the one official worldwide news outlet controlled by Earth Corp. By night he took on a crusading persona, borrowing the identity of a fictional twentieth century literary character ‘V’ to become the anti Earth Corp blogger within the now illegal world of cyberspace.
In the end he was betrayed by the one person he trusted implicitly, his wife Mora, who he later found out at his show trial, had been deliberately employed by Earth Corp to hunt him out, bed him and gain his confidence.
Between us, Josè and I began to formulate a plan. Something had to be done about Baker.
After changing my appearance by dying my hair black and applying makeup to my face to disguise the wrinkles, should I have to emerge during Operation Baker, we sneaked aboard a returning ship.
The ships of the ‘Mars Express’ are automatic; they have no crew. During the long return journey to Earth, Josè managed to override its controls and when the time was right, set it down in the middle of the Sahara where we soon found willing recruits to our cause. We were a motley band of mercenaries eager for revenge.
Aloft once more, Josè reconnected its auto pilot after encoding new coordinates, sending it to Earth Corp’s HQ where Baker and his cronies were holed up.
While I remained on board against my better judgment, having been told that this was a job for younger men, Josè and Nathaniel Corbett, a former Earth Corp electronics expert, exiled for standing up for his oldest fellow employee when the thugs came for him, led our mercenary team on the hunt for Baker.
No one within the vast building that is Earth Corp HQ took the least bit notice of yet more maintenance operatives. Nathaniel bypassed the security system with ease; after all, he had designed and installed it, allowing them to travel to the penthouse suite where Baker resided.
Baker was visibly shocked by the sudden intrusion into his private quarters and tried to cry out for help. But thanks to Nathaniel’s electronic genius and the men holding him in their iron grip, Baker’s pleas for help were heard by no one.
To bypass Baker’s computer security system, one of Nathaniel’s mercenaries forced his head in front of the Iris recognition unit of his personal work station, allowing Josè to issue an order to all of Baker’s staff not to disturb him for the following two hours, on pain of expulsion from the corporation. All knew that Baker’s word was law. No one, not even the members of his world government dared cross him in any way, unless they wanted a visit from his thugs.
Josè then quickly rendered him a walking zombie with a cocktail of drugs designed to keep him quiet for several days, a task made easy given Baker’s advanced age and lack of physical strength. At the time of his capture, he was eighty five.
The team retraced their steps unchallenged, quickly bundling the tyrant aboard, disguised as a maintenance operative, where they hid him in the service ducts beneath the main corridor. For the next several hours we all hid from view waiting for the ship to reactivate as its cavernous interior filled up with more over sixties. The following morning the ship once again automatically headed back to Mars with its latest living cargo.
Once we landed back at Cydon, we emerged triumphant among the bewildered new additions to our society. Baker was dragged out in chains by Nathaniel’s fellow Saharan exiles. Amidst angry cries for his blood he was brought before a kangaroo court made up of retired judges.
At first he was full of bluster and indignation. But as the charges against him were read out, the realisation of his predicament finally dawned on him. Everybody assembled there that day increased his humiliation by bursting out laughing when we all noticed he had begun to soil himself. The great reception hanger rang to the sounds of thousands of people cheering when the verdict was passed.
It will come as no surprise when I tell you he was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to forcible ejection from the nearest airlock, sentence to be carried out immediately. Not one person there voted for him, or abstained.
Earth Corp carried on sending ships full of the over sixties, still blindly following Baker’s decree. Each ship that arrived had its autopilot system altered by Josè, turning the vast ships into guided missiles for their return journey targeting Earth Corp HQ, and all of its subsidiaries and armament factories across the world.
That was over a year ago. No more ships come here anymore. We live out our lives in peace. From time to time we hear delayed radio transmissions from back on Earth. All here rejoiced at the news of Earth Corp’s inevitable demise. Its ruling elite were all held accountable and sentenced to death by people’s courts across the planet. Like all the other failed repressive ideologies the Earth had experienced during its long period of human history, Earth Corp is now nothing but a bitter memory, consigned to the dustbin of history.
For the moment at least, relative normality has returned to our former home planet. How long that will last is entirely in the lap of the gods. Meantime we all continue our lives here, free of any form of governmental control. Our society, initially made up of Earth’s senior citizens, self governs without needing to resort to heavy handed rules and regulations.
Why did I go along on the journey? I needed to visit Earth one last time, to appreciate how much better my life is here on Mars where common sense and common decency rule. Besides, I saw nothing wrong in having one last adventure, even if I took no active part in it. By actually being there, experiencing the adrenalin rush and the thrill of the chase vicariously through my companions, made it all worthwhile.
During those final months of Earth Corp’s demise, with our blessing, Josè and Nathaniel set off back to Earth on the one remaining ship, heading for the Sahara on a mission of mercy. They returned with a ship load of exiled people from all walks of life.
We are now part of a truly vibrant society, made up of former earthborn humans like myself and Mars’ new young generation, born either aboard the returning ship or here. As they grow up they can call on literally thousands of surrogate grandparents only too willing to pass on our collective experiences and wisdom to this new generation of humanity.
The Mars colony of Cydon is indeed rich, far richer than anything money or power can buy. Nathaniel’s infant son Michael is seated on the floor beside me happily drawing on some paper with a crayon as I conclude writing this first chapter of Mars’ history.
Earth’s loss is Mars’ gain…