Back online after a couple months of proposal work, two rocket engine designs, and a promotion. Whew. And despite all that, I’ve been writing quite a bit, having now completed the roughing-in of the “true crime” Dispatch and nearly completed the same for the “Marineris expedition” Dispatch. Next weekend, Carl and I will finish the third act of Ghosts of Tharsis…or else.
And then, a break from outlining to do some actual Dispatch writing. Which will be fun.
In the meantime, enjoy last year’s April Fool’s Day story, Anatomy of a Disaster, fictional freelance journalist Calvin Lake’s first (and perhaps not entirely canonical) Dispatch From Mars:
At 09:04 the position sensor data from Margaret Steadman’s Mobile Agent shows that she was rushing around her apartment, from one room to the next, presumably searching frantically for her missing pets. She appears to have deduced the answer, as at 09:05 she climbed onto a chair below one of the open vents through which the animals had escaped.
At the same moment, Rudolph Alexander had found the source of the mystery noise. What sounded like mewing and an occasional screech was just that, and it was coming from the air vent above the process display wallscreen in the Box.
“There was fur poking out. Whatever was in there was pushing, pulsing against the diffuser, making it bend and bulge. My first thought was the vent was blocked by something, a large cluster of lint or whatever, and that that noise was the air whistling through it. Then I saw the claws. And the eyes.”
There was no time to call for help. The diffuser broke free, and strange animals poured out into the Box like a waterfall—a screeching, angry, hissing waterfall of fur. “Fifty, a hundred, more and more of those things were between me and the door to the main corridor. I-I panicked, sure, I admit it. Wouldn’t you have? All I knew was I had to get away. And there was only one way I could go.”
With unknown and terrifying creatures flooding into the Box, Alexander took the only other way out: the hatch into the production area.
“All our training said that hatch was supposed to stay closed when a batch was running, but nothing trained me for anything like this. I tried to shut the hatch behind me, really I did! I must have crushed a half-dozen of those monsters doing it. But I couldn’t get it to latch—pressure hatches won’t close if there’s anything blocking the jamb. At least I remembered to hit the emergency shut-down button. What more was I supposed to do?”
While Alexander’s account of these events was initially seen as an attempt to evade blame by faking a psychological breakdown, evidence recovered from the scene later exonerated him.
“Nobody believed me at first. But then they found the video from the Box. And those bodies in her freezer. And, boy, then people understood!” he declares with wide-eyed triumph, leaping to his feet and stabbing a finger into the air. “Then, then everyone knew old Rudolph Alexander hadn’t lost his marbles after all!”