Saturday, 19 March 2016


I watched him walk down the drive and turn toward his house before I went to the bag, and removed the holster. I took out the gun and removed its magazine. Then I thumbed the rounds out of it, pulled back the slide action to eject the live round from the chamber, and put the bullets in a drawer in the dining room cabinet. I slammed the empty magazine back into the gun, returned the gun to its holster, and put it back in my bag.
I made myself a cup of coffee and contemplated the mission I was about to attempt. This led me to think about my conversation with Nick earlier. He did have a point: I didn’t know any of the people I was about to fly halfway across the solar system to pick up and transport back to Mars. I had no idea what psychological pressures they had had to endure or how those pressures may have affected their powers of reasoning. True, our crew had also witnessed the rampant and irrational destruction of our home planet and our people—and we weren’t homicidal maniacs. But then we had witnessed it all from far out in space, and on a television monitor, so the impact would have been considerably less than watching it all happening just below you through the windows of the space station.

There was also another consideration to ponder: the slow but relentlessly growing realization on the part of the space station crew that they were doomed to die themselves, slowly but surely and no doubt horribly, when their remaining supplies were exhausted. There would be no hope of help or rescue from Earth or anywhere else in the universe, so they had undoubtedly had to face the fact that they were alone in a sardine can for the rest of their very short lives. They would have been carrying these thoughts with them for a very long time, until a chance radio transmission from them reached across the void of space and was intercepted and answered from an extremely unexpected corner of the universe. Mars! I could only imagine (but didn’t want to) the extreme rollercoaster ride of emotions and thoughts they had endured to this point and how adversely it surely would have affected them.