Trillion’s communication speaker was still picking up the ramblings of General Walker. But as she got further and further away the general’s voice started to drop off, making way for the team to speak freely with each other again. They still didn’t want to risk anyone hearing them so they kept their details sparse.
Atlas explained the plan as they walked. “We each have a specific launch pad. Because our individual brain matrixes are already loaded into them we can’t use anyone else’s spacecraft – those brain matrixes were physically built to match each of our brains. Trillion, you’re the lucky one. You’re going to launch pad A1. It’s the first one we will reach. From there Angelique and I will split off to launch pads D2 and D4. Icarus, you’ll keep going straight ahead. You’ll take off from launch pad A4.”
“Does everyone remember Project ‘Shatterling’?” Angelique asked, taking over from where Atlas had left off.
Angelique reminded the team anyway, with practised efficiency. “It means we each have to use the authenticator tool Trillion handed us to randomise our destination. Only your Ship will know where you end up. That reduces the risk of anyone being able to come after us once we’ve gone. You’ll wake up in a hundred or so years in a new star system.”
Angelique paused for a moment. Trillion could tell that it was hard for her to get the words out. Trillion guessed she had tried to say the words robotically, so she didn’t hear the words. But she had obviously realised what she was about to say. She had a little croak in her voice which revealed a touch of sadness. Trillion broke the tension by speaking first.
“It means we get reborn,” Trillion said, not quite believing the words herself.
Angelique nodded. “Atlas and I have made sure the brain scanning machines are fully activated in everyone’s ship. You should all upload your minds within the next day or two. The ships aren’t designed to carry life unless it’s frozen.”
They were silent after that, everyone deep in thought until they reached a large steel door with a roller wheel on it. It was similar to an airlock door, a reliable model out on the Martian surface.
Behind the door was a long concrete trench about ten metres deep. Although it had no roof, it was designed to offer protection for workers and crew while spacecrafts launched. A lip running all the way along the top of the trench meant that the thin Martian atmosphere and dust would be pushed over the top of it as spacecrafts launched, ensuring those in the trenches could continue their work as normal.
Icarus and Angelique began turning the large roller door. They visibly strained as they struggled to budge it.
“That’s the wrong way!” Trillion called out.
They both stopped turning. Slightly confused by what Trillion just said.
“Lefty loosey, righty tighty.” Trillion said.
“Left from the bottom, or left from the top?” Icarus said. His hands now on firmly pulling the wrong way. He looked confused. The stress and pressure must have confused him Trillion thought.
Angelique was the first to click. She begun turning it the correct way.
The door began to loosen then open.
Angelique worked hard to open the heavy door, stepping through and leading the way.
If the team had a drone in the air it would have looked like they were entering a maze network of trenches linking all the different launch pads together.
The four of them skipped along, finally reaching the launch pad of Trillion’s ship. All sixteen spacecrafts looked the same – they were massive, at least fifty metres tall. They looked like two egg-shaped objects connected together via a large ring.
“I guess this is goodbye,” Angelique said as they stopped at an elevator at the bottom of the rocket. She lowered her head, her movements noticeably slower as she tried to hide her emotions.
Trillion sensed everyone’s mood changing. She hadn’t stopped to think about how they were actually leaving everyone behind; she’d been too distracted by running away. Suddenly everything hit her at once.
“I thought I was going to have a chance to say goodbye to everyone,” Trillion said with tears in her eyes. She didn’t want to leave. She figured the four of them had time. Just then she heard Ship come through her earpiece.
“Trillion, if everyone doesn’t leave now they might not make it to the ship on time.”
Trillion looked around. “What is happening, Ship?”
“There are a lot of spacecrafts approaching. I don’t think it’s wise for us to be here when they arrive. And Angelique still has a long way to travel by foot before she can leave. Any longer and she might not make it. I suggest we leave now.”
Trillion stepped towards the elevator. She paused and turned around. She hugged Icarus, then Angelique, then Atlas. With a heavy heart she entered the elevator. She pressed the button and started her ascent into the spaceship.
The countdown sequence was quick. Trillion had barely left the elevator before Ship had started the engines.
She entered the spacecraft’s airlock. There was a chair in front of her with a large donut-shaped instrument just above the headrest. She presumed it was the brain scan machine.
She slumped down in the chair. The engines must have increased their output because she could feel blood flowing to her feet.
Robotic arms began to reach out and remove her spacesuit. She let it happen. She was exhausted. She felt heavy and sleepy as she heard Ship speaking in her ear.
“Sorry, Trillion. I’ve been speaking with the other Ships. We need to leave now. The wake and debris we create needs time to settle before Icarus can launch. Every second we stay on Mars is a second we add to everyone’s departure time.”
Trillion didn’t mind. Her sleepy brain was still processing the idea of never seeing her friends again as she dropped off to sleep.