Cast of Wonders 130: The Phobos Monolith

The Phobos Monolith

by Preston Dennett

True to her nature, Vasia ran without fear or caution across the Martian landscape.  She leaped in huge graceful arcs that any dancer would envy. Naira did her best to keep up, but because of legs, and she quickly fell behind.  How she wished she could rid herself of the cursed robo-walker that encased her legs so she could run like Vasia. Her sister’s body was strong and healthy.  Naira, unfortunately, wasn’t as lucky. It was a miracle that their parents had even let them outside, considering how protective they were.

“Hurry up, Naira!” Vasia yelled.  “Wait ‘til you see. It’s just a little farther.”

Naira huffed along at a steady pace.  Vasia wanted to show her a patch of crystals she had found.  They would, Vasia said, make a nice addition to their collection.

Seeing that Naira was catching up, Vasia turned and began running again.

Naira watched as her sister soared upwards.  Then she landed and disappeared into the ground.  A small puff of dust geysered upwards and settled instantly.


Naira increased her pace and knelt down where her sister had disappeared.  There it was: a small black hole in the ground, just large enough to swallow Vasia.

Naira carefully knelt down and stuck her head in the entrance.  “Vasia! Vasia!”

“Don’t worry, I’m fine!” Vasia shouted.  Her thin reedy voice was barely audible in the thin air.  “But you better come down here and see this.”

“See what?  Are you hurt?  Are you stuck? I’ll go get help.”

“No, I’m fine!  Just come down here.  Now.”

Naira looked at the little hole.  Was her sister crazy? Go in there?  It looked dangerous, and what about her legs?  What if she couldn’t get out? Vasia had always been braver than her.  Naira looked behind her. The landscape around them was mostly desert. Not a house or structure was in sight, only rocks and hills and more rocks.  Her parents, she knew, would not want them to explore any Martian caves. Not in this cold weather. And they were pretty far already.

“Come on!” Vasia shouted.  “You’re not going to believe it.”

Hearing the urgency in her sister’s voice, Naira climbed carefully down inside the hole.  Despite her caution, her feet slipped from beneath her and she slid down the shaft and into what appeared to be a small cavern.

Vasia stood at the far end, shining her flashlight on the wall.

Naira stood up and gasped.  “Oh, my God! What is it?” The cave wall was covered with weird writing.  Could it be?

Vasia whirled around and smiled.  “Can you believe it? We found a site.  It’s Martian script!”

“Are you sure?”  Naira stared in disbelief.  She crept forward slowly, as if hurrying might make the incredible view before her disappear.  Could they really have found actual Martian ruins? Because of the recent upsurge in the Martian population, many new sites were being discovered.  But never in a million years did Naira imagine that they would find one themselves. And this looked like a big one. Writing was so rare. Almost nothing was known about Martian history.  Everything had been pieced together from old archaeological sites like this one.

A quick glance around the cave showed that it was empty–no artifacts.  Too bad. But still, the writing looked amazing. If it really was Martian script, it had to be at least 150 thousand years old.  Incredibly, except for a thin sheen of frozen red dust, it looked brand new.

The more she scraped away the dust, Naira saw that there wasn’t much writing.  Instead, most of the carving appeared to be a map.

“What’s it say?” Vasia asked.  “Can you read it?”

“I don’t know,” said Naira, brushing away the icy dust.  “Give me a second. And hold the light still!”

They were both obsessed with the early Martians, but only Naira had taken the time to actually learn the Martian language, one of the benefits of her weak constitution. As a result, she was now something of an expert. When they got older, both she and Vasia planned to get degrees in Martian history. They spent so much time in the Martian Face Museum and the Great Pyramids that all the workers there knew them by name.

And now, by pure chance, they had stumbled upon an actual site.  And best of all, nobody had been here yet. They were the first!

Naira’s heart beat wildly as she began to translate the familiar symbols.

She began laughing.  She could actually read it!  Unfortunately, much of the stone had flaked away and taken the writing with it.

“I think they’re instructions,” Naira said.  “It says something about keys.”

“Just read it out loud.”

“I’m trying.  It says: The little sister is the way home.”

“Little sister!” cried Vasia.  That’s the Martian name for moon isn’t it?  That’s what they called Phobos.”

“That’s right,” said Naira.  “And look up here! It’s a map, I think.”  She pointed to a carving of what was apparently a representation of Mars and its two moons, Phobos and Deimos.  “This is Phobos.”

“What else does it say?”

“Something about keys.  I can’t read it.”

“Hey? You know what that looks like?” said Vasia, pointing towards a symbol the wall.  “The Martian rods. That’s weird.”

Naira looked at the symbol that Vasia indicated.  At first she had thought it was a letter or something.  Now, there was no doubt it was a Martian rod. She could see the familiar markings on either end.  The rods were one of the rarest of the Martian artifacts. They were about a foot long, bright silver in color, and made of a complex mixture of rare metals.  Naira tried to recall them: iridium, magnesium, some silver and other metals. Nobody had been able to discover what they were used for. The theories were many: some sort of currency, decorative sculptures, religious items.  Naira didn’t think any of these were correct. To her it was obvious that rods had some technological use. Something that had so many rare metals in it had to have purpose other than decoration.

Then she saw it, on the wall:  a carving of one of the Martian ships.  She recognized it immediately. It looked exactly like the hundreds of ships that had been found parked inside Phobos.  Now only a few were left there for tourists to view. The rest had been taken to various scientific labs in an attempt to learn how they work.

Nobody had been able to figure them out, and the ships remained unused.  In a way, she was glad the scientists hadn’t been able to solve the mystery.  But a part of her also found it incredibly annoying.

Now, staring at the cave wall, Naira saw the answer right in front of her.  Next to one of the ships was a carving of a Martian rod. And right below it was the word: key.

She reached out and wiped the wall next to it.  There was more! Oh, God. There was another drawing of a ship.  Only this one showed one of the Martian rods being placed inside it.

The Martian rods were keys!  They were the secret to operating the ship.  Naira was sure of it.

She turned to her sister.  “The rods,” she said. “They’re keys.  They used them to start the ships!”

“Oh, my God!  Naira, you know what this means?”

“We have to tell someone.”

“No!  Are you kidding?  We can’t tell anybody!”

“Why not?” asked Naira.  “This is huge. We have to tell somebody.”

“No,” Vasia protested.  “You know what will happen?  This site will be roped off and studied by so-called experts.  We’ll never get to set foot inside here again again. Don’t you see?  We can’t tell anybody. At least, not yet.”

“Why not?” Naira asked, suddenly suspicious of her sister.  She could see by Vasia’s expression that she was thinking about doing something.  “Vasia? What are you planning?”

“What if you’re wrong?  What if they’re not keys?  What if you’re wrong? Or worse, what if you’re right and nobody believes you?  Don’t forget, we’re teen-agers. Nobody’s going to take us seriously.”

Naira frowned. They will if we show them the site, she thought.  “Just tell me what you’re planning.”

Vasia grinned.  “We made this discovery.  We deserve to test it out.  You say the rods are keys. Well let’s get one. Let’s get a rod, go to Phobos and try it ourselves!”

“Are you kidding?”

“No!  Why should we let somebody else have all the fun? It’s our discovery.”

Naira sighed and shook her head.  She loved Vasia, but sometimes she was impossible.  “We can’t. First of all, how are we going to get a hold of our own rod?  They’re not exactly free, you know.”

Vasia thought for a second.  Her face lit up. “We could sell our crystal collection.  And I just found a bunch more. It’s perfect timing. It’s a sign.  We have to go.”

Naira rolled her eyes.  “Be serious. Even if we could get a rod, mom and dad would never let us go.”

“Oh, I can handle them, no problem.  Come on, Naira. This is a one in a million chance.  We can’t pass this up. Please!” Vasia put her hands together and pleaded with her eyes.

Naira started to laugh.  Vasia was such a trouble-maker.  And God help her, Naira loved it.  Between the two of them, they were always up to something.  But this? If they pulled it off, it would be the biggest thing they’ve other done.  Or it could easily be the stupidest.

How could she say no to her twin?  That was their golden rule–they supported each other no matter what.

“I’m probably going to regret this,” said Naira.

“Don’t worry.  It’ll be amazing.  You’ll see.”

“Sorry girls,” said Korta.  “It’s a beautiful collection, but it’s not enough to purchase a rod.  I can get you an authentic replica, though. You won’t be able to tell the difference.”

They stood inside the gem store which along with hundreds of other stores was located in one of the Martian pyramids.  They had hoped to sell the crystals and buy a rod, but apparently they were too expensive. Now Vasia began removing the crystals angrily.

Naira didn’t try to stop her.  She learned long ago, when Vasia was angry, it was best to just get out of her way and let her be angry.

She turned to Korta.  “No, it has to be real.  Maybe we could just rent one?”

Korta was an old man and had often told Naira and Vasia stories about what Mars was like when he was a kid. He laughed, shook his head and began another story. ”When I was a kid, you could buy a rod for twenty creds.  If I had any idea that they would be selling for a hundred times that now, I’d have bought a lot more of them. What on Mars do you want a rod for?”

“Uh-um,” Naira stuttered.

Vasia jumped in.  “We’re doing an experiment.”


“For school,” Vasia explained, glaring at Naira, then turning back to Korta.  “And it has to be authentic.”

“But what are you going to do with it?”  Korta narrowed his eyes at them.

“Nothing,” said Vasia.  “We’re just going to study it and try to figure out what it was used for.  You know, go over the various theories about what they are.”

Korta didn’t look convinced.  “Well, I’m not sure what you’re up to, but I’ll tell you what.  I’ll let you two borrow a rod, but only on the condition that you don’t hurt it.  And as soon as you’re done with it, you bring it back.”

“Yes, or course!” they chorused.  “We’ll take perfect care of it,” Naira added.

“Okay.”  Korta reached down behind the counter and handed Vasia the rod.  “I know you girls are up to something. Just, please, just be careful.”

“Always,” said Vasia.  “Don’t worry.”

“Uh-huh,” he said, still unconvinced.  But he smiled as they took the rod and their crystals and hurried away.

Naira looked at the rod, and back at Vasia, who was grinning.

“Ready for the next step?” Vasia asked.

Naira sat next to Vasia, who had insisted on having a window seat.  The shuttle was packed full of tourists, most of them from Earth. Most Martians had been to Phobos hundreds of times, including Naira and Vasia, who had been there probably more than most Martians.

It wasn’t a long trip.  Even now, they could see the tiny dot that was Phobos increasing in size.  They would be there in mere minutes.

“How on Mars did you convince Mom and Dad to let us go?”

Vasia laughed.  “It was easy. I lied.”


“I’m sorry, but it was the only way they were going to let us go.”

“What did you tell them?”

“Actually, I didn’t.  They don’t know we’re up here.”

“What?  Vasia!”

“Don’t worry.  I told them we were at Sheran’s house. We were going there anyway.  It was perfect. I told Sheran where we are. She’ll cover for us.”

Naira groaned.  “Mom and Dad are going to kill us if they find out.”

“Don’t worry,” said Vasia.  “They won’t find out. Will you stop worrying?  This is supposed to be fun.”

“We should have told them.”

“No way.  Like you said, they would never have let us go.  It doesn’t matter now, anyway.”

“Why not?”

“Look outside.  We’re here.”

Naira was shocked to see how big Phobos appeared.  It surprised her every time. From the surface of Mars, it was just a tiny white dot floating in the sky.  But up close, it was a giant mountain.

Of all the Martian artifacts, Naira had always found Phobos to be the most amazing of all, particularly because of the Phobos Monolith.  Other than the Martian Face, and of course the Martian pyramids, the Phobos Monolith was one of the most obvious artifacts. The huge tower was originally discovered by amateur astronomer Efrain Palermo.  Located near Stickney crater, it towers almost 300 feet high. At first it was believed to be an unusually large boulder. But in 1989, the Russians sent a probe which was destroyed by a defense system left in place on Phobos by the original Martians.  That’s when Earth realized Phobos was more than it appeared.

When they finally got past the defenses, they discovered that the Phobos Monolith was actually a doorway. Phobos was hollow, and inside were thousands of Martian ships of all sizes. It was the third biggest archaeological find on Mars, beaten only by the Martian Face and the pyramids.

And now they were there.  And if she was right, Naira thought, they had an actual key to a Martian ship.

The shuttle lurched and snapped into the airlock with a loud bang, followed by a hiss.  Warm air swept past them as the door opened. The tourists hopped out of their seats and rushed to exit.

Vasia grabbed Naira’s arm, suddenly nervous.  “Are we really going to do this?”

“What?” said Naira.  “You’re not backing out on me now.”  She pulled Vasia’s arm and dragged her out of her seat and into the line of people.

Both of them knew the entire interior of Phobos by heart.  They had been down all the corridors and into all the chambers, including some that most of the public wasn’t allowed to visit.  They had been there so many times that the tour guides and the security guards knew them well.

Unfortunately, most of the guards and guides also knew that the twins were mischievous, and kept a close eye on them. Only a few of them were cool, allowing them to go into the restricted areas.

This time they were lucky.  Their tour guide was Hal; he was just barely older than they were and totally cool. He didn’t even bother to ask them what they were up to. He just lifted the rope that kept out the public, and let them slip inside.  He knew what they wanted. The only thing to see on Phobos was the ships. And the best place to see the ships was in the main chamber, which was closed to the public except for special occasions.

The main chamber was the biggest room inside Phobos and it was at least twice the size of a football stadium. From what Naira had read, the entire chamber was originally packed with ships. Now, only a few rows of ships remained for public viewing.

They floated down the corridor, bouncing up and down in the almost non-existent gravity.  Vasia began laughing.

“Ssshh!” Naira said.  “We don’t want anyone to hear us.”

“Don’t worry.  Nobody’s here. I can’t believe we’re about to do this.”

“Hey, it was your idea.”

“I know,” Vasia said, “But you’re the one who actually figured it out.”

“Well, you’re the one who discovered the site in the first place.”

“Yeah, but only because you wanted me to show you the crystal patch.  It doesn’t matter. Here,” said Vasia, pulling out the rod. “You take it.”

“Are you sure?” Naira asked, handling the rod much more carefully than Vasia was.

“Yes,” she said.  “Take it. You know what to do with it.”

“I don’t know.  We’ll see.”

By now, they had arrived at one of the ships.  Most of the ships were identical in size. There were a few larger ones, but the rest were small six-person vehicles, about as large as one of the little Martian vans which clogged the highways.

The ships were shiny silver in color and beautiful.  Whoever designed them, Naira had long ago decided, they worked hard to make sure that they looked good.  To her, the ships were works of art. Naira always talked about how cool they were. Vasia, on the other hand, was more interested in what they could do.

“There it is,” said Naira.  On the dashboard of each of the craft was an indentation.  This was where the map had said to put the rod. Now that the ship was in front of her, she could see why nobody had figured it out before.  Who would have thought to place the rod there? There was no way to know that it belonged there, other than the fact that it would fit perfectly.

That was assuming it even worked, she thought.

Naira sat in the left front seat, and Vasia sat in the right.  Naira held the rod over the spot. “This is where the map says to put the key.  Are you ready?”

Vasia gulped and laughed nervously.  “I’m ready if you are.”

“Okay, then.  Here goes.”

Naira set the rod into the slot, then leaned back and held her breath.

They waited.

“Nothing’s happening,” said Naira.  She couldn’t understand it. She had been so sure.

“See,” said Vasia, reaching out and wiggling the rod to make sure it was in place.  “This is why we didn’t tell anyone.”

“I don’t get it.  The map said it was a key.”  Naira reached out and touched the rod.  It felt normal–cool and slick like always.  She felt confusion sweep over her. It couldn’t be a coincidence that the rod fit so snugly into that slot–exactly like the map had said.  Why wasn’t anything happening?

The seconds ticked past, and still nothing.

“Well, we tried,” said Vasia.  “I guess we were wrong.”

It was nice of Vasia to say, “we.”  Naira felt like screaming. How could she have been so stupid to think that she could figure out the ships where so many other people before her had failed?

She closed her eyes and tried to think of good excuses to tell their parents when they got home.  The way things were going, the chances were they were going to get caught anyway. If they caught the next shuttle, maybe they could make it back to Mars and Sheran’s house without them knowing.  Maybe, if they were lucky. Why had she listened to Vasia? Now she felt so embarrassed. She just wanted to leave and get out of there.

“Uh, Naira,” whispered Vasia.  “I think something’s happening.  Is it my imagination, or is the ship beginning to glow?”

“What?”  Naira opened her eyes.  The chamber was already dimly lit in such a way that the shiny mirror-surface of the ships seemed to catch the light.  But as she looked, Naira wondered if her sister was right. The ship certainly looked like it was glowing.

“Ahhh!” Vasia screamed.  “Look!”

Suddenly, behind them, a dome was coming out of the back covering over the top of the ship.  At the same time, the rod turned bright blue and the ship began to buzz loudly.

Both of the twins screamed in fear when–without warning–the ship rose into the air and began to glide across the room.

“Oh, my God!” Vasia howled.  “We did it! We’re moving! Naira!  Look, we’re moving!”

“I can see that!” she said.  Even now, the ship was increasing in speed.  Naira felt a wave of fear. Where was it taking them?  How were they supposed to control the ship? She couldn’t see any controls at all.

“Look!” Vasia said.  “A door! It’s opening.”

Sure enough, a door on the wall of the chamber was spiraling open and they were heading straight for it.  The ship began to gather speed.

“Oh, no!” screamed Naira.  “What are we going to do?”

“Hold on!” said Vasia.

“Ahhhh!”  Both girls screamed with a mixture of fear and excitement as the ship suddenly pulsed in speed and whizzed down the corridor so fast, the walls became a blur.

Weird, thought Naira.  It didn’t even feel like they were actually moving.

Suddenly they popped outside of Phobos, right next to one of the tour-shuttles filled with tourists.

She could see the faces of the pilots and the tourists.  All of them were wide-eyed, with their mouths open, staring with utter disbelief.

Vasia began giggling, but her laughter was cut short when the shuttle stopped, paused and headed directly for them.

“Quick!” shouted Vasia.  “Do something! They’re coming.  Make it go!”

“How?  Do you see any controls?”

The rod was still glowing a bright blue.  It was almost too bright to look at. Vasia reached out for it.

“Don’t touch that!  Are you crazy?”

“We have to do something.”

The shuttle was getting closer.  And right behind it, Naira saw, was a patrol ship.  Already its red and blue lights were blazing. They were caught.

She knew this would happen.  There was no way they were going to get away with something like this.  How she wished she were back at Mars now, instead of next to Phobos. Back at their house, with Mom and Dad, as if none of this had ever happened.

There was a sudden blink, and they were there.

“What just happened?” Vasia screamed.  “Where are we?”

Naira looked down in disbelief.  Their house was right below them!  She had moved the ship just by thinking about it.  That’s how the ships are controlled, she realized. The power of thought.

“It’s our house!” Vasia screamed.  “Oh, my God! You did it! How?”

“I don’t know. I just thought it.  All you have to do is think where you want to go, and it will take you there?”

“Are you sure?”

“It took us here, didn’t it?”

“Oh, no!  Don’t look now, Naira, but Mom and Dad are looking up at us.  Quick, take us out of here.”

Naira peered downwards.  Like Vasia said, their parents stood on the doorstep and were looking up.  Even now, she saw their scared face. Their father was running inside, no doubt to call the police.

Naira didn’t hesitate.  With all her might, she wished that she was over at the archaeological site, where this whole adventure had begun.

In less than a second, they were there.

As they hovered there, Naira felt a strange sensation.  She felt almost as if she and the ship were connected, like it was part of her body, and she could make it do whatever she wanted.

She felt a sudden urge to take the ship soaring up into outer space, maybe go to Earth, or out to the Belt even.  Instead, she took a deep breath and lowered the ship expertly to the ground.

Vasia looked at her in wonder.  “How did you do that?”

Naira beamed proudly.  “I told you. It’s easy.  All you have to do is think.  It doesn’t matter, Vasia,” Naira said.  She felt herself beginning to panic. What had they done?  “What are we going to do?”

“What do you mean?  I think it’s obvious.  Let’s go for a ride.”

“I’m serious, Vasia!  I don’t know if you realize it, but we’ve just stolen a Martian ship.  I’m pretty sure that’s illegal. We’re in a lot of trouble.”

“You’re wrong.  Well, maybe we bent the rules a teensy bit, but it won’t matter.  Look what we’ve done–what you’ve done. Figured out how to operate the Martian ships.  That’s huge! There’s no way they can send us to jail. We’re heroes, Naira. Everybody’s going to be thrilled about what we’ve done.”

Vasia made a good point, Naira thought, but it didn’t erase the fact that what they had done was wrong.  And despite Vasia’s assurances, Naira knew how unfair adults could be. Yes, people would be happy they had discovered how to operate the ships.  But right now, they were still in deep trouble.

“Do you think mom and dad know it was us?” Vasia asked.

“I hope not,” Naira said.  Being chased by the patrol was bad enough.  But the thought of their parents finding out what they’ve done–Naira shuddered to think how they would react.

“Vasia,” Naira said.  “We have to take the ship back.  It’s not ours. You know that, right?”

“Of course, I do.  Just not yet. I was thinking.  Nobody knows that it was us that stole it.  If we’re careful, we might be able to bring it back without anybody knowing.”

“Are you kidding?  Even if they haven’t figured it that it was us, Phobos will be crawling with security.  We won’t get anywhere near there without being seen.”

“Well, maybe we could leave the ship somewhere.  Of course, either way, then we wouldn’t get the credit for having discovered how the ships work.”

“Or the blame for stealing it,” said Naira.

They looked at each other, trying to decide what to do.  As if reading Vasia’s mind, Naira suddenly knew exactly what her sister was thinking.

Yes, they broke the law.  But they had made a huge discovery.  It was only fair that they got credit for it.

“As usual,” said Vasia, “you’re right.  We have to take it back. But please, let’s take it for a ride first.”

“We can’t,” said Naira.  “I’m sure they’re already looking for us.”

“We have to, Naira.  We’ll never have another chance again.  After what we’ve done, they’ll probably never let us near another ship for as long as we live.”

Naira sighed.  Vasia was causing more trouble, and again, Naira was unable to say no.

“Okay,” said Naira.  “But we have to be careful.”


“Do you want to drive?” Naira asked.

Vasia didn’t hesitate.

“Not a chance,” she said.  “You drive. You deserve it.”

Naira felt tears come to her eyes.  Her entire life, she had been unable to move very well because of the bones in her legs.  Vasia had no idea what it was like. And yet, at the same time, Vasia totally understood. Letting Naira drive the ship was Vasia’s way of showing that she really did understand.

There was no reason to wait any longer.  They were already in trouble anyway. What harm could one more teensy-weensy little trip do?  Besides, this was her chance to really feel what it was like to be free.

Naira could already feel the ship as if it was her own body.  It took no effort to rise into the air and zoom speedily into the crisp blue Martian sky.

Vasia screamed with delight.  She reached over and squeezed Naira’s shoulder.

Naira looked over and they shared that special look that only the two of them shared, where they knew exactly what the other was thinking.  Vasia was thinking: This is the coolest thing that ever happened to us. Naira was thinking the exact same thing.

Naira maneuvered the ship up until they were out of the Martian atmosphere.  Then she swooped down and flew directly over the Martian Face. She had never seen it from this perspective, and was impressed how huge it was.

Next they soared over the Martian pyramids, this time swooping low enough to that people could see them.

After that, they took off and circled over Olympus Mons, which was the biggest mountain on all of Mars.

Finally, Naira took the ship back into outer space and began doing loops and spins until both of them were laughing so hard they could hardly breathe.

Then Naira got an idea.  She looked over at Vasia.  “Watch this,” Naira said. She was going to surprise her sister.

She spotted a particular bright star and using all her will-power, concentrated with all her might.  Make it happen, she thought. Take me to that star.

Suddenly, the stars around them began to swirl like snowflakes in a blizzard.  It was like they were in the center of a snow-globe.

In an instant, they were there.  A blazing ball of fire! And they were the tiniest speck next to it.

Naira looked over at Vasia, who stared back with amazement.

Vasia looked back where they had come from and got a concerned look on her face.  “Naira,” she asked, “Where are we?”

Naira looked over at the sea of stars and got a stab of fear.  They all looked the same. Which one was the sun? Where was Mars?

Naira calmed herself and tried to concentrate.  Just think of home, she thought. She imagined soaring back to Mars, floating over their house and landing.

“Naira,” Vasia said.  “Nothing’s happening. What are we going to do?”

“Quiet, I’m concentrating!”  Naira felt the ship and sensed the power pulsing through it.  Take me home, she thought. Take me to Mars.

To her great relief, the stars began to swim around them and whoosh!

The next thing they knew, they were landing down next to their home.  Slowly the ship settled to the ground

“See?” said Naira.  “I did it. We’re back home.”

“Uh, Naira,” said Vasia.  “Look.”

Naira had been looking at her sister.  Now she looked outside and gulped. Surrounding them were dozens of patrol vehicles and patrol officers.  Behind them were their parents. Just beyond their parents was a row of reporters and camera-people recording everything that happened.  And beyond them was a huge crowd of people. Naira estimated that there must be a thousand people out there. And they had to deal with every single one of them.

Naira gulped.  So many people.  And they were all looking at her and Vasia.

“Well,” said Vasia.  “You ready for this?”

“No,” said Naira.  “But what choice do we have?”

“None,” said Vasia.  And she opened the door to the roaring crowd.

Vasia stood next to Naira behind the fence surrounding the Martian ruins that they had found several weeks ago.

“Told you,” said Vasia.  “Locked out of our own site.”

“Well, we don’t own it,” said Naira.

“You know what I mean.”

Naira nodded.  It was unfair. Just as Vasia had predicted, they were no longer able to access the site that they had discovered.  And just as Naira predicted, the Martian police had arrested them for stealing one of the ships.

What neither of them had predicted, however, was the public outpouring of support.  The Martian people considered them heroes, and the fact that two teen-agers had discovered the secret to powering the Martian ships became interplanetary news.  Even Earth was talking about it.

At first the police had tried to press charges, but the public outcry was so loud that the police released them almost immediately.  But not before each of them was questioned extensively by one official after another, each of who wanted to know exactly what happened and how they had figured out the secret to the Martian ships.  Naira was exhausted by the time the questions were done.

The part she had dreaded most, however, was dealing with their parents.  When they finally returned back home, their mom and dad first gave them great big hugs and told them how glad they were that Naira and Vasia were okay.  Then their parents promptly grounded them.

Fortunately, that didn’t last too long.  Everybody in their neighborhood wanted to hear the story firsthand.  And then there were requests for interviews.

Now, three months later, the furor was finally dying down.

Vasia reached out and knocked against the fence that separated them from their discovery.

“Well, at least we got to ride in one of the ships,” said Naira.  “Nobody can take that away from us.”

Vasia nodded.  “It was worth it, don’t you think?”

Naira remembered the thrill of flying over the Martian landscape, of travelling all the way to another star.

“Yes,” she said.  “It was definitely worth it.”

About the Author

Preston Dennett

Preston Dennett author photo

In addition to writing true non-fiction books about UFOs and the paranormal, Preston Dennett is also an award-winning science fiction writer. He has sold 37 speculative fiction stories to such markets as Andromeda Spaceways, Bards & Sages, Cast of Wonders, Daily Science Fiction, Grievous Angel, Perihelion, Sci-Phi Journal, Stupefying Stories, T. Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog and many others, including several anthologies. After earning twelve honorable mentions, he won Second Place in Quarter 1, 2018 of the Writers of the Future Contest. He currently resides in southern California.

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Preston Dennett author photo

About the Narrator

Amy Robinson

Heather Amy Robinson narrator photo

Amy is a voiceover actress and character talent, who has read several excellent stories for EscapePod, including Black Swan Oracle, Immersion, and The Heart of the Machine.

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Heather Amy Robinson narrator photo

About the Artist

Barry J. Northern

Barry is a game developer based in Bournemouth, England making freemium games for clients such LEGO and the BBC. His latest game is breaking all records on iOS, not surprising with a title like L”. It’s for younger kids, but if you fancy blasting alien brains check out LEGO Hero Factory Brain Attack.

All this game developing has meant that Barry hasn’t been as active in the podcasting and fiction world as he used to be. He still does the occasional narration for other shows, such as The Drabblecast, and appears on Cast of Wonders from time to time.

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