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10. The Starshooters

     It took the Elpis close to two weeks to unload all its passengers safely into the new complexes that were located in the central done. While many people were impressed with the size and scope of the new town/colony, which alleviated many fears of living within small spaces for the rest of their lives, it was still a restrictive zone, no bigger than a small town. With close to thirty thousand people residing there, it would become cozy when new babies were born as live moved on without Earth. People were assimilating into their new lives a lot better than Eric had hoped they would. While being on a new planet should have freaked many of them out, the fact that they made the colony look as much like home as possible made it easier for the new citizens of Mars to adapt to their new surroundings.

     The food supply was maintained and the scientists who left on Stargazer one to get crops started before everyone arrived were far ahead of schedule and looked forward to using parts from Elpis when they started to hollow it out to build more greenhouses, which would in turn allow them to create more crops and try to diversify their food supply. What the agriculture boys didn't tell the government was that they used the emergency stash from a bunker in Denmark, and brought it to Mars with them. When asking for the seed supply, they told Denmark that the seeds were going to be stashed in a bunker in the US. The only way they'd get caught is if the asteroid is stopped and the Danes ask for their seeds back. It was a risk they were willing to take; doing whatever was in their power to preserve live on Mars. They had no idea which seeds would grow and which crops would fail on the red planet, so taking as many varieties with you as possible was the smart bet. It was no surprise that potatoes were again the champion of all veggies, proving to them all that spuds could literally grow anywhere. But this wasn't what was keeping Drummond up at night. What was worrying him was the lack of communication with Earth.

     At first, he was sure the government refused to speak with them for launching the stargazers without consent. Then he started to dread what everyone else in command was thinking but was afraid to admit. The asteroid had hit the planet and everyone on Earth was dead from the extinction level event. Despite the overwhelming feeling he got every time he thought about it, Drummond refused to believe it. He was sure that one of the other projects was successful; he badly wanted it to be true. Yet the alternative was just as scary as well. If Earth survived the asteroid, it was only a matter of time before the United State government came to mars to claim the Stargazer Colony for themselves and assume command. That was something he was sure that Eric or the people living in the colony wouldn't be very fond of. All of these possible scenarios were what kept Drummond up every night. His son could tell the old man wasn't getting any sleep but he didn't talk about it. He refused to burden his son with things that might never come to pass and were completely out of their control. But the more time passed on, the more concerned Drummond became.

     Almost six months after arriving, Eric called on Drummond to meet him at the Elpis, which was in the process of being stripped down and remodeled. Drummond hadn't been out to the Eplis in months, and was surprised to see how far they had gotten gutting the ship. The plan was to turn the Elpis into a massive research center, giving the scientists and engineers more room to do work at a safe distance from civilians. That way if something went terribly wrong, the main dome and the people in it were separated and not affected by anything. Drummond approached the closest worker and asked where Saunders could be found.

     "He's in the hanger, inspecting the Squadron." The young man answered.

     "The Squadron?" Drummond repeated.

     The young man smiled. "You're in for a treat, Sir."

     Drummond walked in the direction the young man told him to go and finally came across what he was talking about. The aft side of the Elpis has been constructed into a hanger, filled with what look like fighter planes. Each one of them had two seats and were no larger than the F-16 and as he walked closer to one of them, he was spotted by Eric who called out to him.

     "Over here," Eric yelled out, "We're almost ready to test out our newest additions to the fleet."

     "What the hell is going on here?" Drummond roared, walking up to Eric. "Why wasn't I informed that you were constructing military air vessels?"

     "We've been designing them for quite a while," Eric replied, "And construction on the first few started after Stargazer three arrived, because that was the ship that carried these fine aerospace engineers. With my help, we've invented some pretty bad ass fighter planes that whose sole responsibility is to protect the colony and the station in orbit."

     "Wait," Drummond said, interrupting Eric. "These ships can leave orbit?"

     "Yes," Eric confirmed, "With my engines attached to them, they're capable of flight in and out of the atmosphere."

     "Amazing," Drummond said, looking over the blueprints there were on the table before them. "So they can fly up to the station?"

     "Yes," one of the other men standing around the table replied, "We already have four fighters stationed at the Stargazer Orbiter."

PJ Lowry

Edited: 26.02.2020

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