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       Mars Inc., p.1

           Angus Ecrivain
 
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Mars Inc.


  Mars Inc.

  Death Rage Publications

  Copyright (c) 2013 Daniel A. Greathead

  The right of Daniel A. Greathead to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the Author, nor may it be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover than that in which it is published.

  All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is (mostly) purely coincidental.

  Mars Inc.

  Passport

  “Passport.”

  He stared blankly at the uniformed fellow and the sign that read 'Gate Seven' behind him. Beyond that was what could only be described as an airport terminal. He knew that's what it was, too, as there was an aeroplane taxiing away from it.

  “Passport.”

  He looked first left then right, up then down. The scenery wasn't really anything out of the ordinary. Trees, various grasses and shrubs, sparrows and starlings in the sky, clouds drifting by and the unmistakeable and highly irritating honk of a Canadian Goose.

  “Passport.”

  He returned his attention to the uniformed fellow, looking at him through the glass of his spacesuit's helmet. Then he looked down at himself and the spacesuit itself. Even if he had brought his passport with him the gloves wouldn't have made it easy getting it out of his pocket.

  “Passport.”

  “I, er...” he said, blankly, his voice barely audible outside of the helmet.

  “No passport?” the uniformed fellow asked with an irritated sigh. “Fine. Keep to the left when you get inside. A representative will meet you.”

  “Er...”

  “Get a move on, I don't have all day,” he replied. “Oh, and welcome to Mars.”

  The Biro

  “Mr Watkins?” said a woman, her voice incredibly shrill and piercing. “Mr Mike Watkins?”

  “Er... yes,” he replied. The woman was attractive, very much so. He wasn't entirely sure he was awake because she was definitely the kind of woman he dreamed of.

  “Good,” she said, handing him a wad of paper and a Biro. “You need to sign all of those then submit yourself for a full medical. I'll come and find you after that and show you to your office.”

  “Erm... thanks,” he said, as she pointed out the vacant counter top where he was apparently expected to stand and sign what, at a rough estimate, was six hundred separate documents.

  Mike made his way over to it as quickly as his spacesuit allowed and dropped the wad to the counter with a thud. Then he dropped the Biro to the floor and spent almost five minutes fumbling at it, attempting to pick it up before he realised that it would probably be OK if he removed his gloves, possibly his helmet, too.

  Rectal Exam

  The rectal exam wasn't quite as bad as Mike had expected it to be, in fact he'd rather enjoyed it, not that he'd admit to that though, even if his life depended upon it.

  It had been a requirement for the medical that he was completely naked. That had worried him a little at first. He was on Mars after all, and it was deeply embedded in the human brain that you can't breathe the air on Mars, never mind get your kit off. Even though he'd removed his gloves and helmet to sign all those different pieces of paper, it had still felt extremely odd being naked on the red planet.

  Once the examination was over the doctor directed him to a small room off to the side. The room turned out to be a dressing room and laid out inside was a finely tailored suit, which he put on. The material felt wonderful against his skin. Mike would probably have made love to the suit, had such a thing been possible.

  Beside the door was a pair of black leather shoes with those terribly thin laces, so he put those on as well.

  Fully dressed, Mike checked himself out in the full length mirror and what he saw was good.

  “Oh good, you're dressed.” It was the woman from before, the ridiculously attractive one with the high-pitched and annoying voice. She'd changed her attire, too, and currently a brightly coloured dress of thin material adorned her form. “Come with me and I'll show you to your office.”

  Eloise Barker

  His office, it turned out, was on the top floor. It was tastefully decorated in neutral colours and had a desk, a couple of chairs, a fish tank and a dart board. The floor was wood and no matter how hard he tried, Mike couldn't see any joins at all.

  “So, have you rediscovered the ability to speak?”

  “I, er... I think so, yes.”

  “Good,” she replied. “So what do you think to your new digs?”

  “It's a rather nice office, to be fair,” Mike said. “I do have a few questions though.”

  “Fire away, and I'll do my best to answer them.”

  “OK well first, what's your name?”

  “Eloise Barker,” she said.

  “OK then, Eloise, would you be so kind as to tell me what the hell is going on?”

  “Ah, well... That's where things get a little complicated.”

  “A brief outline would be fine.”

  “OK well, you've just been appointed the CEO of Mars Incorporated.”

  “Right. I do have one or two problems with that, the first of which is that we're on bloody Mars.”

  “Well yes. You came here in a single-berth spaceship. I don't see why you've got a problem with that.”

  “The problem, is that I was on the first manned flight to Mars and I get here to find a bloody airport.”

  “Not just an airport,” Eloise replied. “Look out of the window.”

  Mike did, and saw that 'not just an airport' was actually some kind of code for, 'there's an entire bloody city.'

  “Three million people,” she said, as if she was reading his mind. “We've been on Mars since 1915.”

  “Oh, right,” said Mike. “I think I need a drink.”

  Usual CEO-Type-Stuff

  Eloise strode over to a bureau that Mike hadn't noticed and poured him a generous glass of Scotch.

  “Thanks,” he said, and knocked it back in one. “So what exactly am I expected to do as CEO of Mars Incorporated?”

  She raised her eyebrow and her lips curled to a smile.

  “Oh you know, the usual CEO-type-stuff.”

  It was Mike's turn to raise an eyebrow, for he'd no idea what 'usual CEO-type-stuff,' entailed. He was an astronaut not a businessman, and he said so.

  “It's not hard, really. We arranged for you to come here because you've got what we're looking for,” she said, smiling. “There's nothing to worry about, honestly. At the end of the day you're purely the face of the thing. Dot a few I's, cross a few T's, that sort of thing. The actual business runs whether there's a CEO or not. It just makes it easier having one.”

  “Oh, right,” said Mike. “I think I need another drink.”

  Moments later, Eloise handed him another generous glass of Scotch and once again he knocked it back in one.

  “So, what does Mars Incorporated actually, you know, do?”

  “I can't give you all the answers. Where would be the fun in that?” she replied. “But there's a brochure on your desk, and you could always use the computer to find out what you want to know.”

  Be All You Can Be

  'Be All You Can Be,' was one of the phrases printed on the front of the brochure. 'Building A Better Tomorrow, Today,' was another.

  Neither of those phrases shed any light on what it was that Mars Incorporated actually did so Mike opened the brochure to the first page. He flicked through it pretty quickly and
considering it was only eight pages long, it really didn't take him too much time at all.

  He was none the wiser by the time he'd finished so he read it again, then twice more.

  Still feeling very much in the dark he decided to read it from back to front. That didn't help either. Whichever way he read the brochure, all it contained was photographs of several impeccably groomed people carrying out inane yet obviously very important tasks.

  A man in a suit holding a test tube half full of clear liquid up to a light. A woman in spectacles holding a pencil. A man and, Mike assumed, his two children, petting a Golden Retriever.

  With a sigh Mike got to his feet. He figured the only way he was going to find out what Mars Incorporated did was to find out for himself, first hand.

  Just as he was about to start walking over to the door the telephone rang.

  Loo Roll & Cheese

  “Hello?” Mike ventured upon locating and answering the telephone.

  “Hi, honey.”

  “Sandra?” said Mike, completely and totally gob smacked to hear his wife's voice on the other end of the line.

  “What time are you going to be home?” she asked, seemingly oblivious to the shock that he'd thought was pretty damn evident in his voice. “Only I've got to take the girls to rehearsal, and Niall's got a sleepover.”

  “Erm...”

  “Well anyway, it doesn't really matter,” she continued, as if her being on Mars was an every day occurrence. “Dinner's at eight, don't be late.”

  “Erm...”

  “Oh and before I forget, can you pick up loo roll and cheese on your way home?”

  “Erm... yes?”

  “OK, good,” she replied. “See you later, love you.”

  She terminated the call at her end but Mike kept the receiver to his ear. He was still in shock and very confused indeed.

  Internal Mail

  The telephone conversation with his wife, as brief as it was, hit Mike for six. The call had ended several minutes prior and yet he was still there holding the receiver to his ear, trying to make something resembling sense out of the whole situation.

  “It's got to be a dream,” he said out loud. “Yeah, a dream. Maybe a practical joke.” He sighed and laughed, shaking his head as he did so. “Those boys at NASA.”

  Finally, Mike replaced the handset to its holster and at that very same moment the computer on the desk dinged. He tapped a random key to bring the machine out of power saving mode and a box flashed up entitled 'Mars Inc. - Internal Mail.'

  The subject matter of the mail was rather brief and after he'd read it Mike read it again, and then once more just to be sure. Having done that he was left with the extremely uneasy feeling that he was being watched.

  'It's not a dream, Mike. You really are on Mars, and so are your wife and kids. Don't forget to pick up loo roll and cheese on the way home.'

  The telephone rang and Mike answered it immediately. It was Eloise.

  “Come on, Mike,” she said. “It's almost lunch time.”

  All Dressed Up

  As he wandered down the corridor towards the lift, Mike wondered why there weren't any motivational posters lining the walls. True, he thought they were tacky and completely classless but he got the distinct impression that tacky and completely classless were par for the course at Mars Incorporated.

  He stood impatiently as he waited for the lift. It wasn't until it arrived and he was inside it that he realised he had no idea whereabouts the canteen was located.

  The lift was like any other he'd ever used with buttons to the left of the doors. Those buttons were currently flashing irritably at him so in order to stop them doing so he hit the button for the lobby.

  The journey only took a few seconds and he felt as though he'd left his stomach back in his office.

  When the doors slid open Mike stared out into the lobby. Eloise was waiting for him. She'd changed her clothes since the last time he'd seen her. He knew that for a fact as he thought it likely he'd have noticed if she'd been dressed as Tina Turner.

  Mike was certain his face was a picture of confusion as he walked across the lobby, but no one made anything of it.

  “Erm...” he said.

  “Lunch time karaoke,” said Eloise. “Your outfit is in the car.”

  Chambers

  The car, it turned out, was actually a stretch limousine with plenty of room in the back for Mike to change into his Elvis costume.

  “So, lunch time karaoke?”

  “Yes,” Eloise replied. “We're all about having fun at Mars Incorporated.”

  “I'm getting that,” said Mike.

  He couldn't see through the windows because for some reason they were tinted from the inside. He hoped that they were similarly tinted from the outside, too, else anyone who happened to look in whilst he was changing would have certainly got more than they bargained for.

  The car came to a halt at the side of the road and Eloise nodded towards the door, insinuating that Mike should alight the vehicle first, which he did.

  The karaoke bar stood before him in all its tacky glory. Flashing neon lights of all colours told him many times over, that 'Chambers,' was the place to engage in the favourite of all Japanese pastimes.

  “Wotcha'! Looks like we got Elvis and Tina coming in to sing us something special,” the compère said over the microphone as Mike and Eloise entered the building. “Come on, Elvis. Step on up and give us a bit of Jailhouse Rock!”

  Follow the Black Cat

  Mike stood on the stage. Spotlights blinded him and the smell of stale beer wafted towards him.

  Eloise had already done her bit though Mike couldn't have told you what she sang. True, he was no Tina Turner fan and it was hardly surprising if that's what she sounded like.

  It was only when the opening riff to Jailhouse Rock played over the speakers that Mike remembered something rather important. He tried to catch Eloise's eye, to get her attention, but as he shielded his eyes against the unnecessarily bright lights he could see she was rather busy.

  “I can't sing,” he mumbled down the microphone. There was no response though, from anyone. All those hundred or so people inside Chambers appeared to be so engrossed in selecting which song to sing next that no one noticed when the new bloke on stage admitted a lack of any vocal talent.

  Feeling slightly better about things, Mike looked down at the screen across which the lyrics were supposed to scroll.

  Instead of lyrics, there was a message for him. He knew it was for him as it mentioned him by name.

  Mike, the message read, follow the black cat.

  Jailhouse Rock

  Mike half-mumbled his way through Jailhouse Rock, much to the delight of the crowd. Once he'd finished there was a raucous round of applause, though he thought it likely that was due to the fact he'd finished rather than his portrayal of the song.

  “See, wasn't that fun?” said Eloise as he took a seat next to her. She'd got him a drink, something blue with bits of fruit and an umbrella in it. He downed it in one, not paying any attention to the slightly bitter taste.

  “Yeah, I suppose,” he replied.

  “Do you want to do another one?” she asked. “I'm thinking I might go up again.”

  “Go ahead,” said Mike. “I think I'll pass.”

  “Suit yourself.”

  For an entire hour Mike sat there whilst several people, Eloise included, committed musical murder. He wasn't paying any attention though. Sure, he applauded when he was supposed to applaud and he said what he was supposed to say when he was supposed to say it, but all the time he was thinking about the message.

  Mike, follow the black cat.

  It couldn't get much worse really as he hated cats. He always had, unlike Sandra who insisted on having one of the little buggers.

  We're on a Bridge, Charlie!

  The drive back to the office took a fair while but Eloise insisted that the driver should take the scenic
route. Apparently she wanted to show the best of what Mars, or at least the Mars Incorporated development, had to offer.

  With the windows wound down, Mike oohed and aahed where such noises were necessary.

  It was all very impressive and lovely, in a “oh will you look at that, we've colonised Mars,” kinda' way, but Mike found it a little disappointing. He couldn't put his finger on what it was though that made him feel such a way and it wasn't until the driver took a humpback bridge a little faster than he ought have done, that it hit him.

  “You think you could do me a favour?” said Mike to the driver. “Reverse and do that again. Take that bridge at the exact same speed.”

  “Sure,” the driver replied. “You're the boss after all, boss.”

  “Something on your mind, Mike?” Eloise asked, her eyebrow raised.

  “No,” said Mike as he shook his head. “I just like bridges is all.”

  But that wasn't all, because as the driver drove over the humpback bridge for a second time, and Mike resisted the urge to say, in a very high-pitched voice, “we're on a bridge, Charlie,” he knew that something was very wrong indeed. The bridge was exactly the same bridge as the one just outside Long Eaton on the B6540... down to the most minute of details.

  Everybody Know That You're Insane

  Mike thought it best that he didn't say anything to Eloise about the bridge, nor about the message he'd received whilst on stage at Chambers. There were two reasons for his elective silence, the first of which was that she might think he was insane. The second, and definitely the more frightening of the two options, was that she might not think he was insane.

 
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