part III

There had been countless hoaxes, charades, and sensationalized discoveries surrounding evidence of intelligent alien life on Mars since humanity had broken ground on New Galilei, the first Martian city, 22 years ago. Whether well-meaning people attempting to put their developing town on the map or con men swindling what credits they could from Earth’s immigrant masses, new claims made headlines in the news cycle at least once a week. But, unsurprisingly, none were ever substantiated. The evidence would always turn out to be a mummified house cat, chipped fragments of a relative’s ornate urn, or some shattered remnant of tech from the AI Wars.

Carter gave little regard to the claims when they’d pop into his newsfeed, as he knew, if it were to ever really happen, the likelihood of the public being told was next to none. At least not until the evidence was examined, substantiated, confirmed, vetted, then rinsed and repeated innumerable times by multitudes of scientists, lawyers, financial analysts, and government officials, and, then maybe, just maybe, the discovery would be announced.

But he never dreamt that he’d be part of something like this, not in a thousand years. But this is it, he thought. Wait, is this actually it?

The implications raced through his mind, hardly allowing him to register the retinal scanning, fingerprint mapping, blood sample pricking, and voice verification in the makeshift ready room setup deep within the tunnel system.

Jets of air hissed overhead as Carter entered the sealed clean room adjacent to the ready. Three military medics strapped him and the Colonel into hazmat suits, and he winced when one of them punched a injector gun into his neck. The Colonel nodded to the medics, as their helmets clicked into place. Carter stared at his steadily blipping vitals displayed on the forearm of his suit, the circulated air within the helmet tasting faintly metallic.

“You ready, Doc?” the Colonel asked.

Carter’s looked up, his trance broken. “Is there a biological component to all this?” He asked, glancing over his suit, it crinkling as he moved. “I mean, what’s the contamination protocol?”

“You’ll tell us.”

“When did you find... what you found?”

“Eighteen hours ago. The construction crew ran into it, contacted us, as protocol dictates in potentials such as these, and we verified, sealed it up, ran some preliminary scans, and started making calls.”

“Has there been anyone else on-site to verify?” Carter questioned.

“We have Doctor Emelie Yong en route from AMT but, no. You’re the first.”

A hesitant nod quashed Carter’s nerves, “Alright--yeah,” then he smiled. “Ready.”