part I

Mars. 2118. 270.23.09.

The rumble of the landing thrusters resonated through his chest, telling Carter Redrick they were there before he even opened his eyes. Wherever there actually was.

The transporter groaned and rattled, as it fought against the chop of the storm outside, and the sergeant strapped into the seat nearby confirmed Carter’s inkling over the racket. Carter nodded to the man and stretched, squinting through the porthole into the red nothing beyond.

A few hours ago, Carter had been struggling to stay awake while combing through his virtual assistant’s notes from this week’s batch of essays on a mid-21st century excavation of an ancient Roman battleground and was more than relieved when the sergeant pardoned his much welcomed interruption.

It was an odd proposal. “I can’t tell you where we’ll be going or what it’s concerning, but, I assure you, it’s a matter of great importance,” the sergeant had said.

“Is it dangerous?” Carter inquired.

The sergeant didn’t skip a beat. “I can’t say, sir.”

Carter looked to the pulsing highlights of countless corrections amassed on the screen before him and thought a moment. “When do we leave?”

Stepping off the transport into the blast, Carter yelled, “So, really, what it this?”

The sergeant pointed ahead through the haze. A figure emerged, silhouetted against the dim glow of the sun hovering somewhere over the horizon. The sergeant saluted, as the man approached.

“Doctor Redrick, Colonel Straw,” announced the sergeant, “He’ll take you from here.”

Carter nodded, still confused, as he shook the man’s hand, before the Colonel motioned the way forward through the howling wind and sand.

“Thank you for coming on such short notice, Doc,” Colonel Straw shouted over the noise.

“Where are we?”

“Let’s get you down below, and I’ll explain.”