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Is this thing recording? Yes, it seems so. I am doing this recording mostly for you, Anya. You hated technology. You said that what the human hand doesn’t do directly doesn’t have the essence of the human being. And it lacks the spirit that gives life to a work.
You were always a romantic. And I always came up with some metaphysical technical explanation about the future of humanity. Only that future wasn’t such. I think I have to agree with you. At least, in your idea of how we have used that technology.
But I’m wandering off. I have to focus. For you. And for future generations. That they’re counting on us to create a new, better world.
The news came suddenly to Athena Station. On Earth the panic was total. Asteroid 2130/565, known simply as the Destroyer, was too large to be diverted by any means. How had its trajectory escaped from the tracking systems?
The answer was extremely simple: cutbacks in the tracking system of nearby celestial objects had always been precarious, but in recent decades it had even dropped to almost zero. However, that mass was too large to be diverted.
If at least more had been invested in the new theory of artificial gravitational fields, perhaps something could have been achieved. Now it was too late. There was no money for basic science either. «That’s no use at all,» said his detractors. «Invest in practical things» said others. The effect was that we had nothing with which to protect ourselves. The deniers of pure research had won. And this time, definitely.
I confess that I could never have imagined such a big shock, even if I could have foreseen that it would. On Earth the chaos was absolute. Religious madness was unleashed by calling the Apocalypse, but the only angel approaching did not sound a trumpet; he had several million tons of iron compounds, nickel, and other heavy elements. Its presence was enough to create a terror like never before.
Here, on Mars, at the Athena base and at the Apollo base, we had our first emergency meeting. The Chinese also came from their nearby bases, and we went to their bases to try to organize a joint response. We had to speed up the delivery of essential material from Earth, and of personnel, and complete the new habitable areas, which were in the construction phase.
Several ships were dispatched from Earth, with personnel and material, and with seeds for the plantations, as well as diverse genetic material, human and other species. All in order to carry out a plan, which we call Phoenix, for obvious reasons.
The asteroid approached the Earth, and was visible with the naked eye. After the chaos, suddenly all mankind held its breath. I called Anya through a direct connection to the satellite. She received the message, and did what I asked her to do: convey a message to me with what she saw. Then we would be a little closer. She would feel a little better talking to me. It wasn’t much. But it was what we could achieve. I couldn’t answer. Simultaneous communication is impossible, due to distance. But I would know about her, and our daughter, until the end. Until the last moment.
Anya told me how she saw the asteroid approaching, and how it was becoming immense in the sky. She held our little girl in her arms, and our little dog barked insistently. She told me that the girl slept peacefully in her arms. Then she told me how she saw the asteroid filling the sky. She told me that she hoped to see the immense wall of the earth’s mantle rise from the surface in a wave of fifty kilometers, to feel how it devoured her. I did not have time to explain to her that this was the idea that was normally held and that many media had communicated, but that it was not; the impact of the asteroid with the atmosphere would cause an immense atmospheric column, with an impressive pressure, which would sweep everything in its path, even before the wall of the terrestrial mantle reached thousands of degrees.
It would be a very quick, painless death. The impact would be atrocious, brutal, and it would decompose her body, my daughter’s, and my beloved dog Lana’s, at such a speed that they would have no time to notice it. That was my only consolation, and hers as well. And that of millions of human beings.
I stopped receiving her words. There was silence. The Earth was devastated. And we, on Mars, were the only proof that once there was human life on that once-blue planet. Even the proofs that once there was life were erased. Silence, and fire, were the only thing you could see from space.
The last ships have arrived. With the staff assigned, and with the families who won the raffle to travel here. The adaptation teams are working at all levels, physical, psychic, and moral, with the newly arrived personnel. But they themselves crawl into the situation. And I don’t blame them. On the contrary, they are doing a magnificent job.
There have been attacks of collective hysteria, and some violent situations by personnel not yet adapted to the situation. Some just can’t stand it, and give in. I can’t say that I don’t understand them, but we can’t tolerate moods being further altered. The most violent have been placed in isolated cells, or taken to ships in orbit, with health personnel and psychologists managing that frustration and their fears, not forgetting the pain they feel, which is what we all feel.
But, in general, families are adapting well. Despite the hardships, the scarcity of food and means, and the scarcity of resources, we are getting by. We have regular meetings with the planetary engineers, who are in charge of designing emergency plans to create new zones of habitability that allow new spaces where the personnel can feel more comfortable. One of the engineers has proposed to create a huge dome that can even emulate the appearance of the Earth, with an artificial blue sky. The idea is very good. We are discussing whether it is good that it resembles the Earth, or if on the contrary it is better to get the personnel accustomed to the sky of Mars.
But the dome will be built. There we will bring pairs of birds and other animals, and we will create a small ecosystem, expanding hydroponic farms, and creating a bigger and bigger environment, where we can plant trees. The first adaptive experiments are promising. There are still centuries to go to see open forests on Mars, but in the domes they can be enjoyed by future generations. We hope that, through adaptation and genetic engineering, those animals, those birds, and other organisms, will adapt to this planet that is our new home for the distant future. Engineers talk of slow but constant increases in atmospheric pressure through injections into the soil to release oxygen from rust through a process enabled by adapted bacteria.
Terraformation, when we can initiate it, will take decades, even centuries. The idea is not to create an atmosphere and habitability like that of the Earth, but an environment that could be similar to living in a high mountain, more or less the same as being about five thousand meters high. I believe that future generations will be able to achieve this, and structures will no longer be necessary, when the human body and all other living beings have adapted. Mars’ natural resources are beginning to be exploited incredibly, and engineers are doing a colossal job. These resources are fundamental to our survival.
It has been six terrestrial months since I started this diary, although here we are governed by the Mars calendar. There have been five serious accidents, with six deaths. It is not a figure out of the ordinary, given the circumstances and the pressure in which we live. But we cannot afford to lose a single human being. We are the minimum number to be able to have enough genetic variability to be able to develop. Including the embryos we brought from Earth and the chromosome combination prepared by biotechnologists. We have encouraged families to have children, those who can have them. For singles, we have simply urged them to relate to each other in order to have children.
We have told them that this is not a joke, but a simple question of survival. Some of the women have warned me about the paradox that we are now dependent on them for the survival of the species. I could not help but agree with all of them. We have mistreated them for centuries. For millennia. And now we ask them for a great sacrifice. In a world where women have always been undervalued, we now ask them to save the human species. I can’t help but feel self-conscious about something like that. But it is necessary. And they know it better than anyone. Because they have always carried that burden. Not now. But for millennia.
We cannot afford women without children. Each one has to have an average of two point five children if we want to have a chance. I myself still have Anya in my heart, and my little one. But this is not a question of sex; this is a question of the future. There is no time, no possibility, to talk about sentimentality or romance, or fighting or cheating. Couples are chosen for their genetic suitability, and are invited to have children, either naturally or by artificial conception. Some quickly opt for one system or another. Others do not know what to do. But pregnancies are urgent and critical. If we want a new generation that can continue the history of humanity. Any figure below the minimum, and this will be a desert in a few years.
They can pair up, of course, if they wish, but we cannot allow ourselves to forget that we have to create a first generation of human beings from Mars. As is often the case, women bear the brunt of it. Many of these women are engineers of the highest calibre, responsible for the success of this project. That’s why our gratitude has to be twofold. And that’s why, today more than ever, we have to recognize their work, because we depend on them to survive as a species, and that’s something that future generations will have to remember. I hope they will remember, if they reappear, those absurd misogynistic elements so common on Earth. I only hope that here, on Mars, full and complete equality between men and women will be achieved. Because only by working as a team, men and women, as equals, are we overcoming all barriers.
Now the time has come to face reality, and to create a new future for humanity on Mars. Or a hundred years from now there will be no one left except robots and androids. A new society that knows the past, so as not to repeat it. Mars must be the starting point for a new human consciousness that seeks a future where we all fit. Because it has been demonstrated, more than ever, that we are all necessary. No exceptions. No deceit.
Forty-two years, six months, and two days since the collapse, and the start of Operation Phoenix.
Forty-two terrestrial years have passed. I fear this will be my last entry. I have lived longer than expected, given the circumstances. And I will not complain about it. But now the forces abandon me. The Earth is still, for the most part, a ball of fire.
My body has said enough. I have a few days left, I am told. But I wanted to put on record here that the Phoenix project is going ahead. The children arrived, with several problems due to the environment and gravity, but they were less than expected, thanks to the genetic therapy of our specialists. Now a new generation of men and women already adapted to Mars is born. They develop conveniently, although it is evident that evolution will create a new type of human being in this world. That process has already begun. In front of us, we see a new humanity appear.
The rest of species are also evolving favorably. Their adaptation to the environment is adequate, given the circumstances. The engineers and geneticists of the first generation have almost all died, but the second generation are doing an absolutely incredible job, and now, the third generation seems to be even better.
We have also set up areas for recreation, and the first artists have been created, who create music, dance, painting, or literature. We need art in our lives, as well as engineers. Because life has no meaning without science, but without art you cannot understand or give reason to all this wonder we are building here. And we need writers and historians, who narrate what has happened here, and leave a record of it for future generations.
The forces fail me, and my last memory is for Anya. And for my child. I keep a black and white photo of the two of them, looking at each other, in a park near my house. My little girl has a ribbon of flowers on her head. Anya’s voice still resounds in my mind as she described to me how she saw the asteroid entering the atmosphere.
I have always carried them both in my heart. And their memory has always been the column that has sustained my impulse and my effort to move forward. That was our commitment when everything happened: to fight, to fight and to move forward, in memory of all our loved ones. And so it has been. Now I see new families, new dreams. They will live what Anya and I couldn’t live.
Today we hear childish laughter on Mars. We have parties, we have cultural events, and we have dreams. We have created a new city, which unites our bases with those of China. We have called it Phoenix. And we don’t differentiate between races, beliefs, or customs. Here we are all one people united in the struggle for survival. There is no time for disputes, nor for conflicts, nor for wars. Only to get ahead. Every day.
The new generations do not long for the Earth, because their mother world is Mars. And they do know that we are a people, each with its differences, with its customs, but all united in the desire to create a new world. I know that in the future there will be conflicts, because it is connatural to the human being. But I hope this lesson will help. Because it is very likely that we will not have a new chance for survival.
They will be the heirs of the Solar System. And the future of humanity. We entrust them with the task of moving forward. We have taught them everything we knew. Now they will continue to fight for life. And for a better world for all. The world of Mars.
Anya, honey, leave everything you’re doing, give me your hand, and let’s go for a walk with the little girl in the park, I really need it. I need to walk with you by my side, with the little girl in my arms. I need to feel your presence. I need you both to be by my side. How much I miss you…