Monica stared out her window, reflecting on what she knew of the mission and events of the past week. The last four days of travel had proven to be the worst. She was unable to focus on playing Aries Seven; giving Dekel sixteen easy wins. The Bishop tried cornering her at least twice a day with his probing questions, for which she had no answers. Monica rubbed her eyes as she adjusted to the lighting on Mars. The shuttles landing was delayed when the Interpid's landing gear malfunctioned. After the shuttle docked, all of the passengers made their way towards the space port. Only Monica stayed behind, pretending to be asleep hoping the head strong Bishop would be on the other end of the base by the time she arrived at her temporary quarters. Despite all of the misfortunes that seem to be plaguing the mission, the shuttle made it to the Effendi base an hour ahead of schedule. This gave Monica and the others three hours before the official debriefing. Someone was going to be getting an ear full from the enraged Bishop, and she planed to stay clear of him, praying he was not joining the mission!
Monica had never been to the Effendi base before and looked forward to doing a little investigating of her own. Monica had read over the top secret files at least three or four times. She had also done some research on the Effendi base. She discovered that about eighteen months ago, the bases flow of transports, Industrial production, and over all performance had increased by sixteen percent. In fact, out of all of America's bases from the Earth's Moon to the Earth, the Effendi base was the most efficient. Despite Monica's further research, she could not find an explanation for this. So she intended to use her free time walking around and investigating the place first hand. And if she was lucky, she might even get a look at the UE-1 Concord, but she suspected the ship to already be in orbit over Mars.
Stuffing her lap top into her brief case, Monica gave out a long awaited moan as she pulled herself out of the seat. Monica realized she must have been sitting there for quite some time, for her legs where cramped and the maintenance crews were making their way to the shuttle. She felt what the shuttle really needed was retirement.
Ms. Tanner strolled down the long tunnel from the shuttle to the space port. The space port had a high ceiling, at least three stories, towering over head. One of the first things Monica noticed was how clean the port was. All airports and spaceports had to be maintained to regulations, but the Effendi port seemed to have a distinguished sparkle all about. The next thing that caught her attention was the smell. It reminded her of being in a field of flowers. The fragrant aroma was inviting and it helped take some of the weight off of her shoulders, with the open air aura it projected. The space port was lavishly decorated with bright colors, accents of red and purple. It almost gave Monica the impression that she was at a carnival. Huge reader signs with black backdrops and a green lettering gave her all the information she needed to find her way out of the space port and into the heart of the base. Monica looked forward to the walk while her body adjusted to the gravity on Mars. The Shuttle Intrepid's gravity was designed to prepare the crew for the change from one planet or base to another. However the gravity emitters had failed twice producing a fluctuating environment on the voyage, (and Monica was grateful that it worked at all.)
The NASA commander had only taken a few steps, when a man in a cart came rushing up to her.
"Hello there and welcome to the Effendi Base. May I show you around Mamme? If you have any questions I'd be more than happy to help you."
Monica had to pause and give the man's question some thought. "I don't suppose you have a File Map handy?" A File Map resembled Earth's World Wide Web, only it was a hand held device that held a wealthy bit of information on a given place. The File Map was up dated every thirty seconds with the latest news that pertained to each port (space port, air port, etc...) File Maps could be found on earth's World Wide Web, but were not updated as often or as informative. With only having maps of places made the File Map's fast, informative, and user friendly.
The man hesitated with his reply, "Ah, yea. You've never been here before have you?"
"No, why should that matter?" Monica's curiosity growing.
"Well we recently got rid of them."
"Got rid of them?" questioned Monica with a puzzled expression on her face.
"Yea, they were handy, but they were replaced with employees like me."
This puzzled Monica even more. "Since when did we replace technology with man power.
"I started training for the job about eighteen months ago and well, it sure beats my old job."
"What was your old job, if you don't mind me asking?"
"I use to manage the disposal service relay computers."
"And who took over your position there?"
"Oh, that boring job, it was decommissioned."
"Then who monitors the garbage disposal units?" Monica found herself growing more and more puzzled, as this man continued. "Wait, before you answer that, let me guess, you guys got rid of them also."
"Yeap, shuttled them back to Earth just three weeks ago. And I must say, I enjoyed helping load those things. So where are you going? I can taxi you there. It's free of charge. Or would you like a tour? You seem quite interested."
Monica held up her hand to stop the pleasant man from going on. "Actually I think I'll walk, my legs could use a little stretching."
"Well alright then, just follow the green signs for directions and here's a map to help guide you. The map clips onto the back of your belt when it's not needed. If you need our assistance or change your mind just push the red button on your map and some one will be with you shortly." With that the man turned his cart and sped off.
Monica looked down at the map she was given and could only shake her head. The map was not a hand held computer, but rather a very detailed 30 by 30 cm. acrylic covered map. The clip board size map seemed rather clumsy at first as Monica made her way to the space port's exit. She scouted out where she wanted to go clipping the map to her belt, where it sat comfortably and made her way to the subway named Serpent Streak. That is if it had not been decommissioned as well!
Upon leaving the space port, Monica never gave the shuttle a second glance. If she had, she might notice a man entering the shuttle with a brief case. The man was dressed in average day clothes, though his walk gave the impression that he had a mission to complete. He entered the shuttle and exited it with a time span of two minutes. Upon exiting, he did not take the same passageways as others. Instead he went through a door marked `Employees Only', brief case in hand.
The subway was clean and appeared to be functioning. Monica noticed that the subway had been under construction recently and that some of the walls were not complete. This stirred a new question into Monica's thoughts. 'How does a place under construction increase it's over all productivity by sixteen percent?'
Monica walked deeper into the subway easily finding her way according to the green signs above. The subway was constructed in a way she had never seen before and she found the construction not only unusual, but entertaining as well. It was as if she were walking through art, instead of looking at it on a wall. Upon reaching her goal, Monica wanted to look at her map while she waited for the next car to arrive. She only got the map out before a car came racing around, the door slide open, and
"Hello, where is your destination?" asked a young woman driver.
"Ah," Monica hesitated. "I'm headed for Control Center Six and then to Yellow Quarters Zone 11."
"Well come a board, My name is Sharrie and I'll be your driver to C.C. Six, you'll find refreshments in the front and rear of each car. You need to sit in Car 2."
The subway car was four links long. Each link could hold fifty people sitting,. Various people sat throughout each car, no one she recognized. Monica made her was to Car 2 where she joined ten others. She sat closest to the front, preparing to look over some of her maps details.
"Hello my name is Mike," came a joyful greeting from the seat behind her.
Monica turned almost in annoyance to meet Mike. "Hi, how are you Mike?"
"Oh fine. Say, I couldn't help but notice, are you with NASA?"
Monica found herself talking with Mike for the next five minutes, when the car she was in came to a stop. Monica wished Mike fair well and went into Control Center 6. She spent the next thirty minutes going through the Control Center, taking note of procedures, organization, and the curious way every one greeted her. Their approach seemed friendly but not because of her rank.
Bishop Tussa sat in a luxurious room tapping a light pen against the arm of his chair. He had come straight to the High Priest chambers after the shuttle's landing. He was looking forward finding out the latest news. The chambers were finely designed with expensive marbles and fine woods. Two windows to the Bishop's right provided a vast view of the surrounding Mars terrain. Tussa only had enough time to scope out the room, glancing a minute or two out the windows before one of the two doors, leading into this room opened. The High Priest walked in.
"Welcome to Citadel, Tussa. I hope your flight wasn't too uncomfortable," welcomed the enthusiastic Priest, known to only a few as Eric Mogowen. He was one of the oldest men to have a job in space. He was a tall man with gray hair that was thin across his head. Mr. Mogowen was highly respected by the Vatican and most of the world. His primary mission was to keep the spirits of the Mars base up and to provide counseling to those in need. He conducted the Sunday sermons, (though the rotation of Mars compared to the Earth, made his weekly schedule different. The rest of the Citadel's needs were met by those he instructed. The church on Mars was not the only part of the base, referred to as the Citadel, but in fact the entire base was first called Citadel. Only after the military base named Effendi was up and running did the name change, take place. For those living on Mars, the name Effendi referred to the military part of the base, while the name Citadel referred to the Church, the space port, and civilian quadrants which included living quarters and markets.
"I'd tell you about the trip here, but I prefer not to change subjects. You called me here for a reason. From your message, it sounds quite urgent." The High Priest had heard that the Bishop was a man of action. The Bishop's eagerness assured him he'd made a good choice for the mission at hand.
"Yes, you're right. Let's not waste any time," smiled the High Priest. "You've read over the information I sent you? Let me jump right to the present. Neither you or myself are being allowed into the briefing room.
"That's absurd! What's going on up here? Does the military think just because they're on a different planet they can just start doing what ever they want? What's the Mars president doing about this, and the Senate, where are they in all this?"
"Actually, it's not the military that handed down these orders. The president and the senate are not involved either."
"Not involved!" Bishop Tussa had to sit back and take a breath. It was becoming apparent that the Citadel was falling apart. Without a chain of command, the base's stability would soon dissolve. "Is this some kind of NASA stunt, I didn't think they were capable of this," thought Bishop Tussa out loud.
"Would you like a glass of water Tussa?"
"Yes please," answered the flabbergasted Bishop. The room lapsed into silence as the Priest made his way to the water facility.
Running his fingers through his short hair the Bishop wondered where his career would have taken him if he had not chosen to be a diplomat for the Vatican. Bishop Tussa's job use to consist of running a small church in Northern Germany. Studying and teaching there for ten years Mr. Tussa traveled to the Vatican where important meetings were held. Until his face became well known, and his voice as well. After making a name for himself, the Vatican decided to snatch him up for his talents of bringing order to the church. Though Bishop Tussa's job was to spread and teach the word of God. His foremost goals dwelt with in his ability to save small churches from finical troubles, Church member abuse, gain community support for the struggling church and ensure the church's voice was heard in the capital of the state or province. Upon employment at the Vatican, Bishop Tussa would travel around the world on behalf of the Catholic Church. Tussa would venture from one struggling church to the next. What he left behind was truly the work of God.
Sitting in the High Priest chambers reminded him of what all started the drive for his dedication to the church. Growing up Tussa had attended a small church in a poor European country. When he was about sixteen the church went through a management change and soon after closed. While the church had been open, Tussa would help in preparing extra beds during cold winter nights. One homeless man had become his spiritual mentor and Tussa learned much from their talks after the dinner meal. But after the closing of the church Tussa only saw the homeless man one other time. It was a couple of weeks after the closure, in the month of February. He stopped to say hello when he realized the man was asleep. Then reality sunk in and he realized the man was dead. He died from being sick and having no warm place to sleep. The feeling Tussa had when he found his mentor dead would stay with him forever and be the fuel for his pursuing a life in the church.
"No. It's not a NASA stunt. I did find out who the commanding officer is of this mission and what he says goes, apparently goes."
"Well then, point me the way and I'll unplug this guys one man charade," Bishop Tussa had a lot of steam to vent since being attacked on the shuttle.
"I've tried to arrange a meeting with the man in charge, but all my requests have been denied. I'm curious as to how you intend to comfort him when all my attempts have led to dead ends," the Priest had to challenge the Bishop, he wanted to see what the Bishop might have up his sleeve.
"Well, I plan to make sure the President, the Senate, the News Paper, and so on know what's going on here. Our man will have more negative publicity to swim through than our ex-president Nixon."
The High Priest nodded his head in approval. "Well our man will be arriving just minutes before the official briefing and I just so happen to know which door he'll be exiting, are you interested?"
"How long is this briefing?"
"I believe two hours. Will that be enough time for you to get things in order, for our proposal?"
"I've had two weeks to prepare, let things boil and pray for God to strengthen me for what lies ahead" stated the Bishop flatly.
"I knew you were the man for the job and I've been praying for you as well. The Catholic Church of Mars has as well."
Bishop Tussa gathered the portfolio given him by the High Priest and rose to leave. "Oh, by the way, I'm not approaching him with a proposal, but rather my demands!"
The High Priest smiled to himself and said a quite thank you.
Walking to the door the Bishop glanced at the papers the Priest gave him. "Captain Jorbane S. Panas, huh! Well he's about to learn that you don't make biblical plans without the church of God being represented."