No Marigolds in the Promised Land

by TS Hottle

Oh, so you thought your quarantine was bad? John Farno wakes up in a rover on a Mars-like world to discover the rest of the planet has been purged of all human life. With only the contents of his rover, he must figure out how to survive. He has no communications off-world, no ship to use for escape, and no human being within 40 light-years. It is the ultimate in social distancing.

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Genres:
Tags:
Tropes: Alien Invasion, Antihero, First Contact, FTL, Galactic Civilization, Here Comes the Cavalry, Interstellar Travel, Person in Distress, Post-Apocalyptic, Reluctant Hero, Sentient AI, Space Battles
Word Count: 85,000
Setting: Farigha, a Mars-like terraforming project
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Excerpt:

LOG ENTRY: 0928 14-Sagan, 429

 

I’ve got the rover going again and have found the sensor road. Whatever happened to the domes did not happen to the sensor road. The beacons laid out on either side of this marvelous, mythical path that only exists physically on a map have to be hardened against 2 Mainzer’s constant tantrums. In theory, Farigha is supposed to have an ozone layer in about ten years to cut back on all that. What’s that, you say? Mars has an artificial ozone layer and still gets smacked in the face by Sol? Well, Farigha has something Mars will never have unless there’s a handwavium deposit nearby they haven’t found. Farigha has a magnetic field. It just needs ozone for that extra boost. Plus, I kinda want to settle here once we get the temperature up above freezing. That’d be easier if I could walk outside without needing lead sunblock and a winter jacket on a summer’s day. And an oxygen scrubber.

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The rover’s EMP protocols worked. I was able to get the motors back online, followed by the full comm system (the radio is pretty much a primary school science project, no hardening required), and the main heater and oxygenator. Just in time, too. The backup tanks used up half their oxygen overnight. Apparently, snoring uses up a lot of oxygen. Who knew?

The rover’s drive platform and AI came next. The drive platform doesn’t require much. I could have run it off the hardened core. The AI is what concerned me. I don’t know why we call the rover’s “soft brain” an AI. Technically, we humans don’t use artificial intelligence. Not since one tried to punish us for World War III. The United Nations Artificial Intelligence Decree of 2165 declared that all AIs henceforth would be “nice and stupid.” So what I’m riding shotgun with is about as smart as a cockroach. Assuming the cockroach ate a lot of lead paint.

Is lead paint still a thing?

I digress. Getting the soft brain back online lets the rover drive itself. And let’s be honest. On the off-chance that I’m the last man on Farigha, letting me drive the rover is still a threat to humanity. The self-driving car is a four-hundred-year-old technology, a worthy successor to the horse-and-buggy, where one told the horse what to do so that stupid human in the back couldn’t wreck it. Besides, as soon as we let ourselves drive our own vehicles, we had World Wars. That’s right, unlucky person who gets to listen to this log. Henry Ford damn near destroyed the cradle of humanity by pricing the Model T reasonably. The filthy bastard.

Okay, so I’m probably exaggerating that driving the rover myself would start World War IV. For starters, wrong planet.

The soft brain complained it could not reach Musk Traffic Control. It did not comprehend the phrase “No shit, Sherlock” and proceeded to load and read A Study in Scarlet to me in the original English. Artificial stupidity, ladies and gentlemen. It got us to the stars.

Anyway, I need to get to Musk. Otherwise, I’m going to be out here in the scenic wilderness that is Ragnarok Planitia with nary a squirrel or hot nurse to focus my otherwise short attention span.

COLLAPSE

About the Author

TS Hottle is the creator of the Compact Universe, a series of loosely connected novels and novellas set in a confederation of human worlds as they deal with a disastrous first contact with a similar species known as the Gelt. By day, he is a software developer. He lives in suburban Cincinnati with his wife Candy.


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