A CEO of Mars

Bodies were everywhere. Men and women dead, trapped forever in the motion of running, as their body fluids boiled. Alexandra suppressed the urge to vomit. That would have been an especially bad idea in an enclosed suit. The arrivals lounge was deathly still, the bars and entertainments stopped in place. Mugs sat filled with soda on smooth wooden countertops. The wind still rushed outwards towards the hole, where Alexandra, Bea and Hamish had entered.

At the centre, grasped by a dead man’s hand stuck solid was the hatch through which one could access the departure lounge. The poor fellow reaching for it didn’t make it. Alexandra gingerly approached, stepping over the bodies of the dead along the way.

“How many flags have you got, to shroud these poor fucking staff?” she asked.

There was no response from Bea or Hamish. Hamish drew a cross in the air with his free hand as he walked.

As they approached the access hatch, Bea piped up. “It’s a grim business, for sure, but we need to get down there and refill our tanks. While their brave sacrifice will be remembered, for now, we need to attend to the needs of the living.” She pointed at the white faced, overall clad dead man clinging to the access hatch. “Alexandra, be a dear and open the hatch for us, will you?”

“They’re not noble sacrifices. They’re people. People who you killed.” glared Alexandra. “Clean up your own damn mess.” She turned away from the gristly scene around the access hatch, bodies stuck rigid in the motion of clawing over each other, reaching desperately toward underground safety.

Elsewhere, the great circular dome was filled with the opulence of senior management. Actual wood bars, fancy liquors, expensive looking paintings and scantily clad serving girls. Serving girls whose eyes had exploded. All the serious migration checks were done back at Barsoom, and nobody on regular staff wages could afford a flight to Phobos unless it was for essential Corporation business. But while she couldn’t give a damn for the clientele here, the workers pouring drinks and dealing cards didn’t deserve the painful death Bea gave them.

Alexandra spotted a glint by the side of an advertising hoarding, gaudily spruiking the CEO’s latest video series, ‘7/7/7 Life’. She approached for a closer look and considered socking the bastard one in his chiselled jaw, while Bea and Hamish took care of their gristly business.

A man stepped out from behind the hoarding, clutching a white plastic rifle in his hands. His pressure suit was patterned in an unsettling black and red camouflage pattern. He flipped a switch by the side of his head, and his visor flickered clear, showing a black eyepatch and thick stubble. Julian. The sniper who missed their shot at the CEO an hour ago. What a stinking rat.

He lined up Alexandra with his rifle and strode forward. “I hope I’ve got the right frequency, here.” he smirked over the communicator. “No, I know I’ve got it right. It’s always the same story from you red bastards.”

Alexandra made to duck behind a nearby table made of some fancy wood she couldn’t recognise, surely imported from Earth.

“No, no, no. Keep your hands where I can see them, Alex.” he called out. “No funny business. That goes for you too, Hamish, Bea. Stand up, hands up.”

“You traitorous scab bastard,” replied Hamish. “I knew you for five years, engineered your exit from the space marines, lost good men for that rifle.” he sighed, standing by the bar.

“You couldn’t even shoot one man,” called Bea, still crouched by the dead man holding the access hatch. “How do you think you’ll go against all three of us?”

“Trust me, I’m good enough to drop you.” replied Julian. “I’m getting older, y’know. And it turns out you can’t eat fancy dreams. A better world, for me, means enough money to pay off my gambling debts and set myself up to retire to a nice cottage in the shade of Olympus Mons.” He smirked, exposing his teeth like a lion toying with his prey. “And that’s just what the Corporation offered me, six months ago.”

Hamish let fly with a string of expletives. Bea dove for cover behind the dead man’s body.

Julian fired his rifle, with a clinical click. The bullet tore through Bea’s chest, slicing through pressure suit fabric and tendons alike. She cried out in pain, and huddled behind the body.

Alexandra flicked on her laser swords, one in each hand with a whirr, and charged toward Julian, bellowing in anger.

Hamish’s laser bullets flew past her shoulder, forcing Julian to duck back behind the billboard, newly pockmarked with gashes. But the covering fire quickly ran out, as Hamish yelped in pain at the overheating laser pistol.

“For the Red Planet!” called Alexandra, as she approached Julian at a sprint, laser swords dancing. Julian slammed a fresh clip in his rifle, and leaned out from behind the hoarding, lining up a shot.

Julian fired. Alexandra saw its trajectory, and tried to block it with the laser sword in her right hand. Just like in the MCU. The bullet tore right through the blade of the sword, which erupted in a shower of sparks, flashing before dying. The bullet did, however, deflect sideways off the blade, smashing a mug of beer, which drizzled onto the floor. Alexandra dropped it and waved the other sword across her face, daring Julian to try and beat it with his second shot.

The second bullet tore a hole through her right knee, blasting straight through the pressure suit, bone and tendon. She tripped and jumped forward off her good leg, blood trailing through the air as she flew. Alexandra landed on Julian, and slammed her laser sword straight into his neck, slicing through the fabric above the suit sealing joint, then burning through his neck, as she cut his head clean off with the momentum she carried as she fell forward.

She looked down and saw the blood and air leaking through the hole in her knee. She tried to stand on it, and it gave way with a sickening crunch.

“Hamish, help me!” she cried out.

Her comrade ran over, and inspected the damage. “It’s a clean cut. Biggest problem here is the pressure. Your suit air is leaking out, and there ain’t no way to put it back. But we can at least stem the loss.” He grabbed for the purple scarf off a dead woman, slouched at the bar, drink in her hand. He wrapped it, tightly around her knee like a tourniquet. “That oughta slow the leakage. Ain’t nothing we can do for the knee, though.”

Alexandra limped forward, leaning on Hamish, toward the access hatch, with a grimace on her face. Ahead, Bea cried out in pain, then clamped down on it hard with a grimace. “The goddamn scab got me. He really did. It hurts like hell. I can’t move my legs.”

Alexandra leaned against a leather stool while Hamish surveyed the damage. His gloved hand came back slick with blood as he reached toward her. “You ain’t looking too good, I gotta be honest, Bea. But we’ll get you downside, and see if we can fix you up.”

She replied, breath rasping, “Nah, I’m done. Fought hard, fought well, but the fucker’s severed my goddamn spine.” She wrenched the access panel open with a scream of pain. “Keep the red flag flying, comrades.” Then Bea shut her eyes, and whispered, “The red planet, remember, it’s for everyone.”

The stares were as intense as any gunfight. As Alexandra emerged from hobbling down the ladder in the downstairs departure lounge, Hamish was at the centre of a circle of onlookers, laser pistol in hand. They shouted abuse. He dodged a beer bottle, then a half-eaten bowl of salad.

“Murderer!” called out a gruff voice from the crowd.

“Traitor!” called another.

Above the nearby roulette table, a television showed a live video feed from the killing field upstairs. Here, nobody was sitting idly by the fancy wooden topped bars. The gaudy chandeliers gave off a harsh white light on a harsh white crowd. The theatrette was empty, playing a documentary on the history of the Corporation to an audience which had more important things on their minds. These people had watched their co-workers and servants die. They wanted vengeance.

From behind Hamish, a man moved out of the crowd, steadying his nerve to charge him. Alexandra activated her remaining laser sword with a flick of the switch and, with a hum, it shone red. She leaned against Hamish’s broad frame for support. The man backed off, sweeping back into the anonymous crowd.

Hamish fired at the floor, where his laser shot hit with a fizz. “Listen up! We know you don’t appreciate what we’ve done.” A custard tart slammed into his face, leaving him dripping with goop. “But, this young lady’s hurt. We don’t want any more deaths. If we can just grab a spare suit, we’ll be out of your hair.”

“Not bloody likely!” called a voice from the crowd. “I say we hang ‘em, give ‘em a little old fashioned justice.”

The improvised tourniquet held tight around Alexandra’s leg, but she could feel the air leak past her skin, beneath the pangs of pain shooting through her knee. They needed a way out.

She scoured the scene for possibilities. Ideally, possibilities that weren’t spilling more innocent red blood for the Red Planet. At the end, past the check-in kiosks, was the underground passageway to the landing strip. If they could get through to there, perhaps there would be maintenance suits she could swap into.

An older woman hurled a steel bar stool towards her. She swung her laser sword at it in mid-air, which was rather less impressive than she’d hoped. It merely stuck in the hard metal baseplate of the stool, rather than slicing through. The crowd edged closer, unawed by the weaponry. Alexandra shook the stool free of her blade and brandished it at the crowd.

“I’ll use it, I’ll cut you, so help me God, I’ll do it!” she cried out. With a quick hand gesture using her free hand, she signalled the landing strip passage to Hamish. Now they just had to somehow get through the hundred-strong braying mob. Hamish pointed his laser pistol directly at the greying, bespectacled man who stood at the front of the line. His suit was crisp and clean. The expression on his face was not.

“Go ahead, you commie bastard,” shouted the man. “Make my day.”

Hamish raised his laser pistol to the elaborate chrome chandelier above, and squeezed off a shot. The blast flew over the man’s head and cut through the hanging supports. The immense gleaming chrome light fixture fell to the floor with a crash and a bang. The mob’s attention briefly turned, with yelps of surprise.

Alexandra limped forward, brandishing her laser sword. The crowd, briefly cowed by their surprise, parted around her as she traced arcs with her sword. Hamish fired over their heads again, hitting a bottle of brown liquor, which dribbled down the bar cabinet.

As they reached the fallen chandelier, the crowd was wholly on one side of them. “We’re going to head out this way. We don’t want any trouble.” called Alexandra. She received replies steeped in obscenity, but at least the mob didn’t move to re-encircle them.

She tried to speed her pace, to hasten their retreat, but her knee gave way with a sickening crack, and she fell to the floor. A glass bottle from the mob landed just short of her, showering her face with sharp fragments. But there was a hand there to help her up. Hamish reached down and yanked her up to her feet, and they hobbled together through the underground passage to the landing strip.

It shone in polished chrome and steel. A last reminder of the Corporation’s benevolence for those who left Barsoom for greener pastures. Or a reminder of what their sacrifice was for, for those sent to the hellscapes of Phobos or the Belt. The corridor practically gleamed. And Alexandra was dripping blood all over it.

It echoed with the shouts of those left behind, but they weren’t foolish enough to follow Alexandra, Hamish and their weaponry into the narrow corridor.

At the end, an ornate spiral staircase rose up, Alexandra presumed to the landing strip. She’d never had clearance to travel off-world legally. There were no fresh suits, though. Her tattered, ancient NASA spacesuit might last a few minutes in the open air, if she was lucky.

“What if we break into the spaceplane?” she asked, desperate for a solution.

“I sure as hell can’t fly it. Unless you’ve got a real fancy education that you haven’t told me about, I don’t think we’d get off the ground.” said Hamish, as he scoured the little lobby for anything useful. “Maybe there’s something topside we can use – industrial caulking, or something?”

“Am I to be just another martyr for your cause, another beautiful sacrifice for the greater good?” Alexandra asked, thinking of how readily her comrades had murdered the staff of the spaceport.

Hamish was taken aback. “No, you’re Red Planet. We’re going to get out of this alive.” He scratched his chin, an awkward motion in the oversized spacesuit gloves. “It’s just that, y’know, sometimes we have to be pragmatic about these things. A revolution isn’t a dinner party.”

He started up the spiral staircase and beckoned to her. “Come on, I’m sure we’ll find a way out. We’ve already lost two comrades today. I’m not about to lose you, too.”