Carl E. Thompson and Joseph G. Thompson
C 2010 Maveric Lion Productions
These days Tatiana Wu always felt a little bit aroused when she got home from work. Part of it was the danger, she had to admit. But part of it was him. She had to admit that she had grown a little loser to her charge than her bosses in the movement had intended. They had warned her that she might. Case officers were always in danger of getting too close to their agents.
She couldn’t lie to herself. The Earth man had gotten to her.
She worked as a nurse at the Mariner City Hospital. There was nothing strategic or dangerous about her job there. She took car of sick people. Mostly terraformers with frost bite and red dust in their lings. But when she was alone in her apartment at night she talked to the Earth man for the movement.
Once inside the apartment she stripped off her uniform and showered. Water was not as scarce on Mars as it had been when she was growing up so you could take a shower to get the all pervasive red dust out of your hair and off you skin. She tossed the uniform in the washer. That would take care of the dust. The dust was everywhere. Growing up Martian you got used to it.
The water was hot and soaked over her skin. She relaxed and thought of Charles. Dear sweet Charles so far away on that planet that had given birth to her species. That strange heavy gravity planet that she would never visit.
Charles whom she knew only by his voice over the Quantum Entanglement Link that was hidden in a box behind the wall in her bedroom. Having it there was like having him next to her bed. Sometimes at night she reached into the compartment and put her hand on the box and it was as if she were touching him across the gulf of space between their worlds.
She had gotten to know him very well. Maybe too well.
Yes, she had feelings for Charles. From a man who lived millions of kilometers away on another planet that she had never visited. A man that she had never seen.
She did not know what he looked like and she loved him. She was absolutely sure of that.
Once she was finished her ablution she dried off and dressed in a long t-shirt that she wore to bed. She entered her bedroom and sat on the bed. Took a deep breath and then reached behind the panel to extract the box. She placed it before her on the bed and placed her data pad beside it, set for record. Her bosses insisted on recordings of their conversions. She did not like that because often there were intimacies in the talk that she did not want anyone else to know. But there was not getting beyond that.
That was how she made her reports to them. The chip with the record placed in a dead drop to be picked up by another agent.
That was if she were arrested they might lose the precious and nearly irreplaceable link but there would be no further damage to the upper echelons of the Martian Freedom Movement.
The box contained a small Casimir plate clad in receptors that would pick up the tiny signal coming through the wormhole and amplify it. There was a small set of speakers that allowed her to hear the voice of the person on the other end. Charles had a similar set up—she imagined. She had never seen his end of it. She had never been to Earth and they had never met.
She checked the chrono on her pad. It was almost time. Opening the box she exposed the Casmir plate. The plate was one of two, both manufactured her on Mars and put into a state Quantum entanglement so that—in one of the weirdest and least intuitive of all quantum principles-- no matter where one of them was moved in the universe it would be connected to the other. You could send data though the plates and pick it up as if it had only traveled a micron across space rather than millions of kilometers.
She had first been introduced to Charles in a safe house on Bradbury Street. That was where her boss had shown her the Casimir plate and where she had first spoken to the man on the other end. Then she had taken the plate home and kept regular appointments with Charles.
At first her banter with Charles had been professional. Just stuff related to the job. But it didn’t stay that way. After a while they began to socialize.
She began to like the sound of his voice and his North American Earth accent. And he began to tell her old jokes. And she could not help but laugh, even though the jokes were mostly bad.
After that they traded confidences. And then, as so many couples had since the advent of the global nets way back in the 20th century, they begin to date—in a manner of speaking. They’d have drinks—she would buy her own and he his. And they would talk while they both drank on their own ends of the wormhole. And then dinner. Eaten alone but with the companion of a soul on the other end.
He told her that he was a Canadian from the North American Federation. She told him how her ancestors had been political prisoners in the Peoples Republic of China. How they had been transported to the Chinese colonies on Mars and how three generations of her family had grown up here on the Red Planet.
Of course they talked politics. It was unavoidable considering that they were spies.
Most Earth people, or so she had found out long ago, did not really understand Martian politics. And she, having grown up on mars, did not really understand Earther politics. Sure the human race had evolved on Earth but now they had moved out and to other planets. Why feel so much affection for a world with such crushing gravity? Though she had to admit that she wished that she could walk out on the surface of her home world without a hardsuit.
But Charles did not feel the same as other Earth people. He sympathized, maybe even empathized, with the Martian cause. At heart he seemed more Martian than Earther.
And she had come to realize she cared about Charles. She had fallen in love with him. With a man she had never seen and had never actually touched.
And yes she had had sex with him.
They could not touch one another. Bu they could touch themselves while they talked to each other. Describe what it was they intended to do.
She wanted to really kiss him and feel his hands on her body. She wanted to taste and touch him. But that was not possible.
At least the entanglement let them interact instantaneously. Had they depended on radio transmission it would have required twenty minutes for the signal to make the trip one way and twenty more for the reply to return,
There was talk that they were working on an instantaneous bridge between planets that would allow people to step off one world and onto another. But it might be years before that saw the light of day. Until then unless Charles came to Mars or she went to Earth they could never meet. And since she was born on mars she would have difficulty adjusting to Earths gravity. Not without heavy exercise and special medicine,
But they had talked of his immigrating one day, so there was always the possibility that they would touch for real. And that would happen, if he was not caught spying for the Martian Liberation Front and was not jailed by the Earth authorities. They would not send him to mars. They never did for people who had betrayed Earth to help the colonial cause. And long ago the Earth authorities had begun to realize that their rebels and outcasts did not consider going to live on mars as a punishment. If anything it was a reward.
Though, she had to admit, that most Earthers were not interested in immigrating to Mars. Even now most people sent here were political exiles from Earth. So many dissidents were here that the place was considered a hotbed of sedition against the Earth government. The Earth government had sent hired thugs here to keep an eye on the Martians. They called them policemen but hoodlums with weapons were what they really were.
And it was feared that sooner or later Earth would send troops.
It was known that Earth had a large spaceborne infantry corps as well as a military space fleet. It was also known that there was no place more likely for its use than Mars. The thought sent a shiver up Tanya’s spine.
She shrugged it off and spoke into the link. “Charles? Are you there?”
There was what seemed to Angelica a long pause. Oh, I hope he’s there.
“Hey, baby,” came his voice. “How are you?”
“I am fine,’ she said. “How are you today?”
“Actually it’s night where I am,” said Charles.
She conferred with her pad. “Oh, yes, that’s right. It’s early evening here.”
“Well, I’m doing just fine. Especially now that I hear your voice.”
“I’m glad to hear that you are good,” she said. “How are things on Earth in general?”
There was a long pause. Usually Charles answered her questions quickly. This pause made her nervous. Something was wrong.
“Listen,’ he said in a low voice. “Something is gong on here. Something big I think your people should know about.”
“What is it?”
“You know I work at the space elevator base.”
Oh course she did. The North American Space Elevator in Toronto moved most of the freight and passengers from that part of Earth to orbit, where they were placed on cycle ships for the trip out to Mars and the Jovian Moons.
It was Charles job that made him a valuable recruit for the Movement. He worked at the elevator base and could keep an eye on what cargo and what passengers were sent up to space. It was Charles who had reported the cadre of Earth cops that had departed two years ago for the colonies. He was also able to inform the Movement of the identities and itineraries of any valuable recruits bound for the Red Planet.
She had once asked Charles why he did what he did.
“Maybe I’m a Martian at heart,” he’d laughed. “Or maybe I just don’t like bullies. And vis-a-vie the colonies—especially Mars—the Earth government have become bullies.”
She supposed that that was something else that she loved about him. He cared about people that he had never met as if they were his family and best friends. That was so rare—even on Mars.
“Honey,” he said, jarring her out of her reverie. “The elevator base is swarming with troops. I contacted a friend of mine at Buenos Ares, Sri Lanka and Jakarta. There’s a lot of military activity at those elevators too. Official cover story is a training exercise on Luna. But I don’t think so.”
“They have done that before,” she pointed out.
“Yeah, but it’s the loads on the cargo pallets that are headed up that makes that a lie.”
“In what way?”
“For one thing, they’re loading all that stuff on cyclers bound for the outer planets, not Moon shuttles. For another a lot of the stuff is gear that one would need to operate on a planet with an atmosphere, albeit a low pressure one. No, they’re headed for Mars.”
Yes, she could see that. Thousands of troops with military version of the Mars suits that her people wore on the surface. Military versions of the Mars rovers that her people used to travel about the planet.
“I will get this data to my people as soon as possible.”
“Good, do that.”
A pang of anxiety filtered its way into her heart. “Will you be okay?”
“I’ll be fine,” he said and she could tell that he was lying to her. She could always tell when he was not being entirely truthful. He didn’t want her to worry about him. But how could she not worry?
But the fact that he did not want here to worry meant that there was something to worry about.
“There’s one more thing,” he said.
“A special package arrived at the elevator this morning. I don’t know what it is but it’s big and they’ve stepped up security around it. They’re also beginning spot checks of the security background of all employees.”
She felt as if her heart had jumped into her mouth.
“Have they checked you?”
“Not so far,” he said. “But I’m not important. They’ll probably just pass me by. I’ve had a clean record all my life. Not even a traffic violation. I’m sure I’m safe.”
She didn’t like that. No one was ever completely safe. The Earth Security people ran regular background checks of personnel at the hospital. They were pretty thorough and asked all sorts of personal questions.
“Be careful, Charles,” she said.
“I will, but I think I should find out what is in that package. It could be something that your people, need to know.”
“No,” she nearly yelled. “Don’t risk it.”
“I have to—don’t worry. I’m sure that I’m safe.”
She knew it was pointless to discuss this further. Their mutual bosses would want him to find out what the mystery package contained. And her trying to talk him out of investigating would be deemed as disloyal.
Only it wasn’t. The man she loved was putting himself at risk and she could not just stand by and let it happen.
But there was nothing she could do. It was bigger than both and them and bigger than their love. A love that would never truly be consummated anyway.
She talked to him a little after that. But she did feel much like talking. Sadness was welling up inside of her and she just wanted to get away from it. Escape.
They said good-bye and then she went to the bathroom to wash her face. In the mirror above the sink she could see that her almond black eyes were already red rimmed with sadness.
She splashed water on her face and told herself once more that she had to be strong. Charles was taking a bigger risk than she after all. If she was exposed here on Mars her friends would hide her somewhere in the outback. Yes, she’d have to give up her life here, and her day job. But she could live with that.
If he were exposed on Earth he would be arrested and harshly interrogated.
She went to bed and tried to sleep.
On her way to the hospital the next morning she left the chip in the dead drop under a park bench and marked the bench with a piece of chalk. As she had done many times before. Just a nurse sitting on a bench and then moving on. Nothing to arouse the suspicions of the authorities.
But all that day Charles was on her mind. What was he doing at that moment? She really hoped that he was not doing anything dangerous. But thinking about that hurt too much so she pushed it into the back of her mind and concentrated only on what was in front of her.
The day ended and she headed home, anticipating her talk with Charles. She stopped to eat dinner at a small restaurant where she usually dined when she did not feel like coking—which was often. She did not like her own cooking since she was usually forced to eat it alone. Sitting in the restaurant she felt as if she had company.
But Charles was not there. Charles was million of klicks away on the world that her ancestors had forsaken. Millions of kilometers away and her heart was there with him.
She finished eating and hurried home.
Once in her apartment she stripped out of her uniform and showered. After that Tanya applied her makeup and changed into jeans and a t-shirt. She left her feet bare because Charles had once expressed an attraction for women’s feet. Men, she thought. There was no explaining some of the things that turned them on.
She looked at her image in the mirror and, for a moment, felt silly. She was actually dressing for a date with a man that she would never see.
She shook her head. She would see herself and how she felt about herself was important to the image she was presenting to her lover.
Lover. Yes, that was what he was. Charles was her lover. Their souls and hearts had entangled across the gulf of space and were now inseparable no matter how far they were apart. Like the particles in the plates. Entanglement. Love was a force that matched two souls—two lovers. Mixed them together and made them one.
She reached into the hide and brought out the box. She set up her pad and activated record.
Then she opened the box.
“Charles?” she said.
“Hi, baby,” came the reply and relief flooded into her like fresh blood.
“How are you?”
“I’m great. I have some news. Bad news.”
She felt a sinning inside. “What?”
“I talked to a friend of mine in one of the warehouses by the elevator. I was able to find out what the thing in the package is. It’s not good.”
“It’s something that they are sending to Mars?” she asked.
“Yes,’ he said. “Something revolutionary that they have developed based on the same tech we are using now to talk to one another. Honey, they have developed a wide aperture Casimir plate. One with a wormhole that you could drive a truck through. One end is in the desert in the Southwest of North America and the other is…”
“Being sent to Mars,” Tanya concluded.
“Yes,” Charles replied. “And since it is there they can set it up and move an entire army through it. They’ll occupy the entire planet. The only thing that is stopping them now is the lack of shipping space on the cyclers. With the plate on Mars and the one in the desert there will be nothing to stop them. We’re talking Terran Empire for sure.”
That was terrible news. But it was not as if the people of Mars had not been in bad positions in the past with regard to the rulers of the home world. Prevailing thought amongst Martians was that it would never be relieved until all ties with earth were broken off all together.
Broken off, she thought. Did that mean never seeing Charles or ever speaking to him again? She felt silly and selfish considering this right now. The man she loved has just told her that doomsday for Martian freedom was on its way.
“I have to get this to my people,” she said. “Will you be okay?”
“I don’t know. I tired to call some of my mates. Several of them are unavailable. They may have been arrested by the Security Forces.”
“Charles,” she nearly whined. “If they talk you will be arrested. You have to run. Get out of there. Disappear.”
“I should stay and try to get more data.”
“No,” she cried. “No—you must run away and hide.”
“I love you, Charles. I need you. I don’t want them to torture you or kill you. I love you.”
“I know,” he said after a long pause. “But this is bigger than us, honey. If Earth attacks mars then…you could be killed. And I don’t think I could want to live in a world without you.”
“I will be safe,’ Tanya protested.
“No…you don’t understand. The crazy bastards here still have nuclear weapons. The space laws forbid the loading of nukes onto space platforms and spaceships. The UE has always observed those laws rather than face a political flack if they didn’t. But the laws don’t forbid the shipping of nukes via a wormhole. Which means they can send nukes to mars via this new device. And people are pushing for reigning in the colonies. It’s real popular.
“The news media is alive with pundits who say that freedom for mars is death for Earth. They don’t mean to lose the Red Planet. They’re gonna use nukes on mars if they feel that is the only way to win. The crazy bastards will kill you all and replace you with new colonists whom they hope will be more manageable. And the idiots on my planet will cheer and spout platitudes about freedom and justice.”
I don’t care, she wanted to say. I want you. Damn the worlds I want you.
“This is not your war,” Tanya pleased. “You have done enough.”
“I love you, too,’ he said. “I could not bear to think of a world without you.”
With that he closed the box on his end and all was silence. She waited for ten minutes for him to speak. But he did not.
He was determined that she would not let her talk him out of it.
Damn you. Damn you.
She did not sleep well that night and she dragged through another day at work. She left the chip for her case officer on her way home from work. Charles was risking his life for that information. She could do nothing less than see that it got to the people who needed it.
That night she ate in her room. She did not touch the box. She did not wish to talk to Charles. She was mad at him and she was afraid. Afraid that if she opened the box he would not be there. That he would be gone.
She prepared for bed.
But before she could go to sleep she reneged and opened the box.
“Charles,” she said in a small voice. “Are you there?”
There was no answer. Her heart sank deeper into the depths.
“Who am I speaking to,” came a gruff and unfamiliar voice with an Earth accent. She nearly vomited from the shock. It was defiantly the voice of a cop.
Nooooooo! She wanted to scream.
“Is this a friend of Charles Smithers?” asked the voice in a gentler tone. Some Earth cop trying to pretend he was as human as the rest of us. Her instructors had trained her for such things. She knew all the tricks that interrogators might use.
She slammed down the lid.
She rolled over on her bed and began to cry.
She waited a few days but she had no choice but to report her loss of contact with Charles to her superiors.
A note was left for her in one of her dead drops. In it was a pass phrase that would be used when an agent of the Resistance came to speak with her.
She did not have long to wait. That night a knock came on her apartment door.
“Who is it?”
“Ms Wu,” said a man’s voice.
“Speaking,’ she replied, holding a knife from her kitchen in her hand.
“I was sent by John Carter,” said the man. It was the pass phrase, a reference to a fictional character from the long gone past. A so called fighting man of Mars.
“And how is his wife?” she answered.
“Dee is fine. Gone to visit her cousin Jane in Africa.”
She opened the door, still holding the knife, but behind her now. The stranger was a thin man—Asian like herself.
“Come in,’ she said.
The man entered and closed the door behind him.
“Has the room been swept?” he asked.
She nodded. Everyone in the movement was well aware of Earth Intelligence and their surveillance nanos. If you wanted to stay out of jail and out of interrogations it was wise to use countermeasures every day.
“Very well,’ said the man. “I have orders to collect the box.”
“No,’ she protested. “If—my agent tries to contact me he will not be able to.’
The man shook his head. “If he has not contacted you yet then he will not be contacting you. The other end of the box is in the hands of Earth intelligence. Right now they are examining it. They will find a way to locate the end that you have. We must keep this valuable device out of the hands of the enemy.”
“But it’s useless if they have one end of it,” she protested.
“But you are valuable to us and if they locate the box in your possession you will be arrested and perhaps killed.”
She shook her head. It didn’t matter. Without Charles she did not much feel like going on. “I’m just one person. I don’t know anyone else in the Movement directly. If I am tortured and die it stops with me.”
The stranger shrugged. “We still need the box.”
So she got it and gave it to the man. He left without another word or even a backward glance.
Charles was gone.
Over the next months things began to change.
The hospital had emergency drills to handle mass casualties. That meant that war was inevitable. Each day the cycler ship carrying the plate and its attendant troops was drawing closer to the planet. And when it arrived there was bound to be trouble.
Tanya heard nothing more from the Resistance. She supposed that, with Charles gone, they were done with her. There was noting more for her to do for the cause but stand by and roll bandages when the fighting started.
Her heart felt dead those days. Her love was gone and he was not coming back. Oh he might be alive in a prison back on Earth but she would never hear from him again. She did not want to think that, but it was true. There was no way around it. All hope was gone.
The cycler from earth arrived and docked at the space elevator. The package containing the wormhole was heavily guarded. But no one from the movement bothered it on its way down from the elevator platform.
Troops were sent down ahead of it. They seized control of the elevator base and set up in a warehouse there. The plate was moved there and set up.
It was then that the fighting started.
The Red Planet Commandoes attacked the warehouse.
All day long dead and wounded poured into the hospital. First among the wounded were Earth Security Cops, which was to be expected, considering how hated they were by the populace. But then wounded civilians and commandoes. The casualties kept coming for hours and hours and Tanya and her coworkers did not have any time to relax.
The fighting continued long past her shift. Cots were set up in the cafeteria for hospital employees. Tanya slept fitfully on a cot and then got up to work another shift.
Now there were Earth Forces astrotroopers among the wounded. One of her co-workers who had military experience said that this was because the commandoes had breeched the perimeter and were inside enemy line, taking prisoners and picking up enemy wounded.
Even so it looked as if there were more Martians than Earth troopers among the casualties. If that meant anything.
It was too early to determine who was winning. As it was too early to decide whether this violence had any real point at all. As a nurse she could only see dead and injured men and women pouring in. was this what she and Charles had worked for? Was this the building of a better, freer world?
It did not look that way.
On the forth day all of the casualties were Earth soldiers. The warehouse had been taken. The plate was in the hands of the Martian rebels.
Every now and then the Earth Forces would send though an assault only to have it repulsed.
That night Tanya was able to go home and sleep in her bed. The city was eerie and quiet. She lay in the dark thinking of Charles, but she did not cry. She had either reconciled herself to the hopelessness of the situation or she was all out of tears. She could not be sure and she did not care.
It was quiet for the next two days. The routine of the hospital had settled down to a pre-war pace. News was that the Rebel Council was negotiating with the Earthers. Tanya wondered if they were using her magic box to do so. Come to think of it, were their other entanglement communicators that had kept other agents informed of what was happening on Earth?
If so, was Charles’s sacrifice really necessary or had it all been a waste.
Someone knocked on her door as she prepared to go to work.
“Who is it?” she called through the door comm.
“Colonel Lucas Tan of the Martian Republic Liberation Army Intelligence,” said a man’s voice.
Martian' 'Republic'? That was a new one.
She opened the door and it was the man who had collected the box. Only now he wore a uniform. And this time he smiled.
“Good morning, Comrade Wu,” he said. “Your presence is required at the Elevator base.”
“We have a Republic now,” he said. “We’re free. Earth has granted Mars its independence. Turns out that the Terries weren’t as willing to sacrifice their sons and daughter for Mars as they originally believed.”
This should have made her happy. But it didn’t. Too much precious blood had been spilt. Some of it blood precious to herself.
“Why do they need me?” she asked.
There was a twinkle in the man’s eye. Something she would not have though possible after her first encounter with him.
“They want to give you a medal or something. Come, there’s a car waiting for us.”
The elevator base looked like the scene of a battle. Looking about she could not see one surface that did not have a bullet hole or a char mark on it. But people were painting and cleaning and hanging banners. It looked like someone was gong to throw a party here—as soon as the blood and guts were hosed away.
In the center of the warehouse there was a ramp that led up to a big metal ring. Suspended in the center of the ring was what a bright, blue glow that wavered as the eyes tried to focus on it. It looked like the glow form inside her entanglement communicator box.
The wormhole. The portal to Earth.
A bunch of haggard looking men and women were marched into the warehouse through its door. They wore the kind of coveralls that miners wore on Mars. But the colors were a drab shade of green. Some of them wore bandages.
She turned to Colonel Tan. “Who are they?”
He smiled down at her. “Terrie soldiers captured during the attempted invasion.”
So these were the soldiers form Earth who had come here to conquer Mars. They look so young and they looked very beaten.
“Why are they here?” Tanya asked.
“We’ve arranged a prisoner exchange with the United Earth,” said Tan.
“Yes,” he said. “We had many people on Earth who were working for and with us. They were either arrested or stranded there when the fighting started. Now, with the help of the wormhole, we will bring them back and send these poor bastards home to their world.”
Tanya looked toward the wormhole.
“Yes, Comrade Wu.”
“Those that survived.”
Her heart was racing. Could it be? Could it really, actually be?
She did not ask any further questions. She did not dare. She did not wish her hope to be dashed by any harsh reality.
The Earth soldiers marched up the ramp in single file and disappeared into the wormhole. Stepped though from this end and out the other. Home on Earth.
A man emerged from the singularity of the wormhole. He was a tall man with sandy colored hair. He moved forward and stumbled a little in the unaccustomed lighter gravity of Mars.
Behind him emerged a woman. And then another man and then another man.
But Tanya was not looking at them. She ran to the first man and threw her arms around him.
He looked down at her a little startled and then he smiled.
He leaned down and they kissed, long and passionately. A first kiss that seemed to collapse the distance between worlds as effectively as the wormhole did. They were together at last. Two bodies that could finally join their souls that had been entangled forever.
“Mars is free,” he said.
“Yes,” she answered. “But I am yours forever.”
“And I am yours.”