Sunday, October 23, 2011

To Mars And Back

This is a paper for my English class. Enjoy!
My name is Verionika, and I’m a genius. I live in Florida, and I work at NASA building spacecrafts. I am 22 years old and I have been working at NASA since I was 16. I live with my younger sister, Aspyn, who is a junior in high school. Our parents, Bryen and Aikaterine disappeared on an expedition in the North Pole two years ago, and have been assumed dead since.
I am currently working on a spacecraft able to house 57 people including myself and will be functional for at least 500 years in space. This project has been kept a secret and the only other person to know the full details of the project is my twin brother, Jakov. He is the smartest person I have ever met; especially when it comes to math.
My life may have been a normal one, but now I don’t know who to trust and who to talk to. It all started on September 26th, 2037. It was the usual day; wake up, go to work, come home. But when I arrived home to work and sat down to watch the news with my sister and eat dinner, it happened. A news story started about someone in Alaska who had gotten sick, and a few days later started mauling and trying to kill their coworkers. At the time I didn’t think anything of it as I twirled my fork in my spaghetti. I merely dismissed it as just another crazy person trying to get attention as I fell asleep thinking about it that night.
But as the days continued, so did the seemingly randomized attacks. After a week though, it was getting serious. There were daily reminders on the news to not let anyone in your house with mysterious bites on them and to report them to the police immediately. I took this seriously and made sure my sister wasn’t going out with any of her friends or being outside alone. She wasn’t exactly fond of these newfound restrictions, but followed them nonetheless.
The private spacecraft project I had been working on for the past five years was finished now, even though it wasn’t going to Mars for two more years. I was postponing the trip two years so my sister could finish high school and come also. But lately she had been spending a lot of time with her boyfriend, James. I didn’t know if she could bear to leave the planet, coincidentally never seeing him again.
Another week passed, and there were more and more sightings being reported of these crazy man-eating people roaming the streets. I had Aspyn coming to work with me now instead of going to school, which made her angry with me because she never saw her friends. But Jakov and I were incredibly worried about her. That night the gunshots started. Jakov, Aspyn, and I were all staying at Jakov’s apartment now, because it was across the street from NASA. We were checking that all the doors were locked and all the windows closed when we heard a gun go off in the distance. Then another shot, and another; then the screams. People must have been getting killed all around us and we didn’t go outside to help. We just held our breath and waited for it to stop, but it just became louder.
“Let’s go. Now. Pack some essentials, and get going,” Jakov insisted.
I quickly went into the room Aspyn and I were sharing and repacked my bag I had brought over to stay at Jakov’s house. I then ran into the kitchen and started packing all the bottled water and nonperishable food I could find in a duffel bag. Jakov went into the garage and started packing the stuff in a wheelbarrow to wheel across the road.
“Why can’t we just take the car?” Aspyn exclaimed.
“Because then we will be noticed, and that is the last thing we want,” I replied.
Once all the essentials were in the wheelbarrow, Jakov came into the kitchen where Aspyn and I were waiting with a baseball bat in his hand.
“What’s that for?” Aspyn asked Jakov.
“Self defense,” Jakov replied.
Aspyn and I opened the garage as quietly as possible as Jakov pushed the wheelbarrow out of the garage.
“We need to stay close and keep quiet,” Jakov whispered.
Jakov and I kept Aspyn in between us as we crossed the road. A few of the infected were walking around at the end of the street, but besides that, it looked safe to go across the street. We had just gotten the wheelbarrow up onto the sidewalk when Aspyn started screaming. I looked over and I saw her boyfriend, but he didn’t look normal. He was staggering towards us and holding his hands forward like he was trying to grab us. As he got closer, Aspyn was walking towards him.
“No Aspyn!” I screamed.
Then what was left of James grabbed ahold of Aspyn and sunk his teeth into her shoulder. She tried to push him away but he kept his grasp on her arm. Then Jakov ran up to the deranged James and smashed his face with the baseball bat he was carrying. James fell to the ground and Jakov hit him again.
“Let’s go, now!” Jakov exclaimed.
I grabbed Aspyn’s hand and pulled her towards the main building of NASA. The infected had heard noticed the commotion and were making their way towards us. Jakov was close behind us with the wheelbarrow. As we approached the door I got out my key. I quickly unlocked the door and got Aspyn inside. I held open the door for Jakov to push the wheelbarrow in. When we were all in the building, I locked the door. We hurried into my office deeper in the building and locked all the doors behind us.
As soon as I caught my breath, I went to see if any of the other scientists were in the building. I found fifteen NASA employees in the break room, some with their families. There were twelve scientists and three pilots. Also, there were nineteen family members, making 34 people all together. They had heard me come in and thought I was one of the infected. Among them, I found Ernie Thomas. He was my secretary and helped me make my blueprints. He was with his young daughter, Margarie, and his wife, Lyndi. I asked him to talk in private, so we went out of the break room and into the hallway.
“What is it, Verionika?” he asked.
“My sister was just bitten by one of the infected,” I replied.
“Lyndi is a doctor, she brought some medical supplies. Where is she?” Ernie asked.
“In my office. Go get Lyndi and meet me there. Don’t tell anyone,” I said.
Within minutes Lyndi, Ernie and I were back at my office. Aspyn had started crying and saying she was going to die. I tried to calm her down, but she just kept on sobbing. Lyndi disinfected the wound the best she could and had wrapped a sterile bandage around it to stop the bleeding. I set out a blanket I had packed and helped Aspyn onto it. I wrapped up my jacket into a ball to serve as a pillow and propped it under her head. Within twenty minutes she had calmed down and fallen asleep. Jakov, Ernie, Lyndi and I then walked out of my office quietly and closed the door.
“What are we going to do?” Jakov asked.
“We need to get out of here!” Ernie exclaimed.
“I know where we can go,” I replied.
“Where?” Lyndi inquired curiously.
“Mars,” I replied.
In the morning Ernie and I set to work preparing the spaceship along with the twelve scientists and the three pilots. Jakov helped me with the calculations for when we could take off to ensure the fastest trip to Mars. In two days, we were ready to go. But Aspyn was getting worse. Jakov and Ernie carried her into the spaceship and helped her into one of the cabins. She couldn’t really talk now and her breathing was shallow and quiet. She couldn’t recognize either Jakov or me and couldn’t walk. Lyndi gave her some morphine to dull the pain and we closed the door of the cabin. That was all we could do. Jakov and I were deeply saddened as we didn’t know whether or not she would turn into a murderous zombie the next day or be dead. But we couldn’t risk everyone’s lives even more than we already were. We all ate a dinner of string beans, canned peaches, a biscuit, and water. There wasn’t much conversation, and all that was heard was the shuffling of feet and the gulping of water.
The next morning we showed everyone to their respective cabins and helped load everyones bags into the spacecraft. The pilots were ready to go and the scientists checked and double checked that everything was ready. The hatch was closed and sealed and the ceiling was opened automatically by one of the scientists. The pilot announced over the intercom that we were about to take off and to make sure you were secured in your seat.
Then the spaceship rumbled to life. It got louder; then we were moving, faster then ever. I looked out my window and saw the Earth move away from us as we climbed higher towards the unknown and farther away from our home planet. Within an hour, we were out of the Earth’s atmosphere and headed towards Mars.
The next day, I heard a pounding noise. The ship was stable, so I walked into the main corridor to find the source of the noise. It seemed to be coming from one of the far cabins. I walked to the end of the corridor where Aspyn’s cabin was and realized that the pounding was coming from her cabin. I peered through the window on the door of her cabin. I jumped back and shrieked at what I saw.
Aspyn’s mouth was agape and her eyes clouded and vacant. She was pounding her hands against the door, trying to get out of the cabin. Jakov came running down the corridor, a panicked look on his face.
“What’s wrong?!” Jakov asked, panic-stricken.
“Look,” I replied as I pointed to the door with a shaking finger.
Jakov gasped in horror at what he saw. We called Lyndi and Ernie to the cabin via the intercom. We waited in silence for them to come. When they arrived, Lyndi was carrying her medical bag and Ernie was walking, Margarie in tow. Aspyn pounded on the door even louder now, and Margarie saw her and screamed. She took of down the corridor sobbing.
“Sorry Veronionika,” Ernie apologized hurriedly as he ran down the corridor after Margarie.
“I-I can try and give her a sedative,” Lyndi said with an obvious fear in her voice.
“No, I don’t want to risk anyone else getting infected.” I told Lyndi.
I punched in a code on the virtual keyboard on the touchscreen controls on the wall by the door of Aspyn’s cabin. I was then granted access to the cabin controls. I selected the window opacity and selected the highest amount of opaqueness. Then I made the announcement for everyone available to come to the group room immediately for a meeting.
In five minutes, everyone but one of the scientists and his family and two of the pilots was there. So I told them about how my sister had been infected and was being confined in the far cabin of the corridor. Also, I told them not to open the door no matter what happened. There was a short silence, then I heard Margarie sniffle in the back of the room where she, Ernie, and Lyndi were seated. No one spoke or even commented. I said everyone was dismissed and everyone shuffled out of the room.
The next morning, I woke up with a jolt of the ship. There was something going on outside. I looked out the window of my cabin and saw that we had encountered a large mass of asteroids. I immediately got up and ran out of my cabin and to the control room. I knew that we were going to encounter an asteroid belt at some point during the journey. But I was sure it was not going to happen until next week.
The main pilot was on the ground unconscious, and the co-pilot was struggling to keep the spacecraft from smashing into the asteroids. I quickly Lyndi and the third pilot over the intercom to come to the control room immediately to help deal with this trial of a morning.When Lyndi came, I directed her to the pilot on the ground whom she immediately started helping. The third pilot was not there yet, so I took over. I knew how to fly the ship-because I designed it- and I immediately knew what to do. I turned the extra engines off to make us slow down. Then, I began maneuvering around the asteroids. The third pilot arrived soon after, but I continued steering the ship.
After about two hours, we were past the worst of the asteroid belt. I let the third pilot take over. I then went to check on the main pilot in the medical clinic. As I walked into the medical clinic, I sighed in relief as Lyndi gave me a thumbs up and a smile. The pilot was sitting in a chair drinking some orange fluid.
“What is that?” I asked Lyndi as I gestured toward the orange drink.
“Oh, just a nutrient and electrolyte replenishing supplement,” Lyndi replied simply.
“So it was just a nutrient deficiency?” I asked Lyndi.
“That and he hasn’t taken had enough iron in his system the past few weeks. So he became very weak and lost consciousness,” stated Lyndi.
I thanked Lyndi for helping with this setback, and left the medical clinic. I went to get some food, and ended up running into Jakov. He looked as if he had gotten no sleep the previous night, yet his eyes were irregularly wide.
“Are you okay?!” Jakov demanded.
“Yes! It was just an iron deficiency in one of the pilots. It’s all under control. Why are you so worried?” I asked, chuckling to myself.
Jakov replied,“I just don’t want another sister that-”
He couldn’t say anymore. I stopped him before he tried by hugging him. He calmed down after that. We picked up our breakfast and ate together in the group room at the end of a long row of tables and chairs. We talked about when we were kids, and for the first time in what seemed like eternity, we laughed together like two happy kinsfolk.
A few weeks later, we were nearly to Mars. Aspyn was still infected and pounded on the door so much that everyone had become used to the noise and thought of it as something to expect like breathing. Also, some of the crew members were having strange symptoms. Lyndi and I spent a whole day researching the symptoms and came up with the conclusion that the source of the sickness was the galactic cosmic rays- a seemingly unavoidable effect of being in space. It could potentially change your DNA, at that could be bad. Then I remembered something; some of the researchers had developed a vaccine for this and stored it on the ship in the medical clinic. So Lyndi and I headed to the medical clinic to find the vaccines.
We found them in a compartment next to the hazmat suits. We grabbed a pack of 40 sterilized syringes and enough of the vaccine for everyone on the ship. I made an announcement on the intercom for everyone to come to the medical clinic for a vaccination. Ernie and Margarie were the first to arrive. Ernie got his vaccination first, trying to reassure Margarie that it wasn’t that bad. But trying to convince a little girl that needles weren’t horrible and it would only hurt a second was a near impossible task. Even though Margarie was crying, she begrudgingly sat in the chair where Ernie just was. Ernie held her hand as Lyndi gave her the vaccine in her arm.
“You’re all done, Sweetie,” Lyndi said as she disposed of the used needle and put a band-aid on Margarie’s arm.
Eventually everyone on the ship was vaccinated, and within a few days, the symptoms had gone away. But also the pounding had gone away.I wondered if Aspyn’s body couldn’t take the infection any longer and had simply given up. Lyndi, Ernie, Jakov and I went to go check on her to see what was going on. She looked horrible, but not in the dead-as-a-doornail way she had. Her eyes were more clear, and she was breathing normally also. She seemed to be sleeping on the floor. The color had returned to her face and she no longer seemed intent on attacking anyone who ventured near the door.
“We need to go in there and see if she is okay!” Jakov exclaimed.
“I wonder if she’s still infected,” Lyndi asked rhetorically.
Lyndi, Jakov, and I rushed to the medical clinic and all put on hazmat suits. Lyndi grabbed some sedatives and an intravenous kit with nutrition supplements. We all went together back to Aspyn’s cabin. Jakov punched in the code and the door opened. Then he closed it behind us.
She awoke when we came in. She looked like she was trying to say something, but was too weak to. Lyndi put the IV in her arm that start getting her hydrated and give her some nutrients. After some tests, Lyndi concluded that she was 100% clear of the infection. I opened the door and Jakov picked up Aspyn. We brought her to the medical clinic and he set her on one of the beds.
“We need to get her a blood transfusion quickly!Get Type A Positive!” Lyndi exclaimed.
I rushed over to the cooler and grabbed a Type A Positive blood transfusion bag from the medical fridge and brought it over to Lyndi. She hung it up and connected the IV to it.
After four hours, Lyndi took the blood transfusion IV out of Aspyn’s arm and started her on another IV with electrolytes and nutrients. After an hour of this, Aspyn regained consciousness and was looking around. I had attempted to brush her ratty hair and was now putting it into a fishtail braid.
“Verionicka,” Aspyn whispered with her crackly voice.
“Yes?” I asked.
“Where am I? Did we make it to NASA?” Aspyn inquired.
“Yes. But we are on our way to Mars right now. In fact, we will be there tomorrow,” I said.
Aspyn pondered this newfound information in silence for a while. It was late now, so I told Aspyn she should get some sleep. Jakov and I said goodnight and went back to our cabins. Lyndi was going to monitor Aspyn until 2:30, then I would take over until 5:30. Then Jakov would monitor her until 9:30. After that we would all be awake and ready to go.
The next day we were all tired from staying up, yet excited that we were getting to Mars today. I brought Aspyn breakfast in bed. It consisted of water, pudding, and three saltine crackers. She ate slowly, like she had to wait for each bite of food to digest until she took another. She was able to sit up, and even walk a little bit.
At around 2:00 P.M., the pilots announced that we were about to enter Mars’ atmosphere and to secure yourself in a seat. Lyndi and I assisted Aspyn in walking over to a seat and strapping her in so she wouldn’t fall. Then we both secured ourselves in the seats beside her. You could feel the ship pushing past the atmosphere, closer to the surface of Mars. The ship was filled with the noise of the engine propelling the ship forward and shook the whole ship. Within ten minutes, we were landing on the surface. We hit the ground with a thump and the engines powered off. We had landed by the Holden Mars Colony located in the Holden Crater. The pilots told everyone to put on their filter masks, so we did.
Everyone was crowded around the door, anxious to get out. Jakov typed the code in on the touchscreen panel on the wall and airlock behind us closed and the door in front of us opened. As I looked at the sky and the landscape I was dumbfounded. It was so differently beautiful. As we stepped out of the spacecraft, we quickly realized the walking experience was different than on Earth.
“We made it,” Jakov said simply.
We were in the Holden Crater, where water had been present 3 billion years ago. There were currently fifteen astronauts living at the Holden Mars Colony. As we approached the main building, we saw thirteen of them standing by the entrance, staring at us.
“Why are you here?” demanded one of the astronauts in the front of the group.
“It’s a long story,” we all said in unison.
They bemusedly let us in the building. All of the walls were white and the floors were stained an orange-brown color. One of the astronauts introduced himself as Maxwell Stevens. He kindly showed us to the cafeteria and let us help ourselves to some food and water. Everyone but Jakov, Lyndi, Ernie, Margarie and I immediately started to eat.
“Why aren’t you eating?” one of the scientists asked me.
“I don’t have much of an appetite today,” I replied nonchalantly.
After about 30 minutes, everyone was satisfied and had finished eating. But then some of the scientists started to clutch their sides in writhing pain and falling to the ground. They seemed to have been poisoned.
“I’m sorry,” Maxwell said as he closed and locked the only door leading out of the cafeteria.
I looked out the window facing our spaceship and looked in dread as five of the astronauts boarded it. I just hoped they didn’t strand us here. Maybe they needed medical supplies. Did they even know about the infection on Earth? I pondered these thoughts as I hurriedly searched the room for a way out. Then I saw it; the way out of this trial of a trap. The air ducts were conveniently opened slightly on the ceiling. I pulled a chair over from a dining table to directly under the vent. I told Lyndi I would be back as soon as I could.I then pushed the cover out of the way and pulled myself up into the vent. I almost toppled back out of the vent when I saw Maxwell right in front of me.
“I knew you would find me. I have a lot to explain. But first, we have to go get the antidote for the food my colleagues poisoned. Follow me,” Maxwell said quickly before I could ask anything.
“But, how do I know I can trust you?” I inquired skeptically.
“I know your parents; Bryen and Aikaterine ,” Maxwell replied plainly.
“How did you know them?” I demanded.
“I still do,” he replied.
My mind was spinning and I stopped moving. As far as I knew, my parents were long dead. What did he mean? Were they here? He noticed I had stopped and told me that it would all make sense soon.
We exited the vent after a few minutes of crawling into what seemed like a little hospital. Maxwell walked over to the counter and grabbed the antidote. He then insisted I follow him. We exited out of the small hospital room through a secret door embedded in the wall, and happened upon living quarters. There was a picture of Jakov and I when we had our fifth birthday party together on the nightstand. Another picture beside it was of Aspyn at her piano recital when she was seven.I was extremely confused, but then it all clicked as my parents walked into the room.
I stood there, dumbfounded for what seemed like forever. The two most important people in my life who, as far as I previously knew, where dead now stood in front of me, smiling. Was this a trick? Was it fake? I immediately ruled out those questions in my mind as my mother and father walked up to me and embraced me. I started to cry, not realizing how severely I had missed them.
“Is Jakov and Aspyn here?” my father asked.
“Yeah. They’re trying to help my friends that were poisoned,” I replied.
“We need to go help them!” my mother exclaimed.
All four of us headed out of the secret room and out of the miniature hospital, into the hallway. We ran down the hallway and opened the locked door to find scientists lying on the ground, trying to be helped by Lyndi and Ernie. But they couldn’t do much without the antidote. I immediately started giving all of the scientists equal doses of the antidote. Within five minutes of taking the antidote, the scientists started to show improvements.
Jakov and Aspyn eventually reunited with our parents, but there was much to be done. Maxwell tried to explain as quickly as he could.
He began, “There is -I’ll call it- a portal here. It can transport you from Earth to Mars within seconds. We are the only living people to know about it. Your parents had to use it to get away from Earth because they found a strange infection in a certain mushroom species at the North Pole. The foolish captain of their ship brought a bag full of the mushrooms back to his home in Alaska. He must’ve just gotten around to eating them recently, because he started the infection. Your parents and I have been working on a cure ever since, and have finally found it. It uses some of the clay found in this crater. For some reason, it kills the infection every time we tested with it. We were waiting for you to come here so you could help us put an end to this infection. We can go through this portal right now, but it is outside, and those brutes out there are guarding it. We will need a distraction. So, will you help us?”
“Definitely,” I said, smiling.
Within ten minutes, we had informed all of the scientists and had a plan in motion. Everyone was ready to go. The portal would bring us back to Florida, right inside NASA. The plan was perfect and everyone knew what to do.
I put the plan in motion by throwing a rock by the astronauts guarding the arch. They were not armed, but nonetheless looked quite threatening. They all spread out, trying to find the origin of the phantom rock, assuming we were all dead from their poisoned food. Then Maxwell set off the alarm in the main building. Six of the seven astronauts looking for the source of the rock ran inside the building to check out the source of the alarm. Then Maxwell ran past the astronaut to get his attention. Of course, the astronaut pursued Maxwell, but couldn’t quite catch him.
“Now!” Maxwell shouted.
That was our signal. As a group -consisting of my family and all the scientists and pilots and such- we ran through the portal. Once the portal was opened, everyone (including Maxwell) had 30 seconds to get through the portal. Then it would be closed permanently. Everyone got through the portal easily with 16 seconds left to go. As you went through the portal, for a split-second, you could see the whole universe flash before your eyes. I felt dizzy after I made it through. We could still see Mars through the closing portal. Maxwell was still being chased, but was waiting until the last possible second to get through as to not allow the astronaut pursuing him through also. He had 10 seconds now. I held my breath as I waited for him, at any moment, to run through safely to Earth. Five seconds left; my stomach ached now. Three seconds and he was nearing the portal. Two, one, he jumped through the portal as it closed the exact moment after he made it through. The trial was over and everyone was safe. We were back at NASA.
Over the next year, we started to purge Earth of the infection. Once we cured people, they would help us cure others. It was like a chain reaction of restored health. Within five years, everyone was cured of the infection, and the mushrooms made extinct as quickly as possible. Once Aspyn’s former boyfriend was cured, she officially broke up with him (and possibly punched him once or twice).
I will never forget this epic journey for as long as I live. It changed the way I look at my life, and my family. I managed to get through asteroids, help my poisoned friends get the antidotes, and escape the clutches of deranged astronauts; and I’m safely back home. This odyssey of mine has changed the whole world.

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