Hidden (The Mars Diaries Book 2)

By: Skye MacKinnon

The Mars Diaries #2








Prologue





Last month, they arrived.

Six men, the new generation of settlers.

I watched them, I cared for them, I fell in love with them.

Now it’s the moment of truth.

My dreams and their reality clash.

Six men, one woman, one planet to survive on.

My name is Louise and I am no longer the last human on Mars.





Month 1





Control>>Applications have tripled. People are desperate to leave Earth. The new settlers will be with you in nine months. Will you be alright until then?

Louise>>Even if we weren’t, there is no alternative but keep surviving.

Control>>It’s the same here. Everyone is trying to survive. Our cities are drowning, our crops are drowning, people are drowning. There’s talk of some important people wanting to fly to Mars to seek refuge.

Louise>>Mars is no refuge. You have too much water, we don’t have enough. Our resources are dwindling. The men eat too much.

Control>>Have they settled in well?

Louise>> ...

Control>>What’s wrong?

Louise>>Nothing, they’re just different from what I expected them to be.

Control>>Are there any problems we should know about?

Louise>>No, everything is okay.



But it isn't, not at all. Their voices are wrong. They don't behave like they should. Bastian doesn't let me push that stray lock out of his face. Toby will likely never forgive me for what happened to his arm. Han looks at me strangely and demands that I undergo some tests. Will isn't the good listener I took him for, instead he's obsessed with his plants and hardly bothers talking to me. Jim and Jordan are also burrowed in their labs, rarely joining the rest of us in the common areas.

When everyone was still alive, the station was a buzzing place and it was hard to find some privacy. Now, the six of us rarely bump into each other and it's easy to hide.

Which is what I'm doing just now. I'm in the library, a tiny room in the centre of the station, which also doubles as a bit of an archive. It's where I've begun to store the most treasured belongings of all those who died from the virus. Jewellery, family photos, diaries. It's a heart-breaking collection that reminds me how lucky I am to be alive. And how I shouldn't mope about my men being not... well, my men. They have forgotten all they said to me while they were in their pods. Our relationship is starting back at zero, but sometimes I can't help it and something slips out, some reference to what we talked about in the past. Then they look at me strangely and I flee to a quiet place like the library.

Just like now. I'm sitting on the floor, trapped between two shelves, the unsteady, wobbly kind. We don't have proper furniture here, of course not. No wooden tables, no pretty shelves. Instead, everything is collapsible and lightweight, having been flown here from Earth. At the beginning, some settlers tried creating structures from Mars dust mixed with water, but that was soon banned. Water is precious, every single drop. So we're stuck with our modular furniture which makes everything look the same. What I would give for a proper library with proper paper books and the smell that makes you feel calm and relaxed within seconds of entering the room.

We have exactly two paper books: the Quran and a tattered copy of Gulliver's Travels. There are other books all over the station, in the living quarters of the dead, but I've not yet had the heart to gather them all up and bring them back to the library.

I give Gulliver a little sniff. No, it's mostly lost its book smell. That's what Mars does, it strips us of our past and our identity.

Once I was Louise, the decorated astronaut, the clever geologist. Now, I'm Louise, the survivor, the woman desperately hanging onto sanity.

For the past weeks, all I was working towards was waking up my men. Now that they're conscious, I have to re-examine my goals. But I'm so tired, so terribly exhausted. I've been running on empty for months and I can't do it much longer. I need a new goal, a purpose.

Nobody needs a geologist here right now. We need people good with their hands, who can repair the many malfunctions all across the station, and people who can provide us with more food and water. Luckily, Toby isn't just a cook, but also a hobby botanist. He's started tending to the surviving crops, pretending that his injured arm isn't making his job a lot harder. He's putting up a front, like all of us.

I pull my knees close to my chest and hug my legs. I feel so alone. I'm lonelier now than I was when I was living with the dead.

"Louise?" someone asks softly from outside the room and I hold my breath. I don't want to be found. I want to stay hidden, alone with my thoughts and memories. My hopes, even, if I can muster any.

"We had an appointment," Han says, a tinge of disappointment in his deep voice.

He knows I'm here. Why isn't he coming in?

"Louise, you can't hide forever. We need to talk."

Still, I remain quiet, breathing as little as possible. It seems childish that I'm hiding from my crewmates, but I'm not sure what they want from me.

"Alright, then let's have our chat here."

He sits down on the other side and the wall shifts at his weight. I miss stone walls sometimes, the ones you could kick and lean against without breaking them.