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Authors: Brad Strickland,THOMAS E. FULLER


BOOK: Missing!
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Follow the adventures of teens living on Mars in the


1 Marooned!

2 Missing!

3 Marsquake!

Beginning Summer 04

For Neil and Colin Butler

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

First Aladdin Paperbacks edition October 2004

Copyright © 2004 by Brad Strickland and the Estate of Thomas E. Fuller

An imprint of Simon & Schuster
Children's Publishing Division
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

Designed by Felicity Erwin

The text of this book was set in Simoncini Garamond.

Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

The Library of Congress Control Number 2003116539

ISBN 0-689-86401-9
ISBN-13: 978-0-689-86401-8
eISBN 13: 978-1-439-11384-4



Sean Dee found two things
hard to take about his new home. It was too crowded, and yet at the same time, it was too lonely. The colony on Mars was home to several thousand people, but only twenty of them were under twenty-one years old. Sean was fifteen, and sometimes he almost wished he were back on Earth.

Not often, though, and not even when the work was the hardest and the most boring. He was sweating heavily as he worked in one of the greenhouses that provided the colonists with vegetables. The plants grew on mesh screens, their roots spread out and constantly fed with dripping water. The water, the booster lights, and the heater made the greenhouses the warmest and most humid environment on the planet.

Sean had been setting out soybean seedlings. He paused to wipe the stinging sweat out of his eyes—in
the low gravity of Mars it crept slowly, even more annoying than it would have been on Earth. The greenhouse dome was so large that he had the illusion of being the only person in it, though he knew Sam Mackenzie and Dan Cross, two of the colony's botanists, were in here somewhere among all the plants with at least two other volunteer workers. “Hot,” Sean grunted to no one, and then resumed his job. He fleetingly wondered what was happening back—well, not home. This was home. But what was happening back on the planet where he'd been born.

That was a mystery to everyone on Mars. Marsport had not received a beamcast from Earth for more than five months now. The colonists on Luna, Earth's moon, kept in constant touch and reported that the collapse on Earth seemed to have come from an economic crisis, a rash of wars, outbreaks of disease, and natural disasters that had all peaked at the same time. The Lunatics, as they liked to call themselves, had decided to ride it out. They could do so without much worry—the international Luna colony was over fifty years old, sprawling, well established, and self-sufficient.

The story on Mars was different. The Martian colonists were not quite there yet, not ready for the ties to Earth to be cut. But literally overnight they had determined to stick it out on Mars, to try to become independent. The results included food and water rationing, absolute cooperation, and work. Hard work. Grueling work. Work that left Sean and all his friends exhausted, yearning for sleep, grainy-eyed, and foggy-minded.

A day on Mars was a little longer than an Earth day—about thirty-seven minutes longer—but that meant nothing when you considered that the twenty kids in the Asimov Project had to put in six hours a day in school and then eight hours at work. That left eight hours for sleeping and two hours for meals. The extra thirty-seven minutes, they joked, was for recreation and social life. It wasn't enough.

But the discomforts and the inconveniences didn't mean much to Sean. He was where he belonged, where he'd fought to be, and he would take whatever Mars threw at him. Sean finished his planting and gasped deep lungfuls of the moist air. At first that had
been a great novelty on arid Mars. Now, though, he was used to it and found the humidity more an annoyance than anything else.

He mopped his face with a towel and looked around again at the crops growing without any soil at all: potatoes nearly as big as his head, beans, corn—American corn, maize—tomatoes, and other vegetables. The greenhouse let in the weak light of the sun, and solar and wind-powered generators supplied power to the booster lamps, so the greenhouses were about the brightest places on Mars. After a few hours in one, Sean's eyes began to ache, itch, and burn. At least his shift was almost over.

Sam MacKenzie, the director of Greenhouse 7, came over smiling and clapped him on the shoulder. “Good day's work, Sean. Planting's done now in this greenhouse. Good news—we've passed production already, and we have two days' harvest left. You'll be picking beans tomorrow.”

“Great,” Sean said with a tired smile. Production was the minimum level for survival. Every vegetable over the production level meant a little breathing
space, a little edge. No one on Mars was gaining weight, because the food rationing meant that each person received just the level of calories he or she needed to live and work. On the other hand, Mars had a low gravity, so everyone weighed only a third of Earth normal, anyway. Sean's first weeks on Mars had been spent largely learning how to walk without bouncing up into the air or lurching into the walls.

Sean plodded through the passageways connecting the greenhouse to his dorm. He couldn't help yawning, his mouth opening so wide that he could hear the creak of his jaw joints. Farming was hard work, even when the plants grew dangling from nets, their roots bathed in a constant flow of nutrient-enriched water.

Water. That was another problem for the struggling Martian colony. Sean had never really appreciated the availability of water on Earth. It took care of itself: Water vapor rose from the oceans, lakes, and rivers, formed clouds, and the clouds showered rain and snow back down. Water was just there, never in critically short supply.

But Mars had no water cycle. The surface had no
available water at all, except at the Poles, and that was in the form of ice. All the water on Mars had seeped down far below the surface eons ago. Much of it had combined with minerals, including iron, and was locked up in rust, which had given Mars its famous red coloring. Some water remained as permafrost, and when Marsport had been founded to the south of the great volcano Olympus Mons, one reason for the site had been that deep pockets of permafrost had been discovered there. But deep wells had drained the accessible supply, and now no more remained.

The water the colony had was endlessly recycled. However, nothing could prevent a slow, steady loss as water vapor escaped whenever a work crew went onto the surface or through slow oxidation of materials within Marsport itself.

At the rate they were going, Dr. Simak said, the colony was more likely to die of thirst than to starve. Dr. Amanda Simak was the executive director of Marsport and also Sean's legal guardian—if Earth legality meant anything anymore. She was a sternfaced woman who never showed favoritism, and
Sean didn't see nearly as much of her as he would have liked. She was also the one who made the hardest decisions on the planet. And she had just made one that Sean knew would cause a lot of argument.

He was right. Jennifer Laslo,
an active, intense blonde girl about Sean's age, was pacing the common room of Sean's dorm wing, waving her arms and sputtering. Two of Scan's friends, eighteen-year-old Patrick Nakoma and fourteen-year-old Alex Benford, were sitting at the table. Alex rolled his eyes as Sean came in. “We know, we know,” he said to Jenny as Sean sank into a chair. “But what can we do?”

“There's got to be
Jenny insisted. “Tighter rationing, or speeding up the pipeline, or something! I mean, Lake Ares is
. It's the only body of water on the whole planet ! And it's full of fish!”

“It isn't
Patrick objected. “There aren't enough fish to harvest any for food.”

“But they have a right to live, to establish themselves!” Jenny said, red-faced. “Sean, you tell them!”

Sean held up his hands. “Whoa, whoa. I came in late. Are you talking about using the water from Lake Ares for drinking?”

“Of course I am!” Jenny said. “And not just for drinking, but for hydroponics and washing and—it isn't time! We were supposed to do that in three or four years, after we'd created more lakes. Look, Lake Ares is a stable environment right now, but if we draw it down, we're throwing everything off balance. We could kill all twenty species of fish, and if they go, there'll never be any more. Sean, you've got to persuade Dr. Simak to hold off—”

“I can't persuade her to do anything,” Sean said. “But aren't you getting ahead of yourself? I heard the announcement a few hours ago, while I was working. The council has said that if the pipeline can't be completed in a month, we'll start taking some water from Lake Ares, that's all. There's still a chance.”

“So you're taking her side!” Jenny raged. “How can the pipeline be finished in a month? There are all
the warming and pumping stations to bring online, and there are kilometers and kilometers of pipe to get into place, and … and … it's just not going to happen!”

Alex, a muscular, cheerful young man of African descent, shook his head. “You can't say that. Look, I've flown over a lot of the pipeline. It's more complete than you think. I'd say there's at least a fifty-fifty chance.”

“And besides,” Patrick put in, “even if the pipeline can't be finished for, oh, six months, we won't make that much of a difference in Lake Ares. We may lower it by a few meters, but there's a lot of water in there.”

“That's what they used to think on Earth,” Jenny said, her voice shaking with anger. “And where are all the elephants now, huh? And the mountain gorillas, and the giraffes? Extinct in the wild, every one of them! I thought Marsport was supposed to be a new beginning, a way of living with the planet instead of living off it like some kind of parasite!”

Alex had taken out his belt computer and unfolded it. He tapped away at the keyboard. The room darkened
as he entered a command, and above the table a holographic display glowed into life: the globe of Mars. It hung there, translucent, as a yellow line sketched itself southward from the base of Olympus Mons, zigzagging its way across plains and hills. It split into four branches. Three of them snaked their way toward ancient volcanoes lying south and east of the colony: Ascraeus, Pavoni, and Arsai. South of Arsai, a lonely thread wound its way across the plain of Daedalia and the uplands of Aonia and Argentium, terminating near the southern polar cap.

“Look,” Alex said, working at his keyboard. “There's permafrost at the bases of the three volcanoes. If we can tap into just one deposit, that will buy us time. And if we can get the Schmidt station working, we don't have to worry for hundreds of years. There's plenty of ice there, and more comes in every day!”

“I know about the Bradbury Project, thank you,” Jenny said. “But the Schmidt station is a long way from here, and anything could happen. An ice meteorite from Ganymede could smash into the pipeline, or—”

“Not possible,” Patrick cut in. “The trajectory is so
flat that ninety-nine percent of the incoming meteorites flash into vapor high in the atmosphere. A few falling chunks of ice won't destroy the whole station.”

BOOK: Missing!
10.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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