Archie and his team arrived in the Imstoshai's transporter three days ago.
Sols. Not days.
We spent every one of those extra 35 minutes dumping what we have learned into their laps and scrambling to pack up.
Then a few hours rest … but I could not sleep.
My last rooster call for the crew, and guess what! Tyrone was already out of his tent.
Looking pretty beat, though. We had that discussion a few days ago about his professional performance here. He told me he's been having nightmares about reactors and ships blowing up, of people dying in the tunnels. Being with the Imstoshai, they scare the hell out of him.
Whoa, blindsided me on that one! Yeah, they scare me, too? But it never occurred to me to be afraid of them.
Not really. Not more than my own race, I guess.
I leaned on him hard, told him he needed to deal with his own feelings and not let them get in the way of humanity's most important encounter ever. The way he looked back at me made me feel like a monster, so I leaned over and gave him a hug.
When we get back to Earth, I'll get him some confidential counseling help. How many other people will react the same way, I wonder?
Did my best friends, my wonderful Imstoshai, overhear us somehow? Because this morning … they changed the ritual. There were only a few of them, and they only wanted to talk with Archie and me.
They tried to share their distress with me, and I was not able to get all of what they were saying. But I got the feeling that this has been tried on Mars before, that it left deep dark burns in their memories. That our messing around with fission and fusion on a planet that supports life is something they cannot accept.
That the thorium reactors must be removed from Mars.
That they will offer almost anything if we will stop trying to make their planet like ours.
That they will even take us along on the trip they are planning to meet the other intelligent species in the galaxy!
This Detroit chit in me started crying, then, here they are asking us politely to stop making their planet uninhabitable for their own species, and then they offer to take us to the stars if we do?
I am so ashamed.
I managed to say something like I would do my damnedest, that I would give up everything I have to make that happen. Even the chance to return to Mars.
And they replied no, no, you are our first contact and we insist that you must return!
So the chit made a mess of her face again, but this time I was smiling.
We gathered our gear then, put our Mars EVA suits on. I gave Archie a big hug, waved goodbye, and walked out of the tunnels onto the Martian plains and up to the transporter.
Next stop, the dark side of the Moon. Luna. Earth's Moon, where all the big money people live. You know, I used to think that was someplace special?
Well, maybe it is. But Mars is home for me now, and we've got two moons. So there!