Prologue: The Landing on Mars, 2087.
It was like something had physically happened to time during the last fifty minutes. Seriously. Lik aliens had ome down and made every minute stretch into an hour.
What was actually happening was quite the opposite to aliens. They weren't coming to us, we were coming to them.
The first blast of sound threw us all off guard. The cameras had been rolling for about half an hour, and people in their homes had watched the huge patch of red dirt and rocks cover their moniters. Not only in the homes, but in the offices, the streets. Football players stared, the ball lying forgotten two minutes from the closing siren. Everyone was watching. We all were.
After half-an-hour of silence the pod entered Mars' atmosphere, and the sound that ensued caused people the world over to reach for the volume control.
The effect was amazing. People had just stopped in the streets, staring at the nearest of the large public monitors that covered the sides of the buildings. Virtually no one made a sound. Lights turned to green, but no one drove forwards. The only sound was the rapid humming of pedestrian crossings, the low throbbing of car engines, the hushes of parents calming bored children who didn't really understand. Everything else was silence.
The noise, a roaring buffeting sound, mixed with the high pitched whine of the microphones straining to cope. The picture on the screen switched to inside the hab, where the team leader sat grinning at the camera. As he spoke around the world his voice was translated into everyone known language currently in use. Those sort of things were easy, these days.
"By the time you hear this, we will already be on the surface of Mars. Our estimated landing time is in 20 minutes. Martian Colony 1 is in tip-top shape, and everyone on board is excited. If all goes well, then we will be the first successful colony ship destined for Mars, and only the second colony outside Earth. Hopefully we won't be the last either. This will be the first great step towards humanity as an interplanetary race. Well, that's enough from me, we'll see you on the surface."
The camera switched back to outside the hab. The ship was through the stratosphere and was heading directly for the surface. People watched with baited breath as the ground grew closer and closer. A whooshing sound and a visable jerking of the camera indicated the parachutes had been deployed.
Within five minutes the ship landed on the red sand and once again the team leader appeared on the screens of the world.
"Ladies and Gentleman, we are now on Mars."
And suddenly the world was awash with noise, as billions of people threw their voices up in joy, screaming with absolute ecstasy, secure in the knowledge that history had been made, this was it, the beginning of a new age, an age where things would be better.
"Bullshit." the school teacher said, matter-of-factly.