by J. MasseyÔÉ£1999

There are strange and prolific moments of obscene silence that accompany events of apocryphal chaos and violence it seems. As though evil itself needed to take a breather from its relentless assault upon Creation's order, the calm in the eye of the hurricane was upon us. It was then that we saw what first appeared to us as a miraculous vision, as if the finger of God had brought pause to the calamitous suffering which is our struggle to survive.

With the smell of burning flesh upon the windless air, the bluish gold flames of protease reactor fires burst into the amber red and black sky. Framed by this vision of immense tragedy was the child, just standing amongst the chaos, appearing as if sculpted by Rodin or painted by DaVinci. A tearless, oddly blank expression stroked upon his face.

Fear no more the heat of the sun.

I knew not why that line from Virginia Woolf's came to me nor the reason I felt a bitter chill run up my spine as the eyes of that kid met mine. Cold Baby, bold baby, now your just an old baby. Daddy always told me that when I misbehaved or refused church.

"Nivanna, snap out of it. I don't know how long the dome will hold. Grab the kid and lets get the hell out," screamed Lt. Rike as he moved towards the emergency ventilation shafts.

As another ground shaking explosion ripped through what was once a thriving colonial outpost, I gathered up the kid into my arms and followed the Alpha sector's search team out of the dying village, pausing at the base of Pompei colony's crater edge to witness the last moments that monument of our colonization represented before us. With the distant sounds of imploding plexi steel structures, crumbling amidst the plasma fires, coming across the transmitter inside my pressure suit, I could almost hear the screams of a hundred dead men, women and children.

They seemed to cry out for mercy, as if we could still save them. They seemed to decry the shame of their plight, the futility of their sacrifice. But, most of all, they seemed to warn we who still live not to repeat their pathway to destruction. What else could the dead leave for the living? Only the curiosity of dying itself. Only our feeble speculations that feed our fear. My fear...of ghosts who haunt the sanity of reason, and the safety of knowledge.

The Martian sky, ancient and alien, took unto its crimson bosom the soul of this dying colony, as the distant light of the setting sun gave way to the blackened darkness of space and the reddened glow of Phoebos, one of the two Martian moons. I stared quietly at the moon's reflected light

as it was cast off of the protective visor that shielded the child's face, who remained in my arms, encased within the medical pod we'd placed him. His dead, lifeless eyes seemed aglow with an alien awareness refracted, reflected and framed by the moon of Mars which I saw pictured upon his visor. This child, who was the sole survivor of some unknown cataclysm

befalling Pompei colony, was also the sole witness to an improbable destruction and impossible survival. Yet, he couldn't respond to our questions and appeared catatonic, at best. So, the myriad of unanswered queries remained as such for now. Until we arrived back at Alpha colony, the fate of the child's family, friends and neighbors would be a dark mystery.

But as I climbed aboard the sandglider for the trip back to base, I couldn't help thinking that something about this child's survival was wrong...very wrong and deeply black. It was no coincidence that the archeological digs into the ruins discovered under Pompei's crater had evoked both strong protest from many of the veteran Old Faither's, who survived the original Martian Colony Insurrection War, and an equally powerful support from followers of the Magi, a mostly younger group of colony born and technology crazed scientists who insisted that Mars once was the origin of our ancestors on Earth. Both groups were stunned when the 3 Orbs of Pompei were discovered. The same three orbs found inside the pouch carried by the child survivor.

Months passed as I returned to my duties performing Community A psycho historical investigative research and seminars of non revisionist Earth history. Caring for Champ and Hal,Jr. always relieved the hauntings I suffered during the endless nights when past ghosts revisited my memories. So, it amazed me to no end when I recieved the notice from Lt. Rike that requested my presence during the first known Alpha Prime Response call.

Only the most dire circumstance imaginable would have induced APR. Only a situation involving the survival of human life on this planet would suffice. Only a threat from Old Earth could cause it.

But why call me?

Nivanna Tyler David, get a grip on yourself, dammit. Why do I feel so cold now? Why do I see that child's face, his dead eyes? And why am I afraid when I hear your voice within my mind Hal? I loved you and watched you die, just like when I saw Daddy die. You died for me and for us all. I don't want to be a martyr too. Damn, it aint fair. I won't go...I can't do this again. THE THREAT was supposed to be over forever, wasn't it?