Yew and Me
Epilogue — Three months Later.
It was not the usual venue for such a meeting, but Lily had thought that the dome of the old Meridian Facility was the ideal place to update the Heads of the various Martian Bases and Settlements on the details of the past few weeks. She also needed to consult with them as to what needed to be done now that the terraforming of their planet could take its first significant major steps now that Mars had its own magnetic field.
No longer would the solar wind strip away her atmosphere as it had been doing for billions of years... No longer would the sun bombard the planet with lethal ionising radiation... No longer would there be a limit to the amount of time that a person could spend out on the surface...
The massive new field generators positioned at the Lagrange Point out in space between the planet and the sun, were shielding them all from the primary’s harmful effects. There hadn’t been a ‘glorious switching-on ceremony’: that just wasn’t how things were done on Mars. Instead, when the generators had been completed, they were tested and turned on and it was as simple as that... No fuss, no pomp and no ceremony—just basic common sense pragmatism.
As a result the experts, even those on Earth, were predicting that the temperature would rise rapidly and the planet would become warm enough to begin melting the trapped ice within a few years. As a result, Mars would awaken.
The conference was due to begin in half an hour, or so and Lily was using the time to circulate with her friends and colleagues so that she could chat with them, share a few informal moments and a swap a little gossip too. The events that had unfolded at Tsiokolski were still a hot topic and some people were unhappy at their now being two hives on Mars; but as these were the people that had objected to Lily taking over at Philae five or so years ago, she wasn’t too concerned.
The Russians had predictably been more than a little upset when they had learned just how Madam Karpova and her fellow slavers had tricked them, although Lily’s ‘promise’ not to release the details, thus saving the Kremlin from any embarrassment, had placated them and forestalled any knee-jerk retaliation. Relations were distinctly chilly, but at least there were relations!
On the other side of the planet Mount Ascraeus was still fitfully erupting and the Brits over at the Hawking Facility had established a new base to study the mountain. The old one having been obliterated by the first pyroclastic flow to blast across the face of Mars for more than a twenty-five million years. This distinction, however, was no comfort for the families of the people who had been killed when the flow had destroyed the old Olympus Research Station.
As Lily moved around she could not help but see that Mistress Lina Zuyeva was attending her first Martian ‘Government Conference’. Lily always chuckled when she heard someone use that phrase because this was the Government that Mars did not have. Lina seemed to be fitting in well and was circulating with confidence. At the moment she was chatting about something or other with Nehal Chaudhari from Ghandi which was the closest Facility to their current location. It was a good sign that the established leaders were willing to be civil to the newcomer although she wondered how they would react after they heard the announcement that Hive Philae would retain control over the former Saudi Arabian base where they were now meeting. However Lina, Alexander and a few others would back her: enough to cloud the issue and so forestall any opposition. My God, Lily! She told herself. You are turning into a politician!
She planned to rename it ‘Eden’ after the massive dome under which they were meeting. Eden! Or to give it its full name: the Eden Hive. The population of her own Hive had expanded to such a level that it either needed to do some very serious tunnelling or it would have to ‘swarm’, just like the honey bees whose hives dotted the garden at Philae.... She had discussed this with Eve, Rebecca, Solana and her other advisors within the hive and it seemed that the founding of another hive at Eden was the outcome that Hive Philae itself seemed to favour. And yes, Lily was fast beginning to realise that Philae, in many ways, behaved like a living thing: a super-organism with a collective mind and instincts all of its own. And the one instinct prevalent in all living things was that which compelled them to reproduce.
She had consulted Alexander, also: he wasn’t particularly happy, but was still prepared to go along with whatever it was that his leader decided.
Lily looked around and smiled to herself as it would soon be time to call everyone to order. Eve and Rebecca were over by the temporary workstation that they had set up on a little table to control the screens that were needed for the various presentations. Eve gave her a thumbs-up to show that everything was ready and Lily smiled back and nodded her thanks. She turned her gaze to the overlapping clear plastic panels that made up the skin of the dome, each one inflated with air and looking like a giant transparent pillow. She looked through the dome and gazed at the orange brown rocky landscape outside with its salmon-pink dust that was presently being lifted in little flurries by the wind. Suddenly a flurry spiralled into a little dust-devil, a miniature tornado, that skipped and skittered away across the Meridian Plane. How long, Lily wondered, will it be before red Mars turns green?
There would be other changes too, changes that she would oversee; changes that she did not welcome, but changes that she was powerless to prevent. Philae had been the first and then Tsiokolski had followed, completely unbidden. Soon there would be Eden and so on into the future. Hives would spread across the face of Mars simply because, given the conditions, they were more efficient and there was nothing that she or anyone else could do to stop this proliferation. It would be slow at first but would accelerate over the years.
As she moved over to Eve’s workstation to call the conference to order Lilith’s eyes fell upon Alexander: loyal, efficient, handsome Alexander. She gave him a sad smile for she now realised that he could have no long term future here on Mars. The planet to which he had devoted his life would eventually reject him. The real future belonged to drones such as the Ward sisters and there could be no place for a man on what would become a planet of women. Mistress Lilith Yew, Queen of Philae and Empress of Mars felt a tear trickle down her cheek and watched it fall slowly to soak into the Martian soil on which she stood. She had just seen the future of her beloved planet and knew that there was absolutely nothing that she could do to prevent it from coming about.
As she reached for the microphone she realised that she was now just as much ‘Hive’ as were Rebecca and Eve who stood patiently beside her. She loved them just as she loved every single one of the Philae drones: even Isis and Bitch-slave! The future was no longer hers to bring about or to resist for the future belonged to the Hives and so did she. Lily accepted that she no longer possessed free-will and was compelled to follow the Martian road no matter where it led.
Mars was awakening and so were the planet’s adopted children who were the new Martians and it was to them that the future belonged.