The Second to Last Martian
~ a short story
Jack controlled the rover with the practiced precision of a master gamer. Over the crimson landscape, the complex little multi-million dollar device rolled and filmed under his exacting control. A digital pilot for NASA, he’d been recruited directly because of his renowned career at MLG. That is, Major League Gaming.
Starcraft. Counter Strike. DOTA. Halo. League of Legends. Rocket League. Fortnite. The young man had seen it all, and was still in the midst of a long prime; 30 years old and Jack still competed at the most prestigious tournaments, surrounded by 20 year olds that idolized him.
And even so, *never* had the moment-to-moment pressure of a match paired with the trained muscle memory of a zoned-in performance as it did now.
Jack controlled the 2nd-ever Martian rover, freshly landed and accelerating a climb over the red planet’s rocky terrain. A 360 degree camera gave a glimpse of another world.
Mars was fascinatingly barren, roughened by the march of eons. A crackling desert with distant mountains on all sides. Jack barely struggled to route the American government’s expensive all-terrain vehicle to roll over a set of rocks that jostled the shot. Millions worldwide watched the livestream.
From miles and miles away, humanity walked Mars. Longer in its wheeled strides over the red planet, and with a live feed, Fortune was changing the world. It was a day for all mankind, the consummation of a grand mission two years in the making.
Jack let out a boyish smile as he marked all the eyes of mission control, some of the best and brightest in the world of science, upon him and his “game.” The rover approached another micro-mountain’s ledge, a new horizon lay just over the lip. He set his joystick’s course there and gave a glance over to the only eyes that mattered to him.
Jess. Sweet Jess…
Her bespectacled blue eyes and long dark hair hung over her terminal. A long white lab coat hid a shapely form Jack was eager to study further. Three over from him, Jess was in charge of guidance and control. All-important to his piloting; this mission was her triumph as much as his. They’d worked together in the lead up to the rover mission, hit it off, smiled quite a bit at one another over these weeks… Jack couldn’t stop thinking about her. He hoped Jess felt the same…
The rover approached the latest frontier, another far-ranging scape of rocks and dust and alien auburn sky. The camera caught a resplendent view of the valley below. An unforgettable visage of our sun’s appearance upon another planet’s surface — seen in real-time — made the watching Earthlings gasp in awe. It was jarring how still the redness looked. There was no spirit in these lands, not even a glancing wind.
Somewhere deep inside, the souls of the Earthlings landed further into the comfort and fortune of Mother Earth’s bosom.
Jack kept watching Jess, however. Daydreaming, effortless was his drive of the rover to that precipice for a better view. Distracted so much so by his nerdy muse’s long locks and luscious little lips that Jack was the last to see the thing which turned mission control into a madhouse of monkeys hollering words like “holy shit!”
Arising from underneath a nearby ledge, as if the creature lay sleeping there until disturbed by the sound of a small wheel displacing red stone nearby, an ape-like man stood at attention.
In the center of the rover’s field of view, transmitted live to mission control’s stream to the whole world, a figure soon to be deemed by humanity as “Martian Bigfoot” stood before us. Covered in bushy hair, with the brow and countenance of a man-ape hybrid, the creature stood over 8 feet tall. Long fingers flexed into fists at its sides.
Did it ‘breathe’? How was it here?? This must be a joke, an error, some glitch… The minds of NASA’s men had no answer beyond fury fast turning to reverent silence.
The confirmation of alien life. Its appearance held an inexplicable connection to an old North American myth.
This giant phantom ape haunted the eyes of the world for a split second longer before chaos broke.
At last seeing it himself, Jack froze with a cringing heart and a breathless gag. As the Bigfoot took steps over the red rubble of the valley and toward the rover, growing ominously in size on the screen, Jack was the last to act. Directors Adam and Sasha and Jerion all rushed the console and screamed at him.
“Reinitialize the camera!”
Other things were shouted, but too late. By the time Jack mashed reverse, the Martian Bigfoot had the measly rover in its gigantic hands. He held it like a giant cheeseburger. The screen showcased a full view of Bigfoot’s face; a surreal look, with eyes, mouth, and long sharp teeth suddenly in a snarl.
Bigfoot’s pupiless visage shined as red as his home, crystal clear from the 4K feed on mission control’s IMAX-sized screen.
Moments later, the feed cut as the humanoid beast and apparent lone inhabitor of Mars crushed the rover with its bare hands.
Mission control was speechless; the world was already screenshotting and posting their justifiably insane reactions to the event. Within minutes, red-eye glowing memes of Martian Bigfoot were drawing millions of likes and shares. “Hoax!” was shouted, of course. And conspiracies amplified.
Had NASA made a mistake?
Planet of the Apes?
Why are they showing us aliens now?
The Martian Bigfoot is coming to conquer Earth!
Elsewhere, in untouched realms of the American pacific northwest, another arose. Awakened by his soulmate approximately 105 million miles away, who still resided in the crimson homeland of their twin birth, Bigfoot emerged from out of his deep cave, angry and aware.
Moments after his sister smashed the rover, our Bigfoot activated with vengeance in his oversized heart.
They found her. And now they must die.
With superhuman speed and strength, Earthling Bigfoot rushed from his old forest home and into the world of people and machines. Martian Bigfoot awaited her brother from within the core of Mars, putting the finishing touches upon a starship her dying species had failed to complete.
The Earthlings had forgotten The Monkey Wars, defeated by time and victory. But the Bigfoots, the native Martians and losers of that war, never had. They’d been asleep for too long with the element of surprise, all their memories held by every member of the species.
The Bigfoots all shared a mind and there were only two minds left.
The last and second to last Martians moved with a purpose not seen for millennia. They did not walk but ran toward a path of righteous bloodletting upon their lesser monkey cousins. There was too much loss in the collective mind, too much damnation and waiting and thirsting for payback.
Two versus billions. But this is partly why they’d waited. Earth’s Bigfoot was a spy sent ahead. The Mars Bigfoot continued her good work in the planet’s core — the only inhabitable place left on the ruined red planet. There was nothing left but the red wastes after the ultra-nukes landed in the final salvo which ended The Monkey Wars.
The Bigfoots waited because of their collective mind and superior tech.
This new, fat, cruel and decaying humanity would never stand a chance. The years had not treated them kind. Languished and devolved were the children of “God.”
The Bigfoots chuckled in silence from their respective caves a planet away for aeons, awaiting the day Man might find his way back into space and onto other planets.
As of the moment, the final pair of Bigfoots moved fast, beginning to work their plans to fruition. War was coming. An unfair one. The Bigfoots themselves had become sadistic in defeat. They wanted to make this last.
The Bigfoots chuckled as they ran…
All this set into motion while Jack wiped his sweaty palms that stunk of failure.
To his relief, Jess moved behind him and rubbed his shoulders. “This is insane!” she said. “We just made history!!” Jack could only weakly smile as they embraced. Around them, chairs spun and monitors flared, phones were ringing and NASA’s men of science and media were baffled, hushed in their racing madness to figure out what it meant.
The nightmare visage of the Martian Bigfoot would not leave Jack’s mind.
That thing was evil.
There could be no doubt. Jack’s gamer instincts flared and warned him of dark days ahead. A grim determination rose within him then and there, alongside ancestral memories…
“The Monkey Wars…” he whispered gravely.
Jess giggled, then presented her phone screen lit with a blue feed.
“Twitter is so fire right now, oh my god.” ~