The last day of school has finally arrived. Spring chill is on its way out while the summer heat begins to creep in. Charlie Chase, a high school senior, is more than ready to finish his general education at Wentworth High school and move on to what has interested him since a young child. Charlie loves exploration and what exists outside of what he already knows. Charlie’s mother is aware of this especially when Charlie wanted to eat squid at 9 years old. This drive to always want more propelled Charlie to the top of his graduating class, taking only the hardest courses to get into the best colleges the country had to offer. Nothing short of the best has been good enough for Charlie, and the feeling that it was all about to payoff excites him beyond comprehension. The final school bell sounds and Charlie celebrates with his friends that it is finally over. Saying his goodbyes and good lucks, Charlie starts to weave his way through the crowd of people to the exit door and lay this chapter of his life to rest.
Putting in his ear pods, he begins his short walk through the quiet, quaint town of Wentworth. Over the train tracks and under the overpass Charlie is only looking forward and listening to his favorite music. Unknown to Charlie, there were eyes wandering around as he finished his no-longer-daily walk from school to his house.
Taking the final turn down his street, Charlie sees a car that he doesn’t recognize parked up the street. Paying no mind, Charlie sticks his house key into the lock and lets out a sigh of relief. Throwing his backpack to the floor, Charlie walks into the kitchen for an afternoon snack. To his surprise, his mother and two men dressed in all black suits sat at his kitchen table. Charlie’s mother glares over towards Charlie and speaks first, “Charlie meet Mr. Live and Mr. Knits. These gentlemen want to talk to you Charlie.”
Charlie, hesitant to speak first, makes a little wave towards the two intimidating men. Mr. Live stands up from the chair and begins to walk over towards Charlie not breaking eye contact the entire time. Mr. Live is within breathing distance and extends his hand out to give Charlie a handshake. Finally breaking the silence, Mr. Live says, “Nice to meet you Charlie, we are two representatives from the U.S Department of Exploration.”
Charlie’s eyes lit up and was excited to actually hear those words instead of reading stories online. Charlie breaks out of his shell and starts to shake his hand as well.
Charlie looks as if he is about to utter a phrase, but Mr. Live interjects exclaiming, “We know your time is valuable Ms. Chase so we will get right to the point. America is on the verge of a new era of space exploration, and America’s leadership in the space domain will be due to its courage and its conviction to go all in.”
Mrs. Chase interrupts, “What does that have to do with me and my son?”
Mr. Live replies, “It has nothing to do with you Ms. Chase, and everything to do with Charlie. We at the Department of Exploration understand Charlie is interested in us, and we are interested in Charlie as a great asset to the future of this agency.” Charlie’s mom sits down and steps out of the way as both of the agents zone in on Charlie. Mr. Knits finally poses the question Charlie wanted to hear his whole life, “Charlie, would you like to join us and the Department of Exploration as a junior scientist on the task of exploring and colonizing the planet of Mars?” Almost as if Charlie had forgotten how to speak in the five minutes he had gone mute, Charlie utters a couple of odd nonsense words. Charlie finally jokes down his anxiety and mutters, “That is all I ever wanted to do.” Mrs. Chase on the other hand looks like she has a face of skepticism, and quickly says, “We have to talk about this together Charlie this is a big decision to make in a day.” Charlie shows a small frown while Mr. Knits in a more aggressive manner says, “This cannot be pondered or procrastinated Ms. Chase, we do not have much time and there are others we could extend this offer to.” Ms. Chase as a single mother never wants to disappoint Charlie, especially for how hard he has worked his entire school career. Charlie’s mother starts to feel like she is being squeezed like an old crime movie, and is posed with an offer that she cannot refuse. Ms. Chase asks Charlie if this is what he wants, and without hesitation Charlie replies, “This is what I always wanted mom!” Ms. Chase says quietly to herself, “then what choice do I have.” The two agents quickly start talking before Mrs. Chase changes her mind, “Great, we will be back tonight with the paperwork and we can get started, gather your things Charlie because you will be coming with us.” Mr. Knits and Mr. Live thank Charlie and Ms. Chase for their time and quickly pace out the door.
The clock reads 8:27 P:M and Charlie and his mom are packing up a duffle bag with some clothes and valuables. Ms. Chase looks at Charlie moving with such swiftness and begins to ask him a question before she stops herself, “Charlie… I…” Charlie replies, “what’s up mom?”. Ms. Chase starts to backtrack her original thought and just whispers, “Be safe Charlie, I am serious” A loud knock on the door is heard by both, Charlie hugs his mom and starts running out. Ms. Chase yells, “I love you,” before she is cut off by the slamming of the door. Charlie is off with the agents in their town car on the way to a classified location outside of town. The windows on the SUV are tinted, and in the night time makes it seem like Charlie is unable to see out of any of the windows. Mr. Knits asks Charlie if he is excited and ready to work with real scientists. As Charlie is about to answer he sees a huge helicopter through the brush and instead says, “No way this is for us!” Mr. Knits and Mr. Live look to one another and snicker in a dark way. All three of the guys jump out of the car and begin to walk over toward the helicopter while the jet engines warm up ready for takeoff. As Charlie and the agents enter, Mr. Knits walk over with a glass of “water” Mr. Knits looks at Charlie and says, “You looked parched Charlie here’s a glass of water for you.” Charlie takes a few gulps and lays back in his chair. As he begins to walk away Mr. Knits tells Charlie to relax and to enjoy the ride. Charlie slowly starts to nod off as he feels the plane begin its ascent.
Drool is slowly dripping down Charlie’s mouth when he wakes up inside a hotel type room… alone. As Charlie starts to look around in his room, he realizes that his belongings are missing, and all there is inside his room is him, a bed, a nightstand, and a closet with a white lab coat inside of it. Charlie stands up from bed and his door slides open. Edwin a chief scientist at the facility walks in. Edwin begins to introduce himself and explains to Charlie that he is his mentor and will help Charlie learn the work and the craft. Edwin ends his introduction saying, “Put on your lab coat and when you are ready I will show you what we are doing here at Exploration Laboratory”. Charlie suits up and walks out of his room and is surprised to see all white hallways that lead into more dorm rooms, but no one else inside of them. Edwin is walking in front while Charlie follows to a huge room filled with beakers and tubes and contraptions that Charlie had never seen before in his life. Edwin sits down with Charlie and pulls out a small notebook and asks Charlie some basic questions. “How many days is a year on Mars Charlie?” Charlie quickly replies, “687 Earth days sir”. Edwin asks more and more questions while Charlie answers all of them with correctness and speed. Edwin finally gives up and tells Charlie, “You seem to know a lot about the Red Planet, let me tell you what we are doing here. We are actively trying to find ways to make Mars more habitable for people like me and you, how could we do that Charlie?”. Charlie ponders for a moment as Edwin thinks he has finally stumped Charlie. Charlie looks left and right and finally blurts, “I think with the correct amount and correct kind of Greenhouse gases, we could trigger a runaway greenhouse effect on the planet and cause warming and melting of the polar ice caps.” Edwin’s eyes almost popped out of his head when he heard this elaborate and well thought out answer from an 18-year-old kid. Edwin starts to realize, Charlie has real potential in this space and could be molded into a great mind. Edwin quickly yells, “That is it for today back to your room, now!” Charlie does not know, but it is Edwin real job is to keep Charlie from thinking of anything besides low level trivial tasks.
Charlie, confused, goes back to his room and as he walks in the sliding door shuts behind him quickly and will not reopen. Charlie starts to get a funny feeling about this “program” and decides he wants to do a little snooping around. Charlie is not one to sit back and let things happen in front of him. With the door locked, Charlie has to figure out how he can escape this 8 by 8 room. With deep thinking Charlie looks around and sees an air vent in the ceiling. With all his strength Charlie pulls down as hard as he can, but it does not budge. Thinking about the little amount of things they gave him in his prison-like cell, Charlie is left with only one idea, throwing his small nightstand into the grate. Loud but effective Charlie makes a whole in vent. Pulling himself up and he wiggles around and hears people running through the hallway. Looking through the small opening, Charlie is able to see two scientists and overhears them saying, “We must not let that boy impede our research, I believe we will be ready in the coming days to initiate our plan.” Charlie sees guards running down the hall and quickly shimmies backward and down the vent. As he drops down the vent, two men are already waiting for him, and grab him by the arms. Charlie starts to yell to let him go but it’s no use. Dragging Charlie down the hall, the guards finally open a door behind lock and key, and throw Charlie onto the floor.
Charlie looks up and sees Edwin standing above him with an angry expression. Charlie begins to go crawl backwards away from Edwin and without a word Edwin grabs Charlie by the neck. Holding him, Edwin moves away from the security camera, and tells Charlie to calm down. Edwin lets go of Charlie and tells him to explain what happened. Charlie, talking faster than his mind can handle explains, “Something is not right here what is this!?” Edwin sighs and starts to whisper to Charlie, “Charlie, you are a bright boy, but this is not for bright boys. We are here to corrupt young minds like yourself for our gain, but you Charlie, you are special.” Charlie whispers back, “Edwin, what is going to happen in a couple of days?” Edwin explains that the government is researching Mars and colonizing the planet to exile people who speak out against the government. Charlie exclaims, “We need to do something Edwin, this isn’t right.” Edwin replies, “There’s nothing we can do…unless we get to the bridge.” “The bridge?!” Charlie says in confusion. Edwin stops to think and finally tells him, “Yes the bridge of the ship has all of the plans, if we could sneak our way up there we might be able to sabotage the plan”. “We are on a space ship!? Charlie exclaims again. Edwin grabs Charlie out of his hysteria and pushes him into the hallway and into a laundry cart. Charlie begins to squirm inside the cart and Edwin whispers, “Charlie if they find out I didn’t lock you up they will kill me and you both so be quiet!” Edwin continues pushing the cart down the hallway until they get outside the door of the main bridge.
Edwin sees that there is one scientist inside the bridge and lures him out by yelling his name. As Edwin begins to distract the scientist, Charlie sneaks in and sees the main control. He starts to feel the pressure and knows that he does not have much time. Charlie remembers that maybe he can overload the computer the same way you could overheat mars, by jumpstarting the computer with gasses, or in his case, code. Charlie starts to write more and more bits and bytes of information into the computer and before he knew it, the computer began to overheat and shut down. Charlie runs out of the room and leaps back into the laundry basket. Edwin thanks the scientist for his time, and starts to move before he hears, “what the hell happened here?!” Edwin tells Charlie they have to go now and lifts him out of the basket. They begin to run down the hallway until they find the dock. Edwin with his expertise loads Charlie into the passenger seat of a dual powered rocket ship. Charlie asks, “Do you know how to fly this thing?” Edwin looked at all the buttons, and heard guards coming down the hallway. Without thinking twice Edwin released the ship from the dock as they started plummeting down into Earth. Charlie and Edwin both screaming, accidently hit the Auto-Engage button and slowly started to float until their rocket fell into the Atlantic Ocean.
Falling into the ocean, Charlie and Edwin are recognized and picked up by the Coast Guard right outside of Florida. After getting to land, Charlie and Edwin are flown to the Kennedy space center. They are greeted by the head administrator of NASA, Mr. Jim Bridenstine. Mr. Bridenstine explains, “Congratulations, we just got word that you two men successfully sabotaged the DOE’s evil plan. I would like to offer you two gentlemen a spot on our team.” Charlie looks at Edwin with a grin, and finally realizes this is what he really wants to do for the rest of his life.
Horowitz, AnnMarie. “DOE: Department of Energy or Department of Exploration?” Energy.gov, www.energy.gov/articles/doe-department-energy-or-department-exploration.
This article depicts how the Department of Exploration is coming to be. Known as the DOE they recently joined the National Space Council and will be supporting NASA while providing key facts to promote new technologies.
Britt, Robert Roy. “Best Way to Make Mars Habitable: Inject Greenhouse Gas.” Space.com, Space, 3 Feb. 2005, www.space.com/764-mars-habitable-inject-greenhouse-gas.html.
This source shows the harsh realities of making Mars habitable today. I use this source to understand how we will be able to terraform Mars in the future using Greenhouse gases.
“Mars Facts.” NASA, NASA, 13 Feb. 2020, mars.nasa.gov/all-about-mars/facts/.
Mars Facts is a great website that gave me tons of information regarding the basics of Mars. It was very beneficial to have a good background on my topic before I decided to write about it. This is also where I got all the facts concerning what Charlie knew about Mars