Scenario Author: Allan Goodall
Write-up Author: Allan Goodall
Run Date: April 16, 2005
Game System: Chaosium's Basic RolePlaying (BRP)
Keeper: Allan Goodall
Characters: Agent MAYA/Silesia Masters (Alana Goodall); Agent MICHAEL/Rev. Trenton Parvieu (Jason Gallagher); Agent MORGAN/Orenthal Wu (Jimmy Pope)
Note: The setting for this scenario is the End Time supplement for Call of Cthulhu, written by Dr. Michael C. LaBossiere. This supplement is available as a monograph from Chaosium, and in a pre-monograph form at www.yog-sothoth.com in the Downloads | Scenarios section.
For more information about this scenario, see the Scenario Notes section at the end of the write-up.
Clouds swirled around Agent MICHAEL in a clockwise direction as he moved up through time. The spinning — of which he had no sensation — slowed down, and almost came to a stop. He knew he was almost back in the year 2004. He was almost home.
Suddenly the mist around him leaped as though he had been wrenched through the fog by some gigantic hand. The clockwise spinning continued faster and faster, while the mist took on a distinct red tinge.
Red is bad! thought MICHAEL.
In this strange realm, time had no meaning but it seemed to him that this clockwise spinning was going on for a lot longer than the counterclockwise spinning that sent him back to 1944.
The spinning slowed, and the red clouds dissipated.
MICHAEL was not back in New York. Instead, he was once more inhabiting someone else's body. Something didn't feel right. He was... lighter, even though the body he inhabited was about the same size as his own body.
He was standing in a large room that was both warm and humid. He was surrounded by plants. The room had a high tech look, yet it was also utilitarian and well used. Exposed pipes of plastic and ceramic ran along the ceiling above him. The light panels above the plants were similar to fluorescent lights, but the light they emitted was the same color as sunlight, and the lights didn't buzz. The far wall, made of a curious brown-grey stone, curved inward slightly. On the wall was a flat panel screen and touch pad. The panel and pad were curved to match the wall. There were no visible seams anywhere on the panel or pad, other than where the keys depressed. Dark smudges marred the side of the screen, and the labels on many of the keys were worn off from extensive use.
A half a dozen people stood before MICHAEL in a semi-circle. Immediately in front of him, on a folding table, lay a plastic bag. Inside the bag was a corpse.
Memories flooded into him from his host body. He felt lighter because he was on Mars.
His host was Reverend Trenton Parvieu, one of the chaplain/psychotherapists in Hope Colony. The year was 146 on the Martian proleptic calendar. The day was Sunday, Beltaine 2. He instinctively looked over his shoulder at the wall. A digital clock told him this information, along with the time: 11:20 a.m. Below the Martian date and time was another digital readout with the time and date at Greenwich, England: 10:37 p.m., Sunday, March 16, 2149.
That is, if Greenwich, England still existed. Hope Colony, and the younger Bradbury Colony, appeared to be all that was left of human civilization. There had been no contact with Earth since the year 2056. Prior to that, terrible calamities washed over Terra. The moon shifted in its orbit. This shift was the prelude to worldwide rioting and global insanity. The rioting preceded the collapse of nations. The majority of colonists were descendants of Terrans who escaped the Earth in the ship the Hope, one of two ships that left Earth in 2050 (the other vessel, the Ark, never made it to Mars). The other colonists descended from the original colonists, who came to Mars in 2045 aboard the Phoenix, or in 2047 aboard the Argo.
Parvieu was an Apocalyptic Christian, the largest religious group on Mars. They worked toward building a ship to return them to the Earth. Whatever happened on their ancestral planet, Apocalyptic Christians believed they were destined to return to Terra. The colonies were building a large ship in Mars orbit that within four years — so it was hoped — would return the faithful to the cradle of humanity.
Parvieu lived in one of the "alien domes". These domes were proof that indigenous Martians once lived on the red planet. They created large bulbous structures — erroneously called "domes" when they were first discovered — throughout the planet. The domes were made of a stone-like brown-gray material that resisted all colonist attempts to cut or pierce it. The interiors, though, were made of less sturdy material. The dome at Hope Colony and the dome at Bradbury Colony had been gutted inside to create living space. The Hope Colony dome consisted of a large, hemispherical central chamber with four smaller hemispheres attached around the outside, forming a rounded "+" shape. Some less fortunate colonists still lived in human-made buildings, but in time they would all live in modified "domes".
The people gathered before Reverend Parvieu stared at him. The memories coming to MICHAEL from his host threw him for a moment. He hesitated, but quickly recovered. Parvieu was nearing the end of the funeral service for the man in the body bag. In MICHAEL/Parvieu's hand was a bible. He turned to the 23rd Psalm. "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want..."
The deceased was Rowan MacAlpine (pronounced MACKLE-pine), a planetary engineer. He committed suicide in his quarters by shooting himself in the chest with a pistol. Parvieu was MacAlpine's therapist. The man had been in a quiet mood for the past couple of weeks, but there was nothing to suggest he would commit suicide.
The gathering in the arboretum consisted of people close to MacAlpine. In the center was Silesia Masters, his wife and shuttle craft pilot. To her left was Benny Sanchez, a planetary engineer and one of MacAlpine's co-workers. To her right was Orenthal Wu, another planetary engineer, a co-worker of MacAlpine, and his best friend. Rounding out the gathering were Garland Smolt, Master's ex-lover and friend of the couple, and their next door neighbors, Maple and Kevin Onazuka. Near the door were two workers in blue coveralls, who looked on with somber reverence.
After reading the psalm, MICHAEL/Parvieu gestured for the workers to take MacAlpine away. Masters sniffled as the workers carried the body off for reclamation. MacAlpine's body would be harvested for organs and complex organic molecules. These molecules would be used in the fertilization of plants. On Mars nothing was wasted.
MICHAEL/Parvieu directed the gathering to reconvene in MacAlpine's quarters. In his will, the deceased had requested that his friends and family take one of his personal items as a gift. The rest of his belongings would return to the colony's communal stores, per colony tradition. They would be given to those who needed them the most.
Masters and Smolt walked out the door, followed by Benny Sanchez. Orenthal Wu walked up to MICHAEL/Parvieu and thanked him for the service.
As Wu turned and walked away, something familiar about Wu's gait caught his attention. Not "Parvieu familiar" but "MICHAEL familiar". Then it hit him. Wu walked an awful lot like Agent MORGAN.
MICHAEL/Parvieu caught up to Wu. "Mr. Wu. Didn't you bring something to put your object in?"
"No, I did not," replied Wu. "I didn't know what size container to bring."
"Funny," continued MICHAEL/Parvieu, "I don't usually see you without a bag."
Wu stared at Parvieu. "No, I don't usually carry a backpack."
"I'm sorry, I must be thinking of someone else. A chemist, who likes to carry around bottles of acid." MICHAEL/Parvieu waited for some indication from Wu. When it wasn't forthcoming, he asked, "Your first name is...?"
"My mistake. The person I knew was 'Morgan'."
"Did he have a friend known as Alzis?" asked Wu.
"MICHAEL?" asked MORGAN/Wu.
"Of course its MICHAEL!" he hissed.
In hushed tones, the two Delta Green agents quickly asked each other about the deck of Tarot cards. They seemed to have done everything that was expected of them, but if that was the case why were they on Mars? And where was Agent MAYA?
MICHAEL/Parvieu noticed that Silesia Masters was watching them. Then, someone in the front of the procession said, "Uh, we're here." Masters moved forward through the small crowd. She punched in her access number. The door hissed open.
The friends and neighbors filed into Masters' quarters. MICHAEL/Parvieu and MORGAN/Wu were still whispering about the cards. Masters gestured to the door. She cleared her throat, and then said, "Excuse me, Mi... Reverend?" Masters smiled.
MICHAEL/Parvieu stared at Masters, wide-eyed. It was MAYA! MORGAN/Wu didn't seem to notice.
All three agents entered the quarters. Arrayed on a folding table were Rowan MacAlpine's most prized possessions, all of them exceedingly rare on Mars: an old King James edition bible; stone carving tools; several small stone figurines, most of which were animals, but some were people in Mars surface suits; a small collection of hardback books, including Moby Dick, The Grapes of Wrath, The Stand, The Right Stuff, and a couple of titles that MICHAEL/Parvieu recognized as 21st Century novels; a small collection of yellowed, lined paper; a small menagerie of brittle origami animals, made from the same yellowed, lined paper.
MICHAEL/Parvieu told the gathering that it was Rowan's wish that everyone take an item to remember Rowan by. His wife, Silesia Masters, would go first.
He watched as MAYA/Masters walked up to the table and looked at the items. She reached for the bible. Tucked into the bible, near the back, was a bookmark. To his astonishment, the bookmark looked just like one of Madame Sosostris' Tarot cards! MAYA/Masters picked up the bible, and pushed the bookmark into the pages so that it no longer stuck out. Apparently she saw the same thing. He turned to MORGAN/Wu, but he seemed oblivious to the card.
MORGAN/Wu was next after MAYA/Masters. He took the stone carving tool set, tucked it under his arm, and then went up to Silesia Masters to console her.
As she hugged him, she whispered in his ear, "MORGAN?"
He was aghast. He whispered back, "You're not wearing Prada!" He stepped back as she gave him a little smile.
Each person, in turn, picked up an item. After taking something from the table, they walked up to MAYA/Masters and uttered a few condolences. Garland Smolt took one of the origami animals. He held MAYA/Masters' hand a little too long as he stared into her eyes and told her, "If there is anything I can do, please call me."
MAYA/Masters smiled, said she would, and suppressed a shiver.
MICHAEL/Parvieu was the last to walk up to the table. He looked over what was left, and took a small figurine. All of the visitors had left, except for the neighbors. They were in a deep discussion about Buddhism with MORGAN/Wu. All three were followers of The Eastern Path, a Buddhist sect that made up the second largest religious group on Mars.
After another twenty minutes, Maple and Kenneth Onazuka left Masters' quarters. After the door closed behind them, the agents looked at each other and visibly relaxed. They began calling each other by their real names, hoping that it wasn't all an elaborate dream.
The discussion at once turned to the topic of Madame Sosostris' Tarot cards. MICHAEL described how he had been sent to Nazi-occupied France, where he stayed for two months. MORGAN explained that he turned up in Austria in 1928, living there for a little over two weeks. MAYA said that she got off easy, only having to spend a single day in Vietnam, in 1969. MAYA and MICHAEL saw the Tarot deck as though the agent earlier in the time line had not succeeded in saving their assigned cards. Yet, it appeared that each agent, including MORGAN, did succeed in saving the Major Arcana cards. If that was true, why were they on Mars?
They traced the progression of the Tarot deck, from one owner to another. Somehow the deck showed up in the possession of an Austrian occult collector not long after Madame Sosostris disappeared. The deck went up for auction in Vienna. During the auction, someone — and/or something — ransacked the waiting room containing the deck, inadvertently making off with seven of the Major Arcana cards. MORGAN managed to recover the cards and give them to a French priest, Monsieur Pappineau... Father Pappineau, if that was indeed his real name. Pappineau murdered MORGAN's host body, freeing MORGAN. Like MICHAEL, MORGAN moved up the time stream to what he thought was 2004, only to be wrenched by some unknown force and thrown onto Mars.
MICHAEL suggested that Father Pappineau was the priest who possessed the deck in Nazi-occupied France, in 1944. A German panzergrenadier unit raided the priest's village to weed out French partisans who were using it as a base. MICHAEL just managed to stop another seven Major Arcana cards from being destroyed by the priest. He handed the deck over to his brigade commander. Thinking he had saved the deck, he expected to head home right away. Instead, he was stuck in 1944 France until the deck once more appeared. He hid the deck, and then went to investigate the occult experiment conducted on the French coast by elements of the Waffen SS. The body he inhabited was killed, but not before he saw Feldwebel Dieter Mather escape. Mather was the only one left alive who knew where MICHAEL had hidden the deck. Presumably Mather took the deck.
MAYA asked MICHAEL to describe Mather. The description could easily match the German — masquerading as a Frenchman — that she saw in Vietnam in 1969. He would have been 25 years older, but it could have been the same man. Since he had the Tarot deck, it likely was the same man. MAYA managed to rescue the deck after the man — Mather, presumably — was killed by a Delta Green operative. The operative, in turn, was killed by a young Bert Sebring. MAYA, in the body of a young sergeant, just barely managed to save the cards from being clawed apart by the Tcho-tcho. She escaped with the cards in a helicopter. This completed a procession of Tarot deck owners, from an unknown Austrian, to a French priest, to a German soldier, to a sergeant in Bert Sebring's unit.
It appeared that not only did the agents have to save the Major Arcana cards from destruction, they also had to deliver the cards to the next person in the procession before they were allowed to go home. MORGAN saved seven cards, but didn't leave 1928 until the priest had the cards in his possession. MICHAEL saved seven more cards, but didn't leave 1944 until Mather was safely out of the line of fire. While MAYA saved the remaining seven cards from the Tcho-tcho, she left 1969 as soon as the helicopter was safely away from Mather's plantation. The cards were still in the possession of Sergeant Walter Taylor. They were not in the possession of Bert Sebring. They knew Sebring got the cards at some point, because MAYA stole the cards from him in 2004. Apparently Sebring got the cards from Taylor sometime between 1969 and 2004.
At any rate, none of this explained why they were on Mars in 2149. "If we were successful," asked MAYA, "why are we here?"
They discussed the sensation they felt when they left their previous host body. Each of them described a clockwise spinning, a slowing down, and then a rapid acceleration, as though something had grabbed them. The journey to the future was similar to the journey into the past, but in reverse, and much faster.
MAYA remembered the card she saw in the bible. She said it looked like one of the Tarot deck cards. MORGAN/Wu picked up the bible and turned to the page marked by the bookmark. The bookmark didn't look like a Tarot card at all. It was simply a piece of thin white plastic. He searched through the bible, but couldn't find a Tarot card. Both MAYA/Masters and MICHAEL/Parvieu insisted that the bookmark looked just like a Tarot card, though they couldn't see enough of it to know which card. MORGAN/Wu pulled out the card and showed it to them. There was no doubt that it was just a piece of white plastic.
MICHAEL/Parvieu asked what page the plastic was marking. MORGAN/Wu looked at the page. It had been sitting at the first chapter of Revelations.
Based on where they were, and their host's knowledge of history, MORGAN/Wu suggested that bringing all the cards together made "the stars right", and brought about the prophesied "end times". The other two had never heard of such a thing as the "end times", but deferred to MORGAN's greater knowledge in such matters. He said that he had all the cards together in 1928, but he didn't have time to do anything with them. They were beginning to see why Alzis wanted them to save the cards. It appeared that the complete deck held an immense amount of magical power.
The discussion shifted to the late Rowan MacAlpine. Presumably the reason they were on Mars had something to do with his death. None of their hosts saw any indication that he was depressed enough to kill himself. MAYA/Masters did note that MacAlpine had nightmares for about two weeks prior to his suicide.
The agents searched MacAlpine's personal effects. They didn't find any clues to his death, or what might have caused the nightmares. MORGAN/Wu tried to break into MacAlpine's online account, but he was unsuccessful. MAYA/Masters didn't have any of MacAlpine's passwords, either.
MICHAEL/Parvieu picked up one of the larger statues that MacAlpine had carved. MAYA/Masters mentioned that it was his latest work. MICHAEL/Parvieu flipped the statue over. On the bottom were two sets of three numbers. He showed them to MORGAN/Wu and MAYA/Masters. They both agreed that they looked like latitude and longitude coordinates.
MAYA/Masters explained that MacAlpine returned from a survey expedition two weeks ago. The Steadman Expedition — named after Dr. Evangeline Steadman, the expedition's leader — had been investigating geological features some 800 kilometres away from Hope Colony, and 150 km from Bradbury Colony. The site was now off limits because two men in the expedition died in a landslide. It was after he returned from this expedition that MacAlpine started having nightmares. Masters thought they were brought on by the death of his colleagues.
They compared the coordinates to map on the colony's computer network. They plugged in the coordinates given for the Steadman Expedition. The two sets of coordinates were only 200 kilometers apart, and both were about 150 km from Bradbury Colony. Perhaps the Steadman Expedition hadn't been digging where they said they were digging.
They needed to determine if MacAlpine's death was really a suicide. There was no time to waste. His body was headed for the reclamation vats.
They got to the vat room just as two workers were about to dump the body bag into a large tank. MICHAEL/Parvieu walked up to the men while MORGAN/Wu put his arm around MAYA/Masters. The reverend told the workers that Ms. Masters needed to spend just a couple of moments alone with her husband, one last time. The workers looked at each other, nodded, and then moved away to give MAYA/Masters some privacy.
While MAYA/Masters kept up the charade of grief, MORGAN/Wu quietly opened the body bag. It was no big shock for MORGAN, who had seen countless corpses in worse condition. MacAlpine had been cut open, his usable organs removed, and roughly sewn back up. MORGAN/Wu inspected MacAlpine's chest. MacAlpine died from a single gunshot to his chest. MORGAN had seen the same thing before. Although the Y-incision used to remove his organs obscured part of the wound, MORGAN/Wu saw enough powder tattooing to know that MacAlpine was shot at close range. However, there were no contact burns. The weapon had not been touching MacAlpine's chest. MORGAN/Wu guessed that the shot was from between three and five feet away, too far away for MacAlpine to have shot himself. Even a half-blind medical examiner could tell this. MacAlpine had been murdered, and someone was covering it up.
MORGAN/Wu closed the bag. The two agents put their arms around MAYA/Masters, and left with the "grief stricken" widow. The workers went back to the body, presumably to dump it — and the evidence — into the vats.
Some sort of conspiracy was at work. MORGAN/Wu remembered that Wu knew of three different alien architectural styles on Mars. One style included the alien "domes". There were, however, two other styles, each radically different from each other and the domes. This hinted that there may have been three, and not one, race of aliens on Mars. Wu was sworn to secrecy by the Colony Council, for some reason that even Wu didn't know. MORGAN asked the other two how many types of alien architecture they knew about. They had only heard about the domes. Knowledge of the other two potential alien races was apparently classified among a small group of colonists. Mars held secrets on top of secrets.
MAYA/Masters tried to break into MacAlpine's private online files, but was unsuccessful. Their next course of action pointed them toward the coordinates on the base of the statue. Getting there would be difficult. The most efficient mode of transportation would be one of the Hummingbirds, a vectored thrust aircraft with a top speed of about 500 km/hr. Unfortunately there were only six on the entire planet and their use was strictly controlled. They could take a Land Rover, an enclosed six-wheeled ground transport. Land Rovers were pressurized, but there were only thirteen operational vehicles on the planet. They could requisition one, but it could take days or weeks for their request to go through the bureaucracy. That left the mini-buggies. To MICHAEL they looked like the old lunar rover from the Apollo missions to the moon, only with room for four passengers instead of two. Mini-buggies were slow, with a top speed of about 40 km/hr. They weren't pressurized, either. The agents would have to wear Mars Surface Suits (MSS), which looked like rigid space suits. It would be uncomfortable, and they would have to take along extra oxygen, as each suit had only an 8 hour supply. The trip was feasible. What's more, they wouldn't have to requisition a mini-buggy, as they were readily available.
MAYA/Masters checked online for flights to Bradbury Colony. There was room for three more passengers on the regular Hummingbird flight leaving tomorrow morning. She booked passage for them. They would fly to Bradbury Colony, collect supplies, and head out to the dig site from there the following morning. MAYA/Masters would use her husband's death as an excuse to get away from Hope colony for a couple of days. MICHAEL/Parvieu would be visiting family. MORGAN/Wu would be putting together an expedition, which was part of Wu's job.
The Hummingbird flight to Bradbury Colony left at precisely 9:00 a.m. The flight took a little less than 2 hours, and was uneventful. The Hummingbird touched down, the agents got into their personal surface suits, and they walked from the landing area to the alien dome that was the main colony building. Unlike the Hope Colony "dome", the Bradbury "dome" was just that, a hemispherical stone building jutting out of the Martian landscape.
The team met with the site administrator and arranged for temporary shelter for the evening. They were given bunks in one of the human-made storage buildings. They would have to make do with hammocks, but that was all that could be afforded them on short notice.
Most of the day was spent acquiring supplies for their expedition. There had been some strange disappearances, disappearances that weren't widely known by most colonists. Few of ohto farmers went outside without weaponry. (Ohto, pronounced "oh-two", was a photosynthetic organism the colonists were planting to increase oxygen levels in the Martian atmosphere. The colonists hoped that Mars would have a life-sustaining atmosphere within a couple of centuries.) MORGAN/Wu, with the excuse of setting up a small survey expedition, managed to procure two Martian-made pistols and an assault rifle. The pistols looked like equivalent .38 caliber automatic pistols from the 21st Century. The assault rifle looked vaguely like an M16A2; close enough that MICHAEL thought he'd have no trouble operating it, even though Parvieu had never handled a firearm. MAYA/Masters and MORGAN/Wu would carry a pistol each.
Along with the firearms, Wu obtained lights, explosives, blasting caps, picks, shovels, and a good length of rope. He also picked up extra oxygen packs, and water and food pouches. They could eat and drink in their suits via mouth tubes.
Finally, MORGAN/Wu requisitioned two mini-buggies. This proved easier than requisitioning the food. He and MICHAEL/Parvieu picked up the buggies and parked them beside the storage building that was their quarters. They topped up the charge on the buggies' batteries, giving them 12 hours of operation. They would head out early the next day, before dawn. The agents spent the rest of the day resting.
In the predawn hours, the agents awoke, dressed, donned their surface suits, and then exited the storage building. They loaded their gear into the two buggies. MAYA/Masters would drive one buggy with MORGAN/Wu. MICHAEL/Parvieu would drive the other buggy with the extra oxygen packs and most of the supplies.
After a short discussion they headed for the coordinates they found on the statue. They briefly considered going to the Steadman Expedition site and then driving to the statue coordinates, but that would add at least two hours to the trip. They didn't want to risk running out of battery power in the buggies.
The rocky Martian landscape spread out before them, with its reddish soil and dusty sky. The trip was relatively peaceful, if a bit bumpy. After about two hours of driving, the team reached a valley. They stopped, and MORGAN/Wu walked to the valley's edge. He saw a spot where the rocky face of the valley wall had collapsed. The coordinates indicated a spot underneath the landslide. MORGAN/Wu informed the others that he would have to blow a hole in the rubble to see what was there.
They found a path down the side of the valley and drove to the valley floor. MORGAN/Wu got out some explosives and a blasting cap. He had everyone move to a safe distance, and then he detonated the explosives. It moved some of the rock. He repeated the process.
The dirt and rock that remained would take about an hour to clear by hand. MORGAN/Wu thought another blast would clear the way. MICHAEL/Parvieu pointed out that they only had three more sets of explosives. MORGAN/Wu convinced the others to let him blast again. He set the charge and detonated it. The blast did clear away more debris, but it also sent rock raining down from the valley wall. They were no further ahead. MORGAN/Wu requested that they let him try again. At first MAYA/Masters and MICHAEL/Parvieu objected, but they eventually relented. MORGAN/Wu set the explosive, detonated it, but the same thing happened: as much dirt fell from the valley wall as had been blasted out of the way. With one explosive charge remaining they decided just to dig with their picks and shovels.
A little over an hour later, when they dug far enough to reach the valley wall, MICHAEL/Parvieu discovered an opening. They dug for a few more minutes, widening the entrance. They shone a light into the passage. They saw a long tunnel that formed a four-way junction about 30 yards ahead of them. The agents grabbed their weapons and lights, and climbed into the tunnel.
The walls of the tunnel appeared to be made of the same material as the alien domes. The walls were rounded smooth the same way as the inside of the alien domes. The tunnel looked like someone had melted the passageway through solid rock and then sprayed the indestructible gray-brown material throughout.
When they got to the junction, the looked down both side passages. The right-side passage went straight for 10 meters and then bent to the left. The left-side passage when straight for 10 meters and then bent to the right. The middle passage continued straight, beyond the reach of their lights. The agents decided to continue straight ahead.
Within a few minutes, the tunnel opened up into a chamber twice as wide as the tunnel. Lining the walls of the chamber were large, egg-shaped metal containers. There were 20 containers down each side of the chamber. Each egg-shaped container had what looked like a glass plate in the front. At the end of the chamber were three smaller eggs.
MORGAN/Wu and MAYA/Masters walked up to the closest container. MICHAEL/Parvieu refused to look. Inside sat a tall, thin, humanoid creature. It had three pairs of organs that MORGAN/Wu took to be eyes. One pair was in the same rough position as human eyes. A second pair sat below the first, just above a vertical slit. The slit was where a human mouth would be. The third pair of eyes were on either side of the creature's head, on slight protuberances. The creature's long limbs ended in six digits. The thing's skin was a gray-brown shade. They couldn't tell if the creature was alive and asleep, or dead and remarkably well preserved.
They moved down the length of the chamber, MAYA/Masters and MORGAN/Wu looking in each of the eggs, while MICHAEL/Parvieu studiously avoided looking into any of them. Each egg contained a similar creature, differing only slightly in height and color.
The three eggs at the end of the chamber were much smaller. MAYA/Masters stepped up to the middle one and looked in. She froze, unable to speak. The egg contained a card... one of Madame Sosostris' Tarot cards.
"What did you find?" asked MORGAN/Wu. MAYA/Masters moved out of the way so he and MICHAEL/Parvieu could see. They, too, were astounded. They looked into the other two eggs. These contained something entirely different, identical objects consisting of wild knot of tubes ending in two prongs pointing out the front, and a handle in the rear. MICHAEL thought it was some sort of weapon.
MORGAN/Wu moved to the middle egg. There were three holes below the glass opening. They were just wide enough for his gloved fingers to fit. He stuck his middle three fingers into the hole. There was a slight hiss. The glass opened in a smooth motion, even though there was no visible hinge. He reached in and picked up the card.
The card was definitely from Madame Sosostris' Tarot deck, though he had never seen this one, not even back in 1928. The picture on the card showed a man in yellow rags sitting on a throne. He held a mask to his face, though it looked like he was about to remove the mask. The card was numbered "XXI". The caption at the bottom said, "Le Roi en Jeune". "The King in Yellow."
A normal Tarot deck contained 22 Major Arcana cards. Until that moment MORGAN thought Madame Sosostris' deck had but 21. The deck had no emperor card. As MORGAN/Wu showed the card to the others, he said, "Alzis believes the emperor is missing..."
They stood still for a moment. There was no swirling, no clouds. They were still in the chamber on Mars. Evidently retrieving this last card wasn't all they were supposed to do. MORGAN/Wu slipped the card into one of his suit's pockets.
MAYA/Masters went to the egg on the left and shoved three fingers into the holes. The lid of the egg lifted up. She retrieved the thing that looked like a weapon. MORGAN/Wu retrieved the object from the egg on the right.
There was nothing left to search for in the chamber, so the agents decided to head back to Bradbury Colony. They walked back down the passage. When they came to the intersection, they stopped. Since they came all this way they figured they should check out the other two passages.
While MORGAN/Wu and MICHAEL/Parvieu stood at the junction, MAYA/Masters carefully walked down the passage way on their left, the corridor that was on their right on the way in. She stood at the bend and shone her light down that corridor. There was another "egg chamber", though this one did not have any of the smaller eggs in it. She saw something lying on the floor halfway between the junction and the egg chamber. As she moved to investigate it, MORGAN/Wu and MICHAEL/Parvieu moved up to the corner where she had been standing, so they could keep her in line-of-sight.
Lying on the ground was a Mars Surface Suit. It looked like there was a body in it. MAYA/Masters walked up to the suit very carefully.
MICHAEL/Parvieu thought he saw some slight movement in the suit. The person wearing it could still be alive!
MORGAN/Wu checked the outside atmosphere indicator on his suit. It still showed the typical Martian atmosphere, which was too thin and lacking enough oxygen to sustain life.
MAYA/Masters nudged the suit with her foot. A whip-like, grayish-green tentacle shot out from the suit and wrapped itself around MAYA/Masters' leg. Sharp needled penetrated her suit and dug into her leg. She cried out in great pain. The suit rose up on two more tentacles.
Terror gripped MICHAEL/Parvieu. He aimed his assault rifle in the general direction of the creature — and MAYA/Masters — and pulled the trigger. A single bullet shot down the corridor, and then the weapon jammed. MICHAEL/Parvieu continued to scream and pull the trigger, oblivious to the fact that the gun was no longer functioning.
MORGAN/Wu stared at the suit, aghast. Another tentacle hit MAYA/Masters, this time in the arm. Masters' suit was self-sealing, but her cries of pain told him the creature was killing her. Instinctively he pointed the thing in his hand, the alien artifact he had just recovered. He squeezed the handle.
Two blue-white bolts of lightning shot from the pointed end of the alien gun, merged a foot in front of it, and lanced out at the thing that had attacked MAYA/Masters. The thing immediately dropped the woman, and began morphing from the shape of a surface suit to a formless gray-green blob. It ran off down the corridor on a series of extending and disappearing tentacles. MORGAN/Wu fired again. The shot caught the creature in the center of its mass. It immediately collapsed, skidding across the floor of the chamber.
MORGAN/Wu rushed to MAYA/Masters' side. With his help she slowly got up. The pain was subsiding, and the suit had properly sealed itself, but her leg was throbbing and she felt weak. She needed medical attention. MICHAEL/Parvieu recovered his wits. He carefully cleared the assault rifle's jam.
As they walked back to the junction, someone in a Mars Surface Suit walked around the corner of the other passageway. All three agents, including MAYA/Masters, aimed weapons at the suit. They could see the face of a human male through the suit's face plate.
The man in the suit pointed to his right ear in a universal gesture indicating that his radio was out. MICHAEL/Parvieu glanced down at the ground and saw it was covered in dust from their explosions and digging. He knelt down and wrote "NAME" in big letters in the dust.
The man nodded. He knelt down and drew "ROUGE". MORGAN/Wu recognized the name. Dr. Rouge was one the men who had died in the Steadman Expedition landslide. That had been two weeks ago. Even if he had enough water and food, he would have run out of oxygen long ago.
MAYA/Masters and MORGAN/Wu fired their alien weapons at "Dr. Rouge", while MICHAEL/Parvieu fired the assault rifle. MORGAN's shot missed. MICHAEL's bullets seemed to slip through the suit, like he was sticking a needle through a pad of butter. MAYA's shot hit "Dr. Rouge" in the chest.
The suit erupted with tentacles, and began morphing into another gray-green mass. With blinding speed, the thing charged at the agents.
All three fired once more. This time, they all hit. The heat from the lightning bolts exploded the creature across the walls of the passage. All was still.
The men helped MAYA/Masters to the tunnel entrance. She crawled out while the men looked over their shoulder in case something else attacked. MORGAN/Wu and then MICHAEL/Parvieu crawled out of the passage once MAYA/Masters was clear.
MORGAN/Wu had one demolition charge remaining. They drove out of the valley, and MORGAN/Wu set the charge above the entrance to the tunnel. He detonated it. Rock from the valley wall covered up the entrance.
They swapped oxygen packs. MICHAEL/Parvieu climbed into the driver's seat of the mini-buggy with the supplies. MORGAN/Wu climbed into the driver seat of the other buggy. MAYA/Masters sat beside Wu, nursing her wounded arm. The agents headed back to Bradbury Colony.
They were about an hour out from Bradbury Colony when MICHAEL/Parvieu saw a glowing streak in the sky. He halted his mini-buggy, and MORGAN/Wu did the same. MICHAEL/Parvieu pointed up at the sky, and MORGAN/Wu and MAYA/Masters looked in that direction. Something sizable was entering Mars' atmosphere. It left a long streak of heated air in its wake. They watched as it disappeared beyond a low hill.
Based on the trajectory, MICHAEL/Parvieu guessed that it landed about an hour away. Since it landed perpendicular to the course they were taking, investigating it would only add about an hour to their travel time back to Bradbury Colony. MORGAN/Wu asked MAYA/Masters how she felt. She replied that she was feeling okay, all things considered. She wasn't getting any worse. She could make it if they wanted to check it out. The two men pointed their mini-buggies in what MICHAEL hoped was the right direction.
Fifty minutes later they topped a small hill and saw the crash site. They saw some sort of re-entry pod. It looked like it was of human manufacture. It appeared that the parachutes had failed; the pod hit the ground hard and had bounced twice before landing half-submerged in soft dirt. Given that the terminal velocity on Mars was more than 600 miles per hour, MORGAN/Wu couldn't see how anyone could have survived.
They drove down to the pod, and climbed off the mini-buggies. They approached the pod cautiously. MORGAN/Wu and MAYA/Masters had their alien weapons. MICHAEL/Parvieu had his assault rifle.
They got to within 10 meters of the pod when the main hatch opened. They tensed as a helmet rose out of the hatch, followed by a complete space suit. The suit bore little resemblance to their surface suits. This suit was designed for hard vacuum and operations in space.
The space traveler climbed out, and faced the agents.
It was hard to make out the features of the man in the space suit through the glass of his helmet, but all three agents thought the man looked awfully familiar.
The man said, "Hello! Could you drive me back to your nearest colony? I think your people will want to hear what I have to say. I just escaped from Earth."
He either saw the expressions on their face, or thought they looked familiar. "Do I know you?"
"It depends," said MICHAEL/Parvieu. "Are you Stephen Alzis?"
"Yes, I am. Who are you?"
"Do you have the cards?" asked MORGAN/Wu. "You sent us here to retrieve the cards. We have the last card."
"What are..." Alzis started to say, then as he stared at him a slow grin crossed his face. "You found the last card. You found the last card!" He let out a gale of maniacal laughter.
MORGAN/Wu shot Stephen Alzis with the alien gun. Lightning blasted through the suit and charred the body inside. MORGAN/Wu fired a second time, just to be sure. Alzis' body lay on the ground, unmoving.
MORGAN/Wu pulled the Tarot card from his suit pocket. He froze for a second. What he had in his hand was some sort of alien artifact. It was about the same size of the card, but other than that it looked nothing like it. It looked for all the world like a circuit board.
Just to be certain, the agents stripped Alzis from his space suit. His burnt, lifeless body soon lay exposed on the Martian soil. MORGAN/Wu dropped the alien artifact onto Alzis' body. It did not change back to the Tarot card. He picked it back up and put it back in his pocket.
They drove back to Bradbury Colony.
When they arrived at Bradbury Colony, they stashed the alien weapons in backpacks, stashed the backpacks in their temporary quarters, and then took MAYA/Masters to see a doctor in the colony dome.
The doctor inspected MAYA/Masters' leg and found it to be badly lacerated. Puss in the area of the wound was drained and quickly analyzed. There was some sort of toxin in her body around the wound site. The doctor drained it and sewed up the biggest gash on her leg. He put a dressing on it and told her to take it easy for a few days.
He asked her what happened. She told him that some thing shot out of the sand and struck her while she was helping her friends at a dig site. MORGAN/Wu corroborated the story. The doctor asked where this happened. MORGAN/Wu gave him coordinates, but they were for a random piece of ground off in the opposite direction from the valley with the alien site.
The doctor asked if she could stick around for a day or so for observation. She said that she wanted to go back home to Hope Colony. She wanted her regular doctor to see her wound. The doctor acquiesced and let her leave. No doubt he would soon be filing a report to the Bradbury Colony officials. No doubt Silesia Masters would soon be visited by Colony Security.
As luck would have it, there was a Hummingbird flight scheduled for 6 p.m. MICHAEL/Parvieu reserved three of the last four seats for them. They slipped on their surface suits, rushed back to their quarters to retrieve the backpacks, and then headed out to the Hummingbird landing pad.
After the Hummingbird landed at Hope Colony, the agents went directly to MAYA/Masters' quarters. They needed to take a good look at the card. MORGAN/Wu pulled out the card. It still looked like the alien "circuit board" (for lack of a better term ). He put it on top of the computer, but nothing happened. He took out a needle and pricked his finger. He thought perhaps a blood sacrifice could affect it, but when he squeezed his blood onto the "circuit board", nothing changed.
MICHAEL/Parvieu picked it up. It suddenly turned back into the King in Yellow Tarot card.
MICHAEL remembered that he first saw the Tarot card in the bible. He picked up the bible and opened it in the middle. He slipped the Tarot card into the bible. He then flipped to the bookmark. He pulled out the bookmark. The plastic card that acted as the bookmark was gone. Instead, he held the King in Yellow Tarot card. MICHAEL/Parvieu opened the bible to the middle. Sitting in the center of the book was the alien "circuit board".
MICHAEL/Parvieu put the card and the "circuit board" together, and placed them in the bible. When he reopened it, the card was gone. In its place was the piece of plastic and the alien artifact. They looked around the quarters. On a shelf, where once sat an origami crane, they found the King in Yellow card.
Something very, very weird was happening. The card was shifting in and out of reality, and with greater rapidity than when they first "arrived" on Mars.
MICHAEL/Parvieu picked up the card to show the others, but it was now the origami crane. More searching uncovered the card in the stack of yellowed paper Rowan MacAlpine had saved to make origami animals. MORGAN/Wu pulled out the card, but it was now a piece of paper. He looked at the paper. The card was now in the paper, as though it had been printed on it.
He held up the paper to show the others, but the card was gone. They spent several minutes looking for the card. Eventually MAYA/Masters glanced at the computer monitor. The card was floating in the monitor, like a screen saver. She touched the keyboard, and the card disappeared.
MICHAEL/Parvieu thought about the card being in the computer. He wondered if he could e-mail it to someone. He opened up his e-mail account. He had about a dozen e-mails waiting to be read. One, though, caught his eye immediately. The sender was listed as "Agent Kim". The subject was "Michael". He opened it.
To: Trenton Parvieu
From: Agent Kim
Agent Michael, you must leave Mars immediately. I will explain everything later.
MICHAEL/Parvieu let the others read the e-mail. MAYA/Masters checked her e-mail. There was one addressed to her, too, identifying her as "Agent Maya".
They didn't bother checking to see if MORGAN/Wu had received an e-mail. They just knew that they had to get off Mars right away. MAYA/Masters checked the shuttle status at Hope Colony. A Flying Sparrow class spaceplane was on Hope Colony's landing strip. It was already fueled. The ground crew were loading cargo. They had no choice but to steal the spaceplane. Fortunately Silesia Masters was a trained pilot.
The agents donned their surface suits. Carrying their helmets, they walked out into the corridor. They had the backpacks with the alien weapons, the bible, the alien "circuit board" and the plastic bookmark. The "circuit board" was now in the form of the King in Yellow card. MORGAN/Wu put that into his suit pocket.
There was a commotion in the hallway. People ran back and forth, babbling quickly. Benny Sanchez bumped into them as he hurried toward the cafeteria.
"Did you hear?" he asked? "Someone just arrived from Earth! Can you believe it?"
The agents looked at each other. It had to be Alzis. "Where is he?" asked MAYA/Masters.
"He showed up at Bradbury Colony a couple of hours ago. He's flying here to meet the Colony Council. Everyone's gathering in the cafeteria to meet him." Benny smiled, and said, "I'll see you there. I'll save you a seat!" The fact that they were wearing surface suits didn't seem to phase him.
The trio rushed to the nearest airlock, put on their helmets, and left the colony dome. If Alzis was alive and heading for Hope Colony, they had to get off the planet, fast. This must have been what Agent KIM warned them about, even though none of the agents knew an Agent KIM. They didn't even know if an Agent KIM existed in Delta Green in the early 21st century.
They ran/bounded in the light Martian gravity. When they arrived at the Flying Sparrow landing site they saw cargo being loaded onto the spaceplane. The colony had a construction station on Phobos building the Ark, which would return colonists to Earth. They also had a small station on Deimos. They didn't know which moon base the supplies were for, nor did they care.
A two-person ground crew used mechanical lifters to place cargo pallets in the rear of the spaceplane, while another two members secured the items in the ship.
MICHAEL/Parvieu hailed the crew. He told them that a man from Earth had landed on Mars a couple of hours ago, and he would be in Hope Colony any minute now. Everyone was gathering in the cafeteria to see him.
For the colonists who hadn't heard a peep from Earth in almost 100 years, this was miraculous news. Their work ground to a halt. The crew chief told her people to go to the cafeteria. She would finish the loading and join them momentarily. The crew dropped everything and ran for the dome.
When MICHAEL/Parvieu realized that the crew chief wasn't going anywhere, he offered his services, and those of Masters and Wu, in the loading of the spaceplane. They would help secure the pallets if the crew chief loaded them.
The chief may have recognized Masters, or maybe she recognized Parvieu himself, for after thinking about it for a moment she said, "Sure!" She must have wanted to see the man from Earth, too.
The agents climbed onto the ship. While the crew chief loaded a pallet, MORGAN/Wu and MICHAEL/Parvieu stowed it. MAYA/Masters climbed into the pilot seat. She began the preflight check as the crew chief loaded a second pallet into the spaceplane.
MAYA/Masters' reflexes kicked in and she began the engine start sequence without thinking. The crew chief started yelling.
MORGAN/Wu leaned out the door and yelled over the radio, "There's been a malfunction! Get clear!" He shut the door. He and MICHAEL/Parvieu ran for a seat and strapped themselves in.
MAYA/Masters fired up the engines to full throttle. The spaceplane lurched forward. It ran down the short runway, and then lifted off with deceptive grace. The ship gathered speed parallel to the ground for a few kilometers. MAYA pulled back on the stick and the spaceplane lifted. Once the ship was two kilometers from the surface, MAYA/Masters fired up the ramjet. The agents were pushed into their seats as the ship accelerated up to, and beyond the 5+ kilometers per second escape velocity. Within a few minutes the Flying Sparrow escaped Mars' feeble atmosphere.
MAYA/Masters punched in a course for Phobos. Agent KIM didn't actually tell them to go to Phobos, but they had no idea where else they should go. MAYA/Masters caught sight of something off to port. Looking out the window she saw a long, narrow ship locked into a polar orbit. She told the other agents. They quickly agreed to head for that ship. MAYA/Masters punched in the course change, and the spaceplane moved to catch up with the orbiting ship.
The Flying Sparrow slipped into orbit alongside a long, narrow spacecraft. Painted on the side of the craft was the name, Ares. At the back of the ship were two escape pods. There was a berth for a third escape pod. This confirmed what the agents suspected: this was the ship Alzis used to reach Mars.
It was MICHAEL who thought to check for a communications network connection while in orbit. There had to be some way to connect the Martian moon bases with Hope and Bradbury colonies. He slipped behind a computer monitor and typed an e-mail to Agent KIM. He told KIM (was KIM a he or a she?) that they were now in orbit, and asked what they should do next. He didn't really expect it to work, but it was worth a shot. He sent the message.
MAYA/Masters moved the spaceplane closer to the Ares. They were now just a few meters from the ship. It wouldn't take much to dock with it.
MICHAEL/Parvieu checked his e-mail. There was a response.
To: Trenton Parvieu
From: Agent KIM
Dock with the Ares and board her. I will meet you soon.
MAYA/Masters guided the Flying Sparrow to the Ares midship docking ring. She extended the spaceplane's docking tube. The tube connected to the ship with a gentle thump. The agents opened the hatch on the spaceplane and climbed through to the Ares' hatch. They cycled the hatch. MAYA/Masters gracefully entered the Ares. The other agents were less graceful, being less adept at zero gravity maneuvers.
MAYA/Masters closed the Ares' hatch once they were inside. They couldn't risk explosive decompression if something happened to the spaceplane. She checked her suit's readout. The atmosphere onboard the Ares was clean and breathable. She popped the seal on her helmet. A few minutes later the agents had climbed out of their bulky surface suits. They pulled the alien weapons out of the backpacks. MORGAN/Wu pulled the Tarot card from his surface suit, and slipped it into his shirt pocket.
They floated forward, through a bulkhead door, into some sort of cryogenic chamber. There were scores of pods in the compartment. The ship was intended to carry far more than one man. MORGAN/Wu floated up to one pod. Condensation coated the pod's window. He wiped off the condensation. Inside was a woman, her hands pressed against the glass. Her face was contorted by sheer terror. She was pale. There were no life signs on the pod's monitor. He assumed he'd find much the same thing at each of the pods. He had little desire to confirm this assumption.
The agents floated through another bulkhead door into the quarters for the "live" crew. There was no sign of occupation, by Alzis or anyone else. At the end of this compartment was the door to the ship's cockpit. Before they could enter, they felt something nudge against the ship.
They punched a button on the wall to open the cockpit door, and then slipped into the ship's cockpit. The cockpit was a disk shaped compartment at the the bow of the ship. It extended above the ship's main structure, giving a clear view of the ship's spine. After they they floated into the cockpit, the door closed behind them, evidently as a safety measure. They looked behind them. Almost on top of the cockpit was a large silver saucer. The saucer looked familiar, like the UFO they saw in Rumford, Maine. A silver tube extended from the bottom of the saucer to the top of the Ares.
"Agent MICHAEL?" A woman's voice came over the intercom. "Are you in there?" The woman's voice was a little bit husky, not unattractive, but it had a strange texture that could have been attributed to the ship's intercom. MICHAEL/Parvieu went to the door and cycled it open.
Floating before him were two stereotypical gray aliens, with long, thin limbs, small mouths, and large eyes. The alien on the right was carrying a cylinder of greenish metal. Three holes that looked like outlets adorned the front of the cylinder. To one was attached a speaker grille by way of a green metal cord. Attached to another was something that looked vaguely like a snake light with a red lens. This "light" pointed forward.
"Agent MICHAEL," said a voice from the speaker grille. "Good to see you. I am Agent KIM."
Before the agents could say or do something, there was a horrific rending of metal. The ship's bulkhead doors slammed shut while the agents' ears popped. An alarm went off. Over the alarm was a woman's voice, stating, "Hull breach, aft compartment. Hull breach, aft compartment."
The alien carrying the cylinder turned around to face the rear of the ship, and then turned back to the agents. "There is no time to waste," said the metallic voice of Agent KIM. "Did you bring the card?"
"Then come with us." Without hesitating, the Grays floated back to the hole their ship had made in the Ares' ceiling.
There was another shudder, and a loud groan of twisting metal. The voice of Stephen Alzis boomed throughout the ship. "Come out, come out, where ever you are!" The ship shook and lurched forward as gas escaped aftward.
The agents pushed off for the tunnel in the ceiling. With help from the Grays, they propelled themselves into the metal tunnel. There was a peculiar sensation as they moved from the tunnel into the ship proper. They were suddenly under gravity.
Around them was a vast complex, far larger than it should have been given the size of the saucer. Grays moved back and forth, performing countless unimaginable tasks. Two Grays appeared in front of the agents, one of them with the metal cylinder. They were probably the same Grays they met in the Ares, but there was no way to be sure.
"Could we have the card, please?" said the voice of Agent KIM. MORGAN/Wu pulled it out of his pocket. It still looked like the King in Yellow Tarot card. "Thank you," she said, as one of the Grays took it. The Grey quickly walked off with the card.
The Grays did not want Alzis to have the King in Yellow card. The agents could only speculate as to why.
"Who, or what, was that back in the ship?" asked MICHAEL/Parvieu.
"He has a thousand names," answered KIM.
"What connection does he have with the Bloated Woman?"
"All will be revealed, in the fullness of time."
"What connection does he have with the 'crawling chaos'?" continued MICHAEL/Parvieu.
"All will be revealed," repeated KIM.
The Grey with the cylinder containing KIM's voice was joined by a dozen other Grays. They escorted the agents to another chamber. It contained a half dozen metal slabs reminiscent of operating tables.
"They are called the Mi-Go," said KIM. "Also known as the Fungi from Yuggoth. They will take care of you now."
Six strange creatures appeared beside the agents, as though the creatures had walked through a rip in the fabric of space. The agents were injected with something. They couldn't move, though every muscle in their body screamed for them to run. The creatures were horrible things. Their bodies looked like that of bees or wasps. From a spongy mass at the top of their bodies protruded a host of small tentacles. Their pinchers were cool on the agents' skin. Large wings lay folded up against the aliens' bodies.
The agents were suddenly lying on a table, looking up at a ceiling covered in sigils that exuded a strange, pinkish light. Each one in turn heard a soft sucking sound as the top of their host's skull was removed, exposing the brain. They didn't even feel whatever it was that opened them up. Each of them wanted to scream, but they could not...
"All will be revealed," repeated KIM. "In the fullness of time."
A swirling blue-grey mist enveloped each agent. The mist swirled counter-clockwise, faster and faster. The movement of the mist gave the impression that they were falling down a deep shaft, but there was no sensation of movement. This was almost exactly how it felt when they were transported back in time by Alzis, but there was something subtly different about it. The rate of descent appeared greater. The mist had a deeper blue tint to it. Every now and again the agents caught sight of each other, though later on they would be unable to determine what the other agents looked like in that strange nether world. Were they clothed? Naked? Awake? Asleep? It didn't much matter, for it appeared that they were going home.
All dates are given using the Mars Proleptic Calendar. Mars has a solar day that is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds long, and a sidereal day of 24 hours, 37 minutes, 22.663 seconds (compared to Earth, which has a solar day of 24 hours and a sidereal day of 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.09 seconds). The Martian year is 668.592 Martian days long. Sixty-seven Martian years map to 126.02 Earth years. Due to the similarity between Earth days and Martian days (called "Sols", from the word "solar"), Michael Allison, of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was able to invent the Mars Proleptic Calendar.
The Martian Proleptic Calendar (MPC) consists of 22 months, all but one of which are 30 or 31 sols long. The lone holdout is February, which has 28 sols, except for Martian years ending in 5 or 0, when 3 "leap sols" are added, bringing it to 31 sols. A Martian week consists of 7 sols, just like a Terran week. The calendar is broken into four quarters, just like the Terran calendar. The months in the MPC, with the number of sols in the month, are: January (31), February (28/31), Bradbury (31), Clarke (31), March (30), April (30), May (31), Beltaine (30), Adumah (30), Kepler (30), June (30), July (31), August (31), Darius (30), Sagan (31), Tsiolkovsky (30), September (30), October (31), November (30), Sirius (30), Hypatia (30), December (31).
All times are given in Hope Colony Time (HCT). Hope Colony Time is the official time record on Mars, with noon HCT defined as the point when the sun is highest in the sky over Hope Colony.
I suggest that Keepers playing in the End Time setting should adopt the MPC. For more information, see the Mars Proleptic Calendar and Sol-Date Timing Reference page. To convert Mars dates to Earth dates, follow the instructions at the bottom of the sample calendar page in order to calculate the Martian Solar Date (MSD). Calculate the Modified Julian Date (MJD, the Julian date on Earth) using the following formula:
MJD = ((MSD - 44796) x 1.027491) + 51549
Add 2,400,000 to the MJD, and plug it into a Julian Date calculator to get the Earth date. I used the U.S. Naval Observatory's Julian date calculator to figure out the date and time on Earth.
The starting date of the scenario is based on a couple of factors. The supplement suggests that End Time scenarios start in the year CE 2147. However, the scenario begins the day before the Ares arrives in Martian orbit. The most efficient way to get from Earth to Mars is via a circular path known as a Hohmann transfer orbit (also known as a Hohmann transfer ellipse). The trip from Earth to Mars takes about 260 days (though it can be as much as 300 days), and requires the two planets to be in a specific configuration. Using the Celestia space simulation program, a piece of paper, and a square Post-it Note, I was able to come up with a rough approximation of when the two planets would be in alignment for a Hohmann transfer orbit. The best time was in mid-2148. I advanced the program to the date when the Ares would arrive on Mars (approximately February 14, 2149). I did the math to convert the date to the MPC, and that date fell within the Martian month of May.
I wanted an "otherworldly" date, but "May" — one of the MPC months named after a Terran month — is hardly "otherworldly". The launch date I calculated was for the most efficient Hohmann transfer orbit. I assumed the Ares had extra fuel to launch at a less than optimum time. The transit time could take longer than I calculated due to the position of the planets (and the launch date was only an approximation, anyway). With these factors in mind, I moved the start date of the scenario to Beltaine 2, 146, about a month later than originally calculated.
Keepers running games in the End Time background should be aware that there are only a few times in a decade when you can set up a Hohmann transfer orbit from Earth to Mars, or Mars to Earth. Of course this assumes that human technology (as opposed to alien technology or Mythos magic) is used.