Cromer Quin was the name of the man whose dead body was aboard the Mayflower, ready to be thrown into space when the rest of the crew stopped all they were doing and died. He was one of many rebel men and women, the group that split itself from the community lead by meckos during the occupation of Mars, at the end of the Second Era.
Inside his coffin, Cromer held in his parched hands for many years a copy of his favorite book, the saga of Jiseph and Mari Quam, the founding couple of the community Odyssey. It contained the story of the rupture, narrated in a superlative and flourished style he knew to be exaggerated to construct a myth. The text was the basis for the community pride, from people who saw this act of rebellion as a way to assign meaning to their miserable existence. Jiseph and Mari executed a long-term plan. First, they built an extensive support network among those who, like them, believed that meckos had the capability for generating enough human babies to prevent the extinction of their group, but did not do so. Then, they slowly took equipment from the workshops and laboratories on Mars to build their habitable facilities at a distant point and to create their own human reproduction center. The couple and some fellow dissidents left the premises governed by meckos and moved to the rebellious citadel. From there they prepared an attack against those they considered their oppressors.
The invasion of the city of meckos, under the command of the founding couple, was an act of heroism not to be ever forgotten. They took the city by storm, decimating a large number of meckos who just fell dead while refusing to take human lives. The few remaining meckos, followed by a bunch of cowards humans, fled the attack and headed to an ignored location. Legend has it that the conquering heroes celebrated for days the taking of the Martian facilities. During the festivities, they also swore to extend their hate to those who have escaped. They found out later that the fleeing wimps had transferred themselves to Europe, the Jupiter satellite, from where, they suspected, they intended to launch back an attack on the separatists.
The Odyssey community flourished with infants generated in artificial wombs at first, later with natural births in a controlled environment. Soon they realized that the community genetic pool was under a steady degeneration process. They could not count on having healthy descendants for much longer. To make things worse, they learned that European meckos had departed to Earth with the intention of implanting yet another human community. Then they devised the Great Plan to start a war in which they would only indirectly participate. To accomplish their goal they built great combat spaceships, powerful vehicles the constructors themselves would never see in action. After completion, the ships were hidden in a gigantic underground shelter built at the base of Mount Olympus, concealed to distant observers. Aware that no human on Earth at the time was capable of operating sophisticated machines, they came up with an ingenious way to deliver a message to the future. They flew a robot-rocket to Earth where it should bury itself into the ground and hibernate. Once there, it was programmed to remain mute until there were signs that first humans became resentful of the mecko dominance. At the right time, it should activate and offer help to the disgruntled humans, delivering detailed maps that showed the exact location of the weapons storage on Mars and full documentation for their use. It should suffice to initiate a new rebellion, a war destined to rid humans from the tyranny of those awful artificial beings.
The first of Cromer’s recollections, in order of antiquity, was not from his direct experience. He remembered his mother’s account of a family trip to Mount Olympus, on Mars. According to her narrative, his father was ordered to check the military facilities at the base of the mount and had decided to bring the family along for a leisure trip. After all, it was a unique opportunity to visit the largest volcano in the solar system. Although extinct, the volcano was impressive with its peaks more than twenty kilometers high. At that time, the human community was already waning, decimated by the lack of nutrients and insufficient sunlight exposure. His parents were concerned. The child was growing up under bleak circumstances, forced to watch the decay of his own people and the death of friends and relatives who disappeared one by one, leaving a very small group under the planet’s red atmosphere. Soon after the trip, he pledged himself to fight the meckos, the usurpers of human life. Years after the last unmodified mecko had been turned off, the families were facing hard times trying to survive alone, without their assistance. But even so, no one was sorry.
They took a long time to reach the highest parts of Olympus. The mount had a broad base and not too many steep areas of difficult climbing. Yet, the distances were formidable for the slow conveyor they used. So the family decided to consider the whole route as part of the tour. They sat on the observation deck at the top of the vehicle from where they could see the surrounding environment, while they ate snacks brought from home. From the top of the hill, Cromer spotted Jupiter, the point in space that would, in the end, be his final destination. But, as a young child, he was not afraid of space. Or, at least, that was what his mother had told him.
Cromer spent all his life in a declining community, plagued by chronic low self–esteem. The hardships of living in a permanent shortage of basic life inputs took its toll on those men and women striving to survive on Mars. Individuals subjected from birth to low gravity tended to suffer from bone degradation while insufficient exposure to the sunlight and the high incidence of cosmic particles posed a serious danger to human DNA, absorption of vitamins and other health issues. The overall community mood declined severely with the anticipation of a melancholic demise. Still, Cromer saw himself as a special man, part of the group that would bring about a unique historical moment for humankind. He managed to keep up a positive attitude remembering how his ancestors broke loose from mecko despotism in the former colony and how they had developed a plan to set humanity free.
According to a history proudly remembered by the older members of the community, when the humans of Odyssey overtook the power in Mars, they also imprisoned some meckos who had no time to flee. Sometime later, they developed a technology to create creatures modified from the original meckos, stripped from the more sophisticated parts and changed into deadly weapons to be used at the proper time. The final challenge was to transfer these weapons to their destination. Interfering with a future humanity became a motivation strong enough for them to carry the plan to its last consequences, despite the high costs. Even knowing he was not fully qualified for the mission, Cromer volunteered himself. To his surprise, and because no others capable pilots were available, he was called to join the crew.
When the planetary positions became favorable, the Odyssey warriors departed aboard the Mayflower spaceship to strike in Europe their last strategic blow. They carried a weapon to be employed at the satellite’s oceans where it would remain inactive for some time, absorbing energy and preparing for the final attack. When fired, it was set to destroy all organisms or complex structures found at the surface or in the ocean. It should be strong enough to wipe out any new attempts of human colonization.
The trip to Jupiter was difficult. Many comrades died on the way, and those who remained struggled to resist until the final moment. Realizing they would not live long enough to complete the mission, they decided to enter hibernation. However, they did not expect that left to the autopilot’s care, the ship would take longer than expected to reach its destination. When they came out of their suspension states the ship was still far away from their end point. With the meager resources available, they could not determine for how long they had hibernated. Knowing no alternatives, they poured in Europe the contents of the large containers they carried.
Cromer reached Jupiter in poor health. He insisted on participating in the whole operation of dumping the cargo in the European sea, what, they believed, should apply a mortal blow on all mecko operations. Upon completion of the mission, they started to dispose of the several coffins containing the bodies of the deceased. He planned his own burial ceremony as a simple operation designed not to be a burden on those still alive. Feeling sick he carried his coffin to the mortuary chapel and performed some of the farewell rituals by himself. He placed his favorite belongings into the coffin and lay down inside it, resisting for a few hours before dying in solitude, proud to have completed his mission. He only expected his crewmates would eject the casket into space. But even this simple task could not be completed. His body was found in the chapel, next to the ejection hatch when all the other crew members were already too weak to dispose of his body. With great difficulty they decided that it would be lawful and moral, under the extreme circumstances, to disregard the rituals. They lay on the floor and waited for life to drain out of their weakened bodies.
The death of the last Mayflower crew member also marked the extinction of a people. They were the proud and unruly men and women of Mars, who turned against the meckos, attacked and defeated them, moved by the ideals of building a haughty, independent society. They wished to be remembered by their deeds. The things they have done should flourish on Earth, the birthplace of their kind, where they would never set a foot. The plan included feeding the opposition and dissension between meckos and humans at Earth and conducting a severe attack on the meckos installed in Europe. The attack was designated to kill everyone and to destruct all the equipment necessary for future settlements. It all went well, with one exception. They have not anticipated the extremely long delay for the Mayflower to reach its target. When the mission was finally accomplished, the meckos had already left for Earth, bearing the seeds of a new civilization.
Even after the crew was all dead, the spacecraft continued to operate for many years, traveling over an eccentric orbit around Jupiter and bouncing among the satellites’ attractions. After running out of fuel, the solar batteries kept a weak gravitational field on until the encounter with the Orion.