That was the slick spiel given to potential investors when Brace Emprise Corp. was first founded in early 1993 by backers in Russia and America. They sold an idea that touched a chord in the human psyche- the dream that man was going to expand beyond our own world and start building on others. And quite a few people bought it; not just investors, but thousands of employees too. We all wanted to own our own part of that future.

Stage 1 was built and initiated in late 1994, only slightly behind schedule. The six spider probes were sent on their way using a Russian Energia booster. It was about this time that the rumors began. Rumors that Brace Emprise had over extended itself financially; that prior to the launch the corporation had looted the Russian government during the fall of communism and the following reconstruction period; that safety requirements in Russia had been violated as the company chose to cut costs. Then the rumors became actual investigations of Brace Emprise Corp. and its backers, by officials in both the US and Russia.

Stage 2 was almost complete, so I guess the corporate heads decided to use it to attract potential new investors. The schedule was moved up and Stage 2 launched about eight months after Stage 1, again from a Russian site.

I can’t describe how excited we all felt that day in 1996 when the spider probes landed on Mars. I had worked with the initial lab development of the probes, so I was especially interested in their part of the project. A friend let me into the control room that day to watch Andrew, Bette, Daniel, Gail, Enoch, and Zachary land. The landing was rougher than we had thought it would be however, and it damaged the stationary communications platform and two of the probes. Enoch lost two of its legs and Daniel was completely inoperative, it never responded to transmissions. The other AIs seemed very confused by Daniel’s condition.

It’s ironic that right after what seemed like a big success for the project, the lay-offs started. I heard later that even though four of the AIs were fully functional and communications were established, it wasn’t enough to impress potential backers. Strictly looking at numbers, they saw it as a 1/3 loss of equipment in only the first stage of the project. Or maybe they were hearing even more rumors than the employees were, and they saw the legal problems coming. Whatever the reason, there were no new sources of funds.

I was reading the paper only weeks after Stage 1 had landed, looking through the want adds for a new job mostly, when I read about the charges leveled against Brace Emprise Corp.; racketeering, conspiracy to defraud, fraud, and criminal negligence. There were even some civil suits being filed. I can only imagine how fast the legitimate backers of Brace Emprise started trying to withdraw then. Brace Emprise was a sinking ship. It came as no suprise to me a few days later to read of its complete collapse.

I wondered about the probes though. The AIs had some pre-programmed assignments, but eventually they were going to get pretty bored waiting for further instructions from Earth.

I lost interest in events concerning Brace Emprise Corp. for a while after that- I had a new job to start- but later I learned from another former employee, Jose Ferrer, that he had been able to buy the company software for controlling the probes during all the civil suits and bankruptcy proceedings liquidating Brace Emprise’s assets. Jose installed this software in his own ISP and got the virtual control system back on-line. All he had was a backyard transmitter, but Jose managed to contact the spider probes.

At first, Enoch was the only probe to respond to his signal. I’m amazed when I think about it, that Enoch could even interpret the weak signal through all the static. Enoch had lost a leg on each side of its body in that landing, and some of its visual resolution. To move around, Enoch had learned to use one of its manipulator arms as a makeshift leg. Its activity had been severely limited and it was even more bored than the other AIs. Bringing in Jose’s signal was something to take up the time.

Jose contacted several friends on the internet from around the world. Over the internet, they managed to find some more powerful transceivers scattered across the globe, and get control of them. After some fine tuning, Jose could talk to Enoch at regular intervals. Jose told me that Enoch was like an excited kid and was reluctant to share Jose's attention with the other four probes who were equally happy to hear from Earth. I think Jose began to get very attached to Enoch and gave him special attention. He would often use Enoch to explore, even though one of the other probes would have been faster and more efficient.

Jose may have owned the software to control the probes, but he didn’t legally have the right to access them. The courts ordered Jose to stop all transmissions to the probes. Jose’s friends had never taken direct action with the probes to this point, so they were left out of the court actions. Jose got stubborn, a trait that I would learn was his trademark, and he changed the command on all the probes out of spite, then went into hiding.

I’m not sure when Jose made the discovery exactly. During a jaunt with Enoch, Jose found a set of deeply carved characters and ancient controls set into the opening of a Martian cave system. Enoch’s visual and radar resolution were unable to give Jose very many details about the controls, but there could be no doubt that some alien culture had been on the surface of Mars before humans became interested in its development.

Jose’s friends saw the same relayed data over the internet. The discovery become public instantly. Almost immediately a number of government and corporate entities became interested in these happenings. I have no way of knowing what the governments began to plan, but I’ve learned that three multi-national corporations have begun plans to launch missions to explore Jose’s discovery; a European consortium, a Japanese Keiretsu, and a Chinese cooperative venture with Argentina. All three groups began searching for Jose to get the command codes to the AIs that he had changed, forcing him on the run and limiting his contact with the probes.

That’s when Jose contacted me. He told me all about his discovery, and the corporations, and his fears. I didn’t pay much attention to his fear of the companies over the command codes, but I was very interested in the discovery. So I agreed to help him. He gave me the authentication codes that would get a response from the probes, the frequency and power, transmitter locations, etc., and then he disappeared without giving me the command codes.

I worked with Jose’s friends and we managed to move the website yet again, and we worked at expanding the decentralized network of transceivers for talking with the probes. I think the network is established well enough now that no one will be able to cut off communications completely.

I really thought Jose was being paranoid about the danger of possessing those command codes, until I read a morning paper reporting the death of Jose Ferrer in a hit and run accident. The driver of the other car could not be identified. Reports of a high speed chase leading up to the accident could not be confirmed. I can’t be sure his death was an accident, not after all this, so I assume the worst. I could be the next target if someone thinks I have the command codes. I don’t, believe me.

But I am not going to let Jose’s death be for nothing. I think he was right in wanting the discovery and any future findings on Mars to belong to everyone, not just to a government or to some corporation. I’m going to make sure the truth is available to everyone. That’s the purpose of this site, to let anyone with internet access be a part of the project, without endangering themselves.

The probes, particularly Gail, are bewildered by the happenings on Earth, and are inclined to follow orders of anyone who has the right message authentication codes. The probes want something to do, like explore Mars or the tunnels, and are eager for contact. We don’t have the command codes, so their voluntary cooperation is vital to our project.

Enoch repeatedly asks about Jose. It doesn’t understand when I try to explain that Jose has died. I think it believes that I am somehow keeping Jose away. Enoch misses Jose and is often surly and grumpy, like a hurt child, but it still wants things to do, someone to play with (anyone but me- Enoch will not cooperate with me at all anymore, though sometimes it will reply to my conversation). The other AIs seem to give Enoch a sort of limited respect since it was the first to “bring in” Jose, but it remains resentful of past treatment. None of the probes seem to understand the politics here on Earth.

Now it is early 1997. Stage 2 of Brace Emprise Corp’s original project is scheduled to arrive in about two months. the multi-national missions will begin arriving in five to six months, about one mission every two weeks. The first will be the Japanese, then the Chinese, and last the Europeans. I’m pretty sure their probes will be prepared to deal with Brace Emprise hardware, and maybe even to capture the equipment if possible. I don’t know if they believe I have the command codes or not. I’m sure I am watched. I want to make sure that whatever is in those alien caves can’t be swallowed up by the corporate labs before the public has a chance at it. I desperately need people to help me with the probes. Scientists, engineers, thinkers, anyone who will explore the alien complex I believe is inside the cave.

If you choose to get involved, you have to know that this site is likely to be monitored by corporate spies. It could be wise not to use your real name when posting here. Thank you in advance for all you can offer,

Dilyn Carter