The purple insignia of the Old Martians plastered on the side of the aliens’ hover car flashed through the air.
“After all this time you'd think they would realize they have no jurisdiction here anymore,” Edwin said, gripping the armrests of his seat in Granny Greta’s space skiff.
“They're operating under the finders-keepers paradigm. They found Mars first so they get to keep it, even though it's in our solar system. Greedy greenies. They can have the planets in their own solar system.” Granny Greta zoomed away from Edwin’s apartment, swerving around the skyscrapers built hundreds of years ago by the Old Martians but now inhabited primarily by humans.
“Plus leaving Mars abandoned for a hundred years should negate their ownership claim. Back in my day, if I had done that on the playground...” Alejandro said.
“You’re barely past twenty years old. Too young to tell those kinds of stories. Now I could tell you some stories from my youth. Boy, could I!” Granny Greta said.
“Granny! Watch out! Cuidado!” Alejandro pointed at the purple car zipping around the corner of a gold spire and heading straight for them.
“Hold on!” Darkness slowly descended on them as Granny pulled the space skiff up, up, and up past the thin layer of red clouds covering New Moscow.
“Edwin! That was Granny who pulled that trick earlier when we were on your balcony!” Alejandro said.
“Yeah. I was afraid it might have been,” Edwin said.
“They build their cars to handle the underground tunnels, not space,” Granny Greta said. “Might as well take advantage of that fact.”
“Won't they send along a space ship? They seem desperate to catch you,” Alejandro said.
“Yeah, probably. I need to unload my cargo as soon as possible.”
Edwin looked around the spotless vehicle. “What cargo?”
“You’ll see when we get to the Bureau of Martian Affairs.”
“I thought you didn’t work for the government,” Edwin prodded.
“I don’t. I just happen to have something that would interest them.”
After skimming through the lowest level of space for a few minutes, Granny descended back into the atmosphere right on top of the largest building in New Moscow. Granny slowly dropped the car through the opening in the center of the spire leading to the garage chute. “Level 14,” she muttered.
The gold-plated Old Martian tower had been repurposed into the Martian government center after humans took over Mars. Each floor spread around the garage chute and housed a different department. Edwin read the signs at each level as they passed further down: Department of Earth Affairs, Trade- Solar System, Trade- Extraterrestrial.
They parked at Level 14, Cultural Protection.
Springing from her seat, Granny knelt on the floor and removed a cloth-wrapped package from under her chair.
"What's that?" Edwin asked.
“Oh, my back.” Granny rubbed her back as she rose from the ground. "Alejandro, will you carry my pink bag, please? I'll take these though." Granny plucked the gold knitting needles from the bag and slid them through a loop on her jogging suit. “Hurry, they may know where we're headed.”
The three people and the pink bag emerged from the space skiff just as a flash of purple beamed down from above them.
“Too late!” Granny called. She waved to the sky as they walked into the Department of Cultural Affairs.
The small lobby looked like a museum managed by someone who didn’t know how to pick and choose; shelves overflowed with odds and ends, many clearly Old Martian in design.
“Granny! Welcome back!” The android at the front desk hugged Granny Greta. “I’ll get the Director.”
Granny shrugged at Edwin’s raised eyebrows. “He reminded me of you so I asked him to call me Granny.”
A middle-aged woman in off-world clothing strode toward them. “Greta! You made it today. I thought you had that important meeting this afternoon?”
Granny Greta kissed the Director’s cheek. “I did. I mean I do. This is my grandson Edwin and his friend Alejandro. Our, uh, meeting took an unexpected turn so here we are. You best take this.” Granny held the package out.
The Director carefully unfolded the cloth to reveal a worn, golden tube lightly covered in red dust. She turned it over and over, then lightly blew on one side. Edwin and Alejandro leaned in to inspect the barely visible purple insignia. They glanced at each other questioningly.
“It doesn’t look like much, but this artifact is at least two thousand years old. Maybe much older than that. We’ll have to run tests,” the Director explained.
“But it’s covered in Martian dust. The Old Martians only colonized Mars 500 years ago. How did it get here?” Edwin asked.
“How indeed?” Granny Greta asked.
“This is proof they were in our solar system much longer than they claimed,” Alejandro said. “Why did they lie?”
“Why indeed?” Granny Greta mumbled as the Director walked away with the artifact. “Oh! I almost forgot. Hand me my bag.”
Granny Greta rummaged through the big pink bag while Edwin and Alejandro waited eagerly for more information. With a flourish, Granny Greta pulled out a sealed bag.