We got back home without incident, bearing with us the curious photographs and metal samples. There was much discussion about the metal rail or rim that was found within the long tunnel. Obviously it was a tooled surface with familiar markings etched into its underside. And, yes, the markings were of the style of those seen upon Oceaxe’s keys.
It was agreed that we would revisit the place with an eye to doing a proper excavation from above, with the drilling and blasting equipment still at our disposal and try to determine what the size, shape, and purpose of the object was. The tunnels below were not even wide enough to use a pick axe .
In just over a month after our return from the caves, we received a communication from the authorities on Earth. Many of the space agency’s staff had been lost in the invasion, or had died from climate related events. Our Committee, in the preceding weeks, had decided that we were still too dependent on Earth to hinder any plans they may have for further settlers. Medical supplies were crucial, and we did not have the means to manufacture them ourselves. If Earth announced that they were sending thirty ships and the necessaries to expand the settlement, our obfuscation would do no good. All we could do was give them our expertise as to what was needed, material and personnel-wise. Mark MacInnes took the call. He spoke to one Robert Mueller, the “interim” commander.
Robert painted a grim picture. One robotic ship, carrying supplies and materials for new structures was to be launched within two weeks. There would be no room for any excavation equipment or other raw materials. There were only three more ships that were in the process of construction, designed to carry crew, for a maximum of 25 more people. These of course would have to be the most qualified for the job of survival and terraforming on a hostile planet. There was news that the remaining resources on our home world were being directed toward saving lives and building shelters against the elements. Our people, once in the billions, were now in the millions.
Then we made the formal announcement to them that we had discovered water, and evidence of past intelligent life here. We also had to admit that this was known for some time, and our reasons for not disclosing it. There was a few seconds’ silence. Robert was aghast. He said that they may have to change their plans, delay the cargo ship, and send a commander with it who would assume authority over the settlement, in view of our effective insubordination. Also, that resource allocation on Earth may be rethought, in view of our revelations. More ships and greater might be built, now that they knew Mars could support life, of a sort.
His last remarks were telling. What he said was “For good or ill, you have changed the course of human history”.
Then, he was put on the phone to Oceaxe.
To be continued…….