This is the 5th instalment of a speculative story of a voyage to Mars, and its initial settlement. The others, in order are:
After our grand welcome, and the ceremonial presentation by the First Martians (odd to call them that), we spent a couple of days being brought up to date on the settlement, its goals and procedures, and something of its politics.
We were introduced to the Committee of Seven, and several of us were asked to attend a private meeting with them. In the more than three decades since humankind first set foot upon Mars, much had been accomplished in the development and maintenance of the outpost. New methods for food and water production were devised, communications with Earth had been improved, medical care had advanced from its modest beginnings, lives were saved, and lives were indeed lost. The first people to die on the Red Planet were now buried beneath its sands.
Serious exploration had only been started less than ten years before my crew’s arrival, and we still had not ventured very far beyond the plateaus surrounding the incredible canyon of Valles Marineris. What we did find out, in our meeting with the Committee, was dissembled by its chairman, Mark MacInnes. There were two main reasons why the canyon had been chosen as the site for the outpost: Temperatures there during the day often reached a balmy 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or zero Celsius, and, most importantly, it had been judged to be the likeliest spot for us to find water. There was, as well, the added benefit of considerable shelter from the worst of the Martian storms.
Our attention may have been wandering a bit during some of the technical presentations, but Mark brought us back with the following: “There are caves. We first discovered them on one of our furthest forays into the canyon, some three years ago. Some of the older kids went with us to help carry equipment etc. Most of the caves are empty, as far as we can tell, but the third one we entered held two things I think we can describe as historic. We went in in file with our lamps, and each of the kids was paired off with an adult. One of them, Oceaxe, gave a shout when she shone her light into a small side chamber. In the dimness, it seemed to have a flat shiny floor. Oceaxe was ordered to stop until a careful examination had been done. What had appeared to be a floor was actually a thin sheet of ice, underneath which was a sizeable pool of water, which we found out later was indeed pure H20. This all but ensured the survival of the settlement. Our earthbound scientific team had been correct in their estimations.”
At this point, we were about to offer our congratulations to the team, when Mark again called for our attention: “I said there were two things found in the cave, and you might think that water was the winner. There was something else.” He walked over to a locked cabinet at the corner of the meeting room and brought out some small crates, which he placed upon the table in front of him. He invited our group to see what they contained. When they were opened, my stomach jumped as if descending in a fast elevator.
Skulls. Bones. Well preserved items of metal, whose purpose was hard to discern. We looked back and forth at each other, speechless. Mark broke the silence: “You will note that the skulls are similar to ours in some respects, but they are very elongated and have larger eye sockets. The bones themselves are similar to ours, with some subtle differences in size and girth. The metal items we are still guessing at, but it’s clear that some of their composition is of gold.”
To be continued………..
© 2018 Lee Dunn