With about a fifteen minute radio delay from Mars to Earth, Robert made sure that he said his piece to Oceaxe, really just to offer congratulations on her discovery of water on the planet, and to wish her the best. Nevertheless, she was pleased, thanked him in a formal tone, and gave the com back to Mark.
It would be something between six and eight months before the supply ship arrived, if it did, and we had adequate resources for that time and then some. The manned crew ships were more indefinite, and their personnel still in question. The future of the colony hung in the balance, and we could but do what was needed to carry on life as normal. Oceaxe had her own private thoughts as to what would transpire on Earth, but she was still a child in status, and had yet to grow into her confidence.
We still had material to build additional limited shelters, and work went ahead on that.
The photographs of the cave glyphs were compared with the ones on the “keys” and, although of different characters, they were very similar in style. The shavings of metal we took from the object were analyzed with our basic equipment and were found to be an alloy of lead.
On a certain day at lunch, I asked Oceaxe to join Sasha and me for refreshments, and I steered the conversation around to the sculptures that she and Ylla had presented to my crew on our arrival. I was curious as to where they had gotten the idea for their design, for I now knew that there were connections between them and what we had found in the caves. The markings on the sculptures were too similar to the artifacts we found to be a coincidence. The figures also had headgear that was exaggerated in size and elongation. Oceaxe said that she had “dreamed” the design and had felt that it had “belonged” here. When I asked her what her thoughts were about the skulls and bones that had been found, she demurred, and I knew that prodding her further at that time would do no good.
Two months from the time of our last communication with Earth, we organized our expedition to investigate, and hopefully excavate, the large metallic object we had seen. It was a long arduous process to get above the caves with the rudimentary excavation and blasting equipment we had. No children came with us this time. We expected a certain depth of sand and pithy soil before our blasting cores could be packed into bedrock. What we found was a much deeper layer of sand and soil, which slowed us down considerably. When we felt we were getting close to being able to drill, we were stymied by the approach of a sandstorm of surprising size, and had to abandon our dig for that day. It was a disappointment, because we did not know how much of our work would be in vain, if our excavation was filled in with sand once again.
Sasha came to me a week later. She had tried to dig a little deeper into Oceaxe’s thoughts about the skulls in the cave, and was told that the head dresses on her peculiar sculptures had been designed “for those people”. As to the glyphs, she had copied the style from the “keys”. When Sasha asked her what she meant by “those people”, Oceaxe would only say, with certainty, They were people. I know they were people.
To be continued……………..