Not one single person involved in the Mars missions ever considered that weapons might one day be needed by the first settlers.
What we saw that night, in starlit silhouette, could not have been a natural heavenly body, as it appeared to slow perceptibly above us for something less than a minute, before veering away with a change of speed and direction. It was then lost to sight, and we made our way back to base. Our satellite feed could find no trace.
We were confounded, and not a little scared. A call was placed immediately to Earth headquarters. Robert Mueller assured us that nothing secretive had been launched from there. The information we imparted was disturbing to he and his colleagues, and he begged time to set up important meetings on its implications. We were virtually defenseless against anything hostile, and we had to assume the worst. We had but two things to do: keep ’round the clock observation, and take shelter if necessary.
In the planning of the first forays to this planet, decades ago, it was deemed of great importance to excavate and build an underground refuge for use in the event of an unforeseen menace. Mars has a thin atmosphere, and any meteors would come through it almost unscathed. The dig and construction of the shelter had taken years with our limited capabilities. Now we were glad that it had been done. Nothing further happened for several more days. We had been directed not to make any unnecessary excursions.
In the night, we felt, rather than heard, the shock of a minor tremor beneath us. An alarm was raised, and our sleepy citizens were sent to the shelter. Those who remained above were Mark, two more committee members, myself, and some service personnel. We honored the directive from Mueller and his boys, and so were handcuffed as to our options. The satellites spied nothing except the usual weather events, and we were not in a great vantage point to see a very wide area. No further occurrences were noted, and, after 3 days, those in the shelter were allowed a return to normal life.
After a three week period of calm, Robert directed us to set up a scouting mission to get a better view of the canyon and surrounding area. It was to be composed of only three of us. Besides himself, Mark chose me and Alexei. We waited for a clear forecast, then took the route that led to the plateau above the caves, which afforded a good view.
There were a few dust devils obscuring our vision. When they had subsided, we were very near the site of our old excavation above the caves.
What we found was a massive crater-sized hole in the cliff side, where we had begun our dig months ago. Bare bedrock was exposed in about a one hundred yard radius. Sand and soil were still dribbling down into the hole. The crater was empty. Its bottom was a perfect geometric shape of a half sphere. The rock was as smooth as glass. Towards the top of the crater could be seen the perfect shape of a curved rim that conformed to the dimensions of the bowl beneath it. There was no evidence of blasting.
We lowered Mark down into the crater and within a minute or two he signaled us to bring him back up. There was a rock outcropping that overhung the inner edge of the bowl, and he had ventured a quick exploration underneath it. He reported that what he had found was unmistakably the narrow tunnel that we had once walked along and discovered the glyphs.
To be continued………………