The “artifact” was gone. The space it had occupied was astounding. We had no idea. Loose rock and sand had fallen into the bottom of this massive bowl-shaped cavity. The tremor we had felt in the night had to have been connected with this anomaly. The smoothness and sharp contours of the crater suggested that the object, aside from being massive, had been in the shape of a bowl, or more likely a disk, some hundred yards in diameter. How could something of this size be removed so quickly, and without any signs of excavation or blasting?
Mark, Alexei and I had ventured a search of the area. We chipped out some samples of the smooth glasslike rock, and investigated the tunnel that we had explored so long ago. There was one more shock of surprise. The chest that had contained the skulls, bones, and metal objects was missing.
Earth command was informed that we were not alone on the red planet, or, at least, another had been here. We were in lockdown. We could not look to them for help. The only ship on its way to us carried two officers and a cargo of machinery and materials.
The rock samples we had taken contained, as expected, traces of the same lead alloy we had found in the tunnels. The whole settlement was abuzz with our revelations, which could not reasonably be kept from people who were effectively locked in.
Several days later, Robert Mueller informed us that plans had been changed for the remaining ships that were under construction. There would be fewer people, but there would also be a shipment of weaponry. It seemed that those left back home were banking on us to carry on the flame.
I had joined Sasha and Oceaxe at the dining table one evening. There was an air of apprehension. Sasha had tried to keep things light, but Oceaxe was morose and brooding. She had just stood up and begged her leave when she passed out and fell, hitting her head on the table.
To be continued…………….