Kwan Choy Liu was sitting at his desk in his lavishly decorated room inside “the face”.
He was feeling decidedly buoyant after receiving confirmation of the incursion at Giza, where hundreds of soldiers with tons of equipment were now waiting for further orders.
He was also overjoyed by the news of the attack on Gateway. Even with the loss of so many men, everything was going according to plan.
Mars will soon belong to the people…
Of course, Kwan knew the Americans would soon retaliate—they always did. But by then it would be too late to matter. He was so close now. Mars was his, and nobody could stop him.
He got up out of his seat and stepped in front of a long mirror that hung over a plastic basin module. He picked up a gold razor. It was one of those little luxuries people found difficult to imagine about being in space. Not the gold. But, the simple act of shaving. Especially with real water.
Kwan had enlisted one of his scientists to recycle the waste from a heliox bottle. It had produced a small amount of liquid—undrinkable, but quite useable for shaving. It was this type of luxury his men longed for.
Men who were busy working around the clock to uncover the secrets of this strange alien structure while he sat grooming himself.
Kwan toweled his face. Patted the moisture off his skin.
He stepped back and picked up his airtight helmet from a seat at his side, placing it over his head majestically, like an emperor being crowned. He gazed at himself in the mirror and, satisfied, he turned and exited his quarters into the grand hall.
The grand hall extended a couple of hundred yards down the length of the face. It’s walls curved upwards and arched at the top like a cathedral. Intricate symbols and other designs adorned every surface. Every color imaginable was painted over the walls and ceiling, right into the furthest corner. It was like the Sistine Chapel gone mad.
Kwan felt quite at home as he strode down the hall. The dark purple base of the floor exuded a sense of regality that comforted him. He would have been perfectly comfortable living in a past life as an ancient Chinese emperor.
He neared the end of the hall.
It was deceptively warmer down here. Not that Kwan could feel any change in temperature through his thermal suit. It was just that the glow of the yellow worklights reminded him of a warm fire.
Kwan turned at the end of the hall.
Part of a ramp had been exposed on the floor, leading downwards on a thirty degree decline. There was a massive stone obstacle blocking what was obviously a doorway.
A dozen men in yellow suits were standing around the bottom of the ramp. Some were operating heavy cutting tools while others assisted in various ways with drills, jackhammers, grinders and other equipment.
Kwan saw that they had penetrated a good ten feet into the huge stone seal. A seal that had been placed there over two hundred thousand years earlier. The stone was unlike anything the General had ever seen.
The soldiers, led by Colonel Pak, had been working through the stone, inch by painfully slow inch for almost two days.
Their seismic instruments had shown the stone to be almost twelve feet thick. It was a shiny swirl of grey and blue like polished marble. Kwan arched his neck up at the towering stone seal. It covered an area wide enough to drive a tank through.
Whoever had placed it there certainly didn’t want anyone or anything getting inside.
Colonel Pak noticed the looming silhouette of Kwan from the corner of his eye.
He gave a couple of orders to his men for show, and then moved to greet the General. As he did, a slab of stone fell from the centre of the main piece and crashed to the floor. A gaping hole to the other side was exposed.
“I see you are making progress, Colonel,” Kwan acknowledged.
“It won’t be long until we are completely through, General,” Pak said, grateful for the timely breach of the stone door.
Kwan took a few steps down the ramp. He peered into the hole, hoping to see what lay beyond.
“Colonel, your efforts have been admirable, but we are out of time. I suggest you use explosives to complete the breach.”
“But General,” Pak protested, “We could destroy whatever is on the other side. You yourself said that there would be sensitive equipment in the control room… operation panels, monitors… if anything is destroyed we may not be able—”
“That is why you are going to take the necessary precautions to blow it up carefully, isn’t it Colonel Pak?” Kwan said coldly.
It was pointless to argue with someone like Kwan, even if he was asking the impossible.
Pak signaled the soldiers to stop drilling and ordered a demolition team to the door.
After some discussion, a pattern of tiny C4 charges was placed on the stone door in a series of concentric circles out from the centre where the hole was.
Pak personally made sure that a minimal amount of C4 was used in each charge. Just enough to cause the stone to crack without sending damaging pieces through to the other side.
Better to err on the side of caution and have to repeat the process than to destroy the control room on the other side. If Pak had it his way he would have spent the next month hacking away at the door with a pickaxe rather than use explosives.
The demo team gave their ready signal, and everyone else took shelter down the hall. Two soldiers wired up the final link in the relay and uncoiled a length of ignition wire.
There was a short countdown…
Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom
The tiny charges exploded with short, sharp bursts in quick succession. There was the noise of crumbling stone as it hit the floor.
Pak was first to round the corner back onto the ramp. He stood impatiently, waiting for the smoke and dust to clear, waiting to see his handiwork.
Then he saw it.
Illuminated by the worklights beaming in through the broken seal was the control room.
Pak felt Kwan move up alongside him… heard his deep breath of awe through the headset in his helmet… and a strange guttural sound of raw, savage joy… a sound that reminded him of a lion ripping into a helpless deer.