Outpost Two: “Gung Lee Base”
Cydonia Mensae, The Face (South entrance, Grand Hall)
Colonel Pak was insisting he still didn’t have enough men to do the job.
He walked a few paces, subordinately, behind General Kwan as they both strode toward the entrance from inside the Grand Hall of the sphinx-like structure known as the Face on Mars.
It had been called many things.
The face on Cydonia. The Martian Face. Even the greatest hoax of the space age… but most knew of it as Hoagland’s Face after Richard Hoagland, the man who rallied its cause, and insisted on its existence even when certain agencies tried to conceal the evidence of the strange structure’s reality.
General Kwan didn’t much care what they called it.
It was his face now. All three cubic miles of it. A leviathan monument created by some ancient race. The first sign of an artificial structure on another world.
Even when NASA attempted to debunk the conspiracy theorists, the images of the face still couldn’t be hidden completely. Kwan laughed at their blatant attempt to cover it up. Like Kwan himself, it didn’t stop those who knew from pursuing the truth.
The fact was, the face on Mars did exist, and the Chinese had claimed it first. For once they had beaten the Americans in the space race.
Kwan wasn’t going to let it go now. He couldn’t afford to. Too much effort had gone into the deployment of so many troops to this barren planet. Too much research into what lay beneath the surface—beneath the massive stone seal his soldiers and scientists had been trying to break through for two days.
“General, you must understand,” pleaded Colonel Pak.
Pak was thin, gaunt. He appeared far older than his forty six years.
His protective suit looked ridiculously large over his tiny body. It was the smallest one that Chinese Space Command could supply. It made him seem even more insignificant than General Kwan had considered him.
Pak went on. “You have set unreasonable goals for my men.”
“Your men?” Kwan said stiffly, turning to look down at the little man.
Pak swallowed nervously. “General, the men have been working thirty hours without rest,” he said.
“Only thirty?” said Kwan indignantly. He stopped and turned to face the inferior Colonel.
Kwan Choy was a large man. Imposing, and ruthlessly unsympathetic to the woes of his subordinate officers.
“Colonel, I joined the People’s Liberation Army when I was sixteen. I am a proud man… a patriotic man. When my father died in battle, I resolved to become the youngest General in China’s modern history. It was not an easy road, but I received my stars at age thirty nine. It was through sheer determination and hard work that I achieved my goal. Do you think I am interested in your problems with the regular troops?”
Colonel Pak looked up bleakly into his superior officer’s gold-tinted faceplate.
He could just make out the harsh, sharklike eyes staring back at him, blankly, unnerving.
“I expect the stone seal will be breached soon, colonel Pak,” the General said. “Unless of course you feel unable to perform this small task I have set you. In which case, I’m sure there are many other officers below you who would jump at the opportunity to display their patriotism.”
Pak suddenly found a new enthusiasm borne of the urge to keep his rank. He arched his back, and stood to attention. “I will have the job completed before you ask again, sir!” he said.
“I won’t be asking again, Colonel.”
Kwan stood near the mouth of the grand hall where it met the purple-red Martian soil. The afternoon sun cast a golden orange glow onto the black walls and floor of the entranceway.
Kwan kicked a small pebble that had blown onto the shiny hallway floor of the grand hall. It rolled back out into the dusty rubble from where it came.
Outside, several soldiers in yellow thermal suits and helmets patrolled the circumference of the face. Other men and women in yellow suits, civilian workers employed by the military, were working on scaffolding that lined the outer walls of the great monument.
They clambered up aluminum ladders that had been attached to the top of the walls. Some carried measuring instruments and digital monitors as they walked around the top of the structure.
The face rose hundreds of yards upwards, staring into the sun, like a head without a body laying on its back, tanning. It was two miles long and a mile and a half wide. Two clearly defined eyes with brows, a nose, a mouth, the outline of a chin. At the northern most end, an exotic headdress with a circumference of more than two miles curved around the forehead all the way to the swell of the cheeks.
The whole thing was carved from a single gigantic rock.
Kwan stood for a moment taking in the awe of his achievement.
They had beaten the Americans.
In a few hours, Mars would belong to the Chinese completely. And it was he, General Kwan Choy Liu who had led the mission and made it all possible.
General Kwan entered his quarters at the south end of the Grand Hall.
His room was luxurious throughout, ridiculously out of place in this environment. Any soldier who had found the need to enter his room to give updates or request instructions was immediately dumbstruck by the lavish surroundings, and would quickly run and tell others.
In a few short weeks, rumors of the General’s grandiose living quarters had become the stuff of legend.
It was exactly as Kwan had wanted. Keep up the portrayal of mystique and ominous presence. Let the minions know exactly who was boss. It worked remarkably well.
He sealed the vacdoor behind him and removed his helmet.
There was a hiss of escaping gases.
Kwan took a deep breath, then poured himself a glass of thick red liqueur from a beech cabinet near his bed, the cost of which paled in comparison to the expense of actually getting all this finery to Mars in the first place.
But nobody was going to argue with a man like Kwan. He alone had all the necessary knowledge, leadership, and ability to complete the mission successfully. In the end, the People’s Army had given him a blank slate to take whatever he saw fit to take and do whatever he saw fit to do.
Kwan sipped the sickly sweet alcohol and sat down on the edge of his bed.
He reached under the bed and pulled out a silver metallic case which he placed on a side table and opened.
Inside was a long range radio transceiver.
Kwan switched it on, and a fuzzy static filled the room. He took another sip of the liqueur and, picking up the transmitter, began to speak.
“Red Dragon, this is Cydonia. Breach of the operations centre has begun. Commence placement of troops at target locations immediately. I repeat, commence placement of troops immediately.”