Forgotten Amongst A Rusty Sea

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Three

Despite what Dr. Mercer had told me, I was still adamant in my plans to continue onward. I decided against telling Drs. Anderson and Fedotik for I believed, foolishly considering the trust we were putting in one another, that they would question the authenticity of this comment. Dr. Mercer is a reputable source, however such a claim is far beyond the security of his station in the scientific community. As it stood there was no reason to concern ourselves over one man’s observations. The scientific community is a constant debate hall of theorems and experiments done to determine what humanity is capable of doing. So with this spirit we began our journey towards the mountain range and the mouth of the Mercer Cave Network. Having received supplies to replenish those lost on the trip we made good ground on our journey and expected to arrive within sight of the mouth in a couple of hours. Dr. Fedotik was most eager to get into the cave system. His choice for the mission had been based on his favourite pastime of spelunking in the many caves of the Ural Mountains. Dr. Anderson was also adamant, though her love of the dark came from her deep-sea diving expeditions, such as her incredible raising of the wrecks of the Titanic and Bismarck to the surface. As for myself I was used to the tight confines of caves as my field of study called upon it. Thankfully our fellow teams were just as incredibly adventurous.

None of us were truly prepared for the scale of the entrance to the vast tunnel network we were to investigate. The collective intake at the gaping wound into the landscape cannot be underestimated. The entrance easily stood some fifty to sixty metres high above the ground, stretching out as far as one hundred fifty. The few vehicles who had made their way into the network had left a spare amount of tracks but even still the extremely high winds had done away with some of the older ones. It was clear to us at this moment that our monumental task of finding the supposed water detected below this mammoth hole was going to be a long task. We braced ourselves for what we were to enter with a feeling of excitement and energy. The sudden loss of the Sun’s distant rays through the thin Martian atmosphere was familiar to all of us, but even still to see the natural colours of our interiors with the simple LEDs made a huge difference. It was as if we had become alien in our own way. Surely we were to these caves as we traversed deeper into them. Whilst some surveys had managed to map out the caves, none had gone further than when the first radio issues had occurred. Each kilometre we were to deploy a transmitter, and that way maintain contact. The darkness around our habitats was definite, with what little external light we had from the lamps on board.

We drove slower, creeping along more carefully. Although our habitats were of a smaller size than some vehicles that had come through, we could not take a chance. A deep chasm stretched far beyond the diffusion of our lights, looking down to an abyss. Dr. Anderson has likened it to her diving of the Mariana Trench, and if that is the case I fear what lies there. We made good progress despite our slow descent. It was clear these tunnels travelled further down. I will skip over much of the routine in this letter to save the boredom of the reader. We had travelled for a week underground and our biological clocks had only survived thanks to routine. What we failed to notice though, and what took myself this long to realise I still do not know, was that every so often a strange pattern would appear in the dust. A wind did blow in the tunnels for they were extremely large and extremely open, but still some appeared in quieter areas. These peculiar formations puzzled us, for we could think of no reason as to their existence. It was only after the tenth day that I realised what they were, and even then the reason for my connection was one which I had never hoped to come across. How I wish we had turned back upon that discovery, yet our scientific curiosity can be damned for making us continue onwards into the dark of the Mercer Cave Network.

We first caught sight of the lone corpse upon coming over a ridge. Holt’s keen eyes had seen a flash of white against the brown dust and had hoped that perhaps it was a small block of ice. When Dr. Anderson’s vehicle came over the ridge we realised it was not. A single spacesuit lay strewn out in the middle of the path in between the two tracks that now clearly belonged to a rover of some kind. We stopped to investigate and quickly realised what had happened; the poor woman had clearly gone looking for help when her oxygen ran out. After that she would have entered hypoxia, followed by a laughing fit as her brain was starved before finally passing out in a final defense mode. I can only hope she died in a peaceful dream, unaware of what was happening to her. We found no evidence of what her name was nor which of the organisations she belonged to. Clearly we were not the first down here but now we had new questions to solve. Not wanting to leave her there we placed her into one of the storage compartments, then followed her footsteps and the tracks. It is worth noting on behalf of all involved that we began to take on a far more serious and macabre tone from this point on. Clearly something had gone wrong and it was our job to find out what exactly that was. We owed it to her more than anything else.

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