Forgotten Amongst A Rusty Sea

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Five

For hours it seemed we travelled along the glacier. Our rudimentary equipment located within the habitats confirmed that the ice was made of frozen water, with traces of iron oxide which could easily be filtered. However it was noticed that the ice showed little in the form of Carbon Dioxide, which has been a major issue throughout the colonisation of the planet due to the necessity of water to sustain life. We soon also began to realise that the ice, and indeed the tunnel itself, was at a warmer temperature than expected. The Martian Core is confirmed to be active as any individual who has seen Olympus Mons will confirm so we did expect a higher temperature as we drove closer to the core. But yet the temperature of the ice was marked at an approximate -20°C, which considering the location from the equator coupled with the poor air heat catchment of of the thin atmosphere meant that we were potentially driving on a glacial surface that had melted underneath. Indeed Dr. Fedotik was glad to discover this for his experience with winters in the Urals meant he had become rather climatised to colder temperatures, allowing him to operate without activating his heating system. Even still it was disquieting upon our realisation that we feared a potential collapse, for despite the low Martian Gravity our vehicles were still easily within a close weight of eight hundred kilogrammes. We hoped no cracks were forming under our weight beneath the dust layer.

It is now worth pointing out that we had by all means abandoned continued contact with the surface. Having received no communications from Mercer Outpost it had been assumed that further dropping of transmitters was no longer necessary. Dr. Anderson and her team attempted to understand how such a weak signal could cause such an issue. We had swapped to secondary channels which thankfully were not filled with the constant robotic cry of help. Even still it had unnerved many of us, for what reason would a signal come from this far below the surface? Each person on our team in his or her spare time was attempting to solve just that question. No Martian colony had been planned further from the equatorial habitable areas than 30° in either North or South. Stories circulated between some of the more imaginative minds of a supposed secret mission launched long ago. Dr. Fedotik confirmed that whilst Roscosmos had indeed planned Mars missions during the 1970s but these had been abandoned following the Apollo-Soyuz mission and the growing economic upheaval that had been brought about by the expenses of rocketry for the time. One of Dr. Anderson’s crew believed it was potentially another lost rover, which had been the reason behind the one we had found with its unfortunate crew. This constant chatter only served to eat away at the batteries which thankfully were lasting, for no ultimate decision could be made until we arrived at the end of this Rusty Sea and investigate.

The drive towards this source of light took far longer than we had anticipated. Large boulders jutted and chasms of black checkered our path, forcing us to a slow and steady crawl. The strain of the silence that filled in between the usual bursts of conversation were so thick that one could cut the tension with the knife. All the while the sky ahead of us remained completely black. There was never a sign of the luminescence increasing beyond just what our lights had managed, naturally or otherwise. Dr. Anderson began to question whether she had been wrong and indeed the light meter had failed her by measuring the refracted light from the shore. Dr. Fedotik assured her that that was not possible for surely the ice was too thick for the light to return at all. It offered some comfort to Anderson but I dare say we all were on a thread. It must be said Holt was probably one of the calmest of us, for he seemed almost robotic in his nature at the task at hand. We made great progress under his guidance but I could see the beads of sweat pouring down his side. Clearly the strain of this adventure was getting to him as well, but his quiet demeanour refused anyone to truly notice unless they were looking. We all thought it best to accept this as the fate he had chosen lest we end up distracting him at a pivotal moment.

It had been perhaps twenty hours when we finally noticed an increase in the light. Subtly at first but quickly the blackness turned to a strange dark gold, as if dirt had tarnished some immaculate piece of jewelry. The ambient temperature outside soon began to change as well, and soon it reached the point where the ice had turned into a sludge. We feared that this was the end of our journey when we found a natural bridge that had formed, allowing us to travel in single file. But as we continued we soon saw evidence this bridge was anything but natural. Statues arose in strange intervals on podiums, whilst the lights showed that we were riding on paved road, the suspension working rapidly to meet the demands. All belief was shattered. It could not be denied to any of us present that we were travelling on some ancient viaduct which once had seen traffic beyond just our three habitats. Indeed it is a testament to the builders that their bridge was still stable despite countless millennia of disuse. Though some potholes had formed the bridge had no collapsed areas. Around us the water shined a strangely blood red, clearly from the ever prevalent iron oxide. The light continued to grow and soon, hidden behind a natural large stalagmite, we soon saw the destination of our unfortunate friends and whomever the bridge was meant for. To our disbelief we had stumbled upon something that should not exist. A real, decaying metropolis.

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