I can still close my eyes and picture vividly the site of the chasm based city which we had stumbled upon. Even as I return from Mars itself I am forever haunted by the sight of the beauty of the skyline. Stretching and even encompassing the ceiling of the cavern some eight-hundred metres high and stretching beyond that, spreading itself through the natural landscape. Walkways and bridges and tracks connected the buildings all together allowing people to wonder through the great designs. The city waterfront was a mass of piers and underground tunnels clearly designed for some form of mass transportation in a way to prevent inconvenience among the local populace. The bridge itself split the waterfront in two, with each side featuring a dominant boardwalk that had sadly not fared as well in the lack of maintenance that the bridge had. As we moved closer we saw that strewn in a haphazard way brilliant statues of long humanoid figures spread out in support of the structures. Lights on the side of the road shined clearly, somehow still working despite the neglect. Colours of various groupings adorned the structures. Great care had been taken in the building of this city for it’s incredible architecture. Buildings of various shapes of squares, hexagons, octagons, circular and triangles of incredible sizes gave off lights at various levels. The city was acting like a beacon for those who were seeking sanctuary from the wastelands above, we were soon to discover once inside the walls.
Alas the ravages of time are a universal constant for we soon saw the evidence of the paradise that this great city had promised was now in severe lacking. Such words seem harsh I am sure, but the ruin of the city even with the thinner atmosphere and the lower temperature coupled with the protection these tunnels provide from some of the more harsher storms it was clear that a long time had passed before any creature had once again set foot along the numerous promenades, walkways, roads and avenues. Littered along these paths were shards of multi-coloured glass that had clearly fallen from higher floors. The upper sprawl, for that is what it could only be described as, had holes were clearly the strain of the supports had failed in spectacular fashion. Furniture of the most exquisite and vibrant designs imaginable had been relatively preserved in the vacuum, yet even now showed torn cushions of fabric, those not ruined by some spillage. On some of the more looked after streets Sunlamps, still burning bright, had clearly been responsible for outdoor plant life which had since withered into sickly black carbon shells. Whole areas of the highest towers had clearly collapsed, giving an illusion from a distance that it was simply a case of lights not in use, when in reality they had caved in. Frozen blocks revealed broken piping. Truly the city had suffered the cruelest of fates in being slowly killed by the loss of the Martian atmosphere.
Despite our aching interest to explore every site within the city the long journey from the shoreline of the glacier had taken a huge toll. Our battery supply was soon approaching the halfway mark, and such had been our journey’s risk we now were at risk of not being able to return to the surface. As such it was decided to keep exploration to a minimum, with emphasis on the source of the signal that still plagued our channel to the surface. We hoped that perhaps once we arrived at the destination from which the signal was broadcasting from that perhaps then we could learn more about this awesome sight which surrounded us. For the time being we were to set up camp within the entrance area of the city. We set up near a large fountain whose pool of water had frozen within it’s bowl, causing cracks in the stonwork. We powered down the motors for the wheels in order to preserve our supply and settled down for a rest which we all knew would never come. A few people walked about, wearing their oxygen masks and their overalls for there was no need for the heating elements, scouring the buildings nearby. I myself found myself in what could only of originally been a hotel of some sort, strange as it was. It didn’t occur to me that perhaps creature comforts such as hotels along the waterfront weren’t unwelcome by the society whose ruins we now were guests of.
Sleeping did not come easy to a single person within the party. Dr. Anderson and Dr. Fedotik disappeared for a couple of hours, walking along the sea walls and going so far as the boardwalk on their side. Holt busied himself by searching for homes in some way to determine the everyday life of the missing residents. I myself looked around the hotel that I had stumbled across, admiring the striking lines and curves of the artwork still surviving. Our two German friends set up cameras and started taking photos along the promenade, wanting to prepare enough material for when we would inevitably report this back to Ares. How distant the cities on the surface seemed, with their natural light and dawn and dusk. Those who had travelled across the vacuum of their solar system and settled to a planet with new prospects for all, completely unaware that deep below the very ground on which they trod was an ancient ruin still going strong despite all the millennia of neglect that had attempted to tear it apart. Perhaps it was this with which the great explorers had the same emotions as I did then. A feeling of ecstasy as I closed my eyes to attempt some semblance of sleep that fateful night-at least what could count for a night-and perhaps an emotion which I had not felt in years. Appropriately alien, it took me a long time to realise the primal part of my brain had been right to fear.