The Martian Chronicler

by Franc

Preface

In the year 2178, a new expedition had reached the surface of the planet Mars. It had been sent by the Federation of Earth to discover what had happened to the lost expedition of the Commodore that had been reported missing, over a century ago


In the year 2178, a new expedition had reached the surface of the planet Mars. It had been sent by the Federation of Earth to discover what had happened to the lost expedition of the Commodore that had been reported missing, over a century ago. There were not many details or specific information known about that centurial expedition, except that the spacecraft had lost all form of communication with Earth. The crew were all presumed dead, although there was never any evidence to confirm or establish that supposition. Our task was to locate that forgotten expedition and begin as soon as possible, the immediate preparations, for the first Earth colony that had been devised. The expectation of finding the spacecraft was unclear, but our determination was resolute and firm to accomplish our daring mission. Mars at the time was still uncharted territory and had been only explored, to a certain degree in one hundred years. Its evolution was not parallel to our planet and the ominous threat of overpopulation and destruction was not manifest. Its history was a mystery yet to be resolved and little was known about the ancient ones, who once ruled and inhabited the planet.

It was at the 14:00 hour Earth time, when we had finally landed on Mars. We had our oxygen masks and tanks on, while we gradually descended the spacecraft. Among the crew, there were four men and two women, who were qualified at their position, with aptitude and diligence. Their names were the following, Captain James Bufford, who was in charge of the expedition. The rest were, chief mechanic, Noah Thompson, chemist Mariana Gomez. They were American. Lauren Stafford, biologist from England, Dr. Hans Lieberman surgeon from Germany and lastly myself, Walter MacNair the lieutenant and American as well. The surface of the planet was rough and covered with dust and craters. The area where we had landed was near the plateau of a hillside. Precisely, at that location, we had afterward constructed our interim camp. Within the hour we had established a perimeter, around the camp and had planned on our exploration.

From the start of the expedition, we were confronted, with the distinguishable habitation and transparent landscape of Mars. The fluctuation of the movement of the brisk wind and the invariable temperature were noticeable signs of the evident pressure accumulated on the surface. We had calculated from the precise recordings registered on our devices that we were, within the middle of a change in season. The doubt was which season was it and what was the implication of that change to our crucial welfare. Our biologist and chemist were busy with their observation and analysis, while I was occupied with the captain discussing the prime objective of the expedition. Our mission had clearly stated that we were to find the lost expedition and prepare a land for the colonization of Mars. These were the two principal goals to achieve on our mission.

Once we had our discussion, we gathered the others and planned the reconnaissance with precision. Mars had been presumed for centuries to be devoid of life forms that we could identify so plainly. The planet was an insoluble enigma to most of the people back on Earth. The scientists who had been studying Mars, through the satellite images had recently discovered traces of the possible lost spacecraft of the Commodore. They had also seen signs of concrete areas, for the purpose of colonization. This information of the images was related to us, before the commencement of the voyage. Every member of the crew was selected for their particular profession and scibility. They had to pass a physical and mental exam to prove their sound competence and stability.

The night had fallen, and the two moons were spotted over the sky slightly, on the east side. We had prepared ourselves for the cold temperature drop, but not the sand storm that struck us. Within a matter of minutes, a sand storm from afar had reached the camp subitaneously. Fortunately, we were able to ride the storm, but it did cause some damage to our camp. No one was seriously injured, but some equipment was left inoperative. The captain was more concerned, with the safety of the crew than the logistics. The storm was a precursor to what was to occur afterward. I did not know if this was an omen or a blessing in disguise. The only certainty that we had was the fact that we were on Mars and alive. Therefore, our expedition had not been impeded or disturbed. There was much about the planet that was too unpredictable and unprecedented, in its comparison to Earth.

Nonetheless, it was our dedicated mission to study and unveil the hidden wonders and mysteries of Mars. All the pertinent questions that we thought of had to have definite answers in return. We had been fully trained mentally, physically and emotionally, for this expedition back on Earth. But we would not lose awareness of our foreign surroundings and our human inclinations for fear, anxiety and obfuscation. These three poignant elements of our DNA were absolutely vital to assist, with our important measure of survival. Adaptation was paramount in our poise to investigate the area and retrieve significant clues or objects of the Commodore. We needed one substantial clue to guide us to the remnants of the spacecraft. This we knew was a very difficult endeavor to execute, since there was scant evidence of the Commodore, after its arrival to Mars attested.

Upon the next day, when he had begun our exploration, we had noticed the sudden change in the temperature. The storm had brought a residual atmospheric mist in its conspicuous formation. There was nothing that unusual from its inception, until the brume had started to augment in mass. Then the viscous and accumulative clouds had encircled our camp. None of us knew the actual effects of this phenomenon, but our biologist and chemist had presupposed that it was related to the planet's density or gravity. We had waited for the heavy mist to eventually evaporate to begin the initial stage of our explorative mission. However, the mist soon became another storm that would drop large pieces of hail on the ground. The robust hail would pound our camp and force us to retreat to the refuge of the spacecraft. The hail, the storm, the change of the temperature, we were confronting was indicative of the intense challenge imposed on us. The hail had been produced from the unsteady polar caps. Once the hail had subsided, we made the determination to explore the perimeters of the area, with the intrigue of an extraordinary discovery.

When we reached that area, the captain had seen that the marker that was put there was missing. Had the storm blown it off course or did someone remove it intentionally? The first possibility was primarily my general impression of the marker's disappearance. Another marker was put in place to record our perimeter and location of the camp. At one corner of our perimeter, we had found plant life. This was an evident sign of life form on the planet's surface. We had our first clue of any visible form of life on Mars. The question was whether or not it was natural or grown, by a present or past inhabitant?

On the seventh day of our landing on Mars, we had accomplished the first objective of our mission, the discovery of life form and the exploration of the planet's surface. We had continued the mission, and the intention upon the second week was to establish a secure area, for the designated colony proposed. This action would require exploring, beyond the known perimeters of the camp. Although there was a hazardous risk in that endeavor, it was necessary to proceed with no further delay. Thus, we explored the rugged terrain that was some twenty miles ahead and had discovered a lone cavern near the landscape of the sand dunes of the desert. Everyone except Mr. Thompson had joined the morning exploration. We had a detailed map of the present geography of Mars, but there was still much of the planet that was noticeably undiscovered and uncategorized in our records. As we were observing the dimension of the cavern, a terrible sand storm had approximated with full force.

Despite our desire to continue with our effort, we were compelled to take shelter inside the cavern, from the sand storm that threatened our safety forthwith. We had managed to elude the sand storm, with the exception of Gomez our chemist. She was not fortunate enough to make it to the entrance and died outside buried, in the profound sand dunes. The image of her death was a disturbing sight to accept. However, there was nothing we could have done to rescue her. Gomez was our first casualty, and this was only the beginning.

Once inside, we were safe for the moment, until the sand storm had passed the area completely. I had been in the Sahara Desert of Morocco before, during a sand storm, but I had never witnessed one of this cogent nature. The wind was a vibrant force of absolute power and the whirlpools of sand that had brushed the region were a potent reminder of Mars' instability.

The recent death of Gomez had rattled the crew, but it did not shake our resolution. We had found the dead body of Gomez under the dunes and gave her a proper burial afterward. Her loss would be felt by the entire members of the crew, who had accompanied her on this expedition. Her genuine expertise and knowledge, as a chemist were to be irreplaceable. When we had returned to the camp, we discussed not only the tragic death of Gomez, but the information that was gleaned, from the details of our exploration. The soil of the planet contained the elements of magnesium, sodium, potassium and chlorine. The visual slopes of craters, troughs and valleys were inhospitable regions. Mars was less dense and smaller than Earth, as a terrestrial planet with minerals, such as silicon, oxygen, metals, composed primarily of tholeitic basalt and covered, by fine grained iron oxide dust. The surface area and pressure were a concern as well, due to the fact that there was no liquid water to be extracted promptly. Composition by volume carbon dioxide, argon, nitrogen, oxygen and carbon monoxide were crucial components of Mars. Yet we had been warned of the polar ice caps and its enduring effects on the surface ground. We could no longer stay idle, within the marked perimeters established before.

Thereafter, we had decided to move our camp to another side of the area within the valley, where we could attempt to avoid more hectic turbulence and tempests. We had lost one member of the crew, and we could not afford to lose another one unnecessarily, since we were originally, a small number of participants. We had remained in the spacecraft for the rest of the day and night, not exposing ourselves to any more danger that could be prevented on our part. The terrible incident with the sand storm and the death of Gomez had truly impacted the minds of the crew, but we were conscious of the execution and fulfillment of our important mission. The unknown components about the mystery of Mars were consuming our thoughts and doubts, at the same time. We were observant of the plentiful valleys, deserts, canyons, mountains, the reddish iron oxide and impact craters around us. Our diligent studies and explorations had consigned us, to the clear limitations of the inhospitable land. Our hope was the plant life discovered and the feasibility of a sustainable habitat, for the Earth colony. The challenge in creating that colony was difficult and unpredictable. The unstable climate change was a principal concern for the immediate establishment of that colony. We had calculated before the voyage that it would take a period of several months to construct that colony. There had to be sufficient provisions for the selected colonists to survive and prosper successfully. The contemplation of our survival was something that we all had pondered at length. There was much to discover of the planet, and time was passing, with each hour elapsed.

Upon the completion of the second week of the continual exploration of Mars, we came across the impressive image of the shield volcano Olympus Mons that had existed, in the broad upland region of Tharsis, which contained huge volcanoes. I had read about the activity of the volcanoes and eruptions, but the season was not the right time for the volcanoes to stir. However, the menace of the volcanoes paled in comparison, to the cold weather that was affecting our progress at times. In spite of the fact that it was not thought to be winter, we had apparently miscalculated or the climate change was a reality we did not presume in our initial planning. We had eschewed these areas of the ice polar caps and the volcanoes then, for purposes of our safety.

When we had resumed our mission, we took heed to the unique developments we had experienced in our time on the planet. Naturally, everything had been recorded and documented, with the utmost efficiency. We had advanced the perimeter of our camp farther inward near the valley, where we could shelter ourselves, in case of an imminent peril. There it would permit us also to study more the natural habitat. We were mindful of the circumference of the area and its attachment to this part of the region. This was the main reason it was selected by us, for the potential construction of the colony. There was plant life, and we had begun to build a greenhouse and plant seeds of vegetables that were comestible for humans. We were sowing the seeds, for the first tellurian colony on Mars. The weather outside was not conducive to any growth of vegetables or fruits. Therefore, we had planned the greenhouses in advance and were expectant of their cultivation. The detoxification of the soil was needed for that task. We also had to utilize the water from ice-capped poles and take full advantage of the intermittent days of the variable sunlight. The need for life support systems, power systems, docking ports, and air locks, and more robust equipment were extremely vital for the success of the colony and its conservation.

Upon our arrival we were cognizant of the thin atmosphere and reduced sunlight transmitted. Artificial leaves could absorb a small amount of sunlight and turn it into enough power to fuel the required chemical reactions to make medicine and other compounds that were necessary. The initial base would most likely include along with the habitat, a science lab and specific modules that would be similar to a space station.

That night the cold from the polar ice caps had reached our camp near the valley. The temperature was dropping by the day and in particular during the night, when it was virtually impossible to be outside on the planet's surface. The sound of the winds could be heard as they struck our spacecraft forcefully. We had gathered within the small space we had to move on the spacecraft, when Thompson has spotted strange flashing lights that had orbited the sky. When all of us had seen the lights, we were fascinated with the location. They appeared to be lights that we had never seen, during our stay on Mars and were effulgent. This was an unusual anomaly, since the season was not summer and the sunlight had reduced. Was this a rare phenomenon attributed to an unspecified element from the universe? Whatever it was, it swiftly caught our attention. The bright lights lasted for the duration of twenty minutes, before they had faded away into the landscape. The cause and effects of the lights were opined by the members of the crew and the most logical conclusion concurred was that it was an indefinite occurrence inexplicable to our comprehension and only imagined, by our presuppositions. The counterpoise of the argument was left undetermined.

When we awoke the following day of our exploration, we had concluded that we would investigate the location where the flashing orbs of light were seen by us the day before. It seemed to be near the cavern, where we had taken shelter from the sand storm previously and where Gomez had died. Once there, we explored the area in search for any possible intimations of the anonymous lights. What we found was the remnants of one of those flashing lights that was no bigger than a golf ball. There was not much proof that we could surmise or make a thorough analysis conclusively. Nevertheless, we proceeded with the exploration, since we had more sunlight available during the morning hours. Stafford had noticed that the entrance to the cavern we had marked, with the perimeters we had established days ago was erased. When she had commented and showed the captain, he was eager to investigate the cavern.

Thus, we entered the cavern. Thompson had stayed behind as usual, while we continued our search. As we were walking amidst the cavern, we noticed the formation of the rocks inside had been altered and there appeared to be a lone passage that led inward. The captain was hesitant to proceed, since we did not know where the passage led to. After further deliberation we entered the lone passage, until we found a stone chamber that was blocked off by a solid wall. There were apparent inscriptions written on the top surface of the wall. The language was relatively incomprehensible to decipher. Even Dr. Stafford the biologist who was a linguist as well could not translate the foreign inscriptions. Whoever wrote these inscriptions were either dead or alive. The question was which of the two? The evidence deduced was that it could have belonged to either the Noachian, Hesperian or Amazonian period of the history of Mars. At that moment our thoughts regarding the subject were only speculative to say the least. However, this was a significant discovery and one that could explain the history of the planet from centuries ago. We had to learn how to interpret the inscriptions, if we were to solve its enigma and contents in the end. It was necessary to cut open the portion of the structure of the wall that had the inscriptions on it. Therefore, we openly cut the wall using the heat from our laser devices. It took approximately a whole hour before we were successful in that endeavor.

Afterward, we had managed to carry back to the camp and spacecraft the inscriptions. The sun was setting rapidly, and the cold was reaching us with intensity, as the twilight loomed. Thompson, who was waiting for us back at the camp had inquired about the unfamiliar inscriptions on the piece of the wall we had brought back. He was apprised of our incredible discovery and inside the spacecraft we examined the piece meticulously. As with the case of the flashing orbs of light seen the night before, we were perplexed with this finding. Dr. Stafford and Dr. Lieberman had convened and then gave us the notion that the writing was written centuries ago by a race of beings that were primordial in nature and composition. But to Dr. Stafford the mysterious inscriptions were more aligned to the evolution of the planet and its preservation. There was a diagram that indicated an interplanetary voyage in space from Earth to Mars. The diagram had demonstrated the exactitude of the equatorial rotation velocity, axial tilt and orbital speed of Mars. If any of these theories were accurate than the implication of that discovery was essential not only to the survival of the planet, but also, the survival of our planet Earth. The veracity of this account was not irrefutable, and we were absolutely certain of our speculations. What if the creators of these inscriptions or their descendants were alive on Mars and we had not taken notice of their emergence or existence? Could this coincidence be related to the lost expedition of the Commodore? We were anxious to prove our theories and return to the cavern to explore more in detail, but this would have to wait for the next day. We had planned on returning to the cavern, but were thwarted by the cold winds that had increased during the following morning.

Consequently, we remained inside the spacecraft and had resumed our pensive theories on the Martian inscriptions. Who were these Martians I thought in the back of my head and were they behind the plant life that was discovered, on the first week of our arrival? If so, then what did this mean for us? The thought of Martians being alive on the planet would be a startling revelation to accept. It would mean that we were not alone on Mars. None of us could conceive that idea or its practicality, but we were not indigenous to the planet or to its natural history. Captain Bufford knew of the relevance of that possibility and its consequence to the establishment of the colony. Not one member of the crew was oblivious to that fact.

When the weather, at last, had calmed down a bit, we resumed our exploration of the cavern, but we would soon make another unbelievable discovery, the entrance to the cavern was blocked off by a massive wall. This was an obvious sign that something or someone had created this new wall of granite. It could not be easily removed and the question was, who had done this? It was an unmissable proof that we were not alone on Mars. The captain wanted to disprove that the wall was not made by elements of nature and by a Martian. This did not seem probable, because of the gigantic composition of the rock. No wind or sand storm could have caused this formation or implementation. This was put there by an unfamiliar entity that had remained invisible to us, through necessity or desire. We had no other option at hand, except to return back to the spacecraft, and when we did, we found Thompson was outside lying on the ground dead. Apparently, he had been murdered, but by whom? Whatever had murdered him was not human. It had to be a Martian or another alien entity that had landed on this same planet that we had done earlier.

The spacecraft was destroyed and inoperative. We took the extreme precaution as we approached the spacecraft. When we attempted to open the front door, we were met by the flashing orbs of light that we had seen already. From within those scintillating lights appeared a lone and distinct stranger, who was not anthropomorphic in form. Instead, he was composed of a completely white and inscrutable substance. He spoke not one word, but he made an utterance that reverberated and was powerful. It was in a modulated wavelength that could not be understood. It was so strong that it cause Dr. Lieberman to die of an instant heart attack. A curious book wrapped in metal was given to the captain, who took the book in his hand.

The Martian then had disappeared and vanished from our sight forever to never be seen by us again. Whoever this nameless and unfathomable being was that we had witnessed on that day was without a doubt, not an earthling. The incident had caused an irrevocable sensation that could not be forgotten or was it irreversible. The captain had begun to read the contents of the book, and what he had read had shocked him. The book was written not only in the English language, but the author was the captain of the lost Commodore. It was written one hundred years ago in the past! The captain's name was Douglas Barnett, and he was the last survivor of the Commodore. He had survived the crash and had managed to survive on the planet for ten years, until his death. He had as well had contact with the Martians, who allowed him to dwell in their planet peacefully. The peculiar being we had seen was the last survivor of Mars and was known, as the Martian chronicler. Captain Bufford, Dr. Stafford and myself, were the remaining members of the crew who had survived. We had no way to return back to Earth and the only option granted by the Martian was to remain on the planet, and thus we did at the fate of the unknown.

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