The call this the Red Planet, but it really is more of a dull rusty red than a proper bold red. Still, one thing it isn’t is green. The landscape as far as the eye can see is dusty and rocky, and the air is still too thin to properly argue about breathing. Apparently it will take a couple more decent size comets before the atmosphere thickens up enough more, meanwhile the smelters are doing their best to turn the rusty rocks back into usable iron, potable water, and useful trace minerals. A couple more decades at this game and it might someday be possible to take a stroll wearing only a sweater.
Of course, all that progress could come to a grinding halt if this latest find gets public notice. Luckily the public is sufficiently burned out after the vicious fights over the start of terraforming that it will take a lot to grab its attention. But this is a big find. This is clearly a graveyard. While extending our working base into a newly discovered lava tube, we started to find some evidence that ours weren’t the first tools to push the rock around. But a few tool marks were not nearly big enough to stop progress.
Then we found the skeleton, next to suggestively artificial debris.
Now we’ve found a group of remains, laid out neatly in rows, all oriented the same direction, all nearly identically arranged. It can hardly be anything other than a graveyard. Or an extremely elaborate hoax, perpetrated by someone sneaking around these tubes before we found them.
We can’t yet rule out the hoax possibility, there is a population of about a thousand of us here now, and of that about a third were mostly raised here. It’s a tough living, but even in tough times and places humans do have a tradition of inventing and spreading scary stories. If these sites were set up to be found a decade ago but attention turned elsewhere, people could have forgot, the story went untold, and the prank unfulfilled.
So with tools about as sophisticated as an axe, I need to figure out fast whether or not to call off the next comet strike. I don’t have more than a month or so to make that call. What I really need is a trained xenoarchaeologist but I’m very much afraid that is a field of study that hasn’t been invented yet. I guess I just have to make it up as I go along.
As we penetrate further into this tube, we find that the possibly technological remains are scattered about somewhat regularly, but the skeletal remains are concentrated in that one area, almost as if a group of beings had spent a long time living in this tube, doing some sort of work, and slowly burying all of their team in that one area leaving just one or two to operate the station. All of this a very long time ago.
With that, I think my decision is pretty clear and easy to make. Anything they might have been up to was long enough ago that I need not worry about it today. I don’t recognize their skeletons as anything I or my available resources can recognize. We’ll just cordon off this section of the tubes, and allow the next strike. Keep the secret. And hope that isn’t exactly what the poor soul we found sitting at his machines decided.