We have landed on Mars! What we find could explain the origins of the human race...
Return From Mars Adam.R.Crump
Return From Mars - Part 6
The room was dark, like pitch.
The door opened and Price was escorted in by two Delta Force troops. They held her, one at each arm. The open door allowed a sliver of light to reach into the room, caressing the darkness like a lover. The troops guided Price to the chair and sat her down. Then they left, shutting the door behind them.
I stood in the corner of the room behind the door, covered by a cloak of darkness. I was wearing a pair of night vision goggles, lent to me by one of the Delta Force troops and I stood watching her for a moment. My heart went out to Price. I had grown fond of her over the last three days and this was no way to be treated, but I also realised that this was better than the alternative.
Price was nervous, you could tell; but she hid it well. The army had trained her to control fear, and that was exactly what she was doing. The hardest thing about psychotherapy is to try and get information out of the patient without them realising that was what you were doing. For this to succeed I would have to be on my game.
I let her sit quietly in the darkness for a while, and after she had sweated enough I took a step towards her. The noise was quiet, but was enough to get the Captains attention and her head pivoted towards the sound.
"Whose there...?" Her voice sounded nervous, but ready for any eventuality.
"It was dark in the cave wasn't it Captain Price."
"James is that you..."
"Answer the question soldier."
"Cave? What cave...?"
"Mars, Captain Price."
"Yes, it was dark. Sir, what has this got to do with anything...?"
"I ask the questions Captain Price. It was also cold was it not?"
"Yes, but the suits kept our core temperatures normal."
"Of course." I replied. I had been about to give the signal to make the room colder, and had forgotten that their suits would have protected them from the majority of the Martian atmosphere. I had set this plan up perfectly, but like all good plans it never survives the first encounter. I had to change tact.
"And the smell captain?"
"It was the smell of oxygen from our suits sir."
The air in the room was coming in through the air conditioner, and I had asked the Colonel to make sure that the same oxygen that was going into the suits was the same as that coming into the room.
"How was the darkness Captain? Did it scare you?"
"No sir. I have been in worse places."
"What could you see Captain?" I asked.
"Nothing much, it was dark. The only light came from the illumination of our headlamps."
"And what did you manage to see with the headlamps captain."
"Not a lot really, it all came in flashes."
"I see." I removed my night vision goggles and pressed a button. A light flashed, and in that moment I saw Captain Price's eyes widen. The light flashed again ten seconds later. Price looked uncomfortable now. I could see her visualising the environment around her. In the next flash I saw her eyes glaze over. She was doing exactly what I thought she would do, reliving the events on Mars, and I had her exactly where I wanted her."
I stood and moved around until I was behind her.
"What happened in the cave Price?"
The Captain was silent, but her head moved, her eyes widened and her body quivered.
"No..." she managed to gurgle.
"The memory is their Captain. I order you to tell me what happened."
That got the response I wanted. Her back went rigid and she sat straight up in her chair. Her army routines kicked in and I knew in that instant that I had a chance to withdraw this memory from her.
"What happened Captain?" I repeated.
Price shook her head. I knew instantly that this was one memory her body wanted to repress badly. I began to get a bad feeling in the bottom of my gut. If Price, a seasoned soldier, could not handle what she had seen in the cave, what would I think?
I waited. She did not want to share this memory, but I knew that she would have to. She needed to get rid of it, to stop the pain of it from poisoning her. She fought for a while, but the battle became too much for her. She began to retell her story, and I listened with fascination as it unfolded in front of me.
Price had a quiet, yet musical voice which was very easy to listen to, but this story was not being told in that voice. The voice that came from her now was drab and macabre.
"We left early in the Martian day before the sun had risen. We were well stocked with oxygen, and any other supplies we would need to go into the cave. The trek down the canyon took us a while, but with the low Martian gravity we were able to jump onto outcroppings of rock without injury and that halved the descent time. We reached the cave at around midday Mars time."
"Half a day, that's a long time to get down a canyon Captain?"
"With all due respect sir, it was a big ass canyon."
"Understood, what did the entrance of the cave look like captain?"
"It was big sir. You could easily have fit a caterpillar dump truck in the entrance."
"Did you proceed inside Captain?"
"Yes, sir. We began to get an uneasy feeling when we were standing in front of the cave entrance sir, and Dylan tried to talk us out of going in."
"And what did you say to Lieutenant Augustine Captain?"
"I told him that his balls must have shrunk, and that I was holding them in my hands."
"And was there any discontent at this comment Captain."
"No sir. It actually eased the tension sir, as I knew it would. You get to know a fire-team well after spending half a year in close quarters with them sir."
"Understood Captain. What happened next?"
"I told the team that we were under orders and that we had no option but to enter the cave and complete our mission sir."
"And what was your mission Captain?"
Price paused at this.
"The orders were classified above top secret sir."
"I have clearance Captain."
"If you have clearance sir, then why are you asking?"
"I have already reminded you who asks the questions Captain."
Price didn't speak for a while. I didn't hear anything from the room behind the class so once again I pressed.
"Captain. What were your orders?"
Again silence, but this time not for long. The pause from the room behind the mirror must also have provided Price with the answer she needed to give me.
"Officially sir, we were to explore the possibility of an underwater lake at the bottom of the cave."
"Five years ago, satellite imagery had shown that beside the lake there was a cluster that looked vaguely like buildings. Unofficially our orders were to investigate the site and look for any signs of alien life."
"What did you find Captain?"
Price went silent and I could tell that she was reliving the memory in her head.
"It was dark sir, our headlamps could not penetrate the darkness of the cave more than about fifty metres in front of us, and the cold, it cut through our suits the deeper we went. I have never felt anything like it. That was when our equipment began to play up."
"You mean your radio and camera functions."
"Yes sir, also our weapons sir."
"Weapons?" I questioned. "What were you expecting to find down there Captain?"
"It was just a precaution sir. I had just made the decision to turn back when Chris, who had been on point said that he had seen something ahead of us. We kept walking and the cave opened into a large chamber, in the chamber was a city built by a race that was not human."
"How did you know that humans had not built it?" I asked, curious at her observation.
"The shapes and lines were all wrong, and it was not set out like a human city would be. It was built in the shape of a triangle, and their buildings were very similar. The paths all seemed to lead to the centre of the city which we followed, and discovered a deserted area among the ruins of the city. In the centre of this area were the beginnings of a lake, we managed to walk to the edge of the lake and the..."
Price once again stopped her story, and I saw a puzzled look cross her face, like the memory was hard to come by.
"What was in the lake Captain? What did you see?"
Price shook her head, frowning.
"I can't seem to recall sir, the memory is fuzzy, but I remember having a very bad feeling."
"What did you see in the lake Captain?" I asked. I could tell that I was close, that I had nearly cracked her memory. It would only take a little more coaxing and she would reveal the information that we had been searching for.
But this was the question that changed everything...
...As soon as I asked the question I felt the room go colder all of a sudden. Price went from looking uncomfortable and confused, to suddenly being cool calm and collected. For a moment I was sure that my heart stopped beating.
"Enough! I am tired of answering your questions." A deep voice penetrated the room. I had no idea where it had come from, but was distracted as I heard gunshots.
My head flicked up, and I looked to the two way mirror that cut off the interrogation room from the room beyond.
"Colonel?" I questioned. "What is going on out there?"
I had no response from the intercom and asked again.
Suddenly the voice, deep and rhythmic, sounded again in the interrogation room.
"Your Colonel cannot hear you James."
I realised then that the voice had come from Captain Price, but it was not her voice.
"Captain Price? Abigail?" I frowned.
Price just grinned at me like a loon, giving no response. I went over to open the door to the interrogation room, but found that it would not open. The bad feeling in the pit of my stomach suddenly went into overdrive. It was like one thousand and one butterflies had suddenly taken flight. If this was a joke, I was not laughing. I walked to the two way mirror, and thumped hard on it.
"Colonel, this is not funny."
Again the deep voice, strangely feminine spoke up.
"I doubt very much that your Colonel is finding anything amusing about what is going on right now."
I walked over to the wall and flicked on the switch to the light. Bright intensity flooded the room, and I was temporarily blinded. I stomped over to the desk and thumped my hands on the table.
"Who the hell are you?"
Price lifted her head from where she had been looking down at the surface of the table. Her eyes had changed, no longer were they the intense blue of Captain Abigail Price, but a dark black colour, and I swore as I looked into them that when she blinked it was more of a reptile side to side, than a human down and up.
"Do you really want to know James?" Price growled.
I looked at her intensely.
"I want to know what the hell is going on!"
Price grinned at me.
"Then go and look outside this room. You will see what is happening well enough, but don't say that I didn't warn you."
I turned and walked to the door, as I reached for the handle, I turned to look back at Captain Price. She wasn't looking at me; she was looking at the table. I finally put my finger on the feeling that I had been having about her, there was something quietly alien about her, different to the Abigail Price who had originally gone to Mars. I looked back to the door, swiped my card and gripped the handle tightly in my hand, turning it slowly.
As the door opened I heard more gunshots and screams. I looked right down the hallway. The four guards who had been posted at the two doorways were dead, their bodies lying up against the wall, or on the floor of the hallway. My eyes widened as I saw one of the Delta Force soldiers pinned up against the wall. Forcing the soldier was Flight Officer Josh Trenton and he was in the process of sucking the very life force from the soldier's body.
Josh turned his neck towards me, a lot further than he should have been able to. His eyes were black spheres, devoid of any feeling whatsoever. As soon as his gaze swept across me I felt all happiness fade from my body. Josh was now a devourer of souls, and the look he gave me as he dropped the body to the floor was the same as the one a lion would give a lame zebra.
As Josh began to move, I forgot all about everyone else on the base and my flight instincts took over. I turned and grabbed the handle of the door, for an instant I panicked when it wouldn't open. Then I remembered the card attached to my waist. I grabbed it. Swiped it, and the light turned green and the handle turned. I wasn't a moment too late as Josh was almost upon me. I snuck through the small gap as his hand reached for me. I felt the lightest of touches before slamming the door and hearing it seal behind me. I slumped down with my back against the wall. Relief washed over me like a summer's rain.
As I hung my head in exhaustion I noticed Josh's arm twitching on the ground beside me. I stood up as fast as I had slid down. The flight officer's arm had been sheared off at the elbow, but there was no blood. As I watched the arm disintegrated in front of my eyes.
"What the..." I exclaimed.
"I did warn you James." I heard the deep voice say.
I turned and I saw the thing formally known as Abigail standing not a metre in front of me. I stepped back quickly.
"Who the hell are you, and what have you done with the crew of the Ultor?" Fear was growing inside me slowly, like a cancerous tumour. I could feel the tendrils beginning to pull me down. I controlled it the best I could, staring at her defiantly.
The thing formally known as Abigail chuckled.
"James, James, James. Such hostility. I think that I have decided that your race is very much like them, but that could be taken as a compliment or an insult depending on how you are feeling at the time."
"Them, who the hell is them?"
"The Tergarians of course."
"The who?" I replied.
The thing formally known as Abigail frowned.
"You do not know do you..." she chuckled once again. "...no of course not, they would not have given any hints. They would not have wanted you to go to Mars."
"Who are you talking about?" I asked once again, exasperated.
I was tired of the games she was playing, and I wanted answers. The feeling must have come out in my tone, because the thing took pause and then seemed almost caring.
"We have time. Come sit and I will explain something to you as my creatures take care of your moon base."
"What do you mean come and sit? I will not sit here while the rest of the people on this base are dying. I can't, I have to help."
The thing formally known as Abigail nodded.
"Your feelings are understandable. I admire your courage. The Tergarians had courage too. Unfortunately it was not enough to save them. I will allow you leave."
She waved her hand and the door to the room opened.
"You are free to go James Celtigar."
One look out of the door brought back the memory of Josh sucking the life from the soldier, and my mind suddenly changed.
"Close the door." I said sheepishly. "There is nothing I can do."
The thing formally known as Abigail cocked her head to the side, like an interested dog. She waved her hand once again and the door shut.
"Maybe there is hope for your race yet. I sense some humility in you." she smiled. "Take a seat James Celtigar, please make yourself comfortable. Is that the correct expression?" she asked.
I nodded resiliently.
"How much do you know of your races origins James Celtigar?"
"It depends who you talk to." I responded. "There are some that believe we were created divinely, that an almighty God was behind our creation. And there are some that believe in the scientific theories, who say that we evolved; beginning as bacteria and then moving onto what we have become today."
The thing formally known as Abigail nodded and smiled.
"Your race has done well to get that much information, especially given the secrecy of the way you came into being."
I was confused now.
"What secrecy, we are human, no more no less. We are born, we live and we die. There is no secrecy involved with us."
She smiled, again, which was really starting to piss me off.
"You are unaware with the origins of your race." The thing formally known as Abigail stated. "But I will now give you the information your people have probably sought for millennia."
When I didn't seem excited, she raised an eyebrow.
"I'm listening." I said, settling into my chair. I really hoped that this was as good a story as she seemed to make out it was.