I wish I had the ability to relax more. I wish I didn't get my heart racing so. I wish I had taken some of those meditation classes. I certainly needed it right now. But then, perhaps they would not have helped.
I and twenty others were hurtling to the surface of Mars in the American Lander: there was a European, a Russian and a Chinese within our lander, just as an American was in each of their landers. That would exciting by itself, but this was not the Mars of the past. This was a Mars being terraformed - alien-formed? - into something else. And we were screaming through the newly increased atmosphere to land on the surface. We had traveled for 9 months to get here. And now we were screeching through the atmosphere with the whole intent to meet the aliens that transforming the surface of Mars.
We were thrilled and excited and terrified.
The aliens had arrived ten years ago. They had begun by bombarding Mars with a stream of centaurs, large icy supercomets that normally orbit out past Jupiter. These came in amazingly and spectacularly one per hour for an entire Martian year. All of them targeted the former seabed of the Borealis Basin, crashing and splashing. 686 crashed into Mars. The smallest was 100 km in diameter. The largest was 300.
That alone radically changed Mars. The atmosphere thickened incredibly: carbon monoxide, water, ammonia and carbon dioxide. Then, once that had happened, then came the VERY large Kuiper belt objects. Four in all, spaced out, these added enough other volatiles to not only add an earth pressure atmosphere, but also enough water for seas. These came every 171 days after the first bombardment.
The fireworks even seen from Earth was spectacular. There had not been anything like the sight since the Late Heavy Bombardment.
And it lasted for over four years.
There was fear and terror on Earth. What was going on? The flashes were bright enough to be seen during the day when Mars was above the skyline. When it became irrefutable that this was being done by an intelligent agency, people began to fear: would they be coming to destroy Earth? If they could stream 690 minor or dwarf planets at Mars, what could we possibly do to stop them?
The truth was...nothing. Politicians talked a good game, but...nothing was the real answer.
Needless to say, everything we had on Mars' surface was destroyed. Nothing could have survived that onslaught. Fortunately, no people had yet to trod its surface. Or even orbit the formerly Red Planet. We had been getting ready, in the slow motion sort of space race of the snails, but we were not yet ready. That would change.
After the last impact had taken place, as we sat in fear and awe, preparing as ants would against the coming of bug spray, we realized something more was happening above Mars. Ships appeared. Or what we took for ships. They began delving down into the atmosphere. Doing...something. Our best telescopes could not make out exactly what, but we did noticed, spectroscopically, the atmosphere was changing. The carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide levels were dropping. The nitrogen levels were rising. Oxygen began to appear. O2 levels seemed to increase at a rate of .1 % every 30 days.
And the temperature of Mars greatly increased. It rose to above freezing. Even to a balmy 20 C at the equator. The Boreal Ocean in the north was horribly cold still, but it was actually there. A Vast, vast ocean covering a whole hemisphere.
Mars was radically changed.
We tried to communicate. We tried to talk. We tried to get their attention. We utterly failed. They simply kept on working away, changing the surface of Mars, and ignored us. We were completely irrelevant to them.
We tried beaming greetings via radio. The great radio telescopes of the world beamed and beamed and were met with silence.
We sent probes. Most of the time, they were simply ignored. Once it was eaten by some equivalent of the aliens.
After some debate, the nations of the world banded together and sent us. There were four great ships: American, Chinese European and Russian. We were being sent to make contact. We were acutely aware it might cost us our lives.
We left 15 years after the aliens had come. We had identified what appeared to be their surface base on Mars. It was on Olympus Mons. That was where we were going. There were four landers. All of us were coordinating our landing in a box around the base. No one was armed: it wouldn't mattered if we were since these aliens had terraformed a planet in 15 years instead of centuries.
There was a jerk. If I could have moved enough, I'd have jumped. It was the parachute deploying. We were coming down slower now, feeling a pendulum swing, as we did so with the winds buffeting us. The stronger than ought winds.
We case closer, ever closer and then detached. The retro rockets, spiritual descendants of Curiosity's own Skycrane, soft landed us on the Martian surface. In the caldera of the greatest volcano ever known. Within ten kilometers of the alien base.
We checked in with the other nations' landers: everyone had come down unmolested, unopposed by the aliens. We cautiously unloaded our equipment and set up base. We did not see anything of the aliens. None of the sites did.
We waited a week. There was no sign of them. They were simply ignoring us we thought. What mattered a race that could barely reach another planet? We could hardly harm them. They were like gods to our anthill.
We launched drones to go peak on what was going on. All landers sent them. All landers failed to see any activity. No drone saw an alien. No drone saw any movement. No drone saw any machinery. Just blocks that could be buildings. or mechanisms. Or nothing: just blocks, black obsidian like blocks.
We agreed. We mounted up on the rovers and drove to a rendezvous point. Forty-eight people from different nations met with 8 rovers at one point. We sat for a bit, one kilometer from a side of the alien base. We waited a day.
We had half the group drive into the base. We drove and saw...nothing. The great blocks were black, shiny and blank. There was no one here. There was nothing here. The aliens were gone.
We stood in the middle of their 'base,' befuddled. We had expected a reaction. Whether it was simply hello. Or wiping us out. We had expected something. Anything.
But we received no response.
They came, terraformed and left.
Would they be back?
Would they be angry if we colonized Blue Mars?
Would they take notice of us?
Or are they forever gone?
We don't know.
We can't know.
They simply didn't care if we knew or not.
And they didn't give a damn about us.