Meeting Mars Teddy - Part 2

It's a long way to the bottom.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

The Upside-Down Underground City

They tumbled in mid-air, a mass of spacesuit clad limbs.




"Turn your mag boots on", shouted Teddy desperately through the helmet comms.

Max slapped the wrist control and immediately felt his boots snapping onto Teddy's metal backpack, locking hard. The moment Max's boots locked on, Teddy aimed for the iron-rich cliff wall and hit the switch too.

The sudden stop hurt, a lot. Both of them had large nose-shaped smudges on the inside of their visors, but at least they weren't falling anymore. Spacesuits are great for keeping you alive in space, but they do have some downsides. Not being able to rub your sore nose is one of them.

"Ow," sniffed Max.

Looking up, Teddy could almost make out the ledge far above them.

"You know Max, sometimes I appreciate the 62% less gravity on this planet. We would have fallen a lot further on Earth".

"It's true Teddy, I like not being dead from that fall almost as much I like that upside-down city down there."

Some Careful Co-ordination

"What? Is there really a city down there?" asked Teddy incredulously, trying to twist around in a way that nearly dislocated both their knees.

"What do you mean down there?"

"You're upside down Max, the city isn't."

"Oh," said Max in a slightly disappointed tone, "it would have been pretty amazing if we'd discovered the first upside-down city, wouldn't it?"

"I guess we'll just have to settle for discovering the first right-way-up alien city on another planet then, won't we," said Teddy with an almost audible eye-roll.

"Are you rolling your eyes at me, Teddy?"

"Of course not, Max. Now, why don't we work out how we're going to get down to our newly discovered alien city instead?" asked Teddy.

"Do we have any thoughts about how we might do that?" asked Max in a tone of voice that clearly indicated he had no idea and did not really believe that Teddy did either.

"Yes," said Teddy enthusiastically, "as it so happens, I do. Do you think you can de-mag just one of your boots?"

"I think so," said Max cautiously.

"Ok, then do that now. Lift it off my backpack, point it at the wall, and then magnetise again."

"Are you sure?" asked Max, sounding very dubious.

"I'm absolutely certain!" said Teddy.

Max was considerably less certain. Peering down the ragged cliff, he felt sick with fear.

"Do you have a plan that doesn’t involve me going first?"

"Sorry, Max, fresh out of those."

Max swallowed hard, "Ok, here I go."

Max de-mag'd boot number one. With the boot floating free over the sheer drop, a terrible thought suddenly appeared. Don't wobble.

"Magnetise quick - you're wobbling!" shouted Teddy.

Max hit the control hard, and with a reassuring thud, the boot stuck solidly to the wall.

"It worked!" shouted Teddy, overjoyed, "well done, Max!"

With that first, very uncertain step, they untangled themselves and began the long climb down the cliff face towards the alien city far below.

A Moment to Enjoy the View

"Do you know what it reminds me of Teddy?" asked Max as they paused on a small ledge to give their burning leg muscles a break.

"A Martian city?" replied Teddy. When they are concentrating hard on not falling off narrow ledges while sitting high above fatal drops, teddys are not terribly imaginative.

"Well, yes, I guess a Martian city, but I haven't ever seen one before, so that's not a good comparison. It looks a bit like the layout of a Roman city. What do you think?"

Teddy looked at the city properly this time.

"Oh, yes, I think I see what you mean. Look at all those avenues and the public spaces. Do those houses down there have atriums? And what are those things over there, surely they can't be aqueducts?"

"That's what they look like, isn't it? I wonder if they really could be? Maybe there was enough water here once to need aqueducts?"

"Maybe, and if they did, they might have had plants too" said Teddy wistfully. Teddy loved plants and was starting to get really excited by the thought of alien flora. "Let's hurry up and get down there!"


The Right-Way-Up Underground City

Finally, Max and Teddy stood in a narrow alleyway at ground level, sandwiched between two anonymous block-like buildings. It felt like any light industrial area you might happen upon in any city on Earth.

Max brushed the nearest wall with his gloves. Centuries of dust reluctantly parted company with the wall and drifted to a new resting place on the ground. A storm of colours swirled just beneath the wall’s smooth glasslike surface.

"Wow," breathed Max, "the colours are so beautiful. What else do you think is hidden under this dust, Teddy?"

"I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out," said Teddy with a grin so wide the Cheshire Cat would have been proud.

One of the sad things about ancient cities on Earth is that their colours fade. You never get to see them as they were in their heyday. This city was different. The colours were all still there, baked into the cold glass everything seemed to be made from. Brilliant reds, cool blues, soothing greens, eye-watering pinks, yellows and thousands of other colours were all there, hidden just beneath the dust of ages, ready to shine again. Even a quick wipe down with a thick space glove usually revealed enough colours to make a rainbow jealous.

Over the next three weeks, Max and Teddy explored the city. In that time, they saw so many wonders in the ancient city of coloured glass. Impossibly high buildings standing on spindly legs that didn't look strong enough to hold up a picnic table. Giant empty cathedral-sized buildings with nothing holding up their rooves. Simple dwellings, where ordinary families had probably once lived. Grand avenues, tiny alleys, entrances to subways, and dangerous-looking walkways connecting the top levels of buildings. This was not a city for vertigo sufferers.

Winding throughout it all were the ever-present aqueducts. They all seemed to be fully enclosed; from a distance, Max and Teddy thought they could just make out movement inside. Could it be water? Even after three weeks of looking, they still hadn't managed to get close enough to one to find out. The aqueducts were always just out of reach, visible, but never close enough to touch.

An entry to the aqueducts wasn't the only thing they had failed to find. After carefully searching most of the city, they had utterly failed to find any sign of life or the former inhabitants.

Then they found the museum.

End of Meeting Mars Teddy Part 2

Meeting Mars Teddy

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

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