My hands look odd, long and lumpy fingers. Strong fingers. This is the first thing I acknowledge after opening my eyes on the new training field. Everything around is red. I am on a kind of caldera limiting the horizon to only a few kilometres. Somewhere in front of me a volcanic cone is towering over everything else, the only visible thing outside the crater trap. I switch my attention back to my body. The same weird look as my fingers. I am tall, very tall, difficult to estimate, maybe more than two and half meters. I lost the battle with Houston about genetic transformations on alien planets after she let slip to me that this already happened -several times in previous training trips.
I start to move and a red dust floats after each step. “Is this Mars?” I ask my invisible Cerberus.
“Yes” her slightly amused figure materializes in front of me. In her coded message the thin smile is a mix of approval of my past training and ‘waiting to see’ how I will solve the next puzzle.
“What temporal period?”
“Many thousands of years in the past.” The same evasive answer I receive each time she considers the information too sensitive for my brain. Thus I start to consider a possible danger around me.
“What place is this?”
“I know that name.”
“Yes, a rover mission will land here in several months. Earth time of course.”
“Yes, a spark of human imagination. The name, I mean.”
“I can breathe, I have no oxygen mask.”
“Mars was once inhabited. Harsh environment but life has strength. With these new lungs you can sleep an hour under water.”
“What is different? I still look very human. I suppose that I am so tall due to the lower gravity. I feel my body as normal. No strange sensations or unnatural powers.”
“There is nothing unnatural in life. Specialized haemoglobin, long term adaptation to this harsh environment. Yes, you are human as every civilization in this galaxy is.”
“Why are you staying with me?”
“I can leave if you feel me a burden.”
“It is not this; I have a sensation of danger. I cannot explain it. This is not my first trip to another planet yet something is wrong. Your presence here tells the same story.”
“It is up to you to figure out if there is something or not.” Helpful as always. I am sure she read my thought but didn’t bother to answer. Neither I was to continue.
Somewhere in front of me there are some strange ruins. Very decrepit, very old, almost a sandy mound, many thousands of years – an uneducated guess. The obvious point to start with and also the suggesting that NASA knows about them, or at least has some information about strange things existing in this crater.