It took the three astronauts a full ten minutes to stop cursing, the Russians had beaten them to Mars. Staring down at the flag adorning the half buried lander, Captain Denver felt only fury. Decades of research had gone into their mission, and for what, to arrive only to discover they had been beaten there. Not only that, but they hadn’t even announced it, were they deliberating trying to embarrass NASA? He frowned, that didn’t make sense, Russia weren’t that subtle, if they had reached Mars first they would have told the world and claimed all the accompanying glory.
Something wasn’t right here, what about the cosmonauts he thought, had they returned? Clicking on his radio he sent a transmission back to NASA. “Flight control this is Captain Denver, can you confirm no manned Russian craft have returned from space in the last few years? We’ve located some suspicious equipment up here.” He didn’t want to confirm that the Russian’s had beat them to Mars without doing some investigative work first, something didn’t sit right.
It was a 40-50 minute round trip for the transmission, so in the meantime he decided they could have a look round. Ordering his two fellow astronauts to explore the area for any more clues as to this mysterious Russian landing, he began shifting through the parts near the lander. After about 15 minutes of searching he stumbled across some sort of recording device in a small crater not far from the lander, he imagined it had been attached to one of the cosmonaut’s space suits, but how had it become detached? And why would they leave it here?
Calling his colleagues over, they both crowded round him as he fiddled with the camera, hoping that it still worked. As luck would have it Russian engineering proved to be very sturdy and the camera switched on, there was one file on it, about 35 minutes long. Pressing play his colleagues eagerly moved either side of him to get a better view.
Sure enough the view proved very quickly that the Russians had indeed beat them to Mars, as they watched them exit the lander and celebrate on the Martian surface. Annoying as this was the astronauts were now for more intrigued about what happened to their Russian counterparts, and so they remained quiet and continued to watch the tape.
After exploring the area for a while, suddenly an ear piercing scream came over their radio. Fearing their comrade was in trouble the two other Russians moved as fast as they could to where they had last seen him, but he was nowhere to be found. Scanning the area all they could see was a red barren wasteland, there was no trace of their friend anywhere. The Russian Captain seemed to be about to radio a report back to Earth when a second scream reverberated through his radio. Twisting round he was just in time to see the hand of his other colleague disappear below the sand. He ran over and started to dig, hoping he could grab the hand and pull him back up, but it was no use, he was gone too.
Now alone on the red planet the Russian Captain was breathing heavily, he didn’t seem to understand what had happened to his comrades, he just kept looking down at the ground in confusion. Until a strange pair of red hands reached up out of the soil beneath his feet and grasped his legs in a vice like grip. As Captain Denver watched the video his eyes went wide, as he imagined the Russian Captain’s had as well. A scream unlike anything he had heard before could be heard as the hands, as quickly as they had come, returned back below the shifting red sands, pulling the Russian Captain with them.
It wasn’t until the picture faded to black however that the Captain realised the scream hadn’t just come from the video, it had come from his colleagues as well. Looking left and right he was filled with horror as he saw only the open expanses of Mars before him…they were gone.
It was at that moment that he received a return message from earth, “Confirmed Captain, no manned Russian craft have returned from space in the last few years, what have you found up there?”
The Russians had never told anyone they made it to Mars because nobody ever returned, and he knew as he felt those same hands slide over his ankles and pull him down, that no one ever would.