The remainder of our journey was uneventful and we whiled away the time working through our routines. By the time the monotony began to rub nerves raw, Mars began to grow in the window. As we looked at the red planet, one of the men asked, “So where are the two moons?” I responded, “do you see those two small stars near the planet? Those are the moons.” The men were surprised that they looked nothing like our own moon.
Soon Mars loomed large in the ship’s window. The surface features became more pronounced every period. The mountain ranges appeared, then the swamps. Next, the canals came into view and I knew we were mere days away. I spent time trying to locate Ceraunius, my station. Based on my maps, I identified a spot on the surface of the planet that I suspected was my destination. After conferring with Captain Thorpe, I was gratified to learn that my reckoning was correct and I had, in fact, identified my post.
The captain invited me into the pilot’s cabin to observe the landing operation. I accepted the invitation and followed Thorpe into the small compartment. Once inside, I saw a bewildering array of dials, knobs, and levers. The captain called out orders that I did not comprehend then the crewmen moved handles, turned knobs, and manipulated other apparatus on the panels.
We entered the atmosphere gently. I looked from horizon to horizon and saw no clouds. I knew this would be the case, but I still found it amazing. A sky with no clouds seemed lacking beyond description. The lack of weather, other than wind was going to take some getting used to. We arrived on Mars at the beginning of its spring, but being so far north, it would be months before the effects of the season would be fully felt.
As we descended, I could see more details of the city and its surroundings that was to be my home. Ceraunius is situated at the conjunction of five canals. It is laid out in a circular pattern with the hub at the juncture of those canals. It appeared that the warehouse district was at the center of the city, then what appeared to be shops and manufacturers, and finally housing for the workers. The streets were all a-bustle with activity.
I noticed a structure off to one side of the city that we seemed to be steering toward. I asked the Captain about our apparent destination. “That, Mr. Roosevelt, is your station”, he said. It is located between the Thyanis and Leontes canals with the Phlegra Montes as a backdrop. To the south could be seen the western volcano group. At present, all three were inactive. The structure that was my post, forms a hollow square of four towers connected by slightly lower corridors. This is typical Martian construction and makes for a strong and eminently defensible fortification.
We came to a stop just outside of the fort. Before the doors were opened, the Captain addressed us. “Men, it’s been a pleasure transporting you to your new post. Before you step outside, be aware that the force of gravity on Mars is much less than it is on Earth. I have, over the course of our journey, reduced the gravity within the ship. However, you will still find the experience of working and moving outside the vessel a little… strange. So take it slowly until you get used to the “Feel” of your new home.”
The men only half-heartedly heeded the Captain’s warning with humorous results. Private Tyree was the first out of the ship. He nonchalantly hopped off the platform. However, his small leap propelled him higher and farther than he expected. As a result, on the way down, he pitched forward and landed on his head and left shoulder. Once the men stopped laughing, Quinncanon edged out the door. He would not pick up his feet and shuffled out the door like a ninety year old man. Once out the door, he lunged for the handrail. He caught the rail and flipped on over. On the way to the ground, he cracked his skull on the lower rail, but managed to land on his feet.
At this point, I determined that I had better show the men how to exit the craft, otherwise we’d be at this all day. I knew that the Captain had been adjusting the gravity, so I had been adjusting my stride to compensate for the weakening gravity. Therefore, I was able to walk out the door with confidence. The rest of the men took my lead and we were able to disembark with only a few minor incidents.
We spent the rest of the day unloading both of the ships. Fortunately, I had three platoons of men already on station to help with the legwork. I set up two “bucket brigades”, one from each ship. These led into the storehouse of the fort. The work of unloading was much easier than loading. Of course, this was due to the lesser gravity of Mars. But even with the lesser effects of the gravity, the men were pretty well worn out by the end of the day.