GRAY STONE chiselled into precise blocks lay scattered across the otherwise rust-red landscape. It wasn’t the first time we had seen a rock formation that appeared to be man-made during this mission but there was something deeply troubling about this one. So much so, that I couldn’t just sit there and take notes, I needed to feed this up the chain of command.
I figured I best call in the chief to take a closer look.
“Waking me up at this hour, it better be good” It was past 02:00 and, while I was working the night shift, my boss, the Chief Pilot, was strictly daytime operations. My role as the third assistant pilot was to carry out a preliminary survey of incoming visual data to feed into the developing flight plans for the next day of operations. It was not my job to make trouble for the brass but what else could I do in the circumstances?
“I’m really sorry, Frank, but I think you need to see this for yourself before it gets out to the media.”
Once I told him what I had seen, and convinced him it was for real, Frank was in the survey room with a big mug of coffee in less than 20 minutes.
“Okay, let’s see what you got, Mike.”
I walked him through the sequence as the ‘copter was flown over the target site. I took Frank through the low-definition preliminary images, frame by frame, to make sure he could appreciate what we were looking at. I stopped at the frames that showed the blocks of what looked like concrete foundations. Of course, it couldn’t have been. Nevertheless, I took Frank through the whole sequence.
“You see those blocks now? With such regular topography, there is no way they could have been produced by volcanic activity.”
“Well how do you think they got there then? Somebody dropped them from a passing truck?”
“I can’t explain it, Frank, but it’s not just that they look man-made, you wait until you see the next sequence.”
I had already downloaded the high-def images, which took over an hour, but it would be worth it. Once I had Frank’s attention, I would zoom in to a drum roll and gasps of “wow!”
“There it is Frank. See it?”
At first, he scoffed then, as I zoomed in, he was silent. I carried on running through the sequence, frame by frame.
“See it now Frank? Is that, or is that not, an oak leaf.”
“How in hell’s name could it be an oak leaf, Mike, with the nearest damn oak tree 350 million Ks away?”
“That’s what I thought, Frank, but what else could it be?”
“Mike, we are looking at visual flight data from Ingenuity on Mars. It must be something that just looks like a leaf.”
“Again, that’s what I thought but wait until you see this.”
As I showed him the final sequence, I could see his eyes widen. There it was, in full, high-definition detail. Not only did it look like an oak leaf but, when Ingenuity’s rotors hit it with a downdraft, the leaf lifted up and rotated several times, showing every detail of the fallen foliage, right down to the regular pattern of holes produced by the larvae of the oak processionary moth.
“You’d better impound all the data from the flight download and slap a presidential order on it. We ain’t never gonna explain this away in the morning media brief. As far as you and I are concerned, this conversation never happened and the data from yesterday’s flight was lost in transit. Got it?"
* * * * *
This story, the events and the characters within it, are entirely fictional and any resemblance to real individuals is unintended.
© Raymond G. Taylor, 2022, all rights reserved. The author has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work.
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About the Creator
Author based in Kent, England. A writer of fictional short stories in a wide range of genres, he has been a non-fiction writer since the 1980s. Non-fiction subjects include art, history, technology, business, law, and the human condition.