I was surprised when I was called to a meeting with the Zeppelin Corps High Command that June. My service record was without blemish, so I did not expect trouble. I was also not particularly distinguished, a promotion was unlikely.
At the time, I had been assigned to the 23rd Zeppelin Squadron at Cologne, the unit tasked with field-testing new equipment, and did not command my own zeppelin, despite my rank of captain. Rather, my personal interest in physics and optics had recommended me for work on reconnaissance equipment and the still very experimental Zeiss beam-guns. I was thus unable to fly my own vessel to Berlin. Instead, I boarded the regular courier shuttling between Berlin and Cologne.
The flight took four hours and sixteen minutes. A light westerly breeze sped our voyage. The automated clamps and grapple-hooks made mooring a matter of minutes. I still remember the old days, when I served as a young cadet. Before more precise technology became available, mooring had to be done solely by the men on the ground working together with a zeppelin’s crew. Bad weather was a real hazard. A sudden gust of wind could tear an airship loose again and the whipping ropes and chains might injure or kill members of the ground crew. But I digress.
When I arrived at Gneisenau Airfield in Berlin, a young officer, who introduced himself Lieutenant Schmidt, was already waiting to pick me up. He took my suitcase and led me to a military Benz motorcar. Ten minutes later, we entered the headquarters of our air fleet and he led me to Admiral Grewe’s Staff room.
I counted 10 people who had been waiting for me there. Three of them I knew: Admiral Grewe, his aide Schuller and Commodore Von Jagst, the head of the research devision and my direct superior. The others were three junior officers and four men in civilian clothes. I also noted a rather large and extravagant cinescope standing in a corner and wondered, what use it would have outside the private quarters of the Admiral.
Salutes and greetings were exchanged. The four civilians were all scientist from Leipzig Technical College. I do not recall their names, save for their leader, Professor Markwardt.
Admiral Grewe went straight to the point. My flawless service record, combined with my steadiness and the fact I was among the commanding officers of our Zeppelin Corps less known outside Germany had recommended me for a very special mission. At this point, one of the junior scientists switched on the cinescope and Professor Markwardt started explaining what the apparatus was showing and what it meant for the mission.
The Professor and his team had developed a device to allow a bigger machine, such as a small zeppelin, to enter the interplanetary aether. The device had already been tested on smaller objects, both manned and unmanned and a month before, a large, auto-controlled dirigible had successfully been sent into the aether and returned. The Kaiser himself had decided to waste no time and send a specially prepared zeppelin on a mission of exploration. I was to take command of this zeppelin, should I accept. I accepted. Thus, I became the commanding officer of the LZ- 1001 “Humboldt”. Although our zeppelins usually only receive a numerical designation, Professor Markwardt insisted on naming this one after the famed explorer Alexander Von Humboldt. The Professor was to be the head of the Humboldt’s science team.
The Humboldt itself was almost complete and would go on its voyage as soon as the crew was ready. I spent the following weeks familiarizing myself with my new craft and the special equipment needed to safely operate in the aether and selecting a crew.
My zeppelin was a magnificent machine, the most advanced craft we had. Air-recycling systems, a pressurized crew area, things no other zeppelin had had before.
The most mind-boggling piece of equipment of course was the aether propulsion system, Markwardt’s invention and therefor named Markwardt engine. The Professor explained its workings to me once, but it is too involved for me to remember all the details. In essence it worked like this:
The electric generators of the Humboldt created a Tesla-field around the zeppelin which interacted with the aether in subtle ways and propelled us forward. We later learned the speeds we could reach in interplanetary space were quite astonishing, but I shall come to that. The aether also has some other, more mundane qualities which helped in our endeavour.
For one reason or the other, everything is somehow lighter when suspended in the aether and it also penetrates the earth’s atmosphere to a certain degree. Since we would engage the aether-drive on a low setting right from the start, we would become lighter and need less helium for lift. This meant, were able to use part of the Humboldt’s helium-cell as extra storage space. One of the freed compartments was used as a greenhouse. It would help in air-recycling and also give the crew a taste of home. Two walls of the greenhouse were made of special glass to let the sun in. The greenhouse became everybody’s favourite off-duty place.
Part of my preparations consisted in training the use of a pressure-suit. It was a bulky thing, fashioned after the design of our navy’s diving-suits. Thick rubber and impregnated leather, a heavy helmet which pressed down uncomfortably on your shoulders after a few minutes, and a breathing-apparatus strapped to the back. The breathing-apparatus was supposed to last four hours under ideal conditions. The pressure-suits were to be used during excursions outside our zeppelin. Of course, since not all areas of the Humboldt were pressurized, some maintenance work would have to be done in them as well. The mechanics and engineers were not happy about that, but they had no choice. Walking around in a pressure-suit is easy enough. Your steps are a bit stiff but that is it. The discomfort on your shoulders is something I could easily ignore. What I found far more inconvenient were the gloves. You could not feel what you were handling with them at all. They made me clumsy. I could fully understand why the technical staff disliked having to work in them.The suits also functioned as a personal life-support back-up, in case of damage to the hull. We were o course all aware, should a massive breach of the hull occur, we would be lost. Unless we could seal off the affected section, there was little hope of getting home. For this reason, the Humboldt’s pressurized areas were divided into six bulkheaded sections, starting with the bridge and ending with the Tesla generators. Aether exploration is a lot like serving on a submarine. The moment there is a hole in your hull, you either repair it really fast, or you end up dead really fast.
On June 19th we were finally ready. All instruments had been calibrated, the equipment had been checked and re-checked. The crew was assembled, all men hand-picked by Markwardt and myself. We were especially proud to have been able to persuade the famous astronomer Carl Ernst Hartwig to become a member of our crew. In truth, he did not need much persuasion, just like we all he was eager to become one of the first men of earth to traverse the interplanetary aether.
Our first mission would be to circle the earth and if possible make a short voyage deeper into space. The one thing we should avoid while doing this was getting close to the moon. Our high command had long suspected the English of having developed some sort of antigravity device that made journeys to the moon possible. It was therefore thought the British Empire might have established a secret outpost on the Moon already. A trip to the moon by us could therefor reveal the existence of the Humboldt, something Admiral Grewe wished to avoid as long as possible.
Not knowing what to expect in the aether, the Humboldt had also been fitted with two gun-turrets, one below the gondola and one on top of the helium-cells. We also had a light automatic cannon in the bow, just below the forward observation-post. All in all, it was not much firepower, but God willing, we would not have to use our guns.
The day before the start of our expedition, Kaiser Friedrich III himself honoured us with a visit. He wished us luck and success in our epic mission that would make our fatherland proud. I am still amazed by how well our monarch has recovered and how much our medical science is able to do. While still the Crown Prince, Friedrich had become afflicted with throat cancer, a death-sentence in earlier days. Granted, the artificial, metal throat his team of English and German doctors under the leadership of this New England genius Doctor Aikley had implanted made his voice sound metallic, almost buzzing, but he was alive and well, that was all that mattered.
The visit of our beloved monarch boosted our morale even more and we all were in excellent spirits when we set course for the North Pole the next morning. Markwardt had theorized the structure of earth’s magnetic field would lead to a higher amount of aether than usual filtering down at the poles and thus help us in our ascent into space. His theory proved absolutely accurate. Our flight to the Pole took two days and was completed in sunshine. Since we started in summer, the North Pole was constantly bathed in sunlight and would remain so for the coming months.
We climbed to altitude in a wide spiral and watched as the ice beneath us grew distant. Then, we could make out the Greenland and Iceland, the curve of the Earth became visible while at the same time, more and more stars appeared in the sky. It was a truly magnificent experience. We felt humbled by our own smallness and the smallness of our planet within the cosmos. A smallness that now became apparent. Yet, we were proud to possess the means to take steps of giants and reach out into space.
I gave orders to increase the output of our aether-drive and our ascend became faster. Almost exactly two hours later we reached the altitude Professor Markwardt had calculated would be optimal for a first orbit around the earth. The view was breathtaking. The Earth truly is beautiful. A blue jewel suspended in darkness. For a while we just stood and watched, then, when Markwardt tried to pick up his notebook, we also became aware of another effect. The team from Leipzig Technical College had predicted it and it was the reason we wore heavy boots with magnetic soles: Weightlessness.
The experience was fascinating to say the least. Weightlessness caused several problems we had not expected. There was a weird kind of sea-sickness some of experienced and there was the issue of drink.
To celebrate our successful ascent into orbit, I called all the officers into my duty room for a toast. What happened when I opened the bottle of cognac I had brought for the occasion was this: Propelled by my pulling of the cork, the cognac slowly flowed out and formed a large, wobbling ball of dark amber in the middle of the room. An attempt to scoop of some of the liquid with my tumbler only resulted in the devision of the ball into several fragments and droplets. I was half afraid the ball would remain there until we went back down again, at which point the fine spirit would go to waste as a puddle on the metal floor.
Fortunately Doctor Roth, our physician, came up with the idea to use one of his syringes to extract cognac from the bubble and fill it into canteens. This worked very well and we all toasted our mission and our success in this rather unorthodox way. We also had to use up the whole of the bubble, so the common crew members also got a taste of cognac.
Later, I reported our findings to Berlin via aethergraph and was advised to return after a day in orbit. By the time we would arrive in Berlin, the workshops of Airbase Gneisenau would have produced all we needed to compensate for the problems antigravity created.
The rest of our day in orbit was spent testing the manoeuvrability of the Humboldt in space. We also powered the aether-drive up some more. It was then we noticed the immense speed we were able to achieve. It started when I pushed the speed-lever to the first marking, ¼ ahead. I was lucky to be sitting in the captain’s chair on the bridge, I merely felt the sudden acceleration press me into my seat. Orth, our navigator and my second-in-command, was swept off his feet and slammed into the table with the navigational charts. I ordered reports from every crew member and learned several had received bruises. Bauer, one of our machinists, had been pushed into the coal-feeder of the back-up steam engine. His right hand had been so badly mauled, it would most likely need to be replaced.
His injuries were not life-threatening and Doctor Roth sedated him for the rest of our short excursion.
By meassuring the time it now took us to go once around the Earth at our altitude, we could now calculate our speed. We were astonished by the results and checked it twice, each time with the same result. At ¼ power, we were going at roughly 18 times the speed of sound. I consulted with Markwardt about powering up more. He was just as eager to test the full capability of the aether-drive as I was. We waited until our position had the Earth exactly between us and the moon. I gave orders for everyone to strap themselves into their seats, then I very slowly pushed the speed-lever up to half, then on to ¾ power. I could feel the acceleration push and tear on me and the Humboldt started vibrating under the stress but finally, acceleration stopped and watched the Earth shrink slowly into the distance. After so blasting through interplanetary space for an hour, I gave order to decelerate slowly and calculate the speed we had attained. Markwardt and immediately began measuring our speed by the apparent shrinkage of our home planet and fed the data into the navigational Babbage device of the bridge. Again he recalculated and finally declared we were travelling at about 5% the speed of light. He also recommended not accelerating further. The stress on the Humboldt’s structure may have well become too great. Something else was happening in the aether. Accelerating so much in such a short time should have crushed us, yet, we were still alive. The aether held more strange properties than anyone had thought.
We had been at our position for several minutes, I had sent our engineers to check on the aether-engine and the support structure, when Hartwig pointed our attention to something visible against the bubble of the Tesla-field. There is no easy way to describe what we saw. It was large, maybe 20 metres in overall length and of radial geometry. The general shape was that of a flower, but there was something wrong, alien and even evil about it. A dark denizen of the aether. It appeared to be probing the bubble. We trained the lower gun-turret on it, should it attack. This precaution proved unnecessary. It vanished again after a few minutes, during which Hartwig was able to take a few rather blurry photographs of it. My guess is, they can be found in the archives of the Abwehr, our secret service.
Unwilling to risk attracting more creatures like it, we engaged the engines and returned to Earth. We descended from above the North Pole and flew back to Berlin, stopping briefly at Hamburg Airbase, since it had the medical facility closest to our route. We got Bauer off the Humboldt there and flew on to Gneisenau Airfield.
Back at our base, we reported our findings in detail and handed the photographic plates of the aether creature over for further analysis. With this mission completed, we all got a week’s leave, while our equipment was updated and the effects of the aether on the zeppelin were checked. I met with Orth, Markwardt and Hartwig on several occasions to discuss possible scenarios for our next mission.
Everything from scouting the moon for a British base to an expedition to the rings of Saturn was taken into consideration but the two most prized locations in the solar system were out off reach: Mars and Venus both were on the other side of the sun, so it was unlikely we would go there next. I was disappointed to learn this, but there was no denying the celestial mechanics.
On the fourth day, Admiral Grewe called the officers and the scientists of the Humboldt to an informal dinner in the evening. As informal as you can get in our military.
During the course of the dinner, he informed us about our next destination. Since Mars and Venus were, as we already knew, out off easy reach, we would head for the next best alternative: The asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. Although Mercury had also been taken into consideration, its proximity to the sun made it to hazardous right now. A later expedition would take us or another aetherflight-capable zeppelin there. The aether research team at Leipzig Technical College, whose head Markwardt was, had speculated the aether around Mercury would be too hot for us to navigate in. This would have to be tested by a craft making a slow approach, which would take time and this was something we did not have. The Kaiser wanted to see results quickly.
The asteroid belt it was, then. More precisely, we were to fly to Ceres. The dwarf planet was in an excellent position for us to reach in about a week’s time, if all went well. The astronomers of Berlin University had already plotted a course for us, complete with instructions for our navigational Babbage engine.
We would claim Ceres for the Empire and establish an outpost for further exploration, if possible. This was our primary mission. Secondarily, we were to collect samples of rock, ice, soil and life, if we found any, for study back on Earth.
So, before sunrise on the morning of June 25th, we set out for the greatest voyage humanity had ever attempted.
Interplanetary travel is a surprisingly monotonous affair. I guess Columbus and Magellan must have felt similarly bored while traversing the oceans of Earth. We were surrounded by the dark void, the glow of the Tesla-field obscuring the stars and depriving us of the possibility to study them. It was only during the times when the generators were switched off for maintenance that the full splendour of our Galaxy became apparent to us. Doctor Hartwig was moved to tears the first time he gazed through his telescope from interplanetary space deeper into space.
We also speculated what we might find in the asteroid belt. Of course we all hoped to find asteroids covered with diamonds or made of gold, but Kuhn, our Geologist cautioned us not to expect too much. Although, he said, it could be possible asteroids of pure gold may actually float about in the asteroid belt, our chances of finding one were about the same as winning the lottery twice in a row.
I also made sure the monotony did not erode discipline. Every watch received time in the greenhouse and I made it clear, whoever was found not taing their duties seriously would be severely punished. This applied specifically to the gun crews and sentries.
Not wanting to repeat the experience we had on our first sojourn into space, we constantly watched the space around our Zeppelin for signs of creatures and had the upper gun-turret manned around the clock. Our precautions proved unnecessary. I think our speed was too great for the creature or creatures to match.
After two uneventful weeks we caught a first glimpse of our destination. Ceres appeared as a dirty ball of ice and dust, mostly white or grey with darker patches. After Hartwig had informed me about Ceres‘ appearance in our telescopes, I took a few glances myself, but left the detailed initial observations to our scientists. I retired to my quarters to write my diary and rest for the undoubtably taxing days ahead. I fancied we would try to touch down on Ceres and venture about on its surface. I even drew a few fanciful sketches, depicting me scaling a mountain on the planet’s surface. My musings were disturbed when Professor Markwardt burst into my cabin. He was quite agitated and for a moment I thought he would grab me.
We had drawn significantly closer to Ceres by then and our excellent telescopes were now able to pick up details of its surface. Some of the darker spots appeared to be seas of some thick, dark liquid and Markwardt speculated some lighter patches could actually be forests of some unknown kind of fungoid or plant life. We took turns that night observing the asteroid, eager for more details to become visible. No clouds were obscuring our view and we noticed Ceres‘ very slight rotation.
It took three more days until we saw significantly more details, though. Since we were now closing in on a large celestial object, we had to slow our approach or risk smashing into it. So it was with far less speed, we closed the final gap separating us from Ceres.
I am still astounded by how much our atmosphere actually impedes observing the skies. Ceres had no such atmosphere and consequently, nothing to obscure the features on its surface. There were just a few higher mountains but a number of lakes and some deep ridges. The lakes were in deed filled with a thick, dark liquid, we speculated it could be oil, and most of the surface was covered with whitish growth.
Drawing even closer, we realised the whitish vegetation was mostly fungoid, with patches glowing in various hues of pale yellow, blue and green. At one point, we were already circling around the planetoid, one of the sentries, Bootsmann Scheffler, reported seeing a strangely coloured mist rise from below, only to vanish again in the shadows of the fungus patches. No other sentry nor he reported something similar again. We also could not make out anything actually moving down there, even after lowering the Humboldt to about 50 metres above ground.
We waited for another six hours, always watchful of things below on the surface, but saw nothing move. I then selected five men who would go down onto Ceres with me. The were Kuhn, our geologist, Wegge, Doctor Roth’s assistant, since our physician did not fancy going down at all, Lieutenants Altmann and Sander, two experienced infantry soldiers, and, of course, Doctor Markwardt.
We were helped into our pressure-suits, each one received a sturdy knife and a Gauss gun. Since our normal firearms were unlikely to work in the near-vacuum outside, we had to rely on this new invention. A battery-powered magnetic acceleration-gun. It could propel metal shards at significant speed but had only enough energy for three shots. We all hoped we would not need it.
The scouting party under my command climbed into the transport cage and we were lowered down onto the surface of Ceres. Below, we unrolled the Imperial flag and raised it on a telescopic pole we had brought for the occasion, thus claiming Ceres for the Kaiser.
Then we started exploring this newest and most remote part of the Empire. Ceres is large enough to have some gravity, if very little. Walking around was almost like flying. In fact, we would be able to jump from its surface back to the Humboldt, hovering about 20 metres above the surface, should this be necessary.
We marvelled at the strange, faintly white luminescent vegetation. It was ugly, mouldy growth, covering the rocky surface like fine dust, crunching under our boots. In places, sickly coloured stems and whip-like blades of undefinable colour swayed as if moved by an alien, etherial wind.
Since we only had a limited supply of air, we decided to split up, to cover as much ground as possible, collect a few samples of the vegetation, some rock and if possible an animal, should we encounter one.
Kuhn and I made our way in the direction we had designated “west” and followed a broad fissure he speculated had been caused by a collision between Ceres and another asteroid. The glow of the alien vegetation changed from the earlier sickly colours to a dim blueish green, almost reminiscent of light under the sea. A few minutes later we first caught site of something truly unexpected: Artificial structures. To call them buildings would not do them justice. It was only due to the things we would find inside we recognized them for what they were.
Before us appeared a cluster of what first seemed to be the shells of some kind of titanic molluscs. Curved, spiralled and somewhat bent conical shapes, about 10 metres high and about 7 metres diameter at the the base. They, too, were covered with the blue mouldy growth and looked as if they had sprouted from Ceres‘ surface. We counted six domes. Only two had openings we could see and those were created by decay, seismic forces or rock crashing down from the dark sky.
The easiest hole for us to reach and climb through was about four metres from the ground, so I could easily jump up there. Cautiously I tried, so as not to jump too high and propel myself into the overhanging top of the structure. After the third attempt, I got a grip on the edges of the accidental window and pulled myself up. The window opened a view into a room also infested and illuminated by the omnipresent fungal growth.
It was a large, rounded, almost spherical chamber. Along the walls, spaced rather evenly, stood and lay what I thought to be boxes, chests or sarcophagi, some upright, but most lying on the floor. The far wall was also covered with strange protrusions and spikes, the pattern and exact shape I simply cannot describe. I turned away, dizzied, and waved for Kuhn to jump up as well. With one leap, he came up, I grabbed his outstretched arm and pulled him in.
Together, we took a closer look at our discovery. I used my knife to scratch some of the mouldy dust off the surface of one of the boxes, while Kuhn inspected the strange pattern on the wall.
The boxes, I labeled them thus because of their size and shape, were made of some peculiar green-brown material. It reminded me of a cross between jade and wood. The edges, as far as I could scrape them free of dust, were edged with some confusing geometrical shapes which gave the impression of wanting to jump out at the observer.
The patch of the top surface I managed to clear of mould appeared simply polished, my knife was unable to make a scratch into it, but without further edgings. Then, Kuhn’s voice came through the aetherphone in my helmet. He had discovered something about the strange spikes. He shone the light of his torch on a patch he had gotten somewhat clean and moved the torch from left to right. Some bizarre shadows, strange shapes, maybe the former inhabitants of this place, appeared and a fragment of a scene seemed to play out. The scene played backward and forward with the moving light of the torch.
We marvelled at this display of an undoubtably advanced civilisation but then noticed we had to turn back soon, so we started looking around for something we could take with us. Since there was no apparent connection to another room, I guess doors were hidden by the omnipresent glowing vegetation, we tried our luck with one of the upright boxes. After some rocking and pushing we managed to topple it over. Hitting the floor, what must have been some kind of door sprang open on its side and revealed something greyish that seemed to consist entirely of caked dust. We were disappointed with our find, until Kuhn noticed something metallic sticking out of the side of the grey mass. He managed to pull it free, causing quite some dust to spill on the floor. It was about the size of a revolver, matted black and obviously not made for human hands. We could not even tell if it was a weapon, tool, or piece of alien art. Its form made no sense to us at all. Kuhn put it in his satchel and together we jumped down unto the surface of Ceres again made our way back.
We were the first to arrive at the assembly point but did not have long to wait for Altmann and Wegge to join us. They had only been able to collect some rock samples, and were quite envious of our discovery of buildings and signs of a dead civilisation.
Markwardt and Sander did not show up at the agreed time.
We had waited another half hour, 32 minutes to be precise, when Sander came half running and half stumbling to the assembly point. Markwardt was missing. Sander gestured and mouthed something, but was not using his aetherphone. I grabbed him and tried to shake some sense back into him, but he just collapsed. I shone my flashlight into his face behind the glass screen. His eyes were wide, the face pale; catatonia. Kuhn and me dragged him into the transport cage.
Our air-supplies were already running low, we had only about 30 minutes left, so I ordered everyone back up. Kuhn and I then went down again after having our oxygen-tanks replaced. Doctor Roth administered a dose of morphine to Sander and put him in his cabin.
We went in search of Markwardt, but it was no use. We were unsure where exactly they had gone scouting and after an hour cautiously probing into the direction Sander had appeared from, gave up. Even if Markwardt had still been alive when Sander returned, his oxygen would now have long run out.
I would question Sander the next day and then lead a party to recover Markwardt’s body. At the very least he should be buried in German soil.
It was about 22:00 board time, I was updating the report for the high command, when a shot rang through the Humboldt. I immediately rushed out from my duty room into the central hallway. Several of my crew members soon joined me, some of them with their guns already drawn. Then, Roth and Wegge hurried down the corridor, towards the crew quarters. Roth soon returned. He reported Sander had woken from his morphine-induced sleep and shot himself in the head with his pistol.
He theorized Sander and Markwardt must have encountered some kind of plant or fungus down there on Ceres. Something that emitted some form of miasmic dust or mist, able to penetrate our suits. It poisoned and killed Markwardt while Sander, receiving less of it, had horrible hallucinations, causing him to commit suicide.
I had no reason to doubt his assessment of the situation and proceeded to report our situation to High Command back in Berlin.
We had to wait until noon the following day until orders came. Since Ceres posed an incalculable risk right now, we were to return to Earth and receive better suits to protect us from the miasmas of this dark asteroid. Then, we would mount a second expedition with more men and equipment and explore the asteroid, its forgotten civilization and artefacts for the Empire.
We immediately set course to Earth, engaged the æther-drive and began our three-weeks journey back home.
I allowed myself to settle into routine and went through the motions of commanding a zeppelin during an uneventful flight. The first night of our journey back home brought the first strange dreams. I cannot remember anything specific about them. Only distorted perspective and a feeling of being too tall and then too small. I awoke drenched in sweat but thought nothing of it. Just a nightmare.
The next day passed without incident and I retired into our little garden rather early. I must have nodded off there, because I remember stumbling confused to the door after another nightmare. I went straight to Doctor Roth and told him what was going on. Roth called the other surviving members of the scouting party and asked, if any of them had similar nightmares or other weird experiences. They all denied this. Roth told me not to worry and gave me a tonic to help me sleep. That night was free of nightmares, but weird. I only managed a nervous half-sleep. Several times I had the sickening sensation something was reaching out through the void towards me. On one occasion I felt like someone was watching me from inside my head.
My last memory on board the Humboldt is of me getting dressed, and walking down the corridor towards the bridge. Then my surrounding changed, I heard myself shouting inside my head, without making an actual sound, for what I had turned into does not possess a voice as we know it. This was 11 months ago to the day. I have adjusted to my new me and my surroundings.
I have also learned the scientist and explorer of this age, who pushed my mind out of my body and into this gigantic conical monstrosity, has perished while exploring the structures we found on Ceres.
Whatever else lurked there, it was something even the members of this magnificent race were ill-prepared for. Or maybe it was a simple accident, a cave-in or an earthquake that led to his demise. Now, I am trapped here, in this city on the continent that will one day be called Australia. I am separated by unimaginably vast chasms of time from my own age. All that remains is provide my hosts with a tale of my time.