فصل 12کتاب: مریخی / فصل 12
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Chapter 12 Watney slept peacefuly in his bunk. He shifted slightly as some pleasant dream put a smile on his face. The previous day had been
particularly labor-intensive, so he slept deeper and better than he had in a long time.
“Good morning crew!” Lewis caled out. “It’s a brand new day! Up and at ‘em!”
Watney added his voice to a chorus of groans.
“Come on,” Lewis prodded, “no bit@hing. You got 40 minutes more sleep than you would’ve on Earth.”
Martinez was first out of his bunk. An Air-Force man, he could match Lewis’s Navy schedule with ease. “Morning, Commander,” he
Johanssen sat up, but made no further move toward the harsh world outside her blankets. A career software-engineer, mornings were
never her forte.
Vogel slowly lumbered from his bunk, checking his watch. He wordlessly puled on his jumpsuit, smoothing out what wrinkles he could.
He sighed inwardly at the grimy feeling of another day without a shower.
Watney turned away from the noise, hugging a pilow to his head. “Noisy people go away,” he mumbled.
“Beck!” Martinez caled out, shaking the mission’s doctor. “Rise and shine, bud!”
“Yeah, ok,” Beck said blearily.
Johanssen fel out of her bunk, then remained on the floor.
Puling the pilow from Watney’s hands, Lewis said “Let’s move, Watney! Uncle Sam paid $100,000 for every second we’l be here.”
“Bad woman take pilow,” Watney groaned, unwiling to open his eyes.
“Back on Earth, I’ve tipped 200-pound men out of their bunks. Want to see what I can do in 0.4g?”
“No, not realy,” Watney said, sitting up.
Having rousted the troops, Lewis sat at the comm station to check overnight messages from Houston.
Watney shuffled to the ration cupboard and grabbed a breakfast at random.
“Hand me an ‘eggs’, wil ya,” Martinez said.
“You can tel the difference?” Watney said, passing Martinez a pack.
“Not realy,” Martinez said.
“Beck, what’l you have?” Watney continued.
“Don’t care,” Beck said. “Give me whatever.”
Watney tossed a pack to him.
“Vogel, your usual sausages?”
“Ja, please,” Vogel responded.
“You know you’re a stereotype, right?”
“I am comfortable with that,” Vogel replied, taking the proffered breakfast.
“Hey Sunshine,” Watney caled to Johanssen. “Eating breakfast today?”
“Mnrrn,” Johanssen grunted.
“Pretty sure that’s a no,” Watney guessed.
The crew ate in silence. Johanssen eventualy trudged to the ration cupboard and got a coffee packet. Clumsily adding hot water, she
sipped it until wakefulness crept in.
“Mission updates from Houston,” Lewis said. “Satelites show a storm coming, but we can do surface ops before it gets here. Vogel,
Martinez, you’l be with me outside. Johanssen, you’re stuck tracking weather reports. Watney, your soil experiments are bumped up to
today. Beck, run the samples from yesterday’s EVA through the spectrometer.”
“Should you realy go out with a storm on the way?” Beck asked.
“Houston authorized it,” Lewis said.
“Seems needlessly dangerous.”
“Coming to Mars was needlessly dangerous,” Lewis said. “What’s your point?”
Beck shrugged. “Just be careful.”
Three figures looked eastward. Their bulky EVA suits rendered them nearly identical. Only the European Union flag on Vogel’s
shoulder distinguished him from Lewis and Martinez, who donned the Stars and Stripes.
The darkness to the east undulated and flickered in the rays of the rising sun.
“The storm.” Vogel said in his accented English. “It is closer than Houston reported.”
“We’ve got time,” Lewis said. “Focus on the task at hand. This EVA’s al about chemical analysis. Vogel, you’re the chemist, so
you’re in charge of what we dig up.”
“Ja,” Vogel said. “Please dig 30 centimeters and get soil samples. At least 100 grams each. Very important is 30 centimeters down.”
“Wil do.” Lewis said. “Stay within 100 meters of the Hab,” she added.
“Mm,” Vogel said.
“Yes, Ma’am,” said Martinez.
They split up. Greatly improved since the days of Apolo, Ares EVA suits alowed much more freedom of motion. Digging, bending
over, and bagging samples were trivial tasks.
After a time, Lewis asked “How many samples do you need?”
“Seven each, perhaps?”
“That’s fine,” Lewis confirmed. “I’ve got four so far.”
“Five here,” Martinez said. “Of course, we can’t expect the Navy to keep up with the Air Force, now can we?”
“So that’s how you want to play it?” Lewis said.
“Just cal ‘em as I see ‘em Commander.”
“Johanssen here,” came the sysop’s voice over the radio. “Houston’s upgraded the storm to ‘severe’. It’s going to be here in 15
“Back to base,” Lewis said.
The Hab shook in the roaring wind as the astronauts huddled in the center. Al six of donned their EVA suits in case of a breach.
Johanssen watched her laptop while the rest watched her.
“Sustained winds over 100kph now,” she said. “Gusting to 125.”
“Jesus, we’re gonna end up in Oz,” Watney said. “What’s the abort windspeed?”
“Technicaly 150kph,” Martinez said. “Any more than that and the MAV’s in danger of tipping.”
“Any predictions on the storm track?” Lewis asked.
“This is the edge of it,” Johanssen said, staring at her screen. “It’s gonna get worse before it gets better.”
The Hab canvas rippled under the brutal assault as the internal supports bent and shivered with each gust. The cacophony grew louder
by the minute.
“Al right,” Lewis said. “Prep for abort. We’l go to the MAV and hope for the best. If the wind gets too high, we’l launch.”
Leaving the Hab in pairs, they grouped up outside airlock 1. The driving wind and sand battered them, but they were able to stay on
“Visibility is almost zero,” Lewis said. “If you get lost, home in on my suit’s telemetry. The wind’s gonna be rougher away from the
Hab, so be ready.”
Pressing through the gale, they stumbled toward the MAV.
“Hey,” Watney panted, “Maybe we could shore up the MAV. Make tipping less likely.”
“How?” Lewis huffed.
“We could use cables from the solar farm as guy lines.” He wheezed for a few moments, then continued. “The rovers could be anchors.
The trick would be getting the line around the-“
Flying wreckage slammed Watney, carrying him off in to the wind.
“Watney!” Johanssen exclaimed.
“What happened?” Lewis said.
“Something hit him!” Johanssen reported.
“Watney, report,” Lewis said.
“Watney, report,” Lewis repeated.
Again, she was met with silence.
“He’s offline,” Johanssen reported. “I don’t know where he is!”
“Commander,” Beck said, “Before we lost telemetry, his decompression alarm went off!”
“sh@t!” Lewis exclaimed. “Johanssen where did you last see him?”
“He was right in front of me and then he was gone,” she said. “He flew off due west.”
“Ok,” Lewis said. “Martinez, get to the MAV and prep for launch. Everyone else, home in on Johanssen.”
“Doctor Beck,” Vogel said as he stumbled through the storm, “How long can a person survive decompression?”
“Less than a minute,” Beck said, emotion choking his voice.
“I can’t see anything,” Johanssen said as the crew crowded around her.
“Line up and walk west,” Lewis commanded. “Smal steps. He’s probably prone; we don’t want to step over him.”
Staying in sight of one another, they trudged through the chaos.
Martinez fel in to the MAV airlock and forced it closed against the wind. Once it pressurized he quickly doffed his suit. Climbing the
ladder to the crew compartment, he slid in to the pilot’s couch and booted the system.
Grabbing the emergency-launch checklist with one hand, he flicked switches rapidly with the other. One by one, the systems reported
flight-ready status. As they came online, he noted one in particular.
“Commander,” he radioed, “The MAV’s got a 7 degree tilt. It’l tip at 12.3.”
“Copy that,” Lewis said.
“Johanssen,” Beck said, looking at his arm computer, “Watney’s bio-monitor sent something before going offline. My computer just
says ‘Bad Packet.’”
“I have it, too,” Johanssen said. “It didn’t finish transmitting. Some data’s missing and there’s no checksum. Gimme a sec.”
“Commander,” Martinez said. “Message from Houston. We’re officialy scrubbed. The storm’s definitely gonna be too rough.”
“Copy,” Lewis said.
“They sent that four and a half minutes ago,” Martinez continued, “while looking at satelite data from nine minutes ago.”
“Understood,” Lewis said. “Continue prepping for launch.”
“Copy,” Martinez said.
“Beck,” Johanssen said. “I have the raw packet. It’s plaintext: BP 0, PR 0, TP 36.2. That’s as far as it got.”
“Copy,” Beck said morosely. “Blood pressure 0, pulse rate 0, temperature normal.”
The channel fel silent for some time. They continued pressing forward, shuffling through the sandstorm, hoping for a miracle.
“Temperature normal?” Lewis said, a hint of hope in her voice.
“It takes a while for the-“ Beck stammered. “It takes a while to cool.”
“Commander,” Martinez said. “Tilting at 10.5 degrees now, with gusts pushing it to 11.”
“Copy,” Lewis said. “Are you at pilot-release?”
“Affirmative,” Martinez replied. “I can launch any time.”
“If it tips, can you launch before it fals completely over?”
“Uh,” Martinez said, not expecting the question. “Yes Ma’am. I’d take manual control and go ful throttle. Then I’d nose up and return
to pre-programmed ascent.”
“Copy that,” Lewis said. “Everyone home in on Martinez’s suit. That’l get you to the MAV airlock. Get in and prep for launch.”
“What about you, Commander?” Beck asked.
“I’m searching a little more. Get moving. And Martinez, if you start to tip, launch.”
“You realy think I’l leave you behind?” Martinez said.
“I just ordered you to,” Lewis replied. “You three, get to the ship.”
They reluctantly obeyed Lewis’s order, and made their way toward the MAV. The punishing wind fought them every step of the way.
Unable to see the ground, Lewis shuffled forward. Remembering something, she reached to her back and got a pair of rock-dril bits.
She had added the 1-meter bits to her equipment that morning, anticipating geological sampling later in the day. Holding one in each hand, she dragged them along the ground as she walked.
After 20 meters, she turned around and walked the opposite direction. Walking a straight line proved to be impossible. Not only did
she lack visual references, the endless wind pushed her off course. The sheer volume of attacking sand buried her feet with each step.
Grunting, she pressed on.
Beck, Johanssen, and Vogel squeezed in to the MAV airlock. Designed for two, it could be used by three in emergencies. As it
equalized, Lewis’s voice came over the radio.
“Johanssen,” she said. “Would the rover IR camera do any good?”
“Negative,” Johanssen replied. “IR can’t get through sand any better than visible light.”
“What’s she thinking?” Beck asked after removing his helmet. “She’s a geologist. She knows IR can’t get through a sandstorm.”
“She is grasping,” Vogel said, opening the inner door. “We must get to the couches. Please hurry.”
“I don’t feel good about this,” Beck said.
“Neither do I, Doctor,” said Vogel, climbing the ladder. “But the Commander has given us orders. Insubordination wil not help.”
“Commander,” Martinez radioed, “We’re tilting 11.6 degrees. One good gust and we’re tipping.”
“What about the proximity radar?” Lewis said, “Could it detect Watney’s suit?”
“No way,” Martinez said. “It’s made to see Hermes in orbit, not the metal in a single space suit.”
“Give it a try,” Lewis said.
“Commander,” said Beck, putting on a headset as he slid in to his acceleration couch. “I know you don’t want to hear this, but Watn-
… Mark’s dead.”
“Copy,” Lewis said. “Martinez, try the radar.”
“Roger,” Martinez radioed.
Bringing the radar online, he waited for it to complete a self check. Glaring at Beck, he said “What’s the matter with you?”
“My friend just died,” Beck answered. “And I don’t want my Commander to die too.”
Martinez gave him a stern look. Turning his attention back to the radar, he radioed “Negative contact on proximity radar.”
“Nothing?” Lewis asked.
“It can barely see the Hab,” he replied. “The sandstorm’s fu@king things up. Even if it wasn’t, there’s not enough metal in- sh@t!”
“Strap in!” he yeled to the crew. “We’re tipping!”
The MAV began to creaking as it tilted faster and faster.
“13 degrees,” Johanssen caled out from her couch.
Buckling his restraints, Vogel said “We are far past balance. We wil not rock back.”
“We can’t leave her!” Beck yeled. “Let it tip, we’l fix it!”
“32 metric tons including fuel,” Martinez said, his hands flying over the controls. “If it hits the ground, it’l do structural damage to the tanks, frame, and probably the second stage engine. We’d never be able to fix it.”
“You can’t abandon her!” Beck said. “You can’t.”
“I’ve got one trick. If that doesn’t work, I’m folowing her orders.”
Bringing the Orbital Maneuvering System online, he fired a sustained burn from the nosecone array. The smal thrusters fought against
the lumbering mass of the slowly tilting spacecraft.
“You are firing the OMS?” Vogel asked.
“I don’t know if it’l work. We’re not tipping very fast,” Martinez said. “I think it’s slowing down…”
“The aerodynamic caps wil have automaticaly ejected.” Vogel said. “It wil be a bumpy ascent with three holes in the side of the ship.”
“Thanks for the tip,” Martinez said, maintaining the burn and watching the tilt readout. “C’mon…”
“Stil 13 degrees,” Johanssen reported.
“What’s going on up there?” Lewis radioed. “You went quiet. Respond.”
“Standby,” Martinez replied.
“12.9 degrees,” Johanssen said.
“It is working,” Vogel said.
“For now,” Martinez said. “I don’t know if maneuvering fuel wil last.”
“12.8 now.” Johanssen supplied.
“OMS fuel at 60 percent,” Beck said. “How much do you need to dock with Hermes?”
“10 percent if I don’t fu@k anything up,” Martinez said, adjusting the thrust angle.
“12.6,” Johanssen said. “We’re tipping back.”
“Or the wind died down a little,” Beck postulated. “Fuel at 45 percent.”
“There is danger of damage to the vents,” Vogel cautioned. “The OMS was not made for prolonged thrusts,”
“I know,” Martinez said. “I can dock without nose vents if I have to.”
“Almost there…” Johanssen said. “Ok we’re under 12.3.”
“OMS cutoff,” Martinez announced, terminating the burn.
“Stil tipping back,” Johanssen said. “11.6… 11.5… holding at 11.5”
“OMS Fuel at 22 percent,” Beck said.
“Yeah, I see that,” Martinez replied. “It’l be enough.”
“Commander,” Beck radioed. “You need to get to the ship now.”
“Agreed,” Martinez radioed. “He’s gone, Ma’am. Watney’s gone.”
The four crewmates awaited their commander’s response.
“Copy,” she finaly replied. “On my way.”
They lay in silence, strapped to their couches and ready for launch. Beck looked at Watney’s empty couch and saw Vogel doing the
same. Martinez ran a self-check on the nosecone OMS thrusters. They were no longer safe for use. He noted the malfunction in his log.
The airlock cycled. After removing her suit, Lewis made her way to the flight cabin. She wordlessly strapped in to her couch, her face a frozen mask. Only Martinez dared speak.
“Stil at pilot release,” he said quietly. “Ready for launch.”
Lewis closed her eyes and nodded.
“I’m sorry, Commander,” Martinez said. “You need to verbaly-”
“Launch,” she said.
“Yes, Ma’am,” he replied, activating the sequence.
The retaining clamps ejected from the launch gantry, faling to the ground. Seconds later, preignition pyros fired, igniting the main
engines, and the MAV lurched upward.
The ship slowly gained speed. As it did, wind-sheer blew it lateraly off course. Sensing the problem, the ascent software angled the
ship in to the wind to counteract it.
As fuel was consumed, the ship got lighter, and the acceleration more pronounced. Rising at this exponential rate, the craft quickly
reached maximum acceleration. A limit defined not by the ship’s power, but by the delicate human bodies inside.
As the ship soared, the open OMS ports took their tol. The crew rocked in their couches as the craft shook violently. Martinez and the
ascent software kept it trim, though it was a constant battle. The turbulence tapered off and eventualy fel to nothing as the atmosphere became thinner and thinner.
Suddenly, al force stopped. The first stage had completed. The crew experienced weightlessness for several seconds, then were
pressed back in to their couches as the next stage began. Outside, the now-empty first stage fel away, eventualy to crash on some
unknown area of the planet below.
The second stage pushed the ship ever higher, and in to low orbit. Lasting less time than the massive first stage, and running much
smoother, it seemed almost like an afterthought.
Abruptly, the engine stopped, and an oppressive calm replaced the previous cacophony.
“Main engine shutdown,” Martinez said. “Ascent time: 8 minutes, 14 seconds. On course for Hermes intercept.”
Normaly, an incident-free launch would be cause for celebration. This one earned only silence broken by Johanssen’s gentle sobbing.
Four months later…
NASA was loathe to waste research time. Trips to and from Mars were as busy as surface operations. The crew had almost caught up
with the backlog of work. The schedule had been made for six, not five.
Beck tried not to think about the painful reason he was doing zero-g plant growth experiments. He noted the size and shape of the fern
leaves, took photos, and made notes.
Having completed his science schedule for the day, he checked his watch. Perfect timing. The data dump would be completing soon.
He floated past the reactor to the Semicone-A ladder.
Traveling feet-first along the ladder, he soon had to grip it in earnest as the centripetal force of the rotating ship took hold. By the time he reached Semicone-A he was at 0.4g.
No mere luxury, the artificial gravity kept them fit. Without it, they would have spent their first week on Mars barely able to walk.
Exercise regimens could keep the heart and bones healthy, but none had been devised that would give them ful function from Sol 1.
Because the ship was already designed for it, they used the system on the return trip as wel.
Johanssen sat at her station. Lewis sat in the adjacent seat while Vogel and Martinez hovered nearby. The data dump carried emails
and videos from home. It was the high point of the day.
“Is it here yet?” Back asked as he entered the bridge.
“Almost,” Johanssen said. “98%.”
“You’re looking cheerful, Martinez,” Beck said.
“My son turned three yesterday,” He beamed. “Should be some pics of the party. How about you?”
“Nothing special,” Beck said. “Peer-reviews of a paper I wrote a few years back.”
“Complete,” Johanssen said. “Al the personal emails are dispatched to your laptops. Also there’s a telemetry update for Vogel and a
system update for me. Huh… there’s a voice message addressed to the whole crew.”
She looked over her shoulder to Lewis.
Lewis shrugged. “Play it.”
Johanssen opened the message, then sat back.
“Hermes, this is Mitch Henderson,” the message began.
“Henderson?” Martinez said, puzzled. “Talking directly to us without CAPCOM?”
Lewis held her hand up to signal for silence.
“I have some news,” Mitch’s voice continued, “There’s no subtle way to put this: Mark Watney’s stil alive.”
“Wha-“ Beck stammered.
Vogel stood agape as a shocked expression swept across his face.
Martinez looked to Lewis. She leaned forward and pinched her chin.
“I know that’s a surprise,” Mitch continued. “And I know you’l have a lot of questions. We’re going to answer those questions. But
for now I’l just give you the basics.
“He’s alive and healthy. We found out two months ago and decided not to tel you; we even censored personal messages. I was
strongly against al that. We’re teling you now because we finaly have communication with him and a viable rescue plan. It boils down to Ares 4 picking him up with a modified MDV.
“We’l get you a ful write-up of what happened, but it’s definitely not your fault. Mark stresses that every time it comes up. It was just bad luck.
“Take some time to absorb this. Your science schedules are cleared for tomorrow. Send al the questions you want and we’l answer
them. Henderson out.”
The message’s end brought stunned silence to the bridge.
“He…He’s alive?” Martinez said, then smiled.
Vogel nodded excitedly. “He lives.”
Johanssen stared at her screen in wide-eyed disbelief.
“Holy sh@t,” Beck laughed. “Holy sh@t! Commander! He’s alive!”
“I left him behind,” Lewis said quietly.
The celebrations ceased immediately as the crew saw their commander’s inconsolable expression.
“But,” Beck began, “We al left togeth-“
“You folowed orders,” Lewis interrupted. “I left him behind. In a barren, unreachable, godforsaken wasteland.”
Beck looked to Martinez pleadingly. Martinez opened his mouth, but could find no words to say.
Lewis trudged off the bridge.
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