فصل 14

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فصل 14

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Chapter 14

AUDIO LOG: SOL 119

RECORDING:

I’ve been laying here for a little while, trying to figure out what happened. I should be more upset, but I took a pretty good whack to

the head. It had a calming effect.

So…

Wel, ok.

I’m in the airlock. I can see the Hab out the window; it’s a good 50 meters away. Normaly, the airlock is attached to the Hab. So that’s a problem.

The airlock’s on its side, and I can hear a steady hiss. So either it’s leaking or there are snakes in here. Either way, I’m in trouble.

Also, during the… whatever the fu@k happened… I got bounced around like a pinbal and smashed my faceplate. Air is notoriously

uncooperative when it comes to giant, gaping holes in your EVA suit.

Looks like the Hab is completely deflated and colapsed. So even if I had a functional EVA suit to leave the airlock with, I wouldn’t

have anywhere to go. So that sucks.

I gotta’ think for a minute. And I have to get out of this EVA suit. It’s bulky, and the airlock is cramped. Besides, it’s not like it’s doing me any good.

AUDIO LOG: SOL 119

RECORDING:

Things aren’t as bad as they seem.

I’m stil fu@ked, mind you. Just not as deeply.

Not sure what happened to the Hab, but the rover’s probably fine. It’s not ideal, but at least it’s not leaky phone booth.

I’m wearing Beck’s EVA suit. I haven’t worn my own since Sol 6 when I got shish-kabobed. Beck’s suit was about the right size and

didn’t have a hole in it. Why does that matter right now? Because, unlike my original suit, this one stil has an unused patch kit.

Don’t get excited. It won’t do the suit any good. The patch kit is a cone-shaped valve with super sticky resin on the wide end. It’s just too smal to deal with a hole larger than 8cm. And realy, if you have a 9cm hole, you’re going to be dead way before you could whip out

the kit.

Stil, it’s an asset, and maybe I can use it to stop the airlock leak. And that’s my top priority right now.

It’s a smal leak. With the faceplate gone, the EVA suit is effectively managing the whole airlock. It’s been adding air to make up for the missing pressure. But it’l run out eventualy.

I need to find the leak. I think it’s near my feet, judging by the sound. Now that I’m out of the suit, I can turn around and get a look…

I don’t see anything… I can hear it, but… it’s down here somewhere, but I don’t know where.

I can only think of one way to find it: Start a fire!

Yeah, I know. A lot of my ideas involve setting something on fire. And yes, deliberately starting a fire in a tiny, enclosed space is usualy a terrible idea. But I need the smoke. Just a little wisp of it.

As usual, I’m working with stuff that was deliberately designed not to burn. But no amount of careful design by NASA can get around

a determined arsonist with a tank of pure oxygen.

The EVA suit is made entirely of non-flammable materials. So is the airlock. My clothes are fireproof as wel, even the thread.

I was originaly planning to check the solar array, doing repairs as needed after last night’s storm. So I have my toolbox with me. But

looking through it, it’s al metal or non-flammable plastic.

I just realized I do have something flammable: My own hair. It’l have to do. There’s a sharp knife in the tool-kit. I’l shave some arm

hairs off into a little pile.

Next step: oxygen. Back when I turned the hydrazine into water, I had tubing, garbage bags, and al sorts of other luxuries. I won’t

have anything so refined is a pure oxygen flow. Al I can do is muck with the EVA suit controls to increase oxygen percentage in the whole airlock. I figure bumping it to 40% wil do.

Al I need now is a spark.

The EVA suit has electronics, but it runs on very low voltage. I don’t think I could get an arc with it. Besides, I don’t want to tear up my suit’s electronics. I need it working to get from the airlock to the rover.

The airlock itself has electronics, but it ran on Hab power. I guess NASA never considered what would happen if it was launched 50

meters. Lazy bums.

Plastic might not burn, but anyone whose played with a baloon knows it’s great at building up static charge. Once I do that, I should be able to make a spark just by touching a metal tool.

Fun fact: This is exactly how the Apolo 1 crew died. Wish me luck!

AUDIO LOG: SOL 119

RECORDING:

I’m in a box ful of burning hair smel. It’s not a good smel.

On my first try, the fire lit, but the smoke just drifted randomly around. My own breathing was screwing it up. So I held my breath and

tried again.

My second try, the EVA suit threw everything off. There’s a gentle flow of air coming out of the faceplate as the suit constantly replaces the missing air. So I shut the suit down, held my breath, and tried again. I had to be quick; the pressure was dropping.

My third try, the quick arm movements I used to set the fire messed everything up. Just moving around makes enough turbulence to

send the smoke everywhere.

The fourth time I kept the suit turned off, held my breath, and when the time came to light the fire, I did it very slowly. Then I watched as the little wisp of smoke drifted toward the floor of the airlock, disappearing through a hairline fracture.

I have you now, little leak!

I gasped for air and turned the EVA suit back on. The pressure had dropped to 0.9 atmospheres during my little experiment. But there

was plenty of oxygen in the air for me any my hair-fire to breathe. The suit quickly got things back to normal.

Looking at the fracture, it’s pretty tiny. It would be a cinch to seal it with the suit’s patch kit, but now that I think about it, that’s a bad idea.

I’l need to do some kind of repair to the faceplate. I don’t know how just yet, but the patch kit and its pressure-resistant resin is

probably realy important. And I can’t do it bit by bit, either. Once I break the seal on the patch kit, the binary components of the resin mix and I have 60 seconds before it hardens. I can’t just take a little to fix the crack.

Given time, I might be able to come up with a plan for the faceplate. Then, I could take a few seconds during that plan to scrape resin

over the airlock fracture. But I don’t have time.

I’m down to 40% of my N2 tank. I need to seal that fracture now, and I need to do it without using the patch kit.

First idea: Little Dutch Boy. I’m licking my palm and placing it over the crack.

Ok… I can’t quite make a perfect seal, so there’s airflow… getting colder now… getting pretty uncomfortable… ok fu@k this.

On to idea number two. Tape!

I have duct tape in my tool box. Let’s slap some on and see if it slows the flow. I wonder how long it wil last before the pressure rips it. Putting it on now.

There we go… stil holding…

Lemme check the suit… Readouts say the pressure is stable. Looks like the duct tape made a good seal.

Let’s see if it holds…

AUDIO LOG: SOL 119

RECORDING:

It’s been 15 minutes, and the tape is stil holding. Looks like that problem is solved.

Sort of anticlimactic, realy. I was already working out how to cover the breach with ice. I have 2 liters of water in the EVA suit’s

“hamster-feeder”. I could have shut off the suit’s heating systems and let the airlock cool to freezing. Then I’d… wel whatever.

Coulda’ done it with ice. I’m just sayin’.

Al right. On to my next problem: How do I fix the EVA suit? Duct tape might seal a hairline crack, but it can’t hold an atmosphere of

pressure against the size of my broken faceplate.

The patch kit is too smal, but stil useful. I can spread the resin around the edge of where the faceplate was, then stick something on to cover the hole. Problem is, what do I use to cover the hole? Something that can stand up to a lot of pressure.

Looking around, the only thing I see that can hold an atmosphere is the EVA suit itself. There’s plenty of material to work with, and I

can even cut it. Remember when I was cutting Hab canvas in to strips? Those same sheers are right here in my tool kit.

Cutting a chunk out of my EVA suit leaves it with another hole. But a hole I can control the shape and location of.

Yeah… I think I see a solution here. I’m going to cut off my arm!

Wel, no. Not my arm. The EVA suit’s arm. I’l cut right below the left elbow. Then I can cut along its length, turning it into a rectangle.

It’l be big enough to seal the faceplate, and it’l be held in place by the resin.

Material designed to withstand atmospheric pressure? Check.

Resin designed to seal a breach against that pressure? Check.

And what about the gaping hole on the stumpy arm? Unlike my faceplate, the suit’s material is flexible. I’l press it together and seal it with resin. I’l have to press my left arm against my side while I’m in the suit, but there’l be room.

I’l be spreading the resin pretty thin, but it’s literaly the strongest adhesive known to man. And it doesn’t have to be a perfect seal. It just has to last long enough for me to get to safety.

And where wil that “safety” be? Not a damn clue.

Anyway, one problem at a time. Right now I’m fixing the EVA suit.

AUDIO LOG: SOL 119

RECORDING:

Cutting the arm off the suit was easy; so was cutting along its length to make a rectangle. Those sheers are strong as hel.

Cleaning the glass off the faceplate took longer than I’d expected. It’s unlikely it would puncture EVA suit material, but I’m not taking any chances. Besides, I don’t want glass in my face when I’m wearing it.

Then came the tricky part. Once I broke the seal on the patch kit, I had 60 seconds before the resin set. I scooped it off the patch kit with my fingers and quickly spread it around the rim of the faceplate. Then, I took what was left and sealed the arm hole.

I pressed the rectangle of suit material on to the helmet. I held it firmly with both hands while using my knee to keep pressure on the

arm’s seam.

I held on until I’d counted 120 seconds. Just to be sure.

It seemed to work wel. The seal looked strong and the resin was rock-hard. I did, however, glue my hand to the helmet.

Stop laughing.

In retrospect, using my fingers to spread the resin wasn’t the best plan. Fortunately, my left hand was stil free. After some grunting and a lot of profanities, I was able to reach the tool box. Once I got a screwdriver I chiseled myself free (feeling realy stupid the whole time.) Using the arm computer, I had the suit overpressurize to 1.2 atmospheres. The faceplate patch bowed outward, but otherwise held

firm. The arm filed in, threatening to tear the new seam, but stayed in one piece.

Then I watched the readouts to see how airtight things were.

Answer: Not very.

The suit is designed for 8 hours of use. That works out to 250ml of liquid oxygen. Just to be safe, the suit has a ful liter of O2 capacity.

But that’s only half the story.

The rest of the air is nitrogen. It’s just there to add pressure. When the suit leaks, that’s what it backfils with. The suit has 2 liters of liquid N2 storage.

It absolutely pissed the air out. In 60 seconds it leaked so much it pressurized the whole airlock to 1.2 atmospheres.

Let’s cal the volume of the airlock 2 cubic meters. The inflated EVA suit probably takes up half of it. So it took 5 minutes to add 0.2

atmospheres to 1 cubic meter. That’s 285g of air (trust me on the math). The air in the tanks is around 1 gram per cubic centimeter,

meaning I just lost 285ml.

The three tanks combined had 3000ml to start with. A lot of that was used to maintain pressure while the airlock was leaking. Also, my

breathing turned some oxygen in to carbon dioxide, which was captured by the suit’s CO2 filters.

Checking the readouts, I have 410ml of oxygen, 738ml of nitrogen. Together, they make almost 1150ml to work with. That, divided by

285ml lost per minute…

Once I’m out of the airlock, this EVA suit wil only last 4 minutes.

fu@k.

AUDIO LOG: SOL 119

RECORDING:

Ok, I’ve been thinking some more.

What good is going to the rover? I’d just be trapped there instead. The extra room would be nice, but I’d stil die eventualy. No Water

Reclaimer, no Oxygenator, no food. Take your pick; al of those problems are fatal.

I need to fix the Hab. I know what to do; we practiced it in training. But it’l take a long time. I’l have to scrounge around in the now-colapsed canvas to get the spare material for patching. Then I have to find the breach and seal-strip a patch in place.

But it’l take hours to repair and my EVA suit is sh@t.

I’l need another suit. Martinez’s used to be in the rover. I hauled it al the way to the Pathfinder site and back, just in case I needed a spare. But when I returned, I put it back in the Hab.

Damn it!

Al right, so I’l need to get another suit before going to the rover. Which one? Johanssen’s is too smal for me (tiny little gal, our

Johanssen). Lewis’s is ful of water. Actualy, by now it’s ful of slowly sublimating ice. The mangled, glued together suit I have with me is Beck’s; my original suit has a hole in it. That just leaves Martinez and Vogel.

I left Martinez’s near my bunk, in case I needed a suit in a hurry. Of course, after that sudden decompression, it could be anywhere.

Stil, it’s a place to start.

Next problem: I’m like 50 meters from the Hab. Running in 0.4g while wearing a bulky EVA suit isn’t easy. At best, I can trundle 2

meters per second. That’s a precious 25 seconds; almost an eighth of my 4 minutes. I’ve got to bring that down.

But how?

AUDIO LOG: SOL 119

RECORDING:

I’l rol the damn airlock.

It’s basicaly a phone booth on its side. I did some experiments.

I figured if I want it to rol, I’l need to hit the wal as hard as possible. And I have to be in the air at the time. I can’t press against some other part of the airlock. The forces would cancel and it wouldn’t move at al.

First I tried launching myself off one wal and slamming in to the other. The airlock slid a little, but that’s it.

Next, I tried doing a super-pushup to get airborne (0.4g yay!) then kicking the wal with both feet. Again, it just slid.

The third time, I got it right. The trick is to plant both my feet on the ground, near the wal. Then I launch myself to the top of the

opposite wal and hit with my back. When I tried that just now, it was enough force and leverage to tip the airlock and rol it one face

toward the Hab.

The airlock is a meter wide, so… sigh… I have to do it like 50 more times.

I’m gonna have a hel of a backache after this.

AUDIO LOG: SOL 120

RECORDING:

I have a hel of a backache.

The subtle and refined “hurl my body at the wal” technique had some flaws. It only worked one out of every 10 tries, and it hurt a lot. I had to take breaks, stretch out, and generaly convince myself to body-slam the wal again and again.

It took al damn night, but I made it.

I’m 10 meters from the Hab now. I can’t get any closer, cause the debris from the decompression is al over the place. This isn’t an

“al-terrain” airlock. I can’t rol over that sh@t.

It was morning when the Hab popped. Now it’s morning again. I’ve been in this damn box for an entire day. But I’m leaving soon.

I’m in the EVA suit now, and ready to rol.

Al right… ok…. Once more through the plan: Use the manual valves to equalize the airlock. Get out and hurry to the Hab. Wander

around under the colapsed canvas. Find Martinez’s suit (or Vogel’s if I run in to it first). Get to the rover. Then I’m safe.

If I run out of time before finding a suit, I’l just run to the rover. I’d be in trouble, but I’d have time to think and materials to work with.

Deep breath… here we go!

LOG ENTRY: SOL 120

I’m alive! And I’m in the rover!

Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but I’m not dead, so it’s a win.

Equalizing the airlock went fine. I was out on the surface within 30 seconds. Skipping toward the Hab (the fastest way to move in this

gravity) I passed through the field of debris. The rupture had realy sent things flying, myself included.

It was hard to see; my faceplate was covered by the makeshift patch. Fortunately, my arm had a camera. NASA discovered that

turning your whole EVA-suited body to look at something was a strenuous waste of time. So they mounted a smal camera on the right

arm. The feed is projected on the inner faceplate. This alows us to look at things just by pointing at them.

I had to look at a rippled, messed-up version of the outside world. The faceplate patch wasn’t exactly smooth or reflective. Stil, it was enough to see what was going on.

I bee-lined for where the airlock used to be. I knew there had to be a pretty big hole there, so I’d be able to get in. I found it easily.

And boy is it a nasty rip! It’s going to be a pain in the ass to fix it.

That’s when the flaws in my plan started to reveal themselves. I only had one arm to work with. My left arm was pinned against my

body, while the stumpy arm of the suit bounced freely. So as I moved around under the canvas, I had to use my one good arm to hold the

canvas up. It slowed me down.

From what I could see, the interior of the Hab is chaos. Everything’s moved. Entire tables and bunks are meters away from where they

started. Lighter objects are wildly jumbled, many of them out on the surface. Everything’s covered in soil and mangled potato plants.

Trudging onward, I got to where I’d left Martinez’s suit. To my shock, it was stil there!

“Yay!” I naively thought. “Problem solved.”

Unfortunately, the suit was pinned under a table, which was held down by the colapsed canvas. If I’d had both arms, I could have

puled it free, but with only one I just couldn’t do it.

Running low on time, I detached the helmet. Setting it aside, I reached past the table to get Martinez’s patch kit. I found it with the help of the arm-camera. I dropped it in the helmet and hauled ass out of there.

Stumbling to the rover, I barely made it in time. My ears were popping from pressure loss just as the rover’s airlock filed with

wonderful 1-atmosphere air.

Crawling in, I colapsed and panted for a moment.

So I’m back in the rover. Just like I was back on the Great Pathfinder Recovery Expedition. Ugh. At least this time it smels a little

better.

NASA’s probably pretty worried about me by now. They probably saw the airlock move back to the Hab, so they know I’m alive,

but they’l want status. And as it happens, it’s the rover that communicates with Pathfinder.

I tried to send a message but Pathfinder isn’t responding. That’s not a big surprise. It’s powered directly from the Hab, and the Hab is offline. During my brief, panicked scramble outside, I saw Pathfinder was right where I left it, and the debris didn’t reach that far out. It should be fine once I get it some power.

As for my current situation, the big gain is the helmet. They’re interchangeable, so I can replace my broken-ass one with Martinez’s.

The stumpy arm is stil an issue, but the faceplate was the main source of leaks. And with the fresh patch kit, I can seal the arm with more resin.

But that can wait. I’ve been awake for over 24 hours. I’m not in any immediate danger, so I’m going to sleep.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 121

Got a good night’s sleep, and made real progress today.

First thing I did was re-seal the arm. Last time, I had to spread the resin pretty thin; I’d used most of it for the faceplate patch. But this time I had a whole patch kit just for the arm. I got a perfect seal.

I stil only had a one-armed suit, but at least it didn’t leak.

I’d lost most of my air yesterday, but I had a half-hour of oxygen left. Like I said earlier, a human body doesn’t need much oxygen.

Maintaining pressure was the problem.

With that much time, I was able to take advantage of the rover’s EVA tank-refil. Something I couldn’t do with the leaky suit.

The tank-refil is an emergency measure. The expected use of the rover is to start with ful EVA suits and come back with air to spare.

It wasn’t designed for long trips, or even overnighters. But, just in case of emergency, it has refil hoses mounted on the exterior. Inside space was limited already, and NASA concluded most air-related emergencies would be outdoors.

But refiling is slow, slower than my suit was leaking. So it wasn’t any use to me. Now, with a solid suit capable of holding pressure,

refiling the tanks was a breeze.

After refiling, and making sure the suit was stil not leaking, I had a few immediate tasks to take care of. Much as I trust my handiwork, I wanted a two-armed suit.

I ventured back in to the Hab. This time, not being rushed, I was able to use a pole to leverage the table off Martinez’s suit. Puling it loose, I dragged it back to the rover.

After a thorough diagnostic to be sure, I finaly had a fuly-functional EVA suit! It took me two trips to get it, but I got it.

Tomorrow, I’l fix the Hab.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 122

The first thing I did today was line up rocks near the rover to spel “A-OK”. That should make NASA happy.

I went in to the Hab again to assess damage. My priority wil be to get the structure intact and holding pressure. From there, I can work on fixing stuff that broke.

The Hab is normaly a dome, with flexible support poles maintaining the arch, and rigid, folding floor material to keep it flat. The internal pressure was a vital part of its support. Without it, the whole thing colapsed. I inspected the poles, and none of them had broken. They’re just lying flat is al. I’l have to re-couple a few of them, but that’l be easy.

The hole where Airlock 1 used to be is huge, but surmountable. I have seal-strips and spare canvas. It’l be a lot of work, but I can get the Hab together again. Once I do, I’l re-establish power and get Pathfinder back online. From there, NASA can tel me how to fix

anything I can’t figure out on my own.

I’m not worried about any of that. I have a much bigger problem.

The farm is dead.

With a complete loss of pressure, most of the water boiled off. Also, the temperature is wel below freezing. Not even the bacteria in

the soil can survive a catastrophe like that. Some of the crops were in pop-tents off the Hab. But they’re dead, too. I had them connected directly to the Hab via hoses to maintain air supply and temperature. When the Hab blew, the pop-tents depressurized as wel. Even if they hadn’t, the freezing cold would have kiled them.

Potatoes are now extinct on Mars.

So are earthworms and soil bacteria. I’l never grow another plant so long I’m here.

We had it al planned out. My farm would give me food til Sol 900. A supply probe would get here on Sol 856; way before I ran out.

With the farm dead, that plan is history.

The ration packs won’t have been affected by the explosion. And the potatoes may be dead, but they’re stil food. I was just about to

harvest, so it was a good time for this to happen, I guess.

The rations wil last me til Sol 400. I can’t say for sure how long the potatoes wil last until I see how many I got. But I can estimate. I had 400 plants, probably averaging 5 potatoes each: 2000 taters. At 150 calories each, I’l need to eat 10 per sol to survive. That means they’l last me 200 sols. Grand total: I have enough food to last til Sol 600.

By Sol 856 I’l be long dead.

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