• Martin on Mars – Rescue Ranger – Day 23

    Opening the hatch was a huge mistake. The air pressure inside was about a thousand times what it was outside. I went out with the hatch being the only thing I could hold onto. And the hatch swung out as if a large angry giant had just kicked the door. I realized the problem as soon as it happened, but i couldn’t let go. A three hundred foot drop to the floor of the dome greeted me below. All of this happened in the slow motion of such things that threaten your life in mere seconds. In a last-ditch effort to stay with the tram, I crooked my elbow through the hatch handle and hugged it tight.

    The hatch swung on its hinges and slammed full force into the tram, sending the door bouncing back from whence it came. My head rung like a bell with the impact, but I somehow managed to hang on, even though my elbow felt like it had been dislocated. The large hatch was heading for a close again, and I was in its mouth. I did only what I could and put my legs out to stop it from crushing me. I sprang an ankle doing that.

    So now, hanging far above the floor from the hatch with my good hand, my right arm dangling at my side, and my left ankle pulsing in pain and swelling larger every second, I considered my next brilliant move. Get to the E-seal. The only thing I had going for me was Martian gravity, and I was an Earthling. I climbed the hatch door and found that I could reach the rear of the tram which was now the top. I scrambled onto it and lay there for a minute breathing hard. I may only weigh about eighty pounds here, but I was wearing about another sixty in mars-suit, and breathing canned air. Not exactly optimum for olympic exertion.

    The tram track above bolted into the curvature of the glass-alloy dome — a thick monorail about twelve inches by six, made of some light carbon fiber material. I stood up and grabbed it, hooking my fingers over the top edge. My right elbow was not at all happy with this, but I pushed that to the back of my mind. I was good at dealing with pain; I’d come back from the dead. Despite the wonders of nano-cell reconstruction, it hurts like hell. Pain is an old acquaintance. We aren’t friends by a long-shot, but we know how to deal with each other. It hurts me, and I grit my teeth a lot.

    Hand-over-hand along the rail I went, dangling in nonexistent wind. Actually nonexistent air. Martian atmosphere is extremely thin. There is nothing to breathe out there except thin traces of carbon dioxide. That’s the stuff you breathe out, not in. And even if you could make use of it, you couldn’t get anything at that low of pressure. Your lungs would just bleed-out. Thinking about the lack of air kept me from thinking about my aching hands and fingers, and the sharp pain in my right elbow. I made good time at first, but slowed down.

    I couldn’t do it anymore without a rest. So I swung my feet up and locked them around the rail. That gave my hands a break. It was cold as hell outside the suit, and the heat exchanger had no problem keeping the suit temperature down. Despite this, my suit was full of sweat. I could feel clothing sticking to me. The helmet kept trying to fog up on me, but some defroster device whisked it away before it became a problem. I clung to the rail like a spider, and looked up at the pale Martian sky.

    Another five minutes of rest and then I went at it again. It took about twenty minutes to get to the jagged hole in the dome where the rail twisted outside into Mars. I climbed right out onto the dome and clung to the broken edge so I wouldn’t slide off. The dome had broken in big squares like safety glass. The edge wasn’t sharp, thankfully.

    I made my way down to the E-Seal device, which was a box about a meter square. A red light blinked on a control panel on its side. I examined the panel for a moment. The readout described a communication error with the main computer. The severed wiring leading from the side of the box might have had something to do with that. I navigated the menu on the control and found a manual deploy. The simple computer warned me that I had about sixty seconds to remove myself from the vicinity.

    I considered this. Would it be better to be inside the dome or outside? I couldn’t make it too far on the rail in thirty seconds, and my monkey-swinging muscles were just about shot. It’d be better to be outside on the dome where I could just sit tight until someone came and got me. So I triggered the deployment, and scurried back outside on the dome. I crawled away from the edge of the hole carefully. I didn’t want to slip and start sliding down the glass. I was a little down from the top center of the dome, so I made my way as fast as I could for the apex. I got about halfway there when the dome shook underneath me.

    I spread myself flat and made myself as big as I could against the surface to maximize contact. It worked and I stayed pretty much put, with just a little sliding. I was there on the dome and intact. I sat up and looked down at the hole. It was completely filled with a large orange balloon about fifty feet in diameter, and seemed to be doing the job, a giant cork in the bottle.

    I lay back and sighed. I’d done it. I’m sure someone is going to explain how unnecessary it was for me to risk my life and fix their dome. How Martians would have come to the rescue and gotten to it eventually. But I had twelve passengers in a tram that needed rescue, and we had wounded. And besides, I’m a fixer. I can’t see something broken and do nothing.