2016, astronauts, Charlie One, death, Earth, Earth Space Exploration Program, ESEP, ESS Carl Sagan, ESS Queen Elizabeth II, Jenna Wade, Mars, Mars Mission 2016, Mars time, Noctis Labyrinthus, Noctis Standard Time, NST, Russia, space, space travel, spacecraft, spacecraft design, stowaway, Zeke Jackson
- Mars Date/Time: Year 001, Sur Two, Wednesday, Sol 35 (001.2.35) 16:38 NST
- Earth Date/Time: Saturday, 9 April 2016 2:12 PM PDT
Jenna then turned to Ken and said, “We’ve really screwed up. We may only have minutes.” Ken responded, “We would have seen Lars go to the Engineering and ICP sections.” Jenna said, “He’s been moving outside the ship and we have three ICP drives.
Suddenly, what Jenna said sank in for the Command team. The ICP drives for the QE II and Charlie One were attached along the core of the ship, and they were in ‘cold’ condition,’ meaning a person would need to be in a spacesuit to enter, unless they were powered up.
Jenna looked at her Engineering Director and said, “Roman, use the cameras at look for Lars on both of the stowed ICP drives.” Roman moved quickly to a workstation and began scanning the drives. Then Jenna said, “Anna, prepare to release both ICP drives, and Ken, as soon as Zeke and Jeramy are done with the booby trap, have them move to the spare ICP drives and prepare to tow them away from the ship.”
Roman came back and said, “I don’t see Lars on either drive, but both sections have wires running where they shouldn’t be. I think both are rigged.” Jenna said, “Damn! Roman, prepare to move the ship away from the ICP drives as soon as they’re clear.” Ken said, “What about Zeke and Jeramy?” Jenna replied, “As soon as they have cleared the drives from the ship, they can move clear of them. Assuming we’re still alive, we will send a ship back for them.”
In the next few minutes everything went as planned. After Jeramy dispensed with the bomb on the pod, he and Zeke attached to the spare ICP drives and moved them away from the ship. Anna and Roman used the thrusters to move the Sagan away from the rigged ICP sections.
And then they waited. If Lars wasn’t aware of the earlier activities, he would know something was up when the ship engaged the thrusters. He had to know the game was up and they knew he was on the ship. Five minutes passed and nothing happened. Then Anna exclaimed, “Charlie One Command section has just released.”
They looked on the monitor and saw the Command section slowly moving away from the ship. Anna regained her composure and said, “Close all hatches.” Then made a crew announcement, “All hands, all decks, prepared for impact and depressurization.”
Jenna was momentarily pleased that Anna was not waiting for orders, but using her own judgement to anticipate what was coming. The Jenna realized that within a few moments of proving her skills as a Captain, she might be dead.
The Command section of Charlie One had no main drive, but the thrusters on it could give it enough ramming speed to severely damage the Sagan. Ramming it into the rotating Hab sections would send out debris that would compromise most, if not all, pressurized areas. The ICP drive on the Sagan could put the ship far away from Lars, but it would take hours to prepare the drive for ignition. The Sagan was an easy target for Lars.
Anna then said, “Full reverse thrusters.” Jenna thought that Anna’s plan would be a desperate act, but it was better to force Lars to hit a moving target. They watched the Sagan begin to slowly back away from the receding Command ship, but Lars responded and rotated the section then began accelerating at the Sagan. He was aiming for the Hab Quills. It seemed like it was all in slow motion, but Jenna knew that by the time of impact the Command Section would be going at over a hundred kilometers per hour.
The mass of the Sagan made it sluggish, compared to the mass of the single core Command section that Lars was piloting. Lars was rapidly approaching and in seconds the Mars mission would be over.
Two pods suddenly flew into view and were aimed at Lars and the Command section. The first pod rammed into the Command section with explosive force. The gash was at least three times longer than the pod and atmosphere, debris, and a person were ejected into space. The pod was embedded in the section, and Jenna couldn’t determine how badly it was damaged.
The other pod expertly grabbed onto the front of the section and began rotating it away from the Sagan. The thrusters were still active and the section began moving away. Anna commanded, “Forward thruster! Match previous speed.” Slowly the Sagan began slowing its relative reverse motion, then the ship began to move forward.
At the same time, Jenna and the rest of the Command team watched the wreckage of the other ship move off. The second pod released from the front of the Command section and moved down to the embedded pod. It grabbed the pod and reversed it out of the wreckage, then the second pod began towing it back toward the Sagan as Charlie One’s Command section became smaller and smaller on the monitor.
Jenna knew that Zeke was in the second pod. Few, if any, pod drivers could have grabbed a ship moving at a different relative speed and rotated it. They zoomed in on Jeramy’s pod and could see it was severely damaged. Jeramy would have still been in his space suit, but the collision was so violent that shrapnel would have blown through the cockpit.
As the pods got closer the camera was focused in on a gap in Jeramy’s pod and they were able to see the upper part of his space suit. The face plate was partly torn away, and Jeramy’s bloody face was briefly visible. He was dead.