Author : Sean Monaghan
Tony Willits scrambled up the scree slope looking for the Leica on hands and knees. The sun, tapping the horizon, glistened through airborne particles. Deimos in the sky as some heavy terraforming dust-devils lurched along the far canyon edge. He’d taken some great photos, but this was too extraordinary to miss.
There was the camera, near the rover’s punctured tire.
“Tony?” Morgan said through comms.
“Uh-huh?” The tire and camera were down and across the slope, perhaps fifty meters from him.
“You hurt?” she said.
“I’m good. Getting the camera.” Tony stood upright, his ankle tender. He glanced down. The suit seemed intact, if dusty and scraped from the wreck. His oxygen read 95 so he had integrity. The sky gleamed.
“I’m venting,” Morgan said.
Tony looked around, but couldn’t see her. The rover wreckage was strewn over rocks and into gullies. They’d hit hard, but the canopy shell had protected them.
“Let me grab the camera,” he said, “and get this shot.” National Geographic, he thought. Posters, calendars. Thank God he had a copyright waiver from NASA. Most of the photos everyone else took became instant public domain.
“I’ve got ten percent here,” Morgan said, gasping a little.
Tony stepped onto a partially buried boulder. This was the spot, but he’d have to hurry, the sun was fading, slipping away.
He bounded downslope, careful not to trip on rover debris. He’d almost reached the camera when he saw Morgan.
She lay on her side, facing him another fifteen meters down, her helmet chipped and dented. The minipack had been torn off, so she was on the suit’s emergency micro supply. And her leg had been shorn off at the knee.
“Morgan?” He glanced at the shimmering sky.
“Eight,” she said. “My leg’s bad, right?”
“Yup.” He could see the camera off to his left. The suit would have detected the breach and inflated a tourniquet on her thigh.
“Are you getting pings from base?”
Tony moved towards the camera, tabbing through his HUD to track the emergency squad. There was nothing he could do for her now anyway.
“I’ve lost my backpack, haven’t I?” she said.
“Let me get this picture.” He leapt from the boulder. As he landed, his emergency response channel squawked.
“Willits?” Schnell said, from back at the garage. “Status?”
“Hey. We hit a hole and flipped the rove-.”
“Wow,” Schnell said. “That’s some view.”
“We’ve lost your telemetry, except for your suitcam feed. That’s quite a sight.”
Tony shut the suitcam’s lens cover.
“Oh,” Schnell said. “Lost that too.”
Tony could nearly reach the Leica now.
“How’s Morgan?” Schnell said. “We’re getting nothing.”
The sun pulsed shafts of light through the dust.
“She’s okay too.” Tony grabbed the camera.
“Telemetry’s coming in,” Schnell said. “You’ve busted up my rover pretty bad.”
“I’m not okay,” Morgan whispered. “Got zero oxy left. Could use a buddy-breath.”
The sun was almost gone, sparkles glinted in the thin upper atmosphere.
“Can you see her?” Schnell said.
“He … he can see me.”
“Get your pipe on her. We’re getting feeds now. She’s bleeding.”
Tony breathed. He could attach his buddy hose and share oxygen until rescue came.
Quickly, he thought, take the photo. As the sky faded he lifted the camera. The display panel was busted, and the viewfinder. And the lens.
“Morgan?” He tossed the wrecked camera aside and ran. Sitting, he yanked out his buddy-breath tube and plugged it into her inlet.
“Too late,” Schnell said. “We’ve got her feeds now. She’s gone.”
Tony sat back, looking at the dull and muddy sky.