Chapter 23: Sol Four, Force 14 Wind on Mars
Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon
In the few seconds that Tang Yue had been in a daze, the light outside the window had darkened, as though a large pitch-black screen had been thrown over them, causing the sunlight to vanish immediately. Tang Yue, a child who had grown up in a Southern China city, had never seen a sandstorm before.
Much less a sandstorm on Mars.
Tang Yue was instantly dumbfounded.
Was this the apocalypse?
The next second, a howling wind met them and immediately devoured the Lander.
Even though Tang Yue and Tomcat were in the command module, they couldn’t help but be alarmed. The sand stirred by the strong winds scraped the Lander’s outer walls as the floor of the command module trembled slightly. Only the heavens knew what kind of godforsaken weather this was. Why would any quakes be accompanying the sandstorm?
The Eagle was humanity’s magnum opus when it came to engineering and material science, but in the storm, it was like a trembling wooden shack. It felt as though the roof would collapse at any moment.
“Mr. Tang Yue! Mr. Tang Yue… Do you copy…”
Strong static sounded in his earpiece as Mai Dong’s voice was drowned.
“Mai Dong? Mai Dong!”
The communications were cut.
Tang Yue held onto the dashboard with one hand as he leaned back into the chair to fasten himself. Tomcat was a meter away from him as it clung tightly to the inner walls, sat down, and used a claw to desperately clench a seatbelt.
It was already so dark outside the windows that one couldn’t even see one’s fingers. The Lander seemed to be instantly be thrown into deep waters and the howling outside wasn’t from air but water. Tang Yue never knew that sandstorms could reach a scale that blotted out the sun’s rays. As a Southerner, his imagined sandstorm was just sand particles flying everywhere.
The only source of light in the command module was the headlamp on Tang Yue. Tang Yue crawled over and grabbed Tomcat.
“Sandstorm,” Tomcat said. “It’s a sandstorm.”
“Why wasn’t there any warning?” Tang Yue asked.
“Earth is gone,” Tomcat replied. “Who’s going to warn you?”
Tang Yue sat on the floor, leaning against the window to look out. It was pitch-black outside; yet, just minutes ago, the weather was bright and cheery.
“Will the Lander topple?”
“No.” Tomcat shook its head. “It’s all talk no action. It would be fine even if the wind speeds doubled. The Martian atmosphere is very thin, so the actual force it can exert on the Lander is very tiny. It wouldn’t topple the Lander as some movies depict.”
It crawled to the commander’s seat and agilely turned on the monitoring system on the console. Blue numbers began to jump on the screen.
“The present wind speed is… 32 meters per second, and it’s still rising.”
Tang Yue got up, stood behind Tomcat’s seat and asked, “What does that speed mean?”
“In terms of speed, it’s equivalent to a Force 12 hurricane on Earth.”
Tang Yue was alarmed.
A Force 12 hurricane?
As a Southerner, he had deep impressions of hurricanes. Every summer, there would be a few hurricanes hitting land, bringing about the copious amounts of rain and floods. They would uproot the trees and billboards on the sides of the road, causing billions of yuan of economic damage to the city.
Strictly speaking, hurricanes were a serious natural disaster. However, this disaster came periodically every year, so Southerners were used to it.
“The present wind speed is 39 meters per second.” Tomcat’s voice turned heavy. “The speed is equivalent to a Force 13 hurricane and the wind speed is still slowly rising.”
Tang Yue shuddered in fear as he looked around, afraid that the Eagle would be toppled by the strong winds.
“The wind speed is now at 44 meters per second, a Force 14 hurricane.” Finally, the wind reached a stable speed as Tomcat pushed its seat backward and turned its head.
“Tang Yue, we might have to terminate our launching plans.”
Tomcat and Tang Yue sat inside the command module in silence for an extended period of time.
Tang Yue took off his EVA suit whilst listening to the howling winds outside. It was pitch-black outside, resembling ink. They were trapped in the Lander. None of them dared to head out in the situation they were in.
“We can only stay here for now,” Tomcat said. “The visibility outside is less than three meters. It’s almost certain death if we go out.”
“How long will the sandstorm last?”
“No idea.” Tomcat shook its head. “It might be over in a sol or two, but it could also last a month or two. If our luck is any worse, it’s possible to last half a year.”
“What do previous expedition teams do when encountering a sandstorm? How do they deal with this?”
“Nothing. We have no means of dealing with a sandstorm,” Tomcat replied. “Once Earth sends a warning, the expedition team has to terminate all work, abandon all the missions, and immediately evacuate back to the space station.”
Tang Yue pulled at his hair before letting out a long sigh.
F*ck, why is this happening?
The goods had already been packed into crates and moved into the cargo module. All they were waiting for the launch tomorrow. They were prepared but lacked the crucial element.
And the crucial element that came was the element of wind—a hurricane.
This sandstorm that came out of nowhere overturned all their plans. The two of them were trapped on the Eagle, and they couldn’t return to Kunlun Station. They had also lost communications with Mai Dong.
“Tomcat… Can the Eagle be launched in the middle of a hurricane?”
Tomcat was alarmed. “What’s on your mind?”
“Answer me.” Tang Yue’s expression was solemn and terrifying serious. He grabbed Tomcat’s shoulders and glared into the cat’s eyes.
“You want to launch the Lander in the middle of a sandstorm? Tang Yue, are you mad? The present wind speed outside is 44 meters per second! Furthermore, it’s so dark outside. You wish to continue the work under such circumstances? Do you have a death wish? We have to abandon the launching plans.” Tomcat pointed out the window as its tone became heated. “We can continue after the hurricane is over.”
“No.” Tang Yue shook his head. “We have no way of knowing when the hurricane will end. If this sandstorm stops in two months, are we to wait for those two months? Mai Dong can’t wait that long. Let me ask you again. Can the Lander launch in the hurricane?”
Tomcat stood there, clenched its teeth and said, “Theoretically, it’s possible.”
Tang Yue’s eyes lit up.
“The Eagle’s design allows it to withstand crosswinds of fifty meters per second. The Martian atmosphere is very thin, so the effects it has on the Lander isn’t much. Its attitude can be controlled with the rocket’s engine,” Tomcat said. “But this is just too risky. The influence brought about by the sandstorm isn’t just affecting the attitude. The Eagle has never been launched in such inclement weather…”
“Let’s do it then!”
Tang Yue cut off Tomcat and crawled into the Radiant Armor. “The Eagle’s launch will go according to plan. I’ll continue moving the supplies over.”
“What do you mean? Do you want to die?”
Tomcat grabbed at him and pulled out a cable and wrapped it around itself, with the other end locked onto Radiant Armor’s waist.
“Come with me… if you want to live.”