Chapter 24: Sol Four, Forging Across the Hundred Meters
Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon
Tomcat firmly tied itself to Tang Yue before leading the way down. It then opened the bottom hatch of the cargo module.
The instant the hatch opened, Tang Yue was alarmed.
He hadn’t felt it while inside the Eagle, but the moment the hatch opened, he felt the force of the hurricane… The accommodation ladder could no longer be seen, and it seemed to reach deep into a huge pitch-black maelstrom that was devouring it.
As the hurricane howled past with sand as its load, Tang Yue’s heart beat like a drum.
Did he really want to head down?
This was a sure journey to death, right?
The valor he had previously, collapsed at the sight of death. Just moments ago, Tang Yue had lofty sentiments when wearing the EVA suit as though he was the lead character in a tough-guy movie. He used his immense drive to overturn the objections, ignoring the protests of cowardly characters like Tomcat as he firmly carried out his plan to ultimately achieve perfect success.
That was how it was written in the movies.
Indeed, the movie scriptwriters only knew how to talk big.
Tomcat shone a powerful torchlight down, but the white beam of light failed to penetrate more than three meters of the sandstorm. Everything beyond that cone was pitch blackness.
“I’ll go down first. Follow behind me.”
Tomcat’s voice sounded over the earpiece with a stable tone. Its voice showed no fear, giving him the strength to settle his heart.
F*ck, isn’t Tomcat the cowardly character?
Why does it seem like it’s the male lead, and I’m the cannon fodder side character?
Tomcat grabbed onto the accommodation ladder and crawled downwards bit by bit. Seeing Tomcat disappear into the sandstorm, Tang Yue took a deep breath and bit the bullet as he followed.
The moment they left the cargo module, howling sounds inundated him. The strong winds and the sand scraped the Radiant Armor’s visor as Tang Yue clung firmly to the accommodation ladder as he looked around.
The darkness inside the sandstorm was unlike the darkness of the night. A clear night sky could be said to be a clear crystal, but a sandstorm’s darkness was like a turbid, ink-like darkness.
The headlamp attached to the Radiant Armor was like a decoration. Tang Yue was in essence equivalent to a blind man.
The headlamp’s light illuminated the sand in the air, and all Tang Yue could see were points of light flitting past him as though they were an endless snowstorm.
This was the first time he had moved about in winds moving at forty meters per second.
If he were on Earth, such winds would have been enough to sweep him into the sky.
“Grab hold of the accommodation ladder,” Tomcat warned. “We will begin our descent.”
Tang Yue lowered his head and took a glance. Tomcat was at his feet, and the distance between them was less than a meter, but Tang Yue wasn’t able to see Tomcat. All he could see was the high-intensity torch light’s blurry light cone coruscating by his feet.
The accommodation ladder began moving as Tang Yue felt himself slowly descend and leave the Lander.
Two seconds later, the cargo module above him was consumed by the pitch-black hurricane. Tang Yue couldn’t even see the floor when he looked down.
This made him feel as if he was plummeting into an abyss. He couldn’t see the sky, nor could he see the ground. The descent of the accommodation ladder felt as though there was no end… nothing like Tang Yue had ever felt when moving up and down on it before.
It was true that humans easily had their minds wander when they were blinded. Even though he was only two inches off the ground, his brain imagined the distance to be a hundred thousand feet.
The accommodation ladder trembled slightly and would emit loud thumping sounds elsewhere. Tang Yue was really worried the Lander would topple in the winds.
A minute later, the ladder’s descent came to a halt.
“We are on the ground,” Tomcat said. “I’ll take point. Don’t move.”
Tang Yue nodded.
Tomcat stepped onto a rock, tugged at the cable before saying, “You can come down. You are about half a meter away from the ground. Come down slowly.”
Tang Yue carefully extended his feet and slowly stepped onto the ground. All he could do was act according to Tomcat’s instructions.
Tang Yue stood beside the accommodation ladder with a blank look. He couldn’t get his bearings right, and it was obvious that he couldn’t see Kunlun Station, which was about a hundred meters away. Tang Yue didn’t dare wander about randomly for if he got his direction wrong, he would be lost on the endless plains of Mars.
A claw reached out from the darkness and grabbed onto Tang Yue’s glove tightly.
“This way.” Tomcat yelled. It tried its best to raise its voice over the din. “Follow me closely!”
Tomcat and Tang Yue had a cable connecting them. It was as though they were on the icy plains of the poles where members of an expedition had to be tied to each other via rope. This was to prevent anyone from dropping into concealed crevices in the ice.
But the Martian desert clearly didn’t have any ice crevices. Tomcat did this to prevent Tang Yue from getting lost.
Visibility in the sandstorm was nearly zero. Getting lost meant death.
Tang Yue followed Tomcat with great difficulty as he took hastened steps.
The short distance of a hundred meters between the Kunlun Station and the Lander appeared to be infinite at that moment.
“From the weather today, do you think we can launch the Eagle?” Tomcat used all its limbs while it crawled forward with great difficulty.
Tang Yue hesitated for a few seconds.
“But Mai Dong can’t afford to wait,” Tang Yue said with some deliberation. “Who knows when this darn sandstorm will pass? What happens if it doesn’t stop after a month? Are we to wait a month?”
“If this sandstorm doesn’t end after a month, we can ignore that lass.” Tomcat spat a mouthful of sand and yelled, “We will be doomed ourselves… In such a situation, there’s no way to charge our solar panels. Kunlun Station’s energy reserves won’t even last a month. You and I will freeze or asphyxiate to death sooner or later. It just depends which runs out of energy first—the heater or the oxygen generator!”
“That’s why we shouldn’t wait.”
Tang Yue held onto the cable as he proceeded to grit his teeth.
“If the sandstorm doesn’t stop, we will be doomed together. Why don’t we go according to plan and launch the Lander… You said that the Eagle can withstand such winds, right?”
“The Lander’s design allows it to withstand surface winds of fifty meters per second on Mars. That’s something the engineers on Earth left for you to save your ass!” Tomcat shouted. Its voice was indiscernible amidst the strong howling winds. “The Eagle has an emergency lifeboat meant for such situations! But this function has never been tested before. The Eagle has never made an ascent in such terrible weather!”
Tang Yue fell silent for a few seconds.
“Tomcat, you told me to trust the bunch of assholes that lack integrity on the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.”
Tomcat was taken aback.
“I trust those assholes. Tomcat, you should trust them for once as well,” Tang Yue said. “These assholes might lack integrity by not paying me back for their meals, but they are reliable people when it comes to work! If they say it can withstand fifty meters per second, then it’s fifty!”
“But fifty meters per second is the limit!” Tomcat said. “Once it exceeds fifty, the Lander isn’t able to guarantee the stability of its center of gravity! The launch might end up a failure!”
Tomcat paused for a breather, turned its head and shone the torchlight at Tang Yue.
“You’d better pray that the hurricane doesn’t intensify tomorrow. That way, be it you or me, or that lass in the sky will have a chance of living.”