Chapter 26: Sol Four, Would I Lose All My Reputation?
Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon
Tang Yue waited for more than twenty minutes, whilst suffering indescribable mental torment. He had lost communication with Tomcat the moment it had left, and its situation was completely unknown. He kept attempting to contact Tomcat, but there wasn’t any response. All he could hear from the earpiece was the frustrating static.
“Tomcat? Tomcat, do you copy?
“Tomcat, do you f*cking copy? Answer me!”
However, Tang Yue didn’t dare head out to seek Tomcat. Tomcat’s safety rope was still in his hands. In the event of an accident, the only one who could pull Tomcat back to safety was him. If he were to rashly leave Kunlun Station, he and Tomcat would both perish in the sandstorm.
“Tomcat, Tomcat? Answer me if you copy!”
“Shut up… Are you mourning at a funeral? It’s so jarring to the ears. I’m not dead.”
Words suddenly came from the earpiece as Tang Yue lifted his head in pleasant surprise. A paw had reached into the airlock’s hatch, grabbing its metallic frame. Tomcat crawled in with great difficulty as it grinned at Tang Yue.
Tang Yue hurriedly dashed forward to pull Tomcat into the airlock and closed the hatch.
With the wind and sand obstructed by the hatch, the pressure in the airlock gradually rose and turned warm again. Tomcat leaned on the wall and rested for a moment.
“The supplies have been sent over. That lady in the sky has another two months to live at the least… However, the sandstorm outside is so bad that I couldn’t even open my eyes.”
Tang Yue sat on the ground, exhausted as he gave a thumbs up.
“Let’s continue.” Tomcat got up, opened the hatch to the Hab. “No one knows when this darn sandstorm will weaken. There are still four more crates. What’s next? The spare parts? We can’t afford to waste any time.”
“Is it cold outside?” Tang Yue followed behind Tomcat.
Tomcat turned its head to glance at him. “It’s still alright. –68°C. However, as the sunlight has been blotted out by the sandstorm, the temperature is still dropping. I believe tonight’s temperature will drop beneath –100°C.”
“Put this on.” Tang Yue took an IVA suit down from the wall and handed it to Tomcat.
“I’m a robot.”
“I know you are one,” Tang Yue said. “Wearing this will keep you warm. You won’t be able to take –68°C either.”
Tomcat was taken aback before obediently donning the IVA suit which was much lighter than the Radiant Armor. Also, it didn’t come with a life support system; thus, it could not be used for humans for extravehicular activity. However, Tomcat was a robot. It didn’t need complicated life support systems, and the purpose of an IVA suit was to fend against the wind and keep warm.
Tang Yue helped Tomcat wear the glass visor and asked, “How is it?”
Tomcat stretched its neck. “It feels a little weird wearing a spacesuit. It feels like I’m wearing a turtle shell… The visor isn’t big enough for my whiskers.”
“You’ll know what it means to be a true turtle when you wear the Radiant Armor.” Tang Yue patted Tomcat’s visor as they locked eyes through the two layers of glass.
They did a final inspection of the safety ropes attached to them and confirmed that the locking mechanism was fine.
Tomcat carried the supply crate and pushed open the outer hatch of the airlock before vanishing into the pitch-black hurricane.
Half an hour later.
Tomcat crawled into the airlock, and his body was covered in mud. It was in a sorry state.
Tang Yue dragged it back, removed Tomcat’s visor and asked, “Are you alright?”
“Could be better.” Tomcat nodded, opened its eyes, and leaned against the Hab’s wall. “The sandstorm is just too violent. The temperature is still falling…”
It looked down at the temperature gauge on its wrist. “It’s already –72°C. If not for this suit, I might not have returned.”
Tang Yue grabbed Tomcat’s paws as it grabbed his hand and laughed.
“Can you still continue?”
“No problem. Let’s continue.”
Tomcat left Kunlun Station with a crate on its back for the third time. Tang Yue clasped the safety rope and stayed inside the airlock. He really wanted to head out and help, but Tomcat forbade him from leaving Kunlun Station. In certain ways, the natural differences between a human and a robot became stark.
As a robot, Tomcat didn’t need to breathe, drink, or eat. It could precisely determine its bearings even in the most extreme weather. This was something where humans were incomparable. Under such a pitch-black hurricane, Tang Yue would easily get lost.
The Eagle was about a hundred meters from Kunlun Station. Tomcat spent about half an hour on each return trip, ten times longer than usual.
The third trip took Tomcat more than forty minutes. It left Tang Yue so anxious that he was drenched in sweat. Only then did Tomcat crawl back in.
It used up the last bits of its strength to roll through the airlock’s hatch before slumping over the floor. Its eyes were closed as it became motionless.
Tomcat was in an even sorrier state than before. Apart from the mud, caked all over its body, the gloves on the IVA suit had disappeared at some point. Its two paws were frozen numb.
“Tomcat? Tomcat!” Tang Yue helped it up. “Wake up!”
Tomcat opened its eyes, trembled, and chattered its teeth in a bid to warm up its components. “It’s cold… really cold.”
Tang Yue looked at the temperature gauge on Tomcat’s wrist. The number had decreased to –76°C. This temperature had made a new record that Tang Yue had never experienced. Tomcat’s gloves were gone, and the IVA suit had lost most of its pressure. The insulation it provided was greatly discounted as a result.
“Where are the gloves? Tomcat, where are your gloves?”
“Gloves? Oh… The gloves froze. They were too slippery, making it impossible for me to grab onto the ladder.” Tomcat chattered as it said, “Therefore, I took them off. Hehe.”
The fourth trip took Tomcat nearly an hour.
Each trip took longer than the previous trip. On this trip, it even lacked the strength to crawl into the airlock. Instead, it collapsed in front of the airlock’s hatch, knocking on it with all its might before Tang Yue managed to pull it in.
Every time Tomcat returned, it was in a sorrier state than before. This time, not only was its gloves gone, even its IVA suit had suffered damage. A shocking tear streaked across Tomcat’s visor, and the inside of the visor was filled with turbid crystals. It was unknown if it was water or some other element, mixed in with the dark-colored mud. The cat’s face had icicles hanging from it. When Tang Yue took off its visor, he accidentally broke one of the cat’s whiskers.
“What bad luck. I accidentally fell from the accommodation ladder.” Tomcat said. “I wasn’t holding on tight enough… Also, remember to compensate me for my whiskers.”
“You can’t make another trip.” Tang Yue shook his head. “It’s my turn.”
“Don’t speak nonsense.” Tomcat’s expression was calm. Of course, it was possible because its frozen face hadn’t recovered. “Your stamina won’t be enough. The environment outside is no longer suitable for any biological creature to survive in. It’s –80°C, with a sandstorm of more than forty meters per second. If your Radiant Armor malfunctions in any way, you will freeze into a popsicle in seconds… The Himalayas or the South Pole is child’s play compared to the environment outside.”
“I can still do one trip!”
Tomcat had already made four trips. Tang Yue couldn’t bring himself to make Tomcat take the risk again.
“You are against me making this trip?” Tomcat looked over at him diagonally.
“Then hold in your disagreement.” Tomcat stood up, took another IVA suit from the wall and said, “There’s one last trip left. The final batch has some anti-radiation pills that need to be sent up. I’ll be back in a jiffy. I’ll pack up everything and prepare for tomorrow’s launch.”
Tomcat took down the new visor and wore it by itself. It stood there in the Hab in silence.
“I’ll still be able to return after leaving. You might die outside if you go out… Stop trying to convince me otherwise. If you were Old Wang, I would have let you go, but a rookie should act like a rookie. If you were to die before me, would I lose all my reputation?”