Dead on Mars

Chapter 3 - Sol One, Live On

Chapter 3: Sol One, Live On

Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon

Tang Yue had asked Tomcat about the problem of determining if Earth had truly vanished.

Tomcat was a resident robot of Kunlun Station. It had been working here for years, and its circuitry had earned lots of valuable experience. It could be considered a senior astronaut at the level of commander for numerous observation missions. It was nothing a rookie like Tang Yue could compare with.

The only ones on Mars with greater experience than Tomcat were the Curiosity rover or the Opportunity rover that had landed several decades ago.

Tomcat suggested communications and observations.

Clearly, that was obvious nonsense.

The research station on Mars’s surface communicated with Earth via relay satellites. Three relay satellites operated at a geostationary orbit of 17,000 kilometers. Their reach covered the whole of Mars.

The relay satellites had ultra-high frequency (UHF) antennas that could achieve 200 KB/s transfer speeds. If a high-gain antenna with directionality was used, the data transfer speed could be raised by ten times to 2 MB/s.

These three satellites were relatively reliable. They had never caused a disconnection in the past two decades and were capable of maintaining smooth communication even amid solar storms.

Tang Yue had already used every means possible to communicate with Earth. The distance between the Earth and Mars was about 0.5 AU during this period, which made it approximately 4 light minutes.

This also meant that the electromagnetic waves would require four minutes to travel at the speed of light. Then, any communication delay would be eight minutes.

When the two planets were at their furthest, it would be 2.6 AU, which was about 20 light minutes. This meant a communication delay of forty minutes.

Even if the Earth and Mars were on opposite sides of the Solar System, with the Sun in between them, Tang Yue’s attempts to communicate with Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center from the Kunlun Station should have earned him a response after forty minutes.

But Tang Yue had already waited all day without receiving a response from Jiuquan.

The other method was observation.

Tomcat had directed all telescopes on the Mars United Space Station, which ranged from far-infrared to visible light using various frequency bands, to make an observation. It ultimately confirmed that Earth was no longer visible on any frequency. There was only emptiness left in the vicinity of Earth’s original trajectory.

Without being able to observe or communicate, or exert any interference, in terms of Physics, one could determine that it no longer existed.

“Miss Mai Dong, why are you still on the space station?” Tang Yue asked. “Did Old Wang arrange an additional mission for you? Or were you tasked to stay behind to escort the items on Orion back?”

This was also why Tang Yue felt pleasantly surprised when he learned that there was still another human alive. According to the original plans, he would have been the last person to leave Mars.

Before leaving, Old Wang had patted Tang Yue on the shoulder, saying, “Thomp and I have a mission to do, so we aren’t able to stay behind to accompany you. Brother, you will have to make the trip back alone. It’s just a few months and won’t take long. It’ll be over with a nap. Just treat it as though you are being detained as a criminal.”

Who knew that Earth would be gone after taking a nap.

He would have been better off being detained as a criminal.

The journey between Earth and Mars was handled by two shuttles, Orion I and Orion II. The two shuttles were unable to enter the atmosphere, and could only be considered as ferries that shuttled between the Mars United Space Station and Earth’s International Space Station.

The same group of astronauts had already boarded Orion I and made their way back to Earth. Mai Dong should have left with the rest of the team two sols ago.

But for some reason, this lady remained on the space station.

“Because… Because there was a sudden problem with the supplies on Orion I. There wasn’t enough to support all members on the return trip. Commander communicated with ground control and decided that I was to stay for a few sols,” replied the woman. “The plan was for us to return onboard Orion II once you were done with your work.”

“There was a sudden change of plans?”

Mai Dong nodded.

“Then why didn’t I know about it?” Tang Yue widened his eyes.

“A notice… a notice was sent to you,” said the woman.

Tang Yue was taken aback as he quickly opened the inbox on his computer. As he scanned through the mail, he found one he hadn’t opened amid the numerous work mail.

When Tang Yue opened it, he nearly cursed in anger.

F*ck. Those people at Jiuquan are a bunch of chatterboxes. They send mail for everything under the Sun. Have you eaten breakfast? What did you eat? How long did you take to eat? All sorts of questions are specifically asked, making my Inbox explode with mails daily.

Why didn’t someone send a video document for such an important matter?

“What have you been doing the past two sols?”

“I… I was sleeping the entire time…” the woman said softly. “I was about to establish communications with you.”

Tang Yue silently held his forehead.

“As it was a last-minute decision for me to stay behind, there was a need to reduce any power expenditure on the space station. I switched off most of the station’s functions before sleeping. However, the space station’s computer suddenly failed to communicate with ground control some time ago. It began to send an alert and woke me up,” Mai Dong explained. “Then… Then, I discovered that Earth was gone.

“Mr. Tang Yue, is Earth really gone?” the woman asked carefully.

Tang Yue fell silent for a few seconds as he tried to organize his words before revealing the terrifying reality to this young lady in her twenties.

“According to Tomcat and my observations, Earth has indeed vanished.”

Tang Yue ultimately chose to be frank in his answer. To have such a huge planet vanish, anyone with a mind could tell that there was a problem. There was no concealing the truth, much less conceal the Earth.

Mai Dong silently nodded.

The lady’s calmness had far exceeded Tang Yue’s expectations.

She didn’t cry or make a fuss. The only change was that the light in her eyes had suddenly dimmed as if a candle had been extinguished. She had lost all her zest.

Tang Yue felt his heart ache for her. Mai Dong was the youngest woman on the scientific team. She had recently graduated from her Master’s program and had arrived at the Kunlun Station as a botanist and agrotechnician. She was doing research on Martian soil and vegetation adaptability.

Coming to Mars was a drudge, and everything was just in its nascent stages.

On this godforsaken planet, apart from the tiny United Space Station and an even tinier Kunlun Station, there was nothing. Tang Yue even had to experience a delay of about twenty minutes when sending mails. 90% of the time, he lived in a sealed environment of less than a hundred square meters. Even the return trip would take nearly two years.

Young adults, who didn’t have the selfless spirit of dedicating themselves to science, typically wouldn’t be willing to come.

Now that Earth had vanished, for some inexplicable reason, while Tang Yue was still a single virgin, his death naturally wasn’t much to cry over. However, this lady still had a promising life ahead. It too had vanished with the Earth.

The ancients often said that the affairs of the world are inconstant.

Tang Yue truly agreed with this saying. Even if you were the President of the United States or the world’s richest man, so what? In this massive and uncertain Universe, aren’t you just but a speck of dust?

Things disappeared without any forewarning.

Even the Earth was gone.

Even if someone threw ten thousand yuan in front of him, he wouldn’t even be bothered to bend down to pick it up.

Tang Yue suddenly felt astonished to have such thoughts.

Ever since he had learned that Earth had vanished, his thought processes had elevated to a whole new level. His mental state was completely blank, reaching what Chinese ancestors had always pursued—being one with the world. It could be said that the situation was already so bad that to make it worse made no real difference. It could also be said that he had seen through life and had sublimated in a state that transcended the mortal realm.

This was probably the epiphanies that Buddhism taught.

Tang Yue felt that he was almost becoming Buddha himself.

“Buddha my ass!” Tomcat smacked him. “Quickly check what resources you have left before thinking of your next move!”

“Screw off.”

“Do you still want to live on?” Tomcat tugged at Tang Yue’s collar and pointed outside the Hab. “If you want to die, just open the hatch and jump out.”

Tang Yue slowly sat down and looked up at Tomcat and then at Mai Dong on the screen.

One man, one woman, and a robot. This was the only remnants of Earth’s civilization. Mai Dong was now in a daze, and Tang Yue had to become the pillar.

“Mr. Tang Yue, what should we do next?” Mai Dong asked.

Tang Yue fell silent for a few seconds.

“What else can we do? Live on.”

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