The sun beat against my eyelids and forced them to open as I realized that I hadn’t put the visor up on the windshield. Squinting, the early rays of the morning filled my craft as the sun poked up above the horizon.
Glancing around, I sat up and raised my hand to my brow. Slowly, the memories of everything that transpired yesterday came roaring back.
The trip across the desert.
And being left stranded.
And then spending the day trying to see if a ship could function without a lithium generator.
Luckily, my first night captive had passed without any major incident. The storms had been small. Occasionally, the sand whipped against the sides woke me but I had quickly returned to my makeshift bed wearing my suit just in case I needed to exit quickly in the middle of the night. Although I had thought it impossible to sleep, I had succumbed to exhaustion fairly soon after being left on my own in the afternoon.
I planted my feet and then leaned back to extend and stretch after a night’s sleep in the captain’s seat. Blinking my eyes, I stared out at the desert. The light danced beautifully on the hills cascading light violets and burnt orange.
My attention then returned to my own home that I hoped would not become my tomb. Oxygen and energy reserves allowed for at least one more day— probably close to a day and a half. My tablet sat on the dashboard and held the reality of the 18.9 kilometer march in the sand that would be required to reach the colony. My suit could only hold two hours of oxygen without replenishing so walking was not an option.
From the supply bag on the adjacent seat, I grabbed a slog and greedily drank down breakfast before then grabbing my helmet and readying myself to see if my new plan provided some hope for escape. Last night, I surveyed the damage and patched up the rotors for the lift to work, but confirmed that another generator was necessary for me to be able to get it airborne.
Opening the hatch, I leaned out in the full beams of sunlight and then stepped down onto the ground. The sand crunched beneath my feet as I marched forward. Inside, I tried not to get my hopes up just to have them dashed as I approached the skiff from Pangaea II that was abandoned. It would be miraculous if she had left the generator inserted in her own skiff, but I was now down to miracles being my only hope.
Her skiff definitely took as much damage as mine. From the outside, it was tough to see how it was disabled but it clearly had been incapacitated as well or she wouldn’t have brought in backup. Going around to the back, I pulled out my wrench and set to work on the panel.
“Please, please, please be there…”
The wrench twisted the last bolt one more time and the small, steel panel came free in my gloved hands. My heart dropped. Inside, there was an empty space with the rectangular, lithium device should’ve been.
I’m going to die out here…
“Keep it together,” I whispered wanting to throw the panel into the desert, but realizing that any waste of resources would be foolhardy. Instead, I returned the panel to protect the innards of the craft from the harsh Martian elements with shaking hands.
Turning when I finished, I dropped my head and trudged back towards my skiff hoping that I could figure out a new plan before the sun went down.
Time was running out.