Chapter 16.1

“It may take a few days for me to get caught up on the details of the mission at hand, since I have been away from the office for so long. Rest assured, there is no better support team available than we have here at Mission Support and I have the utmost confidence in them. Unless you have more at this time, expect our next transmission at 13:00 tomorrow. Check that. It’s already after 3:00 a.m. so that would be 13:00 this afternoon. Commander Cody, over to you.”

Tom and Brandon had indeed dealt with the threat. With the communications lag time working equally well against whomever had been relaying instructions to the rover, the two men were outside more than eight minutes before the machine’s remote operator became aware of their presence. This also meant it was nearly an additional eight-plus minutes before the rover received the command to react to the danger. Before it even began responding, Tom and Brandon were outside of the Hab, disarming the threat.

Their first act in setting foot on the Martian surface was to investigate the rover’s origin by examining the machine’s composition and manner of assembly, while looking for any telltale markings, such as a U.S. flag. Via Tom’s helmet-mounted camera, the rest of the crew onboard was able to see what he was seeing. Markings on the top of the rover appeared to be of an Oriental script and Jackie confirmed, “It says ‘LIFT HERE’.”

Secondly, Tom pulled out his geologist’s rock-hammer and used it to render its camera inoperable by beating the hell out of it. Brandon voiced a comment, while borrowing Tom’s rock-hammer, “Like my dad always said, if at first you don’t succeed, read the instructions, but when all else fails, get a bigger hammer.” He firmly shoved the hammer’s handle into the spokes of one of the rover’s front wheels, as a way of altering its course roundabout and back towards the crater. Once it was routed toward the precipice, he removed the hammer handle to straighten out its track and keep it heading in that direction.

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