Chapter 16.5

Tom turned toward Brandon, “Brandon, please enable the closed communication session, thanks. After a nod from Brandon, Tom began to greet his friend, “Hi Ty.” Then, popping up to attention and favoring him with a salute, he added, “I mean Commander Cody, Sir! Glad to hear things are under control back home.” He paused for a moment, then continued, “…after the hanging. Ha! I like that.” Tom chuckled heartily, with glee flavoring his tone.

“Well, we have a great deal to report. I only wish I could be there to tell you in person, just so I could see the look on your face when you hear all of what’s been going on at this end. In the first place, that robotic rover, which we believe to be of Chinese origin, has been permanently… shall we say, deactivated due to an unfortunate tumble into the crater. We discovered it had attacked the fuel processor and the light truck, damaging them slightly. While Brandon and I were out there on EVA earlier, we checked them out further. The rover had bored a few holes into, both the truck’s chassis and frame as well as the exhaust nozzles and landing gear of the lander. The punctures in the nozzles were really ineffectual, since the lander is not meant to re-launch from the planet.

When we are ready to deploy the pressurized rover, we will still be able to utilize those nozzles by converting them to wheels for the vehicle. I wish I could thank the guy who came up with that unique idea. And, as the truck is un-pressurized, a few holes in the body won’t hurt it either, just so long as it missed the methane and O2 tanks, which I am happy to report, it did.

“Next are the mounds surrounding the Penny Bright Crater,” Tom paused for about two beats with reflections of his darling, deceased wife playing in his mind. Then remarked, “By the way, you may have observed that everyone here is in possession of unauthorized champagne flutes. Before launch, we swapped them out for the freeze-dried Green Bean Casserole that we all hate. Originally, we stowed away several bottles of bubbly in advance for celebrating our last day on Mars. But as you can see, we’ve already popped the cork on day two of our invasion. ‘Why?’ you may ask. No, we’re not ready to head on home just yet. As it turns out, the samples collected by the rover were diamonds in the rough, and that’s not a euphemism for anything. They are literally carbonados, or space diamonds,” he said, emphasizing the final two words. “But not just any plain old, ordinary space diamonds.” In front of the camera Tom hefted a coarse gem from the bench, the largest of the assortment he and Brandon had fetched on the first EVA. It was the size of a baseball.

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