By Robert Lynch
The vac-suit made handling the rope difficult as Ash repelled down the canyon. Jagged footing searched for a place to puncture the suit near Ash’s feet.
“No rush,” Mickey said over the radio, watching Ash’s progress through her suit cameras.
“I’m thirsty though,” Ash said. This wasn’t even the hardest climb that she had ever done. On Earth, she had free climbed places that made Valles Marineris look tame, although she hadn’t done it in a vac-suit. The hardest part of the climb was the size, Valles Marineris is six-times deeper than the Grand Canyon. She’d never made a 10 km descent before, no one had.
“I can send down a drink,” Mickey said. Mickey could use the ropes to drive supplies up and down the climb with a tiny robot that attached to the line.
“I’m sick of recycled water; I want to drink Mars’ glacier water,” Ash said.
“Well, you’re going to be thirsty a good long while then,” Mickey said, “It’ll be at last a month before we produce a drop of water from the deposits.”
“It’s a very abstract thirst,” Ash said, taking a drink from her suit water. All this talk of water was actually making her thirsty. She crested a small ridge and stopped. The canyon wall had a depression that she couldn’t see into. “Damn. I can’t see into the erosion beneath me. I’m going to have to make camp here and send out the drone.”
Setting up her inflatable habitat, she plugged in her suit and performed the inelegant manoeuvre of backing out of her suit like a crab squeezing out of its old shell. Inside the small room, she stretched and wiggled in the ways that the vac-suit didn’t allow. With her hands no longer hindered by the stiff gloves, she got out the drone control and nimbly ascended the helicopter drone.
As she got lower in the canyon, the air was getting thicker, almost double what it had been at the surface, and she had learned to be careful when first taking the drone out. The drone flew under her and revealed a massive cave, the mouth 400 metres wide. At the back of the cave, in the darkness was a light.
“Mickey, are you seeing the drone feed?” Ash asked.
“What is that? A reflection from the drone?” Mickey asked.
Ash took the drone in closer. The light was becoming clearer. The light was coming from a fluorescent globe, stationed over a metal door. The door had script written on it, cracked and weathered from many years:
“Welcome, what took you so long?”