What do you mean, ‘Connection inoperative’? shouted Rick, staring at the screen.
The fuck is this, dial-up? He ripped off the head-set, slamming it down on the desk in front of him, cursing.
Whoa, man, calm-down, it’s probably just a blip in the system or something, said Carly, running a hand through tightly curled hair. Just, stop freakin’ out, you’ll see.
Yeah, yeah maybe, Rick responded, rubbing grainy eyes. How long we been at this? 19 hours? Feels like it. I’m beat.
What time is it? Huh. I think Greg is supposed get back in, like, half an hour. If you wanna get some shut-eye, I can cover for a bit.
K – be sure to wake me if anything, y’know, weird happens, Rick said, heading for the hatch in the far wall, wading through the hanging wiring.
Will do, Carly said, turning back to the read-out. Figures flashed by, illuminating her face, shadows playing across it in turn. She looked over to Rick’s abandoned desk – still no connection with the module. Super weird – plenty of data flowing, she thought, looking back at her own screen. Hang on a sec. Carly punched in a request in the command prompt line.
Fuck. Fuckitty Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck, Carly said aloud. Rick, you better get back in here, she yelled through the open door.
The hell is it now, Carly? Rick groused as he slumped back into the room.
I think we lost the lander, Carly said, busily setting up a diagnostic.
Whaddaya mean, ‘lost the lander’? How could we just ‘lose the lander’? Rick responded, instantly coming to full attention, throwing himself into his seat.
Query the mass readout, Carly said, still fixing her attention on her computer. Rick, rather than demand more information from the taciturn woman, ran the same request as she had moments ago. Total Mass = 967 kg. 967kg? Where the hell is the other 32 kilos? Rick asked his silent monitor. How did we just drop 32kg? Where’d it go? Silence in the room, save for the subtle whir of electricity.
How much does the lander weigh, Rick? Carly said, grimly satisfied with her tests.
Ah. Ah, fuck. You sure it’s not just the instrumentation?
Yeah, everything else is reading just fine, even with the 12 minute delay.
Hang on, lemme check something, Rick responded, pulling up a browser. Looking at the screen, he grabbed a pad, making some rough calculations.
Well, fuck, he said after a few minutes.
What, any ideas what happened over here? You know, our job and shit? Carly said.
Yeah. I think we got hit. We got hit by a piece of fucking rock.
You’re kidding. How the hell would that have happened?
Well, the launch was delayed, wasn’t it? And the observations of the path, well, they corresponded to the original date. Pushing back the launch changed the population of the vector. We shot the damned thing right into the path of a comet. It musta got hit by debris, or something. It’s the only thing that makes sense.
Carly looked at him, blankly staring.
How much did the mission cost, again?
1.3 Billion. Euro, not USD.
Huh, how about that.