Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon
Just as Tang Yue opened the door to Kunlun Station’s airlock to take his first step onto Martian soil for the day and say with deep emotions running through him, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”—
His assistant robot informed him that Earth had exploded.
Tang Yue’s heart sank.
A later, objective estimate of the time his mind remained blank was probably a few minutes, with all his brain cells stopping their operations. His nerves and electrical synapses had come to an abrupt halt. As for his cells, tissues, and organs, they had petrified.
To put it simply, he should have been declared brain dead.
Tang Yue threw aside all his work and turned to examine the Kunlun Station’s computers.
A perfectly fine Earth—
Such a huge Earth—
Had exploded without any warning?
Soon, Tang Yue figured out what had happened. The computer hadn’t made a mistake. It had indeed lost all connections with Earth. The routine connection of every half an hour had suddenly been severed. There was no response, no matter how often the system pinged or how long it waited.
As a result, the computer decided to push the alert.
It made the robot assistant, Tomcat, inform Tang Yue.
However, the words “connection lost” when spoken through a silly robot’s mouth became a terrifying: “Tang Yue, your home blew up.”
Tang Yue really wished to fire his silly assistant.
This is Kunlun Station! Jiuquan, do you copy me!? This is Kunlun Station, Jiuquan, do you copy me!? Can you hear me!? Jiuquan, do you copy!? Jiuquan!
There was no response.
This is Kunlun Station! Jiuquan, do you copy me!?
There was no response.
This is Kunlun Station! Baikonur, do you copy me!?
There was no response.
Plesetsk, do you copy me!?
Houston, do you copy me!?
Kennedy, do you copy me!?
Guiana, do you copy me!?
F*ck. Kennedy, do you copy me!? Pakistan, do you copy me!? Afghanistan, do you copy me!?
Tang Yue’s head was covered in sweat.
He had already attempted all forms of communication, but all of them had failed without exception.
Being alone on an extraterrestrial planet and losing communications with Earth was truly a confounding situation.
If he couldn’t establish any further contact, he would have to employ drastic measures—calling the Chinese deities such as Buddha or Jade Emperor.
“You have already been calling for help for six hours there. You have been unable to establish any connection with the Guiana Space Centre. What’s the freaking point trying to establish communications with them?” His assistant, Tomcat, stood by his side. “Can’t you see the huge words on the screen?”
On the screen flickered the huge words “NO SIGNAL.”
“How long is the transmission delay between Mars and Earth?” Tang Yue asked.
“About fifteen minutes,” Tomcat replied.
Tang Yue’s limbs went numb. His sealed space suit wasn’t porous, so his underwear was already drenched in sweat.
He quickly followed the instructions according to emergency protocols. He scrutinized every system at the worksite and even got the “System Maintenance Manual” out. He flipped through the book which was as thick as a dictionary and matched each word to what he saw.
“Your failure to connect to Earth clearly has nothing to do with the transmission delay. The computer at the worksite has already done its internal checks ten thousand times. There are no problems with the communication systems. The problem can only be from Earth’s side,” Tomcat explained. “It might have to do with a collective failure of the relay satellites.”
“What problem can result in the satellites’ failure?” Tang Yue asked.
“Speak any more nonsense and I’ll strangle you to death.”
“Alright, I’ll be serious. The probability of a collective failure of all relay satellites is very small. This is because relay satellites are a shared resource. The American satellites might fail, but the Chinese satellites are still available. The Chinese satellites might fail, but the Russian satellites are still available. The Russian satellites might fail, but the Japanese satellites are still available. The Japanese satellites might fail, but the European satellites are still available…” Tomcat droned on, as garrulous as ever.
“So?” Tang Yue interrupted.
“So isn’t Earth’s explosion more reasonable?”
Tang Yue lunged over to strangle it.
As he failed to find the robot’s neck, all he did was hurt his fingers.
“Don’t worry. Problems happening on Earth will be much easier to resolve than problems that happen here. Having lost communications for seven hours, the staff at Jiuquan will be more worried than you,” Tomcat consoled him. “Perhaps, they might send you a message soon? Be at ease. If you don’t wish to just wait, finish the work you are supposed to do.”
Tang Yue fell silent for a few minutes.
Not being able to reach Earth was most likely a problem on their side. It was pointless for him to wallow in anxiety on Mars. If he had the time to spare, he might as well finish his job.
As the last payload specialist to return from this expedition mission to Mars, Tang Yue was tasked with a mission to round up the scientific research. Therefore, he had to stay behind for a period of time to finish all the work. After an inspection, he would shut down the Kunlun Station and prepare it for the next batch of astronauts.
Organizing and taking inventory was a very simple task. Kunlun Station was the first research station built on Mars. It was very small in size with an area spanning not more than 100 m². It was enough for a person to live on, but it would be a squeeze for six. In the words of his team commander, Old Wang, “7.5 billion people spent 75 billion US dollars to build a house 75 m² in a dessert 75 million kilometers away. This must be the craziest real estate project in history.”
The astronauts who were in the same batch as him had already made their return. Work had been going very smoothly and Tang Yue believed that he could finish his mission very quickly before returning to the space station. He would then take an Orion shuttle back to Earth.
The next group of people would only head to Mars in June next year. They would take a six-month trip on the heavy-duty Falcon rockets.
Therefore, the next time someone would step into the Kunlun Station would be at least two years from now.
The floor and corridor were already packed with crates of various sizes. These were the daily necessities that Tang Yue had finished packing. It included food, medicine, and potable water.
All the things were placed on racks according to their type with an inventory list plastered across each crate. The material resources in the station were sufficient for a six-man team to survive for slightly more than six months.
Just having these items was naturally insufficient. The unmanned cargo shuttle meant to resupply the next round of scientific projects had already been launched via Hohmann transfer.
The cargo shuttle set off a year before the manned shuttle, and it carried material resources that could supply an entire scientific team for six months.
Tang Yue took stock of the crates on the ground while the items by the wall were things he prepared to take along with him into the shuttle. After all, his return to Earth would take several months.
The Sun was quickly setting as the tiny fireball hung above the desert’s horizon. It was another windless and sandless day. The Sun on Mars looked slightly smaller than on Earth, and the sky had already darkened. It was like dark blue velvet that cloaked the land.
Tang Yue was suddenly taken aback as he took two steps forward, slowly widening his eyes.
“Shouldn’t Earth be in the western sky?” Tang Yue asked.
“That’s right. It should be in the west and will appear very beautiful. It will be the brightest star you will be able to see. It will look like Venus on Earth,” Tomcat replied. “If the weather’s good, and your vision is good enough, you might even be able to see the Moon.”
“Then… Come over and take a look.”
Tomcat turned around as it lumbered over amid mechanical sounds. It traced the direction in which Tang Yue was pointing before its cat eyes shrank violently.
“Holy sh*t, where did the Earth go?”
11 August 2052.
Beijing time: 15:22:13.
Coordinated Universal Time: 07:22:13.
A particle stream spanning 200,000 kilometers tore through the Solar System’s elliptical plane at light speed with an angle of 5° 12′ 22”. In 0.0009 seconds, the third planet of the Solar System had been vaporized.