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Chapter Seventeen – Is That A Chocolate Bar In Your Pants, Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

Back to Chapter Sixteen

“So what have you been doing up here all this time?”

“Well, other than the constant maintenance of the station, I’ve learned sanskrit.”

“You wouldn’t believe how much knitting I’ve done.”

“I finally finished reading Dhalgren.”

“I’ve picked up macramé.” Gwen points to an odd looking thing hanging on the wall.

“Sometimes we put on puppet shows for each other. Would you like to see one?” Susan looks hopeful.

Sheepishly José replies, “Well, maybe later. I’d like to see if we can get the communication with Earth fixed.” José gestures to his large toolbox. “I’ve brought some gear which should help, and a week’s worth of food and water.”

“Oh, ok. Party pooper. Where do we start?”

“I’ve all the maps, specs and technical documenation from the colony on this tablet, so I’m familiar with the general lay of the land. Now we need to go through it piece by piece and look for faults. Often someone’s just kicked a network cable loose or pulled a power cord out of the wall. How about we start in the control room?”

Gwen stops him. “Before you ask, we did try to reboot the system but neither of us has a background in this stuff. Susan is a Xenobiologist and I have a Physics PhD. Let’s go take a look, but don’t assume either of us is a dumb-dumb stupidhead.”

¡Yo respeto a las damas inteligentes y a las demás también!

Everything is dark in the control room. “We keep everything we’re not actively using powered down to conserve our energy production.” Explains Susan. The lights come on, José walks over to the main communication station and powers on a few monitors. One is completely filled with “host unreachable” network errors.

“Huh. Let’s take a moment to put some eyeballs on the hardware quick before we spend hours parsing error logs.” José pops open an access port underneath the station and gets on his knees with a flashlight to take a good look. “Jesús Christos! It looks like a bunch of these wires have been chewed! How could that happen?”


“What? Space rats?

“Yup. We found them and we ate them.” Clearly she’s serious.

¡Mierda! This might be an easy fix!” He reaches into his toolbox for a few things.

“Hey, don’t knock the rat thing. Ancient polynesians used to bring rats along on long voyages, I’ll have you know.” Susan adds sternly.

José is splicing wires. “Not judging! I wonder how you cooked rat before microwave ovens?” He gets up and sits in the chair. He hits his comm. “Hey Beth, let The Spock and The Scotty know I may have just fixed a major problem.”

“No shit? Dang, you work fast.” There’s some cheers and shouts in the background.

“Don’t get too excited just yet, there may be some other faults. I’ll keep you posted. Over and out and all that stuff.” He turns to the monitors. “Ok, let’s take a look here. Dang, looks like we need some user verification. You wouldn’t happen to know the credentials, would you? Offhand?”

“Um yeah, actually the login stuff is on that yellow sticky note over there.”

“First space rats, then saved by poor network security protocols. Isn’t that just how the world works.” José bends over the keyboards and gets to work.

Gwen looks over his shoulder. “You look like you know what you’re doing.”

“Ya sure, ya betcha! All those hours configuring network gear at Amazon are coming in handy now.” He’s consulting documentation, he’s typing. “Hey Beth, I’m going to try video.” With a swift dance of fingers, the faces of Beth and The Spock appear on the monitors. Gwen and Susan cheer.

From The Spock: “Crew, you are permitted one short ‘Happy Dance‘. What next, Engineer José?”

“I say we light ‘r up! That’s network tech-talk for ‘let’s give it a try’. Give it a shot and see if we can hit Earth.”

Spock looks over his shoulder. “The Scotty, you heard the man.”

“Ye canna change the laws of physics!” Clearly he’s getting a sour look. “Okay, okay. Jeez… I’m doing it. There. Sent. Now we wait. First for the signal to get there, and then the reply from Earth. Could be up to forty microns, I mean, minutes.”

Chief Engineer Preston takes the screen from Beth. “Good work, José, The Scotty. Everyone: you heard The Scotty. Anyone who needs a potty break, now’s the time.”

José heaves a satisfied sigh and swivels his chair around. “Ok my friends, I think we have time for that puppet show now.”

“I thought you’d never ask!”

Es verdad. Neither did I.”

Three puppet shows later…

“José!” It’s Beth. “You’re not going to believe this. Let me show my screen.”

“My God. We’ve done it!”

Onward to Chapter Eighteen – The Man Who Fell To Mars