Dust Storm

When the storm clouds appeared in the horizon, I started to get prepared. I didn't have much time to get things done Quickly I collected my equipment and put them back into back of the Rover. Some heavier equipment couldn't be moved that easily, I placed the blast covers back as much quickly as I could. The black clouds were moving towards me very rapidly, necessitating some painful decisions. The Oxygen/Water generator needed to be stashed, the solar panels needed to be covered but the seismic detectors were abandoned.

Finally the clouds were over me. The wind got stronger and stronger and finally the blast hit me, a sudden wave of red dust made the visibility zero. I struggled to locate the Rover and its door and pulled myself into the small but safe cabin.

The cameras were pulled in therefore from inside the Rover I could not see what was going on outside but I could guess. The visibility would be almost zero, the dust whirled around by the strong wind would carve small scratches all over my rover, the dirt and the muck would be "washed away", being replaced by a thin layer of red dust. Anything loose and light would just fly away and maybe land back thousands of kilometers away. Some of the heavy equipment would be buried under the shifting sands, I might have to dig the Rover out when this is done.

The powerful end of the storm takes about a couple of days, which is not the problem, after the storm it will take months to dust the settle down, especially if this storm goes all around the planet. Probably I will not be able to see the Sun for months now and I hope the solar panels will provide me with enough power to heat the Rover, leave alone running it. If any of my important equipment fails, especially the radio, I might die here in the deserts.

It was a complete isolation - because of the static electricity the radio communications were down. I did not want to risk the satellite dish against the strong winds and HF frequencies were completely garbled. I tried some very narrow band but all I got was warbles and random characters, even CW didn't help. The stories are full of researchers going mad in these situations but I treated it as a nice holiday and sat down and read some good books - Starship Troopers is always fun to read.

It took a couple of days for the howling winds to die down. Finally early in the morning I decided to risk one of the cameras and hesitantly pushed the button and watched the screen in front of me. The sun was about to rise in half an hours time and currently all I could see was darkness. Impatiently I spend the time by drumming on the dashboard.

Slowly a little redness appeared in the horizon. The sun must have been risen for a while now but I could not see anything - a dark blood red sky, horizon to horizon, at least as far as I could see which was not much. Most of my equipment were buried under little sand dunes nd one side of the rover appeared to be completely under the shifting sands.

As i spent the day, sitting in my cabin, watching the redness, I realized the danger of the situation, this dust storm had been very powerful and dust was kicked quite high in the sky. The storm was still raging somewhere, kicking more dust into the air and on and on and on. Probably the dust kicked had already gone all over the planet, making its atmosphere completely opaque. This would mean that the greenhouses would need electricity and the solar panels would be no help at all. All but the bigger greenhouses with nuclear plants would slowly run out of electricity and the plants would die. As the energy levels dwindle, slowly and surely all of the equipment generating the oxygen, liquid water and warmth would die and eventually freeze in the cold freezing weather. Only small groups of people would survive, if they had the power and the food resources to stand out the winter and the rescue would probably take months, probably a year.

This was bad. My batteries would last an other month if I just stayed here. If I moved, they would run out in a couple of days, maybe more if the path is good, maybe less if it was hilly with lots of craters. If I got stuck in a quicksand or dustbowl, I would die since I would not have the raw power to get the Rover out of it.

It was bleak. I sat there, thinking what to do next. The HF communication was dead but the satellite could push through the dust layer so I turned it on and tuned into the weather, channel. It was bad. The people in Orbit were beaming the pictures of the planet, in animation with the clouds of dust rolling around and a bland redness where the storm had been through.

Slowly, with determination I overrode the door locks.

Goodbye, reader, now I shall hit the emergency open button. I hope we came back to the Red Planet since everyone right now on the surface will be dead soon. It will be a new start, all over again.

This is a beautiful planet but it is ruthless. Maybe you will be luckier. Shit happens. Peace.


No comments: