MISSION DAY 701
You’d think after a year and a half of talking to myself I’d be ready to shut the fuck up, but nope. Turns out that the shrinks at NASA want me to keep a running log of my “reintegration experiences” now that I’m back on the Ares with honest to God other human beings to talk to. Apparently there were “some concerns” after they had a chance to read through the log entries I’d copied and brought back with me during that looney rollercoaster ride on the MAV up to Ares.
I’d actually considered leaving it behind in the rover. I didn’t think that the data stick’s miniscule weight, less than five milligrams, would affect the launch, but by that point I was so paranoid about getting the MAV up to escape velocity that I nearly herniated myself taking one last dump before launch in the makeshift toilet I’d made with a sample box. Believe me, it was a deeply satisfying moment to drop that last potatoey turd upon the planet that had given me so much grief. After accomplishing that feat, I figured the datastick wouldn’t be that much of an issue.
Actually, that brings up another thing: You might be wondering what I used for toilet paper after I ran through the supply NASA had sent along in the pre-supply probes. First off, they only sent twelve rolls, one for each of us plus the inevitable emergency backup. That sounds insane, until you realize our Hab toilet also functioned as a bidet, with more gadgets in it than the fancy seats you find in a Japanese hotel. We weren’t expected to use the rolls unless the toilet malfunctioned, or we really had to go while out in the Rover. I used almost all of them up on the Sirius expedition to retrieve Pathfinder.
So what did I do during the long ride from Acidalia Planitia to the Ares 4 MAV? Let me put it to you this way: Hygiene became a severe issue for me after I ran out of soap and alcohol wipes. Thank God the only germs in the Rover were my own.
Okay, I’m getting off track. It’s been four days since I returned to the Ares , I suppose I should bring you up to speed on what’s been happening. While Beck was examining me and taping my ribs, Commander Lewis ordered the ship’s habitation wheel be spun back up to 0.3G rotation. Which was lucky for me, because it gave me the chance to have my first shower since leaving the Hab way back on Sol 449. Four months of scrubbing with just water and a hand towel had left me rather fragrant. It wasn’t quite the same as the hot baths I’d rigged using the RTG back in the Hab, but man it felt good.
Next: Food. Oh my God, food. Once the rest of the crew finished double-checking the ship’s systems to make sure nothing was damaged after Lewis’ emergency decompression trick, they made me a meal , with mixed vegetables and a freeze dried steak that had been sent up on the Iris 2 resupply probe just for me. When the smell of that steak hit my nostrils I thought it was mana from heaven.
Then I had to do my damndest not to barf as I ate. Remember, this was the first meal I had that was over 1500 calories since I’d started rationing way back on Sol 7. Just trying to finish it made me feel like my stomach was going to explode, never mind the overwhelming tastes and smells of something that was Not Potatoes. I think I got through a quarter of it before I had to push it away and ask Johanssen to put it back in the galley fridge. I felt kinda bad, since we were all together for the first time in a year and a half, having a meal together to celebrate my rescue. Beck figured it out quick though, and gave me some antacids to settle my stomach down before I embarrassed myself.
I’m actually rationing out that steak. Since the Iris 2 had to be carrying food for the entire crew, rather than just myself, most of the supply was the same protein bars that had caused so much trouble on the first Iris launch. I want to enjoy the taste of meat as long as I can.
After that we sat and watched listened to audio message the president sent us, congratulating our crew for the incredible rescue, showing a fine example of human determination, blah, blah, blah. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t listening it much. Aside from my stomach bothering me it just felt so damned good to be with everyone again that I was kinda spacing out.
Then Johanssen uploaded a video message to my personal laptop. I took it back to Beck’s room cum medical suite and watched it. It was from my parents, recorded just after Commander Lewis sent confirmation that I was safely aboard. It says something about NASA’s priorities that they reserved the bandwidth for a full video message for my parents, and had the President make do with an MP3. Good going guys
Fuck they look tired, and maybe about ten years older than the last time I saw them, just before the ferry launch from Cape Canavaral up to the Ares. They both said congratulations and how much they’re looking forward to seeing me when I come home. I sent an email back letting them know I’m okay. Beck advised me against sending any video. After looking at myself in the mirror I gotta agree. No sense in scaring the shit out them by showing off my cool zombie cosplay. I really do look like one of the walking dead, what with yellow teeth and sunken cheekbones and pain lines from all the shit I went through during the launch.
By the time I get back it’s going to be over three years since they saw me in person. That’s seriously weirding me out.
Jesus fucking Christ I can’t wait to walk on a planet without needing a spacesuit.