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Mars Explorer Story Series Installment 7a: Blackout, Part 1
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The Team finds a way to remove the virus.
Submitted By Picard on 13/05/20
Mars Explorer, picard, Community, Creations, Publications, Fan Fiction 
This Document originally posted in the "Mars Explorer" Group

To find the most recent part, use your browser's text search feature to find @***@ 

Links to other Parts: 

Part 1: Not Alone

Part 2: A Spy Unrealized

Part 3a: The Journey Part 1

Part 3b: The Journey Part 2

Part 4: Horizons

Part 5: Stranger Things

Part 6a: Frozen Part 1

Part 6b: Frozen Part 2

And now, Part 7a: Blackout, Part 1


The Not So Distant Future... 

The slow beep of the medbed was the only sign besides Johnson's breathing that the technician was still alive. "Concussion," Futureboy said. "Brain activity is low, but not indicative of coma. I'll get him down to sickbay and run more detailed tests once we're back at base, but he should be alright within a few hours. Some confusion for at least a day afterward, full recovery within a month." He turned to Spiridon and ran a scanner up and down the geologist. "You, by some miracle, escaped the same. Clean bill of health, though your blood sugar's starting to dip. Get something to eat." 

"No problem, Doc." As Spiridon headed up towards the forward section of the shuttle towards the tiny galley, Futureboy tapped the wall comm.

"Jay, Johnson's safe to move. Get us in the air and take us back to base."

"Understood". The shuttle's engines blazed as it rose into the air again. "ETA is 1 hour, 23 minutes." 

The comm beeped. "Doc, it's Hunter. Should we head back with you?" 

Futureboy paused, trying to decide, when a third voice cut in. "Hunter, Falconer. Remain on site. Study the wreck, and try to download her records—"

"Belay that!" Zam's voice over the line now. "Hunter, under no circumstances attempt to access the Ares Voyager's computer systems."

"Copy that, do not access the AV's computer systems."

"What was that about the AV's computers?" Spiridon asked from the doorway, a half-unwrapped ration bar in hand. "Because I already used them."

"Were you using the buggy's uplink?" Zam asked.

"No, I accessed them on the bridge."

"Did you use any connection from your own equipment?" 

"No. Manual only. Why does it matter?"

"Because if that's the case, you may have saved us a whole lot of time." 


"It's simple," Zam said, after explaining about his discovery of the virus. "All of our backups and the computers on the Ares Voyager 2 are infected, so we can't perform a clean install from any of them. But since Spitfire found the Ares Voyager 1, we have another option. Since the virus was only introduced into our systems recently, her computers should still be free of it, and they have enough processing power and storage to perform the restore."

 "But how can we be sure her systems are clean?" Picard asked.

"That should be simple enough," Krieger said. "We just need to have the search team check for records of Robert Garret. He was working for the project, so his records would be in their systems. If they're still there, then the virus isn't."

"But how do we keep them from being infected when we link to them for the restore?" Glast voiced via the comm.

"For that matter, how are you going to link with her at all?" Spiridon added. "Her comm antennae were completely wrecked."

"I think I have a way," Flynn spoke up. "Jay, you're bringing one of the jets back with you, right?"

"Right. Why?"

"Once you dock, we'll get to work cleaning its computers. Then we'll fit it with a laser telegraph."

"What good will that do?"

 "We already have one buggy clean and equipped with the same, and there are access panels on the AV's hull, near the airlocks," Flynn explained. "If we wire the buggy in with a fiberoptic cable, we can use the jet as a relay between the buggy and the station and run the restore through them."

"Even with the slight delay from having to run the restore over that kind of distance, it should only take about an hour and a half to finish," Zam concluded.

"Yeah, but it will only work if we're on this side of the planet," Orion Wilson pointed out. "We're already halfway through this orbit. By the time the shuttle's back, we'll only have an hour left. Not long enough to have the jet ready to launch before our window's up."

"Then we can launch it as soon as it's moonrise again," Flynn suggested. "That also gives us enough time to clean the shuttle's computers, and a few more of the vehicles, like you wanted, Aubrey."

"Alright, let's do it," Falconer decided. "As soon as the shuttle's aboard, getting it and the jet restored and wired up will be top priority. Meanwhile, start prepping survival areas. I want unpowered CO2 scrubbers and survival suits at key points in the station, including the lounge, the MIC, reactor control, sickbay and the landing bay. Glast, your team is to make sure the AV's computers are clean, then return to base. Be sure not to tie in any of your computers to the AV's. We've got 5 hours, people. Let's make it happen.


"We'll need emergency generators set up for the fridge units in the labs and the kitchen," Babage said as he walked towards reactor control with Flynn. "And I think we should take steps to clean sickbay's computer systems and isolate it form the rest of the station in advance."

"Why? You don't think anything's going to happen in an hour of people just sitting around, do you?"

"No, but better to be prepared if something does. I can hear Doc now, how an hour's an eterntiy in the wrong situation."

"I agree with that, but we don't have any non-computer controlled generators on hand that are powerful enough to run even half the equipment in sickbay," Flynn explained. "If we get the second shuttle back in time, we can clean its systems and use its medbay as a makeshift sickbay. That would take care of two problems at once, since Aubrey wanted the landing bay set up as a shelter. We could even strike sickbay off the list. They stepped through the doors of reactor control. The loud hum of the tokamak and the hiss of cooling equipment forced the engineer to raise his voice. "I'm more worried about how long we'll be without power. We can shut down the reaction almost instantly, but the residual heat needs to be pulled away so we don't damage systems. So we'll actually have to take it offline about a half-hour before we go fully dark, run the cooling systems on stored power until we lose computer control. Then, once computers are back, we'll need to use battery power to get back up to operating temperature before we can restart. Really, we're looking at more like two hours before we'll be in the clear."

"Do we have enough battery power to run the station for an hour?"

"We should. But I'm still not entirely comfortable with that. Ideally, once computers are back we'd stay mostly dark until the reactor was back online. Bare essentials: Life support and internal comm only."

"We could have people run messages once support's back," Babage suggested.

"Not fast enough if there's a real emergency. No, internal comms are essential."

"Alright. But you'll be here, so nothing to worry about." The science officer noticed a worreid look on the engineer's face. "Won't you?"

"About that. Jay will be pilot on the jet, and he's a competent technician. But I'm planning on taking the buggy."


"Same thing that has me worried about the station has me worried about the AV: Not enough power. Stuck in the ice, powered down, she's running in hybrid mode; her batteries are being charged by her RTGs. But that long in suboptimal temperatures might have affected their capacity. Restoring the entire computer system of this station's going to use a lot of processing power. Cooling only goes so far on cutting down on that, and the batteries might not be up to the task. So to get around that, someone would have to reroute the output of all of her RTGs to the main computer."

"And that someone is you?"

"Bingo." Flynn climbed up to a control board and looked it over. The reaction was normal, temperatures in the expected range. So if he shut it down, but kept cooling running, it would take about 33 minutes to bring it to 'cold' standby. 

"Why didn't you mention this to Aubrey?"

"I want to see the footage from Spitfire's helmet cam first. If the batteries are still operating at half capacity, I won't be needed. If they're lower than that, well..." Flynn let the statment hang in the air for a while before turning away from the board. "Alright, it'll take three scrubbers for a room this size. We just put them in a triangle around the reactor, there, there, and—"


"There!" Orion Wilson said. "That's two down, ten to go." He glanced down the row of buggies. "Dustin, how's it going on the HCs?"

"I have the first two ready to be wiped," Dustin Brown called as he pushed himself out from under the graviton cushion of one hovercraft. "Pass me a restore kit?"

Orion handed him the clean install module. "You know, before you use that, you might want to..."

Dustin snatched the module and leapt up and onto the hovercraft's chassis. "It'll just take a second. Here goes!" He leaned into the controls and plugged in the module. The grav cloud suddenly faded and the vehicle plunged a foot to the deck. The startled technician fell backwards, only for Orion to catch him.

"I was trying to tell you to set it down, first," the mechanic chuckled, setting him down. "Remember that next time."

"Got it," Dustin said sheepishly. A thought occurred to him. "Does Aubrey want the sub wiped beforehand, too?"

Orion grimaced. "I hope not. Anytime we reset that thing, it runs through the whole audio spectrum, one ping at a time when it reboots. That, and it needs a different software version than these. Speaking of which..." He motioned for the install pack back. "Keep going down the line. When we're done with these, then we'll ask about the sub. Though why he'd want it, I don't know. It's not as if we can drop it from orbit.


"Orbital drop submarines?" Glast repeated, skeptical, as she pulled on her helmet. "And they actually thought this was a good idea?"

"Well, Europa doesn't have much of an atmosphere," Spiffy said, "so they didn't need to install a heat shield."

"It's also covered in over six miles of ice! Heatshield or not, if you try to just smash through ice that thick, you're what winds up getting smashed, into tiny pieces."

"They realized that about halfway through the design, too," Spiffy said. "So it was back to the drawing board. Now that we have better lasers, they want to do the same trick, but with guns blazing all the way down."

"So...in order to study the ocean, they'd expose a wide patch of it to the vacuum of space?" Glast rolled her eyes. "Some people have very stupid ideas."

"Don't I know it! Did I tell you how people still keep trying to toast bread with the peanut butter on it?" Spiffy noticed their location. "Okay, we're at the lock again. Are you sure about this, Tess?"

"Just make sure you're strapped in before you start." As Spiffy checked his harness, Glast tied a length of cord to a handle near the sub's bottom hatch and secured it to her own harness. "Ready?"


"Okay, set us down." The sub jolted as it contacted the hull. Then the back of the vehicle lurched, falling backwards. "Hold it here!" Glast flung open the hatch and dove into the water. The water was still rushing downstream, but the open airlock was pulling water in and upstream as the sub's rear section tilted into it, almost cancelling the pull from either direction. She swam down and into the airlock. "Now! Full power and blow the tanks!"

A cloud of bubbles surrounded the sub, and its propulsion ducts spat water furiously. It shot up and away, playing out the line rapidly. The moment the sub had cleared the airlock's edge, the outer door closed. Glast braced herself as the water drained away. The inner door opened and she dropped through, landing on her feet. She tugged on the cord, but didn't feel it give. "Spiffy, can you hear me?"

"Loud and clear, Tess! Good thinking with the comm cable."

"Thanks. Now, where's the nearest terminal?" She clicked her helmet light on and glanced around. Spying a screen nearby, she walked over and switched it on. The screen lit up immediately and she smiled. "This shouldn't take long." But when she tried to check personnel files, an message appeared: MEMORY ACCESS RESTRICTED. USER/PASSWORD? "Strange." She keyed in her user information and pressed enter. ACCESS DENIED: INSUFFICIENT INFORMATION. "What?"

"What is it?"

"There's a partial lockout in place. My password's not enough by itself. Hold on..." She pressed help. BIOMETRIC DATA REQUIRED. "Okay, really strange. It wants biometric information."

"Well, that's going to be difficult. Unless you don't mind getting frostbite."

"Maybe not. I'm not seeing any icicles, just dust. Should be warm enough. I just need to find a working hand scanner."

"Any around you?"

"No. Let's see..." Glast checked her memory for the layout of the ship. "Closest one should be in the armory." She compared the distance to the armory with the remaining slack on her line. "I'm going to have to unhook for a while. If I'm not back in half an hour, get Hunter." She unclipped the line before Spiffy could object, then started walking towards the armory. 



"I don't think it's such a good idea to have the armory out of commission for so long," Krieger said.

"Chris, we're over 100 million kilometers from the nearest warzone. I don't think anyone's going to need a weapon anytime soon." Picard gestured at the security chief's belt. "You don't even wear one."

"We're going to be without internal or external sensors for over an hour. That poses a severe security risk, since we still don't know what it was Spitfire and Jackal saw the other day. And given our visitor from the future's appearance, it's possible something could get aboard without using an airlock."

"We're all going to be in the dark for over an hour. Do you really want people in a close quarters, stressful situation to be armed?"

"We're also all well-trained, Andre. And I would lock all weapons we distribute into non-lethal mode before handing them out."

"There's another problem: there are computers in them. You'd have to make sure they were clean."

"Simple. Swap in the parts we have in storage. I already have ten ready and confirmed virus-free on their way to the MIC."

"Jumping the gun a bit, aren't you?" Picard frowned and thought to tell him to recall the weapons, then reconsidered. "Tell you what; I need to fly over the the Voyager 2 to isolate her from contacting the station. Since Zach's busy here, mind helping me out? Then I'll help you refit a few more hand weapons when we get back." 

"Deal." The security chief turned to a wall comm. "Krieger to Zam. Zach, Andre and I'll be on the AV 2 for a while. You're in charge of security until I get back."

"Copy that," Zam answered. Krieger switched off the comm and turned back to Picard. "Alright, let's go."

"You know, Chris," Picard said as they started towards the launch bay, "Sometimes I think you take protocol a little to seriously."

"It's standard operating procedure to notify whoever is on security when departing the station," Krieger replied.

"I know. But you could have called from the shuttle and saved some time."

"Sure I could have. But better to tell Zach now while he's on his way to the MIC than interrupting him once he's there."

How come?”

Well, I actually haven't started fixing the hand weapons yet.”

Wait, so the ten that Zach's got-”

Are rifles, yes.”

Oh dear.” Picard ran a hand through his hair. “Do you think Lizzle knows to expect that?”

Relax, Andre. Zach follows procedure; he called ahead too.”

And told her that he's about to step into the MIC with enough firepower to bring down a bull elephant?”

Well, he may have left that part out. Don't worry, though. We're well-trained, remember?”

I know,” Picard agreed. “That's why I'm worried.”


Note: Updating gradually, as chunks are written. 

Music is from Backdraft. Thanks to MacDane for teaching me how to add music.

» Reply to Comment
Re: Mars Explorer Story Series Installment 7a: Blackout, Part 1
2 weeks - 32,767v
Posted 2013/05/20 - 9:40 GMT
great story! really enjoy reading these!
» Reply to Comment
Re: Mars Explorer Story Series Installment 7a: Blackout, Part 1
1 week - 32,767v
Posted 2013/05/20 - 17:30 GMT
Thats really cool! Great job!
How do you add music?
» Reply to Comment
Re: Mars Explorer Story Series Installment 7a: Blackout, Part 1
1 day - 5,491v
Posted 2013/05/20 - 19:06 GMT
Music from Backdraft? Sweet! Not only do I love that film, but the music has been one of my personal favourites. Keep using it. Gripping stuff, Picard! You have so much detail, it's incredible - a fine mind is at work.

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