What fate could be worse than his own death?
His action made lines flicker on the helmet’s screen. His external carapace was intact. The gyros were moving his feet across Mar’s rocky ground with no effort. He didn’t have much time to get inside. Emergency override bled energy quickly and secondary circuits were never tested. They were rarely needed. The company didn’t make money that way.
“Home. You reading?” He sent a call down inside the tunnels where the rest of the small colony resided. The duster dropped out of his hand. It was one of the few low tech gadgets they needed to keep the colony alive and growing. Solar panels routinely were swept free of Mars eternal dust. While waiting, he wondered if the self-activating protective shields for the solar panels had worked. Newly installed, like most of everything, they hadn't had time to test them.
“Copy, Manny.” Came back Juanita’s sexy voice. “Send someone out?”
“I’m O.K. There’s a chance that flare isn’t alone. I cleaned the panels.” Pain shot through his spinal column like fire. It spread hot like lava through every nerve. Another flare had hit. Tiny pinpricks of light flickered in front of his eyes. This time it was bad. Emergency circuits flickered and went out. Everything went dark.
“Copy, Manny.” The words floated in his head for a while, echoing there before his suit gave a feeble response. The front of the suit’s emergency over-ride was still operational. He’d taken a direct hit on his back.
“Copy.” He shot the single word back. The suit’s status glowed red. It was going out. Thank God for the built-in med kit. The company hadn’t stinted on that. Scientists at his level were worth too much to not offer that protection. He was feeling no pain. The movement had stopped. His suite was searching for energy sources it could feed on.
“Coming out.” Juanita’s voice sounded ghostly as if she were suiting up away from the command console.
“Negative” Manny commanded, wondering if the signal got through. His suite was on high alert. What was left of his sensors spelled out what had happened. “I’m fried.”
Another radiation pulse washed his sensor’s completely out. He was trapped inside his dead suite. Soon he’d be dead himself. Without the med kit, his body started screaming at him again. There was nothing he could do to stop Juanita. That’s what hurt most.
“Now plug in the red cable to his black cable.” A voice came from out of nowhere. It sounded like Angus, leader of their small group. “It’ll spark if his suit responds at all. That’s all right. Copy?”
Juanita’s voice grew elated. “It did. I’m in. I'm feeding him power.” Something bumped into him. The noise grated in the stale air where Manny felt his heart pumping a little faster now.
“Quiet, Manny. I’m feeding artificial DNA into your med-kit. We’ll have you regenerated in no time. Hang on, darling.” With the cables joining the suits together several things were happening at once.
Manny could feel Juanita probing at him, caressing and calming him. He’d never been dead before. He hadn’t seen any ghosts or angels, just the blackness. He’d wondered about that.
“We’re prepared for about anything, fella. Good to have you back.“ Angus was speaking. The suit was doing the primary rehabilitation. He didn’t know how long it would take back at base for him to get back to normal. Whatever that was. Every Time there was an accident, newly coded artificial DNA would weave something extra in the lucky recipient. Some had eyesight that worked in the dark, others higher frequency hearing. They were all test subjects.
Manny felt Juanita’s worry recede in her voice. “Don’t look, Manny. There’s nothing you could do.”
They both couldn’t help it. They looked. Radiation saturated Earth glowed back at them. The tiny suns of nuclear warheads going off around the globe had been an extraordinarily riveting sight. The company may have saved humanity from extinction but their home planet was deadly yellow instead of the beautiful blue marble filled with life that it had been just a month ago.