“Well, I’m glad we’re all here at last " said Willis. “The job is ready to start as soon as you’re able. If we can sign the contracts today I’d like you to set off in a week’s time.”
“The sooner the better really: it’s not like the specimens are going anywhere but we need this data for the annual report to the UWC Terraforming Commision in six months time. As you can appreciate Dr. Orlov, " here he nodded at Katrina, “squaring up all your results for the report itself will take quite a bit of time in itself.”
“So our deadline is…..” asked Marcus.
“Well the paper deadline for yourselves is three months from the date of departure on the 9th” replied Willis, “But in reality we should be ok if you can get all the data back to us by the end of May, and there’s a bit of slack built into the timetable anyway.”
“I don’t understand why you need all of us” said Jake, still secretly hoping that some wealthy school contact would turn up and offer him free passage to somewhere-anywhere-other than Mars. Now the deadline was looming forward towards actual work he was getting a bit fidgety.
“Mars is a dangerous place” shrugged Willis. “A total population of a few hundred thousand doesn’t go far on a planet this size, and most of the smaller settlements are in proximity to the mag rail along the main valley, running from Terminus in the Noctis Labyrinthus to the west, and Helium further at the eastern end of Melas: that will be your jumping off point. Mining camps off this main spine do exist, but are few and far between.”
“And in Coprates Chasma?” asked Spyder, “Are there any settlements there?”
“I was coming to that” replied Willis. “About halfway along Coprates is a small mining town called Presidia: there’s a RAP tower not too far from it and the servicing is run from Presidia. There are also a few tiny stations dotted here and there- the last one is the University Research Base at Eos. In general it’s a pretty remote area though. And that’s the point really.”
“What do you mean?” asked Jake.
“The point is this team will be pretty much on its own for three whole months. No towns, no backup nothing. Sure we can track your location from time to time with the GPS when a satellite happens to be overhead, and when the dust from the Phobos Incident allows us to actually get a reading at all, or even better, radio contact. But otherwise that’s it. That’s why we need two vehicles, and backup staff. Either one of the Rovers you’ll be using can transport all of you, if need be.”
“What vehicles we be using?” asked Dr. Orlov.
“Well I’d assigned a pair of Land Rover Mark IVs” said Willis, “But we’ve also just acquired two brand new Boeing Dustrakers: I’m sure I could pull a couple of strings if you prefer those- all the mod cons.”
“Hey I saw the advert for those. They look great!” said Spyder.
“All the American and French aerospace company rovers are crap” said Marcus. “It’s better going for robustness than gadgets and fancy electronics.”
“Well, well, I’ll leave that to you to decide-just get back to me before the end of tomorrow” said Willis.
“Will we need Vacc Suits?” asked Spyder nervously.
“Not at all” said Willis, “Though the Rovers contain them anyway as standard locker issue. There should be no need at all to ascend to the high sierra, and even the far eastern outflow of Marinis into Chryse is only about 1km above where we’re sat at present: Mars Suits will be fine. The vehicles can be presurised anyway.”
“We keep them pressurised, Yes?” said Dr. Orlov. “The dust it is big problem otherwise.”
“And, uh…Doc. Orlov here will do all the science stuff yes?” asked Marcus.
“Yes, Doctor Orlov is highly qualified.” said Willis, “Though there will be a lot of sampling and legwork involved so you will need to assist her from time to time.”
“I thought all the seeding experiments were in Amazonis and Chryse” said Marcus, I didn’t know there was stuff done in Coprates."
""It wasn’t really publicised at the time, but the seeding programme was five years ago now" said Willis, “And of course we handled the specifics. This will be the first comprehensive survey we’ve done since then.”
“The locations are all marked and the seeder pods will give you transponder signals as you get within range. We’re hoping for good results, especially in some of the more closed terrain-totally unlike the Amazonis and Chryse locations: different species mixes too.”
“Anyway, any last questions before you sign?”
“None for me" said Marcus, reaching for the datapad, "As long as your cheque doesn’t bounce, I’m in.”
Spyder leaned back and took a long drink from his beer glass, as he mentally calculated both his finances and how long it would take the Russki Mafia to find out that he was in Mariner City. Being off the radar for three months might be good for his health.
“Pass the pad over here" he said, when Marcus had finished. He then passed it to Dr. Orlov, who signed it quietly, though with a slight degree of hesitation he thought.
“It’s a basic 3 month contact with a flat Cr 3000 per month, plus any individually negotiated extras. There’s a time based bonus on completion, if you make it back before the deadline” added WIllis.
“I really do need to know which vehicles you’re taking, so talk it over and let me know asap.”
“Oh- and your signature includes a confidentiality clause too, which you don’t want to breach if you want to get paid.”
“Well like I said”, responded Marcus, “Boeing, Lockheed, Arianspace- wouldn’t touch any of their vehicles with a barge pole. Great looking, comfy, good electronics, but unreliable as shit. For a decent rover you need Land Rover, Shanghai GM, Rolls Royce or one of the Japanese Companies-made on earth by car manufacturers who’ve been building off road vehicles for nearly 200 years.”
“And Earth is 1G: a vehicle built to stand that will be fine on Mars. Moon tested- what a load of crap.” Marcus laughed harshly.