14:25 MTC (Martian Coordinated Time)
The constant humming sound of machinery, mixed with relentless howling of the wind outside, reminded James of the hostile environment which he now found himself stranded in. It was meant to be a routine check-up of the solar arrays that was spread across the valley like a delicate spider web providing all the energy the little community on Mars needed to survive.
He was checking the third panel, when the storm had started, bettering him with dust and small razor sharp pebbles. He had struggled to head back to the observation post, by the time he managed to pull himself in, the primary lining of the AV suit had been compromised and visor had few deep cracks that made it virtually unusable.
The tiny, compact facility was not designed to be used as a habitat. The small shelled interior housed boxes, spare parts and small communication array system, which thanks to the raging storm outside was currently off line. The only good news was it was pressurised with enough air to support him for few days. He had to create a living space by moving the boxes around and rummaging through them, he had found the emergency supply packs, which every habitat held for just this kind of emergency.
Once he was satisfied with his man made living accommodation, he removed the AV suit and started examining the damage. The suit was not beyond repair and the secondary lair was in good shape. The Portable life support system was covered in the fine dust which The Red Planet was famous for, but that could be cleaned. His main concern was the Visor and the cracks along the left side, which had taken the brunt of storms savagery.
He looked around; he knew full well, the blame lied squarely on his shoulder. If he had not delayed his return, he would be right now back in the HQ, most probably drinking a hot cup of tea. The thought made him smile; he preferred large glass of red wine but that was a lot harder to come by and as far as he was aware, no company delivered to Mars yet.
He packed away the suit carefully and walked to look out the circular window. He could not see very far, most Martian dust storms covered a small area for a few days and then they just settle down and life was back to normal. Sometimes, though rarely, dust storms on Mars were fierce enough to cover the entire planet in a dusty cloud for weeks, this was not one of those. Given the circumstances, things were not as bad as it could have been. He had warm shelter, food, water and most importantly a place to sleep. The red flash on the central console caught his attention.
It was the proximity warning alarm, which wasn’t much of a surprise, given the hell that was raging outside. He flicked the switch and turned it off. One less irritable thing to deal with, he tapped his password on the on-screen keyboard to log into the system. He navigated the menus until he found the log directory. He created a new file, pulled the stool closer to the workstation and started typing his report. “I am not going anywhere anytime soon,” he said loudly to himself, “I might as well catch up on paper work.”