A/N Hello there! I'm sorry I have so many unfinished stories... yes, I may or may not get around to finishing them eventually. But a friend gave me this idea, and even helpfully outlined it for me, and so I had to write it.
There are a few quotes from the book and the movie. I lifted them. Please don't sue me. I love the fandom.
Comments/reviews appreciated. I hope you enjoy!
It seemed as if it was going to be just another routine day.
Mindy Park checked her email, and began to organize her list of mundane tasks. She'd just settled in for the night shift, and she made a note to herself to work on organizing some of the imagery that had been processed for the Ares Resupply Mission.
This particular mission was two years away from being launched, but already there was mounting pressure from all departments to make sure that everything would go off without a hitch. The Ares Program needed a drama-free mission. Losing Watney had been a blow to the entire organization and they wanted to make sure that everything was ready before they sent more people to space. Their funding depended on it.
As she went through her torrent of emails, one in the lengthy list particular stood out. It was from Venkat Kapoor, the Director of Mars Missions. Four pay-levels above her. Even before she noticed the Importance: High flag on the message, she knew it must be important. Very important.
Opening it, she realized that it was a direct order to take satellite imagery of a specific set of coordinates. 31.2 degrees north, 28.5 degrees west.
Those coordinates seemed to ring a bell, she thought, absentmindedly. She knew she'd seen them somewhere, a long time ago, maybe, but she wasn't sure where.
She pulled up the NASA intranet and started a search. She knew, instinctively, that this was an important moment, although she couldn't quite put her finger on why. Something big was about to happen.
For one thing, she never got emailed directly by the Director of Mars Missions. For another, the fact that he'd given her specific coordinates and not an actual location set off a red flag in her mind. Why would he do that, she thought to herself pensively.
Well, she was about to find out.
Fifteen minutes later, she had her answer. It wasn't the answer that she'd been expecting, though. She was staring at the data for the Ares III surface mission. It was the exact location of the Ares III Hab.
She'd better make certain that Kapoor knew what he was asking for, here, she thought. Otherwise, she risked taking pictures of a dead Mark Watney, lying there in the sand, and there would be no option but to make those pictures available to the public, within twenty-four hours. Even a lowly Pathways employee knew that anything related to the Ares III mission had to be handled very delicately.
She clicked Reply on Kapoor's email.
You want satellite images of Ares III? she verified.
Five minutes later, the reply arrived.
Thirty minutes later, Mindy was reaching for the phone.
"Hello, this is Mindy Park. Satcon. I need the emergency contact number for Venkat Kapoor?"
"Yes. It's an emergency!"
After another twenty minutes of bureaucratic bullshit, the bored dispatch person on the other end of the line was finally convinced to give her Kapoor's home number.
The phone rang. And rang. After nine rings, someone finally picked up.
"Yes?" came the extremely groggy-sounding male voice.
She was nervous, scared and starstruck, all at the same time. Kapoor was something of a legend; this man whom she greatly admired, and she was calling him on the phone! At the same time, the situation and circumstance was not at all the correct moment for fangirl adoration. She tried to keep her excitement in check.
"Dr. Kapoor? This is Mindy Park. From Satcon? I just got done processing the imagery you requested. I believe," she trailed off for a moment, not sure how much she should tell him, over the phone, "you should come in. Right away."
As she waited, pacing, she didn't know what to do.
She was scared by what she saw.
For the first time ever while working at NASA, she could feel dread in every vein of her body. Something was not right.
Something was very, very wrong.
Venkat arrived fifteen minutes later. "This had better be good," he began, grumpily. "I had just fallen asleep when you called."
"Um... yeah. Sorry." Mindy stammered, pulling up the first image on the screen.
"The Hab looks good," Venkat pointed out, "Except..." he trailed off, as he immediately noticed what Mindy had already seen. The solar farm, along with both rovers, had suddenly, unexpectedly, inexplicably disappeared. There was not a trace.
Venkat was shocked, there was no other way to put it. He didn't know what to think.
Words failed him.