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LOG ENTRY: Mission day 687 - 2

Oh God, that shower felt good. I think the crew was just as relieved to have me get clean as I was - Martinez says it's going to take a couple of days for Hermes' air filters to cycle out the stench I brought on board, and I don't think he's just fucking with me. I can't smell a goddamn thing, of course. 

I mean, I can't smell me. I could smell the coffee the crew were drinking in the Rec when I got out. Oh man, could I smell it, it smelled like fucking heaven and Doctor Bossy-Beck wouldn't let me have any. Blah blah blah near-starvation blah blah blah nutritional plan. I got to drink some bland protein smoothie thing and stare longingly at their steaming cups. 

Why did I miss these guys, again? They're all assholes. Coffee-hogging assholes. 

It was weird. They all just kind of stared at me for a minute or two. Even after a shower, I'm probably not a pretty sight. But then Lewis started smiling, and then Beck started smiling and crying, because he's a fucking sap, and then everyone came over and hugged me, which was kind of nice until I threw up.

Turns out cracked ribs, hugs, painkillers, and whatever was in that carefully-nutritionally-planned smoothie didn't mix so well. Good thing we'd gotten enough rotation going to be back at half-grav, or that would have really been ugly.

Beck left them to clean it up and put me to bed in his old bunk. Guess he sleeps in Johanssen's now.

Yesss! I am doing a mental fistpump, because a real one would be hell on my ribs. I am the best yenta ever.

 

.   .   .


Johanssen wanted to go talk to Chris. Her chest felt tight, and the smell of Watney's vomit lingered in the Rec. But Chris was helping Watney.

Watney, Jesus. She hadn't gotten a good look at him when they'd brought him in (though everyone had gotten a good whiff, Christ) and even though she'd known, intellectually, that he was in bad shape, the reality had been a hell of a shock. He was wearing his own clothes when he came into the Rec, but they hung off him like a tent, and his hair and beard were wild and scraggly. 

An ugly noise interrupted her thoughts. Commander Lewis was still seated at the Rec table next to her, and Johanssen stared in disbelief as the Commander choked out another raw sob and buried her head in her hands.

Lewis didn't cry. She was a badass Navy commander, a badass NASA commander, and Johanssen had never seen her shed a tear, not even when she gave the command to launch the MAV on Sol 6. But she was crying now, an ugly wailing cry that she was trying unsuccessfully to hide. Johanssen, who was an ugly crier herself on the few occasions she indulged, got up and grabbed a handful of napkins from the cabinet and brought them back. Lewis accepted them blindly, mopping her nose with one and continuing to sob.

Johanssen patted her back gently. Lewis didn't tell her to stop, so she just kept going, the way her mother had done when she'd had that awful chemistry final in junior year that she'd thought was going to ruin her chances of getting into MIT. Up and down. Up and down. 

Eventually Lewis stopped crying enough to breathe in long, hiccupy breaths. She blew her nose loudly, and let out another, quieter sob. Johanssen took her hand away. 

"Fuck," Lewis said.

"Yeah," Johanssen agreed. 

 

.   .   .

 

LOG ENTRY: Mission Date 689

Lewis tried to apologize to me today. 

That was awkward. I mean, once you've said to someone, "It wasn't your fault," and they're sitting there with that look on their face that says they heard you but they don't really believe you, there's not really anywhere to go from there. 

I blame NASA, personally.

Not for getting me left on Mars! I mean, for the apology. They're going through with the stupid fucking inquiry panel, I guess. I pointed out to Venkat yesterday that I'm, you know, alive, and that Commander Lewis was part of rescuing me, but apparently there are politics there that are beyond logic. 

Aren't politics always. Give me science any day.

No science for me, though. I'm on rest and recuperation until these ribs knit and I can actually start keeping real food down. Beck took over my botany duties on the trip out and has run most of the experiments that were planned; NASA's working on coming up with an extra two-hundred-odd days of experiments for all of us that we can do on the way back, but there's only so much you can do with what's on board. Especially when the only plants you have are ferns. 

Beck says it will probably take months for the ribs to heal. More if I can't stop throwing up. You ever throw up with a cracked rib? Yeah, I don't recommend it. 

They just started letting me have food I could chew, too. And now it's back to the nutritional shakes. At least it's not fucking potatoes.

Fucking. Potatoes. Never again.

 

 

.   .   .

 

LOG ENTRY: Mission Date 693

Six days back on board Hermes, and I feel worse than I did on the surface. The physicians back at NASA who put together the sad fucking tofu-and-chalk excuse for food that is my "transitional nutrition plan" say my body was nearing complete shutdown and I'd kept going until now on pure shitheadedness (Beck's word, not theirs). But I got on board and every part of my body was like "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" and fell apart.

I can't keep half the shitty nutritional shakes down, and when I can, I get vicious fucking gut cramps. And the shits. Half a year of microwaved frozen potatoes, and I was fine, but now my GI tract is staging a goddamn rebellion. Beck says it's possible I've picked up a latent bacterial infection; bacteria get weird in space, and my immune system hasn't had to deal with anything other than my own bacterial load for a long time. 

Whatever it is, it sucks. I'm weak as a goddamn kitten and I've got liquid coming out both ends. The antibiotics NASA okayed for me this morning had better work; I'll be damned if I survived Mars to die of dysentery like some Oregon Trail settler wannabe.

 

 

.   .   .

 

Vogel came into Beck's quarters. "Hey, Watney."

The room smelled unhealthy - the faint undertone of vomit and sweat reminded Vogel of the last time his kids had gotten the flu when he'd been home. They'd been miserable, the poor things, and Watney didn't look much better.

"Hey," he croaked.

"How are you doing?"

"I'm bored out of my skull." Watney hadn't opened his eyes. "The light hurts my eyes, and Beck gave me a shot to bring the fever down, but it hasn't kicked in yet."

Vogel grinned. "Yes, he said you were whiny and needed to be entertained."

Watney grimaced. "I am not whiny!" But then he cracked an eye open and looked hopefully at Vogel. "Are you here to entertain me?"

Vogel used the hand sanitizer before pulling his tablet out of his pocket. "Ja, I am going to read to you." He sat in the chair next to the bunk. 

"Your books are all in German," Watney rasped. 

"Which is why I will read slowly, so I can translate. And you will shut up and be patient."

"Fine," Watney said. "But I hope your taste in books is better than Lewis's taste in TV."

Vogel snorted. They'd all heard plenty since Watney came back on board about Lewis's "seventies problem." He thumbed on the tablet and began to read.

"You must be worried that I have not written for a long time…"

When he had finished the story, he looked over. Watney's eyes were still closed and he was breathing steadily. Quietly, Vogel got up and tiptoed toward the door.

"That was deeply fucked up," Watney said suddenly.

"Ja," Vogel said. 

"Is that, like, a German bedtime story? Your kids are going to need so much therapy."

Vogel laughed. "Don't I know it. But I would not read this to the children."

"Just me, then. Thanks."

Vogel put his hand on the doorframe. "It is a very famous German story. They are not all so grim - I can read you something else next time."

Watney nestled further down into the thin pillow. "No, that was good. I may never sleep again, but that was good." He yawned, giving the lie to his words. "And really, thank you."

"It is not a problem."

Vogel turned to go. Behind him, he heard Watney say, "I bet you're a good Dad." He smiled.

"Good night, Mark."

 

 

.   .   .

 

"How's he doing?"

"Not good." Beck didn't look up as Martinez leaned into the sickbay. "He's running way too hot - I woke up an hour ago and he was like this in the bunk. I'm icing him down with gel packs, but I'm concerned about hydration, too."

"IV fluids?" Martinez suggested. 

"Yeah," Beck sighed. "I'm about to hook up a bag of saline." He stretched and put a hand in the middle of his back, wincing.

"You need any help?" Martinez said. "I can hold him still." Watney was twitching fitfully in his sleep. His washboard of ribs stood out against his chest and a blotchy red flush spread over his too-prominent cheekbones.

"Just a sec and I'll take you up on that," Beck said, rummaging for a clean line kit in one of the boxes under the bunk. "He shouldn't be this fucked up just from a bacterial infection. I gave him an antibiotic shot yesterday and that should have cleared up most of his symptoms by now. It hasn't, which means we might be looking at something viral."

Martinez edged away from the doorway a little. "Like, contagious?"

Beck shrugged. "Well, we know that extended space missions can cause latent viruses like Epstein-Barr to re-activate. It hasn't been a problem for the Ares missions to date, but it's a known risk." He paused, frowning. "I know you got a briefing on this."

"I got a briefing on a lot of things, Doc."

"You were supposed to be listening. Anyway, our immune systems are probably up to fighting off any viruses that have been shedding on the ship, but Watney's body is stressed to the max. Not only has the isolation affected his immune system responses, he got close enough to starvation that his natural resilience and resistance to infection is drastically reduced. I'm going to do a culture and some blood tests and see if I can identify what's going on - in the meantime, use these." He tossed a pair of latex gloves to Martinez. 

"Copy. If he's contagious, you need to inform the Commander, though."

"Already done."
 

 

.   .   .

 

[08:36] LEWIS: Specialist Beck reports Watney has developed mononucleosis. Watney's situation is fluctuating; concomitant bacterial infection and severe malnutrition are complicating treatment and recovery. 

[08:47] JSC: Copy, Commander. Are any other crew showing signs of infection?

[09:32] LEWIS: Negative. Incubation period for Epstein-Barr is 4-6 weeks, so it's unlikely that we'd see anything yet. We are all using gloves and adhering to medical handwashing guidelines, but there's no doubt been some exposure already.

[09:56] JSC: Keep an eye on it. And keep us updated on Watney's status. We'll have the medical team down here contact Beck to consult.

[10:23] LEWIS: Will do.

 

.   .   .

 

The crew gathered in the Rec for their daily debriefing. 

"What's the status on the reactor's cooling vanes again, Johanssen?" Lewis asked. 

"No further corrosion that I can see," Johanssen said. "Once Watney's lucid again, I'm going to talk through it with him, but for right now they seem to be holding."

"Good," Lewis said. "And Beck, how's Watney?"

Beck ran his fingers through his hair. It was something he only did when he was tired, Johanssen knew. "Not great. He's stable, for now, but I've got him intubated until the swelling in his throat goes down, and if there are further complications - liver damage or a spleen rupture - I don't have the resources onboard to treat him."

"And how likely is that?" Lewis was brisk and professional, but they could all hear the concern.

"Well, normally I'd say it's not. But Watney's body has been stressed to the limit. If nothing happens in the next week or so, I'd say we're probably in the clear. Until I can remove the breathing and feeding tubes, though, I'm going to keep him mostly sedated. There is a bright side to that, too - if we can get him through this, his cracked ribs should be mostly healed by the time he's feeling well enough to be up and about."

"Keep me posted," Lewis said.

"Of course."

 

.   .   .

 


LOG ENTRY: Mission Date 712

They tell me I've been out for weeks. Some of it was apparently touch and go.

I feel like it. 

Mononucleosis. I knew a kid who had that in college; it wasn't a big deal, he was just out of classes for a few months and had to take leave for the semester. But apparently I got the souped-up "Mark Watney special" version. Yay?

Everything hurts. 

What I would really like to know is how I got a "kissing disease" without any kissing. Seems unfair.

 

 

.   .   .

 

LOG ENTRY: Mission Date 768

Oh my God, I slept better than this in the damn Rover. 

The climate controls in Martinez's and my bunks are fucked, and Beck has been doubling up with Johanssen to get everyone a place to sleep. They let me have Beck's bunk while I was sick, but I've been doing better for a week or so now, and we're trying a rotation, so each of the rest of us gets their own bunk one night in three.

Martinez has been sharing a bed with Vogel while I've been out, but he said he'd rather sleep in the airlock. I don't blame him; Vogel snores like a chainsaw and cuddles like an octopus. But Martinez kicks like a mule, so nobody wants to share with him either. Lewis talks in her sleep, and sharing a bed with your commander - your female commander - is just awkward. But she won't let anyone sleep in the airlock and she won't take herself out of the rotation.

Something's gotta give, though, because I need my beauty sleep. Starvation I was even kind of getting used to, and I'm doing okay at recovering from almost dying of latent space viruses, but sleep deprivation is unacceptable. I miss my pop-tent bedroom. 

The NASA nannies have me talking to a shrink, of course. We all had to have monthly psych evaluations just to be selected for this mission, and I know Doctor Shields already from those. She has a lot to say about the therapeutic value of human touch, blah blah blah. I'm supposed to be getting regular "medical massages" from Beck, and that's fine. 

But sharing a bunk is something else. I can't sleep.

So I have got to fix this. This is what happens when you leave your mechanical engineer for dead on Mars - everything falls apart.
 

 

.   .   .

 

"Uh…Commander?"

Lewis looked up from her computer screen, where she was writing a carefully-worded report on the events leading to Watney's rescue for NASA's investigative committee. Martinez was hovering in the doorway.

"Yes, Martinez?"

"I think you'd better come see this."

She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "What now?"

"Watney, he's, uh. Cutting the ship apart?"

 

 

.   .   .

 

Floating out in the lab of Semicone A, Beck looked up from his experiments at the sound of a shouted "Goddamnit!" from the main hub. He toggled on his communicator.

"Captain, status?"

"I've got it, Beck," came the terse reply. In the background he could hear a drill and someone trying to talk over it, not very successfully.

"Okay, Commander," he said. 

"What's going on?" Johanssen asked. She was keeping Beck company in the lab while he finished up his science schedule. 

Beck shrugged. "Dunno," he said. "I'm sure we'll find out." 

 


.   .   .  

 

LOG ENTRY: Mission Date 771

The chain of command can suck my dick. 

Lewis - oh, sorry, Commander Lewis - got all bent out of shape about the repairs I was doing on the heating system in the bunks and read me the goddamn riot act. 

I had to stop everything and submit my plans to fucking NASA command and then those assholes deemed it "too risky" and that was that. Some fuckhead on Earth with a set of blueprints does a "risk assessment" and I will never sleep again.

Can't sleep in the airlock (thanks, Commander), can't fix the heating system (Thanks, Commander. Thanks, NASA.), and if I wake up to Vogel's snoring or Martinez's kicking one more time I am going to choke a bitch. 

I was so close, too. Martinez said he thought it was the coolant tubes in the wall, but it's obviously not, since none of the other bunks are experiencing issues; it's the thermostatic element for that section of the ship, which is pretty easily accessible. I even found a replacement in the stores - not the same kind, but one of the ones we use in the lab to regulate the temperatures of the plant specimens. All I need to do is make two more cuts and I could get my hand back in there and pull the old one out and wire the new one in. It wouldn't be a perfect fix, but it would give us back two working bunks. 

And have I mentioned that I can't sleep? Sleep is supposed to be "key to my recovery," according to the good Doctor.

The rest of them aren't much better. Lewis is as grumpy as a bear with a sore nose, Martinez has dark bags under his eyes, and even Vogel is getting pissy. This is stupid.

At least Beck and Johanssen look well-rested. 

Heh. 

Maybe they're doing it wrong.
 

 

.   .   .

 

Vogel skidded around the corner to find Lewis standing in the hallway by the crew's quarters. It was the yelling that had alerted him, but even so, he was surprised by the tableau he found. Commander Lewis was red-faced, shouting, "…goddamn insubordinate asshole," clearly the tail end of a longer complaint. 

Vogel had never seen Commander Lewis lose her cool this spectacularly. But that wasn't the really arresting part of the scene. 

Watney was in the doorway of his quarters, topless and sweating. He'd shaved the wild-man beard and started to re-gain some of the weight since the fever, but he was still gaunt and hollow-eyed, and his teeth were bared in a manic grimace. He brandished the drill he was holding in one hand, and Lewis stepped back.

"Hey, Watney," Vogel said. "Calm down."

"Fuck you," Watney said, gesturing more vehemently with the drill. "I am doing my job, I am fixing this ship, I am the mechanical engineer, I don't need to calm down."

Vogel raised a placating hand. "There is no need to be rude, Mark."

Lewis snorted. "There is no need to fix the goddamn ship, either. Mission control specifically denied your request to make this repair, because it's too damn risky."

"Mission control are a bunch of nervous nellies with their thumbs up their asses, Commander," Watney said, shifting his attention back to her. "You already blew the fucking VAL, that horse is long gone."

"And anyway, I fixed it now. As good as new, I fucking told them. And nobody's eating vacuum, so I don't know what your fucking problem is. I'll patch it, we can all fucking sleep in our own beds again, problem solved."

"Blowing the VAL to save a crew member is not the same as cutting into the wall because everyone's a little uncomfortable! There are redundancies, airlock doors between the VAL and the main part of the ship. Something fails in here and we, what? Live in the reactor for the next seven months?"

"I can patch this in half an hour with some resin and a spare carbon composite panel and it will hold like new. Blowing the VAL was permanent, and oh, had a much higher likelihood of killing the whole crew. You set off a bomb aboard a spaceship, Lewis. You file the proper permissions paperwork for that? All ship-shape and NASA approved, right?"

"Fuck you, Watney."

Watney looked tired and visibly slumped. "Look, I'm just gonna patch this up, it's a done deal. You can, whatever, file a disciplinary report with NASA in the next data burst. Do what you gotta do, but this is my job. I'm a mechanical engineer, Lewis. I kept my ass alive down there for eighteen months by fixing shit when it broke.

There was a tense silence.

"Besides," Watney said. "You recite ABBA lyrics in your sleep. I had enough fucking disco down there to last me the rest of my life."

Lewis still looked furious, but she snorted. "Patch it, asshole," she said. 

"Aye aye, Commander." Watney dared a half-salute - Vogel gave him points for style, but subtracted some for brains, because Lewis was clearly not ready for that level of sass. She glared and stomped out. Watney sat down on the bunk and slumped further, dropping the drill with a "thunk" in the doorway.

Vogel sighed. "Watney," he said. "You are maybe not doing so 'fine' as you are always saying to me, ja?"

"Ja," Watney said, looking exhausted.

"You need to see Doctor Beck?" Vogel asked.

"Nah," Watney said. "I need to patch this hole and then I need to sleep. In my bunk. My nice, temperature-controlled bunk. That I don't share with anybody."

Vogel smiled. "I cannot say that your approach was correct, but I will appreciate the results," he admitted. 

"So will the Commander, once she gets over it," Watney said.

"Maybe," Vogel said. "But maybe you should be more careful with her. She was the most upset when we thought you had died. She is still a little angry."

"It's not like I wanted to get stranded, you know." Watney looked aggrieved.

"Not angry with you. Angry with her. The inquiry panel is asking her often about her decisions, and she feels responsible for all of us."

"That fucking witch-hunt. I can't believe Mitch couldn't get them off her back."

"The decision to blow the VAL has also become a subject of interest to the panel. They are now suggesting that perhaps the Commander takes unnecessary risks with the lives of the crew."

"Shit."

"Just so." Vogel patted Watney on the back. 

"I better go apologize, huh."

Vogel looked at him critically, and said, not unkindly, "Sleep first. You look voll im Arsch."

Watney flopped back on the bunk. "Whatever that is, I think I feel like it too."
 

 

.   .   .

 

"My turn to apologize, I think."

Lewis focused on her console, where she had the day's report to NASA brought up. She'd already sent it, but it was better than looking at Watney.

"Did you patch it?"

"Yeah," Watney said. "Temperature levels in the quarters are down to normal, and the patch should hold for anything short of a full hull breach, in which case we'll have bigger things to worry about."

Lewis sighed. "I know. I'm just…"

"No, I'm sorry," Mark cut in. "I know you have to follow procedure, I know the panel is on your ass, I know I should have gone through you first."

Lewis turned around and looked at him, finally. He did look pretty contrite.

"How much can I milk this?" she asked.

"I'm not doing your sanitation schedule," Watney said. 

"Fuck you," Lewis said, but it came out amiable this time, without the anger she'd felt earlier. "You're not even doing your own sanitation schedule. Because you're supposed to be resting, not sawing the ship apart."

"I know," Watney said. "I just…I couldn't sleep. It was making me crazy. And I'm pretty used to just…fixing what needs to be fixed, now."

"Yeah." Lewis rubbed her eyes. It hadn't been easy on any of them. "But work with me, Mark. Next time, proper channels, okay?"

"Aye, aye, Captain," he said, and saluted her. Smartass.

"Or I give you a Donna Summer wakeup every morning at oh-six-hundred."

"You wouldn't."

"Try me, Watney."
 

 

.   .   .

 

LOG ENTRY: Mission Date 784

Things are looking up. And by "looking up," I mean that one, I am sleeping in my own bed (Hallelujah!), and two, I am actually sleeping. Of course, I'm sleeping like sixteen hours a day, but I'll take it. 

The nutritionists at NASA are even letting me have real food now; genuine bona-fide freeze-dried packs of beautiful, beautiful protein. I swear they taste better now than they did on the trip out. No coffee yet, but I have high hopes.  

Beck says I can start doing a little light lab work next week. Thank God. 

If it weren't for Martinez, I'd have lost it by now. I'm not made for inactivity. He's a genius - brought videogames for his personal item. Half of them are flight sims of various kinds, but he's got some multiplayer and puzzle games too. 

When he first showed them to us on the way out, I thought he was nuts. Who hacks the most advanced simulator NASA can come up with to work with a PlayStation, for Christ's sake? But he just shrugged and said, "Why not?" And after about the five thousandth game of UNO in the Rec, we were all pretty grateful.

Not as grateful as I am now, though. Even when I'm awake, I'm exhausted. Stupid mono. A little thumb action and trash-talking is all I'm good for. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go kick Martinez's ass at Super Mario Brothers. 

 

 

.   .   .

 

LOG ENTRY: Mission Date 813

We're three months out, and I guess this is when they calendared "Get Mark to start thinking through how to deal with coming back to Earth." I got a message in today's data burst from Venkat. He says he's been talking to Annie Montrose - she's NASA's head PR flack - about dealing with the press when I get back.

Shit just got real.

I mean, I knew I was famous, back on Earth. Venkat told me when I was still in the Hab that people all over the world were tuning in to the rescue effort. I got email from the President. I just thought, you know, when I got rescued it might die down a little. But people are still interested in me, and NASA wants to "capitalize on the momentum of the story" to promote the space program. Venkat says there's a whole political aspect to it too, about continued funding levels and international cooperation.

So they're developing a whole media campaign around Hermes' return…and guess who's got two thumbs and gets to be the ambassador from NASA? 

Venkat says I need to start doing more media training. We did some during mission prep - just enough so we wouldn't put our foot in it if we had to say a few words to the press. That was more than enough for a lifetime for me; it's all about saying less, thinking strategically, speaking carefully, and above all, not swearing on national television. 

I'm so fucking screwed. 

 

 

.   .   .

 

"Beck, come look at this." Watney was practically bouncing in his chair. 

Beck peered at the screen, which showed some sort of mail room - a long table covered with boxes full of envelopes and paper. "What is it?"

"It's my fan mail," Watney announced gleefully. "And this stack," he pointed at one of the boxes, "is from the ladies."

Beck rolled his eyes. "Yes, the women who write fan mail to a guy they've never met. Strong dating pool, there."

Watney was undeterred. "I survived on Mars! Clearly they recognize my superior genetic material and want to make sweet, sweet botanist love to me."

"…I'm not sure I want to know how botanist love is different from the regular kind," Beck said. 

Watney said, very seriously, "Well, Chris, when a man and a woman love each other very much, he takes his anther and pollinates her stigma…"

Beck thwapped him lightly upside the head. 

Watney grinned. "I have botanist groupies! This is gonna be awesome."

"Oh, I don't know," Beck said. "They probably only want you for your mechanical engineering."

Watney leered at him. 

Beck shook his head and leaned over to close the photo on the screen. "You need to focus on getting better, Mark. You're gaining weight, and that's good, but I came to talk to you about starting a physical exercise regime. Eighteen months of reduced gravity and then the recuperation period from the mononucleosis have done a number on your muscle mass, and you need to rebuild as much as you can before we get back to Earth."

"You're saying I need to work out more."

"Yes, Mark. The trainers at NASA have developed a system of aerobic and resistance exercises to start…"

"For the ladies. I need to work out more for the ladies."

Beck sighed. "Whatever gets you on the treadmill, Watney." 
 

 

.   .   .

 

LOG ENTRY: Mission Date 836

Oh, shit. They're going to publish my log entries from Mars as a book. "Tastefully edited," Venkat said, which I guess means they're going to take out all the cuss words and the parts where I said uncomplimentary things about NASA. You think I can convince them to take out the parts where I freaked out, cried like a little girl, and made stupid mistakes, too? 

Somehow, I think it's unlikely. 

I know all this stuff is public domain. I work for the government, and I recorded those logs on work-owned equipment while technically "on the job." But usually someone has to request stuff like that under the Freedom of Information Act, and they can drag their feet a little. Not this time - they're just putting it out there, "getting ahead of the story," Venkat says.

They're going to publish it the week I get home, to revitalize public goodwill. I guess there's been some real pushback about the cost of my rescue. Apparently some asshole pundit on the internet added up all the costs of the rescue mission, from the Ares 4 MAV to the crew salaries for the additional time in space, and it went viral. They're calling me the "Five Billion Dollar Man." 

Of course some people are up in arms about it. I guess there have been death threats. Which is so stupid, I don't even know what to do with it. I apparently get to have extra security for a while, courtesy NASA, "until things die down."

But anyway, a book.

Honestly, I don't want to read it. I get why they want to publish it, but I don't want to read it. 

Maybe I'll ask Beck to read the proofs and tell me if there's anything I need to be worried about. Make sure that nothing that might hurt Lewis in the inquiry is in there, not that there could be seeing as how she didn't do anything wrong.

 

 

.   .   .

 

LOG ENTRY: Mission Date 863

One more month. Not even. I can't believe I'm going home.

 

 

.   .   .


The gray-haired couple waited by the doors, standing still and quiet despite the cold. NASA staff, in their uniform blue windbreakers, gave them a respectful distance, as did the other families gathered on the blacktop field, watching the helicopter blades slow and settle.

Figures moved across the tarmac in a group; the astronauts, at last. As they approached, people broke away from the shelter of the building, running to embrace them. NASA staff waited respectfully, talking amongst themselves. 

The couple didn't move. The last solitary astronaut walked up to them, almost close enough to touch, and for a moment, they just looked at him, and the woman put her hand to her mouth, her glove covering her expression. 

"Mom?" Mark Watney said. "Dad? I'm home."