What would you do if you didn't want to die alone?
The surface seemed like talcum powder. Soft and giving yet somehow a bit firm. Two women prepared to walk out from the Martian module and experience the landscape firsthand. One woman, Commander Wanda Vicente, stepped forward onto the soil first. Another, Command Module Pilot Floral Cheever put her boots on the surface second, a few minutes later. They scooped up samples and made note of the temperature and surroundings. Then the two women heard the hatch to the Martian module shut and lock. Martian Module Pilot Bianca Coales ventured out of the vehicle.
“Coales!” Wanda exclaimed. "You’re supposed to stay in the module until the mission is complete.”
“I know but I didn’t want to be the woman known to have let two other women die on the face of Mars. I couldn’t go home like that.”
“Well, now since you’re out here, you might as well help us plant the retroreflectors. We were also tasked to plant the American flag.”
“We won’t be planting any flag today.”
“And why is that?”
“I left the entry devices in the module.”
“You locked the keys in the car?!” Floral said with outrage.
“Technically, they’re not keys.”
Floral just breathed. She didn’t worry about being almost 34 million miles away from Earth. She remained too focused on what Bianca had done.
“Now, what we’re going to do,” Wanda said, “is we’re going to ensure that those entry devices to the module are in good, working order. We will then attempt to make contact with the station that is about 230 thousand miles away from us. Does everyone understand?”
“Yes, ma’am," Floral and Bianca said in unison.
“Good. Coales, please produce the backup three devices that will suffice in our efforts to return to the module.”
“No, I left those as well,” Bianca said. “I haven’t got all three with me. I just couldn’t stand the fact that the two of you would die here. I just wanted to be of a clear mind regarding the fact that I wasn’t the one who let you two ladies die on this rock.”
“What you’re telling me is that you have the devices in the module. Is that right?”
“Yes,” Bianca said.
“You do know that it will take close to four days for the module above our heads to send us food, supplies, and more oxygen. You do know that, right?”
“Yes, but I wanted to die as sisters. We’re the first all-female crew to ever land on a distant planet from Earth. Sure, men have done it numerous times. But not all ladies. We can all die happily, now.”
Floral walked to the module. She had a rock the size of a small watermelon in her hand.
“What’re you doing? Wanda said.
“I’m going to break the goddamn thing open.”
“Now, you know that that would compromise the entire mission,” Wanda said.
“She’s already compromised us. We’re stuck on this red dust without extra water, air, or anything else that helps to keep us alive.”
“Just accept the facts of reality. We will die here. But we’ll die together,” Bianca said.
Floral started to cry. “And if it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be dying at all right now. We’d be headed back to the station to meet with...I’ll never see my husband Michael again. Nor my baby Tyra.”
Wanda attempted to pull together some sense of morale. “We came up here together and we will perish together. Not because of incompetence, but because of the fear that only one of us would return. There’s honor in there somewhere. And it must be respected.”
The three women looked at each other for a long time. They each held each other’s hands in their suits.
Wanda lead them. “On the count of three, we will remove our helmets.”
Once the women uttered the count of three, their bodies dropped to the red dust.
A radio transmitter on each of their suits broadcast that the supplies would be available ahead of schedule and to continue with the excellent work.