Project Hail Mary

Page 97


* * *


I writhe in my bed. The burns on my arm hurt more than ever. The painkillers barely do anything. I’m beginning to wonder if I can find Ilyukhina’s heroin.

I won’t, I won’t. But I definitely would if this were still a suicide mission.

Focus on that. This is no longer a suicide mission. If I play my cards right, I save the world and go home.

The pain subsides somewhat. It comes and goes. When I get a chance, I’ll take a look at whatever books I have on burns. I’d at least like to know when it’ll stop hurting.


“Huh?” I mumble.


I look at the source of the noise. It’s Rocky tapping on the airlock wall.

“Rocky!” I fall out of my bunk and roll onto my right side before landing. I scrabble along the floor to the airlock wall. “Rocky, buddy! Are you okay?!”

I hear a low thrum from within him.

“I don’t understand. Speak louder.”

“Sick…” he mumbles.

“Yeah, you’re sick. You came into my air. Of course you’re sick! You almost died!”

He tries to lift himself from the floor, then slumps back down. “How I return here, question?”

“I moved you.”

He taps the ground with a claw, annoyed. “You touch me air, question?”

“A little, yeah.”

He points to my left arm. “Skin on arm is not smooth. Damage, question?”

I guess he can see right through the bandages with his sonar. Must be pretty ugly under there. I kind of figured that would be the case, but now I know. “Yeah. But I’ll be fine.”

“You damage self to save me. Thank.”

“You did the same thing. Is your radiator organ okay? You were on fire and got full of soot and oxides.”

“It healing.” He points to the soot all along the wall and floor. “This come from inside me, question?”


“How it leave me, question?”

I preen a little. Why shouldn’t I? It was no easy task and I got it done. I point to the now-triply-covered steel box on the airlock wall. “I made a device to blow air at you. I aimed at your radiator vents and all that nasty stuff came out.”

He’s quiet for a moment. Then, still a little wobbly, he says, “How long was that stuff inside me, question?”

I run through the day in my mind. “About…two days.”

“You almost kill me.”

“What?! How?! I blew all the soot out of your radiator!”

He shifts his weight a little. “Black substance is not soot. My body make this. It cover damage while body repairs.”

“Oh…” I say. “Oh no…”

I didn’t blow soot out of his radiator. I blew the scabs off his wounds! “I’m so sorry! I was trying to help.”

“Is okay. If you did earlier I die. But I heal enough before you do it. Removing help a little. Thank.”

I put my head in my hands. “Sorry,” I say again.

“No say sorry. You save me when you put me here. Thank thank thank.” He tries to stand again, but only rises for a second before collapsing. “I am weak. I will heal.”

I step back and sit on my bunk. “Would you be more comfortable in zero g? I can turn off the centrifuge.”

“No. Gravity help heal.” He adjusts his legs into sort of a bed for his carapace to rest on. Probably a comfortable sleeping pose. “Sample container is safe, question?”

“Yes. It’s in the lab now. I made an Adrian environment in a sealed container and put some Astrophage in along with the sample container. I’ll see how it’s doing in a bit.”

“Good,” he says. “Human light sense very useful.”

“Thanks,” I say. “But my human brain wasn’t as useful. I don’t have a way to get the sample out of the container.”

He tilts his carapace slightly. “You seal sample and can no access sample, question?”


“Usually you not stupid. Why stupid, question?”

“Humans are stupid when we need sleep. And when we take medicine to stop pain. I’m tired and drugged right now.”

“You should sleep.”

I stand up. “I will in a bit. But first I have to stabilize our orbit. Our apogee and perigee are…well, it’s not a good orbit.”

“Adjust orbit while stupid. Good plan.”

I snicker. “New word: ‘sarcasm.’ You say opposite of true meaning to make point. Sarcasm.”

He chimes the word for “sarcasm” in his language.


* * *


Between exhaustion and drugs, I sleep like a baby. I wake up feeling a million times better, but my burns feel a million times worse. I look at the bandages. They’re new.

Rocky is at his workbench, tinkering with his tools. He’s cleaned up his area. It looks good as new. “You are awake, question?”

“Yeah,” I say. “How are you feeling? Are you healing?”

He wiggles a claw. “Much more heal needed. But some heal complete. Cannot move much.”

I plop my head back on the pillow. “Same.”

“Robot arms do things to you arm while you sleep.”

I point to the bandages. “It changed the cloth. It’s important for human healing to change the cloth.”

He pokes at his latest invention with various tools.

“What’s that?”

“I go to lab to see device that store Adrian life. I made device now to collect sample from inside and not let you air in.” He holds up a large box. “Put you vacuum chamber in this. Close this. This make Adrian air inside.”

He opens the top and points to a couple of hinged rods. “Control these from outside. Gather sample. Seal you device. Open my device. Have sample. Do human science with sample.”

“Smart,” I say. “Thanks.”

He gets back to work.

I lie in my bunk. There are a bunch of things I want to do, but I need to take it slow. I can’t risk another “stupid day” like yesterday. I almost ruined the sample and killed Rocky. I’m smart enough now to know I’m stupid. That’s progress.

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