Damian floated through the long circular gangway connecting the crew quarters to the bridge. He could see the three luxury yachts they were transporting from the small windows: two private ships and one tourist liner, all three sparkling white against the black backdrop of space. The cost of their transport alone would be enough to fund his expeditions for a lifetime.
Lost in thought, he softly bumped against the hatch leading to the bridge, causing an uncontrolled tumble before he managed to grab hold of the gangway railings.
“Come in,” Xila, his co-pilot, shouted.
With some effort, he rotated the hatch and opened the airtight seal.
“Thank you kindly, madame. Anything to report?” Damian patted Xila on the shoulder as he floated past her and took the pilot seat. She was a tall thin girl, showing the first signs of life in space.
“Nope, all systems green, another silent night in the vacuum. What are your plans when we arrive?”
“To boldly go where no man has gone before. You?” Damion replied in a mock accent as he gave his best million-mile stare impression.
“Seriously?” Xila unbuckled her safety harness and kicked herself free. “After the last fiasco! As I remember it, you barely made it back alive. Why on earth would you try it again?”
Damion smiled and shrugged. “First, yes, I am serious. Second, it is not on Earth. Third, well, you don’t understand the third point, else you wouldn’t ask me.” Damian waved his three fingers at her before balling them into a fist. “And this time I’ll make it, guaranteed.”
“You have failed how many times already? Nobody has ever made it, at least not in that ridiculous purist way you aim to do it. You didn’t even manage to traverse the plateau the last time you tried. So what makes you think this time will be any different?”
Damian stuck his hand up again but quickly retracted it when Xila made a kicking motion towards it. Her zero gravity skills were much more impressive than his, and she stabilised herself again in the same motion.
“The Martian institute for planetary survival has manufactured a new skin-tight suit that protects the wearer from harmful radiation for up to four weeks. Combined with my modifications to my solar sail for crossing the plateau and the adjustments I’ve made to my climbing gear, it’s going to be a walk in the park.”
“Damian, why do you even try this? What is the point?”
“To show everybody that it is possible to reach the summit of the highest mountain in our solar system from the ground. On my own, with just the things I carry up the mountain. I will be the first man to summit Olympus Mons, the first man to walk into space, Xila. Can you imagine?” Damian made his speech while climbing his pilot’s chair, ending with one foot on top, like a mountaineer of old.
“Wait, does that mean you float off into space when you jump on the summit?” she asked with wide glinting eyes.
“Funny, some billionaire rich kid actually tried exactly that. He did say he managed to throw a football so hard it never came back; hard to prove without said football. We are transporting his new hobby ship, no kidding.”
“At least he can still have a ship and tell his story; honestly, you will walk to your death. Please promise me this is the last time.” The glint had left her voice and eyes.
“I’m going to make it, Xila; my picture will be on the cover of Interstellar Geographic, I promise you.” Damian pulled himself back into the pilot’s chair and stared deep into space. His eyes fixed on the small red disk that was ever so slowly increasing in size. Mentally following the route, he would follow up on Olympus Mons.
Xila left him there, dreaming of his next attempt.
Step Into Space
To reach the summit, you should start from the bottom