The ground rumbled. A plume of moon dust rose in the distance near where Samantha was collecting samples. Ed dropped his instrumentation and headed toward the west ridge of the Sea of Serenity crater. He opened his comm to alert ground control.
“Sam—Lieutenant Harris, check-in. Do you copy?”
“Captain Seran, this is ground, we are showing sharp spikes in Harris’ vitals. She’s not responding. What’s going on up there?”
“Samantha Harris, check-in. Do you copy?” Captain Ed Seran continued toward her last location.
“Ground this is Seran. Harris was collecting rock samples on the west Serenity Ridge just about forty meters north of my location. I’m headed that way. Looks like a landslide. Do you copy?”
“We copy. Approach with caution, instrumentation shows her suit may be damaged. There’s been slight depressurization. Likely a puncture. Keep us informed.”
“Copy,” Ed responded through the lump in his throat. Aware ground monitored his vitals as well he worked to slow his heart rate.
“Ed,” Sam’s ragged voice, like welcomed rain in a drought, radiated in his helmet.
“Copy, Sam. I’m on my way. What’s your situation?”
“I’m caught. Large boulder. Think I was unconscious. Wind . . . knocked out . . . of me. Landslide. Got my coordinates? Copy.”
“Ground sent them. Lay still. Breathe. I’m ten meters out. Ground, you copy?”
“We copy. Glad to hear your voice, Samantha. The doctor here has some questions.”
Ed listened intently as he closed in; he could see the rubble. The damage was dramatic. Small rocks mostly, but that boulder was a bone crusher. Ed worried. This was Sam. His Sam. No one knew of course, but they did. He’d need to watch what he said and did if they were to have any career after this. But all he wanted to do was to tell her what he’d never said out loud. She would only object if he had. They couldn’t be in love, that would be a sin they couldn’t recover from.
“Ground, I have her in view.”
He knelt and took her hand. A moment passed as they searched the other's face for any hidden signs. They both smiled.
“Captain Seran, can you elaborate on her condition?”
“Uh, yes. It appears the smaller rocks can be dealt with. The issue is the boulder. Good news her leg is free. Bad news, the suit is caught underneath. Moving the boulder or the rocks in front of the bolder is impossible without risking the rock rolling onto her. I’ll have to cut the suit away. Which is the other bad news. Any advice? Copy.”
Ed looked at Sam her eyes which showed sorrow more than fear. He grabbed her hand. “We’re going to get you out of this, back on the rover, and to the airlock. You understand. WE ARE.” She nodded with pursed lips. Her faint whimper of repining nearly pierced his heart, but he kept working at removing all the rocks from on top and left of her being careful to not disturb the boulder.
“Okay, Sam. This is it. We have to cut your suit away, so the boulder stays put.”
She nodded with closed eyes. “You’ll depressurize. So Ground suggests that as I cut, I apply suit tape. Between your tape and mine, I think we’ll get by.”
“Duct tape. Fixes everything,” she smirked. “Don’t use yours. You may need it. Then what? We both die? No.”
“Good thing I outrank you,” he winked. “Now as soon as you’re free, cover the tape. Apply pressure.”
She motioned him closer. He put his helmet on hers. Tears fell toward her ears. A weak smile faded as she mouthed the words, I love you. Words never spoken. Two large splashes hit his visor and rolled downward as he lowered her protective visor. He drew a heart in the thin layer of dust.
“Ed, this is ground control. You need to proceed.”
The cutting tool sliced the thick outer fabric and layers with more ease than Ed expected. The duct tape held. Painstaking patience set her free, while the rover never moved faster. Once in the airlock, they listened to the cheers of Ground and smiled as they removed helmets and gloves. With the red light still signaling their need to wait in the airlock, Ed knelt and pulled away the silver duct tape observing just how close the tubing came to being crushed—how close her leg . . . He wound the tape into a crude band and slipped it on her left finger. “I love you, and I don’t care who knows or what it costs us. I love you and I want you to be mine forever, starting now.” She shook her head, yes. They embraced.
Years later they sat on a bench having retired and celebrated many anniversaries. He fiddled with the duct tape band still on her hand. They looked at each other and remembered. They would never get over the moon. The following day they flew to Houston. Ed held a duplicate ring in his chest pocket. A time capsule would be placed on Mars. Each astronaut present had been asked to bring an item from their missions which would inspire the crew once they landed on Mars. Sam stood as her name was called and crossed the stage.
“Well, I almost died up there on the moon. Rocks fall, stuff happens, but you always see each other through.” She held up a patch of her suit with it’s large, jagged tear. The crowd there clapped as she put it inside the time capsule. Ed had joined her, and he held up the duct tape wedding band and her left hand holding the original.
"She wouldn’t let me put the real one in, but this duplicate is proof that when all goes wrong, duct tape fixes anything." Their story had been heralded as one of the great love stories at NASA. The crowd laughed and clapped. Ed added, “We will never be over the moon. But we are so hopeful for Mars to find love too.” He placed the duplicate inside the time capsule and kissed his moon souvenir. She kissed him back as she showed off her duct tape band.