The bug really was an amazing vehicle. It had been around for decades, but was one of those designs which could never quite be outdone. Squat, but streamlined, with a rounded shell that tapered from the fat cockpit to the inch-thin tail, it could comfortably carry the quarters and equipment needed for up to five people, and yet it's composite structure was so light that it could be flown when it wasn't being driven along on it's toughened rubber tracks. It was the transparent wings that unfurled from it's back like those of an insect that gave the vehicle it's name; they stiffened on application of an electric current, allowing the bug to fly and hover like helicopters on pre-exodus Earth. When they working that was.
"You're sure it's not a quick patch, Inger?"
"I'm sure." She punched the dash in frustration. "Fuck!"
"You know what is wrong, at least?"
"I do. Well, I think I do. Much fucking good it is though." She took a breath, "Basically, I can stiffen the blades, or I can rotate them, but I can't get them to do both. Ever seen that before, sir?"
Cooper frowned, and ran his hands through speckled grey hair.
"Sure I have. But not for a while. It was a software issue back then, if I remember... Should have been fixed, though. Should have been fixed years ago."
Inger thumped the dash again, then started flicking switches with the ferocity of someone snapping bone.
"What are doing now?" Cooper asked patiently.
"Switching it off on and again."
"Switching what off and on again?"
"Fucking everything!" She gave up, and threw her hands behind her head.
"Perhaps Hirsch might know? Could still be a mechanical thing?" He suggested. Hirsch was the mission engineer, strictly speaking an electrical engineer, but on small teams like this one he had to be flexible, and more often usually ended up wielding the toolbox.
"Hirsch won't know." She said, flatly. But then she sighed, and leant forward to speak into the mic on the dash.
"Comms, pull Hirch."
"How's it going up there?" Hirsch's voice was warm and low through the cabin speakers. As usual, he spoke as though he was thinking of some secret joke.
"Hirsch. What's the status of the rotor hydraulics?"
He laughed, "Still refusing to admit you fucked the software, huh?"
There was a pause, and Cooper saw Inger clench her fists. Even after this many years working together, he still got to her too easily. But then his brother had always known which of his buttons to push too, Cooper thought.
"No." Inger said, her voice full of forced control. "I recognise that this is most likely a software issue, but captain Cooper also requested I check the mechanical systems."
"Everything's good here, captain."
Cooper glanced at Inger, who was visibly becoming more and more annoyed. Hirsch should've addressed her.
"Thank you, Hirsch."
"Has anyone told tweedles dum and dee yet?" Hirsch asked. He was referring to the scientists who had come along on the mission. Well, strictly speaking, they were the mission; their sponsors had backed the military with large sums of money on the condition that these two could make planetfall and collect samples. Hirsch and Inger had joked that they were working as glorified babysitters.
"Not yet." Cooper replied. "I didn't want to worry them until I knew for certain we were stuck. I'll tell them now."
The living quarters, such as they were, were built into the belly of the bug. Each cabin was a small desk, a single bed with a trunk built underneath it, and just enough room between them for a person to stand up. Dr. Petrov's cabin was the first on the left, and there was a loud curse and shuffling of papers when Cooper knocked on it's door.
"Dr. Petrov? Tony?"
"One moment, captain!" More shuffling. After a minute or so, the door opened and the scientist greeted Cooper with a smile. "Good morning captain! Sorry for the delay, I just had to straighten up a few things." Cooper couldn't help glancing around the thin man and into the room; a hefty stack of folders and books was piled on the desk, with crumpled sheets of paper protruding from between the pages like food from devouring mouths. Even the man himself was scruffy, with a creased collar on his shirt and stains on his trousers. It was a nice change from the military types Cooper was used to.
"I'm afraid I've got a bit of bad news, actually."
"Oh dear! Bad news?..." Petrov's voice was coloured with anxiety, but then it always seemed to be anyway."Oh dear..." Petrov said again, "Actually, could I just get my glasses? Thank you so much."