“I’m not sure that I should do that,” Liu’s brow furrowed as he looked at me. The rest of the cargo bay was vacant, allowing the two of us to talk.
“Liu, I know that it’s against the rules, but I’m nervous. With everything that has been going on, I’m afraid.” I stood next to the rows of empty, grey, oblong oxygen tanks stacked in a pyramid in the rear of the loading area. Inside, my heart was racing but I was still confident in the plan to return to the vehicle in the desert and I was determined to see it through.
Liu shook his head, “Diya, I just feel like this is something that we should run by Pablo. I don’t think it’s a bad idea, it just… it just seems like a bad time to bend the rules.” The short man with the buzz cut crossed his arms and looked down at his feet on the black, rubber mats that lined the hold. “I mean, what’s the harm in at least letting Coms or the Commander know?” He looked back up at me.
“They’re going to say no. And when they do, they might even remove me from the research team. They’re going to say that I don’t have the courage to do the work.” I tilted my head slightly. It felt bad to lie to Liu, but I couldn’t see any other way and was committed now to seeing this project through to the end. “I love going out in a skiff and don’t want to lose this opportunity. I’m scheduled for research out in VI this week. Please Liu, at least think about it.”
His exhale was more like a sigh, “Look, I understand your wanting a backup tank, and I know that you’re worried about what Pablo would say, but I think it’d be ok with him if you just asked.”
“Liu, do you really think now is the time to go to Pablo with a new idea? Especially an idea involving tanks of air and the hover skiffs after all that’s happened?” I tried to think of something overwhelmingly sad. The idea of this plan failing and being caught and locked up as an accomplice filled my mind, and my eyes welled up. “I’m just worried about going out there right now and an emergency coming up. I just want to be a little safer with the threat of possible explosives out there. You heard Pablo— he thinks that Francois has booby-trapped sections out there.”
He shook his head, “Sorry Diya, I understand what you’re saying, but I just can’t let you take another tank. You or your parents will have to run it by Pablo or Roy,” his expression showed that he was truly hurt not to be able to help.
“Ok,” I nodded. “All right, I understand. I don’t want to put you in a bad position.”
“Sorry. I have to get moving— I still have two repairs to make.” He walked over to the giant, silver door housing supplies and entered the six-digit code on the red pad. The door to the cargo hold supply area slid open, “You’ll be fine. Don’t worry— they provide more than enough oxygen for each trip.”
“You’re right,” I covered my face with my hands and then dropped them as I stepped away from the storage space. “I’m just being silly. I’ll talk to Beatriz about it at our session tomorrow.”
He nodded, “That’s a good idea. See you at dinner.” And the door slid shut.
I started walking through the bay to leave. The hangar was the largest space in the complex and it took a minute to cross the length of the rectangular garage filled with vehicles. On both sides, the wheeled rovers and resting skiffs were lined up perfectly as most of them were back for the day. I reached the exit and pressed the button. Exiting through the air lock, I entered into the connecter.
I felt terrible about lying to one of the few people in the colony that I liked, but there was a mix of elation intermingled with the guilt. My own personal mission had been accomplished. I walked down the connector repeating the code that I had memorized after seeing Liu enter it. I now had access to the cargo hold and could better plan for my next journey into the desert with all of the supplies that I could possibly need.
I would return to the skiff and could investigate further with a new set of tools to help.