Part Four: InSight
Launch Site: Vanderberg Air Force Base
Time and Date: May 5th, 2018 11:05 UTC
Landing Site: Ares Villes
Time and Date: November 26th, 2018 19:52 UTC
“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”
Once again, for the eighth night in a row, I found myself sitting in the bathroom on the floor clutching the beacon. Staring at the device, I fought the urge to yell at the inanimate object while I lay sprawled with my legs stretching across the matted floor.
“You’ve been wasting my time,” I shook my head as I scolded the device in my hands. I wrapped both hands around it and pretended to choke it. “I can’t keep this up for forever you know.”
Knowing better, I sighed and let me hands fall to my lap.
“Okay, you win.”
I then flipped the cap to turn the beacon on. Leaning towards the top where the microphone was implanted, I spoke as my hair dangled down to my thighs, “It’s 1700. Once again, I’m calling out to see if anyone received my message.”
Silence greeted me and I felt irritation building.
I frowned as I held the beacon aloft in the air as though I might launch it towards the wall in the shower and gritted my teeth.
“Once again, the crazy person is sitting alone in a bathroom with only her own delusions keeping her company.”
Lowering my arm, I drew a deep breath knowing that I will keep trying until the day we packed up to return home. Pressing the switch a second time, I spoke at a level just above a whisper.
“Copy that anyone? Does anyone copy out there?”
The seconds ticked by. I flicked the switch one last time.
“Okay, I guess I’ll try again tomorrow night.”
The voice startled me as I sat up straight, nearly dropping the beacon. I clutched it close to my chin and leaned in, nearly pressing my lips to it.
“Hello?” I tilted my head towards my chest.
“Hello,” the voice returned.
Someone was out there. Someone with a voice that I didn’t recognize.
“You found my note?”
“I did,” the voice was quiet, reserved. It was a male’s voice, but I didn’t think it was a man’s.
“So you found the skiff? And Francois?” I directed my attention back to the bathroom door and stood up. Walking over, I sat on the floor next to it and slid it open manually leaving just a crack in order to be able to monitor the dorm room. I felt my pulse quicken as my hair fell over my face and I reached up to brush it back.
“I did. I found the skiff ten days ago and returned yesterday to find your note.” There was a pause. “Francois, that was his name…”
“Yes,” I answered. “He was one of us.”
“Who exactly are you?”
“My name is Diya. I live in Pangaea III. Just like the note. Who are you?”
Again, there was a pause. “I’m Adam. I live in Pangaea II. Just like the note said.”
A smile crossed my face as the truth overwhelmed me. There was an answer to another one of the many questions that had come to light in the last few weeks.
Unbelievably, there were others out there on this planet. And for whatever reason, Home Base kept them a secret.
“You’d think that they’d be more creative with their names of colonies if they’re going to all this trouble to separate us.”
There was a muffled noise on the other end that sounded a little like a laugh. “This is unbelievable. I had no idea that there could possibly be other colonies on this planet. And the others here at Pangaea II, they still don’t know anything about you or… Francois.”
“Same here over at Pangaea III.” I nodded. “As far as I know, I’m the only one who has any idea about any of this. No one here has a clue that there’s another colony out there. And I’m definitely the only one who knows where Francois is. Which means that it looks like this is our secret… at least for now.”
“Yes, it is our secret for the time being.”
“And hopefully it will stay that way for a while.”
“This is really, truly unbelievable. We’re not even that far away from each other considering the size of the planet.”
“Yes, the skiff must be sitting between the two of us.”
“Sector VII? Is that where you are too?”
“Our Sector VII is off limits. It’s where I found the skiff.”
“Our Sector VII is no man’s land too. The bogeyman will get you if you go there.”
“They’ve always told us that Sector VII is forbidden because of the radiation from the accident at Firstpost. But I didn’t find anything remotely threatening there.”
“We were given the same story. It makes you wonder if there ever was a radiation accident at Firstpost...”
“The last few days have made me wonder many things. Life for me has not been the same since finding… him.”
“The others there, at your colony… you said that they don’t know about the skiff yet though right?” I wondered what his they looked like and if they were anything like Pablo and Roy.
“No, the others here do not know anything about the skiff. I’m sure that my Coms Link and Commander do not know about the location of the craft. Not yet anyway. If they knew about it, they would get rid of it or take precautions to seal it off. I’m sure that they know nothing about it as of yet and I grabbed the note to keep it that way.”
“Good. It’s the same here. Dictator One and Tyrant Two are pretty furious with Francois for leaving and are clearly worried that the rest of us might find out why he left.” I paused holding the device in both hands with my elbows on my knees. “I just don’t get it. Why? Why go to all of this trouble just to keep us apart? Why are they keeping the colonies a secret from one another?”
“I don’t know.”
“What could they possibly gain by running two colonies at the same time with no knowledge of one another?”
“At least two,” he offered. “Maybe more.”
“Maybe even Firstpost is still active?”
“Maybe… that is where our Coms Link and Commander came from.”
“Ours too.” I glanced at the time on my wrist and then out the door into my family’s space. “Listen, I’m not sure when I’m going to have to go. But when I have to, it’s going to be abrupt. But I can’t risk anyone else finding out about this.”
“I understand. It would be the same for me.”
“If we do get cut off, let’s try again tomorrow. Same time. Okay?”
“Same…” the swish of the outer door signaled at least one of my parent’s arriving to the dorm. I lifted my foot from the bathroom door and it slid shut as I flicked off the transmitter.
“Diya?” My mom called from the other room.
“Hi mom,” I slipped the beacon into the stuffed bear and flipped its head closed. Looking around, I tried to decide what to do with it as I stood up. Grabbing a blue, microfiber towel, I wrapped it around the stuffed animal. I flipped on the faucet and ran cold water over my hands that shook with excitement.
Looking in the mirror, I felt a pang of guilt mix in with the exhilaration from the call. It felt terrible to deceive my mother, but the extraordinary turn of events made it necessary.
I exited the bathroom holding the towel as though drying my hands. I plopped onto the bottom bunk and set the towel concealing the bear next to me. “How was work?”
“It was fine.” My mom smiled at me as she made her way into the bathroom holding a change of clothes.
As soon as the door shut, I scrambled to the top bed with the bear and then thrust it into the compartment. Before closing the door, I took one last look at the bear sitting on the shelf and whispered, “Keep quiet about this. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I then shut the panel and sat up.
There are others…
Somewhere on another part of the planet, Adam was thinking of me. I didn’t think I’d be able to focus on anything else over the next twenty-four hours other than his voice on the other end of the line.
There is a Pangaea II…and he is there.
Sliding off the bed, I hit the floor and walked over to the round porthole facing the dusky shadow lands.
I turned to wait for my mom knowing that I would be tasked with concealing a secret unlike any other in my entire life.