After rubbing my eyes, I looked at the time on my wrist and it read 01:30. I had managed to sleep for a few hours, which was surprising considering the days ahead. They would likely require more stamina than I had ever needed before. It was time to get up and set to work on my escape. If I got out of bed now without waking anyone, I would have a few hours until anyone else stirred, which was more than enough time. If all went well, I had calculated that I would only need thirty minutes at most to get to the cargo bay and set out.
Looking around the room drenched in darkness, I tried to take a mental picture of my home on Mars in my mind. It was hard to believe that the moment had arrived. Inside, I felt my stomach churning like a bubbling cauldron. Although I thought that I was ready to move forward, there were some doubts that were creeping in and unnerving me.
What if they really are sending us home next year and I’m screwing it all up?
This thought tugged at me but was met with a retort.
They may not be sending you or anyone else home.
Thinking of my parents sleeping below me, I clenched my teeth. The guilt in knowing the worry that I would cause them began to surface, but I pushed it back down.
I will complete this mission and will return to see them. And they will understand why I did it.
Taking a quiet, deep breath, I knew that I was ready. This was no longer a plan, but instead, a burning desire that consumed me to learn the secrets that Home Base had hidden. It was time to set out for the other colony.
First, I slid off of my bunk quietly and grabbed the backpack I had prepared and set by the door. I then left the note to my parents wedged under my mother’s mattress. Taking one last look at both of them sleeping on their bunks, I felt the tears coming but pushed them back down as I captured the image in my mind.
I love you both and I know that you’ll understand.
Steeling my resolve, I turned away and then tiptoed out of the room without disturbing my dreaming parents. In the connector, I was freer to make some noise and no longer worried about the slight noise of my footsteps. The rubber soles of the boots made little sound.
I hoped that I wouldn’t run into anyone, but was prepared to tell anyone that I encountered that I was unable to sleep if asked why I was roaming the colony in the middle of the night. Quickly, I made my way down the connector that was filling with starlight, bathing this area of the complex in a magical coat that I wished I had more time to appreciate.
The door to the bay loomed ahead. Soon, I would be away into the night desert. Reaching the hold, I opened the door and slipped inside the hangar. I made my way across the hold past the rovers and hover skiffs to the tank supply area storage facility. Nervously, I entered the code into the keypad and the door slid open.
First, I went over to the shelf to examine the contents. I had never been inside before. There on the bottom, was a black box. There were only a few places in the complex that housed weapons, but this was one. I opened the box and grabbed the small, hand held taser inside the protective foam set within the box. The small grey gun emitted an electronic wave that shocked and incapacitated whoever it struck. Holding it, I quickly figured out how to use it. Flipping the safety off, I pointed and pretended to pull the trigger.
Quickly, I tucked the weapon into my back pocket knowing that it might come in handy once I reached the other base. It was best to be prepared for resistance. Grabbing a dolly next to the door, I headed for the nearest tank and loaded it onto the hand truck as metal clanged against metal.
With all my might, I tipped the dolly bringing the tank’s weight under its control. I pulled the steel tank back towards the door. Entering the code a second time, the door slid open and I pulled the cart through. Walking backward, I pulled the dolly towards the skiff down the center aisle amidst the ghostly machines. Once at my skiff, I tilted the tank upright and turned to open the hatch of my vehicle and then loaded it inside using all of my strength.
I then returned to the storage locker and grabbed a few more essentials to toss in my bag. Extra cord, an extra thermal blanket, a second radiation tarp. I then loaded up a second oxygen tank on the dolly. Pulling it down the pathway, I made my way towards my awaiting craft and gently set the dolly down on the ground. As I did, I caught a glimpse of a form in the shadows of the rover next to me. I froze.
The cold voice cut through the darkness. I recognized it and my stomach dropped as I stepped away from the dolly and brought my hands behind my back. I had been discovered. The red-haired man stepped out of the shadows and into the dim, night light from a handful of windows that illuminated the floor of the garage.
“What are we doing out here at this time of night?”
Caught, I still decided to press forward with a lie, no matter how futile. “I was, um, loading up my skiff for tomorrow.”
A cruel chuckle emerged as the large man crossed his arms. “Is that right?”
“Yes, um, I couldn’t sleep and I thought it would be good for the colony…”
“Yes, go on,” Roy’s eyes narrowed, “Do tell me more about how what you’re doing right is good for the colony.”
“I just needed an extra tank, I was worried about what might happen in an emergency. I talked to Liu…”
“Oh, you are slow. Perhaps I expect too much from a child, but I do expect more. Of course I know that you spoke to Liu a few days ago. It was disappointing of course to hear that you were figuring out a plan to get more air. And Liu, he’s almost as dense as you.” He chuckled again. “He had no idea why an innocent little girl would want to flaunt the rules of the colony. But I will give him credit, when something seemed suspicious… he had the good sense to let us know. And after today, well, I have a feeling that you have some things you’d like to share. I set the motion detectors down here after Francois. And sure enough tonight, tonight it paid off. And here we are.”
He advanced a step towards me and paused. His eyes narrowed. “You have a lot to answer for.”
He had me trapped and knew that I certainly couldn’t run or overpower him. He blocked the way to the center of the hangar. My knees shook, but I managed to keep my hands steady.
“So, you caught me. Big deal. A little girl wants to be safer and have an extra tank of air in her skiff. So what? You’re just going to look like a big bully.”
He laughed again. “Do you think I care what anyone thinks? I have a job to do. It is my responsibility to follow regulations and complete the mission for our colony. And I will do that at any cost. Certainly, no one will stop me from locking you up.”
“And what exactly is the mission that you have? I think people would be interested to hear more.” I couldn’t help myself.
He stepped forward and grabbed my wrist in one hand. “More interestingly will be to find out what exactly your mission is. And I think that your pack will provide some answers.”
I lowered my head and began to whimper, “Please, please, please. You don’t have to do this. I’ll listen.” As I dropped to one knee, I looked up to notice two things about the big oaf’s expression. The first was the cruel smile on Roy’s face that showed just how much he seemed to enjoy wielding power over people. The second made me much happier, and this was just how completely oblivious he was to what was about to happen next. He relaxed his grip on my arm. It was then that my other hand whipped out and his expression changed to pure fury. He tried to raise his hand, but I was too quick for him. I forcefully pulled the trigger and my taser emitted its shocking wave. His body convulsed as it fell to the floor.
Taking a minute, I regained my composure and slowed down my accelerated heartbeat. Then, I walked towards the mound on the floor and stood over the crumpled form. “Ohhh, I’m sooooo sooooooo sorry. Did I forget to mention that I grabbed this along with the extra tank. Gee, I hope that didn’t hurt.” I gave him a good swift kick that felt good to administer. “Wait, actually, I hope it did. That’s for lying to us and for being a bully.”
I thought for a second about how this situation might provide any additional advantage. Snapping my fingers, I made a decision on what to do with Roy. Wasting no time, I headed back to my skiff and quickly packed up the equipment including my suits. Soon, I knew that I would be heading out into the night, but not until I took care of Roy and left a message behind for whoever found him.