“This is a bad idea. If you turn around now, we can salvage this.”
The familiar voice cut through the dark night as I stared at the ground ahead bathed in the light projected by the skiff’s headlamps. I had been in the craft for two hours now and was well away from Pangaea III. The terrain had been mostly straightforward with little up and down thus far. I estimated that I had covered twenty-seven kilometers, knowing that it would be slower going in the darkness during the dead of night.
I reached over, about to turn the knob to turn off communications but instead decided not to. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I will certainly not be turning around anytime soon.”
“You always were a brat, but it was considered poor taste to say what I always thought about you. Now that you’re a traitor, it will be much easier to express my opinion.” Pablo responded.
“A brat who outsmarted the Commander…” I muttered. More loudly, I called out. “I have a different idea of just who exactly is a traitor around here.”
“You don’t know what you’re dealing with. You have no idea…”
“I think that I understand a little bit about treachery in watching the two of you work.”
“Your impertinent little…”
“How’s your boy Roy doing?” I cut him off.
“You need to turn back now before you make things worse.”
“I was just going out for a little night air in my skiff. What will the others think when you have to tell them that you were outsmarted by a little girl?”
“So young, so naïve. The others will soon know everything.” He paused for a second, “We will of course tell them about the correspondence you kept with Francois. People will be very disappointed.” He paused again. “Your parents will be very disappointed.”
My voice rose, “My parents will never believe any of the lies that you tell.” The vehicle pressed on as I kept careful watch on the dirt ahead. There was no room for error out here.
“Such a foolish little girl. We will do whatever we need to do to preserve the colony. Your parents know that. Neither one of them wants to see any harm to one another… or to you. So once you’re captured, your parents will do exactly as we ask to ensure that no harm comes to you. As for you, you may not be able to see them for a long time. We will of course have to keep you locked away, being that you are a very sick child.”
My eyes narrowed as I leaned in to the microphone on the dashboard to the right of the steering wheel. I wanted to reach out and rip the speaker out of the panel, or better yet reach out and grab hold of Pablo by the ears. “So that’s what you and your friend are going to do? Lock up me and my parents until you can ship us out?”
“Diya, Diya. I would think that by now you would know that Roy is certainly not my friend. He has his role and I have mine… and we have a history together. He shares some information with me, as I need to know it. That is the way things are set up here so we can all survive. We have taken good care of you and your family.”
“You should start worrying about the other secrets that he and HB keep from you. Or you’ll worry once it’s too late.”
A long pause. “We will run the colony in a way that ensures its survival. My life and my job are no different today than they were yesterday. In the end, your indiscretions don’t really matter. You will be seen as an inconvenience that was dealt with and Pangaea III will continue to thrive. All that matters to me as Commander is that I run an effective colony… the best colony. And I believe that HB is very satisfied with my work, especially considering the difficulties. This is the legacy of what I will one day leave behind. I’m sure that our colony is top notch and ready to be replicated.”
I shook my head; it was no use. There was no convincing him of anything. He would continue to blindly follow the orders that he received. That was why HB had given him the job of course. “Ok, so your plan is to capture and hold me in a jail cell forever just for discovering Francois’s skiff?”
“Well, yes, I guess you could say that. But it will be painted much differently. You will be shown to be a traitor in collusion with a madman who risked the safety of everyone and the mission itself. You will be shown to be a naïve little girl that can no longer be trusted in such a precarious position as a colony in Mars.”
“And when I take the stand, I’ll be sure to tell the truth.”
A small laugh filled the skiff, “Take the stand? You have seen too many movies. There will be no trial. There will only be a meeting where we explain to everyone about the sick little girl that needs help. As for your parents, we will deliver a very clear message to them of what they must do to keep you alive.”
“You’ll see what happens. The others won’t stand for your secrets anymore,” I hissed at the speaker.
“Child, you have so much to learn about the way this world works.” There was a pause. “Actually, you may never see Earth again, but know that it functions pretty much the same way. Now, you need to tell me exactly what you plan on doing as you turn around to come home. Your parents are counting on you, and I wouldn’t want them to get hurt.”
“Don’t threaten me. I know that you’re just a coward under Roy’s thumb.”
With that, I reached out and snapped off the speaker to cut communication.
Looking up, I took solace in the stars in the night sky. Pablo was intentionally trying to rattle me, to intimidate me into returning.
I will not give in. I will finish this quest.
I swallowed and pushed back the tears of worry that surfaced about my parents. I knew that he wouldn’t hurt them because it would be a step too far if he wanted to maintain his precious appearance before the colonists, but couldn’t help but worry about just how dangerous those two were.
“He’s worried. He doesn’t know for certain where I’m going and the satellites can’t help him right now,” this brought a smile to my face. It meant that I had some advantages. I then took a look around the insides of my craft. This tiny space would possibly be my last source of freedom. Determined not to lose faith, I looked up at the stars as the skiff pressed onward towards the others that didn’t know what was coming their way.