Lunar Escape - Part 13

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After more than an hour wandering through the lower levels of the complex, Lucas and Emily came to a set of rusted double doors at the end of a hall.

The pair stopped before the set of enormous doors. Big letters marked the door, but now rust, algae and more unidentified splatter created an abstract overlay obscuring the text. Lucas ran his hand through his hair as he studied the one letter he could decipher—an H.

Emily slumped against the wall and sighed. “This has to be somewhere we can use.”

“If nothing else, we can hide out here and take a break.”

“Good, my feet are killing me.”

He glanced at Emily, then at the dirty wall behind her, but said nothing. Instead, he bent to examine the access panel—they needed a code to get in. Based on the grimy keypad with the numbers one through nine arranged in a box pattern, the code was numeric. He let out a long exhale—he had no idea how to hack the lock.

“Hey, check out the numbers.” Emily came forward and pointed. “The three, five and seven are nearly worn off.”

Lucas knelt down to get a better view. “How many digits do you think the code is?”

“No idea.” She reached forward and pushed the three most worn numbers. A light above the keypad flashed red.

“Better not do that.” He stood and stepped back a pace. “Who knows how many tries we’d get before it locked us out.”

Emily backed up and crossed her arms over her chest. “Then what’s your plan?”

After shifting his weight to his left leg, Lucas kicked the access panel. The sole of his boot made contact and the aged plastic casing shattered. Pieces of rained down to the floor and the keypad flopped forward with only a few wires keeping it connected.

The light at the top flashed to green, and the doors slid open. Automatic lights blinked on exposing a gigantic space somewhere between a garage and a hangar.

The algae-infested lights along the low ceiling emitted a feeble glow, leaving ominous pools of darkness. While a thick layer of dust covered the floor. Lucas stepped into the door frame. Not a single footprint marred the dust—the facility’s current occupants hadn’t started exploring this space yet. They were safe for the moment.

“Is this a rover graveyard?” Emily asked as she walked around an open-top buggy with space to seat four astronauts in full gear, but now three of the four bucket seats had been removed.

Lucas glanced down at the vehicle’s axle. The sheared metal meant it was broken beyond any quick fix.

“Let’s see if there’s something in better shape.” He continued into the gloom. Plumes of dust rose with every step.

“I’ll go this way.” Emily pointed to a side room.

He nodded as he ran a hand along the next buggy. Crammed into every alcove were more open-top buggies. They had to be military issue—which meant they were all at least 50-year-old technology. Lucas scratched his head. A buggy might work, if only he knew their location relative to Lunar City.

A high pitch scream pulled his attention.

“Emily?” He ran, following her footprints into the side room.

Once inside, his heart leapt into this throat. The room was full of people, silently standing around. His pulse throbbed as he backed up. He tripped over a leg and flailed around trying to remain upright.

He grabbed onto the nearest form, only then realizing it was just a hanging space suit—the entire crowd was really just empty space suits. He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths.

“Emily?” He called again.

“I’m here,” she replied in a tiny voice. She sat on the ground beside the door. It was her leg he’d tripped over. “I thought...”

Lucas found a switch beside the door and flipped it. About half of the overhead lights came on. With just moderate light, it became clear they were in a room full of space suits.

“This is a good find.” He turned to Emily and extended a hand. She took it and he pulled her to her feet.

She bit her lip and looked around. “Yeah.”

“But, they scared the crap out of me.”

Emily nodded. “Me too.”

Lucas stepped forward and examined the nearest suits. They were all the burnt orange once favoured by the military with glinting bands of retro-reflectors circling the lower legs and upper arms. Some were in good shape. They might provide the bubble of pressurized air they would need to survive on the moon’s surface—but they’d need to test them first.

“Why don’t we try to find a shuttle hangar?” She ran her hands down her pants while keeping her eyes fixed on the room of space suits. “You could fly us out of here.”

“They’ll be watching the spacecraft.” He set the best suits on the worktable in the room’s centre. He found at least six worth examining closer.

Turning his attention from the suits, Lucas explored the rest of the workshop. Through an unlocked door in the far wall he found an office with a single desk, presumably the supervisor’s.

He tried the light switch and, to his surprise, it worked, brightly illuminating the compact space. A military-grade lunar map covered the back wall. As he moved in closer, he let out a long exhale. Their location was marked.

Counting out the grid squares, he moved his index finger up the map from the military base to Lunar City.

“What is it?” Emily asked as she came up behind him.

Lucas turned to face her and smiled. “Our path out of here.”

She pushed by him and stood staring at the map. Just like he did she rested her fingers on their location, then walked them to the city.

“It’s a hell of a long way,” she said. “It’ll take us days to get there—assuming we find a rover that can take us.”

“Roughly, I’d say Lunar City is 2000 km away. Assuming we find a rover and assuming we can do 20 km/hr—which based on the terrain is ambitious—for 24 hours a day.” He ran a finger along the path to Lunar City. “About 5 days of travel.”

Emily took a step back and crossed her arms over her chest. “That’s not going to work.”

“Well....” Lucas bent down to study the terrain around where they were. “Perhaps there’s another place we can go.”

“Like a science outpost?”

“Something like that,” he said, reading the names of the nearby craters. “How about here?” He put his finger on the closest non-military site.

“That place was abandoned years ago,” Emily said. She bent forward until her face was nearly touching the map. She turned to him and smiled. “But this place...” She pointed to a site to the northwest of their location. “ run by a friend.”

Lucas did a quick distance calculation. “18 hours of travel time is doable. Now we just need to find a working rover.”

He took another look at the map. Emily’s friend worked at a facility cryptically named EN-994. It appeared to be the closest inhabited outpost to where they were, meaning it would be the first place the insurgents would look for them.

“How about here instead?” Lucas pointed to an outpost another 35 kilometres away labelled as Green Acres. It was a hydroponics farming community big enough to have regular transport to Lunar City.

To be continued…