If you’ve just joined in, start at the beginning here.
By mid-afternoon, Lucas had crawled through every vehicle in the hangar. The two enclosed rovers were so damaged, he didn’t think they’d ever run again. That left the open-top buggies—and there were a lot of them.
For the entire trip, they would have to stay in their space suits. He expected it to be uncomfortable (and he was trying to ignore the diapers they’d have to wear and wouldn’t be able to change), but the biggest issue was breathable air. A single air pack provided hours—not days—of breathable air, meaning they’d have to bring four air packs each to survive the trip, plus a few extras just in case.
Swallowing, he walked around the back of the buggy closest to the airlock. Designed to be a short range vehicle, the four seats filled the chassis leaving no space for gear. But, even though it was beat up, it was the one he most likely could get running.
The little vehicle with its open scaffolding of roll bars reminded him of the dune buggies his sister loved driving as a teenager—except the seats were oversized to accommodate a fully geared astronaut.
After swapping the batteries out with a charged set, he sat in the driver’s seat and hit the power button. The dashboard came to life.
Emily came out of the suit room with two suits over her arm. She curled her lip as she stopped next to the buggy. “Is that what we’re taking?”
“What about that one?”
She pointed at the closed cab rover parked next to the buggy. The rover had a caved in bumper that extended to the passenger side seating area. Lucas sighed.
“Assuming I could get that one running, I doubt it would be airtight. We’d still need to wear suits the whole way.”
As she pursed her lips, she continued to stare at the rover. Then she shifted her attention to the buggy Lucas sat in. “How are we going to bring all the air we’ll need?”
“I’ll attach a trailer.” Using the side roll bar to hold on to, he pulled himself out of the buggy. “There’s one over there.” He pointed to the dented trailer at the far end of the hangar.
Emitting a low huff, Emily turned her attention back onto the buggy. She threw the two suits she’d been carrying on the passenger side before slowly walking around it.
“What about radiation?” Emily asked. “With an open top, there’ll be no shielding other than the space suits—and I’ve checked out those suits.” She pointed to the ones on the seat. “They’ll keep us pressurized and with air to breathe, and that’s it.”
“Best not to think about it,” Lucas said. “Unless there’s a huge solar flare.”
Emily frowned. “If there’s a solar flare we’ll just be dead.”
“Exactly. Grab at least ten air packs and ensure they’re all filled up. I’ll get the trailer hitched.”
“What about food and water?” She looked at him with big eyes. “We’ve been here all day and I haven’t eaten a thing.”
He scratched his head, he had to admit he was starving too. “The suits have a water bladder and straw system. But we won’t be able to refill once we’re outside, so we’ll have to carefully ration what we have.”
She cocked her head, but said nothing.
“As for food, see if you can find anything to eat before we go.”
“This trip is going to suck,” she said.
“Yep.” Lucas turned away from her and headed over to the trailer.
The buggy bounced over the top of the ridge. Even at one sixth the gravity of Earth, the landing was still jarring. On impact, Lucas’ teeth clattered together, leaving him grateful for the seat belt keeping him in the vehicle. The stale protein bar he’d eaten before departure still left a nasty aftertaste in his mouth. As the buggy levelled out, he took a sip of water, mindful of his limited supply.
Now traversing more level ground, he turned to Emily. In profile, the bright light highlighted her clenched jaw. She gripped the buggy’s structure with both hands as though she didn’t trust the fifty-plus-year-old webbing of the seat belt to keep her secure.
With a sigh, Lucas stopped the buggy. The plume of lunar dust in their wake overtook them as he activated their suit-to-suit comms. With a deafening squelch, the short range radio crackled to life.
“What the hell!” Emily angled his way and narrowed her eyes. “I need to make it back in one piece!”
“We needed to get out of view as quick as possible,” Lucas said. “On this side of the crater the insurgents won’t be able to see us by just looking out a window.”
“Fine.” Emily’s tone suggested she wasn’t fine. “But don’t drive like a maniac.”
“We have a hell of a long way to go.” He stared at the moon’s terrain ahead. “Almost 180 km.”
Lucas sped up as he angled the buggy’s heading towards Green Acres. As they started moving, he twisted his shoulders to see the trailer holding their spare air tanks and survival gear.
“Is everything okay?” Emily asked as she also twisted. Their helmets nearly cracked into each other.
“Yeah,” he said, noticing the dust behind them. Their track would be easy to follow, but he didn’t say that to Emily. If they got lucky, the insurgents would think they remained hiding somewhere within the sprawling facility. Otherwise...he took a deep breath and brought his focus back to the present.
Aiming for the horizon ahead, Lucas accelerated. At the buggy’s max speed, he’d still be stuck driving for hours. Hopefully, Emily would take a shift or two.
Hours past as the two of them sat in silence while Lucas guided the buggy across the landscape.
To be continued…