My full recovery hadn’t taken long and to my endless disappointment, I had been forced to return to my station immediately. Saying goodbye to Andromeda had been tearful as we had grown very close in that short time. She became my big sister, in a way.
And now, back at the caves I have to call my home, in the room I now inhabit all alone, I can’t help but cry. I’m alone, all alone on this big, red planet. Alone among hundreds of people, alone despite having two best friends. Two best friends I can’t call friends anymore. I didn’t notice before because I had been too sick, but they had participated in the attempt to throw out the sick.
I know that they knew I was there too. I saw it in their eyes when I visited them in the newly founded prison. The guilt, the shame but also the fear had been clearly visible in their eyes. But that didn’t change the fact that they would have accepted my death. That they actively tried to kill me and so many others. That they are partially guilty for killing my mom.
My head hurts and I feel dizzy. Must be the crying. It’s a bit hard to breathe.
My mom is gone. They couldn’t bury her, not here. So instead, she had been put into a coffin, just as the other victims killed by the riot. Put in a coffin and placed on the surface. An over the ground cemetery. They won’t decompose, there is not enough atmosphere for that. I had been promised that they would have a proper burial when the terraforming was over. I might not see that day. Terraforming takes a long time.
I’m feeling nauseous. It feels exactly like a few days ago. Is my flu not cured after all? Can I go back to the other station? It would at least help me heal my mind. Every time I walk the corridors around here, I feel horrible. I don’t think it would be possible to forget about my mom or make my peace with what happened.
What happened … that’s another thing which disturbs me greatly. In my memory, there had been a few dozen attackers back then. The other inhabitants of the crew had been either sick or not present. Later I realized, that this course of events seemed very unlikely. Sure, the caves are big and most spaceships haven’t arrived yet, but it was very unlikely that our walk of death and sickness hadn’t encountered several other crew members who weren’t involved in all this.
Brian had told me the truth when I had come by at the prison cell. Yes, the attackers themselves weren’t that many, but the other people did barely protest. Most just turned a blind eye and accepted what, in their eyes, had to be done. They were just glad they weren’t the ones to be forced to do it.
I am not able to look anyone down here in the eye. I just can’t. They are all horrible people.
My thoughts trail off and I feel very lightheaded. For some reason, it’s hard to concentrate. I think about going to the doctor, but just the thought of entering that room brings me close to an anxiety attack. My heart is racing and I can’t seem to get in enough air, no matter how hard I breathe. I lie down on my bed, trying to calm down. Slow, deep breaths Hannah. Slow deep breaths …
”Oh fuck, Andromeda will kill me. Please be alive. Please be alive.” A voice. Someone is shaking me violently. My head hurts. I open my eyes and immediately throw up on the floor, only barely missing the shoes of the person standing next to my bed. Good thing I missed them. Don’t want to make it a common occurrence to vomit on someone’s shoes. That’s not polite.
”Hannah? Do you hear me?” I look up. It’s Mike. He’s wearing a spacesuit. Why is he wearing a spacesuit? Why am I not wearing a spacesuit? Oh, we’re inside. Silly. You don’t need a spacesuit inside.
”She’s delirious”, Mike says. ”Quick, give me the spare.” Someone hands him another space suit. So many, many spacesuits. ”Hannah, I need you to put this on.” He explains. Why is he talking so slow?
”I don’t need a spacesuit. We are inside”, I tell him, making sure every word is as clearly pronounced as his words were. Maybe he became dumb in the meantime. Brain damage, from all the radiation. Is that possible?
”Please, Hannah. I want to take you to Andromeda. She told me to pick you up.”
”We are going to see her? But you sent me back here … I thought you don’t want me.” I pout.
”Andromeda convinced us otherwise. Now please, put this space suit on.”
Reluctantly, I grab the suit and start putting it on. It feels weird, so different from my suit. Mike puts the helmet on my head.
”Flood it with oxygen, we need to cancel out the carbon monoxide or she will die”, instructs Mike. I hear a hiss and all of sudden, I can breathe freely. I hadn’t even noticed how bad it had gotten.
”What the hell?” I exclaim. ”What is going on?”
Mike seems satisfied. ”Take her”, he commands. ”We need to leave.”
One of the men accompanying Mike takes a step towards me then grabs me and throws me over his shoulder like a fireman rescuing a victim from a fire. I am still too dizzy to resist.
We walk through the caves. Everywhere we go are people lying on the floor. Some barely breathing, some not anymore.
”What is happening here?”, I whisper.
”I’m sorry, Hannah”, Mike says. His voice doesn’t sound sorry. ”Your group has proven to be incredibly dangerous. But we needed your technology. Now we have it and they were just a security risk.”
”What did you do?”
”We flooded the ventilation system with carbon monoxide. It binds to the hemoglobin in your blood and prevents it from carrying oxygen. It’s a fast and easy way to kill. So fast that we’re lucky we got to you in time.”
”But if my group is so dangerous, why did you save me?” I ask. Mike turns around and gives me a long look.
”My daughter considers you her friend”, he just says.
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