A couple of years ago Maggie would have thought it wasn’t fair and become despondent that the chaos of the universe had a preference for her misery. But that was the fatalistic response of a child. She was 18 now—an adult; a woman of action—and the only words that fit were this is bullshit! It was suddenly her mantra and her war cry, directed at no one and at everyone. Tana was gone, and damnit, something had to be done! So she did the first thing that came to mind; she took her dad’s Red Rover and made dust toward the dig.
The Red Rover was essentially a pressurized moon buggy, but her dad had always been a bit of a gearhead and he’d made some serious modifications. Maggie had fond memories of helping him tinker and wrench. They joked it was the only muscle car on Mars. The day was clear and the road—or what passed for a road—was empty, so she gave it some gas (hydrogen, naturally).
Both Maggie and Tana’s parents worked at the dig. It was secret government work—high level nerdery to develop money-making patents; absolutely nothing exciting—located at an offsite beyond the dunes. The two girls had formed an especially close bond. No surprise, given the small community. Most everyone else here was some sort of engineer. The bulk of the population was working hard constructing City One in preparation for the First Wave.
She wiped at the tears forming across her vision. These were angry tears. She’d been betrayed.
Maggie went to Tana’s hab this morning, like she did most every morning, but no one came to the hatch to greet her. She let herself in as she sometimes did and struggled to make sense of what she saw. The place was trashed. She ran straight for Tana’s room, and by piecing together what was missing and what remained she built the bones of a story: they’d fled. The whole family packed up and left, and in a hurry. Critical survival gear was left behind, but a few precious sentimental items were absent. And from there in Tana’s abandoned room Maggie felt the rumble of a liftoff. Tana was gone. Taken from her in the night without so much as a word in the way of warning or goodbye.
Maggie screamed until her voice box spit flames and she slammed on the accelerator. Welders worked overhead as she raced between long rows of empty concrete habitats, their solar roofs bouncing golden light over the rusty valley. She passed over a series of dunes in a blur that she didn’t really remember as she arrived at the dig.
It was a large covered dome, opaque to hide it from the prying eyes of satellites. The dig team was small. They all knew each other well, and they would’ve known Tana’s parents were going to skip off. And no one stopped them. She wanted answers, and she was no little kid anymore, so she was going to march in there and demand them.
Maggie pulled into a rover bay and waited for it to equalize, and then stormed through the hatch. That’s when she found herself face to face—to face—with some wretched creature too dark for nightmares. It made a rattling shriek and brandished a plumage of trembling appendages. From the darkness beyond she heard her father’s voice. “Maggie, run!”