When Jane opened her eyes, Olivia’s face filled her field of vision. Olivia’s head seemed to float in the space in front of her with a look of concern. Even with worry wrinkling her face, Olivia was a beautiful woman. Jane felt an equal dose of admiration and jealousy. No one would ever describe Olivia as plain.
“Captain? Are you okay?” Olivia asked.
Jane tried to move her head, but her neck resisted. She moaned before the realization that she had no helmet thrust her into an instance of panic. Olivia recognized the reaction. “It’s okay. We’re in the apartment. Your helmet is over there,” she said nodding to the table behind her.
“What happened, Jane?” Olivia asked.
Jane looked confused as if Olivia had asked the question in a foreign language. Everything seemed blank, nonexistent, as if that very moment was her first breath of life. She remembered no history, no life. For a brief moment, she even forgot who she was, but hearing her name chased away the darkness like a fog dissipating in the rising sun.
“I don’t remember,” Jane replied struggling to get the few words out of her mouth. “How did I get here?”
“Two bots brought you here. You were unconscious when they dropped you into your bed.”
Jane closed and opened her eyes slowly. “Did they say anything?”
“No. I asked them what happened and they said they didn’t know. They claimed they found you unconscious, but I don’t believe them.”
Jane rubbed her forehead and swiped her hair back out of her face. She let out a big sigh as she tried to erase the confusion that plagued her. Images of an angry bot flashed in her memory like a puzzle missing just too many pieces. Her eyes flickered in concentration.
Jane remained lost in thought.
Finally, Jane returned to the conversation. “Yes, sorry, I just can’t remember what happened. Do you remember where I went?”
Olivia thought for a moment. “No. You didn’t say. I talked to you before I went to bed last night. When I woke up, you were gone, and then, the bots brought you here.”
“What were we talking about?”
“The transport. Edgar.”
The mention of the transport triggered a shrouded memory that almost revealed itself. Jane tried to concentrate harder. Finally, a few more unfamiliar thoughts broke loose into her conscious mind. Captain Regal. The launch of the second transport. War. A bot. The pieces fell into place.
“I talked to the Captain of the second transport,” Jane revealed. Her voice sounded as if she were reading from a script. Her memory unfolded before her. “Captain Regal.”
Olivia gasped and stared at her Captain in disbelief. Her mouth hung open for a moment before she spoke. “You did? Last night?”
Olivia narrowed her eyes and glared at Jane. Her forehead scrunched in concentration, and Jane briefly thought she looked beautiful even when she contorted her face so.
“Are our families on that ship?” Olivia asked. She spoke as if she were waiting for a punch, hesitant and halting.
“They are. Regal said so.”
Olivia let out a breath of relief and tilted her head back. When she faced Jane again, her eyes were still closed as if she were squeezing them shut to prevent any tears from escaping. “Thank God.”
A silence slid between them – Jane struggling to conjure the memory that felt like a dream and Olivia basking in the confirmation that Edgar was not too far away. Olivia moved toward Jane and put her hand on the woman’s shoulder before she hugged her. They held that embrace for a moment, a relief from the stress of the battles fought and the ones to come.
“Did you talk to Rachel?” Olivia asked when she pulled back from Jane.
“No, I didn’t have time.”
“How did you get past the bots to get into the Control Room?”
Jane paused searching her memory. The face of a bot pulsed in her mind’s eye and startled her. The bot snarled in her memory, but she knew they didn’t display such emotion. Finally, she said, “There were no bots there. No one was there, not even Sprockett.”
“You just walked in?”
“Yes. I just walked in.”
At that moment, it hit her. She recalled turning around to face the bot that grabbed her throat and choked her. She vividly remembered the feeling of dangling by her neck as if she were being executed by hanging. The bot’s words to her were muted, but the feeling was there as alive and real as if it were happening all over again. Jane stared at Olivia, bewildered.
“What’s wrong?” Olivia asked.
Jane didn’t respond.
Jane tried to say something but no words came out as if she were choking all over again.
“Are you okay?”
Jane stuttered. Olivia put her hand on her shoulder and looked into her distant eyes. “Jane, do I need to get a doctor?”
Finally, Jane uttered, “No.”
Olivia waited for her colleague to speak again. A few uncomfortable seconds passed.
“A bot tried to kill me. That’s why I was unconscious. A bot discovered me in the Control Room and tried to strangle me to death. I don’t remember everything because I passed out.”
“Oh my god!”
“I remember not being able to put my feet on the ground and the blank look on the bot’s face, but that’s it.”
Olivia sat back down in the chair next to Jane, stunned by the revelation. She wanted to cry out of frustration, anger, and fear. Nothing, it seemed, had worked out according to plan. She worried what this meant for Edgar and her. Would they really be able to live the life they had expected in their new home. The promise of the Mars colony felt illusory and sullied by the change in plans and leadership.
“What do we do now?”
Jane shook her head slightly, still dazed by her ordeal. “I don’t know. I just want to see Rachel with my own eyes and make sure she’s okay.”
Olivia agreed. “I just don’t know what’s going to happen once they get here.”
“We have to make the best of it. At least we’re alive. That’s more than I can say for others in Western States.”
“For now at least.”
Jane jerked her head toward Olivia. She didn’t say anything, but those four words sent a cold chill down her spine.