Part 3: Talon - Chapter 16

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The Martian day was thirty-nine minutes longer than that of Earth. The time gap had played havoc with Geranium's sleeping patterns since she'd arrived. No matter how late she went to bed, or how tired, she always woke up sometime in the early morning well before her usual rising time. Unless of course she was drunk, but of course that wasn't a solution that could be adopted every night.

It was freezing in the cabin, so she lay huddled in the blankets for a few minutes trying to return to oblivion. The lights of the yard were on, so it was still dark outside. The white noise of the factory manufacturing water continued unabated.

What was the time? Her fone wasn't on her wrist—of course, it was still on the table where Maddy had connected it to that device they had looked at. Her nerves tingled at the thought of Maddy Hawthorn. Geranium wasn't sure whether to be scared of her or not.

It would be a cold dash to the table to fetch her fone to find out the time. For a moment Geranium almost decided against it, until she realised she needed to go to the toilet anyway. Now there was nothing for it. She pushed the covers back and slipped out of bed, ran on her toes so as not to wake Maddy in the next room, and into the toilet.

When she emerged she picked up her fone. 3:00 am. Enough time to go back to bed and try to forget the longer night on Mars. Except the fone contained a message. She touched the contact. Perhaps it was her mother, or maybe news about Sarti.

But it was Maddy. The woman's voice was low, almost a whisper, as if she'd recorded it without wanting to wake her.

'Geranium,' the message said. 'Please don't get mad. I know you probably hate my guts enough already, but what I'm doing now is for your own good. I've gone. I have things to do. Dangerous things. I want you to stay here. This factory has enough supplies to last you a long time, and in a week at most a routine maintenance crew will arrive to check on things. They'll take you back to town. Just tell them you were out walking and got lost or something. Please do as I say. You'll be safe here. I'm sorry for what I did to your mother, I truly am. I was caught up in a lot of bad shit at the time. But I'm doing the right thing now. You don't have to forgive me if you don't want to. I admired your mother's strength and belief in her own convictions, if that's worth anything to say.

'So, it was good to meet you and I'm hope the rest of your little adventure away from home is less exciting than your visit to Mars. Good bye. Good luck. Don't go wandering the desert by yourself. Stay here.'

The message ended.

Geranium put the fone back on her wrist, the sensors connecting automatically with her skin. So she was abandoned here. Maddy Hawthorn had left her mother in a desert and now she'd done the same to her. Different planet, but the same stupid disregard for who she was dealing with.

Well she wasn't going to stay here to be rescued. She could contact the Albany police by fone and probably be picked up that very day, of course, but there was no way that was going to happen. It would be better to show Maddy what the deForêt-Bassyngthwayghtes were capable of.

How long had the woman been gone?

'AI,' she said. 'At what time did Maddy Hawthorn leave the compound?'

'The last exit of the compound occurred forty minutes ago, at 2:25 am.'

Twenty or so kilometres back to town. It had taken them several hard hours to walk here. Maddy would not be back in town before daylight, if that's where she was headed. Of course, there was no guarantee of that. She could have contacted friends, might at this moment be flying somewhere far away.

Geranium scooted around the room to dress and gather her few belongings. Maddy's pack was gone, of course: there was no need to leave any essentials for Geranium as such things were already supplied for the maintenance workers. She went into the main office and tried to open various storage spaces. Most were locked. In one she found a water container and filled it at the tap. In another was a GPS. That was useful: her fone had a navigation program in it but it had been unreliable and was out of date for Mars. Pocketing the GPS, she pulled on her jacket.

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