“That wasn’t one of my best landings,” The pilot in front of Gideon mutters after a long, unsteady breath.
“You did fine,” Hayes assures the man as she releases her white-knuckled grip from a nearby rail. Looking to Gideon, she continues with a friendly smile, “Welcome to Paradise, Gideon.”
“Thanks,” Gideon manages as he tries to let go of a handle he had used to stay upright during the crash landing. His knees buckle slightly, and he resolves to continue hanging on to his handhold.
“Looks like we are ahead of schedule,” Hayes offers with a lighthearted chuckle.
“That’s got t be a record,” The pilot agrees with a laugh.
Evidentially, Hayes keeps her crew’s morale was always up, Gideon thinks to himself, Or, they are just crazy. Gideon looks over to the Commander and scans her face for several moments before he manages to add his own joke, “Best flight I’ve ever had,”
The pilot looks back to Gideon with a look of surprise. Judging by his expression, Gideon wasn’t supposed to be out and about, much less in the cockpit. The pilot quickly recovers and laughs. After a beat, he says, “I’m glad you liked it,”
“Follow me, Gideon,” Hayes instructs as she turns toward the rear of the cockpit. Gideon silently follows her, curious as to what she had to say.
“Commander,” A soldier acknowledges Hayes as she walks by. The soldier sounded a lot like the one named Clo that Gideon had overheard earlier. She looked like she had been caught in part of the explosion that had nearly brought the hovercraft down. Clo continues speaking after gently biting her lip, “If they don’t get us a new ship, we’ll be stuck here for several weeks. Our ship’s pretty banged up.”
“I’m fine staying here for a while,” Hayes smiles.
“Jackson’s gone,” Clo announces as she stares at the ground, “I saw him die.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Clo,” Hayes whispers as she draws Clo into a hug. She holds Clo for several beats before pulling away, “If there’s anything I can do—”
“No,” Clo cuts her off, “I don’t want you to be in any more hot water.”
Hayes looks like she is about to say something before she promptly walks off, continuing down the corridor. Gideon sheepishly looks away from Clo, who is still sulking as he scampers after Hayes.
“Those damn savages did this,” Hayes mutters once Gideon finally catches up to her.
“Savages?” Gideon inquires. He had heard of the mutants, but never of any savages. After a beat, Gideon presses, “What’s a ‘savage?’”
“They’re the people who live outside of our Domes,” Hayes replies with a bitter look on her face. Shaking her head, she continues, “They’re mostly rebels and terrorists. They’ve been attacking our ships for some time now…”
“What?” Gideon asks when Hayes trails off. She had stopped at a doorway and pressed her hand against the cool steel. Gideon shifts slightly to get a look at the Commander’s face, and he notes that a few tears are streaming down her face.
“They killed my husband,” She mutters before wiping her face and returning to her usual bolt-upright posture. Now that she had regained her composure, she continues, “When they informed us, Sylvia left home. I didn’t know she left until the local garrison contacted me. They sent her here without even asking me, I never got to say goodbye.”
“They did the same to me,” Gideon offers. He doubted his words helped, but he felt like they needed to be said. After a beat, Gideon asks, “Why can’t you talk to her yourself?”
“My superiors won’t allow it,” Hayes replies as she guides Gideon to another door. Opening it, she continues, “They threatened to take my other children if I spoke to her. I can’t risk losing anyone else.”
“Ah…” Gideon nods slowly, understanding the Commander’s predicament. He looks around as Hayes ushers him into a bleak-looking room. The walls are all grey, just like the floor and ceiling. The only color that graces the room is provided by a drab green pack that is sitting on a table in the middle of the room. Gideon takes a seat in a chair she is pointing to and looks over to her expectantly.
“This is all I can do for you now,” Hayes starts as she opens up the bag. She continues as she removes the bag’s content, piece by piece, “The others won’t have very much equipment. I ensured that you would have everything they might be missing. That includes a shovel, some knives, tarps, and several flashlights. As you can see, there’s a lot more too.”
“Thanks,” Gideon nods in appreciation of the large variety of gear.
“All I ask in return is that you keep my daughter safe,” Hayes whispers barely loud enough to be heard, her eyes pleading with Gideon, “My husband is dead, but you can save my daughter.”
Gideon offers a slight nod as he tries to push down his own anxiety. He stares blankly at the large backpack before him which represented his only chance of survival. If a career soldier like the Commander was afraid of the world beyond the protection of the Domes, then Gideon had even more reason to be terrified.
“Director Stone would like to see you, Commander,” A voice reports over the ship’s PA system.
“Gideon, there’s a lot you don’t know about,” Hayes says in a rushed whisper, “You saw what the Coalition does to people who they think know anything. But I need you to know that not everyone outside of the Domes are savages, some of them are friendly. However, don’t count on that. And don’t count on anyone’s loyalty either, that will get you killed faster than any hybrid could.”
“The Director is waiting, Commander,” The PA continues after a few beats.
“Tell my daughter I love her, and that I’m coming for her,” Hayes whimpers as her lips quiver slightly. She quickly repacks Gideon’s pack, and pauses as she pulls a small bag from her uniform, “And please make sure she gets this.”
Gideon nods dumbly, which appeases the Commander. She mouths the words ‘Thank You’ to Gideon before retreating back into the corridor they had come from. Evidentially, she was more afraid of what this Director would do to her and her family than anything else.
“What have I gotten myself into?” Gideon asks himself as he lets his head drop. He absently rubs his face as he struggles to make sense of everything that had transpired since he had been arrested.