“I’m not convinced you’re right,” Bob said. “But I can’t risk Artemis having the future you described. And they killed two of our people. I’m in.”
Dad nodded. “In.”
“You know I’m in,” said Svoboda. “I love a good caper!”
“Me too,” said Lene. “I mean…the being in part. I’m undecided on capers.”
“This buys me off,” Dale said. “Done with the guilt about Tyler. No more of that shit.”
I frowned. “I can’t just stop being mad.”
“No, but you can stop wallowing in it. And you can talk to me like a normal human being.” He swigged his beer without breaking eye contact. “That’s my price.”
“Fine,” I said. I wasn’t sure how I’d accomplish that, but for the sake of the city I had to swallow my pride.
Bob used his towering form and military bearing to clear a path through the Port of Entry. Dad and I followed behind, pushing a cartful of welding supplies.
I spotted Trigger in his parking space. I hadn’t had opportunity to use him lately. I didn’t have time for deliveries during all the chaos my life had become. I missed the little guy. Maybe I’d drive him around just for the hell of it when this was all over.
Bob led us to one corner of the huge chamber. He’d set up temporary walls. We went around them and into the ad-hoc workroom.
“I hope this’ll do,” said Bob. He gestured to the detached air shelter in the center of the room. “It’s the biggest one I could find.”
The cylindrical pressure vessel had a single manual hatch and four air tanks. On the back, there was a battery system to power internal fans and a chemical CO2-absorption system. Over the main hatch a sign read MAX CAPACITY: 4 PERSONS. MAX DURATION: 72 HOURS.
“Where did you get it?” Dad asked warily.
“My house. It’s my own family emergency shelter.”
“Shit,” I said. “You didn’t have to do that, Bob.”
“I knew Ammar wouldn’t want me stealing one. Besides, you’ll buy me a new one.”
“Apparently I will.” Dammit. That’d set me back a few thousand slugs for sure.
Dad inspected the shelter with his experienced eye. He walked a lap around it, looking every detail up and down. “This will do.”
“All right. I’ll leave you to it,” said Bob. “Let me know if you need anything.”
Bob walked around the temporary wall and out of the room. That left me and Dad staring at each other.
I picked up a welding mask from the cart. “Just like old times, huh? Been a while since we did a project together.”
“Nine years.” He threw a jumpsuit at me. “Wear the safety gear. All of it.”
“Oh, come on. The suit’s hot as hell and—”
He cut me off with a look. It’s like I was sixteen again. I grudgingly climbed into the jumpsuit and started sweating immediately. Ugh.
“How are we doing this?” I asked.
He reached into the cart and hefted out a stack of aluminum sheets. “We’ll cut the hole in the back. We’ll have to move the tanks and batteries but that won’t be a problem.”
I put the welding mask on. “And then what? How do we make a connection point?”
He leaned the panels against the vessel. “We’re going to weld these around the new hole to make a skirt.”
I picked one of the panels up. I spotted the manufacturer’s logo stamped in the corner. “Now, that is ironic. This is from Sanchez Aluminum.”
“They make quality material,” Dad said.
“Landvik Aluminum will make quality material too.” I put the panel down. “Will a corner weld hold against a vacuum?”
He took out a Sharpie and uncapped it. “We won’t have a corner. We’ll soften the panels with unfocused torches and bend them over the curvature of the pressure vessel. We’ll assemble them into a cylinder.” He looked up at me. “And how many panels will that take?”
Always a goddamned quiz.
“Well,” I said, “we shouldn’t bend five-millimeter stock more than a fifty-centimeter-radius turn. I’m guessing about six to make the full arc.”
“Six would work,” he said. “We’ll use eight to be safe. Now, hand me the tape measure.”
I did as he asked. He carefully measured and marked points on the shelter.
“So when’s the lecture coming?” I asked.
“You’re an adult. It’s not my place to lecture you on anything.”
“But you’ll continue the passive-aggressive barbs, right? I wouldn’t want to miss out on those.”
He stood up. “I’ve never pretended to approve of your choices, Jasmine. I have no obligation to. But I don’t try to control you either. Not since you moved out. Your life is your own.”
“Yay me,” I said.
“This is a terrible situation you’ve landed in,” he said. “I’m choosing the lesser of two evils by helping you. I’ve never broken the law before in my life.”
I winced and looked at my feet. “I really am sorry to drag you into this.”
“What’s done is done,” he said. “Now, put your mask on and hand me a cutting head.”