“That’s not important,” I said. “It’s not safe here. Come with me.”
She didn’t budge. “You’re not one of my employees. How did you get in here?”
“I cut a hole in the wall.”
“What?” She scanned the walls to no avail. The hole was on the other side of the smelter from her. “You put a hole? In my factory?”
“Why aren’t you on the train!” I demanded. “You’re supposed to be on the train!”
“I wanted to see if I could fix the problem. I sent the others to safety and—” She stopped and held up a finger. “Hold on a moment. I don’t have to explain myself to you. You have to explain yourself to me!”
I took a step toward her. “Listen, dipshit. This whole facility is about to melt. You have to come with me right fucking now!”
“Language! Wait…I recognize you. You’re Jasmine Bashara.” She pointed an accusing finger. “You’re the hooligan who ruined my harvesters!”
“Yeah,” I said. “And I’m the hooligan who sabotaged your smelter. It’s going critical as we speak.”
“Nonsense. I designed it myself. It’s infallibly safe.”
“The heater’s on full, the thermal system is hacked, and I welded a steel plate across the melt plug.”
Her mouth dropped open.
“We have to leave!” I said. “Come on!”
She looked to the smelter, then back to me. “Or…I could fix it.”
“Not gonna happen,” I said.
“Do you plan to stop me?”
I steadied my stance. “You don’t want to mess with me, Grandma. I’m half your age and I grew up in this gravity. I’ll carry you out of here if I have to.”
“Interesting,” she said. “I grew up on the streets of Manaus. And I used to mug men twice your size.”
Okay, I wasn’t expecting that.
She lunged at me.
I wasn’t expecting that either.
I ducked and watched her sail overhead. Earthers always underestimated how far a jump would take them. So it was easy to—
She reached down, grabbed my hair, and slammed my head into the ground with her landing. Then she straddled my chest and reared back to punch me in the face. I kicked up, bucked her off of me, and got to my feet.
Before I could get my bearings, she was on me again. This time she attacked from behind with a chokehold.
I have many flaws, but machismo isn’t one of them. I know when I’m outclassed. Turns out Manaus is a much tougher town than Artemis. This woman could pummel me in a fair fight.
That’s why I avoid fair fights.
I reached over my shoulder and pulled off her air mask. She released me immediately and backed away. She held her breath and fumbled with the dangling mask. That gave me an opening.
I spun around, ducked down, and grabbed her by the legs. Then I hoisted her into the air with all my might. She flew a good four meters straight up.
“Can you do that in Manaus?!” I yelled.
She flailed in the air and reached the top of her arc. I grabbed my acetylene tank from the ground as she began her trip down. She had no way to avoid what came next.
I swung as hard as I could. I made sure not to hit her head—I didn’t want to kill her. I ended up tagging her left shin. She cried out in pain and landed in a heap on the ground. But, to her credit, she got right back up again. She started toward me.
“Stop!” I held out my hand. “This is ridiculous. Your smelter’s getting hotter and hotter. You’re a chemist. Do the math. Will you just come with me?!”
“You can’t just—” She stopped. She turned slowly toward the smelter. The lower half of it glowed dark red. “Oh…my God…”
She spun back to me. “Where’s that exit again?”
“Right this way,” I gestured.
Together, we ran to the hole. Her a little slower than me because I’d just smacked the shit out of her shin.
She dove through and I followed her. We scrambled through the air shelter and into the connector tunnel. I closed the hatch behind us.
“Where does this lead?!” she demanded.
“Away from here,” I said.
We ran down the connector.
Dale peeked his head through the rover airlock. He’d taken off his EVA suit.
Sanchez leapt into the rover and I followed immediately after. I slammed the rover hatch closed.
“We still have to detach the inflatable!” he said.
“No time,” I said. “We’d have to suit up to do that. Drive away at max torque to rip the tunnel.”
“Hang on,” Dale said. He punched the throttle.
The rover lurched forward. Sanchez fell off her seat. I kept position at the rear window.
The rover had insane torque, but there’s only so much traction to be had on lunar regolith. We only got a meter before the tunnel jerked us to a stop. Sanchez, just getting up, fell forward onto Dale. She grabbed him around the shoulders for support.
“We have to get away from here,” she said. “There are methane and oxygen tanks in there—”
“I know!” I said. I shot a glance out the side window. A sharply sloped rock got my attention. I vaulted to the front of the rover and clambered into the shotgun seat. “I’ve got a plan. It’ll take too long to explain. Give me control.”