Beyond checklists and sleep, little happened during the first thirty-six hours in space. Larry stayed in a lunar synchronous orbit and did what he could to conserve power and fuel. He had not planned on staying up there the whole time. As with nearly everything Carl was involved in, though, plans change.
Officer Richards and his squad, to Lisa’s dismay, did not stick around. They had no real evidence that Jad was in danger or that Carl had gone against his visiting rights. It turned into a he said, she said that lacked any provable evidence. Officer Richards gave Lisa his card, and asked her to call if and when Jad came back. In the meantime they were overworked and understaffed. He couldn’t waste anybody for four days straight. No laws had clearly been broken and any evidence of such was, as so many had said it, “out of his jurisdiction.”
Mandy ended up staying longer than planned. Contrary to Larry’s assumptions when she slept, she slept alone.
Lisa also stayed. She mumbled prayers mostly and kept an eye on the notes Mandy took. Over the course of days she and Mandy became friends. Lisa too had studied journalism in her college days. They talked about almost everything in the vast hours of radio silence or while Jad completed mundane sounding tasks at Carl’s behest.
“Hey, Jad,” Carl said, “I’ve got an empty indicator on tank seven. What does it say up there?”
“Yeah, Dad, it says empty here too.”
“How about tank eight? I’m reading it at two-thirds.”
“Roger, Dad, same up here.”
“What’s the Pendleton at?”
“Oh, It’s on ten…”
“Jad! How long has it been at ten?”
“I don’t know, I must have knocked it in my sleep. You want me to turn it back up to fourteen?”
“Jad,” Carl could not keep the frustration and anger out of his voice. “No, we’ll never make the moon landing with it at fourteen. We’re going to have to go up to sixteen.”
“Carl,” Larry interjected from the upper atmosphere. “If that thing shorts out. He won’t have enough fuel to get back to earth, let alone land.”
“It’ll be fine,” Carl said from the ground.
“Umm, the dial only goes up to fifteen,” Jad said.
“Just turn it up all the way,” Carl said.
“Ok.” Jad turned the knob. “Uhhh, it sparked a few times, but it seems to be working.”
“Readings down here agree,” Carl said. “Sit tight. Moon landing in six hours. And, Jad?”
“Don’t screw this up. I need you to bring home a moon rock.”
Two hours later, Carl yelled into the microphone, “Jad, wake up!”
“I’m awake,” Jad said. “What’s wrong?”
“Did you knock it in your sleep again?”
“No, it’s still as high as it can go.”
“What are you doing up there?”
“Stop your gabbing and get in this game, Jad. You’re running out of fuel.”
“Carl,” Lisa said from the couch. Warning seeped into her voice.
“What am I doing wrong?” Jad asked.
“At this rate,” Carl said. “You won’t have enough fuel to get that rock home.”
“What can I do?” Jad asked. “I did as you told me. I-”
“Stop it, Jad,” Carl said. “This isn’t my fault. Stop making excuses for yourself.”
“Carl,” Lisa said with warning giving way to danger.
Carl disregarded her. “I need you to stop piddling around, wasting fuel or this whole thing is going to be for nothing. Do you want that? DO YOU WANT THAT?”
“Carl, enough!” Lisa shouted.
Carl looked back at her. He threw his headset down and stormed out of the room. She walked to the table and put the headset on. She heard a muffled whimper.
“It’s okay, Jad,” she said. “I’m here.”
The radio clicked quiet.
“Best leave him alone for a bit,” Larry said through the comm link. “He’s got some diagnostics to run.” Then added, “He’s strong. He’ll be fine.”
To Be Continued…