Martian Adventures: Ronnie’s Birthday Part 6

Jim wriggled through the air vents, tugging Ronnie along with him.  The vents groaned under their weight, and Jim could hear his heart pounding in his ears even over Ronnie’s ragged breathing.  Sweat trickled down his nose.  

He’d never been more terrified.  He was pretty sure that Ronnie’s arm was broken, and dragging her through the vents couldn’t be doing it any good. 

And the vents had collapsed under her weight, so it was a miracle that they were holding up under both of them. 

He kept moving, one painful crawling lurch at a time. 

"How’re you doing, son?" Ronnie’s dad’s voice made him jump.  How could he sound so calm?  Maybe it was a grown up thing. 

"I’m okay, sir.  Ronnie’s still out cold."  Jim was proud that his voice didn’t shake. 

"We’re tracking you.  You’re almost out.  You’re doing great, Jim." 

"Thanks, sir." 

Jim saw light ahead, and pushed his exhausted body just a little faster.  He tumbled out of the air vent, straight into Ronnie’s dad’s arms.  Ronnie slid after him, and her dad caught her, too. 

For a second, he just held them.  "Thank you," Ronnie’s dad breathed, his voice breaking a little. 

Then, Jim’s dad was pulling Ronnie away.  He scowled at Jim.  "Her arm’s a mess." 

"He saved her life," Ronnie’s dad said.  "We never would have found her if it weren’t for Jim." 

Jim’s dad just rolled his eyes as he rummaged in his bag, and something in Jim snapped.  "Nothing I ever do is going to be good enough for you, is it?" 

His dad sighed.  "You could be good enough, James.  If you stopped slacking off and running around with people who are beneath you."  His eyes flicked from Ronnie, to her dad, to Don, who was examining the air vent. 

"Screw you, Dad.  You don’t know anything about me, and you don’t know anything about anyone else on this station.  You think you’re so much better than everyone, but you’re wrong.  You’re not better than anyone, Dad.  You’re not better than Ronnie, or Don, or Mom, or me." 

His dad gave Ronnie a shot, then set her arm and sealed a FastHeal cast around it.  "You shouldn’t talk to your father like that, James."  His voice was low and dangerous, but for the first time that he could remember, Jim wasn’t afraid of him. 

"You’ve never been a father to me," Jim said. 

"I brought you to this planet, James.  I support both you and your mother.  You’re nothing without me.  Don’t test my patience." 

Ronnie’s dad put his hand on Jim’s shoulder.  "Jim’s been helping with maintenance, and your wife works as your assistant.  They both pull their own weight." 

Jim’s dad stood up.  "You can take your daughter home.  She’ll need fluids when she wakes up.  Come, James.  We’re going home." 

Ronnie’s dad’s hand tightened on Jim’s shoulder.  "You can come with us, if you’d rather." 

Jim nodded.  "I would."  He walked away from his father, and he didn’t look back.  

About Jamie

Jamie Lackey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their cats. She has over 160 short fiction credits, and has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Escape Pod. She has a novella and two short story collections available from Air and Nothingness Press. In addition to writing, she spends her time reading, playing tabletop RPGs, baking, and hiking. You can find her online at

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