Alex sighed and bobbed her head.
“If anyone can keep her eye on the prize, it’s you,” she agreed. “But if things get too weird—”
“You’ll be the first to know,” I assured her. “I gotta get back before I give Queenie even more ammunition to use against me.”
“All right, girl. Make sure you email me every day.”
“Will do,” I agreed even though I knew our internet was sketchy. Honestly, I was surprised the call hadn’t dropped already.
“Love you, Sash.”
“Love you too.”
We disconnected but I didn’t move immediately as I stared at the blank chat screen.
Maybe going home wasn’t a bad idea. I could ask to be put on another team and come back later…
I snickered at my own naivety. There would not be another expedition. We’d waited this long to get the funding approval for this one. It was now or never.
You’re not going to sacrifice your career over a shitty sex choice, I told myself. That’s not even an option.
After the video call with Alex, I brought my computer back into the lab and set it down, glancing out the window to see the amount of light left in the day. Getting used to the early sunsets was something I still had to accept and I was worried that I’d missed my opportunity.
“I need to collect some samples,” I said, realizing that if I wanted to go, I needed to go then. Neither Queenie nor Hunter acknowledged my words as if I hadn’t spoken so I said it again.
“So go,” Hunter barked without looking up from his microscope. I wondered what he could possibly be working on. I doubted he was doing anything at all but sulking. It was like being in the twilight zone. I was surrounded by scientists with the emotional quotients of toddlers.
I gritted my teeth before posing the next question since I really didn’t want to be asking it.
“Are you coming with me?”
“No.” He didn’t even let me finish asking before spitting out the word. I looked at him with disgust.
So much for being adults.
“I can’t go out alone,” I reminded him. “It’s against company policy.”
Queenie laughed mirthlessly and looked at Hunter.
“Oh, look who’s worried about company policy,” my supervisor snorted. “The one who gets drunk and sleeps with the team members!”
There were so many things wrong with her statement, I didn’t know where to begin.
“I didn’t do—” I stopped myself from saying anything more on the subject. Suddenly I was being double teamed and fighting them both off was just wasting time I didn’t have.
Screw both of them.
“I’m going out to collect samples. Are one of you coming to help me or not?” I tried again in a more reasonable tone.
The answered in such perfect, flat unison that they almost sounded like the same person.
“No?” I echoed dubiously. “You’re going to let me go out there alone?”
Neither of them bothered to even look me in the eye.
“Hello?” I snapped. “Seriously?”
Queenie glared at me.
“Do you need someone to hold your hand to collect moss, Snow? It’s not like you’re going hunting for food.”
“I’d go for that!” Hunter chortled and they exchanged an amused look. Fury smashed through me as they laughed at me.
“Wow,” I muttered, spinning away. “That’s great.”
I didn’t need them to come with me but it was a buddy system implemented on all research trips, as per the Mirror, Mirror guidelines. I knew it was a way for them to cover their asses but like Queenie had just said—it wasn’t like we were in the deeps of the Amazon. I wasn’t going to get mauled by the non-existent wild animals of Iceland or get lost in the thick of a jungle. I just needed to trek north toward Jokulsarlon for a couple miles and gather whatever samples I could around the lake. It wasn’t like I was apt to get lost on such an easy route.
Not in Iceland.
I cast the pair one last scathing look but they purposely kept their eyes down and I left the rectangular structure, bundled in a parka and fur-lined boots.
The ground wasn’t frozen over yet which was a blessing and despite my anger, I had to admit that it was much being out and alone than with the odd couple inside.
It was the first time I’d really been out to explore the secluded land where we’d been stationed and it was breathtakingly beautiful. The air smelled like it had never been touched by mankind and fleetingly, I imagined this was what it was like to be on another planet or at least to a time when mankind hadn’t completely ruined our habitat.
But this was our planet, the only one we had and that was what I was doing there—trying my best to save it.
Onward I moved, pausing here and there to snap a photo on my iPhone to send to my mom and Alex but when I peered at them, I knew I wasn’t doing the sights any justice.