Chong had spent several hours attempting to make the minidrill work. Malinao had gotten the release undone rather easily and moved on to the cockpit to see if she could raise communications while Chong performed surgery on the minidrill.
The first order of business for Malinao was facing the dead men.  She moved what men she could drag out of the cockpit and covered them.  She had the macabre thought that they might need to burn them to prevent the smell, then the even more goulish realization that burning the dead could remove what little oxygen they had.  She noticed her breaths came heavier but she didn’t mention it to Chong.
The radio equipment was barely accessible inbetween chunks of rock. Malinao found a part of a hand overthe controls. She breathed deep and used an axe from the tool cabinet to hack the hand away.  Ironically she had to tourniquet the dead arm to keep the blood from seeping out into the control board.
She had faced bad conditions before which gave her a strong stomach, but all this was testing her. In her youth she had been shipped down to Texas to her Lola’s ranch outside Austin. Her Lola was a mean old woman, who aside from giving birth to Malinao’s Father, seemed to have no other connection to her family. In her old testiness she refused to leave her ranch but needed someone to care for her. Malinao had eventually been coaxed into volunteering.
Lola Josie was brutal.  She made Samantha slaughter cattle, herd goats and all manner of the most disguting chores a young girl from Chicago could possibly be given. Finally at the end of the summer Lola Josie had died. That was the worst. Malinao had come upstairs to give her Lola the morning sponge bath she demanded. Instead of complaining about how lates Samantha was, she only breathed heavily. When Malinao aske her if she was OK, the old lady had spit on her and called her several bad names in tagalog. Still Malinao had sensed the end was drawing near and had stayed with her holding her hand. The only other words she spoke were a quiet prayer followed by a request that Samantha bring in Oliver. Oliver, Malinao’s Loloed twelve years earlier. After a half hour od sitting by the old woman’s bedsied Malinao had been thanked for her troubles by watching her Lola sit bolt upright in bed turn, look at Samantha and scream, then vomit blood all over her and everything and lay down dead.
The only consolation for that torturous summer had been a box she found set out on a chair in her Lola’s bathroom.  It was marked, “For Samantha” and contained her Lola’s personal diaries and two million dollars in cash. Her parents ha dbanked the cash in Samantha’s name and had quite a few fights with others in the family over the proper disposition.  In the end it had paid for Malinao’s college. The diaries described a long life from a young age to elderliness, and did more to explain the Lola’s condition and attitude toward the world, than anything that could have been said at the time. Malinao had taken it as an apology and felt at peace.
All those memories came flooding back to her as blood spattered on her while she worked on clearing the communications console. She finally found a power router that was unplugged by the cave-in and got power back to the main console board.  There was still no signal generation and she suspected the antennae were all crushed and unservicable. She thought she’d have a look to see if she could somehow jam some kind of makeshift antenna into a port on the hull somewere just to see if they could pick up anything.
As she walked back toward the minidrill, she heard Chong coming.
“Any luck?” she shouted.
He appeared in the doorway, ten times as sweaty and attractive as he had looked earlier before the cave-in.
“No.  I can’t seem to get the motor to engage.  It’s not damaged but the actuators won’t fire.  The power’s not the issue.  I think it’s unrelated to the cave-in. Somehow the sparks just decided to stop firing right now.  I was going to look around and see if we had an spare parts.  How’s the cockpit?  He had a look of concern.
“Messy.  But don’t worry, I’ve seen worse. I’ll tell you about my summer in texas sometime.”
“Can’t wait– I think,” said Chong.
“I got the console cleared and powered but there’s no signal generation.  I was about to have a look around and see if there’s anywhere I could jimmy up an antenna connection.”
“There’s a porthatch midway back from the cockpit console where you might find a port.  I’ll help you look after we eat.”
Malinao looked suprised. “Eat?”
“Yeah, why not.  We can’t breathe or leave, so we might as well eat.  The refrigeration unit is stocked and undamaged.”
Chong walked over and swung open a small white door int he wall.
“What’ll you have?”
“What’s on the menu?” Malinao asked.
“Chicken salad.  Chicken breast.  Fried Chiken and Tofu supplement B15. And grape juice to drink.”
“Who the hell is your cook?  I’ll ahve the chicken.  I mean the chicken breast.”
“And of course the grape juice.”
“Of course.”
They sat down at a fold down table and set to eating.
“It seems strange to have a perfecetly normal sitdown meal in the middle of all this.”
Chong agreed. They fell to talking about the how they’d been thrown into this situation.
“I should never have volunteered to give you a ride to Omaha!” Malinao chuckled.
“I’m glad you did,” Chong ventured.
Malinao gave him a long look and smirked.
“At the risk of having one of those dramatic confessions at a dying moment, I think you’re something else, Richard Chong.”
Chong blushed.  He hoestly blushed.
“Why are you blushing?” she teased.
He looked down. “It’s very difficult for me to be with someone,” Malainao started to reply with a snappy comeback but Chong stopped her. “No don’t.  Let me get this out. It’s not because I’m the President.  Being single hasn’t helped in that respect.  It’s something I’ve had to overcome.  It’s something about me. I can’t settle. Yet anyone I’ve found that fits what I hope for, is either already taken, or not interested.  I don’t wish to compromise, I don’t want someone to lie to me, so I go it alone. I just,” his eyes were tearing a little bit. “I just never could find the right person.  I could never trust someone I guess.”
“Why are you telling me all this?” Malinao murmered.
“Because with one look at you, all my will vanished. I stopped caring about having the right person. I knew if I could be–if I could be with you– none of my ther concerns would matter.  It wouldn’t be sdettling, it would just be right.  And I live in deadly fear that you won’t feel the same. So now I’ve gone and done it and told you an dprobably put you off and ruined everything, but there you have it.”
Malinao looked down and tried to hide a smile. “Well you sure put a girl in a hard position. I mean don’t I have enough to think about what with the life or death situation here?”
Chong loked stricken. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“You shouldn’t be.  And I shouldn’t play with you like that,” Malinao whispered back, truly taken aback by how sad he had just looked. She took his hands in hers. “Chong, look at me.
He gazed up at her with a blank expression. He allowed no emotion to cross his face.
“I feel the same. I promise. And when we get out of her, I promise I will still feel the same.  And if you want to dom seomthing about it then, I highly encourage it. So don’t get me wrong when I say, right now, we need to worry about gettin gout of here.”
“Promise?” Chong said. Malinao was struck by his tone.  It was not a little boy’s tone asking for his parents to keep a promise.  It was a threat. It was a challenge. And Malinao found that excited her all the more.
“You can bet on it, boy. Now finish your chicken and let’s get your bucket of bolts drilling again.
Chong agreed and went back to the minidrill stony-faced but happier than he’d ever been in his life. Malinao returned to the cockpit and found the hatch Chong had mentioned on her own. She found the antenna ports and wires and played with them for a half hour but didn’t have any luck.  Her breathing was getting very heavy and she knew they needed to conserve oxygen, so she decided to take  abreak. She was just closing up the hatch when she heard a large explosion from the other end. She went runningback through the other compartment to find the minidrill smoking and Chong lying face down on the floor in a pool of blood.
“Chong!” she screamed.