Hours passed. Outside the abandoned house that Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell had sought refuge in, Elon Musk was ranting and raving, becoming more deranged with each passing minute. What started with simple pleas for Joe and his “boyfriend” to come out of hiding had turned into threats of injury or even death for both of them. In between these threats were disjointed rants about Mars, SpaceX, and humanity’s innate yearning for the stars. Sometimes Elon’s voice would recede as he walked down the street, but it would always come back.
During all this, Joe and Donovan stared at the floor, not daring to make a sound. They communicated by text on their silenced phones, but there wasn’t much to say, so mostly they sat still and silent. Finally, long after the sun had set, Elon’s voice became quiet, but whether he had left the area or simply fallen asleep outside, Donovan didn’t know. He texted his contact, who was waiting in their car a few miles away, to come get them.
A few minutes later, a car pulled up in front of the boarded-up pink house and idled. Moving as quickly as possible, knowing that Elon, if still in the area, could be woken up by the engine noise at any moment, the two teammates sprinted to the car and hopped in the backseat. “Thanks, man,” Donovan said to the driver.
“No problem,” Zhou Qi answered. “Anything for my frien-”
“YOU’RE NOT GETTING AWAY THAT EASY, JOE!” came Elon’s voice from behind them, cutting off the Rocket player’s sentence. Donovan looked behind and saw a disheveled-looking Elon running towards the car.
“Go! Go! Go!” Donovan urged. Zhou slammed on the gas, kicking up clouds of gravel on the unpaved road just as Elon leaped forward to grab onto the bumper. As soon as the car picked up speed, Elon’s grip failed, and he was left behind on the street.
“STOP! JOE! COME BACK!” Elon wailed, and when it became clear that car would, in fact, not be stopping, he continued, “I’LL FIND YOU! I SWEAR TO GOD, I’LL FIND YOU! YOU AND YOUR BOYFRIEND!”
As Zhou’s SUV sped along the empty beach highway, they could still see the glow of the spacecraft’s flaming wreckage at the launch site. Strobing blue and red lights indicated that the police were still there. Was Joe a wanted man now, or was it assumed that he had perished in the crash? The mood in the car was tense, and Donovan didn’t feel like bringing it up.
“Probably looking for my body,” Joe said with morbid humor. “Buncha daft cunts. Hey Zhou, drop us off at a motel. I don’t think we’re heading home to Utah quite yet.”
Donovan stared in disbelief at his teammate. “What? You want to stay in Texas while that maniac is hunting us down?”
“Right-o, mate. That cunt’s got a plan for us, well, I got a plan for him too.”
The next few days, Donovan and Joe didn’t leave the motel room where they were staying. Donovan’s car was still uselessly parked at the SpaceX launch facility, and by now, Elon surely would have figured out who it belonged to, given its Utah plates. However, even an Uber was too risky; Donovan didn’t know if Elon was acting alone, or had gotten his employees in on the manhunt.
Meanwhile, Joe didn’t seem concerned. He had arranged for Zhou to bring him a laptop, which he spent every waking hour on, researching various aspects of spaceflight in general and SpaceX specifically. In between grand meals of delivery pizza, he obsessively looked at satellite photography of the launch site, the Twitter accounts of SpaceX employees, and everything in between. Every time Donovan pressed him for details of his “plan” for Elon, Joe told him that he was almost done with his research.
Finally, on the afternoon of their fifth day of seclusion, Joe triumphantly closed his laptop. “Okay! We’re ready.”
“Just let me beat this level,” Donovan replied. He was almost done with level 1773 of Candy Crush Saga, and he didn’t want the two dollars he had spent on powerups to go to waste. “Okay, I’m done. What’s the plan?”
“We’re going back to SpaceX, mate. Tonight. If my observations are correct, which they are, it shouldn’t be too hard to carry out this plan, but there are a lot of variables and contingencies, so pay attention.”
Joe began a lengthy description of the plan, and Donovan paid attention as close as he could, committing the details to memory. When Joe finished describing everything, they went back to the beginning and he had Donovan describe it back to him, which Donovan was able to do with only a little bit of help. They were ready.
“Thanks Zhou,” Joe said to the car’s driver as they were dropped off at the same depressed neighborhood near the launch site. The SUV’s brake lights soon disappeared around a corner, leaving them in darkness. Unlike their last visit to the neighborhood, Elon was nowhere to be seen, although Donovan half-expected his voice to emerge from one of the abandoned houses.
“I guess we should just start walking,” Donovan said. Joe nodded, and they began their trek back to the SpaceX launch site.