Episode 3 – Chapter 12

Major Scott Oakes clenched and un-clenched his fist several times before knocking firmly on the door. The training had gone well – Brice Millwood was a good teacher – Oakes would give him that at least. The door opened and Captain Anderson Bell motioned for him to enter.

“I thought you’d be heading out for your mission Major.”

“We’re all ready to go Captain. I just wanted to speak to you first.”

“Make it quick Major.”

Oakes took a deep breath. Bell gave him an impatient look. “Permission to speak freely Captain.”

Bell stared at him for a moment – the captain’s expression impossible to read. “Permission granted.”

“Sir, I don’t believe Colonel Millwood should be leading this mission.”

“It’s not like you to question my orders Major.”

“I realise that Sir, I feel compelled to speak on this matter.”

“And why do you think I’m in error?”

“Colonel Millwood isn’t a marine Sir. I’m sure he is a good fighter pilot, and I can see he is an experienced diver, but he’s not one of us.”

“How many underwater assaults have you lead before Major?”

Oakes snapped to attention. “None Sir.”

“And how much diving experience do you have?”

“Besides the training I’ve just completed with the Colonel, very little sir.”

“Yet you still question my decision.”

“I don’t doubt that we need the Colonel’s expertise Captain, and I may even concede that his presence would be an advantage, but these are my men Sir. We’ve been through hell together. I know how they think and they know how I think. I’m their leader.”

“I appreciate that Major, and I know it’s not easy to have somebody step in above you like this, but this is a temporary thing. None of your men are going to want to follow Millwood, they are intensely loyal to you.”

“That’s true Sir.”

“So I need you to demonstrate the necessary leadership qualities and set the example.”

“Yes Sir.”

“Show them that you’re willing to yield mission authority to the Colonel in this case, and they will follow you.”

“Yes Sir.”

“Dismissed Major.”

“Aye Sir.” Oakes saluted the Captain and strode outside.

Once outside, he allowed his frustration to come out for a moment with another long sigh. He strongly disagreed with the Captain’s decision but the time for disagreement was over. He’d been given an order and he would obey it. It didn’t mean he had to like Millwood though.

* * *Kerri was staring at the ceiling, trying not to think. It was difficult. Her arrival on this planet was supposed to be a new start for her and her baby. This place was meant to signify new life. Instead, she’d fallen back into the same old traps again. Drugs and boys – they were her downfall. They probably always would be. Perhaps it would be better for her baby if they could just take it out and let it grow inside an artificial womb. Then it could be given to more deserving parents. Kerri had rarely entertained suicidal thoughts, but part of her almost wished that she’d not been found. It would be so much simpler if she’d simply bled out on the floor of Doctor Spearwood’s lab. But then – there was the baby to consier still.

“Kerri?”

She turned her head to see Doctor Heroux standing next to her. “I’ll be moving you into a proper room in a moment, but first there is somebody here who would like to see you.”

Kerri perked up a little at this. “Who is it?” Could it be her father?

“His name is Cameron Boyd. Until recently he was a chaplain on the Endeavour.”

“What does he want with me?”

Heroux smiled. I can heal your body Kerri, but you’ve got a lot of problems that are more than skin deep. There are a lot of emotional and mental issues and I thought talking to the chaplain might help.

Kerri shruged. It was better than staring at the ceiling. “Send him in.”

A few moments later, the doctor was gone, and standing in her place was a middle aged man with a silly grin on his face.”

“How’re you feeling lass?” he asked in a scottish accent.

Kerri said nothing. It was a stupid question anyway given her circumstances.

“I’m not here to bother you, but I thought you might like to talk. I’m a very good listener you know.”

“You think you can help me get over my addictions?”

“I just might Lass.”

“What could you possibly know about the things I deal with?”

“More than you might think actually. I’ve been an addict myself you know.”

Kerri scoffed. “You don’t look like one.”

Boyd smiled warmly. “Well, it’s been a long time.”

“So how’d you get yourself up out of it?”

“After I hit rock bottom I had no other direction to go. I ended up in jail over some very nasty business. That was shortly before you were born.” The man paused a moment. “I knew your mother. Did you know that?”

Kerri’s eyes widened involuntarily. “You did?”

“Aye. You look so much like her. She was a very pretty woman.” Boyd’s brow furrowed slightly. “But I’m not here to reminisce about the past. Right now I’m more interested in your future.”

Kerri didn’t know what to say. Could this funny old chaplain be her father? Maybe that explained why he was showing such an interest in her. She wanted to ask him outright, but something held her back. Fear. She was afraid. She’d lived her life with so many expectations and images of what her father might have been. He mother had said that he’d been a good man, but that he’d had a lot of growing up to do. How had she described him? A boy in a grown man’s body.

Rather than verbalising these thoughts, she simply asked “do you really think I have a future?”

“Absolutely. Before I became a military chaplain I spent a little time work with an organisation called Teen Challenge back on Earth. I’ve seen many a drug-addict find freedom. If you’re willing, I could take you through some of the program, give you a little counselling. Combined with Doctor Heroux’s medical expertise I know you can beat this.”

Kerri considered her response for a minute. “This program, is it religious?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t use that word myself, but Teen Challenge was very much a faith-based program. God is part of it. I’m not the type to force faith on someone when it’s not wanted though. I just want to see you get better so you can be a wonderful mother to that baby of yours.”

Kerri shrugged. She’d never really had much interest in any god. Her life had been one of practicality and survival.

“If you think you can help I’m willing to give anything a go. I owe it to my baby.”

“I’m so glad to hear that Lass. There are hard days ahead – I can promise you that, but good days. You’ll make it. I know you will.”

Kerri didn’t share the chaplain’s optimism, but she allowed herself a small smile.

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Episode 3 – Chapter 11

Anderson Bell was fuming. He’d just received the news of the kidnapping twenty minutes ago. When he’d first heard about the discovery of the indigenous life form by Aria Bekhit he’d been enthralled just like everyone else. Alien life had been found here on Xinju. It was a big moment. But now, those life forms had committed a hostile act against them – against their children. This could not be tolerated.

The door opened and a small group of marines entered. In the lead was Major Scott Oakes – their commanding officer. Oakes saluted.

“Reporting for Duty Sir.”

Bell returned the salute. “At ease Gentlemen.” the marines complied. “No doubt you’ve heard about what happened?”

Oakes nodded.

“I’ll brief you in a moment, we’re just waiting on one other person.”

As if on queue, the door opened again. It was Colonel Brice Millwood. Once the formalities of saluting was over again Bell began. “Twenty minutes ago three school children were taken by a hostile force down by the Euphrates river. The attackers were believed to be of the same species as the aquatic creature that Ms Bekhit discovered yesterday. As you can imagine a violent act such as this requires a swift and decisive response. You are going to provide that response.

“Already I have a boat out on the ocean, using sonar to try to locate the creatures. We need to know where they might have taken our people. The next step will be yours – you are to go in and bring the children back.”

“Captain,” Oakes spoke up. “As I understand, the aliens dragged the children under water, so they’re likely to be dead.”

“That is our understanding. Yes. But be it survivors or bodies, your orders are to do whatever it takes to bring them back to their families. We need to communicate a very clear message to these people that kidnapping will not be tolerated.

“Now, given the underwater nature of this mission, I have asked Colonel Millwood to lead the assault.” Bell saw Oakes stiffen. That was to be expected. Nobody liked to be replaced – and these were Oakes’ men. “I realise that he is not a marine, but he has a great deal of experience with diving. In an under water combat situation he is the best choice.”

The marines said nothing.

“Now suit up, you’ll be leaving shortly.”

 

* * * 

Constable Morgan Gill found the girl Kerri Meyers resting comfortably in her bed. Heroux had told him that they’d be moving her shortly, but he’d been given permission to question her briefly before that.

“Hello Miss Meyers. How are you feeling?”

The girl looked up at him with round sad eyes. She looked a little jumpy, but more than that just very sorrowful. Gill always liked to see remorse in the eyes of offenders. It gave him hope of rehabilitation, and was much nicer to deal with than the cockiness displayed by so many.

“I’m okay, it’s still a little sore. You’re the cop who found me aren’t you.”

“Yes I am. I’m afraid you weren’t in a very good condition when we arrived. If we’d been a few minutes later you’d be dead.”

Kerri said nothing but Gill could see the hard reality of her situation was dawning on her.

Gill took a seat by the bed. “I have to ask you some questions about what you were doing in that laboratory.”

Kerri let out a long audible sigh. “We were there to steal plants.”

“What kind of plants?”

Kerri screwed up her forehead and let her bed fall back against her pillow. “Drugs okay. We were looking for drugs.”

“I thought as much.”

“I’m really sorry, it was a stupid thing to do. It’s just…” The girl went silent.

“You’re addicted pretty heavily aren’t you.”

She nodded.

“Doctor Heroux can help with that.”

“I know I’ve got to get off them. I’m pregnant, and I can’t bare to hurt my baby, but it’s just so hard.”

“You said ‘we’ earlier. Who else was with you?”

“Just one other person.”

“Does this person have a name?” Gill tried to keep balance in his voice between seriousness and civility. He didn’t want Kerri to be afraid of him.

“I don’t think I should say.”

Gill leaned back into his chair. “Let me explain what is going on here Miss Meyers. This guy took you along to steal drugs, a pregnant girl. Then, when things get hot, he leaves you there for dead – lying in a pool of your own blood. He didn’t lift a finger to help you, so you don’t owe him anything in return. The best thing that you can do for yourself, and for your baby, is to tell me all you know about him.”

“His name is Liam. Liam Cunningham.”

Gill smiled. “Ah yes, I’ve had occasion to run into young Mister Cunningham in the past. I shouldn’t be surprised.” He stood. “Thank you for your cooperation Miss Meyes. You place yourself in Doctor Heroux’s hands and get yourself better. I want to see you get your life back together.”

* * * 

As he was walking out of the medical centre, Gill was accosted by Doctor Heroux. “Constable, could I have a word with you before you leave?”

“As you wish Doctor.”

He followed Heroux into her small office.

“I wanted to let you know about a missing supply of blood.”

“Missing blood?”

“Yes. It’s been taken from the medical centre. We noticed it last night when we needed to give Kerri Meyers a transfusion. All of our AB negative blood is gone.”

“Are you sure it hasn’t just been misplaced?”

“No, I run a very organised centre Constable. It was stolen, and fairly recently as well. It was last inventoried just a week ago.”

“Why would anybody steal a supply of blood? Is there anything special about AB negative?”

“It’s extremely rare.”

Gill scratched his head. “Well that means it is only useful to a very small number of people. Do you have a list of people on the colony who are AB negative?”

“I’m afraid it’s not that simple Constable. You see, someone with AB negative blood can donate to anybody else. It can be given to people of any other blood type. That makes it one of the most valuable types to have in supply.”

Gill folder his arms as he thought. “That ‘s very interesting. The question still remains why somebody would want it. Is someone planning to set up a rogue medical centre?”

Heroux shrugged her shoulders. I can’t imagine why they’d need it, but it’s a big loss to us here.”

“I’ll let you know what I find out.”

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Episode 3 – Chapter 10

Kerri’s body was crying out in pain – in fact it had been doing so for quite a while. It was only now that she was coming to the realisation that she was awake, and the pain was more than just a dream. She opened her eyes a crack. It was morning. Where was she? he last thing she remembered was being in Spearwood’s lab. That’s right, the alarm had gone off. She’d been trying to get away. She’d been right behind Liam, and then…something had happened. Yes, she’d cut herself on the glass and fallen backwards.

“It’s okay, you’re in the hospital.” Kerri turned slightly to see a middle-aged woman standing on the other side of the room.

“Hospital?”

“Yes, security brought you in here last night. You were in pretty bad shape. You lost a lot of blood.”

The Baby!

“My baby, is it okay? I’m preg…”

“It’s okay. Your baby is fine. You’re both very lucky. I’m Doctor Heroux”

Kerri nodded. “I’m…..ah….glad you took care of me.”

“We’ve already determined your identity Miss Meyers.”

“Oh.”

“I’m sure security will want to have a chat with you later, but for now you just concentrate on getting better okay?”

“Fine.”

“Now, I had to give you a blood transfusion last night. You have a very rare blood type so you’re lucky we had a compatible donor near by.” The doctor paused for a moment. “It turns out, the donor was related to you. I found this out quite by accident you understand. I was running a broad blood comparison over our database. When you compare two blood samples, the system does a whole range of calculations. It came up positive for paternity.”

Kerri shot up into a sitting position and then instantly regretted it. “Are you saying my father is here in Xinju? My biological father?”

“That’s right.”

Kerri had no words. What could she say to that? “Ah, who is he?”

“Your father has asked me to not disclose his identity for now, but he did give me permission to say what I’ve already told you.”

“I never knew my father.”

“Yes. Evidently, he didn’t know he had a daughter either. I’m sure he’ll want to meet you soon – it’ll be something to look forward to once you’re all better.”

Kerri slumped back down into bed. “Yeah, assuming I don’t get thrown in jail.”

 

* * *

Joey Goldberg was bored. Most of the other kids in his class were enjoying the chance to get out of the classroom and collect ‘nature samples’ by the river, but this was the last thing he wanted to be doing. Yesterday, Mrs. Berman had assigned them a story-writing project, and he was itching to get back to his writing. He’d come up an exciting idea and once he had an idea for a story he just had to run with it until it was done.

“Remember children, don’t stray too close to the water,” Mrs. Berman called out. Joey kicked a rock and it sailed through the air before landing in the water with a loud plonk noise.

“Hey Joey, like my leaf?”

He turned to see Alice Hogan holding something that looked quite like a star shape.

“Yeah, it’s great,” he said non-committally. Alice appeared to have a little crush on him. Joey didn’t quite know how to take that. He wasn’t interested in girls yet. Some of the other kids in his class were starting to take an interest in such things; well they were welcome to it. All Joey needed was his stories.

“What have you found so far?”

“Nothin’”

“What about one of those rocks?”

Joey shrugged.

“You’ve gotta take something back.”

“I guess.”

Joey bent down to pick up the rock. Just as he was starting to straighten up, he heard the most incredible sound. It was like singing – and yet not quite. There were no words, it was just a melody – pure and strong. The sound was more haunting that anything Joey had heard before. He was captivated.

“It’s so beautiful,” Alice gasped.

“I wonder what it is.” Joey’s imagination was caught now. This was a mystery – and if there was one thing that a writer liked it was a mystery.

He looked at Alice. “Let’s go take a look and see.”

She nervously took hold of his hand. He decided not to object. Investigating something unknown could be scary an she obviously didn’t want to be alone. Actually, the feel of her hand in his wasn’t so bad. Together, they crept through the shrubbery to a place where they could get a good look at the river.

“Look Joey, there are creatures in the water.”

The creatures were green skinned and all sparkly. They had no hair but looked surprisingly pretty. Their mouths were wide open, the strong sweet sound coming out in long melodic notes.

“They’re singing to us.”

Joey could hear the sound of feet coming from behind. The other kids had heard the song and were coming to investigate as well. This was his discovery. He didn’t want to share it and he certainly didn’t want to be beaten. “Come on, we found them first, let’s go see them up close before anybody else gets here.”

“Are you sure?”

“Don’t tell me you’re scared?” He gave Alice’s hand a gentle squeeze.

“Okay.”

Together they stepped out into the open. One of the sea creatures reached out here arm and beckoned them forward. They moved closer until they were standing right at the water’s edge.

The music was enchanting. Joey couldn’t take his eyes off the creatures. Were they aliens?

All of a sudden, his face was sprayed with water as he heard a mighty splash. Something had jumped out of the water right in front of them. Before Joey could clear the water from his eyes he felt thick strong arms grab hold of him. He tried to struggle but he was no match for the muscled arms that held him. He could hear alice screaming. Then there was another splash just down river a little, and now more screaming all around them.

Joey was in the water now, he was being pulled in by one of those creatures. The singing had stopped.

“Let me go!” Joey yelled.

Suddenly something hard was pushed over his head. The green alien pulled his mouth open and shoved something inside that felt a bit like the opening of a large sea shell. Then, without warning, he was pulled under.

Joey fought with all his might against his captor, but it was no use. He couldn’t get free. Down down they went. He thought he was going to drown, but suddenly realised that he could breath. Air coming into his mouth.

On and on his captor swam, until it got so dark he could barely see. Eventually Joey’s strength gave out and he stopped struggling. There was no hope. He was being taken somewhere and there was nothing he could do about it.

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Episode 3 – Chapter 9

It was a wonderful morning. Neal and Laura were heading off on an expedition today. They would be exploring a new part of the continent, hoping to find some resources that would help the colony grow. There were a great many needs. The Endeavour had brought a lot of raw materials from Earth but there was only finite space, and they were going to have to start finding what they needed here on Xinju before too long. They had already been harvesting local trees for the construction of buildings, but there were many other materials to be found. Neal was especially interested in the idea of finding some more indigenous edible plant life.

Laura walked into the bedroom from the shower, wrapped in a towel. He smiled at the sight of her. “Morning Honey.” He stepped forward and kissed her.

“Hey.” She smiled at him and then began fumbling about for clothes.

Neal took a moment to savour the love he was feeling. Some days he just couldn’t quite believe that she’d married him.

So far their relationship hadn’t caused any problems with their work. Some people might have expected that working so closely with his new wife would get old quickly, and possibly cause some friction, but so far their times together were still joyous – whether they were working of just relaxing. Neal and Laura seemed to have found a way to balance being colleagues and lovers at the same time. He was aware that in the future once the novelty wore off they might have some issues to work through, but they’d face them when the time came.

Neal was pulled from his revery by a knock at the door. “I’ll get that, it’s probably Toledo telling us he’s reconsidered and wants to come with us.”

He walked through the main living area of their cabin and opened the front door. To his surprise, Constable Gill was standing on the other side.

“Constable, can I help you with something?”

“I’m afraid your lab was broken into last night Doc.”

Neal frowned. “Why would anyone do that? Did they take anything?”

“We think they were after drugs. They tried to break into your samples cabinet – where you keep your plant catalogue.”

Neal shook his head. “I had really hoped that we were past that sort of thing. You know, new beginnings and all.”

“I’m afraid there are still junkies out there eager for a quick fix.”

“Did you catch them?

“One got away but the other is in the hospital. She injured herself trying to escape.”

“Is she okay?”

“Yeah, the doctor gave her a blood transfusion last night. She’s going to be fine. She’s just resting at the moment. There’s no need to cancel your trip today, I just thought you should know what happened.”

“Understood. Thanks for telling me Constable.”

“Try not to think too much about it. You go and have fun exploring or whatever it is you do. Your lab will be all cleaned up when you get back.”


* * *Cameron Boyd took a deep breath and stepped back to admire his handiwork. The wooden frame of the building was starting to come together. The wall he’d been working on was almost finished. He would need some help to lift it soon.

“I never knew you had it in you Cameron.”

Boyd turned to see Anderson Bell stepping out of the forest.

“Anderson. You’re just in time to help me lift.

“You’ve finished your public duties already I see.”

“Aye, they’ve given me leave to build my own house. It’s coming along nicely don’t you think. I seem to be developing quite a skill.”

“I never thought I’d see the day when Lieutenant Boyd, Ship’s chaplain, would be working with his hands like this.”

Boyd shrugged. “I did a little research on the computer library. It’s not so difficult once you understand the principles.”

Anderson surveyed the shell of the building. “Looks more like a church than a house to me.”

“Ah, you noticed that.”

“The idea is to build a house in order to make room in the accommodation dorms for new colonists.”

“I know. I’m going to have a small living space up in the top floor at the back of the building.”

“So this is what you gave up your military career for then? You’re going to plant a church on the planet.”

“That’s pretty much it old friend.”

Bell shook his head. “I still don’t understand this Cameron. You had an important job on the Endeavour, taking care of the spiritual needs of the crew. Those people, they were important to you, they were your mission field.”

“I know Anderson. Sometimes I can’t quite understand it myself either. I just know that right now, this here is where I’m meant to be.”

“Oh well. I couldn’t talk you out of it before. I’m not going to do so now.”

“Not a chance. So, did you come here just to gossip or you going to help me lift this wall?”

“Actually, I came to talk.”

“I’ve always got a listening ear for you. What’s on your mind?”

Bell let out a long sigh. “I’ve just learned something, and I’m not sure how to process it.”

“Sounds big.”

“It is, and it kind of involves you too.”

Bell walked toward Boyd’s pile of timber and picked up a stud. “Let’s cut this and get it in place so I can help you lift. It’s easier to talk while we work.”

Boyd smiled. “You got it old friend.”

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Episode 3 – Chapter 8

There was nothing better, as far as Neal Spearwood was concerned, than enjoying a home cooked meal. It was also true that there was nothing worse than having to clean up the kitchen afterward. Still, it was part of being a good cook.

“Everything looking good for tomorrow?” he asked his wife as he washed a plate.

“Yes, I’m thinking we should go through the valley between those mountains we marked last week.” Laura was at the table pouring over maps of their continent – at least the parts of it that had been charted so far. “It will be great to get out of town. I’ve been looking forward to going on another expedition for a while.”

“Same here.” He placed the plate on the table and began washing another. “You know I was thinking that I should take along one of those new high resolution bio-scanners. I know they’re only experimental, but they might come on handy.”

“Well it can’t hurt Honey, just remember we’ve got limited space. You can’t bring along every new toy.”

Neal placed the last plate on the table. The dishes still needed to be put away but the washing was all done. “Maybe I should head out to the lab and grab it now.”

“Can’t that wait until morning?” Laura standing up and folded the map.

“I dunno. I don’t want to forget it. Probably best to go now while I’m thinking of it.” He walked from the kitchenette into the main living part of their cabin and began looking around for his coat.

“Neal,” Laura said, looking directly at him with a seductive glint in her eye. “It can wait until morning.”

Neal smiled as he began to understand the intention behind his wife’s words. He sat down on one of their dining chairs, then reached forward and grabbed Laura, pulling her down onto his lap.

Laura gave a mock shriek as she fell willingly into his embrace.

There was no further thought of going to the lab.

* * *

The security officers were out of breath when Morgan Gill found them. He’d heard them running through Moreau town just after the security alarm was raised.

“Report.”

“We lost him,” one of the officers said shaking his head. The man’s name was Jacobson.

“That’s unfortunate,” Gill said giving the men a scolding look.

“We chased the offender from the science building but lost him on the outskirts. I’m sorry Constable.”

“I assume that the crime scene has been secured?”

“Well, no. You see we saw someone running from the scene and decided we should give chase. We didn’t want him to get away.”

“And yet he did anyway. Had you considered that there may have been accomplises? For all we know, there were others who have been busy stripping the labs of everything valuable while you two were off running all over town.”

“Sorry Sir,” Jacobson said again. “I guess I should have left Roberts at the lab.”

Gill shook his head. Clearly the security volunteers were in need of additional training. “Well I’m not looking forward to explaining this to Lieutenant Tareen when I speak to him. What can you tell me about the offender?”

“About two-hundred centimetres, medium build. He had dark hair.”

“And you’re sure if was a male?”

“Positive.”

“Well congratulations gentlemen. You’ve narrowed it down to about a third of the human population on this planet.”

The officers said nothing, just stared at their shoes.

“All right, let’s go check out the scene now.”

They walked the distance to the science building quickly. Gill unlocked the door and sent Roberts around the back to examine the scene of the break-in. The alarm had come specifically from Doctor Spearwood’s office so that’s where Gill and Jacobson headed. Gill unlocked the lab door and opened it. The lights were already on.

A gory scene confronted them as their eyes feel to the floor below the broken window. A young woman was lying unmoving on the floor in a pool of blood. Gill ran forward and checked for a pulse. It was faint but present.

“We need to get her to the medical centre immediately,” he said frantically. “She’s alive but she’s lost a lot of blood.” He looked up toward the window and yelled. “Roberts, go wake the doctor now!”

* * *

Doctor Heroux entered the medical centre with urgency, but not panic. She’d faced her share of emergencies in her career. She knew how to keep a cool head. The nurse on call was already there helping the security officers to lift the patient onto a bed.

“Situation?”

“She’s lost a lot of blood doctor.”

Heroux began examining the girl’s worst wounds. “Get a scanner and check her blood type.” There was glass that needed to be removed, and the girld would need stitches.

The nurse grabbed the device from a nearby tray and placed it near the patient’s skin. A moment later it had extracted an analysed a sample of her blood. “Type AB Negative.”

“That’s pretty rare isn’t it?” Constable Gill asked.

“Very. We have a supply in the back.” Heroux sent the nurse to fetch the blood while she worked to stabilise the patient. “Constable, we may need a little extra help here. Can you go wake nurse Johnson. She’s in the accommodation building, room 2F.”

“You got it.” Gill ran out of the room.

A moment later the nurse returned. “Doctor, we don’t have the AB negtive supply. It’s missing.”

“What do you mean missing. You mustn’t be looking in the right place.”

“I’m certain Doctor. It’s been removed.”

“Take over here,” she said while making a tutting sound. Heroux stormed into the back room and looked for the sample. True enough, it was missing. There was no time for wondering what had happened to it. She needed to find a compatible donor.

Heroux pressed a control on the scanner instructing it to transmit data wirelessly to the computer sitting on the bench. She then began a scan over all known medical records for a match. All the military officers on the planet were required to submit medical information including blood type. Heroux was greatly relieved to see a match come up almost immediately. The system confirmed a good match. As Heroux glanced at the readings she noticed something interesting. The computer comparison indicated a positive paternity for the two samples. The patient’s father was here on Xinju. Heroux was rather surprised to find out who it was.

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Episode 3 – Chapter 7

After a full day of work Kerri had been eager to have something to eat. She’d not been able to keep much down earlier in the day. Morning sickness was setting in it seemed. She savoured every bite of her meal. She had been wondering to herself if she should admit her condition to the people in charge of food. If they knew she was eating for two they might increase her rations. She would sleep on it. After eating, she waiting for the sun to go down. She spent most of the time pacing back and force in her small room in the accommodation building. She and Liam had decided that it would be best for her not to show up in daylight. This was to be a covert operation.

Kerri rang her hands through her hair. She had never done anything like this. She certainly wasn’t a saint and it wasn’t as if this would be the first time she’d broken the law, but this tonight’s plans just seemed dangerous somehow. Maybe she was getting old, or maybe it was the baby inside her. Kerri sighed. Illegal or not, this was the only way she would be able to guarantee a steady supply of drugs. She knew it wouldn’t be good for her child, but she also knew that she didn’t have the strength to resist.

Finally, Kerri looked out the window and saw darkness. It was time.

She pulled on a light jacket and headed out the door. The walk to Liam’s house only took a few minutes. He was standing on the balcony waiting for her. He was dressed in all black.

“Is that what you’re wearing?” he asked.

“I didn’t know there was a dress code,” Kerri said defensively.

“You really have never done anything like this before have you?”

Kerri folded her arms across her chest.

“You’ll be seen a mile away in that floral top. Come on.”

Liam walked inside beckoning her to follow. He led her through the hallway and into his room. At one time, not so long ago, the idea of being led by an attractive boy to his bedroom might have been an exciting prospect to Kerri, but not anymore. She had zero interest in such things at the moment.

Liam opened his wardrobe and pulled out a black beanie. He pulled it down on her head.

“Take that jacket off,” he said. As she shrugged out of it, Liam took a heavy black coat off a hanger and threw it to her.

“Okay. Now you look like a cat burglar.”

Kerri gave a little giggle despite herself.

“Glad to see you’re finally lightening up. This will be great. Trust me.”

“Let’s just get it over with okay.”


* * *There were not many people hanging around the part of town that housed the science building. That was a big relief to Kerri. A large tree out the front cast a dark shadow over the entrance.

“Now, Doctor Spearwood’s lab is on the rear left side of the building,” Liam said. “He’s got a window that looks out into the forest. We’ll go in that way.”

Kerri nodded and followed him down past beside the centre. By the time they reached the window in question, it was so dark that Liam had to pull out a small electric torch. “Here hold this for me will you?” He passed the torch to Kerri.

As she looked on, he fished around in his bag and pulled out a chisel – one of the ones they worked with during the day. “I hope this works.” He began poking and pulling at the window with the chisel. After a few minutes of failure he sighed. “This is no good. We’re gonna have to break the window.”

“Is that a good idea? They’ll know somebody was here.”

“It’s probably not going to take them long to figure that out anyway, but don’t worry – nobody will know it was us.” Liam walked a few steps and picked up a rock about the size of a tennis ball. “All right, we’ll try to time with with a big gust of wind. They’ll help mask any noise.”

Kerri nodded silently.

Liam waited until he could see the trees begin to rustle. As the sound of the window rose to a dull roar, he swung carefully but firmly and crashed the rock against the glass which shattered. Liam used the chisel to enlarge the opening a little.

“Come on, this is taking too long,” Kerri said.

“Okay, here let me give you a boost up.”

Kerri stepped forward and placed her foot in Liam’s outstretched hands. He propelled her upward and she carefully climbed through the hole.

“Ouch,” she said as she nicked her hand on a sharp edge of glass.

“Careful up there.”

Once Kerri was clear of the window, she saw Liam step back, then run toward the wall and jump up grabbing hold of the windowsill. He certainly was athletic. He swung himself inside without making contact with the glass.

“Easy does it see.”

“Can we find the stuff and get out of here?”

“Easy girl. Try to enjoy this. It’s exciting.”

“Whatever.”

Liam took a seat at Spearwood’s desk and turned on the computer monitor. As it was booting up, he began rattling through he scientist’s drawers.

“Aha!,” he said as he pulled out a small key. “This guy isn’t exactly security conscious. Here.” He threw to key to Kerri. You go open the sample cupboard with this, grab one sample of each plant he has in there. If I can find a little information about which ones are good I’ll tell you and you can take more of those.”

Kerri unlocked the door into the sample cupboard and swung it open. Just as she stepped inside a loud wailing noise made her jump. An alarm!

Liam swore. “We’re in for it now. We’ve gotta get out of her. It won’t take security long to get here. Follow me quick.”

Kerri turned to see Liam already leaping up to the window and disappearing through it.

In a panic now, she ran after him and climbed up. She started moving through the window when her jacket got caught on the glass. She tried to pull it free but only succeeded in loosing her balance. Suddenly she began to slip sideways.

Just as she realised that she was falling backwards into the lab, she felt a searing stab of pain in her side. As she hit the floor hard the wind was taken from her lungs.

Kerri was stunned for a moment. Awareness returned as she heard a voice.

“He went that way”!” Security had arrived. A moment later Kerri heard the same voice call out again – quieter this time. “Stop! Security!” They were getting further away. Security were chasing Liam, they weren’t coming into the lab.

She tried call for help – but no words came out. The last thing Kerri saw before she blacked out was the stream of crimson blood – her blood – leaking onto the floor.

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No Chapter This Week

I regret to inform my readers that there will not be a chapter of The Colonists this week. I have been busy performing maintenance on my house this weekend, and I’m coming down with a cold. Consequently, I haven’t had the time (let along the energy) to write this week’s chapter. I have been looking forward to writing this one and I hope it will be worth the wait.

In the meantime, I’d like to announce the release of some brilliant Colonists desktop wallpaper images. They were put together by a colleague of mine, and they look amazing. Download them from here: Colonists Wallpapers

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Episode 3 – Chapter 6

Light as it was, carrying the alien the distance from where Aria had found her all the way back to the colony was proving to be very tiring. Already, her arms burned with exertion. As she approached the outskirts of the town, she began to draw stunned looks from passersby. Most people just stared silently. A few let out audible gasps.

“What is that?” a girl of about ten called.

Aria ignored the question. All of her energy was focussed on getting to her destination – the medical centre in the science building.

“Are you sure it’s a good idea to bring that thing here?” asked a man that Aria recognised as one of the agricultural workers.

Aria tripped on a small stone and tumbled forward, landing on top of the injured creature.

Immediately, the man who had spoken to her was helping her to her feet.

“You okay?”

Aria nodded. “She’s badly injured. We have to get her to the medical centre.”

“I’m still not sure it’s a great idea,” he said, “but you’ve carried it long enough. Let me help you.”

The man took the alien in his arms and started toward the science building.

Aria hurried to catch up, overtaking him so she could open the door for him.

“Can we get a little help here?” she said in her most authoritative voice.

Doctor Heroux, the colony’s chief surgeon emerged from her office and removed her glasses, a look of astonishment covering her features as she caught site of the alien.

“What in the name of all that’s holy is this?”

“I found it on the beach,” Aira explained. “I think she beached herself and was then attacked by a wild animal.”

“So why bring it here? It’s obviously a marine life form.”

“It’s seriously hurt Doctor. I didn’t think it would survive on its own.”

“I needn’t remind you that I’m a doctor, not a veterinarian.”

“Please Doctor, she needs your help.”

Heroux sighed. “Follow me.”

She led them into a surgical bay.

“Put it here on the bed,” the doctor ordered. The man obeyed.

“If you ladies don’t mind, I might leave you to it now.”

Heroux nodded.

“Thanks,” Aira said.

The doctor gave the alien a good look from top to bottom, shaking her head. “Well, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Nobody has Doctor – it’s an indigenous life form.”

“I really don’t know where to start.”

Heroux took her stethoscope and began searching her a heart beat.

“Well, she has a heart, and it seems to be working, although a little faint.”

Heroux then observed the alien’s chest, and listened near its face.

“All right, it’s breathing oxygen, but this creature is clearly meant to live in the water. I suspect that it comes up to breathe, but probably can’t survive for too long in the open air.” She turned to Aira. “Run along and fetch Professor Toledo would you. I could use his advice on this.”

Aria scampered out the door and down the hallway to Toledo’s office. Thankfully, she found him at the door, obviously just arriving to start work for the morning.

“Miss Bekhit,” Toledo said as he slid his key into the door. “A visit from you two days in a row. What a privilege.”

“Please, come quick. I found an injured life form on the beach. Doctor Heroux needs your help.”

Toledo’s face creased into a concerned frown. “Ah, okay, I’ll come and do my best.”

The two of them returned to the medical centre where Heroux was already busy with the creature.

“Toledo, help with this would you? I have little experience with non-human patients.”

“It’s astonishing!” he said. “Just look at her. She’s beautiful.”

“She’ll be dead unless you can help me stabilise her.”

“Of course.” Toledo started pulling on gloves.

“And you,” Heroux said look directly into Aria’s eyes. “Get out of here and give us some room to work will you?”

* * *

Aira was aware that she’d been neglecting her own duties this morning, but she didn’t want to be too far away from the medical centre when the alien’s fate became known. She sat nervously outside the science building waiting. Occasionally, somebody would approach her with a work-related question which she answered, but she refused to leave this spot.

Eventually, she saw Professor Toledo exiting the medical centre, through the window in the building’s front door. She hurried back inside and followed the professor on his way back to his own lab.

“So?”

“Oh, Miss Bekhit. I think we’ve saved the creature’s life. It’s resting comfortably now. Doctor Heroux didn’t want to risk giving it a sedative, not knowing the creature’s biology, but I’ve studied enough animals on this planet to believe that their body chemistry is not so different to those on earth. She’s going to organise a water tank for the create to stay in until we are convinced it is well enough to return to the ocean.”

“That’s great news. Thank you so much for helping.”

“My pleasure.”

“So, what did you think of her?”

“The alien?”

“Yes.”

“Astonishing. Never have I seen such an incredible creature. I find myself wishing I were a marine biologist now. We really should wake up that Leopold chap you know.”

“Agreed.”

They had arrived at Toledo’s door. He entered and Aria followed him in.

“I wonder what she thinks of us?” she asked while unconsciously straightening her hair in a small mirror on Toledo’s wall.

“I shouldn’t think that she thinks much of anything. I don’t think she is sentient.”

“You mean she’s just an animal?”

“That would be my assessment yes.”

“I could have sworn she was intelligent when I looked into her eyes. What’s your assessment based on?”

“Well, the size of her brain for one.”

“That’s a conclusive test?”

“Not really. It’s just a presumption based on limited information. We don’t have a conclusive test for sentience – but if we did I am sure it would involve a lot more than just looking into a creature’s eyes.”

Aria said nothing, she just stood in the middle of Toledo’s lab for a moment.

“To be sure we’d have to put the alien through a series of tests, designed to give it the opportunity to demonstrate its intelligence. You seem disappointed Miss Bekhit.”

“I guess I am. It’s just, she’s so humanoid.”

“Think of that creature as the aquatic equivalent of a chimpanzee.”

“I can’t accept that Professor. As I carried her, I just had a strong sense that she was grateful for my help. I could feel it.”

Toledo smiled. “I am truly sorry to disappoint you Miss Bekhit, but with the available evidence, and without detailed testing, I’m afraid my assessment stands.”

“Well, thank you for your time Professor. I really have to get back to my own work now.”

Aria left the office, feeling frustrated and cheated – but not knowing why.

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Episode 3 – Chapter 5

Aria Bekit always went to bed with the curtains open so that the first rays of early morning sun could stream through into her room. She didn’t consider it to limit her privacy, because nobody could see in during the dark of the night, and she got up earlier than anyone else in Moreau Town. She had always been a morning person, but nothing on Earth could ever have competed with the glorious mornings on Xinju.

She climbed out of bed, walked down the small hallway, let her night dress fall to the floor and jumped straight into the shower. It was a luxury to have her very own solar shower. The people who lived in the dormintory had to use shared bathroom facilities. When Aria had drawn up the plans for her little hut the first thing she had put down was a bathroom.

As the warm water washed over her skin, she let her thoughts go over her plans for the day. She would spend most of her time managing the construction of the hospital. Before that though, she planned to treat herself to a long walk on the beach. She didn’t do it every day – but the times she did were always the best days.

After drying, she put on a light summer dress and headed out the door. Her dress standards had changed dramatically since arriving on Xinju. Back on Earth she’d taken great pride in wearing her formal business wear. It made her feel powerful. Here on Xinju she didn’t need to feel powerful. She was in awe of the power of the place. She just wanted to feel free and easy-going.

On her way toward the beach, she picked fresh fruit from tree that grew along the river bank of the Tigris. Some of these fruits didn’t even have names yet, but all had been certified by Doctor Spearwood as safe for human consumption.

The increasing sound of the waterfall signified that she was nearing the place where the Tigris met another river, the Euphrates, and together they spilled out into the ocean. A few more minutes of brisk walking found Aria standing on the sand. She kicked off her sandles and headed along the shore line. The sun was warm on her face. It was going to be a beautiful day. Here on Xinju, ultra-violet radiation was less of a problem as it had been on Earth. Consequently, people could enjoy the sun with a much reduced risk of burning.

She continued on for several minutes. The beach was so much more peaceful than it had been during the party two days ago. The waves crashed in a steady rhythm that almost sounded musical to Aria’s ears. She rounded a corner, stepping around a small outcropping of rocks to arrive at a fresh stretch of beach. As she did – her heart stopped for a minute at what she saw. Off in the distance, lying on the sand was a creature. It was about the size of a person – maybe slightly smaller. It didn’t seem to be moving.

Aria broke into a run. She covered the ground quickly, her bare feet beating against the hard wet sand.

When she arrived at the place where the creature was lying, she knelt down to examine it. The being had a humanoid face – there was no doubt about that. The eyes were a little further apart and curved outward which must have given it the ability to see a much wider angle than a human. There was no hair on top of the creature’s slightly ridged head. Shiny green scales covered the face. In fact, the scales covered the entire body. Even the creature’s breasts were covered by thick hard scales – which gave her a very modest appearance, despite the lack of clothing. At the lower end of the creature’s body was a long muscular tail with fins at the tip. Aira could well imagine that this being could move through the water at incredible speeds. She was a far cry from the fairy-tale mermaids that Aira had read about as a child – but the term seemed to fit.

Aria had been so consumed by taking in the alien’s appearance that she only just now noticed the faint gasping groaning sounds that was coming from its mouth. Her tail was jittering about. She almost looked like she was in some kind of spasm. Aria placed a comforting hand on the mermaid’s cheek.

“It’s okay. I’m here. I’ll help you all I can.”

It seemed obvious to Aria that the mermaid had beached herself and needed to get back into the water. Bending low, she braced herself and tried to roll the creature toward the water. She succeeded in moving the mermaid onto her stomach. It was then that Aria noticed the big gash on her back. It was seeping dark red blood which had gathered into a small puddle on the white sand where she’d been laying.

Aria gasped. The mermaid must have been attacked by a wild animal. She couldn’t just let it go back out to see – her wounds might be fatal. The only option that Aria could see was to take the mermaid back to Moreau town and get some medical care for her. Aria rolled the creature onto her back again. Then gathering one arm under her shoulders, and the other under her tail, she lifted the mermaid and began to walk. Fortunately, it was much lighter than an average human.

“I certainly hope that you can breath air without problem Girl,” she said calmly – her voice failing to betray the worry that was already coursing through her.

* * *Constable Morgan Gill hated mornings. He didn’t know why his superior officer, Lieutenant Tareen, insisted on holding these security briefings in the morning. Mid-afternoon would have been much more civilised. Gill was in the unique situation of being security chief in Moreau Town, but under the authority of Tareen, who still operated from on board the Ark ship ESS Endeavour. Gill had been surprised when the Lieutenant had given him the job. Why Tareen didn’t push for the role himself he would never know. Life seemed pretty quiet and dull up there on the ship compared to the busyness of this new young colony. Then again, Tareen had investigated both sabotage and murder during his first few days on board the Endeavour, so maybe that ship wasn’t as dull as it appeared.

Gill sat at his desk, a mug of coffee which was still too hot to drink in his hand. The computer terminal was already showing the blinking notification that he had an incoming call. He pressed the accept control. Hasama Tareen’s face appeared on screen.

“Constable, how are you this morning?”

“I’m well thank you Sir. I’ve just gotta get that morning coffee into my and I’ll be ready for action.”

“I’m sure. So what is your report? Has there been any increase in crime in the last two days?”

“Nothing too bad really Lieutenant. A few brawlers late at night but it’s generally not been too difficult to keep the peace.” Gill paused to risk a sip of his coffee. The aroma wafting out of the mug was too good to resist. The rich liquid burned his tongue, but he took another sip anyway. The taste was worth a little heat-induced pain. “There was one strange thing though Sir. Yesterday some seeds were stolen from the garden stores. Isn’t that odd.”

“Seeds? What kind of seeds?” Tareen furrowed his brow.

“Vegetables mostly, maybe some grains. The gardening staff couldn’t give me an exact inventory. Who would bother to steal seeds? All the food that is currently grown is shared fairly amongst the colonists. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Maybe somebody is wanting more than their fair share.”

“But to go to the effort of growing it from seed, just to have seconds at dinner time? I don’t think so.”

“Look into it Constable. It may seen a low priority, but food supplies are very important. We don’t want people treating those garden stores lightly.”

“I’ll see it to Lieutenant.”

“Now there’s something that I wanted to talk to you about. I notice on the latest passenger manifest from the most recent batch of newly awakened colonists, that you have a rather unsavoury character just moved in.”

“Who would that be Sir?”

“Scott Reed”

“I can’t say I’ve heard of him.”

“He was a political activist back on earth – a real trouble maker.”

“In a good way or bad?”

Tareen shrugged. “Everybody is entitled to their political views, but Reed’s main value seems to be opposing whoever is in power. I think he just likes the attention. He was arrested for several acts of terrorism a while back but they could never get a conviction. He’s slippery.”

“What do you want me to do Sir?”

“Just pay him a visit. Let him know you’ve got your eye on him. Beyond that – nothing for now. Keep a close eye on him Constable. He’ll make a move sooner or later.”

“Understood Lieutenant.”

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Episode 3 – Chapter 4

The first thing Kerri noticed as she approached Liam’s friends’ house was the music. She could hear the thump thump as she walked up the verandah toward the front door. She had not expected to hear music being played here on this planet. Conditions were relatively primitive compared to how things had been back on earth. She opened the door and stepped in. There were around ten, maybe fifteen people crowded into the main living area of the house. A music player was sitting on the dining table blaring out tunes. Evidently someone had brought it with them from Earth as one of their possessions.

“Hey, it’s the new girl!”

Kerri turned to see Liam grinning at her.

“Everyone, this is Kerri. She just arrived planet-side.” Several people waved greeting or grunted in her direction. “Don’t mind these guys. Some of them take a while to warm up to new people.”

Liam led her to a small coffee table in the corner of the room.

“Get yourself a drink. I’m afraid water is all we’ve got, but then you’re not really here for a drink are you?”

“I don’t know why I’m here to be honest, but what you said about needing friends struck a chord with me. I could really use some friends right about now.”

Liam put his arm around her and pulled her tighter than she was comfortable with. “You’ll fit in well with us. We stick together. Right guys?”

“Yeah!” a few voices replied.

“So, why don’t you come around the back with me, and I’ll show you what we’ve got.”

Kerri hesitated a moment. “I’m not sure.”

Liam looked her directly in the eyes. “You know you’re gonna come back eventually, so we might as well get it over with.”

With trepidation, Kerri relented and followed Liam through another room and into the back yard. The sound of the music was much quieter out here. The neighbours woldn’t have stood for too wild a party. Kerri was actually glad of this. At the moment she wasn’t in the mood for loud music.

Liam reached down and pulled a wooden flap that was hidden in the grass. He pulled out a small suitcase and opened it up.

“Take a look. We’ve got some AHC, plenty of Sparkle, and one of the guys even brought a little old school heroin with him – but be careful, it’s pretty powerful stuff.”

The sight of the drugs made Kerri’s cravings even stronger. Maybe she could manage just a little bit. It might even be better for her baby if she eased herself off the stuff slowly, she told herself.

“It’s tempting,” she admitted. “But we’ll be no better off when your supply runs out.”

“Yeah, but like I said, this planet must have plants that we can turn into drugs.”

“That’s a pipe dream.”

“No it isn’t.” Liam scratched the back of his neck. “Look, I wasn’t sure if I should tell you this or not, but we have a plan.”

“Oh?”

“You see this colony has a botanist, Doctor Spearwood. He has a whole bunch of plant samples in his lab, and lots of notes. He’s been studying different species since we got here. Tomorrow night we’re planning to break into his lab. We’ll find all we need there.”

Kerri thought about it. The plan seemed reasonable. If Liam and his friends could pull it off, They could have a long term supply. That would mean they wouldn’t have to go through the long painful journey of withdrawal. It could work – it really could.

Kerri reached her hand into the suitcase. Liam grabbed hold of her wrist.

“Just one condition my dear.”

Kerri looked up into his face. She’d known this would be too good to be true. “What is it?”

“I want you to come with me tomorrow night. You’re new here. You’ll raise a lot less suspicion than my other friends if we’re spotted. You don’t have a reputation.”

Kerri considered it for a moment.

“Okay. I’m in.”

 

* * *The small structure which Anderson Bell had constructed as work space for himself while on the planet and quickly been expanded to be his home, once he’d officially handed the operations of the ARK ship Endeavour over to his second-in-command, Guang Lin a few months back. Many of the citizens here in Moreau Town had larger houses than he did, but that didn’t matter at all to Bell. There had already been a little talk from some of his subordinates that he needed an official Governor’s Residence, but he hadn’t pushed for it. There were higher priorities, like the new hospital.

Right now, Bell was seated in the front room which still served as an office waiting for his weekly briefing with Colonel Brice Millwood. Although Millwood served on board the Endeavour as the Commander Air Group, he reported directly to Bell, not to Lin.

The door opened. “I’m sorry i’m late Captain,” Millwood said in his proper British accent.

Bell glanced at his watch. “Only by about forty seconds Colonel. Take a seat.”

Millwood sat.

“So how have things been going this week?”

“It’s been fairly quiet. We’ve run some patrols through the solar system but as usual there’s been nothing out of the ordinary. Most of my pilots have been kept busy ferrying people between the Endeavour and the surface.”

“I hope your people aren’t getting too bored, but it’s an important task.”

“We understand that Sir.”

“Good. I’ve been thinking that in time we should launch an expedition to explore our sister star. It has its own system of planets which we haven’t investigated in detial. That should give you all a little variety and excitement.”

“I’m sure the men and women will be very excited by that Sir.”

Bell sensed a lack of enthusiasm in Milwood’s voice. “Something wrong Colonel?”

“It’s just,” the man sighed. “I think we should investigate the asteroid field again.”

Bell said nothing. He knew this subject would come up eventually. He had hoped that it wouldn’t be this soon.

“I’ll decide when that is necessary Colonel.”

“It’s just, when we arrived several months ago, and you sent me to look for that obscure mineral signature, something attacked me. I’m sure of it.”

“As I understand it Colonel, your plane was struck by rocks. It was an accident plain and simple.”

Millwood shook his head. “Captain, I’m a good pilot. I don’t make mistakes like that. Those rocks were being deliberately aimed toward me. There was someone else, or something else there. It was invisible to the eye and to sensors, but it exploded when I hit it.”

“Colonel, you’re letting your imagination run away with you. It was a difficult mission for you. Your brain was starved of oxygen. It’s not surprising that your memories of the day are a little distorted. I’ve never held it against you. You’re a fine pilot.”

“Captain, I…”

Bell cut him off.

“I’ve heard enough Colonel. I am not prepared to discuss the asteroid field any further. It’s a closed subject. Do I make myself clear?”

“Perfecly clear Sir,” Millwood answered, with respect in his voice, along with some clear frustration. Bell could tell that the man was angry, but he held it in. That’s why made him such a good officer.

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