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