It had been a long day for Cameron Boyd. He had shuttled down to Xinju from the Endeavour mid afternoon, and had immediately started making arrangements for tomorrow’s service, and extending invitations. It was short notice but he had managed to spread the word quite widely. He had selected a nice grassed area not far from Moreau town. Here the sounds of construction wouldn’t cause too much disturbance. There was nothing more to be done tonight in the dark and he was tired.
He was heading back toward the tent city near the town, with only the moon to light his path. He heard footsteps only seconds before he collided rather painfully with someone else.
“Ah,” he heard a voice say.
“Sorry, so sorry,” Boyd stammered. He squinted into the dark to see a figure in uniform.
“Is that you Chaplain?” The voice was familiar.
“Yes. Lieutenant Tareen?”
“Yeah, you really need to watch where you’re going in the dark. Are you hurt?”
“Not too badly. Yourself?”
“I didn’t expect to see you down here Lieutenant.”
“Likewise Chaplain. I thought you’d be tending to the crew up on the ship.”
“No, I’m holding a special service in the morning for the civilians.”
“Oh yeah I think I heard something about that. Not my thing you understand.”
“Of course. So what brings you here?”
“The Captain wanted me to make a few security observations. The planet isn’t really my jurisdiction but it will be military security officers who keep to peace down here – at least for a while – so technically they report to me. It’s a shame really, we’ve come all this way, left our whole world behind, but I guess it’s too much to hope that we’ve left crime back on Earth.”
“Yes, that would be overly optimistic. I’m afraid human nature doesn’t change just because we relocate. We never really leave anything behind. All our baggage comes with us.”
“You’re right. There’s a lot of things I would have liked to see left behind on Earth. Even religion, ah no offence intended.”
“It’s okay Lieutenant. Actually, it wouldn’t bother me overmuch if we did leave religion behind on Earth. Now faith, and God, that’s a different story.”
“So you really do still believe don’t you, even after all that’s transpired, after what happened to our planet.”
“Yes, I do Lieutenant.”
“I never had any belief in God before, but even if I had, I wouldn’t be holding on to it now.”
“In times of difficulty, many seek after God.”
“So I guess that means that neither of us will be out of a job.”
They had reached the encampment.
“Well, my tent is just over there Lad, so I might bid you a good night.”
Tareen’s silhouette nodded. “Sleep well Chaplain.”
* * *
Having finished their meal, Laura and Kenneth were required to leave the mess hall, making room for the next lot of passengers who were starting to appear – their letters having been called. They walked out together. Ken didn’t seem to be in any rush to go on his way so they kept walking until they reached a window. Once again Laura found herself staring out into space.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it.” Kenneth said rhetorically.
“Yes it is,” she agreed.
Laura seemed to find this man quite easy to talk to. What she really longed to discuss was the truth of her identity. She wanted to confide in him that she didn’t belong on this ship, or in this century, but she couldn’t risk it. If there was a way to get back home, she didn’t know it. This had all started when she had put on that stupid necklace. Maybe she should just take the stupid thing off – but she didn’t. Why was that?
Perhaps she could talk to the captain – if she could gain access to him. But again, what could she possibly say? Laura still didn’t really believe that time-travel was possible, yet how else could she explain her presence on this ship.
Kenneth lowered himself down and sat on the ledge of the window. He appeared to be making himself comfortable, obviously settling in for the long haul.
“You gonna join me down here Janicka, or you just intend to stand and stare at the stars all day?”
Laura shrugged and sat. Why was she so captivated by this bloke? He wasn’t really her type, and getting to know men was definitely the last thing on her mind, yet the emotions were there.
Well,” Kenneth said. “Enough about me, and my country, tell me about growing up in Austria.”
There really wasn’t much that Laura could say. She knew nothing about Austria. She’d grown up in Adelaide.” Despite this, she opened her mouth and an intricate story began to spill out. She really did surprise herself sometimes.
* * *
Neal snorted and opened his eyes with a start. He found himself face to face with a pale green mermaid. He rubbed his eyes on confusion and realised that he was looking at a painting on the wall. He has in the boat, and he’d been sleeping. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep, but it had been a long and tiring day, and it was so quiet and peaceful here. He looked around the cabin. Laura still wasn’t back. That was strange. How long had he been snoozing? It couldn’t have been too long could it?
He stood and stretched his body, letting out an audible yawn as he did so. It was times like this that he missed wearing a watch, but his old watch would have done him no good. Earth watches were configured for twenty-four hour days. The days here on Xinju were closer to twenty-five and a half.
Neal strolled over to the window and peered out. It was even darker now, pitch-black outside, and it sounded like it was raining. He really didn’t like this. It wasn’t like Laura to disappear on her own for hours at a time. He was starting to worry that she might be in trouble. Neal cursed. He should never have let her go off on her own like that. There was no telling what kind of dangers might lurk here in the forests of this planet. He had wanted to give her space to think, and he’d wanted time to think as well.
This wouldn’t do, he couldn’t just sit around waiting for her to show up. He rummaged through his backpack, looking for a torch. He found one. It was compact and would fit in his hand easily. He turned it on, it was bright. Flicking it back off he shoved it in his pocket and put on his jacket. It would be cold outside.
He started for the door and then hesitated. Laura hadn’t taken a jacket with her when she’d left. If she was stuck out in the elements right now she could die of exposure. He grabbed her jacket and shoved it under his arm. Then he opened the door, switched the torch back on, and headed out into the weather.