Cameron Boyd looked out over the field which had been set up with some make-shift chairs. There were not enough to cater for the people he hoped to see at his service, so many would have to stand. It wouldn’t matter. Here on Xinju they were getting used to roughing it. He had woken feeling remarkably rested – which was quite strange given his experience during the night. At first he’d not remembered it. Then it came back to him, like a dream half forgotten. Then he began to wonder – had it been a dream or was it real? Boyd had never seen an angel before, although he had heard the odd story of sightings – usually by children. In all honesty he had felt a little skeptical – but it had felt so real.
Whether in dream or reality, Boyd was beginning to believe that God had indeed spoken to him. Either way, his supernatural experience had not changed his plans for today. He was going to hold the first official church service on this planet, and he hoped to see a good crowd.
As the time for the scheduled start approached, people began to arrive – in dribs and drabs. First just a couple, then a few more. Within ten minutes all the seats were taken. After that the influx slowed to a crawl. Boyd was a little disappointed. He had hoped to see more people come. Just as he was about to start he noticed Commander Lin appear – in full dress uniform. He hadn’t expected her to make the trip down from the Endeavour, but he was very happy to see that she had.
Cameron began the service. He’d asked a young man he’d met yesterday, who had been a musician back on Earth, to lead the congregation in some singing. After the singing was finished, Cameron lead them all in a prayer for the dedication of their new planet to God. After that, he preached a short sermon. He spoke about the exile of the Israelites to Babylon in the Old Testament, likening their presence in a strange land away from home to the current human predicament.
“Just as many of the Israelites had longed to return to Israel, so some of us have our minds stuck back on Earth. We need to learn to look ahead rather than look back. This world is our home now, and it has the potential to be a good one.” Boyd’s vision of the angel last night played on his mind as he spoke the next words. “You may feel far from God all the way out here, but I assure you, he hasn’t lost us or forgotten us. Even here on this alien planet he can be found. He still cares for us. He still loves us.”
There was so much more that Boyd wanted to say, but he’d already taken up his time and he didn’t want this service to drag on. After praying, he called the musician back up to lead them in one more song before he dismissed them all.
As the crowds began to dissipate, Boyd sought out Commander Lin.
“That was a nice service Lieutenant,” she said when she saw him.
“Thank you Commander. I’m especially glad you made the effort to come and join us.”
“Well, there’s not a lot happening on the ship right now. Our primary assignment is searching the planet surface for signs of civilisation. That means a lot of waiting around to get data back from our satellites.”
“Oh yes. How is the search progressing?”
“Not well. We haven’t found anything yet. If the Phoenix did arrive here, I have no idea what happened to her crew.”
“Well, don’t give up Commander.”
“I won’t. Now how are you? You look distracted.”
“Well, I had a bit of a strange night actually.”
“Strange in what way?”
“Well, ya know, it’s hard to explain. Actually, it’s not, it’s just, I need to think about it a bit.”
“Commander, I might want to talk to you later, to discuss it all. If you don’t mind of course.”
“Any time Padre. Even a Chaplain needs somebody to talk to once in a while.”
* * *
After being discharged from the medical bay, Janicka had found a quiet place to sit with Kenneth. Quiet was a relative concept on this ship, as everywhere seemed to be crowed with people. Everyone was getting decidedly restless. Janicka’s thoughts were turning to her stomach. “I wonder when they’re going to feed us next?” she wondered aloud.
“Probably not until we get to the surface of the planet,” Kenneth said. “We were never really meant to spend much time awake on this ship. They only fed us earlier because we were woken prematurely.
Food was the last thing on Laura’s mind. Since realising that it wasn’t really her stomach, she cared less about filling it. She was much more interested in what Kenneth knew about the necklace that Janicka was wearing. She longed to ask him about to it, to quiz him for all the knowledge that he had – but she couldn’t. She still had little to no control over Janicka’s body. It was infuriating to know that these two people between them probably had the knowledge necessary to help her understand her situation, and possibly even to find a way home – but she couldn’t get it out of them.
Another sound from the intercom grabbed everyone’s attention.
“This is the Captain speaking again. We are preparing to land the ship. As you can imagine, this will cause quite some turbulence as we enter the planet’s atmosphere. Your stasis pods were designed to double as safety areas. Please all make you way in an orderly fashion, to the room in which you awoke. Staff will assist in in getting strapped in ready for landing. As soon as we’re on the ground we will begin letting people out of the ship to stretch their legs. Thank you for your cooperation.”
Janicka looked at Kenneth. Laura could feel the woman’s disappointment.
“Don’t worry about it Honey,” he said. “We’ll find each other when we get outside.”
Janicka nodded, and started toward the stasis bay she was assigned to.
Laura was very curious about this latest development. The captain must have realised by now that there was no colony down on the planet. Obviously he would have to land the ship sooner rather than later, but where was he going to put down, and when did he plan to break the news to the crew that they were all alone on this planet? It appeared that things would soon be getting interesting.