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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.