This is the closing scene from the story M A R s
A Parent's Discovery.
"Jack, can you hear their songs?"
"We sing, daddy." He smiled at his father and started singing again.
"What!" Ulric's face betrayed his stunned amazement and the hairs at the back of his neck stood on end.
Enra moved closer. "What are you talking about, Uli?"
"Jack can hear them, Enra." A broad smile now covered his
face. "He can hear the songs of the Biomechanoids'!" Ulric closed his eyes and
listened again. Not only did their songs fill his ears, but something more now
intruded. He heard the song of his son among them. He opened his eyes. "Enra,
Jack can communicate with them!" He pulled his son more closely to his chest and
hugged him tightly.
Sleep found him quickly and suddenly he was there. The image of his father stood in the center of their nest chamber. As he-it-spoke its' image faded back to its' true alien form. "The key is to go back… You must go back…"
"Where?" John knew he had asked this question before.
"You know." The image smiled uncharacteristically at John. "If you can't figure it out you don't deserve to return."
John said "Why have you placed this in my head?"
"Call it reparation for what we put you through. You did very well and this is our way of thanking you."
The image dissolved, replaced by Scorpius and his laughter was deafening. John was pulled back into the chair. "It's time to play, John…"
John awoke from the dream covered in sweat with his heart pounding in his chest. "What did he do to my mind?" John spat in disgust at his inability to handle these nightmares.
He got up and headed for Zhaan's apothecary. He looked down at the timepiece-Mark two point four-no one would be up now.
John walked quietly down the tier, his bare feet falling
silently on Moya's warm floors. He reached Zhaan's lab and as he entered, Moya's
systems sensed his presence and the lighting rose. John knew exactly where Zhaan
kept the long slender bottle of Elestra or Alsutren…whatever…it's what he needed
now. His hand rifled through the shelves.
"What are you looking for, John?" Zhaan moved closer, causing John to almost jump out of his skin.
"Zhaan! Jesus!!! Don't do that, you almost scared the shi…dren out of me."
Zhaan's grin disappeared. "Looking for these?"
John knew better than to lie to her. "How did you know?"
"I sensed it when we shared unity." She silently moved closer. "But at the time we had more pressing issues at hand."
John looked away from her. They had for the first time in almost three cycles shared Unity. "I see..."
"So John, do you care to tell me why you have been taking them?"
"Look Zhaan, I just need them, that's all." His voice carried a certain amount of tension in it.
She just looked at him. She found it strange that in her eight hundred cycles she had never met anyone quite like him.
"So what do you want me to do, Zhaan. Never get another good night's sleep?"
"No John, I want to help you. I will start by saying No! You cannot take any more of these." She held up the large bottle.
John's anger was beginning to show. Zhaan could not understand what was going on in his head when he tried to sleep. "Hey "Just Say No!" might have worked for Nancy Reagan, but it doesn't fly out here."
Zhaan smiled at John's "humanisms", as Aeryn called them. "Extended use of Alsutren will…how would you say? Fry your brain."
"Zhaan…" John bit his lip slightly as he tried to control the mounting anger. "I need it, it's the only way to stop them…"
"Stop who, John?" Zhaan moved forward and touched John on the arm, but he recoiled from her touch.
"Never mind, Zhaan!" John spat in defeat and he started to walk from her apothecary.
Zhaan knew how to get to him. "If you don't tell me what's going on John, I will have to tell the others." She watched as he stopped cold in his tracks. There was one thing about John - he was predicable.
He turned slowly, his anger surprising even himself. "You will keep your mouth shut!"
"Or you'll do what, John?" She walked cautiously towards him as if fearful of physical harm. "Tell me what's going on and I will tell no one. I just want to help. Please let me help you."
"Zhaan you can't help…" He laughed slightly "My mind got so fucked by that chair I don't think anything can help. Every time I try to sleep the memories return."
"John How is that possible?" Its been almost four cycles?"
John looked way from her he felt ashamed that he couldn't handle this. They had been through so much yet a simple dream was about to drive him insane. "It only started about two months… Ah… quarter cycle ago."
"May I see for myself, John?"
"You mean the Delvian mind-meld thing…" The anger drained from him. He felt tired. So very tired. "…At this point, Zhaan, I am up for anything."
"I must prepare first." She took two pills from the bottle she still held. This will get you through tonight, tomorrow we will start. "I will tell no one. We will get through this."
He held the two tablets cautiously in his hand. He didn't have the heart to tell her that half a tablet would put him out for the night. Two would probably put him out for a week. "I hope so Zhaan, I am about ready to take a step outside without a P-suit." He smiled slightly and started walking towards his quarters. "Hey Zhaan. Thanks."
"Good night, John."
Convict Raymond Wilson
"Jack, concentrate! Look at the display." Ulric looked back over his shoulder as Enra approached.
"How is the scholar doing?" She smiled at her two men.
"This is boring, mama. I want to go with Dad." He pushed the data tablet forward on the rough wooden table.
"Oh? And where is Dad going?" She turned suspiciously to Ulric.
"I have to do a systems check on the marauder and switch calorimeter tanks. Probably have to cut back the creeper plants too. You know how they get in and wreak havoc with the landing struts." He smiled slightly, hoping she would buy the excuse.
"I see. And does this systems check also include a sub-orbital flight?"
"Well… err... I don't know… That would depend on the systems checks." Ulric grinned sheepishly at her.
"You're slipping in your old age, Ulric. I think the mighty Peacekeeper is getting soft." She smiled. "Go then, get it out of your system." Ulric kissed her and headed up the path like a small child being allowed out to play.
Enra look down at her pouting son. "I don't suppose with the thoughts of your father flying around up there I am going to get any studying out of you today?" Jacks pouting expression melted away as he realized that for the first time, he was being given a chance to go with his dad.
"I can go too?" Jack asked, his voice filled with awe.
The lad let out a huge scream of excitement as he jumped from the bench and ran after his father.
Enra watched as he reached his father at the top of the knoll. They both stopped and waved to her. She clasped both hands around her mouth and yelled. "Remember to make him wear his gravity harness." Ulric waved back to her. "Don't forget, Uli, you're making dinner tonight!" She added, as she sank down onto the bench and watched as they passed out of view. How Jack was like his father and how that scared her to the core. "May the Gods follow you, Jack Selton." Even in paradise fear was a constant traveling companion.
"I don't care, I don't want one more person being evicted from his home. This has got to work. No… You will make it work Bob! I don't care what you have to do, just get it done."
The secretary chimed a priority link. "Mr. Murphy on a coded link, Madam President."
"Thank you, Lucy. Bob, please talk to them. Make them understand…how can the New Deal work if people lose the roofs over their heads?"
"But what am I suppose to tell congress?" Bob could feel his ulcers acting up again.
"Tell them if they pass this I promise not to run for a second term. That should put a fire under their asses." She stood from her desk. "Now if you will excuse me, I would like to take this call privately.
Bob Templeton looked at her questioningly. "Yes, Madam President." He collected his data pads and exited the oval office.
She took a deep breath as she hit the link. "Hello Barry, what's up?"
"Madam President, we have a problem…" The hesitation in his voice alone, sent a chill down her spine.
"Get your ass over here. I don't want this on the link." She exhaled deeply and silently mouthed a single word. FUCK! "How soon can you get here?"
"I can catch a sub orbital in Edinburgh and be there in two hours."
"Ok, I'll assemble the troops." She closed the transmission and yelled out to Lucy, "Clear my schedule, Lucy, and call the gang together. We are having a meeting-Priority one!"
She turned to the window where the cold drizzle seemed to fit her mood. Barbara Quilton thought, "What did I do to deserve this." She never intended-or wanted-for that matter, to be President. To feed her ego she ran on the independent ticket as VP for Walter Barns. It was luck-or lack thereof-that the world economy collapsed in 2006 leading to the great depression of 07. A year later they rode into the White House on the coattails of a starving nation with forty five percent unemployment. How else would the old girl from Vermont be the nation's first female Vice President?
"Oh Walt, why did you do this to me?" As she stood looking out the heavy glass of the oval office she relived the events of the past few years. Three months into office Walt had a stroke. Two days later he died, leaving Barb alone to administer the New Deal, named for the program that FDR had started over eighty years prior. The day she was sworn in, the New Deal passed through both houses without a hitch. Barb spent most of her time over the next sixteen months putting out fires and trying to keep the United States united. She had on a number of occasions evoked Lincolns' speeches regarding the strength of a single nation. The polls remained mixed, but unemployment at least stabilized. And with food in their bellies the riots subsided.
"Lucy!" She turned back to her desk and looked up to see the short, round, tough as nails old woman scurry into her office. "Get me the files on Guardian! Everything! " She saw her reaction to the request. "Come on girl. Don't get weak in the knees on me now!"
A smug grin formed on the old woman's face as she exited the
The team that studied the region of space some two hundred and fifty miles above the surface concluded that there were few clues to the wormhole's presence other than the occasional solar flare that allowed neutrinos to be emitted from its invisible event horizon. The entire body of scientists came to the same conclusion. They had no clue how it got there, how it worked or why it was there. But they were certain that someday it would open again and that threat alone was enough to send the world into chaos.
The Shady Path
They had been walking for half an arn and Jack had not stopped asking questions on their trip to the Marauder. "Why is the ship so far away?"
"So that if anyone finds it they can't find us."
"Why? It would be nice to have new friends."
Ulric stopped and looked into the face of innocence. He
dropped down to one knee. "Jack, there are some very bad people out there. They
might be able to detect the ship and come looking for us. That's why we keep the
ship stored so far way." Ulric smiled at the boy. His smile disappeared as he
thought back to his own childhood, a very different one than Jack's. He was born
to fill the ranks after a disastrous campaign against the Scorvians. Ulric never
knew his parents and it only now seemed to bother him. Now he had his own son,
he thought back and wondered if his own parents had any thoughts of the child
they produced, or for that matter even cared.
"But you…" Jack's intense looked deepened. "Daddy, you're a Peacekeeper."
Ulric's heart sank with those words. He pulled the confused boy forward and hugged him. "Not any more son, not anymore."
Professor Lisa Dallas
She stood at the large first floor windows that flanked one wall of the rundown lecture hall and stared out through the pouring rain. She watched as students scurried across the library quad. What had she done? Why was she here? Four years earlier she was the commander of the International Space Station. Now she was a two-bit physics professor at a two-bit university.
Her blank stare fell upon the van parked on the Quad. Regardless of the cost, they still watched her. A bitter smile came to her face. They stopped trying to be inconspicuous about a year ago, the men in black as she called them. Two to three men sitting in the gray van; their one job in life was to see what Lisa Dallas, one of the few people on earth who had made physical contact with an Alien race, was up to. She walked back to her data pad and pulled up the picture of Jack Crichton, a man she hardly knew yet would be tied to for the rest of human history. Over the past four years she often wondered if he ever had found his son. A small tear rolled down the bitter woman's face. She would never be free. "Damn it, Jack, I wish I had gone with you!" She keyed off her pad and headed home.
Intruders in Paradise
As the circular hatch on its underside opened and the gangway descend in front of them Jack gave out an excited. "Whoa!"
Ulric spent the next two arns checking the Marauder while Jack continued his endless questions about their ship. Once he was satisfied that it was safe, they prepared for take off. Ulric carefully wrapped Jack in the red and black PK gravity harness. Looking at his son wearing the colors of the Peacekeeper darkened his mood. Ulric knew that Jack's ability to communicate with the Biomechs meant that he also knew what the PK was capable of. This was a lot for a boy of five to have to deal with. "Ok Jack, you ready?
"Ya, I'm ready." His hands tightened on the arms of the acceleration chair.
"Are you scared?"
"A little." His son replied, with trepidation.
Ulric made sure the Gravimetric emulators were set to full to shield them from the effects of gravity shear. "Don't be." Ulric reached over and rubbed Jack's head. "OK, here we go!"
The Marauder rose steeply from the floor of the forest. Ulric placed the forward viewer for maximum viewing angle. He heard his son give out a gasp of awe as they ascended through the low clouds that formed over the forest. As Ulric accelerated at a steep climb, he kept one eye on the auto systems and one eye on his son, whose nervous expression gave way to a face-filling smile.
"Can it go faster, Daddy?"
"I think we could get a little more out of the hetch drive."
Ulric grinned. He pulled back on the flight controls and they felt the pull of
the small world as they watched the sky go from blue to black.
Ulric calculated orbital insertion. He knew he would get it when they got back, but Jack was having too much fun to head back now. Who was he kidding? He was having too much fun. The Marauder accelerated much faster as the atmosphere thinned. They reached escape velocity and headed for orbit. The twin stars that this world orbited were amazing to behold. As they continued their trip, long-range sensors triggered an alarm. Just over the horizon of their home sat a huge ship. It was like nothing Ulric had seen before. He changed course and the marauder dove at a steep angle back into the atmosphere. He scanned the gigantic ship.
"What is that?" Jack asked, alarmed by Ulric's actions.
"Don't worry, Jack, I want to get us back home. Then we can figure out what or who they are."
The frightened little boy looked his father, "Are they Peacekeepers, Daddy?"
"No, they aren't, but I have never seen a ship like it before."
Ulric opened a con to Enra. "Enra!"
Through the noisy connection her ever-warm voice responded. "Don't tell me you won't be home for dinner."
"No, were heading back now." He paused. "We have company. I am transferring data down to you."
"Who are they?" Even through the com, Ulric could feel the tension in her voice.
"I don't know, get packing! I will bring the marauder down onto the beach."
Enra looked at the sensor log from the marauder. She almost dropped the data tablet as she recognized the silhouette.
"Uli!" She screamed into the com. "It's the Castra! It's
Vladic!" Her eyes filled with tears. She scanned the log further-nine hundred
and twenty seven Vladics on board.
"Are you sure? It's not like the Peacekeepers to be so sloppy."
"The sensor logs read them as Vladics! They're from Casaval!" Having been under PK control for five cycles, she had never once come across another Vladic. Enra concluded that she was the last of her race.
The Marauder landed on the shoreline of the inland sea. Enra had moved a few of their belonging to the beach. But did not seem in a hurry to leave.
Ulric ran down the ramp. "What are you doing, Enra?" Ulric shouted over the noise of the Marauder.
"They are Vladics, Ulric, they are my people. They are not threat to us."
"How do you know?" Ulric moved up to her.
"We are…" she stuttered. "We were a peaceful race, Ulric."
"We aren't taking any chances. I want to pack and be able to leave in a microts notice. "Ulric headed up to their home. Jack emerged at the door of the marauder.
Enra was startled at Jack's appearance. She felt a certain anguish in the pit of her stomach at seeing her son in the PK gravity harness. She fought the feeling and smiled at him. "Careful Jack, the hull is still hot from reentry. Did you enjoy your trip with Dad?"
"Yes, Mama." He walked timidly down the ramp. "Mama, why is that ship we saw dead?
What kind of question was that? The sensor logs show over nine hundred people like us! She smiled reassuringly at her son. "Why would you ask such a thing?"
"It's like the others, I can sense it, but it's dead."
It suddenly occurred to Enra what Jack was talking about. She knelt down next to her confused son. "Jack, my people have some knowledge of your friends. They applied their knowledge of Biomechanics to our spacecraft. But our ships aren't thinking ships like your friends, they have no…" She tried to think of the best word. "Soul! Do you understand?"
"I think so." Jack fell into his mother's arms. "Are they bad people like the Peacekeepers?"
She laughed slightly "No son, they aren't bad people at all." She held the boy tightly for a few moments.
Ulric returned from their home, his arms full of supplies. Enra noticed he had also donned his pulse gun, something he had not worn in a long time. Her heart sank as she watched him act this way.
"Jack, I want you back in the ship. Enra, we will need more water."
Enra stood there, angered at Ulric's insistence on leaving. "Go in the ship Jack, everything will be fine." She watched as he walked up the ramp of the marauder, before turning back to Ulric. "No! I am not going anywhere till we talk to them!" She exploded.
Ulric was surprised by her anger "Come to your senses, Enra. Even if they are survivors of your people, that means they are renegades, just like us, which means they have a price on their heads. Just like us…"
Enra snapped at him. "So it follows, they are scared. Just like us!" She moved closer to Ulric. "No Ulric! We will help them if they need help!" She crossed her arms and looked at the angry Sebacean. "It is unlike you to run with your… what did Jack used to say?… run with your tail between your legs!"
Their son moved back to the hatch of the Marauder. Ulric was furious and was about to respond when he saw Jack standing there, witnessing their argument.
His son's scared expression stole the anger from Ulric. "Its ok Jack, please go back to the flight deck." He turned back to face Enra. "That is why I want to run, Enra. That little boy!" Ulric calmed his temper again. "I will not have our son be witness to the violence we have seen, and if that means running for the rest of our lives then so be it!" Ulric walked from Enra back towards the house.
Enra followed him up the path. "This is the world he was born into. He should know compassion, Uli."
"Compassion!" Ulric choked! "Compassion will only get us killed! Have you even thought what they will think of us? You being with a Peacekeeper, the race that exterminated them, will not make you very popular! No Enra. End of conversation!"
"Valdics have been a peaceful race for centuries…"
"Enra I have seen enough military campaigns to see how it changes people. This is too dangerous. We are leaving!"
Her tone softened as she realized that Ulric shared the same fears of the future she had for their son. He would not speak openly; that was not the PK way. "I think we should find out more before blasting off deeper into the uncharted territories." Ulric stacked two storage bins from the central room of their home. He picked them up and headed back to the Marauder.
Enra stood in the middle of the galley. She had to find out more, she was no longer alone in the universe. She grabbed a large water container and headed for the spring. She knew Ulric needed to cool off.
He found Jack sitting in the pilot's seat. Ulric keyed the local scanner so that the large view plate showed the Solar Shell and the path to the house. They saw Enra walking to the spring and was about to leave Jack when movement caught his eye. Standing at the base of the walkway were five humanoids. Ulric scanned them quickly they were definitely Vladic biosignatures. They each carried some type of weapon under their cloaks. He considered activating the weapon systems of the Marauder, but that would easily be detected by them.
"Jack, get into your seat we are going to be taking off in a few microts." He programmed the flight computer for a course that would bring the Marauder safely into space. "Jack, see this red tile? If I am not back in fifty microts, I want you to hit that tile." "OK!" He smiled nervously at his son. "Then I want you to call all of them. The biomechs will protect you, OK." Ulric closed his eyes briefly and listened. He could hear them. There were a few who were close. He looked up at the main view plate as Enra spotted the unwanted visitors. She stopped for a microt then ran towards them. No, Enra!
"I'm scared, Daddy! Who are they?"
"I know it will be ok, you are in command, Captain Selton." Ulric bowed slightly then locked Jack in his seat. "I have to get mom. We'll be right back, but if something happens I want you to go. Remember, when I am off the ship you are in command!"
The boy smiled nervously as Ulric headed off the flight deck. He stopped by a storage locker and picked up a number of Chakan oil cartridges and a pulse rifle. He looked at the Black and Red command uniform. H threw the Jacket on and headed out of the ship. He waited at the bottom of the ramp long enough to seal the hatch.
He walked slowly out from under the shadow of the Marauder, his hands out slightly to his sides. He approached the group that now enclosed Enra. From this distance he had no chance of dropping all of them.
One of the unwanted visitors noticed Ulric. She let out a terrified scream, "Peacekeeper!"
Ulric had no cover and was barely halfway across the beach when they spotted him. The woman next to Enra and the man in front of her turned and drew their strange weapons. "Frell!" Ulric spat as he placed his hands on his head and fell to his knees. Enra ran back to Ulric and the visitors approached him cautiously. By the time Enra reached him they all had their strange weapons drawn.
"What did I tell you Enra? We should have gotten the frell out of here!"
Part: 2 "Delvians, Vulcans, it's the same thing once they're in your head." John C. from part 2