~ The Promise ~
JM Dragon
Part Three
Section One

© March 2002
Email: jmdragon1@hotmail.com

Disclaimers: See Part One


Two souls meant to be together searching through the ages. Once they find each other, do they stay together forever or do they search with each lifetime? If so, what changes with that lifetime? Does fame, fortune, occupation, gender, appearance all change with each lifetime? Is there some telltale trait that always remains constant providing instant recognition? Did you ever wonder what happens to souls as they travel through eternity?  Are souls a circle around all our lives never beginning never ending? The lives of Paula and Tamara were successful but one important element was missing. Will they find their home in each other?

..The Promise
......Through space,
......Through time,
......Through all the ages,
......I will wait for you.
......Through laughter and pain,
......Through happiness and sorrow,
......Through eternities reign,
......I will wait for you.
......Through all persuasions,
......Through all changes,
......Through all temptations,
......I will wait for you.
......I will wait for you,
......That is my vow.
......I will wait for you,
......That is my promise.

Earth Space Station Gamma

“Paula who else can go?” Ray Jones asked his friend and sub-ordinate in earnest.

Blonde short hair shone like spun gold as the artificially programmed sun bounced around the utilitarian room.

Green eyes scrutinised the man who was pacing the floor, he always did when he was trying to convince her that something was the right thing for her to do, and she disagreed. Having known him for over twelve years from her early days at the space academy it wasn’t hard for her to note his every reaction.

“Not my scene Ray. Hell why would I want to be saddled on a colony of mainly women? Jesus it’s hard enough getting a date now because of the crazy workloads and hours. No thanks!”

Ray knew she wasn’t the first choice for this assignment, however she was the best, and they needed the best according to the report his superiors had given him. It had been difficult maintaining a balance when natural disasters had befallen Earth and left over two thirds of the old inhabited part of the planet uninhabitable. Fortunately if any good could be said to come out of the situation, scientists had been believed and the fifteen-year window to remove people had been taken. Space travel had literally been pushed to the top of the list; they had to go out into space if they were to survive in any great numbers. Now they had numerous space stations orbiting the Earth and colonies on some of the less inhospitable planets that the new leaps in technology had allowed them to go to outside the solar system. Pioneers they had called these people, and they certainly had the old pioneering spirit because many had perished in the early days.

Space pilots, were a precious commodity, as precious as gold dust once was to the old timers on Earth and the lack of the resource was a problem that had plagued the ruling executive for years. In the beginning it hadn’t been so bad but now that colonies were being developed, people left and never came back even the pilots. Gradually the number of people who were good enough had dwindled as the population on Earth moved into the different galaxies and their own challenges.

Amazon Seven was such a planet and had requested a specialist pilot who would be flexible for a minimum two-year contract; their original pilot had been caught unexpectedly in a meteor storm and killed. Of course they had a few pilots but not a top notch one that had been trained for combat as well as colonisation, they were the elite and few and far between.

Ray was surprised that the Executive committee had deemed it practical to replace the original person sent so soon. Laura Craven had been a damn fine pilot and it was a pity she had been killed so soon in her career, tragedy happens unfortunately.

“Anyway what happened to their original pilot? All off world colonies are provided a capable first pilot as part of the package and in turn train replacements over a period of time.” Paula starred hard at the shorter man, towering over him by at least five inches, having the stature of her Dad who had been six-five, she was six-two and her Mom had always insisted she was growing even when she reached thirty.

Brown hair bounced around as he shook his head vigorously in agreement. “She was killed two months back, the colony had landed only a month before, and they need a replacement as fast as possible.”

Paula glanced around the grey walled room and hooked her foot under the stool she was standing next to as she contemplated the news.

“Is it a dangerous place?”

“Not really… well anymore than the normal risks that is. As you know replacements aren’t sent immediately, one of us old timers gets the assignment when we are no longer capable of being one hundred percent efficient.”

Laughing at the term of old timers, yep you got to forty if you were lucky and then they pensioned you off to some god-forsaken community. At least you still had it good, the best accommodation and supplies. When she was done with her assignment quota, she had her retirement all planned out at Vegas Sixteen. The revellers paradise according to some of her buddies and she wanted some of that action when the time came, not kicking her heels teaching snotty nosed kids how to fly and rudimentary combat moves, where it was all work and hardly any play.

“Why is this place different?”

“Seems one of the counsel members has influential friends on the Executive committee. Christi Smith-Berlinger no less.” Jones smiled wryly as the blonde head shot up at the name.

“You’re joking of course?” Paula was astounded; Smith-Berlinger was the Senior Executive for off world colonies, next to the President of Earth she was the single most important person in the ruling executive.

“No joke, her signature is on this document and you don’t see that very often. She wants the best and you are the best Paula we both know it.”

“What about Perry, surely he was next for this kind of long term assignment?”

“Yes he was but he has a problem.”

“Problem, what kind of a problem? I talked with him this morning he was fine!” Paula’s brow furrowed as she thought about the amiable conversation she’d had with Perry.

“It’s a problem off world on that particular colony, they wanted a woman.”

The attractive laugh the woman had made Ray smile. Years ago he’d asked her out and they had a short-term relationship, Paula wasn’t the long-term kind of girl and she had been out for the next conquest within weeks. He’d secretly had a crush on her at the time but had eventually met and married Nancy, who knew about his fascination and that she didn’t have to worry, Paula Clayton wasn’t interested in him at all!

“You have to be kidding Ray, they can’t stipulate that? That’s…well its discrimination against the male!”

“Seems they can and do, not much I can do about it and as you were next in line, I’m sorry Paula but what choice do I have?” He held up his hands and gave her a grimace.

“If I said no you can’t force me can you?” Paula unhooked her foot from the stool and walked towards the door.

“True I can’t, not at this moment, however if you declined at the right time that would mean you will have to go out there privately and you hate defectors isn’t that right?” He was hoping to touch the raw nerve she had over experienced pilots using their talents for big money. It wasn’t the time; there were still so many people, who needed to be relocated, one day maybe, but not yet.

“Yeah it would, I’m going to take that break you promised me and I’ll be back in a few days with my answer. See you later Ray and say hi to Nancy and the boys for me.” The tall blonde flicked him a wink and left the room.

Shaking his head he smiled, that was Paula full of herself and no one was going to make any decision for her, except her, it was the way it had always been and would always be he suspected. Then again maybe there was someone out there that could put a ring through the nose of the bull and lead it home. The very thought made him laugh heartily as he glanced once more at the paper in his hand.

Yep. Christi Smith-Berlinger who would have believed it!

Amazon Seven
Two Weeks Earlier

“What do you mean they haven’t appointed anyone yet Selina? I personally made my views known at the last meeting it was imperative we have a replacement.”

Selina Ralph had worked hard on several projects, Sirus Three and Aphrodite Two, before she was asked to command the colony of Amazon Seven. It had been the culmination of her work to date and other than the loss of the pilot within the first month by sheer bad luck; they still had everyone healthy and working hard. It helped that this woman who was in the room with her, who she dubbed privately her second in command, was also a doctor and a great one.

Doctor Tamara Shaw was compassionate, caring and committed. She had glorious dark hair that reminded Selina of black coal and there were times when Selina wanted to run her hands through it to see if it really felt like the silk it looked. She had never of course, they had kept their relationship purely professional, although in the past year they had developed what she hoped was the groundwork for a deep friendship. A birthmark on Tamara’s left cheek the size of a golf ball meant she wasn’t as cosmetically attractive as others who had caught Selina’s eyes over the years, however, the package Tamara offered far outweighed any slight facial defect.

“I had a message from Earth, they are trying to persuade someone to take the post offered.”

“Don’t talk rubbish Selina, people aren’t talked into these things, dedicated space pilots are given tasks and they go do it!” Tamara was annoyed at the delay, they needed a specialised pilot the strain on the two younger and certainly inexperienced pilots were telling in a big way emotionally, with Tia Lopez in particular who was becoming uptight and unruly.

Selina smiled at the woman in the room with her, she was a five feet four bundle of energy when she was fired up, which was getting more and more frequent as they progressed with a more solid structure on the planet.

“I wasn’t! The message clearly states that, see for yourself.” Handing Tamara the message correlator.

Reading the message the doctor was annoyed even more, this was a new colony and if it worked out here it would be one of the closest to an earth like planet anyone had colonised so far. Admittedly it was a good six months even in spectrum flight but they had agreed to give it their best shot and here they were. Problem was some of the readings indicated that life of some kind had evolved on the planet previously, although they hadn’t come across it yet. The biggest deficiency was their lack of combat skills, yeah they could defend themselves but work out an offensive strategy should they need it…well that wasn’t in any of their fields of expertise, except Laura’s and she was dead.

“I’m going to contact Christi see if she can pull strings.”

“Tamara wait!”

Turning to look at the First Counsellor she raised her eyebrows, the terse words had been a surprise.

“For what?”

“The message says give them a few days and they will know for sure who will come out here. What are a few more days?”

“God give me strength Selina! It will be a few more days and then what? Okay have it your way I’ll see you at dinner.” The door crashed closed behind the small woman, and left the first counsellor starring at her, wondering if it was a yes she’d wait, or merely lip service.

Paula glanced around her one room accommodation grimacing at the blue walls and the less than appealing thought of watching what was on the video link. Having spent the last eight months escorting colonists to Ares Five and having to dodge black holes and erratic radiation storms, she had been given a month’s leave to recharge the old batteries.

Yeah she felt old too at times, when really she was in her prime at thirty and usually within a week she was back to her super charged self. A few drinks at Sam’s and the odd one nightstand had a marvellous regenerative effect on her. Nico Camo her recent escort who was also quite interesting for a Genetic Engineer, although his biggest asset to her, was he was great in bed.  Paula had to admit he was still just another person to relieve her sexual tension, nothing more. She wondered if she was capable of loving someone enough to want to spend more than five days with. So far she hadn’t, and odds were in her particular occupation she wouldn’t. That didn’t bother her in the slightest, all this hype about love, what a load of crap!

When Ray had called her back, barely into her much awaited leave she had been surprised, and now she knew why, it was annoying. Why not let them all wait until she finished her leave? Serve them right for being so particular about the gender of a pilot. Perry Smith was a great pilot.

Damn why were some women so short-sighted and discriminative!

Moving off the sofa she went over to the storage area and looked at the containers that had been sent to her place three months ago, after her mother had died.

Christine Clayton had been one of the older generations who had remained on Earth, she had been running a successful diary farm and it had fortunately been spared when the disasters had hit. The Executive had moved the main population from Earth and allowed only the farmers and manufacturers to stay behind in small communities, to use the earth to provide food and materials.

Paula had decided to be a pilot when she first saw video clips of the moonwalks, and eventually she had persuaded her parents to let her study towards that goal. Rose her sister had been more interested in the farm and she had helped when their father died ten years ago of a heart attack. Now with their mother having died unexpectedly in a freak accident on the farm, Rose ran the family holding these days. Not that she minded, it was never something she had been interested in, and Rose had married one of the farm hands and had a daughter of her own, who might or might not end up running the farm. Anyway chances were she wouldn’t have children and had never considered them to be that important in her life, at least this way the land stayed in the family.

Family, what an interesting concept, all those lives that touch each other over the centuries, with pretty much everyone accounted for even the villains in family closets. Wonder if they had the odd stranger wandering in theirs.

Selecting a box she opened it and inside were further boxes, each marked with a year. Removing the first box, which was the most recent, opening it she saw a book and videotape.

Throwing the book to one side she pushed the videotape into her player pressing play. On screen came her mother and scenes from the farm and other family celebrations. She grinned as she saw the one she had attended two days before her last assignment. Mom had been in a very reflective mood that day, so much so she’d been rattling on about when she had been in a sanatorium for a time. Strange really her Mom had been one of the most levelheaded people she had ever met in her life. They hadn’t ever discussed her earlier life before she met dad, somehow it had always been pushed under the carpet and ignored. She did remember her mother asking if she wanted to read about her life one day. Of course she’d agreed to keep her mom happy and this had been the result, she had been given all her Mom’s memories in boxes.

“You were a beautiful woman Mom in both looks and personality, I wish we had spent more time together.” Paula spoke softly into her silent room as the video finished its short run.

Her mother’s death had been a shock and she had been upset when the message finally arrived in her part of space. As it was all over and she had been light years away totally unaware when it happened, making her wonder about how much you loved a person if they could die and you never felt a thing at the time.

Picking up the discarded book she opened it and saw her mother’s handwriting, hell it was a daily journal. Who wrote like that any more? It was far easier talking into the computer. Then she smiled wryly recalling her mother’s apparent obsession each evening at home.

Flicking over a few pages she saw something that caught her eye as the first few words were in bold print.

It’s our anniversary today! Who would have believed it thirty-five years and I still miss her as if it was yesterday. She was my closest friend and someone I could talk to, and know whatever I said would be okay; we’d work it out together. How I miss her, how I’ll always miss and love her.
Paula was surprised at the comment her mother must be talking about their father surely? As she re-read the entry it was clear that her mother was talking about a woman. Who was the woman? She never recalled her mom having any close friends male or female.

Settling down on the sofa she opened the book at the beginning and began to read the entries, maybe they would shed some light on this new person.

Several hours later she was tired having read through the last ten years of her mother’s life, what had shocked her most was the entry on her dad’s death.

He was a wonderful man so caring and considerate, I know he loved me very much. I loved him too in my own way. However, he never could understand my obsession to write all my thoughts in a journal said it was silly when we had all this technology. My husband the farmer married to an intellectual who lost her way and was saved from a lonely life by his love for me. He always knew of course that he wasn’t the love of my life; he accepted it and loved me more despite that I’m sure. The girls are upset naturally and I am too, he became the substitute best friend I lost so long ago.
God speed to you on your way Kevin to someone who can love you as you deserve my dear.
Paula had always thought her mother and father were inseparable and nothing would ever come between them. However her mother had loved someone else more apparently and that someone had been a woman.

Looking at the time, she needed some sleep; maybe she would take a trip home and ask Rose. She had the time, let the off worlder’s wait for her for a change; she had well deserved leave to take.

Tamara was pacing the floor of the surgery room it helped her to think something she had definitely inherited from her father. He said it helped when all other options failed, and she was certainly feeling that way herself today.

Christi had promised, after a rather long silence at her end interrupted only by Tamara’s constant nagging, someone would arrive shortly to replace Laura. Okay, she had used a powerful connection; Christi being an old family friend, however they really had run out of all other options.

Selina was going to be annoyed she had contacted Christi, after being asked to wait the few days for the authorities. This couldn’t wait they were under immense strain. Who knew if the old inhabitants of this area might actually come back to reclaim what was theirs? The colony was a peaceful one, predominantly women with a handful of men for procreation purposes. The men had been specially selected from a gene pool and all had willingly volunteered to make the relocation.

Pacing faster, the door opened and her senior nurse Mary Campbell entered, rolling her eyes as she saw the doctor’s furious pace.

“What’s the problem today Tammy?”

Tamara looked up and stopped her movement as she grinned at the woman, she and Mary had worked together for years on several medical facilities over the past eight years, and this assignment had been what they had both been looking for, somewhere to call home.

“No problem.”

“Yeah, pull the other one, it has bells on. I haven’t worked and shared quarters with you all these years to not know something isn’t right with you, so give?”

Continuing her pacing, Tamara looked out of the porthole of the temporary structure they were housed in; until the Engineers cleared the land to begin building secure and permanent homes for them, this was all they had. The view was beautiful, in the far distance a huge waterfall showered the pool below with water glistening in the sunlight, it wasn’t the sun of course not the one they were used to but the description served its purpose. A small forest, which ran for a mile in each direction, had something similar to trees, which they weren't familiar with at the moment but as the seasons changed they hoped to learn more. Probably it would take years to know the workings of this small area never mind the rest of the inhabitable planet, centuries more likely.

As she continued to look out of the window Mary came closer and looked over her shoulder, she was at least three inches taller than her friend, however being pint-sized hadn’t appeared to bother Tamara in anyway.

“Are you going to tell me what the problem is?” Mary watched Sasha Meredith supervising the engineering staff; her word was law when it came to changes in the environment. As she was the senior ecologist in the colonists it was up to her to make sure they didn’t make the same mistakes on a New World that they had on Earth.

Turning and cannoning into her friend who grinned at her, she steadied them both and gently pushed Tamara towards her desk.

“I’ve kind of done something that Selina might not approve of.”

“Kind of? Or have?”

Gazing sightlessly at the desk, which was strewn with papers, she looked up guiltily. “Have!”

“Want to share the burden, it might help? Then again it might not, depending on how serious the situation is.”

“You’d better not know, that way you can’t be called an accomplice can you?”

Mary laughed heartily, “Tammy from the day I met you I think I’ve shared pretty much all the episodes that can be called questionable. Some I’ve known about, others I haven’t and it didn’t stop people from assuming I was part of the deal. Why not just tell me and that way we can both consider how much of a problem it’s going to be.”

“You know I don’t know what I’d do without you as a friend Mary, you always find a reasonable solution to all my little scrapes.”

Mary had to admit she did appear to do that frequently, for such an intelligent woman the doctor did get into situations that were at times refutable.

“Well it’s like this Mary….”

Clayton Farm

“You haven’t told me why you’re here Paula?” Rose asked her sister quietly as she watched her tall sibling look over photographs and pick up several of the family ornaments before turning to face her.

“I thought I’d make a visit to see my family before I was sent on another trip, it might be months, perhaps a couple of years before we get to see each other again.”

Paula continued to wander around the room; in some aspects it had changed to reflect Rose and her husband Tom’s tastes. Although at the same time you could see several things that reminded her of her parents, things they’d collected over the years and the pictures of family and friends some alive others long gone.

“That’s a good reason of course and you know you are always welcome….”

Paula glanced up sharply as her younger sister trailed off. “You don’t believe me?”

“To a degree yes of course I do Paula. You said yourself when you arrived you’ve been on leave for a week already, if you wanted to see us why not come home immediately?”

Paula heard the rebuke in the words and she couldn’t blame her sister, after all, their mother had died albeit some months previously and she hadn’t come home to pay her respects immediately.

Shrugging her shoulders she walked over to the window and looked out over the drive leading to the stables and cattle sheds. As she watched the scene she could picture her mom striding about the place being as bossy as all get out with the other farm workers, even her dad. She could even recall the numerous times they had played around in the yard as a family, both her parents had been great role models. As she recalled her memories tears welled up in her eyes, for they were just that now, memories, no longer able to take physical form.

“I didn’t realise how much I missed her Rose, until I started reading her journals and saw some old video footage. Here looking over the drive and yard I can picture us all having those silly playtimes with mom and dad.”

Silence followed her comment and she didn’t realise that Rose had moved until her sister who was the same height, except she had midnight black hair like their mother, placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“I remember Paula, we had good times didn’t we?”

“Yeah and out in space all those months you forget your roots and the people you leave behind. Until you come face to face with it all again then it seems like yesterday but it can’t ever be yesterday can it Rose? Mom and dad are gone.”

Rose smiled at her sister; she had always been the hard one rarely letting emotions cloud her judgement on anything. Although there was only two years between them in age, it could have been twenty, Paula was a loner and Rose doubted she even had a friend growing up.

“You’ll always have us Paula, no matter where in the world you go or for that matter which world!”

Turning Paula hugged her sister briefly and it brought a tender smile to Rose’s lips, another rare occurrence a hug, wonder what else was due. “Thanks, where are Tom and Chris?”

“Tom thought we needed a little catch up time so he took Chris to watch a foaling at old man Rivers ranch.”

“You married a very thoughtful man, but isn’t Chris a little young for that?”

Grinning Rose walked towards the kitchen entrance, “Yes and no. Yes to Tom, he’s one in a million and one-day maybe…. Okay point taken, no on Chris she’s five years old and she knows more about birthing in animals than most people will in a lifetime.”

“Definitely your daughter!” Paula grinned and Rose winked at her as she ventured towards the kitchen and the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread.

Ten minutes later they were both sitting munching on hot buttered fresh bread opposite each other over the kitchen table.

“Rose did Mom ever mention…what? What?” Paula asked as she saw Rose, shaking her head at her.

“Mom would kill you if she found you talking with your mouth full, she’d ask where you put your manners today.”

Paula gave her sister an exasperated glance and saw the laughter filled hazel eyes shining at her.

“Yeah, yeah whatever.”

“Did Mom ever mention?”

“Someone other than dad that she was in love with?”

Glancing at her elder sister sharply Rose frowned. “What makes you ask that?”

“Is it true?”

“Where did you get such a notion Paula, mom and dad were very happy together you know that.”

Selecting another piece of bread and chewing it slowly, annoying her sister as Paula waited until she’d finished before replying.

“Yes…I thought I knew that but.”

“But what!”

“Oh nothing it doesn’t matter.”

“Paula Madison Clayton what are you getting at?”

Giggling as she heard the frustration in her sister’s tone, not to mention the use of her full name, next thing you know Rose would be stamping her feet like she used to as a kid.

“Okay, okay don’t loose your hair I’ll explain.”

“I should think so too!”

“I was reading some of the journals that mom used to write in. Did you know she only started them when she was at collage, a year before she met Dad.”

“I always knew she wrote in them, it was a ritual with her every evening before she went to bed. I remember sometimes she was exhausted at the end of the day but she would always spend a few minutes writing up her day.”

“Funny I never really took that much notice myself. I brought a couple with me, I’ve marked the pages I’ve read, do you want to read them and see what you think?”

“Sure big sis, you go make us a drink while I read.”

Amazon Seven
Air patrol

Tia Lopez flew by the monuments that had been erected by a civilisation they hadn’t encountered and assumed at this time to be extinct. All their scans had indicated that life forms similar to their own didn’t exist on the planet, or any other except for vegetation.

First Counsellor Ralph had insisted that every pilot make a recognisance flight over the area before they finished their shift. So here she was, another chore added to the many she and fellow pilot Sheryl Weller had taken on when Laura had died in that damn freak storm. All that was left was for something threatening to turn up and they would have to take on the protector role as well!

She had been a good pilot in her class but not outstanding. When the assessments were over she had been passed over for the elite branch that were trained for just about everything that could possibly be thrown their way. She had been trained to be a support pilot and thoroughly enjoyed it. At the end of a shift she could go home and relax and not have to think about the next day, that was someone else’s domain and they could keep the stress it involved.

Now she was expected to think about tomorrow, every second in fact, not to mention her other pilot’s lot too. Okay it wasn’t only one way Sheryl had the same burden too but she appeared to thrive on it!

“Nothing here as usual, on the next shift I think I’ll give it a miss, who would know or care.” Tia muttered as she scanned the area and logged the details into the computer that no one had ever bothered to check after Laura’s death.

“Time to go home and have a shower.” The humidity was high today and she hadn’t set the environmental control properly in the cockpit when she’d left, the miniature surveillance planes didn’t have onboard climate controls.

Glancing down once more briefly, she turned her plane towards home and fired her engines to deliberately mark the area with scorch marks. What she didn’t witness was something darting at lightening speed between the monuments from the scorched area.

“Okay this makes interesting reading I admit, have you brought the very first volume?”

Paula shuffled around the kitchen and then picked up her leather case and removed a volume and passed it over to Rose. “Have you read it Paula?”


“No? Why ever not?”

“Maybe I don’t want to know the truth.”

Rose gazed at her sister she had always been the one that hid her emotions, however she was wearing them clearly on her sleeve at the moment.

“Whatever it says Paula, Mom loved Dad she said so and he knew the score, she said that too. Let’s see who's the mystery love of her life was shall we? Together!”

“Are you going to read it first or we both read it?”

“I think you should read it aloud, Mom gave them to you after all.” Rose passed the journal back and settled in her chair to wait for her sister to narrate the contents.

April 17th 2014
The funeral was beautiful as she was to me. The family was really nice even though they were engulfed in grief; Maddy will be smiling somewhere at all the fuss. Her Dad had called me April 10th and told me the sad news, I knew before he’d said it though I could hear the tears in his voice.
Madison Smith who had so much to live for was killed in a fire at the sanatorium where she spent three days a week helping out. The place I'd met her for the first time, the person who single-handedly saved me from myself and brought me back to life.
She had been my life in all the important ways, my sanity, my best friend, and my love. I know she felt the same she would never say, although I saw it in her eyes every time we contacted each other. I heard it in her voice when we spoke on the phone, the silly gifts she sent me at collage to make me smile she said, the touch of her hand on my shoulder when she wanted to point out a particular place or object of interest. It was the eyes though; those wonderful smouldering eyes that captured mine, and spoke to me of dreams and wishes that could never be verbalised. Not at that time anyway, I had one more year of college and I was sure, as sure as I’m writing these thoughts that we would have been together for the rest of our lives.
She’s gone now, it wasn’t real before but it is now the only person I will truly love with all my heart has left me alone!

I will do what she had tasked herself to do the day she saw me off on the train journey to college. I’ll keep a journal of life and have my memories forever and share them with her everyday.

I love you Madison Smith yesterday, today and forever.
“Hell fire Paula that’s some admission.”

Paula was clutching the volume tightly as she’d spoken the words aloud she felt an affinity to them that she didn’t quite understand. Must be because it was about her Mom, how could it be anything else she had no room for emotional claptrap like this in her life.
“Yeah it is. Do you know who Madison Smith is?”

Rose shook her head; looking at her sister she gave her a gentle smile. “She named you after her and Dad must have approved.”

“Yeah, strange that.”

“What’s strange about it, I think it’s a great accolade for someone you love.”

“Perhaps, but what about Dad.”
We’ll never know for sure, knowing Dad I think he felt fortunate that Mom loved him enough to want him in her life and he obviously knew the score. At least the old love wasn’t going to come out of the woodwork and make it difficult for him was she, who ever heard of ghosts doing that.”

“Emotional ghosts maybe.” Paula muttered as she stood up from the table and walked over to the outer door wanting to take in some fresh air, suddenly everything was closing in on her.

“I don’t understand why she married Dad, don’t you think she should have committed herself to another woman?”

Rose considered the question for a few minutes and then went over to her sister and hugged her, whispering.

“Paula, love isn’t an observer of our petty human conventions and it breaks boundaries that you never thought could be broken, then wham there’s no stopping it! Maybe that was the score with Mom and her friend, we might never know for sure.”

“Thanks sis, I’ll go for a walk and catch up with you for dinner.”

“You do that, your niece wants more of your adventure stories in space.”

“Okay that I can do.” Paula opened the door and left the house strolling slowly down the drive and then to the yard and the memories she had of this place. Trying to take in that her mother had once had a life far different from what they had always known.

Love is a strange phenomenon. Thank God it has never been part of my life.

“What were you thinking of Tamara?” Selina’s voice filled with shock and irritation.

“I was trying to cut out the red tape. Look Selina it’s common practice that they don’t send out another pilot immediately. Sometimes you have to wait years until one of the old timers retires you know that! We can’t afford the luxury of waiting.”

“So you! You decided to use one of your friends to make it happen faster.”

“Well, yes that’s the truth and I’d do it again tomorrow if it works.”

Selina turned away and shook her head, this woman was filled with so much caring and compassion but she had a streak that flaunted all the rules. Interesting character trait in anyone but with this one you never believed it possible. However it was and highly doubtful anyone could ever get her to think twice before being so impulsive.

“Your friend appears to have very influential friends on the executive committee. Christi Smith-Berlinger no less.”

“Christ…yeah they must.” Tamara finished lamely it was prudent to stay quiet on the fact that her friend was Christi Smith-Berlinger.

“Yes and she’s agreed to push forward a replacement pilot. According to the note I have from the executive we should see someone within six months, seven at the latest.”

“Selina that solves our problems doesn’t it, don’t you think it’s worth using the odd contact or two if the need is great?”

“Tamara there are ways of going about these things and behind the back of the First Counsellor isn’t the way, not if you want to remain friends. Next time…”

“There won’t be a next time Selina, I promise.”

Nodding her head already forgiving the small woman who was flashing absorbing eyes in her direction. “Okay, go do your doctoring thing, we have a Counsel meeting tomorrow early, seems that Sasha has news of the old inhabitants.”

“Great! I’ll be there and…thanks Selina.” Tamara virtually ran out of the room, her smile wide as she returned to her office and the couple of waiting colonists with minor ailments.

Earth Space Station Gamma
One Month Later

“Why Paula? Why didn’t you tell me you were going to be taking your full leave?” Colonel Ray Jones starred at his friend and underling with exasperation.

Paula shifted her glance from her highly polished black booted toe to the man in front of her.

“What was it this time, eating, drinking and sex not necessarily in that order in the pleasure centre’s off world?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes it matters! I have to explain to the executive why the pilot I assigned after a personal request from a senior, and I might add, very powerful member didn’t go immediately.”

“Actually Ray it wasn’t that at all, it was a family matter.”

“A family matter! When did family matters interfere with the job? We are trained to ignore personal affairs and concentrate on the assignment at hand.”

“They interfere with the job when I see fit for them to!” Paula burst out, it had been frustrating enough, her search for this mystery person who her mother had professed to love without Ray trying to stick this down her throat as well.

“Are you questioning our code of practice Paula?”

Ray couldn’t believe it, this was a most unexpected turn, was she becoming militant these days.

“No. Look Ray I’m here now and I intend to carry out the mission, a minimum two years right? Doesn’t that at least allow me to take some leave and see MY family before I embark on it?”

“Yes it is two years, you should have told me Paula.” The man’s voice resigned as he answered her question. He would have wanted to see his family too; it had never occurred to him that she would.

“Okay I should have told you, brief me and I’ll be gone tomorrow if you have the craft ready.”

“You know Captain Clayton, there are times when I wonder why I put up with you.”

“Oh come on Ray it’s because I have you on a string and you love to play dangerously.” Laughing as she saw him shake his head at her strangely true comment.

“Anyone ever mentioned that you might one day get burnt playing with fire like you do Paula?”

“No! Who would dare?”

“Who indeed. See Doctor Fusel for a check up and then I’ll catch you in the briefing room immediately after.”

“At your service Boss.”

The woman walked out of his office, her confident gait was making him sigh, thank god he had married Nancy and she grounded him when this woman was about. He only had to look at Nancy’s photo and his two sons and he was back to wonderful satisfying reality, Paula Clayton was a fantasy that would remain one forever.

Amazon Seven
Three Months Later

Sasha Meredith was seething inside as she watched Selina Ralph smile at the small dark woman at her side. Doc Shaw was a nice woman no getting away from that and she was capable too, but irritating, why was she always right!

Three months ago Sasha had told the counsellors that the old inhabitants of the area were no longer in the area and that the flights over the monuments could be stopped, why waste fuel and energy on something that had been dead for centuries maybe more. They had better use for the pilots time and she had been fed up of Tia Lopez bending her ear every opportunity about it anyway.

Doctor Shaw had disagreed and pushed the room to a vote, as it was she had won because the doctor had little more than gut feeling to go on. Although it was clear that Selina, who headed the counsel, would have taken the Doc’s side if she provided them with enough evidence.

A situation, which really irritated her, Selina didn’t have eyes for anyone else but the doctor, and why that was, was the question. The doctor was as plain as hell and even had a facial birthmark that made her look even worse, not attractive at all. Not only that, the doctor didn’t appear to notice that Selina was interested but she was and that made it difficult for anyone else. Unrequited love was like trying to work your way through a brick wall with a cotton wool sledgehammer.

Walking over to the two women she gave them both a smile, one false the other brilliant.

“Hi, want to share the joke?”

Tamara gave Sasha a smile, she was a little odd at times but generally the ecologist was okay and she certainly knew her stuff. From what she had seen already, they hadn’t disturbed the ecological balance at all, although they had several buildings established as the first township in lightening speed.

“No joke Sasha, just laughing at a shared experience.”

“Sasha how are the engineers progressing with your new fixes for the water system?” Selina remarked as she became immediately professional when the woman came towards them.

“Very well Selina, no major problems envisaged. Tor is working towards completion of the whole project next month.”

“Excellent, once we have the major amenities in order we can advise Earth executive and they may consider sending further colonies to the planet.”

“Isn’t it a little early to be thinking that way Selina?”

“You doubt my judgement in this doctor?” Sasha smiled inwardly as she saw the doctor pale at the retort.

“No! No absolutely not. I just thought that usually Earth wanted the colonies to allow three to five years before they issued that request, we will have only been here six months.”

“We have seen and experienced nothing that indicates this planet to be anything other than an ideal establishment for human colonists. That is our goal after all Doctor, or did I miss something in the briefing we were given?”

The words were sharp and not like Selina at all, as Tamara smarting from the rebuke nodded her head slowly.

From Sasha’s point of view this was turning out to be quite an interesting and fruitful encounter.

“Why not show us Sasha, what is happening at the moment.”

Turning to give the woman a wide grin Sasha moved forward towards the engineers building.

Tamara held back slightly, something wasn’t right and she felt it in her bones. Her father had often said she had to go with her inner feelings they would never let her down, especially for her. When she had been young she had never understood it, years later when her father had become head of the research programme into mental disturbances after the problems on earth, he had told her why he said that to her.

“You always say that dad.”
“I’m always right too aren’t I?” Doctor Ben Shaw grinned at his youngest daughter. She had followed in his footsteps, whereas his two elder children from his wife’s first marriage had opted for business and farming.
“Yeah you are, so why do you say it?” Tamara hugged her father as they settled into the old sofa that he had insisted be part of his possessions to be shipped to the small unit on the space station.
Ben Shaw looked down at his daughter she was his only flesh and blood and he was as proud of her as he could be of anything in his life. No awards or accolades ever came close to the precious gift she was to him.
“Well… it goes back to when your mother was alive, god bless her soul.”
“And?” Tamara heard the hesitation in his voice and the slight tremble she saw on his lips, as he spoke about her mother. She couldn’t really remember her; her mother had died when she was three years old in a fire at work.
“You would have these feelings as a baby and tug at her legs for attention and point or make a beeline for what was wrong. She said you cried desolately the day she left that last time and kept asking her not to go. I met her as the shift changed before I left for that damn meeting…”
“Dad you can’t blame yourself, if you had been there you might not have made it either, we would have been orphans, it was just meant to be dad.”
His daughter’s eyes had already filled with tears as they mentioned the circumstances of her mother’s death. She had known, not in enough words to be coherent but enough to feel the pain.
Kissing the top of her dark hair he smiled as he let the tears he felt drop onto her head blinking the residue back under control.
“No I don’t blame myself Tammy it was the will of god and your mother was a fine woman and died with courage.”
Tamara looked up at her father, “Was mom the only one to die?”
Ben lost himself in the terrible memories of the day, the fire engines and police that had stopped him from getting close to the building and his wife.
They had lost ten patients and four staff members in the blaze that had eventually gutted the sanatorium; the glory that once was would be no more.
“We lost ten patients that day, and your mother of course not to mention three other co-workers.”
As he tried to dredge up the old memories of those who had died that day, particularly in the staff, one came to mind immediately, Madison Smith. The part timer who had an affinity with patients he thought must have been a gift from the hand of god. He heard that it was Madison who had a chance to leave the building unharmed but had gone with Kay to the secure the wing to help a patient there. The nurse in charge having deserted the post without getting the patient free, they hadn’t made it out any of them!
“Did you know any of the others very well?”
“Yes all of them, some more than others. One in particular, she was a witness at our wedding, a very special woman.”
“What was her name?”
“Oh Tammy you know that, it’s Maddy. Christi talks abut her all the time even now.” The old man chuckled as Tammy smote a hand to her forehead.
“Doctor, are you coming or catching the scenery?”

“I’m right with you.”

Tamara increased her pace and caught up to the two women as the engineers building came into view.

Tor Anders was a giant of a man and was a wonderful engineer, how they had managed to secure him on this particular mission had baffled many, including Tamara. He was witty, capable and concerned for the environment they lived in. He also loved women! The number of women he had actually courted in the past six months could quantify that. Quite at odds with the general makeup of the women as it was clear many of them didn’t want a relationship with a man. Perhaps that was the challenge; she must ask her dad his opinion, at the next inter galactic video link they had.

As they entered the building they saw the models of the future buildings making up the town, very impressive.

“Anyone home?”

A muffled sound was heard from a door that was slightly ajar. After a few minutes Sasha went towards the door and shouted again, her voice rather sharp and arrogant to Tamara’s mind.

“What do ya want now woman! Haven’t we followed all yah damn plans? Do ya want blood?” A loud bellowing voice answered as the man they knew abruptly surfaced into the room.

“Do you have to sound so affronted Tor?” Sasha was as red as a beetroot when the man replied.

“Aye I do, I’ve changed and back tracked and done…” He stopped as he realised she wasn’t alone in the room.

“You were saying?” Selina Ralph cocked her head to one side in interest. The facial expressions on both the man and woman concerned were comical to say the least.

“Why First Counsellor Ralph I didn’t expect to see you here and the good doctor too.”

“Does it make a difference to the tone of the conversation?”

“No! No of course not, the woman here is a slave driver that’s all.”

Tamara heard the comment but also picked up on the deceit in the tone; he certainly didn’t think that way.

“Good, so Tor what have you to say on how things are developing?”

“Excellent progress Counsellor, the shift of the water supply to the town from the river that runs by the old monuments was a minor change and will serve the purpose.”

“Excellent, Sasha take me round the new system.” There was no hesitation from the ecologist as she escorted the first counsellor to the next room.

“Do you agree with the change Tor?” Tamara asked quietly watching the two women leave the room.

“Now doctor that’s not for me to say.” The large man grinned at her and winked.

“Perhaps not but you have a personal opinion surely?”

“Is this a private personal opinion or a public one?”

“Aren’t they one and the same?”

The large man pulled at the small neatly groomed red beard on his chin and grinned.

“Ach I see we both know were we are coming from Doc. I think she should have stuck with the river above, call it an engineers gut feeling but that’s how I see it.”

Tamara looked at the old plan and the new one and her own gut said pretty much the same.

“I think you’re right Tor, let’s hope we are both wrong and Sasha proves our guts totally out of sorts.”

“Ya think that likely Doc?”

“No! But it’s worth a shot.” Tamara smiled at the man and he pointed to the old plan, which they discussed in depth waiting for the other two women to return.

Space Craft XG0004
Deep Space
Three Months Later

Paula looked at the readings, she was two days away from Amazon Seven, and all her communications had so far fallen on barren ground, although in uncharted space you never were entirely sure you could make contact until you hit the planet’s orbit.

Having woken from the sleep stasis she had programmed for herself after leaving the Earth’s orbit, it was pretty much a waiting game until she got to her co-ordinates.

What to do, what to do?

Glancing around the small spacecraft, small in comparison to some of the crafts she had piloted in recent years the largest being a colony ship with over a thousand people aboard. Not something she usually had on her task list, they had been desperate and the next transport pilot was six months away, and would need at least a month maybe more to relax after being at work for almost fifteen months solid.

That particular event had taken eight months to complete and in that time she had learnt a great deal about the way colonists thought, a lesson worth learning but not one she wanted to participate in as a career move.

Yawning at the boredom of the next twenty-four hours that stretched out before her. Her eyes tracked to the personal box she’d brought with her, it was her mother’s journals and videotapes. Rose had wanted her to leave them behind and try to locate the mystery woman, who now had a name. Paula had declined and said she thought the time she had in the next two years might help her piece it together, and when they talked on the communication link she could maybe give Rose information to research.

Rose had been her usual agreeable self, knowing her own time with her family and the farm would prove limiting to spend on research.

Opening the sealed container she rifled around and pulled out the journal she had read partially with Rose.

Sitting in her pilot seat and placing her feet on the side of the console, if Ray could see her now! She settled down and flicked the pages until she came to the entry after the last one they had read.

May 16th
It’s our anniversary…well the nearest to an anniversary we would ever have, it was the day I met her for the second time. The first I have no recollection of and Maddy never did get around to explaining all the details of the months prior to me waking up in the hospital bed that day. Inside from the first moment I met Maddy she was familiar to me but I didn’t recognise her when I woke up from the accident. Perhaps the familiarity was from the previous months, perhaps it was because she cared so much, and it has always been hard for me to work out. Maddy promised one day that she would let me read her journals. Now it may be too late, I must contact her dad and ask what happened to them.
Paula read through several months of mundane entries about her mother’s days at college, she was quite the academic and a loner it appeared, must be where she got that from.
October 5th

Kevin asked me out today. He’s the most sought after guy on campus, and I’m the envy of all the women in my fraternity, I’ve declined naturally.

December 21st
He never gives up and now he’s asked if I will allow him to escort me home. He lives Up State and said it’s on his way. Quite laughable really, as I know its not and it will mean he has an extra day travelling to his folks for the holidays. What harm can it possibly do?
Smiling as she read the next few months entries, which were a mix of her college days and the romance her mom had finally allowed with her dad. In some ways it was like peeking into the private lives of her parents and in others it was a simple boy meets girl scenario.
March 19th
Kevin wanted to know about all my scars, the physical and emotional ones and you couldn’t blame him. I told him and he went quiet for the rest of the evening, he left me at the residence and didn’t say much. Maybe this is goodbye and I wouldn’t expect anything else, after all he’s competing with a ghost.
May 12th
I won’t say it has been easy because it hasn’t. Kevin decided to let me have some space, when really it was he who needed it. I love Kevin as a good friend and I know we could have been happy together. However if he wants my total love that is now, impossible I gave it to another and I’m sure she knew it.
May 15th
Kevin asked me to marry him today, I accepted. I love him in my own way and he loves me far more than I deserve. I know he’ll be good for me, as I will ensure I’m good for him. It’s time to move on and I will because I know that Maddy would have wanted that and at the end of the day do I really know if she cared for me in the same way.
May 16th
I miss you Madison Smith, there will never be a time I won’t but life goes on and I know you will be smiling somewhere and approve the decision I came to. He’s a wonderful man and he will make me happy I know. Who knows in another time we might meet again!
Wow her dad was one focused person, he had decided that their mother was worth going that extra mile for and in the end it had paid dividends. No one could say that Kevin Clayton had ever needed to doubt his wife’s sincerity she had completed her education and then settled into a life of farming that was quite at odds with her original educational background. She gave him two healthy daughters and they were happy. Familiarity breeds’ contempt people often say but in this case it just made them a stronger partnership.

As Paula finished this final part of the journal she looked around her at the dark expanse of space.

I wonder if I will ever love anyone enough to think they will be in my life forever.

“We can’t carry on like this for much longer Selina!”

“I know, I know but we have little option, we can’t get back to the communications building it’s swarming with them. The pilots are tired and Sheryl is still suffering from a concussion but she never gives up.”

Tor Anders his face streaked with black dirt and his features haggard having watched half the colony perish under the vicious attack by…who knew what they were, only that they were deadly and had appeared once they had diverted the water from the old inhabitants monument area.

“There’s a spare communication console in the Engineering building.” The man spoke quietly; in stark contrast to what you would have imagined coming from a man his size.

“I never knew that?” Selina wiped a weary hand over her eyes as she surveyed the people in the area with her. They had managed to maintain the security integrity of the hospital building and two of the living quarters close by, beyond that everything else was swarming with god knows what!

“Are you sure? I was told you approved the additional installation, a back-up measure in the case of an emergency.” The man looked directly at the first Counsellor who frowned in concentration, unable to recall the matter coming before the main counsel.

“When did this happen and who told you that?”

Tor shifted uncomfortably as he considered his answer carefully. No way did he want to drop someone in the proverbial, as he would call it. As it stood the decision was sound and they might have a chance of getting a message out.

“Well…look Selina does it matter it was a mighty fine call if you ask me and the Engineering building is a spit away from the hospital emergency exit. We know the critters don’t like the heat, if we send a person in with a suit that emits heat they might have a chance.”

“Tor the plan is admirable I’m sure. Nevertheless there are two matters of concern, one, have we got such a suit? And two, who can I ask to potentially go on a suicide mission?”

“We are dead if we don’t get a message to the pilot due, at least we can save their life and maybe in turn they might save ours.”

“How do you work that one out?”

“The space craft will have equipment aboard that can help us bombard certain areas with heat, what the hell it’s a chance Selina!”

Considering the engineer’s remarks she knew that he was right, the Engineering building was closest and not as infested with the creatures who swarmed a person and created a wall of energy that appeared to suck the life out of the victim leaving only a shell behind. The first casualties had been three weeks ago and doctor Shaw hadn’t come across anything like it in her experience or the data banks from any of the other off world colonies. There hadn’t been any evidence of who or what had taken the colonists lives and nothing further happened until four days ago. All hell let loose then as a swarm that was going to kill them, fear and panic would be close on it’s heels. Resources were limited now; they had enough fuel in the small planes for two more short trips each.

Tia and Sheryl had been ferrying handfuls of the colonists with minimal provisions to a site a hundred miles away. They made the journey in the heat of the day and travelled back almost immediately to avoid being caught when the temperature dropped significantly. Another problem encountered had been the changing temperatures on the planet; autumn came quickly and without notice.

Sheryl had been caught in a freak storm much as Laura had when they arrived on the planet; fortunately she had been descending and came away with bruises and a concussion refusing to consider rest, people depended on her.

Doctor Shaw had been suffering from a minor virus she called it, when the trouble began and was now working on reserves, looking terrible most of the time. The only person who could make her rest for a short time was her friend and senior nurse Mary Campbell, and that was only catnapping.

They were all exhausted, bewildered and unable to comprehend what was going on. In all the years colonies had been developed on off worlds this was the only one that had suffered so many causalities in so short a time. She had been so wrong to send that last message back to the Earth executive to advise them it was okay to send more colonists. If they didn’t get a message out more people would die and it would all be her fault.

“Can you provide the equipment for this attempt Tor?”

“Yeah and I’ll go one better I’ll even volunteer myself.” The large man grinned; who would have thought they were talking about a life-threatening situation he appeared to think it was some Boy Scout outing.

“Thank you Tor but you are too valuable to go, we need you here if it fails. An engineer is worth rather more than a politician in these circumstances.”

“Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

“I imagine so, you had better brief me on the whereabouts of the console and any other tactical information I need to impart to the pilot.”

“Selina it shouldn’t be you!”

“You’re wrong Tor, I am the best person for the job and it’s my responsibility. Don’t waste any more time arguing with me lets get that suit made and the data onto a transfer stream.”

The woman walked away to talk soothingly with some of the other colonists in the area, who brightened immediately with her calming words.

She couldn’t go! The colonists needed her authority and calmness. If she died then the others would go to pieces and everything would be lost, at least at the moment they had a chance. He needed to go see someone who would have an opinion, why not; it was her idea about the console.

Paula scowled as she tried for the umpteenth time to contact the planet; she had been orbiting for the last two hours. Protocol demanded when on approach to entering a planet’s orbit was to begin contact proceedings and establish communications should there be a problem on final entry in to the atmosphere and then she could ask for backup assistance if needed.

All the records she’d received from Ray didn’t indicate that there was a problem. The last communication she’d read from her download was everything was going so well, they had requested further colonists to be sent. Admittedly that was a message two months ago but what the hell things couldn’t have gone belly up that fast and if they had then she would have received a message by now surely.

Attempting once more to make a communication link she scanned the planet for human life signs and found them concentrated in two areas, with a distance of approximately one hundred miles apart. Strange, she was certain that originally there had only been one outpost, irregular too without adequate facilities.

Settling back in her chair she punched up the concise data on the planet and those in charge. Nothing spectacular about any of them and certainly the mix was what she had expected after her briefing. There was no significant political faction that might have caused a break-up of the colony.

Normally she would apprise Earth and wait for a decision, except she didn’t have the fuel to wait the week for an answer and then turn back if necessary. Although they would meet her along the space path back to earth and refuel but that was always a risky business even with all the increased technological fixes. It all depended on how competent the fuel carrier pilot was and in the past they weren’t that efficient in her estimation.

Nope, she was going to have to land on the planet and hope all was well and if it wasn’t, well; she’d evacuate and head home.

She’d send her message to Earth anyway it didn’t hurt to check. Punching in her message and sending, she set the computer to maintain planetary scans as she made the necessary entries for entry to the atmosphere.

Wonder what was waiting for her down there.

Mary Campbell watched her friend moving like a snail to her desk she was all in, having to calm the nerves of some of the more frail personalities of the very frightened people here. Not to mention some of the people who were coming down with the same virus the doctor had. Mary wasn’t sure if it was sheer will power that kept the woman on her feet, but whatever it was she wished some of the others here would have the same strength of character.

“Want some tea Tammy?”

Dark circled eyes, bloodshot from sleep depravation and constantly watering eyes that reminded them both of a symptom of a bad cold, starred at her vacantly for a moment before the dark haired woman settled her jaw in her hands and muttered a please.

“Good, how about something to eat too, you need to keep your strength up.”

“Ugh I don’t think I can face food, sorry Mary.”

Mary glanced sharply at the doctor she was getting worse and they hadn’t found a cure for this virus, which was sure to disable her soon. All the others who were suffering either had red sores or were virtually comatose.

“Okay tea it is,” leaving the doctor’s office and opening the outer door to go to the kitchen and make the tea she cannoned into Tor Anders who grinned at her.

“Why Mary I didn’t know you cared.”

“Away with you Tor, what can we do for you?”

“I need to see the Doc. is she in?”

“Yeah but hardly coherent, I hope it isn’t any more bad news.”

“No better from that damn virus?”

“No, I fear the worse myself and she might end up a patient before the day is out.”

“No one has died yet from this virus have they?”

“Yes, an hour ago young Carole Johnson. Tammy tried everything but she couldn’t save her, Sylvia came down with the virus about the same time and we might lose her too.”

Tor gave the nurse a compassionate glance, “Aren’t they twins?”

“Yeah. You’d better go see Tammy and please Tor nothing too difficult okay?”

“For you beautiful anything.”

The nurse smiled at the large man, if only he wasn’t such a ladies man she might have given him a chance but she wasn’t going to compete with every woman that caught his eye and there were certainly some beautiful women in this colony.

Tor opened the office door slowly and saw the small doctor collapsed on her desk. Walking slowly towards her he called her name softly.

“Doctor, hey Doc. Are you sleeping on the job?”

He stood at the edge of her desk and reached down slowly and stroked back the dark hair, which was soaking wet the woman was burning up. This was not a good time for a discussion.

“Well Doc I think you should be in bed asleep not at this desk.”

“What…what? What is it?”

Tamara woke with a start and couldn’t quite make out the person next to her as she tried to clear her glazed vision.

“Take it easy Doc. it’s me Tor.” The man moved away slowly and as he did so Tamara focused clearly on him, how she hadn’t known it was him amazed her.

“What can I do for you Tor?” Her voiced sounded slow and drawn out, almost in slow motion.

“Maybe you should go to bed Doc. I think you’re all tuckered out.”

“You didn’t come here to tell me that Tor, what’s happening out there?”

“Out there is pretty much as it’s been for the last twenty-four hours but inside, inside that’s a totally different matter.”

Tamara shook her head slowly trying to clear her head but all she did was cause a pulse of pain to rip through her skull, wincing she looked closely at the man waiting for him to continue.

Fortunately for her he decided to do just that.

“She knows about the back-up com console.”

“She as in who exactly?”

“Tamara you know who, the most important woman on this planet barring my favourite doctor that is.” Tor grinned and blushed a little as he tugged on his beard.

“Okay, okay Selina knows, does she know it was me who initiated the requisition?

Tamara was in two minds about the situation, happy because it was out in the open and maybe they had a chance with that console as opposed to the ops room, which was completely enshrouded in the creatures.  Who it was obvious inhabited the planet, so much for Sasha’s claims that there wasn’t anything living on the planet beside vegetation.

Distressed in that she had gone behind Selina Ralph’s back …again, even after promising she wouldn’t. She hadn’t wanted to and it certainly carried a big risk. Her place on the counsel was in jeopardy in all probability too, deportation back to one of the Earth space stations in disgrace.

“No, I decided that the problems facing us were far more important than a petty argument over protocol, there is another issue though.”

“I’m sure there is, who wants to risk life and limb to try and use it.”

Tor smiled this pint-sized woman was one sure quick cookie and she was well below par too, god help anyone who tried to run rings round her they wouldn’t stand a chance. “Got that in one Tamara but a person volunteered.”

Expecting the man to admit it was himself she was shocked when he told her Selina had agreed to go.

“She’s crazy Tor! If anything happens to her the rest of the colony will break down she keeps what little semblance of calm there is with her presence. She can’t go!”

“Hey Tamara don’t go all antsy with me I did offer but…she’s in charge you know. You do know that right?” this time the man laughed as she gave him a sheepish look, okay sometimes she took liberties.

“Sorry Tor but she can’t go! I’d better go speak with her.” Standing up quickly the doctor swayed and was helped to sit back down by Tor as Mary walked back inside the office with a tray of tea and small sandwiches.

“You must have been reading my mind Mary my girl.”

“I was not you old reprobate this is for Tammy, and if you haven’t upset her I’ll let you share.”

“Have I upset you Doc?”

“No. No he’s okay to share Mary anyway he needs to fill me in on a situation and you might as well know as well.”

Tor gave her a keen look; Selina had wanted it to be a secret within the counsel members, not out in the open. Then again Mary Campbell was not one for gossip and if the doctor trusted her then he would too.

“Right you are, how about one of those processed beef sandwiches I can see there as I advise you of the plan?”

Mary snorted as she passed over a couple, one for a man his size would not be sufficient and she was right as he polished it off in one bite.

“I need to come up with a heat suit…”

Paula judged the estimated time of landing to be in a little over one hour, the computer had made all the necessary calculations and she had made the required reports and set them in the safe storage area should there be a problem and the craft burnt up on entry. Quite unlikely but without any help from the ground, remote possibilities became that little less remote. And she had no intention of being left in cinders for some salvage prince to pick her up. The thought made her chuckle; yeah-another fairy story, life was full of them. Just like she considered her mom’s journals in part to be, now she had time to think about them in depth.

Trying once again to contact the planet she was puzzled by the static feedback, normally that would only happen if they had the channels open. When she had tried earlier it had been silent, maybe they were trying to contact her and there was a problem with the equipment below, feasible and likely to be the problem. As she pondered the situation it made her feel pumped up and ready for action, not that she hadn’t been but her adrenaline surge had been tempered with tension, now the tension part had been assuaged to a degree.

“Okay you old crate lets get the show on the road and go meet our new buddies for the next two years.”

Strapping herself in and placing the oxygen mask in place, she began her descent to Amazon Seven and the next adventure in her life.

“You’re such a fool sometimes Selina you can’t go!”

“Someone has to, why not me?” the woman asked as she looked out of the window of the room she had taken for this private counsel meeting. Tor with the heat suit had yet to arrive but he already knew the plan. Sasha and Tamara Shaw were being briefed and Sasha was getting particularly agitated.

“For once I have to agree with Sasha, Selina, your place is here with the people, and they need you more now. Haven’t you noticed that you can calm them when all hell is breaking loose around them, it never happens for me unless I administer drugs and Sasha doesn’t have your patience.”

“Yes the doctor’s right you do! Others are more dispensable, you must see that Selina.” Sasha didn’t want the woman to go on a personal level, more than her duty to any of the other colonists. She loved her and didn’t want anything to happen to her.

“No one is dispensable Sasha, all life is important how can you ask me to force another to go and watch in the background?”

Tamara watched the exchange with fascination, she knew Sasha had a crush on Selina it had been obvious from day one, maybe it was more than a crush, could be why the ecologist didn’t like her much. Selina had always preferred her counsel over the other woman’s even though they were potentially equal in the chain of command.

“It’s your place to send people on dangerous missions Selina, you knew it when you agreed to head the colony and this is just that type of command decision. All great leaders can sacrifice their lives for their people, we saw it through our history lessons but can they save themselves, and lead their people to greater things in the face of adversity. That’s the question Selina, there will be many people who will happily volunteer if you ask, no one will need to be forced.”

Selina glanced across at the small dark haired woman, she had wanted to talk with her about the predicament she was in, in private, and time had been against that. How she put things into complete perspective so easily, and Tamara was right there would be many volunteers and some infinitely more able than she was.

“We need to make a short list of suitable candidates and ask them here and pose the question.”

Tor entered the room at that moment with the heat suit and cocked his head to one side as he asked, “What question?”

“Selina has seen sense Tor she’s not going on the mission. We are going to ask for a volunteer.” Holding up her hand Tamara smiled weakly at the man, “forget it you’re staying here.”

“Okay, okay can’t a man try.” He grinned at the three women as he explained how the suit worked and they set about making the short list.

Time was of the greatest importance, as the pilot should be in range now, they needed to act quickly to prevent any more loss of life other than their own, if that was to be their fate.

Continued in Part Two

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