The Amphipolis Expedition
Copyright 1998 by
Disclaimer #1: This is a
futuristic Uber-Xena work of romantic fiction. The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Ephiny,
Iolaus, Solari and, oh yes, Argo, belong to MCA/Universal, and are used without intent for
commercial profits. Author's copyright does not extend to said characters. The author
retains all rights automatically attached to the creation of this work and to the
independently created characters. In other words, they're all MINE!
Disclaimer #2: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. Nothing too graphic, yet. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, have a cup of herbal tea and a long hot bath. You really need to relax.
Disclaimer #3: Apologies and acknowledgment to Gene Roddenberry for the unauthorized loan of food replicators and holo suites. I found them to be rather useful home appliances. To get yours today, call Ronco at 1-888-555-1212.
Also many thanks to my beta reader, Benet, who tactfully smoothed out all the rough edges.
Special thanks to Barbara Maclay
and Miguel Cura for their dramatic renderings of Commander Xandra Lawless and Dr. Brie
O'Conner. Their artwork has been inserted into the text of the tale where appropriate. Be
sure to visit Barbara's Home Page at www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Bungalow/2591/graphics/,
and Miguel's Home Page, GabWhacked
for other great Xena artwork.
I welcome all constructive feedback, all bigots will be sent to the great recycle bin in the sky.
Chapter 1- The Interview
Brie sat patiently waiting for
her appointment. As always when she had to wait, she made an extensive study of her
surroundings. She struggled to find the right word to describe the atmosphere of the
waiting room. It was neither elegant nor shabby. It was um... efficient.
On one wall she noticed a food replicator, set to provide snacks and drinks. Next to the
replicator was a large monitor set in the wall, tuned to SNN, the Satellite News Network.
"All the news, all the time!" Two of the other walls provided space for comfortable
seating. A few seats were equipped with computer monitors and old-fashioned keyboards rather than the voice activated equipment she was used to. She supposed that was for privacy in a public waiting room. The last wall was taken up entirely by two entrances to the room. One was an open access passage through which she had entered the room, but the other required a DNA scan for entry.
Although Brie had unsucessfully applied to many colonial expeditions over the last three
years, she had a feeling that this time it would be different. In preparing for today's
interview, Brie had chosen her attire carefully. She wanted to look perfect, just the right
combination of competent professional and bold adventurer. Her forest green jumpsuit
hugged her body in all the right places, accentuating her muscular physique, suggesting
something just short of the sensual. On her collar, she proudly displayed the badges that
marked her as an empathic healer and a historical archivist. This was the most important interview of her young life to date. The outcome of this meeting would determine the quality of her future. She wanted to be included in this expedition so bad she could taste it.
Lost in thought, Brie was startled when a blonde woman in crisp blue uniform stepped
into the room from the coded entry way. "Please come with me Dr. O'Conner." The woman turned her back and walked into the passage without looking to see if the applicant was following.
Brie rose from her seat and followed the woman into the secured hallway. They walked
through the compound, and after several turns, the woman stopped and motioned to a
door on the left.
"Go right in Dr. O'Conner."
Brie stepped into the room, her eyes quickly taking in the collection of antiques and
historical artifacts. She was so surprised by the precious items displayed in various cases throughout the room that she barely noticed the woman seated in the high back leather chair behind the enormous wood desk. In fact, the presence of wood and leather in the room were more of a curiosity at the moment. These natural materials had long been depleted from the planet. Only the very wealthy could afford to acquire furnishings of this quality.
"Come in Dr. O'Conner, please sit down."
Brie found her attention drawn to the woman seated behind the desk as she lowered
herself into a chair, her hands unconsciously stroking the smooth texture of the wood
arms. Finally she was meeting the infamous Commander Lawless. Colonization
professionals around the world both envied and resented her genius. Xandra Lawless
seemed to operate outside the boundries that limited others. Hmm...seems her name and reputation fit her appearance.
The woman seated across from Brie was tall and statuesque with midnight hair that she
would have bet felt like fine silk. Dark brows arched dangerously over thick dark lashes,
which only served to enhance the blue of her eyes. Their color reminded Brie of a summer sky that she had once seen in a photograph of Texas from before Earth's environmental collapse. The aquiline nose drew attention to full lush lips that at the moment were drawn up into a half smile.
"Glad you could come, Dr. O'Conner. We are in the last stages of planning our
colonization mission, but we still have a few spots open." The commander leaned forward, her sleek feline body long and lean, but deceptively powerful. "Why don't we begin with your reasons for wanting to join the Amphipolis Expedition."
Brie struggled to pull her attention from this woman and her surroundings in order to give a somewhat intelligent answer. After a few moments of thought, she settled on the
"I have no one left here Commander, and I can't imagine spending the rest of my life on
this overcrowded, over regulated ball of pollution. I want to see trees, grasses, animals,
food growing...and I want to hear the laughter of children, not their cries of hunger and
Xandra was suprised by this impassioned response. "That's quite an emotional answer for a scientist."
Brie blushed and lowered her eyes. "I don't know what made me say that. I mean it's true, I've just never told anyone before. I was always sure that I'd be laughed at. I guess it's the empath in me speaking."
Xandra smiled, becoming more intrigued by the young woman every minute. "Well, no matter. Honesty and integrity are important qualities in selecting expedition members."
Xandra glanced at down at the slim monitor on the desk in front of her. She raised her
eyes to meet Brie's. Blue bore into green as the Commander asked her next question.
"Your application states that you wish to be appointed the expedition archivist, with your
healing skills as a secondary talent. What makes you think need an archivist?"
"I can only believe that the leaders of the colony would want their history preserved for
future generations. I realize that the technology we take with us will eventually fail, and
without the proper replacement parts we will become entirely dependent upon our own
devices and the natural resources available to us. I'm not just a computer librarian. I can
write with pen and paper. I am skilled in the art of paper making and deriving ink from
natural dye sources, and I am also a story teller. Many ancient societies kept their history alive only by oral tradition. I hardly think this expedition will have to resort to that, but it could be done."
One dark brow raised over a bright blue eye as Xandra tried to conceal her amusement at the woman's intensity. She was beginning to think that this was the one she had been waiting for. Her intuition had told her that the expedition would not be complete without one special individual, a foil for Xandra herself, someone not afraid to speak her mind. This Dr. O'Conner showed all the signs of being able to do just that.
"Don't you think that your healing skills would be of greater value to the expedition?"
"Perhaps you will find them equally valuable."
Xandra paused as she prepared to ask the personal questions that, although necessary to the selection of a well-balanced colonial population, seemed an invasion of privacy. "I agree that your skills recommend you to the expedition, but I'm afraid I must confirm some of the responses on your application."
"Dr. O'Conner, you have applied to the expedition as a single citizen. I presume that you
are not currently bonded."
"No, I am not."
Xandra continued, "I see that you do not have any children Doctor, are you capable of
Sensing that she was almost there, Brie answered, knowing the most dangerous question was coming soon. "Yes."
"Will you commit to bearing three children for the colony, as long as you remain able?"
"Dr. O'Conner, what are your sexual preferences?"
Brie sighed and sank back into her chair. "I prefer romantic relationships with women."
With that response, she knew she had just lost her place on the coveted expedition.
Desperately she interjected, "But, I am willing to forgo that and accept a heterosexual
pairing in order to be included in the colony."
Xandra could see the despair hovering behind the beautiful green eyes. Smiling warmly she answered, "That won't be necessary, Dr. O'Conner."
Brie straightened her shoulders and rose from the chair, preparing to leave the room.
"Thank you for your time Commander, I just had to try."
It took a moment for Xandra to register what the young woman thought, so Brie was
halfway to the door before the Commander could speak. "Wait Doctor, please, I think you misunderstood my intent."
Brie cautiously turned back, afraid to be hopeful, and waited for the powerful woman to
"I just meant that you would not be required to ignore your sexual preferences in our new
colony. We are founding this new civilization on principles of tolerance and acceptance.
As far as we are concerned, everyone is equal and will have equal rights under the laws. We will not accept chaos of course, but there will be no such thing as deviant sexual behavior as long as both parties are consenting. I expect that there will be quite a few other women in the colony who will share your preferences" adding silently myself
Brie released a breath she didn't even know she was holding and sank back into the chair she had just vacated. "I'm sorry for my reaction Commander, but you must realize that I have been rejected from other expeditions for this reason before. I thought about lying this time, I just can't stay here anymore. But after your remark about honesty, I simply couldn't do it. I probably wouldn't have been very convincing anyway. I don't get much practice at lying." She smiled sadly, shaking her head.
Xandra rose from her seat and rounded the desk. She extended her hand and flashed a
brilliant smile. "Welcome aboard Dr. O'Conner -- that is if you can pass all the physicals."
Stunned, Brie was slow to take Xandra's hand. When she did, she was startled by the
spark she imagined passing through her body at the connection. "Th...Thank you
Commander Lawless, ah...what do I do now?"
"Stephanie will show you to temporary quarters within the compound. Tomorrow you will
begin testing. If all goes well, you will start your training after that."
As if she knew she was needed, Stephanie stepped into the room and guided Brie toward the door. Brie cast a confused look over her shoulder at the mysterious Commander Lawless.
Meeting Brie's bewildered eyes, Xandra remarked with a mischievous grin, "Oh, and Dr. O'Conner, honesty is always the best policy."
For several minutes Xandra sat motionless as she replayed her recent encounter with the lovely doctor. A satisfied smile slowly spread across her face as she sensed that this must be the one she had been waiting for to complete her mission. Then a chill ran up her spine as she realized that this woman could potentially mean much more to her than just another colonist.
Chapter 2 - The Physical Testing
Brie awakened slowly to the persistent voice of her in-room monitor stating the hour.
Agh...5 A.M., what an ungodly hour to have to get out of bed. Not that the bed was all
that inviting, just a pallet and air mattress typical of institutional living. She had been so
exhausted from her interview the day before that she had simply used the ion shower and fallen into bed. She hadn't even eaten, a fact which her protesting belly sharply reminded her.
"Well, I guess I'd better get to it!"
She quickly dressed in the same green jumpsuit she had worn the day before. Not having anticipated acceptance into the colonial expedition, she had not packed any personal effects. She would send for the rest of her minimal belongings later in the day. Stepping into the hygiene cubicle of her room, she cleansed her face and teeth, and ran her fingers through her red gold hair. Giving her appearance one final inspection in the mirror, she decided that it would have to do. No one would be interested in the way she looked today anyway.
Stepping into the main portion of her small room, Brie reviewed the messages on her
monitor. It seemed that she was expected to get breakfast and then report to the med lab for physical testing by 0600 hours. That gave her little time to find the dining facilities, eat and then find the med lab. The hand-held monitor she had been issued the day before supposedly held the schematics for all levels of the compound, but Brie had never been any good with directions. She could only hope that the maps would help. Calling up the location of the dinning hall, she left her room in what she believed to be the right direction.
Luckily, Brie found the dining hall without incident. As she entered, she noticed the wide
array of people in various stages of their meals. Glancing around the room, she quickly
located the food replicator and stepped forward deciding what she should eat. Nothing
too heavy, I don't know what they'll require of me in these tests. Finally deciding on dry
toast, fruit and herbal tea, she sat and ate as her thoughts ran wild. She couldn't believe
that she hadn't been rejected again. She really had a chance at this one, a chance to escape this dying planet. All she had to do was pass their physical testing. That shouldn't be too hard for her. She had kept in prime shape over the years in anticipation of just such an opportunity.
Lost in thought, she was surprised to find her meal gone. Abruptly she stood and found
the recycle station. Disposing of her tray, she promised herself a more satisfying meal at the end of the day. Once again she consulted her schematics, entering her chosen location as the med lab and left the dinning hall.
After a few wrong turns and a bit of back tracking, she arrived in the med lab at exactly
0600 hours. As she stepped into the sterile medical suite, she was met by a short dark
woman dressed in a pristine white jumpsuit so form fitted that it left nothing to the
The woman approached her with a wide smile saying, "Good morning, I'm Sara. You must be Dr. O'Conner. I've been expecting you. Your medical records have already been downloaded, so testing can begin immediately. Please follow me."
Sara led Brie into a private cubicle where she was asked to disrobe and lie on the exam table. Sara did not leave the room while Brie undressed as body taboos had long since disappeared from their society. Once in place on the table, the device began to enclose her body to begin extensive scans.
As Brie was slowly isolated from the outside world, Sara smiled and said, "This will only
take about two hours Doctor."
Two hours . . . might as well be an eternity. Brie decided the best way to get through
this was meditation and so began her deep trance routine. She slowly built her fantasy
world around her, her peaceful inner place. It was filled with forests and meadows, rife
with wildlife that Brie had only seen in photographs and holo images. At the edge of her
meadow flowed a clear, clean stream, filled with all manner of fish. In her mind she could
smell the wild flowers and hear the cheerful song of birds all around her. She inhaled
deeply of the clean crisp morning air and felt the dew on the grass beneath her bare feet as she walked toward the stream. Leaning down, she cupped her hands and took a drink from the cool fresh water. Refreshed, she continued to wander the meadow to the edge of the forest and sat enjoying the freedom this fantasy afforded her. After a time, Brie heard her name being called from far away. As the sound came closer, her peaceful place began to dissolve into darkness, her return to the real world imminent. She blinked several times as her eyes adjusted to the harsh lighting of the med lab.
Sara looked a bit concerned. "You're all done Dr. O'Conner, how are you feeling?"
Brie opened her mouth to speak and found that she had to try several times to get the
words out, "I'm fine, just meditating to pass the time. How did I do?"
"Just fine Dr. O'Conner, one of the best evaluations I've seen."
Brie grinned as she rose from the table and began to dress. "So what's next?" she asked Sara.
"Well, first you get to have lunch and then you'll report to the holo suites for the field
Hmm...field test, wonder what that entails? Brie pondered as she finished dressing and
made her way back to the dining hall. Once again the room was filled with a wide variety
of people she could only assume would be part of the colonial expedition. As she made her meal selections, she wondered who they all were and why they were here. Again she chose carefully as she didn't know what demands the field test would make upon her. Finding a seat in a corner with her back to a wall she slowly ate her sashimi and plain rice. She remembered the old wives' tale about fish being brain food. She had a feeling she'd need all the brain power she could get in the next few hours.
As she ate, she listened to conversations around her. Mostly, the colonists were chatting excitedly about the expedition. This would be their chance to build a 'brave new world' free from prejudice, corruption and crime. Instead it would be filled with tolerance, acceptance and a sense of community. Brie smiled inwardly, recognizing that the society they envisioned would only evolve with deep commitment and sacrifice from all of the colonists. Brie, a student of human nature, realized that there would be at least one self- serving person slipping through the very tight screening process. She wondered if the Commander recognized this inevitable situation as well, deciding that she probably did.
Finished with her lunch, she consulted her schematics to find the holo suites and
proceeded to face her next challenge.
When she arrived at the holo suite station, an attractive blonde man greeted her. Handing Brie a data card which evidently contained the field test specifically designed for her, he guided her to the holo suite reserved for her use and wished her luck. "Just be yourself and everything will work out for the best."
Brie, skeptical of the young man's reassurances, faced the entry of the holo suite. With a deep breath, she inserted her card in the reader. The door of the suite opened and as Brie stepped through, the field test began.
Chapter 3 - The Field Test
The world Brie stepped into was amazingly similar to her meditation world. She fleetingly wondered if their computers were able to tap into her meditation routine, then dismissed the similarities as mere coincidence. This scenario was filled with forest and meadow, teeming with the wildlife that Brie so loved. As she moved further into the forest, she came upon a camp site equipped with only the most primitive gear. It was early evening and a campfire was burning brightly at the center of the site. Two bed rolls were carefully placed side by side near the fire. A plump trout was slowly roasting on a spit over the fire and a pleasant smelling herbal drink was brewing in a clay pot at the edge of the hot coals.
Off to the side of the camp stood a magnificent golden mare, leisurely feeding on wild
grasses. Occasionally, the mare would flick her tail to rid herself of an annoying insect.
Wow...this is very realistic, I don't have insects in my meditations. Perhaps I should add them for effect.
Just as Brie was wondering what to do next, a tall dark woman stepped into the clearing. She was dressed in the leathers and intricately formed armor of a warrior. Her midnight hair and lapis eyes immediately reminded Brie of the Commander.
The striking woman smiled and spoke at the same time, "Gabrielle, are you going to check the fish or just stand there and let it burn?"
Startled into action, Brie simply nodded and bent to check the succulent fish. "Looks
about done to me! Ready to eat?"
Before the woman could reply, the clearing was overrun by a small army of dangerous
looking men. They appeared intent on ruining what started as a pleasant interlude.
Rushing forward, the men attacked the warrior with shouts of "That's her! Its Xena, kill
Brie could only assume that her partner in this scenario was called Xena and grabbing the staff set nearby, moved to cover the warrior's back. Remembering her considerable self defense training, Brie spun the staff in intricate patterns, catching their arrogant attackers completely off guard. Behind her, she could sense the warrior Xena doing critical damage with her blade. As she became more accustomed to the feel of the staff in her hands, she began to enjoy the exhilaration of defeating her enemy. Time seemed to stand still as the pair disposed of the attackers.
Finally, there were no more raiders facing Brie. Her heart still pounded as she tried to
calm her rapid breathing. Slowly relaxing, she turned to face the woman who so reminded her of Commander Lawless and was met with a brilliant smile.
"We did it again Gabrielle. You're getting pretty good with that thing."
With that, the holo images dissolved and Brie found herself looking at bare holo grid.
Almost disappointed that the test was at an end, she turned toward the door and left the
The young man who had escorted her to the suite was intently reading the monitors, his
wide grin attesting to his approval of her performance.
"I've seen 'em all, and a lot of them were good, but you are the first to get a perfect
score!" He looked at her with a new respect. "Welcome to the Amphipolis Expedition Dr. O'Conner. You will most certainly be an asset to the colony."
Brie felt somewhat uncomfortable with the lavish praise and, looking for a way to change the subject, asked "Great, now what?"
"Well, first you attend the reception this evening. Then tomorrow your training begins. I
have a feeling that you're going to fit in just fine. Bye the way, I'm Arthur. I don't bother
telling applicants my name until after the field test. Most of the time it's just a waste."
Inwardly Brie wondered just how many applicants failed this portion of the testing.
"Thanks Arthur. I guess I can see your point."
Brie broke into a satisfied smile as she left to return to her room and prepare for the
reception. Her day had been more sucessful than she could have ever hoped for and now, she might finally get to eat enough to satisfy her continually ravenous appetite.
Chapter 4 - The Reception
Apparently the news of her success was entered on the system instantaneously. By the
time she got back to her room, her monitor was flashing congratulations along with
instructions for attending the reception. Glancing at the time, Brie noted that she must
have been in the holo suite for at least two hours. That didn't leave her much time to get
ready. She had exactly one hour to shower, dress and make it to the main hall. Not that
there was much she could do to improve her appearance since she still had not sent for her meager belongings.
Turning to head toward the hygiene cubicle, she stopped short, noticing two packages on her sleeping pallet. Opening the larger one, she was surprised to find all her personal effects. With a sigh of relief, she realized that the expedition staff must have taken care of this task for her. Not taking time to examine each item, she retrieved only what she would need to make herself presentable for this evening. Daunted by the task of selecting from her scant wardrobe, she turned to examine the second, smaller package. This one had a card on it, made of paper. Reverently, she removed the card from the package and opened it to read the hand written message.
Please accept this congratulatory gift from me personally. Never have I seen a more
qualified candidate for this expedition. Also, I thought you might enjoy having new attire for this evening's festivities. I look forward to seeing you there.
Brie read and reread the card. The handwriting was graceful and the message warmed her from the inside out. The last line left her wondering if the enigmatic Commander was
conveying a deeper meaning.
Carefully she tucked the card into her personal effects and turned her attention to the
contents of the package. She was overwhelmed to find a simple emerald green silk sheath, cut very low in the back, but modest in the front. The cut of the sheath would not allow her to wear any undergarments, but she rarely bothered with that anyway. Beneath the sheath were a pair of gold colored flat sandals and a simple gold neck chain. She smiled, thinking this the most elegant clothing she had ever owned.
She shook herself from her reverie and seeing the lack of time, rushed into the ion shower. Although she hurried with her preparations, she unconsciously took extra pains with her appearance, making sure that her hair was brushed until it gleamed and swung freely over her shoulders. She even used some of the precious Tea Rose scent that her mother had given her just before she died. Slipping on the sheath and sliding her narrow feet into the sandals, she was surprised to find that both were a perfect fit. Smiling to herself, she realized she should have known that anything the Commander did would be done precisely, with no margin for error.
The final touch was the simple gold chain Xandra had given her. She paused before
opening the clasp and made a quick decision. Rifling through her personal effects once
more, she found what she was searching for. The Chakram. Her mother's charm. Actually, it was very old, having been passed from oldest daughter to oldest daughter as far back as anyone could remember. It was the only thing of real value that Brie owned.
She slipped the delicate Chakram charm onto the gold chain and fastened them both
around her slender neck. The charm fell perfectly at the hollow of her throat, just above
the demure neckline of her dress. Turning to leave her room, she stopped to view the
effect in her mirror and was pleased with the results. She found herself hoping that the
Commander would like what she saw as well.
Brie made her way to the main hall by following others headed that way, not wanting to
carry her monitor around all evening. She found herself amazed by the colorful variety of
the clothing chosen by her fellow colonists for this occasion. Some had selected costumes native to the part of the world they came from. Many were dressed in the high fashion of the day while others had gone for simple elegance. Smiling to herself she thought Well...I couldn't possibly be under or over dressed in this crowd.
Following the flow of traffic eventually brought her to the main reception hall. As Brie
entered the room, a uniformed man took her DNA scan and instructed her to take a seat in the gallery. Finding a seat up front, but to the side, she settled in to watch and wait.
The room filled quickly. Brie had been told that the expedition would take two hundred adults and seventy-five children. The children had an orientation of their own earlier in the day, so this group would consist of the two hundred adults. There appeared to be a mix of all races, but the women seemed to slightly outnumber the men. Brie supposed that the need to populate the new planet required having more women.
Suddenly, the room got quiet and everyone quickly found a seat. The Commander stepped up to the podium in full dress uniform. Her crisp white uniform was adorned with lots of gleaming brass and colorful ribbons, no doubt attesting to her many skills. She had elected not to wear the uniform cap, allowing her hair to flow about her shoulders like the dark wings of a raven.
At this moment, Xandra was the ultimate military leader, capable of inspiring both fear and respect. Brie could only stare as she attempted to regain her breath. She listened intently as Xandra began to speak.
"Congratulations colonists! Of thousands of applicants, the Amphipolis Expedition has
been privileged to choose you to join our quest for the future. We are pleased that you
have chosen us. As you know, our colony will be founded on the basis of absolute equality and a desire to preserve the natural environment we have been gifted with. Our destination is a class M planet located in the Orion sector. This planet is orbiting a yellow star, similar to our own sun. Since our destination is many light years away, all of us will enter cryosleep for the duration of the journey."
"Over the next few weeks you will receive training in survival techniques as well as classes in the geography, biology and meteorology of the planet. Additionally, you will receive an overview of the political and governmental processes we will follow in our new home."
"In essence, you will learn everything we can think of that will help each of you to become a valued member of our team. All this begins tomorrow and will be an exhausting process. I suggest you spend this evening enjoying each other's company and these culinary delights that we may never see again!"
With that the Commander stepped away from the podium and headed for the bar, where she quickly downed a glass of what appeared to be water.
The newly accepted colonists were so moved by Xandra's speech that they broke into
deafening applause. As the sounds of their appreciatation began to fade, they started to rise. Unsure of how to proceed, they milled around for a few moments before drifting
toward the bar or the buffet.
Brie had already decided that food was her first priority and made a dash for the buffet.
Several minutes later, having loaded her plate to overflowing with long missed favorites,
she found a seat at an empty table.
Almost immediately, the Commander appeared at her side asking, "Good evening Doctor. Mind if I join you?"
Brie was glad her mouth was not full yet and invited the dark woman to join her. Xandra
sat with another tall glass of clear liquid in her hand, but no food.
"You look lovely this evening Dr. O'Conner." Xandra smiled her appreciation as she
gazed at the beauty seated across from her, eyes briefly resting on the charm Brie had
added to the gold chain. Hm...that symbol is very familiar, but I can't quite place it.
"Thank you Commander. Both for the compliment and for your lovely gifts. I really didn't
own anything that would have been appropriate for this evening."
Uncomfortable with the reference to her uncharacteristic generosity, Xandra changed the subject. "How is the food?"
"Everything is delicious. Aren't you going to eat anything?"
The Commander smiled and answered, "Sure, but I think I'll wait until the line is shorter. I
can't imagine how you got so far in front of the line. You must have made a run for it."
Brie blushed with embarrassment since that just about described what she had done. She looked up from her plate and her eyes met her companion's crystal blue ones. Xandra's amusement was plain on her face, her expression not guarded as it had been the day before.
"I guess I did hurry a bit" Brie admitted with a grin. "I didn't eat much earlier because of
the testing. I wanted to be sure to do my best."
Xandra leaned back in her seat, smiling warmly, "Well, you certainly did that." Looking
around the room the Commander asked, "Do you realize that your combined score was
higher than any of the other applicants? In fact, the only person who matched your score is me."
Brie almost choked on the food she was trying to swallow as she raised unbelieving eyes to the woman across from her. "Are you sure there wasn't some mistake? I'd never
imagine that I could match your score."
Xandra leaned forward and answered with complete honesty. "Neither would I. I checked all the scoring myself and there was no mistake. I have to admit I'm more intrigued than ever. Who are you Brie? Where did you come from?"
The storyteller in Brie took over as she began to tell the Commander about her life. To her great surprise, she was not leaving anything out. Usually when asked about her
background, she gave the sterile, socially acceptable version. Brie found herself telling the charismatic Commander about her happy childhood, her parents and sister, the closeness they all shared. Growing up in Northern California was as near to living with nature as anywhere on earth at the time. Air and water pollutants were slowly killing the redwoods around them, but the majestic trees were not giving up easily. Brie's father was a naturalist involved in research that was attempting to save these giants. That is before the plague came.
Brie was in her last year at the University in Berkeley when it happened. She wanted to go home, but the area had been quarantined and there was no way in or out. She wasn't even allowed to speak to her family before the end. She had simply received three perfunctory electronic notices as each member of her family had succumbed to the plague.
That was when she decided to find a new home among the stars. A place with trees and animals, a place where children could live and grow into healthy adults. Instead of grieving for her family, she threw herself into her studies and was able to graduate at the top of her class in both her specialties. Shortly before graduation, she began applying for every colonial expedition she heard about.
Over the last three years, she had been interviewed by no less than 30 colonial screening committees. Although they never admitted it, she knew her honesty about her sexual preferences had lost her admittance every time. It was illegal to discriminate on the basis of many things in their world, but people in power always found another way to exclude those they felt uncomfortable with.
By the time Brie applied for the Amphipolis Expedition, she was getting desperate. She
had already decided that this time she would lie. Her desire to escape the dying planet
around her was so great that she was willing to ignore the part of herself that so offended these colonial groups. After all, she had had sex with men and although she found it lacking, it had not really been distasteful. She knew that she would have to do it again, at least for purposes of procreation.
Pausing to take a breath, Brie realized that not only had she talked nonstop for the last half hour, she had managed to clear the plate in front of her as well.
Xandra watched the young doctor intently as she told her story between mouthfuls, and
was moved more than she cared to admit. She found herself wondering if this woman had a deceptive bone in her body.
When Brie paused, Xandra could see that she was again embarrassed. Smiling warmly, Xandra reached across the table and brushed the back of Brie's hand with her fingers. Her voice filled with emotion as she spoke. "Thank you for sharing your story."
I'd happily share more than that with you Brie thought as she took several breaths to
calm herself before responding, her thoughts about to take her into dangerous territory. "I, uh, I don't tell all that to many people. You are very easy to talk to."
They chatted more, moving onto less sensitive subjects. Their conversation remained
animated into the night until Xandra noticed that the doctor was slowing down, her eyes
now half lidded in an almost sensual expression. But the Commander knew that she was seeing exhaustion and not desire.
Xandra reached across the table to take the doctor's delicate hand. "You must be very
tired, let me walk with you to your room."
As Brie rose from her seat, Xandra couldn't help but stare as the silken sheath slid down her body to settle in place. Not tight or revealing, the sheath seemed to drape itself artfully over Brie's sumptuous curves. Thoughts of what lay beneath the green silk were more alluring than anything Xandra had experienced before.
The dark woman struggled to put that image from her mind as she forced her eyes to look elsewhere, instantly colliding with sparkling green that nearly took her breath. The smile accompanying the exquisite eyes was sleepy and sensual.
Brie looked up at Xandra, feeling strangely content. "Lead the way Commander, I have no idea how to get back to my room."
They walked in companionable silence, Xandra leading Brie with a light touch at her
waist. It took no time to arrive at their destination as Xandra knew every inch of the
compound by heart. At the door, the two women turned, facing each other. Both were
unsure of what to do now. Xandra solved their dilemma by brushing soft lips against Brie's forehead and whispering goodnight. Waving her palm over the scan panel by the door, she gently prodded Brie to enter her room. "Sleep well, the first day of training is very demanding."
Brie watched the Commander walk away as the door closed, slowly blocking her view.
Turning away, she carefully removed the beautiful garment she had worn and stored it
along with the sandals and necklace.
"Lights out" she requested, then fell into bed, asleep instantly.
Chapter 5 - Training and Departure
Brie awoke before the designated hour, filled with excitement that today was the day.
Today they would be taking the shuttle to Alpha Station which orbited the moon. The
Amphipolis Expedition Colonial class starcruiser Artemis was docked at Alpha Station,
waiting for her passengers. As Brie lay in bed, waiting for 0500 hours, she reflected on all that she had learned in the last four weeks.
As Commander Lawless had warned, the morning after the reception had been busy
indeed. She had met with an expedition counselor who outlined her training and reviewed with her the philosophy and goals of the Expedition founder's. It was then that she had discovered that the Expedition had been financed primarily by Commander Lawless herself, along with contributions from organizations such as Green Peace, The National Wildlife Federation and The Audubon Society. Not only would the Artemis be taking human colonists, but she would also carry pairs of endangered species to the new world - an ark for the 22nd century.
Brie had met some of the botanists in her survival classes. They chattered excitedly about all manner of vegetation that they had been allowed to include in their cargo manifest. They would take everything necessary to construct a complete hydroponic garden to get the colony on its feet in the beginning, as well as what they would need to genetically adapt imported species to their new environment.
In her biology and zoology classes, Brie learned that their new home was ecologically
similar to Earth in the later part of the last millennium, before the industrial revolution
began to ravage the planet. The colonists believed that many of the native flora and fauna would thrive side by side with the plants and animals preserved from Earth.
Meteorology taught her about the seasons and weather patterns of their new class M
planet. She discovered that the gravity was slightly less than on Earth, and that
temperatures were warmer toward the planet's poles than Earthers were accustomed to. It all sounded wonderful to Brie who never minded weighing less or being warmer.
Most fascinating to her, however, were the classes explaining the political system, laws
and social structure that would be the starting point for the colony. All of the colonists had agreed to abide by this justice system until they elected a council to take over the task of developing a new society. In essence, a military government would prevail during the initial colonization phase until basic human and animal needs such as food and shelter were assured. Tracking this process would be her most important task as the Expedition's historical archivist.
Of course, her first job would be to serve as Chief Medical Officer during their journey
through the stars. As senior physician and empathic healer, she had been the logical choice for the position. During the last three years, Brie had often served as Chief Physician for the ground crews of the many colonial expeditions she had applied to. Many of these privately-funded groups would rely on the free labor of their applicants while they were waiting for the decision of the selection committees. Additionally, her remarkable qualifying scores had marked her as a senior officer for both the journey and the initial colonization period. After that, she anticipating withdrawing from public position and serving as the observer and recorder.
The most remarkable thing she discovered was that the Expedition had invested in some very expensive DNA extraction technology that, combined with artificial insemination equipment, would allow same-sex partners to have children together. This was an integral part of the future as it allowed for a vastness of their genetic pool that would otherwise not be possible. Each woman with child-bearing capabilities had agreed to bear three children. For the first, the genetic committee would select the most promising DNA combinations. The second would be by the mother's own selection, while the third would be a genetic mixture of a male pairbond, with the mother acting as surrogate only probably to be a favored "Aunt" to the child. Any children born after these obligations were of the mother's own choice.
Brie was delighted to learn that pair bonding in her new home could include any
combination of people. Although she couldn't imagine wanting to be in a group marriage, she could understand that others might. What excited Brie was the possibility of finding another woman to share her life. To be honest, she had to admit to herself that she already had someone in mind. But in the flurry of activity over the last four weeks, she had seen the Commander only in passing and was beginning to wonder if she had imagined the whole thing.
Her room monitor began to play the soothing music that Brie had selected for this
morning's wake up. She usually had to have something shocking, like an audio 2 x 4, to
wake her, but today was different. Today she would leave Earth, and for better or
worse she would never return.
Brie wondered what was going through the minds of the other colonists this morning.
Amazingly, she had made some friends over the last few weeks. Though the whirlwind
training left little time for socializing, a sense of camaraderie had emerged with a life of its own. They had been entrusted with the future of a civilization and took that responsibility seriously.
These were the people she would be living and working with for the rest of her life...
thank god they also had a sense of humor.
As part of the senior staff, Brie became close with the woman who first led her to meet
Commander Lawless the lovely Lt. Commander Stephanie Hunter. Steph was more
than just a beautiful woman. She was intelligent, with a sharp wit that made her popular
among all the colonists. She was an exemplary military tactician and was almost
unbeatable in hand-to-hand and close-range weapons. Her survival and hunting skills were reminiscent of a much earlier time in Earth's history. These qualities made her the logical choice for the Expedition's second in command.
Brie continued to think of her new friend as she rose and headed for the ion shower.
Stephanie had been showing subtle signs of interest in Brie during these last weeks.
Although Brie thought Steph a lovely woman, she couldn't get her mind off Xandra
Lawless. When Stephanie sweetly kissed her one evening at her door, Brie had sadly
confessed her infatuation with the Commander. Instead of Stephanie laughing at her as
Brie expected, her new friend held her while she cried in her confusion, gently brushing
her tears away and promising to be her friend no matter what. Brie realized then that she had never had this kind of friend before in her life.
Before she knew it, Brie was dressed in her blue travel uniform, her skill badges now
joined by her badge of rank as Chief Medical Officer. She was proud to be part of the
senior staff, even though they all would be in cryosleep for most of the journey. Her
position had required that she oversee the medical evaluations of all of the colonists during the training period. Everyone was slowly being prepared physically for the long years in cryosleep. Body weights had to be reduced, immune systems enhanced. They had all been quarantined in the compound since they had been accepted and had been scanned periodically for any viral or bacterial organisms that could cause problems on the journey. The colonists would even be transported to today's destination in a sterile shuttle.
All the same, something may have slipped through, and if it did, Brie would be awakened to deal with the situation. Actually, the first person to be awakened in any emergency was the Commander. She would be the one to decide if waking Brie was necessary.
At exactly 0545 hours Brie left her quarters for the last time and made her way to the
cargo bays of the vast compound. She would leave on the last transport, along with the
Commander and the other senior officers. They would be the last to board the starcruiser that would take them light years from the planet of their birth. They would oversee the cryosleep process, then, finally, join the other colonists in the long night.
Their animal passengers had been transported and cryosleep-induced over the past few days. All cargo, equipment and botanical specimens had been loaded and secured for the journey. Their navigational computer had been programmed for their destination. All emergency systems had been tested and re-tested, leaving no margin for error.
Each colonist had been allowed 10 kilos of personal effects, increasing the starcruiser's
payload by less than 3,000 kg. For the last week, everyone had been obsessed with
choosing what they would take and what they would leave behind.
Brie had no problems since her personal effects consisted only of some photographs and holo image discs, the gown and sandals she had worn for the reception, her mother's perfume and the journal she had begun when she joined the expedition. Her last entry had been last night, just before she sealed her allotment for transport. The next time she wrote in the journal would be in fifty years. She wore her mother's charm suspended from the chain Xandra had given her, the Chakram concealed beneath the high collar of her uniform. Those two items would join her in her cryosleep chamber.
Brie had used the remainder of her 10-kilo allotment for a small stuffed sheep belonging to a five-year-old girl who looked remarkably like her younger sister Lily when she had been that age. The child had been crying inconsolably the afternoon before as her mother tried to explain to her why her "lamby" couldn't go with them to their new home. The child's forlorn tears pulled hard on Brie's heartstrings, and knowing that she had some space left, she offered to pack the little sheep in her own belongings. Both mother and child were immensely grateful. The child ended their conversation by hugging her and telling her "lamby" to go with "Auntie Brie."
If all went as planned, they would be asleep just over fifty years, but would awake as if it
were the next day. There had been some early failures in cryosleep systems, but with all
the colonization in the wake of a dying Earth, the more recent systems were virtually
infallible. It seemed that the Amphipolis Expedition had very deep pockets since their
cryosleep systems were state-of-the-art, just like all their other equipment. The risks of
cryosleep reduced to almost nil, the colonists would be able to concentrate on their future.
All that could be done from this end to ensure the colonists' success had been done. The dangers they faced were almost exclusively those that they would encounter upon reaching their destination. Since their survey information was limited to what they had been able to learn from a deep space probe, they were much like the pioneers who settled the North American continent in the 17th and 18th centuries. The dangers they would all face would be remarkable similar, including the possibility of encountering pirates.
The space pirate phenomenon was a recent development, brought about by the
desperation of a race trying to escape the dead planet that Earth was destined to become. These were people without the skills or resources to either launch their own colonies or land a coveted position in a privately-funded one. They took smaller, well-armed ships and headed for destinations they knew to be earmarked for colonization where they waited for the initial hard work to be done. Then they descended upon the established colonies and used their armaments to take over the fledgling governments, plunging these colonies into chaos. For the Amphipolis Expedition, the presence of so many military personnel in their party gave them an advantage over the pirates one not shared by many other colonial groups.
Arriving at her destination, Brie stepped into the cargo bay and was immediately taken
with the size of the transport boarding the senior officers. This ship was large, but she
knew the starcruiser awaiting them at Alpha Station would make this vehicle look like a
Volkswagen Bug. She paused for a moment, then moved toward the ramp leading to the shuttle. Choosing a window seat toward the back of the cabin, Brie settled in and fastened her safety harness. Leaning back in her seat, she watched as other senior officers boarded the shuttle.
Already seated a few rows in front of Brie was Major Arthur Hill. The same young man
she had met during her field test was the Expedition's Chief Engineer. If anything was
broken, Arthur could fix it. He even rigged the replicator in her room to dispense
cappuccino after they had a friendly debate over where to get the best cappuccino in San Francisco. Brie smiled as she remembered how secretive he was about the whole thing. She knew he wasn't supposed to be wasting their resources that way, but was appreciative just the same.
Next on board was Lt. Sara Laurence, Chief Nursing Officer. Sara had administered her initial physical testing and had become a friend over the last few weeks. Brie had
discovered that she and Sara shared not only their medical calling, but also a love of
reading. They had spent many hours deciding which of the classics to include in their
allotted net spaces, so they would not duplicate their efforts. Together they had chosen the finest literature and philosophy Earth had to offer. Brie planned to begin transcribing these works of literature as soon as they reached their destination. They both realized what a monumental undertaking this would be and with Sara's help, they just might get them all transcribed before their computer equipment failed in say...sixty years.
Brie closed her eyes and silently said good-bye to her family. She knew that her parents, especially her father would be proud of her. She had finally accomplished her goal. By the time the colonists arrived at their new home in fifty years, Earth's ecosystem would have completely collapsed. Without serious genetic adaptation, the human race would soon cease to exist. In her mind she promised her family that she would do everything in her power to ensure that these colonists would take better care of their new world than they had the old one.
Brie felt a subtle change in air currents and sensed the heat of another body beside her.
Opening her eyes, she was surprised to find that Commander Lawless had chosen the seat next to her. Xandra cheerfully smiled at Brie as she settled in, stretching her long legs into the aisle as she fastened the safety harness across her broad shoulders and narrow waist.
"Good morning Doctor," Xandra greeted the young woman beside her. "Ready to go?"
Brie answered quietly, looking out the window to her left, "I've been ready to go for the
last three years Commander."
Chapter 6 - The Adventure Begins
Xandra had observed many
reactions to the final departure this morning, ranging from
manic excitement to depressive sorrow. Each of the colonists was an individual, leaving
unique situations. Some, like Brie and Xandra, were alone in the world, with nothing to
hold them back. Others left behind friends and family that they would never see again. In a way, they were already mourning the deaths of their loved ones. When the colonists
awakened to their new home, all they loved here on Earth would be dead.
Xandra herself had no one to mourn. Her family had long since succumbed to the many
plagues and natural disasters that ravaged her home just outside Los Angeles. Her parents had been killed in the big quake in '78, twenty years ago. Xandra had been thirteen at the time and had escaped with her younger brother Louis. Sometimes Xandra could still hear the deafening sound of the earth beneath her feet protesting the energy that forced it to give way. After their parents' death, Xandra's older brother Thomas had come home to see to the family fortune. As sole heirs to a multi-billion dollar hotel chain, they were very wealthy children. Descended from tavern keepers, who would have thought it?
Thomas, his wife and their three children died in the plague in '85. Again Xandra and
Louis escaped with their lives. Xandra, now twenty and an adult, was able to obtain an
appointment to West Point. Upon graduation, she served her country as a covert
intelligence operative for nearly five years. During that time, she was slowly liquidating all her assets and funding her dream. This colonial expedition was to be Xandra and Louis' final escape.
Unknown to Xandra, while various steamy jungles and barren deserts throughout the
world kept her occupied, Louis contracted one of the deadliest AIDS virus mutations yet
encountered. Louis never told her about his illness until he became unable to continue
planning the expedition. When Xandra was called home to help Louis in his last days, she asked for and received a hardship discharge and never returned to service.
Now that Louis was gone, there was no one with whom to share the joy of success.
Xandra sat deep in thought as she felt the shuttle begin its final pass at the runway. She
looked around her at the members of her senior staff. She had chosen these people
carefully over the last four years and trusted each one implicitly. Oddly, she found that she felt no other connection to any of them, with the exception of the petite doctor seated next to her.
She had been giving this a lot of thought in the four weeks since the extraordinary young
woman had walked into her office. Brie intrigued her at the time and had only become an increasingly inviting mystery since then. Seemingly guileless, Brie had wormed her way into the hearts of Xandra's most trusted officers. They had come to depend on her to do her part and even to give wise counsel. She worked tirelessly at her studies while taking full responsibility for all medical preparations still undone. Most everything had been in place when Brie joined their team, but her fresh perspective gave them an added advantage in their last days of preparation. Xandra had been exceedingly amused to learn that Art 'By-the-book' Hill had broken the rules so that this delightful young woman could have a morning cappuccino. She had also noted that the doctor, mindful of expedition resources, only used the privilege on two occasions, both when Art had been present.
Xandra's days and nights had been consumed with last minutes details, but that hadn't
stopped her from observing this woman's total acceptance into the inner circle of the
expedition. She suspected that Brie would eventually become a valued leader in the
colonial structure. Her genuine concern for others and her absolute honesty made
everyone want to be her friend. Most remarkably, the doctor had no idea of her effect on
others, especially Xandra.
For the first time in the years since Louis' death, she was considering allowing someone to come close to her. Her innate fear of losing those she loved was releasing its hold on her heart. All of the qualities that made Brie a wonderful friend would make her an unmatched partner. Xandra came to a decision just as the shuttle was preparing to dock with the Artemis.
Turning to Brie, Xandra smiled and asked, "Doctor, would you care to have dinner in my
quarters tomorrow evening?"
Brie responded playfully, knowing that tomorrow evening was fifty years away, "Why
Commander, I'd be delighted."
Chapter 7 - The Long Night
Giant doors opened into the vast
shuttle bay of the Artemis. This bay was designed to
accomodate five shuttles just like the one that held the senior officers. Xandra's command shuttle was called the Argo, most assumed after Jason's ship in Greek mythology. Only Xandra knew that the Argo this ship had been named for was an enormous affectionate tabby cat that been her companion in the years after her parents' death. She really missed Argo. He had been a comfort to her during a painful time in her life. She was pleased that she had been able to find several pairs of unaltered cats for the colony. They would be helpful with pest-control...not to mention keeping Xandra company as spoiled, well-fed house cats.
The other four ships were truly named for Greek mythological beings; the Persephone, the Psyche, the Athena, and the Aphrodite. All five of the shuttles would be responsible for the transport of passengers, animals, equipment and supplies to the surface of the planet. The Artemis, however, would remain in orbit around their new home, acting as a satellite and weather station for the colony. Access to the armed starcruiser in the early years on the planet would ensure their protection from pirates so long as at least one shuttle remained in good repair. With luck that would be many years down the road and the colonial government firmly established by then.
Most ships designed for light speed colonization missions were so prohibitively expensive that they were rarely equipped with any kind of weapons systems, leaving the new colonists helpless to repel any attack from someone who just might want their planet. Reachable class M planets didn't grow on trees and it took a lot of money to get a colonial charter. Only the creme de la creme of the human race was going to survive, but that unfortunately included the most clever and resourceful criminals.
Xandra had spared no expense to ensure the success of this colony. Her endless resources would be of no further value to her at the end of this day. This ship was the best to be had, more heavily armed than most of the colonists knew. The cryosleep chambers were the finest ever made, and several extra chambers were available in case of a malfunction. The navigational computers were virtually infallible, designed with artificial intelligence. They were able to constantly correct the ship's trajectory by observing and anticipating necessary changes in their flight path. Every piece of equipment and all of their supplies were of the best quality. And their colonial roster was envied by anyone involved in colonization efforts.
The results of Louis' brilliant management of the project continued to astound Xandra.
The only asset she could take credit for was her selection of the colonists. There was no
selection committee, the Commander was the committee. She had hand picked each and every one of these people. She had even interviewed their children both alone and with their parents, observed the interaction of families and pair bonded couples applying for the expedition. How they treated each other was a significant factor in Xandra's selection process.
The Argo came to rest on the only vacant shuttle pad in the bay. The Commander
unfastened her harness and stepped to the front of the ship, intending to lead the way.
Stephanie was at her back in an instant and the rest of the entourage followed their leader down the ramp and fell into their natural command positions as they stepped into the pad. An initial evaluation satisfied Xandra that all was going well.
Brie barely had time to adjust to the low level lighting in the bay before she was
approached by the cryosleep team leader with a progress report. All colonists were on
board and about half of the children were already safe in their cryosleep chambers. Brie
had advised the team leaders that they should make sure that all parents were present
when their children were placed in the chambers. She hoped that this would relieve the
anxieties and fears of both children and parents. Parents had been advised that they should treat this as if they were tucking their children into bed for a normal night's rest.
Apparently it was working, since so far there had been no emotional scenes.
The cryosleep team estimated that all but the senior officers would be asleep before the
end of the day. The command staff would remain awake for their departure from Alpha
Station and the initial jump to light speed. Stephanie would be piloting the Artemis as she left space dock until the starcruiser had successfully navigated their home system. Colonist class starcruisers were so large that it could be dangerous to go to light speed within the solar system. Sometime around midnight they expected to engage the autopilot and have the command staff safely secured in their cryosleep chambers. Brie would be the last to sleep as she would act as the cryosleep technician for the senior officers and the Commander.
Actually, Brie was free to observe the activity aboard the starcruiser from the bridge over the next few hours. She wouldn't have anything to do until it was time to induce cold
sleep for the command staff. What really excited her was that she would be able to remain awake for the short flight through their system and the jump to light speed. She had been told by others that it was a spectacular experience.
The hours flew by as Brie sat and watched Xandra take command. Her officers seemed to anticipate her needs and offered information and answers before she could even ask the questions. Before Brie knew it, the cryosleep team leader was reporting that all colonists had been secured and the team ready to return to Alpha Station.
Xandra took her place on the command deck and motioned for Stephanie to disengage the Artemis from space dock. View screens afforded the officers a spectacular view of the silver hued moon behind Alpha Station as the Artemis swung away from the space station and moved forward into space. As the starcruiser accelerated to impulse speed, and moved through the outer planets of the system, Brie was almost breathless at the vastness of space ahead of them. For a few moments she felt very small indeed.
Over the next few hours the flight officers ran diagnostics on all essential systems. This
would be the last time they could make necessary adjustments for a long time. Those not involved in the process watched their passage through the system in wonder, sometimes speaking to each other in hushed, almost reverent tones. Most of them had not been in space before, those who had previous experience on any military or commercial vessel were all involved in pre-jump systems checks.
At last the Artemis cleared Pluto's orbit and entered what was considered to be free space, not owned or regulated by any entity. Now they were ready to accelerate to light speed. The Colonial class starcruiser was able to make the jump while still maintaining artificial gravity inside the ship, so there was no need for anyone awake to do much more than sit down in preparation. Xandra, who had been pacing the command deck the last few minutes, speaking with her flight officers along the way, took her seat.
"Prepare for light speed," Xandra spoke directly to Stephanie.
Stephanie cast a look at everyone on the command deck to see if all were seated. "Ready whenever you are Commander," she responded.
As Stephanie's fingers flew over the control panel at her station, Brie felt a subtle change in the vibration of the ship's engines. Although the artificial gravity buffered any g-force effects from the rapid acceleration of the Artemis, Brie imagined she was being pulled backward in her seat. She stared at the view screens in amazement as the stars seemed to burst into flaming streaks all around them. In those few seconds before all went black, Brie thought she had never seen anything so bright and beautiful.
Abruptly it was all gone. The view screens showed a black expanse in front of them with
only fleeting sparks of stars at the fringes. The jump had been made.
Now it was time for Brie to go to work. She approached the Commander who directed
her to leave the bridge with non-flight personnel and begin their cryosleep procedures. The flight officers and the Commander would join them as soon as the auto pilot had been engaged.
Brie began to shepherd the senior officers to their various locations throughout the ship
and secured each one in their designated cryo chambers. Scattering key people throughout the ship would likely prevent all of them from being lost in the case of an in-flight collision and resulting hull damage. With the 'smart' navigational computers on board, this was unlikely to happen. Nevertheless, they followed the procedure.
A few minutes after Brie had sealed the last chamber, the Commander and the remaining flight officers joined her. Only Major Art Hill, Lt. Commander Stephanie Hunter, Commander Lawless and Brie herself stayed awake as the remaining flight crew entered cryosleep. Hill and Hunter were secured in separate locations, but the Commander and Brie were to sleep side by side in the ship's med lab. If there were any emergency during the journey, the Commander would be the first to awaken. Depending on the nature and severity of the emergency, Xandra would decide if waking the ship's doctor would be necessary.
Brie looked into Xandra's blue eyes and saw something she couldn't identify. It almost
appeared as if the Commander's eyes were wet. Brie decided that she could think about that one as she fell slowly into the depths of sleep.
Brie smiled at Xandra and asked, "Ready Commander?"
Xandra gazed at her oddly as she climbed into her cryo chamber and answered, "Doctor, I've been ready for the last three years."
Wondering at the Commander's uncharacteristic flash of vulnerability, Brie began the
process to seal the chamber, and looking down said, "Good night Commander." As she walked to the next chamber and climbed into it herself, setting the controls from the inside she whispered, "See you in the morning Xandra."
Chapter 8 - The Crisis
Xandra awoke to the insistent sound of an alarm and lights flashing in front of her closed
eyes. It took a few seconds for her to register where she was. As the chamber opened
automatically, she tried to sit up quickly and was immediately overcome with a wave of
dizziness. Taking a few deep breaths, she tried again more slowly and was able to swing her legs out of the cryo chamber. Disoriented, Xandra looked around her for the source of the alarm, her eyes coming to rest on the med lab's main computer screen. Blinking her eyes to restore some moisture, she struggled to focus on the monitor.
Stumbling closer to the screen, Xandra was finally able to read the message. The seals on one of the cryo chambers in the children's section had failed. The child was in critical
condition from the rapid change in temperature that had not allowed her body to return to its normal state over the hours normally required to awaken sleepers. Already Xandra
could see that this one was beyond her first aid skills. Supporting herself on the tables and consoles in the med lab she moved to activate the quick thaw function on the doctor's chamber. Only two of the chambers had been equipped with this very expensive feature designed to safely wake its occupant in one hour. Xandra had slept in one of these chambers and Brie in the other. This way the Commander and the Doctor could be awakened quickly and safely in the event of a strategic or medical emergency.
While she was waiting for Brie's chamber to complete the process and open, she
requested a restorative drink from the med lab's replicator and sat at the nearest console to review all information on the endangered child. The data was precise but limited. The child, Amber Rose, was located in chamber number 187 in the 'nursery', just down the hall from med lab. She was listed as five years old, the only child of a single mother, Karyn Rose. Her condition was listed as critical, but the computer scans suggested that she could be saved -- if they got to her in time.
Xandra looked up from the screen, impatient for the doctor's chamber to open. She didn't like feeling helpless when someone was depending on her. She closed her eyes and recalled the faces of mother and child. With her photographic memory, she could recall the faces and names of each member of the expedition. The child was blonde and blue-eyed and her mother's green eyes had glowed with pride each time her daughter politely answered one of the Commanders questions.
Shaking the image from her mind, she consulted the ship's navigational computer for
mission status. While she was waiting for Brie to awaken, Xandra discovered that they
had been in their sleep chambers almost 45 years. They were on the correct flight path
and, due to a few course corrections made by their 'smart' navigational system, they had actually shortened their anticipated flight time. All data suggested that they would reach the new system in just under three years, cutting their original trip time by about thirty-two months.
Xandra jumped in her seat at the sound of the seal on Brie's cryo chamber releasing.
Rising from the console, she moved to the doctor's side and was gazing down at her when Brie opened her eyes. Smiling weakly up at Xandra she whispered, "Are we there yet?"
Xandra laughed and reached out to help the doctor sit up. Brie rested her palms on the
edge of the chamber and leaned forward to stop the spinning in her head. Breathing deeply she opened her eyes to see Xandra walking toward her with something in her hand. Brie's sight was still a bit blurry as Xandra took her hands and wrapped them around a cup of warm liquid.
"Here, drink this." Xandra waited until the doctor had taken a few sips before adding,
"We have a problem Doctor."
Brie had to clear her throat several times before speaking, her voice cracking on the first few tries, "What...um...what is wrong?"
"One of the children's sleep chambers failed. Looks like it happened about twelve hours
ago. It took an hour to wake me and another hour to wake you, I don't know why it took
the computer ten hours to decide that we were needed."
As Brie finished her drink and got her bearings, Xandra explained all she had learned from the cryo systems computer. Brie listened carefully and when the Commander was finished, she slowly rose and asked, "Do you think you can carry her here? I need to get her into stasis until I can get her metabolism under control. At this point I can barely carry myself."
Xandra nodded and together they left the med lab to get Amber Rose.
As they approached the failed chamber, Brie could see that the little girl was in shock. Her body was rigid with muscle spasms and was shivering violently. Xandra gently lifted the child from the chamber. Amber's skin was cold and damp. Her clothing was soaked through. Her small hands were tightened into fists, her elbows and knees locked into place. It was like carrying a board.
Xandra quickly returned to med lab, with Brie on her heels. The sight of the child's
distress brought the young doctor to full consciousness faster than anything else could
have. Brie recognized the little girl immediately as the same child whose stuffed lamb she had packed with her own things so long ago.
"Set her over there." Brie indicated the treatment table in the main medical bay. This
station was usually reserved for severe injuries and surgical procedures, but she wanted full use of all diagnostic equipment and the stasis field that was only available at this location.
Xandra lay the child on the table and tried to make her comfortable, but her body was so rigid that it wasn't going to be possible. Brie stepped to the stasis console, her eyes
moving quickly over the monitor as she absorbed the scan data flashing across the screen. She hesitated only a few seconds before programming the stasis field to enclose the little girl, giving her precious moments to figure out what to do next.
As soon as the field was in place, Amber seemed to relax, her shivering stopped. Her
hands were still curled into fists, but her knees and elbows began to let go. Brie continued to read the data that was coming fast and furious. Every now and then, she paused the console display and made an adjustment to the treatment being administered by the stasis unit. Finally, she seemed satisfied with the settings and lowered herself into a seat to wait, her eyes only leaving the monitor occasionally to glance at her tiny patient.
Xandra, overcome by the effects of cryo sleep, leaned back in her chair and closed her
eyes. She trusted the doctor to do whatever could be done for the child and drifted into a light sleep.
Brie continued to monitor Amber over the next few hours. Her condition had stabilized,
but was not improving. Brie sighed, knowing what she was going to have to do next. In
peak condition, fully rested, empathic healing took its toll on the practitioner. In her
present condition, Brie didn't know if she could even be effective, let alone finish what
needed to be done before she collapsed. First she would need food and lots of it.
She stood staring at the replicator as she tried to remember what would give her the most energy in the shortest amount of time. Sugar, lots of sugar. Starting with a glass of
citrus juice, she drank and decided on her next choice. Over the next half hour, Brie
consumed three eggs, toast, pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream and two
glasses of milk. Feeling more energized, she crossed the room and gently shook the
Xandra came awake immediately asking, "How is she?"
"Not good. I'm going to have to do this another way. I wanted you to be awake to
monitor me." Brie answered as she placed several probes on her temples and her chest. "Just watch these readings, if any of them rise into the red, pull me away from her."
Brie wasted no time in releasing the child from the stasis field, placing one hand at her
head and the other over her heart. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Her mind went spinning away, down a dark path of cold, pain and fear. She was seeing what Amber saw and feeling what she felt. She had to concentrate not to lose herself in the fear it was so strong. Softly she called to the little girl's mind, "Amber, don't be afraid, its Auntie Brie. I've come to get you."
Amber seemed to relax as she recognized the voice of a friend in her mind. This was the nice lady who saved her "lamby."
Brie allowed her mind to find and stabilize each of the systems in the child's body. First
she regulated her body temperature, then moved onto her heart, lungs and other vital
organs, giving each the equivalent of a jump start. She worked continuously, visiting every effected area, scanning for internal damage and correcting anything she found. She progressed methodically, knowing intuitively where her help was needed next. Brie was a very strong healer and had often experienced the resentment of her instructors and peers at the results she was able to get. Under ordinary circumstances, this would be easy for her.
In her weakened state, Brie began feeling fatigue much sooner than she expected. Almost finished, she rushed through the rest of the child's systems so that she could pull out before she 'red lined'. If that happened, she knew that Xandra would physically pull her away. The resulting painful shock could kill her patient and possibly even do damage to Brie's own mind.
Xandra watched as the monitor showed all readings moving closer to the red line. She
gazed at the empath at work before her, in awe that this woman could heal with her mind. She had seen this done before, and was always amazed. Of course, her total lack of any psychic ability made it even harder to fathom what these people were able to do. She had often referred to herself as 'psychically numb,' a comment that had always made Louis laugh and tell her that she just wasn't trying hard enough. Louis was convinced that she had some ability in her and that it was simply buried. Xandra hadn't had the heart to tell him that when she was tested by the military, she was ranked as having no talent at all.
The readings were almost in the red zone, when Brie pulled back into herself and released her hold on the patient. She looked up at Xandra blankly as she felt her body slide to the floor and darkness close around her.
Xandra flew to her side in a panic and lifted her onto one of the vacant tables. Not
knowing what to do next, she quickly looked at the monitors and noticed that the readings were returning to the normal range. As she continued to watch the young woman, Brie's eyes fluttered open. Her voice cracked as she whispered, "Food...I need food."
Several high carb drinks later, Brie was once again able to sit up. She leaned against
Xandra, who sat behind Brie on the table, supporting her. Even in her exhausted condition her first thoughts were of her small patient.
"Computer, patient status."
The disembodied voice of the med lab computer answered. "Damages to all systems have been repaired. Vital signs are strong. The patient is improving."
Brie, unable to keep her eyes open a minute longer, snuggled into the warm body wrapped around her and was asleep instantly. Xandra, feeling the body in her arms go limp, looked down at the young doctor. She felt a wave of relief as she realized that the doctor was merely asleep, not unconscious, as she had initially feared. Xandra lay back on the table with the young woman still wrapped securely in her arms and joined her in sleep.
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