Flight of the Phoenix
Chapter 8 Side Trip
By Bernard Doove © 2012
While the relationships between several of the crew members had changed significantly in the days that it took to get to Relay Station R23, the voyage and job of resupplying the station was perfectly normal. R'Murran pronounced great satisfaction with the repair work done on the ship’s structure, and the replacement equipment for those that had been destroyed back at Hesperia were working flawlessly. The only fly in the ointment was their continuing financial problems. When Martin finally got a call from Star Fleet while on the way to Kantorg, he eagerly hastened to take the call in his office. After the call, he asked M'Rarrtikar to join him.
An hour later, as the shift was about to end, he put out a call on the ship’s public address system for all crew to attend a special meeting. Only Bethany was left on the bridge, watching and listening via comm, while Madeline monitored systems even as she was present in the room as a hologram.
Martin called for attention when the last of the crew arrived. “We finally have gotten word back from Star Fleet with regards to the Hesperia incident.”
There was a smattering of cheers, and Anastasiya said, “It’s about time!”
Martin waited for them to quiet down before continuing, “The Phoenix and its entire crew have been officially commended for their actions which saved the lives of tens of thousands of people. Those of us who were aboard the ship while undertaking the task of deflecting The Olympian are due to get medals too.”
“And well deserved too,” declared the tiger. “Now how much compensation are we getting?”
Martin looked sour. “Well, we might get a few credits for the medals if we sell them.”
“What?” There were multiple cries of shock and outrage until Martin managed to get them to quiet down again.
“It seems we are the victims of a technicality. Hesperia City is not a world, nor a colony. The whole asteroid is a business. While the Federation will recognise our efforts in saving lives, it is their position that it is up to that business to allocate any compensation and/or reward. In other words, we won’t be getting Federation money. If we want to get anything, we will have to persuade Hesperia Incorporated to reward us, or alternatively sue for damages. Either way we’re not going to see any money soon because Hesperia is spending every credit they have to repair the city, and they’re losing money every day that they are shut for business. Court action will take years. We may get something eventually, but not now when we need it the most. I am sorry, but that means that we’re going to have to be very austere for a while. We can only hope that the bad times are behind us now, and we can build back up again.”
“What about saving the whole Federation from the herm plague?” Burningbright demanded. “That’s not a business. Why haven’t we heard about that?”
“I asked about that also. It seems that the Federation fears a reprisal against the Asahikawans, or a panic due to how close it came to happening, and so they are keeping the incident hush-hush. So trying to arrange a reward for us while not telling anyone is slowing down the process mightily. Even then it probably won’t be huge.”
“So they’d let Phoenix die through their bureaucracy? I say let’s tell the Federation what we did, and cut through this red tape!” Burningbright replied.
“You’re forgetting two things – firstly, have you considered the possibility that some nutcases might think Phoenix is a plague ship, and try to destroy us? Secondly, and more importantly, are you going to risk the lives of all those people on Asahikawa if the Federation Council is right? I certainly won’t risk anyone’s life, and if that’s not good enough for any of you, then I regret that I will have to ask you to leave the crew.”
There was a moment of shocked silence before Martin continued.
“Most of you have been with me for a year and a half now. You’re more like a family to me than just my crew. It would kill me to lose any of you, but I will fight to keep Phoenix sailing the stars by doing this by the book, and not by drastic action that may cause more harm than good. I will understand if you feel you cannot afford to go on this way, but I hope that you will all stay.”
Burningbright contritely stepped up to Martin and hugged him. “I’m sorry, Captain. I spoke in haste and anger. But don’t you dare speak of breaking us apart again!”
Martin smiled and hugged hir back. “I promise that I won’t. Now it’s time for everyone to get back to their normal schedule, don’t you think? We’ve got a great business to run!”
This was Phoenix’s first trip to Kantorg, the home world of the Merraki. The reptiloids were well known for their superior scientific test and measurement equipment, and that was their principle export. Martin had scored a contract to pick up a consignment, and he had been lucky enough to find a load of goods to take there as well, thus making better use of the time spent travelling in that direction which was near the outer edge of the Federation. Kantorg was not exactly known for its tourism though, so there was not much to attract the crew of the Phoenix, but any chance to get away from the ship for a little R&R was nevertheless seized upon readily by most.
Martin elected to settle for hanging out at the spaceport bar with some other starship crewmembers. He had been warned to avoid the Merraki cuisine, but apparently they made some fine alcoholic beverages, and he was judiciously sampling them when a comm call came in.
“Would I be talking to Captain Yote of the commercial starship, Phoenix?” came a voice that Martin recognised as being synthesised by a Merraki translation device.
“Yes, this is Captain Yote.”
“I am Falthiss, procurement officer for the Kantorg branch of the Star Corps, and I would like to know if you would be available for an urgent consignment to be taken to a planet currently under exploration?”
Martin was intrigued but cautious. “It may be possible. Would you like to meet up and discuss the details?”
“That would be best. Can you do so immediately?”
“Then please come to my office, third level, Star Corps Complex, Block Two. I am transmitting travel coordinates.”
Martin noted the coordinates arriving and said, “Received, and on my way.”
Having not left the spaceport, Martin was delayed slightly by having to have his passport processed, but was soon on his way in a taxi. Totally automated, the vehicle nevertheless had no trouble accepting directions from an alien, and the trip was swift and brief, if not totally comfortable. Merraki were significantly smaller than the average Terran, and their taxis were built accordingly. He wondered if the chakats had squeezed themselves into one.
Martin was intrigued by the Merraki concept of a city. They tended to build down rather than up, and few structures extended beyond ground level. Below ground however, the structures could be very extensive. In their hot climate, it made sense to burrow to get away from the heat. The address that Martin had been given referred to the third level down, and there was no such thing as a room with a view. Also, like the taxi, the rooms were built to accommodate Merraki, and Martin found himself having to watch out for low doorways. Despite this though, it seemed that the Merraki working there were used to seeing aliens, and he was directed to Falthiss’ office without a qualm.
“Thank you for coming so promptly, Captain,” came Falthiss’ translated speech from a device sitting on his desk. Almost no Merraki bothered to learn another language, relying instead on their superior technology and near-infallible translation devices.
“Not a problem, sir,” Martin replied. Now that he was in the reptiloid’s presence, he could tell that the raptor-like Falthiss was a male, with their more conservative crest and scale colours. “However, I’m curious as to why you would need an independent trader when you normally do your own shipping.”
“It is a matter of urgency and availability. An exploration team requires a replacement machine, and we do not currently have a ship in port. Their own ship would have to interrupt its assignment and return here to pick it up, losing several days. You are here now though, and if you are willing to make a long detour, you would save us much valuable time, and be amply compensated for doing so.”
“That sounds promising, but I would need to know how much of a delay that would mean to my own schedule. Too much, and I won’t be able to afford the lost time. What are the details?”
Falthiss activated a holo-projector and displayed a 3D star map with Kantorg’s star centred on it, and other major stars highlighted on it. One other point was highlighted in red. “Here is the location of the planet Sylvania. It is approximately thirteen standard cruising days from Kantorg.”
Martin compared its location with their next intended port of call. “I see that it’s angled towards Aintak Tharl, so I won’t lose too many days. If I put on more speed, I can cut that down by a couple more days, but that will cost me more in fuel. How much are you offering for this job?”
“We are prepared to accept any reasonable price due to the urgency of this matter. What is your quote?” he countered.
“Give me a moment to calculate time and costs, please.”
“Of course,” Falthiss agreed.
Martin took out his PADD and calculated fuel expenditure for the extra distance and speed balanced against delivery requirements to Aintak Tharl and making up for lost time on the next leg. He threw in incidental costs, and then included a premium for express delivery service. He quoted a bit higher than normal, gambling that the Star Corps needed his services badly enough to pay what he asked.
“That will be satisfactory,” Falthis agreed promptly.
Martin wondered if he could have gone higher still, but decided that it might have been pushing his luck. “Okay, let’s sign the contract and we’ll get onto this right away.”
After all the niceties were observed, Martin was soon on his way. He activated his comm and called back to the ship. “Yote to Phoenix.”
“Madeline here, Captain,” came the prompt response. “What’s up?”
“Put in a recall to all personnel. We’ve got ourselves a priority job, and I’m moving up our departure time.”
“Aye Captain. Anything else?”
“Ask Zelkie or Risha – whoever gets back soonest – to prepare a container bay for me. I’ll be bringing up our load as soon as I can. That’s all.”
“Will do, Captain. Phoenix out.”
Martin directed his taxi to the Star Corps warehouse where their load was waiting. A Merraki female with a gaudy crest confirmed his pick-up order and told him to get into the passenger side of the container loader. Then she drove them to the spaceport apron where Martin’s shuttle was parked. They loaded the container onto the shuttle, and Martin signed for the delivery. The Merraki wished him safe voyage, and then departed.
Martin was just about to close up when Risha and Bruce arrived in a small automated ground car.
“Ho, Captain! Give us a lift?” Bruce called out.
“Of course. Any others coming?”
“Nah. The rest beat us to Zelkie’s shuttle and all the seats are full. Shi told us that if we hurried, we could ride up with you, or else shi’d have to make a return trip.”
“Good. Get in and buckle up. We’re lifting as soon as possible. Call the tower and get us clearance while I finish closing up.”
The kangaroo headed off to the cockpit, while Risha took it upon herself to ensure that their load was secure before getting into a passenger seat. Martin meanwhile closed the hatch, secured it and double-checked the seal, then joined Bruce in the cockpit.
As he slid into the chief pilot’s seat, Bruce said, “Tower control has given us clearance to lift in four minutes. I’m halfway through the pre-flight checks. We should be ready with a minute spare.”
“Cutting it a bit close, weren’t you?” Martin commented.
The roo shrugged. “It was either now or in 27 minutes for the next available slot.”
“Good call.” Martin then concentrated on completing the pre-flight checks. As Bruce had said, they were completed almost a minute before the designated time.
“Did you drink any alcohol?” Martin asked.
“No, Captain. I stayed dry as you requested. Pity though – this hot weather was giving me quite a thirst.”
Martin could empathise with that. The Merraki liked their hot, dry climate, but it was a bit harder on the Terran morphs. The Caitians might have found it a bit more comfortable though. “Good. You have the con. It’s been too soon since I had my last drink, and I don’t want to bend any safety regulations if I don’t have to.”
“Aye Captain. So what are the local brews like?”
“Not bad, actually. I did bring along a few samples for you to compensate for having to lay off the booze.”
“You’re a prince, Captain!” Bruce replied with a broad grin. “Time to go,” he added as he switched on the comm. “Phoenix Shuttle Baker to tower control. Request final clearance for scheduled departure.”
“You are clear to depart, Phoenix shuttle Baker,” came the prompt reply.
They boosted off into orbit and rendezvoused with Phoenix. While Zelkie and Risha saw to their important load, Martin headed off to the bridge and updated Bethany and the others on their change of plans. After confirming that their load was secured and all the crew had reported in and taken their posts, Phoenix departed for virtually unknown territory.
They made it to Sylvania in just over ten days, the best speed they could make without wasting too much expensive anti-matter fuel. The bridge crew watched the planet as they moved into orbit.
“Doesn’t it look a lot like Earth?” Ceres remarked.
Martin replied, “According to the data that I was given, it’s closer to being Earth-like than any planet found so far. It looks like being very promising for another colony.”
“Do we really need another colony world though?” Madeline’s holo-form asked. “The computer library tells me that we already have enough resources at the moment which will fill our needs for a century.”
Bethany answered. “You aren’t taking some things into account. First – finding worlds suitable for colonisation is rare. For every useful one we find, we reject hundreds of others. It’s possible that we may not find another one like this in our lifetimes. Secondly – it takes a long time to survey a world and make preparations to colonise and/or exploit its resources.”
“Thirdly,” interjected Martin, “you’ve forgotten about Loander’s people.” He nodded to their comptech seated at hir station. “While chatting with our Star Fleet friends about our Faleshkarti representatives, they told me that they would be looking for somewhere for them to colonise when they have licked the problems with their sexual maturity. Their other colonies virtually ruined those worlds, so they want to give the new generation of ‘corrected’ adults a fresh start. It’s also a kind of incentive to join the Federation as contributing members. It seems that they’re very impressed with what the Faleshkarti envoys have been doing.”
Loander nodded agreement with Martin. “It’s true. The Hona Council is keen to show what the Faleshkarti can contribute in order to gain the benefits of what the Federation has to offer.”
“The Federation is just going to hand over a whole planet to the Faleshkarti?” Ceres asked incredulously.
“Not exactly,” Bethany answered. “It will be developed as a Federation colony world, but with the Faleshkarti as the principle population, just like the chakats developed Chakona, or the Terran-Caitian Alliance developed T’Karr Paradisio. The idea is to foster greater integration between our races.”
“And give us one more place for us to trade in the future,” Martin added with a smile. “Even if it’s a bit out of our way for the moment…”
He was interrupted by Madeline. “Pardon me, Captain. Incoming communication.”
Madeline switched the call to the main screen. It lit up to reveal a silver fox in Star Corps uniform and captain’s insignia.
“Would I be addressing Captain Yote of the commercial vessel, Phoenix?”
“Yes,” Martin answered. “And you are…?”
“I’m Captain Blackwood of the Star Corps exploration ship, Endeavour. We’ve been eagerly awaiting your arrival.”
“We got here as fast as we could, Captain. Just let us know where you want the shipment delivered.”
“No need to deliver it. Just put your ship into parking orbit one kilometre from the Endeavour, and a shuttle will rendezvous with you and take it off your hands.”
“Easily done. We won’t be long. Yote out.”
Ceres was already laying in the course, and Phoenix was soon parked exactly one kilometre from the Star Corps ship. It was not so different from Phoenix, although a little newer and more modern, but considering that Phoenix used to serve the same function as Endeavour, it was hardly surprising.
“That’s odd,” Madeline said, turning her holo-body towards Martin. “I ‘see’ a shuttle coming up from the planet on an intercept course with our ship, but it’s only a small personnel type. They couldn’t possibly fit the shipment into that.”
Martin pondered that anomaly for a moment. “Maybe it’s just an advance team sent to check it out before shipping it down?”
“Still seems odd to me.”
“I agree.” Martin shrugged. “We’ll just have to wait and see. On the other hand, I don’t like unexplained things, so I think I’ll have Anastasiya come watch over whoever this is. Hmmm… maybe Burningbright also to get an empathic impression.”
“Getting a little paranoid, Captain?” Bethany asked.
“No, just a little more cautious after all we’ve been through.”
The approaching shuttle contacted Phoenix and was directed to the shuttle bay where their consignment was being held. Martin and Zelkie were there to meet them, with Anastasiya and Burningbright standing back a bit, alert but not too concerned.
The shuttle’s door opened, and three chakats exited. The first was golden-furred, cougar-patterned, with long blond hair tied back in a ponytail. The second was black-furred, with creamy-white stripes like a skunk, with long hair of the same creamy colour. The third was also cougar-patterned, although with darker fur than the first, and was a brunette instead.
The first stepped up to Martin and said, “I’m guessing that you’re Captain Yote?”
At a nod from him, shi continued, “I’m Chakat Goldfur, and these are Chakats Swiftwalk,” shi indicated the skunk-patterned one, “and Oceanrider. I’m here to check the consignment before delivery, and then hand it over to Swiftwalk to take it onsite. Oceanrider is our taxi driver.”
“Welcome to the Phoenix, Shir Goldfur,” Martin replied. “This is Zelkie, my Loadmaster, and behind me are Anastasiya, our Security Chief, and Burningbright, our Environmental Engineer who helps me out with other odd jobs.”
Goldfur smiled and offered a greeting hug, and the others followed suit. When shi got to Anastasiya, shi said, “Good grief! You’re almost big enough to be mistaken for a Rakshani.”
Anastasiya grinned. “Except Rakshani are not herm like me.”
“Wanna bet?” Goldfur asked with a mischievous grin.
That startled the tiger, but before shi could query the chakat, shi was called away to check the cargo.
The container was opened, and the machine was given a thorough inspection by Goldfur’s experienced eyes. Finally shi said, “It looks like everything is there and in good condition. I’ll be able to install it right away.”
“Great,” Martin said, holding out a PADD. “Please sign here and you can take it as soon as your cargo shuttle arrives.”
Goldfur signed, saying, “We already have the transport here, Captain, and seeing as we’ve been waiting for this impatiently, we’d better get going right away.. Shi held out a hand to Swiftwalk who took it and then placed hir other hand on the machine. “It was nice meeting you, Captain Yote.”
And then shi, Swiftwalk, and the machine vanished, leaving only a flurry of air in their wake.
“What the hell?” exclaimed Martin. “I’ve seen a Transporter in action, and that wasn’t it!”
Oceanrider grinned. “It’s a bit startling when you see it for the first time. Swiftwalk is a teleporter. They’re already at the site where the machine is to be installed.”
“Wow! I’ve heard of teleporters, but they’re so rare that I thought I’d never see one, let alone meet one. How come shi didn’t just teleport up here though?”
“For the same reason that shi didn’t teleport to Kantorg and fetch the machine back – shi has to have been to that place before, or get a lock on it some other way. Shi’s never been to your ship before, so I had to shuttle hir up.”
“Wait – you said something about teleporting to Kantorg. You’re not telling me that shi can teleport that far, surely?”
“Further,” Oceanrider answered him. “Shi teleports back and forth to Earth all the time. In fact they can’t tell if shi has any distance limit at all.”
“That’s amazing,” Martin said as he shook his head in disbelief. “A few people like that could put people like me out of business.”
Oceanrider laughed. “No fear of that. Not enough of them for a start, and there are other limitations. Shi still needs people like you and me to get hir places shi hasn’t been, and the more shi teleports, the harder it is on hir. Anyway, I’ve got other work to do, so I’ll say goodbye for now. Good to meet you folks!”
Oceanrider was soon on hir way, while the Phoenix crew left for their respective stations.
When Martin got back to the bridge, he had to explain to them how they had managed to deliver a large machine in such a small shuttle. There were quite a few who were disappointed at not having met a genuine teleporter.
“Any chance we could go meet hir?” asked Bruce. “After all, while we’re all the way out here, we might as well take a bit of time to have a look around.”
“You know we have to hurry to our next destination to get back on schedule,” Martin replied.
“But if we teleport down, we could have a look around, and still leave fairly quickly,” the kangaroo said slyly.
“Brilliant idea, except that I have no say in what Swiftwalk does.”
“Could it hurt to ask?”
Martin was about to tell Bruce to forget about it when he realised that the roo had a point, and he was getting too much like a stuffy businessman. He had decided on this career in order to see and do things that most people did not get to do, and here he was at a brand new world and he was going to leave without taking a look? No way!
Martin tapped his comm unit. “Phoenix to Endeavour – could I talk to Captain Blackwood, please?”
Half a minute later, the main screen lit up with Blackwood’s face. “Captain Yote – is there a problem?”
“No, Captain Blackwood. Instead, I would like to ask a big favour on behalf of my crew, as well as myself.”
“What would that be?”
“We’ve come out all this way, so we’d like to have a look around while we’re here, if possible.”
“The planet isn’t interdicted, so I have no legal authority to stop you, but I would prefer it if you did not land anywhere and possibly interfere with some of our work, or get into trouble somehow.”
“Well, I have a solution for that, and that’s where the favour really comes in. If your teleporter – Swiftwalk – were to take a couple of parties down for a quick look around, we could stay safely in designated areas, and do it all quickly. We really need to leave again soon, you see.”
“Ah yes, that makes sense. However, I cannot drag Swiftwalk away from hir work willy-nilly, nor is shi obliged to provide such a service. In fact this urgent delivery was a special exception that shi made from hir normal duties. However, as you provided us such excellent service, I will do you that favour and ask if shi can spare the time.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
“I’ll call you back with the result soon. Endeavour out.”
They only had to wait about five minutes before they got a call back.
“Good news, Captain – Swiftwalk has consented to giving you a brief visit. Shi will be available in about half an hour from now, so please be ready for hir. Shi will teleport to your ship at the point that you met hir.”
“Thank you! That’s good news. We’ll be ready when shi arrives. Is there anything that we should prepare for the visit?”
“No, shi will only be showing the secure or safe sites. Now I must attend to other matters. Good day to you and your crew.”
Martin organised the crew into two parties, and was ready with the first group in the shuttle bay when Swiftwalk reappeared at the exact same spot from which shi had departed. However, whereas shi had been wearing a full uniform top on hir first visit, this time shi was wearing only a halter with a single strap over hir left shoulder. It revealed a black patch of fur shaped like a paw-mark on the creamy fur over hir right breast.
“Pardon my informal dress,” Swiftwalk said. “It’s very warm where I work, and we tend to dress as lightly as possible so as to not overheat.”
“So I’d better take off my jacket?” Martin asked.
“I’d recommend it. So are these everyone?”
All the chakats including children were there, as well as the Faleshkarti, Bruce, Penny, Ceres, Danson and Risha.
Martin replied, “Half the crew. I did say to Captain Blackwood that we’d be sending a couple of parties.”
“I suppose that you can’t all simply abandon your ship,” Swiftwalk said with a grin. “Okay, here’s the drill. Everyone lay a hand on me somewhere – no groping please,” shi added with a wink. “Everyone ready? Okay, we’re… here!”
And just like that, the group was standing in a small clearing in a forest. Several people were either putting up tents, attending to scientific instruments, or preparing meals. Glowing force-field poles encircled the encampment.
“Welcome to Sylvania! In case you’re wondering, I’m normally a planetary scout, and this is the team that I lead with my mate. We’ve just finished travelling for the day, hence why I’m reasonably free to play tour guide for a short while. And this is the forest that we’ve been trekking through for the past sixteen days for the biologists in the team.”
“You weren’t kidding about the heat,” Risha said with feeling.
“I’ll take you somewhere a bit cooler in a moment, but this is the tropics, so these temperatures are pretty normal around here.”
A familiar golden-furred cougar chakat stepped up to the group, and said, “Not exactly the most comfortable climate for those of us with fur, but it makes for some spectacular vegetation and the wildlife that inhabits it. So you’re all from Phoenix, eh?”
Martin blinked in surprise. “Didn’t you have long hair in a ponytail before?”
The chakat laughed. “You’re talking about my identical twin sister, Goldfur. I’m Goldendale, Swiftwalk’s lifemate, and I prefer my hair shoulder-length. It’s a lot more practical out here, despite Swiftwalk preferring to keeping hirs long.”
“Ah! That explains it. I’ve never met twin chakats before. Yes, we’re all from the Phoenix, and taking a chance to look around while we can.”
“I don’t blame you. That’s why I love my work.”
Swiftwalk said, “I had better move on, Love. I’ve got to show this lot around a bit, and then go back and get a second group. The sun will go down in less than two hours, so I can’t muck around. I’ll give our cub a feed after that.”
Goldendale nodded. “Have fun, folks!”
Swiftwalk held out hir arms. “You know the drill, everyone.”
The skunk-patterned chakat teleported the group around to various sites, including the base of operations. Shi took them to some of hir favourite scenic spots that shi had found while on hir treks, including one that was high on a cliff and gave a panoramic view of the fantastic landscape below. The whirlwind tour took a bit over half an hour, and then shi returned them to the ship where the second group was waiting.
Valentina was carrying a holo-camera, and Martin remarked to hir, “I don’t think that you’ll have much time to do much holography.”
“Maybe,” shi replied, “but Madeline wants to get look at Sylvania too, so I promised to be getting shots for her.”
“Why doesn’t this Madeline come along also?” Swiftwalk asked curiously.
“Because I can’t leave the ship,” Madeline’s voice came over the public address.
Martin explained the situation to the chakat.
“I see,” shi said. “In that case, I’ll try to give your tiger friend a fair chance to take some good shots for you, Ms Madeline.”
“Thank you, Swiftwalk!”
“You’re welcome, but we’d better hurry, or else we’ll lose the light.”
“One more question, please,” Anastasiya said. Shi indicated hir and Shintaro’s gravid bellies. “Does teleportation affect pregnant people like us?”
Swiftwalk shook hir head. “As far as I know, it should not. The way teleportation works is totally different from how a Transporter does. Now, if that satisfies everyone, let’s get going.”
The second group was organised like the first, and in a moment they were gone. Their return took a quarter hour longer than Martin’s group, and Valentina was able to report that shi had been able to get some very nice shots.
They thanked Swiftwalk profusely, exchanging lots of hugs before they had to part company. The chakat had hir dinner and hir lifemate waiting, and the Phoenix had to begin its journey back to more familiar territory.
Martin stopped by the holosuite after dinner, and found the familiar sight of the cliff-side vista reproduced virtually perfectly. The only exception was because it was from a recording rather than a program, the scene kept looping. If you watched carefully for long enough, the same pair of avians swooped past on exactly the same path, and the same colourful insects landed on the same flower, and the handful of clouds went back to where they were a few minutes ago.
Madeline was standing close to the cliff’s edge watching the view, a holosuite generated wind blowing her hair around. She noticed Martin approaching and said, “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yes it is. I’m sorry that you couldn’t get to see it in person.”
Madeline smiled gently. “Captain, you’ve got to stop that. I’ve come to terms with how my life will be lived. Besides, how long did you get to stay on the planet? Mere minutes! While I have this…” she waved her hand to indicate the whole landscape, “…whenever I want, for as long as I want. How many people back on Earth would ever get even a glimpse of what I get to see while travelling with you? I’m really the lucky one.”
Martin nodded. “You’re right, and I’m happy that we’re able to give you this opportunity.”
“Watch the scenery with me for a little while,” said Madeline as she put her arm around Martin’s waist.
“Gladly,” Martin replied, putting his own arm around her shoulders.
The coyote later realised how much more he really got to see of Sylvania in that time spent with Madeline.
Continued in Chapter 9.
Characters and story copyright © 2012 Bernard Doove.
except Risha DeMar who was created by Chakat Fleetfoot and used with permission.
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