Quinn studied the seemingly lifeless body of Scott Draper inside the chamber saturated in yellow light. He had his self-doubts but unlike his old friend he was sure the crew could see them clearly. He touched the shield and felt it vibrate. Somehow like him they were still alive, but for how long?
“He’s doing remarkably better you know,” Dr. Schenckler said catching Quin off guard.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to be sneaking around the med lab in the dark.” Quinn stepped forward into the light.
“No, don’t apologize. I was actually coming here to take the Captain to the shuttle bay.”
“What, how come?”
“We’re transporting him to the surface, let’s just say for safe keeping. Dr. Samuel has offered to house him during our ordeal.”
“Is that wise?”
“Turns out the Khad have no qualm taking care of the sick and wounded. Some macho thing. They don’t fear those ailing and won’t attack anybody that can’t fight back.”
“And what about you?”
“In exchange, I will make our technology accessible to the settlers who could get injured.”
“What about the Horizon?”
Just then Ruth arrived in the lab. “Don’t worry you’ll be in good hands with Dr. White and Warrant Officer Nichols.”
“Don’t worry sir, I’m had combat training and have been in some skirmishes before.”
“That’s good to know,” Quinn went to shake her hand but she pulled away. “Something wrong?”
“Sorry sir I’m just not used to being treated with respect.”
“I’ve read your record, you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. We’ve all had our adventurous youth experiences. I can admit to doing some indiscretions myself. I just didn’t get caught.” Quinn let out a laugh that surprised Ruth. After an awkward moment, she shook his hand. “Good luck Doctor.” He said to Schenckler. “Take care of our boy.”
“You take care of this crew and this ship. Both of you.”
The Atmospheric shuttle sat on the docking pad warming up. Alison shifted her seat to fit her shorter legs. She strapped her harness across her shoulders and reached over to see if she could touch all the controls. She wore a blue flight suit indicating her as a Pilot. Tatiana in dark gray suit waited beside Alison firming up last minute details on the navigation system while she laughed and joked with the command crew at the other end of the COM link.
Alison envied her aloof indifference which others must have seen as cockiness. Confidence was necessary for pilots, it allowed them to weigh options and make decisions with a degree of faith when facts and figures were completely out of their reach. On the other hand, overconfident could only land them in a lot of trouble.
Jetsenia stood waiting by the cargo hold. She quietly waved for Tati to come talk to her. Tati stopped what she was doing and went below where she stuck her head out the side hatch.
“Hey girl,” Tati said. “We’ll talk. Promise.”
Jetsenia reached over and gave Tati a hug. “Damn you these people are counting on you.” Jetsenia whispered in her ear.
“Don’t worry I know.” Tati went back into the shuttle. She took one last look at Jetsenia through the window then swung herself into the co-pilot’s seat.
“What happen to us?” Alison asked.
“Shut up Alison.”
Eric called in, “Recon one your moniker will be Bad Boy at Dawn and I didn’t come up with it. You are cleared for takeoff. Remember to always fly toward the sun. Good hunting.”
The engines kicked into high gear and they were ready for takeoff. Alison flicks the switch for the green light to flood the cabin. “We have the green to go.” She informed the crew.
“Take us out.” Shenckler communicated back.
Alison hesitated; glancing up to see just about the whole crew of the Horizon had shown up to see them off. Then she spotted Jetsenia and the others. “Tati look.”
Tatiana smiled and waved to them. Jetsenia smiled back and blew her a kiss, that was all Tati needed to get back on track.
“Jealous.” Tati said placing her hand on Alison’s.
Thanks to their bionics the climb to the ledge was swift and easy. Sadia marveled at Matt who was graceful as a gazelle during the climb. Joseph was clumsy but managed to keep up. When they arrived at the look out the scene was spectacular and breath taking, but sightseeing was not their reason for being there. They worked their way around to the western side of the ledge and stopped short as Matt flung his arms out to his sides. Sadia was about to ask what was wrong but she never got the words out.
Beyond them as far as the eye could see was an army of shoulders in formation marching across the desert floor.
“They got all those guys in three ships?” Joseph’s humor though not appropriate made Matt smirk.
Matt realized he had seen all this before. He had stood on this ledge and looked out at this scene in a dream. Was this a part of his destiny? If it was then maybe there was no free will. It dawned on him that he had truly come full circle.
“My god Matt, what are we going to do?” Sadia asked with deep concern.
What she didn’t know was Matt’s brain was already at work on strategic designs and attacks to take the enemy out. He had already eliminated a third of the troops. He looked at Sadia face through her visor and saw the shock in her eyes. “Look, Storm this is how it is. This is either a view to our destruction or it’s a view to theirs. From this point on we need to be willing to annihilate. Not just defeat them but wipe them out utterly. They don’t take prisoners, they won’t be fighting fair and they look at Human’s as mutated primates. No mercy, no humanity just obliteration.”
The two stood silently as they looked out over the sea of soldiers moving toward them. They knew Matt was right and they figured with him on their side they might just stand a chance. Joseph turned to Matt. “You have been in this situation before?”
Matt laughed. “This? This ain’t shit. I’ve been in a lot worst then this.”
“What were your missions during the war?”
“They were all covert suicide missions.”
“Matt, you never told us that.”
“So how many?”
“Forty-nine. Give or take.”
“You’re lying.” Sadia yelled at him.
Matt gave her a very serious look. “I sure wish I was, believe me.”
Lorne was sure he was seeing things but there before him stood a man who looked like old man Peters. The problem was he left the old man at the hut still getting dressed. He moved fast but not that fast, When the two saw each other they both gave a look of surprise but said nothing.
Lorne was amazed that he was not only dressed identically but stood with the same lean in their stance.
“I received your message and here I am.” The old man said as he walked up to him.
“You sent the message to me.” Lorne said.
“We haven’t had an opportunity to talk in a long time.”
“We just spent the last hours discussing the invasion.”
Just then they both stopped as another Peters came hobbling up the path. When he saw them, he stopped at the sight of his twin.
“You!” the two Peters said at the same time.
They confronted each other. “Is this your doing?” One of the Peters asked.
“I received a priority alert message to meet here.”
They both looked at Lorne bewildered. “So, when were you two going to tell me there were two of you?” Lorne asked.
“It’s a long-complicated story.”
“I can explain it simple. We’re the same damn person.”
“Sure, that explains it; Idiot, now he’s more confused.”
The sky grew dark and the air was thick like an electric storm. Lorne had noticed it first. The wind was blowing wildly before the two Peters were conscious of what was happening around them.
Then the clouds parted and a black triangle craft emerged. The ship dropped a shuttle craft silently almost to the ground and hovered in front of the three of them. The triangle ship returned into the clouds as the craft landed. A man in a red spacesuit walked toward them. He stopped and removed his helmet. He was another old man Peters.
“Now, I’m really confused.” Lorne said sarcastically. The third old man was so eerily the same as the others he even though he wore a spacesuit. “How many of you are there?”
After a moment of reflection, the three busted out in laughter.
“Where did you come from?” The one of the twins was curious to know.
“I’m the Alpha time traveler.”
“You, but I am.”
“It became necessary to allow you to believe that.”
The two twins looked at each other in horror.
“If someone who travelled back in time to change the future he would really be changing the past or in this case his past. His interactions have the unwanted side effect of voiding the first traveler’s influence on his past and therefore the second traveler’s actions.”
“So, what are you doing here?”
“Well to put it bluntly for the first time since we started the events have taken a completely unpredictable direction.”
“Matt Stewart?” They both said at the same time.
“The real question is; will it matter.”
Lorne studied the faces of the old men as the reality came over him. “Then, you don’t know how this battle will turn out?”
“This may decide the future of the entire Human Race.”
Jihan was tired and desperate but she couldn’t stop running. She made it to the entrance of the Khad compound where the guards stopped her. Fluent in their language she requested an audience with Governor Tor. Recognizing her, they quickly ushered her up to his heavily guarded suite.
“My word what are you doing here?” Tor was shocked to see his young friend.
“Please My Lord you have to call this invasion off.”
“I’m afraid I can’t my dear. These guards aren’t here for my protection. They’re here to keep me from interfering.”
“I don’t understand, aren’t you in charge?”
“Unfortunately, the little power I have has guaranteed the safety of your family, thankfully they’re still in Omori Shi’s favor, so they should come out of this all right.”
“What about the colonists?”
“They have made their choice. Once they joined the Earthmen.”
“But they wanted peace?”
“Apparently Omori Shi is not interested in peace.”
“What about Matt Stewart?
“So, you love him don’t you. No need to deny it.”
“Can’t we spare him?”
“I’m afraid his fate is sealed. If only he wasn’t so determined to get himself killed,”
“I have to talk to Omori Shi; can you help me to see him?”
“Yes, my child, but be prepared for the worst.”
Omori Shi was not surprised when Jihan slammed open the door.
“Princess, come to beg for Stewart’s life.” He said mockingly. “The Basrilian princess was here too. Your Earthman must be Good Stock. No doubt, he has proved to be much better than the other humans I’ve encountered. Remains me of your father.”
Jihan launched herself at Omori Shi punching him with her fists. “I hate you,”
He laughed at her as he grabbed her arms with his scaly grip to hold her at bay. “I am pleased. Indeed, you are Aurora’s child.”
“I beg you to spare his life?”
“No, BUT you beg only for your spaceman, unlike your father. He did beg for your life, for the Settlers lives. I accepted his offer. He traded his life for them.”
“That’s enough.” Tor yelled in defiance. “She’s just a child.”
The general threw Jihan at him. “Here, Tor, take your pet.”
“The Orion Rulers will not like what you are doing. No workers we have ever encountered can do what the humans have done.”
Omori Shi laughed again. “What did your great Human Hitler state? THINK THOUSAND TIMES BEFORE TAKING A DECISION BUT AFTER TAKING DECISION NEVER TURN BACK EVEN IF YOU GET THOUSAND DIFFICULTIES!”
“Then you defy the Orion Regime?”
“You believe I care?”
“I hope you all die,” Jihan screamed,
“But I must admit these humans are not as hapless a race as I thought you were. This Earthman has brought out the best in you.” Omori Shi bowed to her as Tor carried her out the room. “THOSE WHO WANT TO LIVE, LET THEM FIGHT, AND THOSE WHO DO NOT WANT TO FIGHT IN THIS WORLD OF ETERNAL STRUGGLE DO NOT DESERVE TO LIVE.”