Aphelion Issue 294, Volume 28
May 2024
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Old Wounds

By Bill Wolfe

Based on art by William R. Warren, Jr. as well as characters and situations created by Bill Wolfe, Casey Callaghan, and N.J. Kailhofer

Some of the individual versions of the stories in this series were written for forum flash challenge contests to help create this "world." As such, stories may not match the characters or settings of the continuous version of the story, which blended all the entries together.


Lieutenant-Commander Ophelia Dunsirn didn't believe in intuition. She had earned her way to second-in-command of Ap-Two through hard work, intelligence and perseverance. She'd flown strike missions in Iran and Tibet, and had scored the highest ever on the EuroNASA physical/emotional fitness exam. She had complete trust in herself and didn't worry about her place in history. She'd earn that too, eventually. But the butterflies in her stomach since Captain Al-Hassanieh had made the announcement just wouldn't seem to go away. No other way to say it, she had a bad feeling about this.

She'd been wearing her Com-Officer hat when the priority, eyes-only, encrypted message had been recorded by Ap-Two on its way to Ap-One, nine light-seconds ahead on their trajectory to Mars. It was only the second such message she'd heard-of in the three months they'd been underway. The first was when Roberson's mother had died. Within ten minutes of this latest transmission, however, the Captain had issued a communications blackout with Earth. The computers would continue to record but the entire crew was completely locked-out until further notice. This was unprecedented. All ten members of the Martian All My Children Fan Club were going to throw a fit when the signal was interrupted from the 'Live' broadcast.


"Relax Ensign." the Captain's manner was grim. Ensign First-Class Archana Yarlagadda, was trying hard to float at attention. It wasn't working well.

"You have my word that this conversation is both completely confidential and quite necessary. Clear?"

"Yes, Captain!"

"You were at The Academy with Lieutenant-Commander Dunsirn, were you not?"

"Yes Captain."

"Tell me about her pregnancy, Ensign. Everything. I want facts, rumors, anything you overheard and anything you suspected. That's an order."


"Shall I repeat myself, Ensign?"

"No Sir!" The Ensign paused, collecting his thoughts. "It surprised us all, Sir. She never so much as flirted with anyone—man or woman—when she was a Middy. She just didn't seem interested.


"Well, Sir, she started showing during our last semester but she refused any special medical restrictions on the physical part. She never spoke to anyone about it and my understanding is that she gave the child—uh, boy?— up for adoption after graduation."

"Speculations, Ensign." He wasn't asking.

"Several, Sir. There was the usual, of course. Admirals and Commodores and even the pizza delivery guy, but nothing really believable." The young officer took a deep breath. "And then there was some scuttle out of the civilian sickbay staff that she might have been raped."

The Captain didn't flinch, but his dark complexion seemed to blanche. "Explain."

"My roomie was dating a civilian nurse and he claimed that he'd heard that Ophelia—uh—Lieutenant-Commander Dunsirn, came-in about oh-five-hundred one Sunday morning, she was scratched-up and bruised and asking for a morning-after pill. There was no physical exam but the nurse said she'd worked plenty of ER's and knew a rape victim when she saw one. If she'd reported an assault, we would all have heard about it."


". . .Sidney Barnes? I'd have a lot of trouble believing that, Captain. For one thing, Ophelia's one of three people that ever knocked Hideki Yoshizawa out-cold in his own dojo. If ten Navy Seals went after her at least three of them would be dead before they could subdue her. I'd stake my career on it. And Barnes, Sir? If you'll pardon the expression, my ten-year-old niece could kick his scrawny geek civilian ***. Captain, there must be some mistake. I don't care if he was working in Annapolis at the time. And furthermore, Captain, Barnes is still a member of my crew and Ophelia would never disobey an order to leave him alone. I strongly advise against confining either of them to their quarters. Over."

Commander Alexandru Macridin released the transmit button and decided to review the news clip that the Captain had forwarded to him on the secure laserlink. He had a minimum of sixty seconds to burn until he received an answer from Captain Al-Hassanieh aboard Ap-One. The decryption/encryption time for these super-secure links was nineteen seconds.

It was a TurnerFOXTM International Report and he had fast-forwarded to the salient part. Atop the screen was the headline, "Sex and Scandal in Space" and there were two, stock EuroNASA head-shot photos side-by-side. One was an excellent, professional shot of a bespectacled young man, pale and gaunt, with thinning blonde hair and a toothy smile. The other might have been a mug shot but even the poor lighting, lack of make-up, and severe hairstyle couldn't mask that this was a striking woman. Of African-Armerican/Pakistani lineage, she was dark, exotic, fit, and didn't give a flip about anything but the mission.

". . . has now confirmed that medical genetic testing done on all the Mars crews and their families prior to launch has indicated that Doctor Sidney Barnes, the only civilian on the mission, is the biological father of Lieutenant-Commander Ophelia Dunsirn's illegitimate child who was born shortly. . ."

"Al-Hassanieh to Macridin on squawk-two-fiver-nine-orange. Mac, I understand your concerns and I trust your judgment. Just go—and I mean personally—and order Barnes to his quarters until further notice. No explanation. And let's get Ophelia in your office for a little chat, shall we? Blackout will continue until we sort this out. Thanks Mac. Over."

According to the duty log, Barnes should be at his station on the aft reactor.

When the Commander approached the little den next to the Pu-Be/Thermocouple Generator bay, he heard a voice.

"Barnes! Wake-up, Barnes! Awwwwww—Crap!"

He had just turned the corner when a bloody hand reached for the com panel and Lieutenant-Commander Dunsirn's stern, calm voice began to echo throughout the ship.


When she looked-up and saw Macridin floating there, she released the button and lowered her voice.

"There's been an accident, Commander. I'm starting CPR."


2008 Bill Wolfe

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