Aphelion Issue 294, Volume 28
May 2024
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Old Wounds: The Conclusion

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.

". . .just how it is, Captain, we simply won't know until he wakes-up. And Doc says that will take a while. Over." Macridin paused. Damn that turnaround time. Barnes was in sickbay, hooked to monitors feeding information back to Earth; five-minutes delayed, of course.

The three remaining crew were all with him. Mac hated having to admit it, but he didn't know who to trust. The odds that all three were in on it were as slim as he could make it. Now, at least, it was possible that the perpetrator wasn't even on his ship. He hoped so. He might even have prayed it was so.

"Al-Hassanieh to Macridin on squawk-one-fiver-nine-deuce. Mac, it's official. Everybody on Ap-One managed to circumvent the blackout order. I got two who built their own radios and heard it on NPR, one who's been getting CNN Live-Feed on a jury-rigged monitor, and two that have been in contact with a high-school on Earth where the kids built their own laserlink. These were all in place before the blackout. Worst part is, I knew about that last one. I just forgot. Over-and-out."

Macridin sighed. It was the same story on his ship. These were all very clever people or they wouldn't be here. They also had a lot of time on their hands. The only person who hadn't built or rigged some kind of com system was Lieutenant-Commander Dunsirn. Maybe Barnes, of course, but he wasn't talking. They all knew now that Barnes was the father of Ophelia's child. Which meant that if the rumors of her assault were well-known, there were four suspects on his ship and five on Ap-One. Mac disregarded the Captain. He didn't have the technical expertise. Macridin knew he was innocent, and Barnes, of course.

It looked like a panel overloaded when Barnes logged-in for his daily checks. It damn-near took his head off. Oh yeah, these were all very clever individuals. Control had informed the Captain that anyone—on either ship—could have hacked that panel. Everybody had the codes and inter-ship telemetry wasn't affected by the blackout. Control also said that it may have been a malfunction. It was time to talk to Ophelia and—hopefully—get this mess sorted.


". . . .You could say, Commander, that I got just what I asked for. Sidney Barnes. What are the odds?"

The wistful smile on her face was both a puzzlement and a relief for her commanding officer. Regardless of the rumor mill, she was no longer on his suspect list.

"For what it's worth, the incident in the infirmary was true. Do you remember Gunny Jones? Tenth-degree black belt in Aikido, super-marathoner, took the Gold for Decathlon in the twenty-eight Games? I trained with him weekends while I was at the Academy. I had a real crush on him. He told me that if I could catch him, I could have him. Took me six weeks running through the Virginia countryside and some strategically-placed barbed-wire from an old fenceline, but I managed."

"And you never told anyone?" Macridin was trying very hard not to show how stunned he was. You never know about people. You just never know.

"None of their business, was it?"

"No, Lieutenant-Commander, it wasn't." He paused for a deep, focusing, breath. "So he wasn't the father of your baby."

"Commander. . .Mac?" her eyes asked for a variance in formality. He nodded.

"My sister can't have children. I wouldn't tell you why if you ordered me to do so, let's just leave it at that." Macridin nodded again, she'd given him fair warning.

"And I was about to embark on a career that was going to take me into harm's way, Big Time. You know me, Mac. Do I strike you as the kind likely to have an 'accident,' when it comes to something like this?"

"No, Ophelia, you don't. You plan everything and execute your plan with precision."

"Thank you, Sir. Well this was no accident, either. We hear a lot on this mission about our place in history. Well, I wanted to leave something of myself behind if I got blown out of the sky over Tehran."

Macridin was beginning to see where this was going, but he let her go at her own pace.

I asked the sperm bank for a donor with blue eyes, blond hair, in excellent health, and brilliant.

His face must have given him away because she answered what he dare not ask.

"My sister's husband—David—is a blue-eyed blond, that's why. Achmed—my grandfather's name—looks like he could be their son. I wanted a stranger, however, because imagine how awkward things could get if David was the biological father. This was my child, my shot at immortality, and the father forever anonymous. Or so we thought. . ."

"I could see Barnes making a. . .uh. . .donation."

"Yeah, he's got the arrogance for it, I agree." Again that wistful smile. "But you know? I really did get what I asked for. Lock, stock, and genius IQ. I have to admit, I've wondered. He's a really great kid."

"So much for my suspects." He was incredibly relieved.

"Oh? Commander?" He didn't know what it was, but something had changed. She was his exec, again.

"No motive. It must have been an accident."

"I agree with you there, Sir. It has to have been an accident, if you get my drift, Sir."

"Explain, Lieutenant-Commander."

"Twelve people, two years crammed together. If someone did this, they'll soon find out they had no cause. Barnes won't be in danger."

"But if. . . "

"Are you going to lock someone up? Where? Twenty-four hour guard? Who can we spare for that?"

"So you're saying. . ."

"It was an accident, Sir. Plain and simple. We're on a mission and we just can't spare anyone to be guilty of attempted murder."

"It's not on the duty roster, is it, Lieutenant-Commander?"

"No Sir, it's not."


2008 Bill Wolfe

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