Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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Butterfly Cocoon

by A.R. Norris

Marie Hadner shut down her console for the night. Leaning back in the chair and pinching the bridge of her nose, she let out a self-pitying sigh. It had been a long shift, on an outskirt colony, and nothing had happened as with the last thirty-two shifts...

Well, to be fair, stuff had happened -- just not the kind of stuff she thought was important. Hank and Todd's community garden feud, a long standing part of the colony's history, had yet again boiled over. This time over how many rows each vegetable should receive. The disagreement had resulted in a sword fight of sorts, hoe versus shovel, with two concussions, a cut ear, and severely bashed up knees.

Oh, her old patrol unit was surely laughing at her now. Marie thought miserably. Of course, it was her own fault. Pride and ego had stuffed her foot one too many times into her mouth and her superiors had put her into her place, reassigning her to the furthest remote colony in the civilized galaxy. Pluto-C, or more formally Pluto Sector Colony, was a collection of die-hard space colonists with a generalized characteristic of reclusive, eccentric, and...well odd.

Heading out of the dinky compartment that was the hub for Colony Patrol Division she moved down the connecting spoke passage to the colony's core sphere. There were exactly four hundred and fifty such spokes leading to the core sphere. At the end of the spokes were civilian quarters, classrooms, science labs, a medical ward, and even three for a small community theater, game room, and exercise facility.

The core sphere held the community garden, food processing unit, community shower, a mid-size nature preserve, and the docking bay. The whole station was shaped like a circular disk that rotated to provide medium grade gravity. Any transporters had to arrive or depart from the top or bottom of the core sphere.

"Hey, Officer Hadner." A high-pitched male voice called to her as she entered the main core parlor hall. She recognized the prominent Facilities Director, Peter Morris.

Leaving the group near the Community Nature Preserve, Peter scuttled over. He had been the only person she could've used that term for, but, well, that's exactly what he did. Always hunched slightly, he walked with his right hip leading a little. This caused his left leg to take big, long steps and his right, little baby steps. His hair the color of silver reached the middle of his back, worn in a single thick braid. His eyes twinkled a bright deep green and his face was long and narrow with over prominent cheekbones, bushy black eyebrows, and a pointy chin.

"Lieutenant Hadner," he repeated after he'd reached her, a little winded from the effort. "I'm glad I caught you. We have a bit of a dilemma."

Marie ensured her eyes didn't roll by sheer force of will but did let her head cock along with her right eyebrow. "Don't tell me Hank and Todd are at it again."

Peter shook his head solemnly but the twinkle in his eye gave away his obvious enjoyment of the long standing Hank versus Todd drama. "Oh no, not since we put them on opposite sides of the ward."

"Good." She waited a couple beats lightly tapping her fingers on her thigh. "Well, what's the dilemma?"

Peter snapped his fingers, just remembering there was a dilemma. "Oh, yes." He leaned into her, his breath smelled like onions and mint. "Bill, the engineer, is missing." Popping back up and widening his eyes Peter threw out his hands to emphasize the huge proportions of the crisis.

Marie sorted through her mental files until she came up with a visual of Bill. William Scoland, aka Bill the Engineer, as everyone called him. Small -- petite, even -- man, with blue eyes and blonde wiry hair. Very pale complexion of a long-time colonist, with visible veins.

"How long has it been since anyone's seen him?" she inquired while pulling out her handheld.

Peter rubbed his temples with his fingers and closed his eyes in deep concentration. "Leah last saw him two days ago. They had plans to go together to the community theater showing tonight. It started two hours ago and he never met up with her nor was he at the event." He waved over another man, tall and slender with narrow shoulders and a long neck. "Nick here stated he didn't perform any of his engineer requests today."

"Nope, and he's always one to stay on top of his requests," Nick confirmed in a deep baritone rumble. "Never let them sit longer than necessary." He methodically picked at his short beard and stared at her through hawk-like eyes, deep set and very close together. His large, narrow nose only added to the effect.

Two hours later, her and her team finished their preliminary work. Well, team was a big word for what she had. The team consisted of one full-time and three part-time Patrol Division personnel.

"Okay, what've we got?" She propped a hip on the table and looked over her team. They were in her quarters due to the fact that the division office was too small to accommodate all of them at once.

Gerry looked over his handheld. "I grabbed a couple of civilians," he smiled broadly at the ability to use the official wording for his neighbors, "and we systematically checked the colony, compartment by compartment. Nada, he's gone, unless he found a way to fit in a space the size of a ration pack."

Nearing fifty, Gerry was a scientist who moonlighted for her on odd shifts. He was very thin, to the point of bony, with little hair on top and bushy ears. His voice was nasally and a little pinched. He was smart, one of the smartest people Marie had met, and he got a charge out of being a Patrol Division personnel.

Timothy nodded. "I scoured over his quarters and there didn't seem to be anything wrong. The only weird thing was a powder covering a small section of the living area. I picked some up and Gerry sent it to his lab for testing."

Timothy was the youngest and had taken the job part-time while he finished his educational courses. He was little, barely over five feet tall and still gangly from late puberty. His hair was shaved off, leaving his small head looking even smaller. His whole goal was to finish his courses and move to a center galaxy station where, as he put it, the action was. She had to sympathize with the objective.

Gerry transmitted his lab report to the other handhelds. "The lab results are inconclusive. They are ashes of some sort, too dried out and lacking any determinable substance to identify. There's organic material, but nothing you wouldn't find in a sample of particulates from anywhere on the colony."

Frank leaned forward and rubbed his neck, the fatigue was all over his face. "I've checked the transport logs and nothing came or went. We're not expecting any shuttles for two more weeks and the last shuttle we had was a month ago." He pressed his lips together, hesitating.

Frank, her other part-time patrol officer, was a docking bay control technician and covered for her a few nights a month. He was married with two twin toddlers, age four. He worked extra shifts at Control and for the Division just to take a break from his quarters. He was chubby, tall, and very dark. His skin was a dark espresso color and his eyes a bright blue. He wore his hair long and in a Mohawk style.

"What?" She prompted wearily. She hadn't slept in almost thirty-five hours. "Go ahead, there's no stupid observations."

Frank half-shrugged. "Okay, well, on a side note while I was working earlier this week at docking control we started getting a beacon?"

Don's face scrunched. "A beacon? From which direction?"

Don was her most experienced soldier and her only full-time person. At thirty-five, he was a discharged military soldier who had posted here for light duty patrolling to accommodate his injury from an outland skirmish. He was quiet for the most part, very concise and detail-oriented when he gave report and very reclusive when he wasn't on shift.

A beacon, or sound blip, from the Control Monitoring System was an indication of non-tagged objects in the surrounding area. The CMS was a warning system for colonies to prepare and avoid collision and provide awareness of possible threats.

"That's the anomaly." He stated, pulling up the grid from his handheld and checking his data before continuing. "It's coming in from the outer region and is natural in origin. We thought at first it was a new comet or a thick gaseous bubble but the flight pattern is...irregular, at best."

Marie moved behind him so she could look over his shoulder at the grid. "What do you mean irregular?"

"When we first tagged it, four hundred miles out, it was going slow. Only moving at forty-five kilometers per second with an angled projection of positive thirty degrees. Positive degrees are angles moving away from us and negative degrees are those angles heading towards us. After we pinged and tagged it for GATS..." At everyone's blank face Frank blushed, from his neck rising up to his ears.

"Sorry, that stands for the Galactic Aerospace Tagging System, integrates with CMS. Anyways, it suddenly changed course, speed, and degree. I mean suddenly, normal space flight correction for objects take hours. This...thing changed from positive thirty degrees to a negative fifty degrees in under thirty minutes. Then it increased speed to 90 kilometers per second." He took a drink. "But that's not even the kicker. Cutting the distance from us in half, it just...stopped. Within twenty minutes it had stopped, been hovering at that distance all week."

"Interesting, are you sure it's a natural formation?" She walked back to the table and leaned against it, crossing her hands in front of her. They felt like led weights under her exhaustion, as did her head. "Could be a ship, or mobile colony."

"No, not any ship I've seen. Unless the ship or colony is made from completely natural and porous material. That just goes against everything we know about building technology. Plus, it came from the outer region. The flight pattern suggests there is no way it could've boomeranged around, angle is too severe."

Marie rubbed her eyes, feeling the grit behind her eyelids. Her brain was starting to go fuzzy. "Okay, so what does a missing engineer and a distant weird object have to do with one another?"

Don looked over the group. "Probably nothing, but it begs to question. The fact that within days of that thing hovering near us a colony citizen goes missing is enough evidence to inquire."

Marie's stomach hitched. She knew she'd have to voyage out there and check the object out. She hated space flight. The zero gravity made her sick, the small space put her near panic, and the thrusters sound gave her a huge headache that lasted for days.

She knew she could send two of the others but that wouldn't look good for the new Superior to chuck off responsibility. Plus, this crew lacked real experience and Don would need better back up then three part-time soldiers whose real professions were a science geek, student, and docking data nerd. She stretched her shoulders and stood.

"Okay, Frank, you go ahead and complete your shift tonight. Timothy, notify control to prep a two-seater for twenty-four hours out, then get some sleep before your test tomorrow. Gerry, replace him and cover for Don. Don, you and I will head out after we've gotten some rest."

Everyone nodded and she head back out and down the shaft with Don. "You might want Timothy with you in case there's something off. "

She assessed him with a sidelong gaze. The compact frame, fit from a full career as a soldier. His blonde hair cut in the approved military style and his gray eyes took in everything. His skin was still tan from center galaxy living. Even with the apparent lack of confidence, Don exuded soldier. Even with a prosthetic left foot, he walked in a military gait, albeit a slightly limping military gait.

She lightly punched his shoulder. "No, Timothy would piss his pants if something was...off. You're the most qualified to go with me and the one I trust the most."

After only four hours rest, her door buzzer awakened Marie. Stumbling out of bed and into a robe, she shuffled to the door. Opening it, the panicked wailing immediately assaulted her. The wailing came from a thin framed middle-aged woman with blonde hair and shimmering blue eyes. The shimmering was probably from the buckets of tears.

"Oh Lieutenant, you have to help me!" She wailed through the torrent of tears. "She's missing, I can't find her."

Marie became alert, ushering her in she grabbed her handheld from the side table in the entryway. "Okay, calm down. Just sit down here and we'll get this all sorted out."

The woman nodded her head vigorously. Marie had visions of a missing little girl, small and helpless. Panic threatened to overtake her professionalism. "Tell me what happened."

"I was just finishing vacuuming. I had sent her in to bed, got her settled under the covers and turned on some music." She shuddered as more tears fell. "Music helps her fall asleep."

"It's okay; just try to get through it. Any information will help in locating her." The emotions made her nervous and she wasn't sure how to comfort.

"Yes, yes. You're right of course." She gave a wobbly smile. "I finished vacuuming and went in to turn off the music, if she was asleep of course. But when I went in there, she wasn't there. The bed was unmade and empty." She waved her hands uselessly. "I looked all over the quarters, calling for her. Then I called the neighboring spokes and we looked around the core sphere...checked in with other neighbors. Nowhere, so I came straight here."

She cried some more, her nose running freely. Marie retrieved a cloth for her and as she handed it over the woman gripped her arm.

"You have to help me find her, her medication is past due."

"Medication?" The panic increased with her heart rate. "For what?"

"Heart condition." The woman said. "She's old and if she doesn't take it regularly her heart rate drops and she can have heart failure."

Marie's thoughts stopped at the word old. "She's old?" She set back on the coffee table. "How old is this woman and what is her relationship to you?"

She wiped her nose again with the cloth. "My mother is almost a hundred years old."

She called in her troops again and they headed over to Gene's quarters where her and her mother, Marjorie, lived. They'd been on the colony for generations. Marjorie had moved to Pluto-C seventy years ago with her new husband as scientists, tracking and experimenting with molecules. Gene had been born in the medical ward and had never lived anywhere else. She had taken over the research when her father passed on and her mother retired.

Walking around the room, she noticed a thin layer of dust-like material sprinkled over the bedding. "Hey Gerry, this the same kind of substance as in Bill's place?"

Gerry leaned over and ran a finger along a small section of the dust. "Looks like it. Want me to analyze it?" She nodded and he started the collection process.

Working her handheld she didn't hear Frank enter. "Hey boss, you think maybe we should bring in a more experienced tea?" She looked hard at him until he shuffled. "All I mean is, well Gerry, Tim, and I are smart, but we're not experienced in this kind of thing. We mainly walk around and make the civilians feel comfortable." He shuffled some more as a blush crept up his neck. "I just think you and Don could use more experienced help is all." He ended it with a quiet mumble.

Marie had already thought of it, she'd fought an internal argument over calling her superiors and requesting resources. She just couldn't swallow her pride. It wouldn't let her call in, after only a month on assignment, in a rinky-dink colony, for anything. Her ego buffed her feeling of being in control and able to handle anything that came her way.

"We don't need external resources yet...Officer Frank. Once we've assessed the object I'll re-determine the need to such resources." She said coldly, firmly, and with an edge to her voice.

"Yes sir." He responded meekly.

After an exhaustive investigation, the team's report ended just like Bill's, nothing. She ordered them all to get eight hours of rest. Waking up, still groggy, Marie was reluctantly ready to depart.

Walking around the edge of the core sphere, she watched Hank and Todd bickering over the garden border. Shaking her head, she decided to let them bicker. If it escalated, she would have something to do when she returned. Moving past the garden, she paused to look in on the nature preserve.

Several people walked the narrow paths and enjoyed the intimate feel of the area. Trees, smaller than center galaxy preserves, lined the path, small brush tucked in the tree trunks and meadow grass filled in the gaps between the groupings. Along some of the borders were small flower grouping. Bright blue, yellow, and red petals smiled brightly at those passing them, admiring their beauty.

Passing on from the nature preserve, she reached the vertical tube and headed down two levels arriving at the main docking hanger. This was another kind of art, she thought as she entered the choreographed spectacle. Personnel wore the color of their task. Green were shuttle mechanics, blue were navigators, yellow were flight directors, red were medical personnel, gray were the supply directors, and so on. The way they moved was like a silent musical. People knew exactly where they were going, what they were doing, and the timing of their task.

Don waved her down from across the platform and she met them halfway. "You ready Lieutenant?" He motioned towards the B-250, nicknamed the Boomerang, as painted on the left arch in bold white lettering with a small kangaroo hopping over the letter, mid jump over the R and the second O.

She snarled at it and then blew out a breath. "Never, but yeah." She looked at the short woman standing with them. "You the pilot for today's tour?"

She beamed a thousand watt smile and stuck out her hands. "Yup, Kenjal at your service." They shook hands. "The mechanics just finished their checklist. Boomerang and I are ready when you two are."

"Better never than now but since that's not an options, let's head out."

The three of them headed up the ladder that shot down from the center part of the u-shape of the ship. Entering the small portal, they worked their way to the seats, which lined up right above and in front of the entrance. The pilot's seat was dead center with the two passenger seats on either side. The cockpit wasn't tall enough to stand up in and the seats were deep set and tilted slightly downward.

After thirty minutes pre-flight preparation Kenjal was set to go. The flight directors, using small towing vehicles, turned the vehicle around to face the hanger exit. The loudspeaker announced near flight and the platform evacuated of all personnel. She hit the thrusters and as power built up the noise in the cockpit became an all-consuming engine roar. The dashboard in front of Kenjal started counting down from thirty seconds. At two seconds the shuttle jerked and within the last two seconds, shot out of the hanger.

Cursing every word she knew under her breath, Marie fought of the wave of nausea as her body was plastered against the seat and her body immobile from the g-forces. About five minutes out Kenjal cut the thrusters and the sudden silence left her feeling deaf. The quick release of pressure had her forcing bile back down her throat. Her body pressed up against the straps, floating a little in the seat. She closed her eyes to stop the dizziness and blurry vision.

"Everyone ok?" Their pilot asked as she tweaked her systems to realign them with the navigational path.

"Oh yeah." Don smiled, giving a thumbs up. "I love departure. It's like an extreme ride."

"Oh yeah, just like a ride." Marie stated after she had better control of her body.

Kenjal chuckled. "We'll go at this pace about ten minutes, let everyone adjust to the atmospheric change."

Marie sat quietly watching space revolve slowly as Don and Kenjal chattered in the background. It was comforting, hearing the communication. Space always seemed so silent, so dead to her. The distant stars and planets held promise, but always seemed just out of reach. Like a mirage in a dry desert. No matter how fast you headed towards those distant jewels, they stayed the same distance away.

After the adjustment period, Kenjal increased their speed to thirty-two kilometers an hour. "This speed should get us there in about ten hours." She watched her CPU's. "I could go faster but it'd be hell on the systems."

"Ten hours is fine." Marie authorized and looked back out the small viewer at the void of space.

"So, Lieutenant, why you at Pluto-C?" Don asked after several moments of silence.

"Working." She stated simply.

He laughed and reached over to tap her shoulder. "I get that part. Why did you transfer from Mars A? That's a fine colony, large, busy, active."

"Tell me about it." She grumbled. "I was reassigned." Before he could ask anything further, she lifted a finger at him. "Don't really want to get into the details. Needless to say, I pissed them off and they banished me to the furthest place they could."

She watched as Don and Kenjal shared a look and then returned to discussion of the latest space yacht races around Saturn's rings. They argued over the close ring tactic of the leading ships. Kenjal affirmed her view that the closer to the ring the faster the revolutions, the quicker the win. Don affirmed his view that the closer to the ring the more danger and more corrective action needed, exhausting the pilot in the long-term, which unnecessarily endangering the vehicle.

Ten long hours later, they eyed the object on the console's screen from a safe distance. The object was about thirty miles wide, the shape of a fat potato, the color of rotten moss, and the texture of something akin to an old scrub pad. There were pits sporadically along the surface and a thin blue fog-like substance enshrouded the whole object.

"It kind of looks like a comet in basic structure but also like a...beehive." Marie observed. "There's no entrails, no shroud of dust. Plus the simple fact it's not moving, and the material is something I've never seen or read up on before."

Don pressed zoom and adjusted the view to one of the black pits on the object. "The finder can identify a depth to the pits."

Kenjal looked at both of them. "It doesn't feel right. I'm getting a tingle at the base of my neck. I think we should report this and get out of here as fast as possible."

Ignoring her, Marie continued to observe the object. There was a pull with her and she was intrigued. The voice in the back of her mind kept screaming to her, reminder this is what got her in trouble at her last assignment.

Their shuttle started moving toward the object and Don nudged Kenjal. "Hey, I don't think we should get any closer."

"Neither do I." Kenjal firmly concurred. "That's why I made no move to get closer."

"Then why are we getting closer?" Marie asked, apprehension finally kicking in.

"I don't know, ask Boomerang." Kenjal worked the controls to try and stop the movement, to no avail. "Well, now we're in the fryer. I told you two sleuths we shouldn't have hung around. Now we're headed to the mysterious mother ship."

As they drew closer one of the pits slowly lit up, going from a dark deep orange to a brilliant white. The blue fog dissipated in an area in front of them, reemerging after they passed through. The Boomerang stopped about twenty feet from the lit up crevice and an arm-like structure came out and expanded to incase their vehicle. Within minutes the portal clicked, opened, and the ladder descended to the surface of the arm shaft.

The three of them stared at each other for a few more moments, speechless.

"Well, do we go into the scary black hole?" Don whispered, joining Kenjal in looking at Marie.

Marie felt a bristle at the nape of her neck as a thin line of sweat broke out. This is what got her in trouble before, Marie thought. She should have contacted higher command at the nearest headquarters to assess this object and provide back up if needed. She should've deferred to a higher authority on next steps. Instead, like her previous experiences, she went headlong into the unknown and got herself and her crew into danger. Hopefully this time would end in the death of one of her personnel.

"Well, we can't stay here." Marie finally concluded, hoping to find an escape route for her team and get back to Pluto-C in time to warn the civilians.

She headed the exit, leading first down the ladder with Don following her after she gave the all clear, then Kenjal taking up the rear. Looking down the shaft, they saw a dimly lit passageway that ended on an apparent turn. The gravity was low but enough to walk without bounding techniques, which was a relief to her. She'd never been good in light grade gravity.

The smell was antiseptic yet earthy as they headed cautiously down the passageway and around the corner. At the end stood a closed door with no obvious entry keypad or handle of any sort. A low rumble alerted them to some movement from behind the doorway and they positioned themselves for defensive assault. Instead, the door slide open and they were confronted with an empty antechamber about twelve feet by twelve feet.

"Well, looks like we enter the creepy room." Kenjal retorted to no one in particular. "Nice welcoming committee."

As they hesitantly entered the room, the door slid closed behind them and seats slid out of the walls. The three banged uselessly on the door for a few minutes, screaming and cursing.

"I guess they want us to sit." Don deduced after they settled down. Both Kenjal and Marie gave him a bland stare. "What?"

Sitting, 3-D images materialized of a galaxy. Pinwheel shape with five distinct spokes and two dust rings. The sun was a small blue dwarf and it looked only to contain about six major planets. The image narrowed to the fourth planet out and they watched as a mass exodus of objects, just like the one they were in, ejected into space. They spurt out like pollen, scattering in different directions and at different speeds.

A timeline of some unknown measurement system moved fast as the view tracked a singular objective, most likely this one. As it moved through the galaxy and beyond, through the dark in between galaxies, the object continually stopped near specie made technology.

"Must be other populated places." Don commented quietly.

At each stop, what looked like a numerical value popped up and some kind of tally started. After the image stopped outside Pluto-C, faces and text appeared. Unknown species with some bar value. They all looked distinctly different. Some had multiple sets of eyes and fur. Some were bared skins with a glean. Yet again, some were almost identical to humans. The last three figures showed Bill, Marjorie, and surprisingly, Peter.

"They must have taken Bill and Marjorie, and then Peter while we were in route." Marie stood and fumed. She circled in place. "You bastards, where are they?"

The image paused and then a view of Bill's quarters materialized. The image zoomed in to the living area and on the ground.

"Son of a bitch!" Don clenched is jaw systematically as he pointed. "The powder, that's Bill, or what's left of him."

"Why?" Marie asked out loud.

The image of the bar appeared, the faces streamed through again and the bars adjusted accordingly. Then a scatter gram appears and dots accumulated on the chart.

"I still don't understand." Marie vocalized. "Are you collecting them?" A dashboard image materialized and the dial went up to the halfway point. Then the bar and the scatter gram sequence restarted.

Kenjal took her shot. "Are you accumulating and integrating them?" The dashboard dial shot to the full point. "Why?" An image of a family tree appeared and same faces from before started populating the branches. As they did the bark of the tree transitioned from light brown to dark brown from the roots up.

"You're growing your population?" Don interjected heatedly. "Then why are Bill, Marjorie, and Peter ashes now? Why did you kill him? You can't make dead people part of a society!"

An image of a cocoon appeared and in fast time, the cocoon opened and the butterfly escaped. Then the image of Bill's ashes flashed on screen, then Marjorie, and then Peter's.

"You changed them?" Marie asked, trying to follow the imagery. The dashboard dial again tapped the full symbol. "You can't just take people and change them. They have to give permission."

An image of Bill came into view. He sat on the edge of the bed, head in his hands. His shoulders shook and occasionally he wiped his eyes with the back of his hands. Then an earlier image of Bill, younger and with a homely looking woman sitting at a bench in the nature preserve. They laughed and then leaned into each other and kissed. It flashed to another scene, the two of them in a medical ward with the woman lying sickly in a bed and Bill smoothing her hair.

"You're saying Bill did want this?" Kenjal whispered.

The image changed to Marjorie, frail, thinned silver hair. She lay in her bed smiling at the music with the rumble of a vacuum in the background. Halfway through the song she clutched her heart, her skin went clammy and paled. She tried to reach the call button that her daughter had set up by the bed but her face contorted in pain.

"She was dying." Marie's hands trembled.

The image changed to Peter, undressed in his shower stall. His naked body contorted by some deformity. Upper body hunched from a crooked spine and odd bone layout in his shoulders. His hips twisted at an off angle from his upper body. He leaned against the wall, eyes closed, face contorted in pain. They watched as he reached for a medicine bottle and swallowed two pills. After a few moments, his pain seemed to cease and etches in his face relaxed.

"Peter was in pain, trapped in a body that caused him pain." Marie, humbled by the realities of these people's lives, let a tear fall down her cheek unchecked.

Not once in her whole existence had she ever thought of those around her. Moved obliviously though life, not caring about the intricacy of a single other person's happiness, anguish, trials, or tribulations. Yet, here was a whole species evolved to seek out these souls and release them from their bindings, whether it was the mind, body, or spirit that chained them.

The image faded and the exit door reopened, leading back to the shuttle. Marie looked down the shaft for several moments, contemplating where she was going. It was tempting, to end life in this plane of existence. There were always faults in life; hers had been self-induced and not nearly as traumatizing as Bill, Marjorie, or Peters. This was a path for those with no alternative.

She had an alternative; she had options for changing her life on this plane. She turned back towards Kenjal and Don, only to find one of them missing. She stared several moments at the remaining personnel until the realization sunk in. They hadn't felt like there was a choice, they wanted to venture into this new path. They wanted free of their body for some reason, whatever that might be. She'd hope the reasoning was for an unchartered adventure, but would never know.

"Well, do you know how to fly a Boomerang?" Don sent her a cocky grin. "'Cause I sure in the hell don't."


© 2009 A. R. Norris

Bio: A. R. Norris lives in Northern California, where she keeps busy raising four little aliens. In her spare(?) time, she indulges her lifelong love of science fiction by writing with the goal of becoming 'an established author in science fiction'. (As long as she doesn't equate 'established' with 'paid', she is making a pretty good start. (Editor))

E-mail: A. R. Norris

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