Authors: Maria Hammarblad
Resting in Adam’s arms felt heavenly, even though we were on a narrow bunk in a Confederacy shuttle.
He trailed his fingers over my arm. “I’ve been thinking.”
“You’re always thinking.”
My words made him smile and hold me tighter.
“That is true. Let me rephrase. I have been thinking about the future.”
That would have been scary, had we not just made love. He wouldn’t do that minutes before telling me he wanted to leave.
“Everyone thinks I’m dead. Even
thought I was dead. I know you and John assume we’re heading back to the Bell just because I returned, but we don’t have to.”
“I think John and I assumed you wanted to go back there and solve the riddles, do your thing.”
“I know you did, but we don’t have to. This isn’t bad. The three of us make a good team and we can go anywhere we want.”
Tempting. We were
and together. If we went back John and I would still be free, but Adam would not.
“Aren’t you curious to find out who the saboteur is, and if someone in the group is still free?”
He gave a slight shrug. “I am, but I’ve already given my life for it once. Don’t you think it’s enough?”
A happy smile crept on my lips, I couldn’t hold it back. “You really mean this.”
I stole a kiss and he smiled too, but fell serious quickly.
“And while we’re out here, just the three of us... Don’t get me wrong now, I don’t know what you and John did while I was... dead, and I don’t want to know. The second you two set foot on that ship, Anya will know
I wanted to say something just to break the silence, but this was a good time to keep my mouth shut.
Adam sighed and held me tighter.
“I must admit she has been a good sport about it in the past, much better than I, but she will know.”
“What do you mean, in the past?”
“You and John have always been attracted to each other. Who comes for you the second something happens? To whom do you turn when you need someone?”
How could he sound so calm when discussing something like this?
I opened my mouth to object but closed it again. I didn’t have anything remotely intelligent to say – he was right – and he wouldn’t let me get a word in anyway.
“She says she’s telepathic and empathic, because it sounds good. It’s a simple and acceptable way to explain complicated concepts to a human. What she really does is pick up minute electrical currents from people’s brains, interpreting thoughts, feelings, and even memories.”
When said like that, it sounded disturbing.
“Can you do that?”
“No. I can read other signals in humans, but you already know that. I don’t pry in people’s brains.”
He was a master at interpreting endorphins, pupil dilations, and microscopic muscle movements. Keeping secrets from him was nearly impossible. I had managed, but only for brief periods of time.
“So you don’t know what I’m thinking right now?”
Adam smiled. “I have no idea. I
tell you like that I hold you.”
“I do. I missed you.”
He rubbed my arm, making me want to purr, but this wasn’t a good time for
“I think we should go talk to John.”
“You agree with me?” I thought it was self-evident, but he sounded surprised.
“Yes. Yes I do. We deserve a life.”
His hands said we could stay in the shuttle a little longer. He was right; the world would go on even if we enjoyed life and each other a few minutes longer. I leaned on my elbow and kissed him.
John seemed as caught off guard by Adam’s decision as I was, but patted his back.
“You’re making the right choice, son. Where do you want to go?”
Adam shrugged. At the moment he seemed to care as little as I did.
“Deep space sounds good. Anywhere with peace and quiet.”
I asked, “What is it like outside Confederacy territory?”
John flashed a smile. “I have no idea, let’s go find out. I’ll make a stop to get supplies, and then we’ll investigate what the rest of the world is like.”
The idea of just the three of us and the ship appealed to me.
“I have a good feeling about this.”
John plotted a course to the nearest station and everyone leaned back to relax.
Adam worked on his brother’s head and sorted the parts he brought. I kept him company, reading a book. He would never admit it, but he probably needed the downtime more than anyone.
He kept his cool façade while he cooked dinner for us, beat me and John in chess with ease, and held me as I fell asleep.
I dreamed about being back in college with Anya and a panther as roommates, but the dream turned into being stuck under a fallen tree, and then I woke up. Adam held me much too tight; I would have had more wiggle room under an actual tree.
I squirmed and he whispered, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Nothing. Go back to sleep.”
I clung to him all the time. The other way around, not so much.
I wriggled more and he released the grip enough for me to roll over on the other side, facing him.
“Don’t lie to me. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing important. I just can’t stop thinking about it.”
My mouth spoke before my brain kicked in.
“Thinking about what?”
He was clearly attempting to find something to say that would soothe me. I frowned, wanting to show I wouldn't fall for it.
“Leaving you on the Bell and going into space, wondering how long you would remember me and what dying would feel like. The cleaning closet, searching for you and John… Do you think it’s my fault mother was killed? Many bad things would never have happened if I’d stayed with them.”
With the speed and power of his mind he could have gone through the gruesome chain of events hundreds or even thousands of times.
things would never have happened if you’d stayed with them.”
“I should get up and let you get back to sleep.” His voice was gentle, but weary.
“Please stay. Anything I can do?”
“No. Go back to sleep.”
Yes, that would happen.
I leaned on my elbow and smoothed imaginary strands of hair away from his face. I needed a way to snap him out of the mood. Once he stopped obsessing over the memories he probably wouldn’t start again.
He forced a smile. “I’ll be fine. I’ll stay here until you fall asleep again.”
If I got my way he’d stay much longer. I pressed my lips against his chest and when I looked up, a real smile played on his lips.
This was the answer.
At the moment I would much rather take a nap than have sex, but it was the best way I knew to distract him.
way I knew to distract him.
I spent the next day being lazy, enjoying peace and quiet and my favorite people.
I snuck away to finish reading my book late in the afternoon, but it didn’t take long before Adam came looking for me. “There you are. We should be at GA95 any time now. Let’s go to the bridge.”
He looked so different in civilian clothes. Good thing I brought some, because seeing him in John’s clothes would have been confusing.
He crouched next to me and rested a hand on my arm. “Is everything okay?”
How long had I sat there just staring at him?
Not my fault he looked so good.
“Station, supplies, bridge?”
Oh yes, he wanted me to do something.
Couldn’t be all that important. I wrapped my arms around him and held him tight. If I held on to him, he might not vanish again.
“Are you sure nothing’s wrong?” He returned the embrace but sounded concerned. I should say something reassuring.
“I’m just so happy to have you back.”
“I love you too.” Wonderful words to hear, no matter how many times he said them.
A good wife would ask how he felt about his mother, and about seeing his birth place again. I clearly wasn’t
good a wife.
He pulled back enough to brush his lips over my temple. “John misses you. He hasn't seen you for almost an hour.”
It was probably true, but his serene way of delivering such an absurd statement still made me laugh.
“Alright. Let’s go keep him company.”
I kept my arms around his neck and he pulled me up as he rose, held an arm around my waist, and carried me to the lift.
John was already on the bridge.
“I was starting to miss the two of you. We’ll be docking in a few minutes.”
“Have I been here before?” All these places were so much alike, I couldn't keep track of them.
“You have. You liked it. Son, I'm taking your wife to dinner tonight.”
The proximity alert chimed, loud enough to make me slam my hands over my ears, drowning Adam’s answer.
“What the hell?”
A moment earlier the monitors showed nothing but empty space, but now a giant ship filled them. The Bell had appeared, out of nowhere.
John said, “Crap.”
He didn’t seem unnerved, more irritated. Odds were they weren’t
for us, but they couldn’t help seeing us.
I muttered, “The galaxy is so big, how can you accidentally meet someone you know?”
A light blinked on the console and John glanced over at Adam. “Get out of sight.”
I didn’t expect him to comply, hiding seemed atypical, but he went over to the side, out of reach of the communication cameras.
It didn’t matter; The Bell opened a voice-only line. After initial greetings, the voice on the radio said, “You’ve been away for a long time.”
John answered in an even voice. “We have, and we intend to stay gone a little longer.”
“We have reports of you stowing our shuttle.”
“Shuttle Twelve? Found it abandoned on GA703. I called you about it and you didn’t know who had it, so I picked it up. That place is out of the way.”
How could he be so calm with secrets like ours?
The anonymous voice said, “Apparently it flew itself out of the shuttle bay. No life forms aboard. At least no
life forms. Funny that the two of you would stumble over it, of all people.”
Who was this?
John remained unfazed. “Isn’t it? We were going to bring it back, I just figured it wasn’t a big hurry since you have more of them.”
Understatement of the year. The large ship held hundreds, maybe even thousands.
“Why don’t you dock and unload it? Stay for dinner.”
This was giving me a bad feeling.
John seemed to share the sentiment. “Send someone over to get it. We’re on our way somewhere.”
The other voice sharpened. “It wasn’t a request.”
John reached for a control, but the person on the Bell was faster. This couldn’t be a spur of the moment decision; they were prepared for us running.
A bright light caught us, pulling us toward a slowly opening door in the large hull. The docking bay port never came across as threatening before, but now the opening reminded me of a mouth wanting to swallow us whole. We were trapped in the Bell’s tractor beam.
John turned the radio off. “I didn’t expect them to do that.”
“Can we break free?”
He gave a slight shrug. “Maybe, but that would be an admission of guilt. We don’t want to give them a reason to hunt us.” John turned to Adam. “You need to go hide. There’s a compartment behind the food storage. It will be tight, but you will fit, because I can fit. It’s shielded. They shouldn’t find you there, even if they’re scanning for you.”
Adam frowned. “Is hiding really the right way?”
John and I answered in unison. “Yes.”
My father-in-law added, “With any luck we’ll be back here tonight or tomorrow. If we’re not, well, as long as they think you’re dead you will have some mobility.”
“If they’ve scanned for me they already know I’m here.”
“Son, I have a plan. Alex and I will deal with it. The sooner you disappear, the better.” He sounded exasperated. We were in a hurry and the two of them were equally stubborn.
Adam didn’t look happy, but he left.
“Run down at get me the head, will you? Bring some other junk too if you see anything that looks good.”
His plan was taking shape in my mind. It was crazy; maybe crazy enough to work.
I ran through the corridors, snatched up the lifeless android head, some random circuits and some tools, and ran back to the bridge.
John said, “Good. I’m hoping this will explain why there’s a neural network on our ship. Hopefully they’re not looking for him, but we don’t know.” He paused and made a grimace. “Anya will be mad. I’m hoping she’ll be angry enough not to notice we think Adam is alive. It’s natural for both of us to think about him. And if she does, I intend to explain it with our little building project here.”
“Do you think she would take their side?” I frowned at my own words. “I don’t know why I’m thinking like that, it shouldn’t be their side and our side, it’s the weirdest thing.”
John nodded. “I feel it too. It’s atypical for them to grab us and drag us against our will. Keep your guard up.”
I looked at the head in my hands, no longer worried it would bite me. I was happy it didn’t look like John and Adam. This was a good time to be grateful for the little things in life.
The beam of light tugged us into the Bell’s innards and John got to his feet. “One more thing. I don’t think we should let them separate us. Do you agree?”
“Yes. Yes I do. Whatever’s going on here I suspect the ship is nothing like when we left.”
He nodded, swept his arms around me, and kissed me deeply. My legs reported an intention to fold and I held on to him to avoid falling. Yes, that was it. To avoid falling.
When he pulled back he flashed an impish grin and I mumbled, “Damn you’re good at that. What was that for?”
is the first thing she’ll see in our minds. Hopefully the only thing.”
I still felt weak, but he slammed his arm around my shoulder, grabbed the android head, tucked it into my hands, and led the way towards the Bell.
We didn’t exactly get a welcoming committee, but Anya and an ensign waited for us in the docking bay.
Anya slapped John and he rubbed his cheek, feeling his jaw with a comical expression. “For being made of light you hit hard.”
She stared at him with her bright eyes. “I can understand Alex. Seriously, you and Adam were almost the same person, but
Her laser-stare moved to me. “You need to leave. Take him with you and don’t come back.”
She stormed out, a perfect vision of a woman betrayed. I still couldn’t help but think she was warning us.
John met my eyes. He clearly interpreted her words in the same way I did, but the ensign was clueless.
“I didn’t know she had a temper. You must really have ticked her off.”
I said, “We did, and she told us to go. We should go.”
“The Captain wants to see you first, but you’ll have to surrender your weapons. I will take them.”
John shook his head. “I’ll put them in the ship.”
The ensign opened his mouth to object and John presented his best intimidating stare, making the young man wince and nod. “The ship is fine.”
Blake was a good friend. Maybe he would provide some answers.
John looked at the android head. “I think Captain Jones will be interested in our new project.”
The ensign looked puzzled. “There is no Captain Jones. Captain Jia’Lyn wishes to speak with you right away. When you are done there your old quarters are waiting, ma’am, and I have prepared a guest room for you, Sir.”
No more bunking with Anya. I felt a wave of sympathy for her. This wasn’t a good way to treat one’s best friend.
I forced it down. She was surely watching from a distance and my emotions could get all of us in trouble.
John said, “Thanks, but we will stay together.”
Walking through the ship gave the strangest feeling. It looked just like it always did and smelled like it always did, but I was a stranger in the place that served as home for such a long time.
Maybe it was true that one could never go back. My life had changed irrevocably.
I felt like something worse than a stranger; I was an intruder in a place I shouldn’t see.
I reached for John’s free hand and was relieved when he took it.