-Admiral Edward Thomas – 63 – Earth Star Port 1.1 – 3.12.2127
The admiral followed the young man in front of him, the stairs twisting around a center column as the small group traveled deeper into the bowls of the star port. The admiral’s escort had been sent up from the top-secret research division that was located on the Star Port. The same division that Renly Tesik had founded when he began the Lazarus Project. Admiral Thomas had readily agreed to the strange summons, grateful that he had two other members of the council at his side. Their security guards would be permitted to follow them down to the lower levels of the facility, but only one of the men would be allowed access to the research area. The other five men would be stuck waiting outside the restricted zone until Edward was finished in the research area.
‘I don’t have time for this,’ the admiral told himself as he followed the younger man through the twisting corridors.
“We’re almost there, Admiral,” the younger man apologized, seeming to sense the man’s annoyance. “Admiral Tesik was the one who ordered us to work within these lower levels, sir.”
“I figured as much, Doctor,” Admiral Thomas acknowledged. “The man had more secrets than you could imagine.”
“I’m just happy to be involved in this one, sir,” the younger man said with a grin. “It’s not often that you get to witness a new life being created.”
“Doctor?” Edward sought clarification from the man.
“You’ll see, Admiral Thomas,” the younger man said with a smug grin. “I promise that you won’t be disappointed.”
They continued down the narrow corridor before making a sharp left and stopping at another set of steel doors. The younger man touched the keypad next to the door and an audible click could be heard throughout the hallway. The younger man in the white lab coat pulled one of the doors open and motioned for the admiral to step inside.
“After you, sir.”
“Thanks,” Edward replied before he stepped through the door and froze. He now stood in a window-lined corridor that ran down between multiple laboratories. Each of the labs had people wearing white lab coats performing various experiments, that the admiral knew he would never be able to comprehend the intricacies involved in each one. Bright white lights lit the area, except for a darkened area at the far end of the corridor. “This is. . .”
“I know,” the younger man said with a grin. Then, he motioned towards the far end of the hallway. “We’re going there.”
“Go figure,” Edward responded with a smug chuckle.
“We just keep the office area a little darker to give our eyes a rest from the lights, Admiral Thomas,” the doctor explained, his teeth almost glowing under the lights. “Right this way, sir. These are just some agricultural experiments we’ve been doing for the people down on Earth.”
“Aye, sir,” the Doctor grinned as they walked slowly down the window-lined hallway, heading towards the double glass doors at the end of the hallway. The dark-haired man motioned towards one of the labs on their left. “This is where our scientists are trying to find a new strain of potato that will survive the dust bowl that our former home has turned into. Our only setback has been the parasites that have been breeding in the soil on Earth.”
“Now there are parasites?” Admiral Thomas asked in disbelief.
“Unfortunately, sir,” the Doctor replied. “They sort of, came out of nowhere.”
“What do you mean?”
The Doctor frowned as he seemed to consider his answer. “There are a few laboratories on Earth that do research along the same lines that we do,” he explained. “One of those labs was trying to find something that would turn the dust back into dirt, and it back-fired on them.” Admiral Thomas groaned as he rolled his eyes. “The speed at which they have been reproducing is rather remarkable, sir. The problem lies in the fact that the parasites aren’t eating the dust. They’re trying to eat the crops, and all of the other vegetation.”
“They sentenced Earth to die,” Admiral Thomas said darkly. “Was Renly part of it?”
“No, sir,” the scientist stated. “Admiral Tesik was trying to stop it.”
Edward Thomas froze as the younger man opened the door for him. The Admiral had just learned why Renly Tesik had been murdered. He was certain of it.
“Is something wrong, sir?” The younger man asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Uh, no,” the Admiral quickly responded. “It’s nothing. What are you going to show me?”
“You get to meet Subject-7,” the younger man said with a grin, grateful for the change in subject. The scientist held the door as Admiral Thomas stepped through, then he led the man into a small couch lined area. Edward had to squint slightly as his eyes adjusted to the change in light. “Sorry, sir. We don’t usually get visitors down here, so we keep it how we like it in the common areas. Most of us keep our personal quarters like this, as well.”
“That’s understandable,” Edward agreed as the man led him to another door off to the side of the lobby. Behind the wooden door was a small conference room that was lined with white boards, each one written all over with different experiments and notes, and there was a rectangular-shaped table sitting in the middle of the room with chairs around it. At the far end of the table sat a small boy with jet-black hair and icy-blue eyes. The boy smiled broadly when the two men entered. Edward froze at the sight of the familiar looking boy. “What have you done, Renly?”
-Lieutenant Getty Roberts – 16 – Destiny – 3.11.2127
Getty sat in his quarters, listening to the sound of Andrew’s voice as the former android told Getty how he had wound up as part of the Destiny’s systems.
“It’s not as bad as you think, Lieutenant Roberts,” Andrew said with the hint of a chuckle in his voice. “I’m actually, quite comfortable in here. It feels weird that I don’t have any extremities, but it was only a matter of integrating my programming into the ship’s sensors.”
“Are you. . .” Getty wasn’t sure how to phrase his question. “Okay? I mean. . .”
The voice of Andrew echoed around him as the former android laughed happily.
“I’m fine, Getty,” Andrew stated. “Better, really. Now, I can help all of you, including Wesley.”
“You’re not mad that Wesley got your body?”
“I had Wesley’s body, Captain,” Andrew informed the man plainly. “I never had my own body, always living within a computer. Plus, this gives me my own body. I rather like being a part of a spaceship. There’s always something to do. I’ve already thanked Dinrak multiple times.”
Getty and Andrew continued to discuss how they were going to get the ship to the Outpost before the thrusters completely failed out on them. The Destiny was currently flying past the planet that was destined to destroy their ship if they tried to land on its surface.
“It’s the electricity of the atmosphere that took down the prisoner transport,” Andrew had explained once he had taken control of the Destiny’s external sensors. “Our chances are better if we continue on for the Outpost, Captain.”
“Do it,” Getty had agreed without complaint. “I’m not taking any chances with my ship, or the people aboard it.”
Together, Getty learned that he and Andrew made a team that was near unstoppable. They worked with AJ to maximize the efficiency of the remaining thruster power, hoping it was just enough to keep the ship flying to their destination. While Andrew was positive that the Destiny would make it, neither he nor Getty could be certain of the type of reception that they would receive.
“Are you worried, Getty?”
“Extremely, Andrew,” Getty replied with a laugh. “What do we do if the Imposters are still occupying the station?”
“We move on,” Andrew responded plainly. “I’ll divert enough energy to the thrusters to pulse us out of the system, and we’ll move on to the next Outpost.”
“You make it sound so easy, Andrew,” Getty said. The pilot sighed in defeat as he rolled over and buried his face in the pillow. “We’re screwed either way, Andrew.”
“The chances are there for our survival, Captain Roberts,” Andrew told him. “I believe that your biggest worry should be the boy that is still in a coma.”
“Cort,” Getty said absently. “He needs a pick-me-up. . .”
Getty froze before he suddenly sat up in bed with a grin on his face.
“You have an idea, don’t you?”
“I do,” Getty grinned. “I can’t believe we didn’t think of it before.”
“Would you care to explain this idea of yours, Captain Roberts?”
“Get Jackson and Stanley to meet me on the bridge, Andrew,” Getty stated absently. “We’re going to recharge our batteries!”
-Colonel Jackson Tesik – 36 – Destiny – 3.11.2127
Jackson held his son, rocking him back and forth slightly, waiting for the tiny boy to awaken from the hibernation sickness. Cort had been in a coma since the worm hole, and Jackson was afraid that the boy wasn’t going to wake up, if they didn’t get to the Outpost.
“Come on, baby boy,” the man whispered, his blue eyes shining with tears. “Just wake up, please. Your mother would never forgive me if I lost you.”
Jackson had said these words over, and over again, wishing that just once, the words would finally work. All he wanted to do was look into his son’s shining eyes, hear his light sounding laugh. The man whispered a quiet prayer, hoping that there was a God that would hear his words. Jackson wanted his family back. He needed all of them! Had it really only been one day since Eddin had passed?
‘So much has happened,’ the man told himself grimly. ‘How much more can I take?’
Jackson kissed his son’s forehead before laying the boy back against the pillow. He turned away from the bed and was just about to leave the room, when he heard a tiny voice from behind him.
Jackson froze at the sound of the tiny voice and turned around quickly to find the blue eyes of his youngest son, gazing back at him. Cort looked exhausted, and there were dark circles under his barely-open eyes.
“Cort?” The man quickly returned to his son’s side and pulled the frail child into his arms. “Is this real?”
“Dad?” The boy’s voice sounded dry and hoarse, and he was already trembling from the effort of speaking. All Jackson could do, was hold his son and sob happily that the boy was finally awake.
“I have requested Dinrak to come to this cabin, Colonel,” Andrew informed the man in a low voice. “Surface scans show that your son will be fine once he is able to get some fluids in his body. Sir Chos is also, in route to this cabin. He specializes in holistic healing, and his presence would be beneficial for both of you.”
“Thank you, Andrew,” Jackson replied in a raspy voice. “Please, notify my brother and nephew, as well. Ask them to keep everybody else away, so Cort can rest, please?”
“Of course, sir,” Andrew replied dutifully. “The message has been relayed, sir.”
Jackson held his son. His family was together, again, and he couldn’t be happier.
“Also, Colonel,” Andrew continued. “Captain Roberts has come up with a way to recharge the Destiny’s power cells. He has asked for you and Stanley to join him on the bridge, but I will relay to him your current situation.”
“Thanks, again Andrew,” Colonel Tesik responded with a grin. “Tell Getty, “I knew you could do it.” Please?”
“I will, sir,” the baritone voice replied over the sound system.
“My name is Jackson,” the man stated with a chuckle. “Please, use it, Andrew.”
“Yes, si-. I mean, Yes, Jackson,” the ship’s voice said.
-Lieutenant Commander Dinrak Soren – 23 – Destiny – 3.11.2127
Dinrak held Wesley’s hand tightly, his thumb brushing over the smooth skin. Dinrak had spent several hours just sitting with Wesley, waiting for the android to finish with his system tests. With the help of Mason, Dinrak had been able to get Wesley dressed in one of the crew flight suits, preserving the modesty of the teenager that was trapped inside the machine. The alien was just about to say something to Wesley, when a chime sounded in his lab, followed by the sound of Andrew’s voice.
“I hate to disturb you when you are busy, Commander,” Andrew began plainly. “But Colonel Tesik has requested your presence in the medical cabin.”
“Did something happen to Cort, Andrew?” Dinrak asked, a hint of worry in his voice.
“Yes, sir,” Andrew replied, hiding the amusement in his voice, as best as he could. “There is something going on with Cort, sir.”
“I’ll be right there, Andrew,” Dinrak replied before he glanced down at the still form of Wesley. “Andrew?”
“Could you ask Mason and Deegan to come sit with Wesley, please?”
“Of course, sir,” Andrew replied. “They are on their way.”
Dinrak leaned over Wesley and kissed the android’s forehead.
“I miss you, Wesley,” Dinrak whispered. “Someone is in need of my help, so I need to go for a little while. Mason and Prince Deegan are going to come sit with you while I’m gone, though. I promise that I’ll be back as soon as I can, Wesley.”
With that, Dinrak kissed Wesley’s forehead one more time as he waited for the two boys to arrive.
-Mason Tesik – 14 – Destiny – 3.11.2127
Mason smiled as he felt Deegan slide his arms around his waist from behind. The human turned and met Deegan’s silvery gaze with a shy blush. Mason had been watching the blue dot that was a planet grow larger over the past few hours from the window in his cabin. The fourteen-year-old was lucky enough that his cabin was on the port side of the vessel, facing the planet that they were going to limp the Destiny past. Mason knew that he would have watched the scene from anywhere aboard the ship though, even if he had to use Getty’s cabin.
The boy yawned as he and his Bondmate watched the sight of the deadly planet pass by. The blues of the oceans were highlighted by the puffy clouds that were swirling through the atmosphere, nearly obscuring the view of the continent that was just being bathed in the morning glow of the system’s sun. Mason and Deegan just held each other, happy to be back in each other’s arms.
‘Why can’t we land?’ Mason pushed the thought to his silver-haired prince.
‘The world is dangerous,’ Deegan replied softly. ‘The planet has been emitting some kind of strange electrical pulse from its core.’
‘Is it alive?’
‘It seems like it, to me,’ Deegan said with a shrug. ‘It doesn’t matter. Getty isn’t taking any chances.’
‘Good,’ Mason agreed with a nod. ‘I had a bad dream about the planet.’
‘So did Getty,’ Prince Deegan informed Mason, making the dark-haired boy freeze in shock. ‘You have more in common with our Captain than you think, my love.’
‘What do you mean, Deegan?’
‘He had a dream that the Destiny was destroyed by the planet,’ Deegan told him plainly. ‘His was more direct, though. I’m sure that he would be willing to tell you more about it, if you asked.’
Mason nodded in agreement. He would do exactly as Deegan had suggested, but for now, Mason was quite content to just rest in the arms of the Prince of Pydrak. Mason was just beginning to relax, when he felt Dinrak tense up behind him. He felt the boy’s chest vibrate against his back, making Mason turn to see if somebody else had come into the room. Seeing nobody, Mason figured that his Bondmate was simply talking to someone over the ship’s intercom. Mason’s assumptions were confirmed a moment later, when Dinrak pulled Mason from his cabin, and led him to Dinrak’s lab.
Dinrak thanked them both, profusely, before he slipped from the room with his medical supply bag firmly in his grasp. Mason went over to Wesley’s side and sat on the edge of the cot before he took the teen’s hand into his own. Mason smiled wistfully as he felt the hand slowly squeeze his in return. Mason reached out with his fingertip and traced the letters of his name across the back of Wesley’s hand, so the blond-haired teen would know who it was. He had done the same thing earlier when he had been left alone with the android. Wesley squeezed his hand again, making Mason smile happily. He secretly hoped that Wesley would turn out to be a new friend for him, a secret that he had even managed to keep from Deegan.
Then, Mason felt a strange chill go down his spine. He glanced around the room to see if anything had changed, but he only saw Deegan glancing over Wesley’s medical file. Dinrak had encouraged the two boys to familiarize themselves with the lab, always telling them that they could only learn more if they sought out the information. Mason was certain that didn’t include the personal medical files of someone, but how else were they supposed to know what to expect? Mason turned his attention back to Wesley and couldn’t stop the blush from rushing to his cheeks when he found himself staring into the android’s deep-blue eyes.
“Hi, Wesley,” Mason mouthed. “Welcome back.”
Wesley’s thin-pink lips spread into a small smile, until Mason was suddenly yanked away from Wesley as everything went into slow motion. Deegan was thrown backwards against a wall as Mason fell to the floor of the lab. The lights flickered in the room, and the Destiny shook violently around him. Mason glanced over to see Deegan slumped against the wall, the prince’s eyes were closed, and his white hair was spotted with blood. The Destiny jerked around them again, sending Mason sliding into one of the cabinets. The lights were still flickering as the boy held his hand out towards Deegan as the prince launched into the air for a moment. Then, Deegan slammed into the floor, sliding until his unconscious form hit the side of Wesley’s cot that was bolted to the floor.
“Deegan!” Mason screamed out with his mind, tears falling from his blue eyes as he felt their connection beginning to falter. “Stay with me, Deegan! Please, don’t leave me!”
-Lieutenant Getty Roberts – 16 – Destiny – 3.11.2127
Getty entered the last of the commands into the console that he and Andrew had come up with together. Stanley Tesik watched from the co-pilot seat in silence, waiting for the teenager to give him his orders. Jackson was busy with Cort, so it was up to the family’s Head of Security to help the pilot keep the Destiny under control. Getty trusted the man completely and was adamant that Stanley assist him after Andrew had rattled off some of the times that Stanley had been acknowledged for his piloting skills. Stanley groaned in defeat, knowing that he had no other choice. AJ was busy manning the ship’s engines, ready to report to Getty if anything abnormal happened while they were trying to recharge the Destiny’s power core. Finally, when Getty was satisfied that they were ready, he gave the order to Andrew to bring them closer to the planet.
“Grab your stick, Stanley,” Getty stated calmly, placing his left hand on his control lever, while his other hand rested on the ship’s manual throttle control. “This is going to get rough.”
“We should warn everyone, Getty,” Stanley reminded the pilot.
“Andrew!” Getty called out.
“Warning the passengers, now,” Andrew replied just before the ship lurched, harshly downwards. “The force of the gravity is stronger than I originally calculated, Getty.”
“I don’t care, Andrew!” Getty replied shortly. “I can handle this!”
The ship lurched again, groaning around the two men on the bridge as the lights flickered.
“Deploying collection cells!” Getty stated.
The ship began to shake as the two men fought to keep it under control. Getty could hear Stanley grunting from the exertion.
“The power cells are recharging, Getty,” Andrew informed them. “Forty-seven percent and climbing.”
“How long until we’re at one-hundred percent, Andrew?”
“Ten seconds, Getty,” Andrew responded.
“Have the plasma core ready to jump to Star Speed-4 on my mark!”
“Acknowledged. Five seconds. Three. . . Two. . . One. . .” Andrew said calmly. “The energy cells are completely charged, sir.”
“Pull back hard, Stanley!” Getty called out, grunting from the effort as he yanked back hard on his stick. “Retract collection cells!”
“Collection cells are retracting.”
“Initiate Star Speed, Andrew!” Getty yelled the moment he had the bow of the Destiny aimed far enough away from the planet that the ship wouldn’t be pulled back into the field of gravity.
The ship lurched suddenly, before the view from the windshield began to distort and bend around the vessel. Then, the Destiny broke free from the gravitational pull of the strange planet, and shot out into the solar system, causing both of the men on the bridge to sigh happily.
“Well done, Captain Roberts,” Sergeant Tesik said with relief.
“I’m going to slow us down in a few minutes, and turn us back towards the Outpost, Stanley,” Getty informed the older man. “It’s too dangerous for us to cruise like this with the Destiny having as many issues as it is. Plus, the power core isn’t staying charged, sir. It’s draining unusually fast, so I’m going to refrain from draining our reserves like they were before.”
“The only thing that matters, Getty, is that we make it back to Earth alive,” Stanley told Getty with a firm nod. “This is your ship, Captain. My only request is that you at least ask me for advice if you’re struggling with something.”
“Deal,” Getty replied with a grin.
“Good,” Stanley grinned back at the teenager. “Now that the heavy shit is out of the way, I’m going to go check on everyone.”
“There are injuries in Dinrak’s laboratory, Sergeant Tesik,” Andrew informed the man. “Mason Tesik and Deegan Aurdyn have both been injured. Prince Deegan is not responding to hails in the cabin, but Mason is showing signs of movement. Wesley is unharmed, but he is still strapped to the gurney and cannot break free to help Prince Deegan.”
“I’m going,” Stanley said without a backwards glance, as he jumped out of the flight seat and ran from the bridge.
Getty frowned; dark thoughts were beginning to plague his mind as he thought about the boys that were hurt.
“It’s my fault,” he mumbled.
“You’re wrong, Getty,” Andrew told him pointedly, clearly hearing the teenager’s words. “If anybody is to blame, it is myself. I did not pass the warning to the lab, believing it to be vacant at the time. The interior sensors of the ship had been dampened to conserve energy, and did not come back online, until a moment ago. The Destiny is in desperate need of repair, Getty. My calculations show that we need to fall to a steady pulse, in order for us to make it to the Outpost with any power reserves remaining.”
“How much power would we have remaining, Andrew?” Getty asked, realizing that neither of them was really to blame for what had happened.
“Let’s do it, then,” the pilot replied with an unhappy chuckle. “Slow us down, and set course for OP3.4.5B, Andrew.”
“Yes, Captain Roberts,” Andrew responded as Getty leaned back in his seat with a nervous sigh.
“This is going to be interesting, Andrew,” Getty said. “I just hope we make it out of this alive.”
-Admiral Edward Thomas – 63 – Earth Star Port 1.1 – 3.12.2127
Edward couldn’t help but to stare at the boy sitting at the far end of the table, at a complete loss for words. Renly had managed to do the unthinkable. He had created a cloning program that would activate upon the target’s death.
“It really is a sophisticated system, Admiral Thomas,” Doctor Stanson was saying, almost too proudly, not seeing the cloudy look on the older man’s face. “Admiral Tesik had several people volunteer for the project, actually.”
Edward just continued to stare at the boy. He wanted to tell the man to go away, or to just silence himself, but the admiral was too stunned by the figure sitting opposite him, to say a word. The boy was staring back at him, a slight smile pulling at the corner of his pink lips as he waited, patiently.
“The memories transferred between the computer chips, the moment his heart stopped beating,” the younger man was saying, still oblivious to the admiral’s stunned silence. “It startled us that it had even happened, really. The alarms are quite jarring when they go off. We didn’t know what was-”
The younger man’s voice as the door opened, and an older scientist wearing a lab coat and holding a clipboard, entered the room. Admiral Thomas glanced up to see that he recognized the man.
“The one and only, Admiral Thomas,” the gray-haired man replied with a grin as he sat near the center of the table. He was slightly overweight, and his receding hairline was more skin than hair. His skin was a pasty-white in color, and Doctor West’s green eyes looked faded from years of being under florescent lights and staring at computer screens. “It’s been a while.”
“I thought you had died,” Edward admitted honestly. “That was the rumor, anyway.”
“It was easier than explaining that I would never be able to see any of my friends, again,” Doctor West stated with a calm smile. Then, the man flipped over the top page of his clipboard. “I trust that Doctor Stanson has been talking nonstop since you sat down?”
“I sort of, tuned him out,” Ed replied as he turned his gaze back to the boy at the end of the table. “My attention has been on other things.”
“Understandable, Admiral Thomas,” the scientist stated before he changed the subject. “Now, what do you know about the Lazarus Program?”
“Not enough, apparently. The file that I was given had a lot of redacted information in it.”
“Doctor Stanson, go get the box off of my desk, and bring it here, please?”
“Yes, Doctor West,” the younger man replied before he hurried from the room.
“How many secret projects did Renly have, Greg?” Edward finally asked his former friend, once the other man had left them alone.
“Not as many as you think, Ed,” Doctor West responded. “I think there are only three active projects that Admiral Tesik was responsible for. The Lazarus Program is the largest I’ve ever been involved in, though.”
“How many volunteers did he have?”
“Jesus,” Edward scoffed in disbelief. “Thirty-seven clones?”
Greg West nodded solemnly.
“What’s the success rate?”
“Four of the clones perished,” the scientist responded. “Five other subjects have activated over the past few months, though. They’ve already been introduced into the general population. Subject-7 here,” Greg motioned to the boy. “Has been our most successful case.”
“Why?” Ed asked.
“The other subjects that were activated were all aboard this Starport, Admiral,” Greg said with a grin. “Subject-7 wasn’t.”
“Stop calling him that,” the admiral demanded. “He has a name.”
“Tell him what my name is, grandfather,” the boy said softly.
Admiral Thomas felt a tear roll down his cheek as he heard the boy’s voice for the first time in several years. Renly had promised to protect the boy when his mother and father had been killed in a car accident, not turn him into a science experiment. But there he was, sitting right in front of the admiral. Edward couldn’t help but to feel a wave of sadness as he thought about his son’s tragic death. Renly’s daughter and Edward’s son had left their children without parents in one fateful event that had changed both families, forever.
‘Why would you do this, Renly?’ Edward demanded silently as more tears clouded his vision. ‘Did you do this to Wade, too?’
The man looked up suddenly, when he felt the light touch of a small hand against his shoulder, finding himself staring directly into the blue eyes of the boy that he had been told was dead. Admiral Thomas couldn’t help but to reach out and pull the clone of Eddin Tesik into his arms, rocking the boy tightly as his emotions overwhelmed the man.
-Colonel Jackson Tesik – 36 – Destiny – 3.13.2127
Jackson moved Cort to his own quarters, so he could keep an eye on the boy. It had only been two days since he had awakened from his coma, and the man’s youngest child was still weak on his feet. Dinrak had been able to stabilize Prince Deegan, and the Pydrakian was already acting like his normal self again. Mason wouldn’t leave the white-haired boy’s side ever since Deegan had been injured while Getty was trying to recharge the Destiny’s power core. While the maneuver had been successful, Mason and Prince Deegan were tossed around Dinrak’s laboratory. Deegan needed stitches to staunch the bleeding of his scalp, while Mason only suffered a few bruises from the event.
Jackson and Cort were enjoying a meal in the Mess Hall together, when Wade Tesik, the older brother of Eddin, entered the room with a weary look in his blue eyes.
“Hi, Wade!” Cort greeted his oldest cousin excitedly.
The twelve-year-old shot off of the bench with a huge smile on his face. Wade barely had any time to register the approach of the boy before Cort slammed into Wade’s side and threw his arms around the young man. Wade couldn’t help but smile as he felt Cort hold on to him.
“Hey, Cort,” Wade returned, a sad tone to his voice. He reached down and lifted the smaller boy into his arms and hugged him. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m still tired,” Cort replied. “I’m sorry about Eddin, Wade. I loved him, too.”
“I know, little man,” Wade said with a sniffle, tears suddenly filling his blue eyes. “It’s just going to be difficult for a little while.”
Jackson watched as his son interacted with his nephew, the younger boy seeming to bring the young man out of his funk. The man smiled, unable to look away when he heard Wade laugh for the first time since Eddin had left them. Jackson was about to talk to the cousins when Andrew called for his attention.
“Yes, Andrew?” Jackson asked, not looking away from Cort and Wade. “What may I help you with?”
“We are approaching the Outpost, Colonel,” Andrew informed the man dutifully.
“Inform Getty that I am on my way,” Colonel Tesik responded. Then, he noticed Wade and Cort looking at him.
“What’s going on, Uncle Jackson?” Wade asked curiously.
“We’re at the Outpost,” Jackson told both of them. “Cort, please keep an eye on your older cousin for me. I think he needs some more of your laughter for a little while.”
“Of course, father,” Cort replied with a mock salute.
Jackson walked over and hugged his son before he hugged Wade, as well. “Welcome back, Wade,” Jackson told the young man. “It’s nice to see you smile, again.”
“Sorry, Uncle Jackson,” Wade apologized sheepishly. “I shouldn’t have abandoned everyone like that.”
“I would never hold you accountable for grieving, Wade,” Jackson reassured his nephew. The man hugged Wade again, before he turned and headed towards the Bridge.
-Lieutenant Getty Roberts – 16 – Destiny – 3.13.2127
“The Outpost appears to only be partially active, Getty,” Andrew was telling the pilot when Colonel Tesik arrived on the bridge. He had stopped on the way and grabbed his brother, ready to use the man’s military knowledge to help them come up with the best plan for approaching the space megastructure. “I am picking up signs of several construction ships arriving and departing from the Outpost, as well, Getty.”
“Where are the construction crews coming from, Andrew?” Stanley asked as he stood behind Getty’s seat, motioning for Jackson to take the co-pilot spot.
“The construction vessels appear to be coming from Alpha Centauri, Sergeant Tesik,” Andrew responded. “The ships that are departing are heading for Sirius.”
“This Outpost orbits Ceti-3,” Getty informed them as he studied the information that Andrew had given him. “A small gas planet in the Ceti system. It’s believed that the species of fauna living on the gas world is familiar throughout the entirety of the Milky Way.”
“The Goris?” Stanley asked in disbelief. “What other planets are they located on?”
“Jupiter, for one,” Jackson answered his brother’s question. “Intelligence believes that they’ve always been there. The gases are absorbed by their skin and they breathe them like we breathe air.”
“How did we even find them on Jupiter?” Getty asked. “The planet is nothing but storms.”
“Special satellites made it down to the surface shortly after the first invasion by the Imposters back in 2021,” Jackson replied. “Humans were searching for anything that could help them save the planet, and they nearly destroyed themselves trying to come up with something.”
“The Weather Satellite Program,” Stanley stated absently. “It would have worked if the manufacturer of the satellites didn’t cut corners during construction and testing. All it took was one solar flare to knock the satellites out of sync, and the Earth was sent into another catastrophe. Storms traversed the surface of the planet for nearly twenty years before they were able to figure out a solution.”
“It’s a pity that so many people died,” Jackson said absently.
“Don’t forget about the shelters that were destroyed by insurgents,” Stanley reminded his younger brother.
“People do crazy things when they know their lives are at stake,” Getty said with a sigh before he brought them back to the subject at hand. “So, do we stop at the Outpost, or not?”
“We don’t have a choice in the matter, gentlemen,” Andrew pointed out. “The Destiny will not make it to Sirius or to Alpha Centauri without repairs being made.”
“The Outpost it is, then,” Jackson said grimly.
“I’ll go warn everyone,” Stanley added.
“Make sure you tell Mason, this time,” Jackson suggested with a chuckle.
“That’s my first stop, Jackson,” the older man agreed before he left for his task.
“How far are we from the Outpost, Captain?” Jackson asked Getty.
“Fifteen minutes, Colonel,” Getty replied dutifully. “I suggest you arm yourself.”
“Point taken, Getty,” Jackson replied with a nod before he left for his cabin.
Getty had Andrew warn AJ of what they were doing, while he slipped away to his own cabin to grab his sidearm. Getty wanted to be prepared for anything.
-Colonel Jackson Tesik – 36 – Destiny – 3.13.2127
The Destiny shuttered slightly as it settled down onto the steel floor of the shuttle bay. Colonel Tesik kept his hand firmly on the wall as he stood next to the exit hatch, waiting for the door to the inside of the Outpost to finally open. They had barely been able to gain clearance to land in the Outpost, only citing a special code that Renly Tesik had left Getty with had granted the Destiny permission to enter the space around the megastructure.
“Stabilizing cabin pressure, Colonel,” Jackson heard Getty’s voice come out of the speaker next to the door. “Door will open in ten seconds.”
“Standing by, Captain,” Jackson Tesik responded.
“You’re not going by yourself, Uncle Jackson,” Wade stated firmly as he moved to stand beside the older man.
“You are my personal security, from this moment on, nephew,” Jackson told the young man with a brief nod. “I’ll make sure that your salary is compensated accordingly.”
Then, the outer door opened outwards, turning into a ramp for the two men to walk down. Wade stayed close to Jackson, his eyes sweeping the busy bay as the two Tesik men made their way over to a nearby service desk that was manned by an octopus-like creature with several tentacles waving about around its form. The creature made several clicks as the two men approached and one of its tentacles motioned to a display that was beside the counter. Jackson immediately recognized the standard maintenance form and made quick work of checking the Destiny in to be repaired. Then, Jackson and Wade headed towards a door with a sign mounted on the wall above it that read “Canteen” in big letters.
“What was that thing, Uncle Jackson?” Wade asked once they were clear of the service desk.
“It’s a species known as a Moctorys, Wade,” Jackson informed the younger man. “They’re a highly intelligent species, but they rely on others in order to survive.”
“For starters,” Jackson explained. “They can’t gather food for themselves. I think that was a trait that their creators installed into them. Nobody wanted a crazy octopus monster with brains and the ability to eat constantly.”
“Constantly?” Wade asked in disbelief.
“If they don’t keep a continuous supply of nutrients entering their bodies, they begin to decompose and lose their shape,” Jackson said gravely. “They would die within forty-eight hours if they weren’t kept fed. Also, they can’t move around on their own.”
“But what about the tentacles, Uncle Jackson?” Wade asked. “Those were clearly moving.”
“Yes, they were,” Jackson chuckled. “They shift their body fluid around into their different appendages in order to move them, Wade. It takes a lot of concentration and energy from what I understand.”
“Oh,” Wade said absently.
“Now,” Jackson said motioning towards the open door of the canteen. “Let’s see if we can get some rooms for a few nights. The proprietor of this place should be able to give us some decent information too.”
The inside of the canteen was smaller than Wade and Jackson expected. There were only eight small-round tables spread throughout the room, and a counter with a small selection of liquor behind it stood along the wall to the left of the entrance. Beside the shelf full of bottles was a swinging door that led back to a storage area.
“Can I help you, gentlemen?” The man wiping down glasses behind the counter asked.
“Good day, sir,” Jackson greeted the man with a slight incline of his head. “I am Colonel Renly Tesik of the Association of Colonization and Exploration. I was wondering if you could give me directions to any of the inns that I may be able to stay at with my family? We’re going to be stuck here for a few days while our ship gets repaired.”
Jackson slid a quarter-mark across the counter to the proprietor, and the man’s attitude brightened, considerably. He pocketed the coin as he gave the men directions down to one of the nicer inns that was still taking customers. Jackson passed the man another coin before promising to return for a drink later in the day. Wade followed his uncle back out into the wide corridor.
“Is it a trap?” The younger man asked in a low voice.
“Yes,” Jackson returned. “All of these outposts are built with the same general layout in mind. The proprietor is sending us to the warehouse district. Let’s go back to the Destiny and let everybody else know what’s going on.”
-Mason Tesik – 14 – Destiny – 3.13.2127
Mason helped Deegan down the narrow corridor, the white-haired boy’s head was wrapped in bandages, causing his head to look bigger than average. His right eye had a deep purple and blue bruise around it and the boy swaggered a bit in his gait. Mason watched the prince closely, keeping Deegan’s hand firmly gripped in his own in case the prince needed his help. Wesley followed along behind them with a rucksack on his shoulders carrying the belongings for all three of them. Even though Mason had tried to refuse the teenager’s services, Wesley had insisted on helping the two boys while Prince Deegan recovered from his injuries. Mason and Wesley shared a connection that was almost as strong as the one shared between the silver-eyed prince and the deaf child.
‘I wonder if he can hear me, too?’ Mason wondered.
‘I can,’ Wesley responded with a giggle, making Mason jump in surprise.
‘You’re beginning to form your own little club, Mason,’ Deegan told him silently. ‘How many other people are in this club, love?’
‘Eddin was,’ Mason thought sadly, nearly stumbling in his steps at the memory of being connected to his cousin when he died.
‘Can’t I still be a part of your club?’ Mason froze at the sound of the familiar voice, making Wesley run into him from behind. Mason stumbled forward just as his father stepped back onto the Destiny, catching his son before Mason hit the floor.
‘Eddin?’ Mason thought in bewilderment, not noticing the conversation being held around him as his father pulled him into his arms. ‘Eddin, is that really you?’
‘Sort of, cousin,’ Eddin replied. ‘I’ll explain when I see you again. I promise.’
‘This isn’t possible,’ Mason thought bitterly as tears filled his blue eyes. ‘Someone is playing a trick on me! I just know it!’
‘No, Mason,’ the voice of Eddin tried to reassure his cousin, but Mason was desperately trying to shut him out.
‘You’re not real! You’re not real! You’re not real!’
Mason slammed his hands against his ears and squeezed his eyes shut as he tried to force the sound of Eddin’s voice from his mind. Jackson was shaking his son, trying to get Mason to look at him, but Mason refused to acknowledge the man. The boy’s thoughts were solely focused on ridding himself of the connection with the supposed Eddin. Not even Wesley or Prince Deegan could get through to the deaf boy. Only Sir Chos, Deegan’s tutor who happened to be coming from his own cabin at that time, was able to break through Mason’s mental blockade. Mason looked up sharply at the tutor before he lost consciousness and slumped into Jackson’s arms.
-Lieutenant Getty Roberts – 16 – Destiny – 3.13.2127
“I don’t like this, Andrew,” Getty stated warily as he stared out through the windshield of his ship. “Not even a little bit.”
“I must confess, Getty,” Andrew responded. “I’m not very fond of our situation, either.”
“Is there a way to keep them from discovering your existence?” Getty couldn’t help but to worry about the former android that he had somehow befriended. Getty never expected that he would trust another being like Andrew, even more surprised that he had Wesley coming to him to confide in him. Wesley had seemed so vulnerable, that Getty couldn’t help but to like the android. Wesley and Andrew were clearly two different personas that had been forced into the same mind, leaving Wesley to be stuck hidden away in the back of their shared brain.
“Yes,” Andrew responded. “You’re not going to like it, though.”
“What is it, Andrew?”
“I need to upload myself to the station, Lieutenant Roberts,” Andrew replied.
Unable to mask his concern, Getty asked, “Won’t they notice you?”
“Not if I’m careful.”
“How long will it take?”
“One minute, at the most, Getty.”
“Just,” Getty hesitated. “Just, be careful, Andrew. I don’t know what we would do without you, my friend.”
“I’ll go dark once everyone is off of the Destiny, Captain,” Andrew told Getty.
“That works for me, Andrew,” Getty responded. “I’ll see you on the other side.”