Scott opened his eyes to a rainbow spectrum of lights spiralling around on a wall in front of him. It reminded him of a fun house he’d been in as a boy. Since he was already on his feet, the first thing he did was check to see if his body parts were working. To his relief, they were. Next, he checked for his equipment. Not surprisingly, no Pocod, tracker, nor even iSREM battery. He kicked away the wedges at his feet and took his arms out of the straps attached to the wall. The props had obviously been intended to hold him up, and not to restrain him.
The next step was to figure out where in the universe he was – and where the rest of the party was.
As his head started to clear, he remembered being dragged away from the camp in the middle of the night. He hadn’t been aware of much, but he did know Blake had been with him. Scott spun around a full circle and found the linguist literally staring at a wall.
“You Ok?” Scott asked.
“Fine,” Panther said. He wasn’t very conversant for a linguist, Scott thought.
The microbiologist went over to join him in studying colours playing over the surface in a mesmerising manner, to see what he could make of it. He assumed it was a projection of some sort, but he couldn’t find the source anywhere. What he did find, on closer examination, was a button positioned at the centre of the spiralling lights. Was the purpose of the pattern to hide the button, or to attract attention to it? To push or not to push, he thought. That was the question. He also wondered who was more senior, he or Panther. Panther was ship’s crew, he was a mission specialist. The crew were hired to ferry and protect the specialists. That meant if they were on board, he would have to follow the Captain’s instructions about his safety. But Panther wasn’t the Captain, and they weren’t on board. As a mission specialist he had the responsibility to do whatever he could to carry out the mission. The Ambassador/Director of Research was his boss, not the crew of the ship. They were both in the Earth Coalition Forces reserves…Panther must have been wondering the same thing, from his question.
“Is this a military emergency?” Panther asked.
“The Ambassador hasn’t called one again.”
“She hasn’t had a chance, has she?”
“Aren’t we both lieutenants, anyway?”
“What year did you make lieutenant?”
“You know that doesn’t matter,” D’Amour said.
“I have to keep you safe. I should be in charge.”
“Except we’re not on the ship. My job isn’t to play it safe once we’re working on the mission. I have to solve it at all costs, and I need you to help to get back on track. Look, let’s just work together, Ok?”
“I’ll try,” Panther said, looking back at the button. “You think we should push it?”
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