avatarAuthor, D. Denise Dianaty

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Science Fiction Thriller

Chapter Nine — Part Two The Time It Takes to Die

A New Independent Union

Anna found docking with the jumpstation unnerving. She’d only ever been in landers before, shuttling across Mars. Unprepared for the clanking and grinding of docking, she held tightly to the arms of her seat, pushing her shoulder blades hard into the seat back. All the while, the security team kept up their chatter.

It seemed to take forever. When docking was finally completed, one last unnerving sound set her stomach clenching anxiously. The sudden change in the artificial gravity to station-normal and her ears popping when the ship’s airlock pressure seals released, left her swallowing and breathing to keep down whatever she last ate.

Everyone else was up and queuing at the airlock as the stranger stopped. He leaned over her and unfastened her safety restraints. She looked up to protest and saw Eric smirking back at her from the depths of the hood, with his finger to his lips to quell her retort. Before she could react, he showed her inside his duffle, revealing a small lab-stasis pod. Through the small, round viewport, she could see Colby curled inert within.

He resealed his duffle, concealing the pod again. Eric schooled his expression and held Anna’s arm for a moment as she stood until her wobbly legs adjusted to the new gravity ratio. Then, still without speaking, he paced ahead of her into the station airlock.

Tagene drew Anna forward in the queue so that she was ahead of the pilot and Ernie, with Eric bringing up the rear. When the station airlock door finally rolled aside, the flat smell of recycled air was carried on an unexpected inward airflow. As Anna stepped through the door, the agents parted to reveal Ecart standing there looking taciturn.

He was flanked by half a dozen heavily armored military-looking agents. The armor obscured any information about them beyond their nearly uniform height. Ecart stood at parade rest in a formal, knee-length uniform jacket with his rank insignia over the flexible light armor her traveling companions wore. Anna thought he looked completely in his element here.

He looks like he’s home, she thought.

Ecart swept forward and began leading her briskly into the interior of the station as he greeted her. “Ms Sinclair, welcome to Jumpstation 1. Thank you for traveling to us in these precarious times.” Without turning he said, “Professor Honeywell, I am Colonel Ecart, commander of this station for the newly ratified ‘United Sol Council.’ Your lab is set up and waiting for you.”

In an unsurprised tone, Eric responded flatly, “Thank you, Colonel.”

At the same time, Anna voiced her surprise, “A ‘newly ratified’ alliance has been formed?”

A quick pen and ink sketch of how I imagine the common room, drawing by the author

Ecart led them into a common room where more than a dozen uniformed workers were gathered. Automated provenders lined one wall, their interior lighting coldly bright. A quaint little coffee corner at the back looked more inviting. It was manned by the only person there in civilian clothes. She was a matronly-looking woman with short-cropped iron-grey hair with a tartan tam perched jauntily. She was wearing a matching tartan vest over a soft yellow blouse, under the crisp white apron she sported. Anna recognized the tartan to be one of several favored on Grahams Colony.

With a vague nod in that lady’s direction, Ecart stopped in the middle of the circular room and pitched his voice to be heard by everyone. Looking back to Anna, he read from a datapad for the room, “Citizens, I’m directed to impart the following to you from our newly appointed interim Prime Minister, Aspasia Sideron.”

“The former Alliance Council of Colonies has ratified the communities of Sol, declaring us to be ‘former colonies.’ The elected leaders of the former Allied Colonies voted unanimously to form a single union which will henceforth be known as “the United Sol Council.’ Each former colony is now an autonomous province, equal to each other, within the new union. We self-determine this union to be wholly formed and establish our inviolate rights as an independent civil society in our own right, equal to Earth civil societies. Our union shall not be brought under the colonial rule of Earth or its entities.”

Ecart concluded with, “This action is in response to Earth entities launching an active war against us. Multiple assaults are raging across Mars and on Reids Colony… pardon me, Reids Province and Graham Province. We expect further actions against provinces within the union. The former Alliance Services and Alliance Security are being combined into the standing USC Military Defense Forces. If you wish to remain in civil service, you have forty-eight hours to file with my office or be assigned to the military rank and command structure.”

Declining questions, he turned and entered a small anteroom off the common room. Turning to one of the heavily armored agents-cum-soldiers, he commanded, “Captain Kreiger, please show Professor Honeywell and the security detail to his lab.” He turned to Eric, “I’ll join you there for a debriefing when Ms Sinclair is finished with her interview.”

The former agents of the security detail looked rather bemused, but they still responded with a sharp salute in formation. Then, in precise military formation, they turned and marched away with Eric in their midst and the captain leading the way. Anna vainly hoped Eric would look back, to offer some sign to comfort her from the depths of his hooded duster jacket as he walked away with the security detail.

With a hand on her elbow, Ecart guided Anna into the office on the other side of the small antechamber. He sealed the door behind them and crossed to the desk, gesturing for her to take the seat before Anna opened her mouth to demand answers.

Part Three coming soon. Catch up with the previous chapters and parts curated in my list here:

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