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Scott didn’t say anything until they were alone in the ElLift. He loved his sister and very seldom spoke harshly to her… but this, time he was furious.
“I have NEVER been so embarrassed in my life! Telling Captain Danson that he wasn’t Captain Danson! How could you!”
“He wasn’t,” protested Sandy in a subdued voice. Why didn’t Scott believe her? He knew she never told lies.
“He was Captain Danson. I know him, too. He looked like Captain Danson. He talked like Captain Danson. He acted like Captain Danson. He WAS Captain Danson. Get that into your brain! Now you’re going to have to go back and tell him you’re sorry.”
They got off the Main Control ElLift and began walking down the halls to the ElLift that would take them close to their home.
“I’m not sorry,” Sandy said firmly. “And I am not going to apologize for the truth.”
“Sandy, don’t be stubborn.”
“Captain Danson might be in danger. We’ve got to find him!”
“That shouldn’t be hard. He’s sitting at his desk in his office.”
“Scott, you’ve got to believe me… that wasn’t Captain Danson. I know it wasn’t. Elniyn wouldn’t want me to lie to make you or anyone else happy.”
“We’ll see what mom and dad have to say about it,” commented Scott grimly.
They rode the ElLift down to their level in silence.
When the door opened a ball bounced inside, startling them. Outside was Dick with a grin spread over his freckled face. Dick was the same age as Sandy and had dark brown hair. Scott, Sandy, Dick, and Dick’s sixteen-year-old sister, Janna, had shared many adventures as they worked to solve The Gallant Mystery last year. Since that time, they had continued to be friends.
Scott glared and pushed past him. Turning to Sandy, he said, “Coming?”
“Not yet. I need time to think.”
Dick entered the ElLift with Sandy and picked up his ball.
“You two have a fight?” he asked in surprise, as the ElLift doors closed. Dick was always scrapping with his older sister. “I’ve never seen Scott so mad!”
“Wow! You two never fight. What’s this about?”
Sandy did not reply. Dick wasn’t offended at being ignored. He just continued throwing his ball into the air and catching it. His ability to not react was one of the things that irritated his sister, so he learned to do it well.
Two levels down, Sandy left Dick on the ElLift and made her way to the observation deck, where she had met Captain Danson the day before. Sitting down, she stared out at the stars. It looked so peaceful out there. Why couldn’t it be peaceful inside, too? Hot tears rolled down her cheeks. Why was it when you had something wonderful planned, it was always spoilt?
Crying is fine for a while, but it has to stop sometime. Reality must be faced. It was about twenty minutes later when Sandy slowly got up. With her eyes glued to the floor, she shuffled off to the nearest public washroom to wash out her eyes. Then she headed back to the ElLift to go home and see what her parents would say.
As she approached the ElLift, she saw Dick was still there, bouncing his ever-present ball and whistling. He had waited for her out of curiosity.
“Just thought I’d wait for you,” he said casually, catching his ball and pressing the ElLift button. “Going to tell me what’s up?”
Sandy shrugged, “I was just up in Captain Danson’s office…”
“Wow!” exclaimed Dick. “I haven’t been there since we were rescued from Vaug IV. Did you get to see inside Main Control?”
Sandy shook her head, “I just went to his office, with Scott, but he wasn’t there.”
“So, what’s the big deal?” Dick bounced his ball off the walls of the ElLift. “Just go back later.”
“You don’t understand. I saw a man in Captain Danson’s uniform, who looked like Captain Danson, and said he was Captain Danson, but he wasn’t. I know he wasn’t.”
Dick grabbed his ball. He shot Sandy a strange look. “Why don’t you think he was Captain Danson?”
Sandy stamped her foot in anger, “I don’t think! I know! I just don’t know how I know, but I KNOW.”
“I agree, you don’t think,” said Dick in the sarcastic voice he usually reserved for his sister, Janna. “I do think… and I think you’re crazy.”
The ElLift stopped on the next level and the door opened. Dick kept tossing his ball and catching, totally unconcerned that Sandy was glaring at him. A man entered the ElLift and it continued its journey to the next level. Dick wouldn’t have paid any attention to the man at all except that he noticed a curious J-Shaped scar below the man’s lip. Dick was always interested in anything out of the ordinary. However, neither Dick nor Sandy noticed that the man never gave the ElLift any instructions. On the other hand, he did not appear to be paying any attention to them.
As the doors opened on their floor, Sandy’s heart sank. What were her parents going to say? Had Scott already told them? Was she going to be in trouble?
Dick was first off. He went down the hall bouncing his ball and whistling. Sandy stepped into the hall and began heading to her apartment, right across from Dick’s apartment. Her feet felt like they were made of lead. Every step increased her dread. The man with the scar also left the ElLift on that level.
As Dick got to the door of his apartment, he called out to Sandy, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Then he added with a grin, “Or maybe it will only be someone who looks like me.”
Sandy was too wrapped up in her thoughts to care about Dick right then. Silently she entered her family’s apartment. It was a spacious, tastefully decorated, three-bedroom apartment. Sandy headed straight for her room.
“Is that you, Sandy?” came a voice from the kitchen.
“Will you help me with supper, please.”
Reluctantly, Sandy changed direction. At any other time, she would have been thrilled at helping, but right now she wanted to be alone. Her mother noticed something was wrong as soon as Sandy stepped into the kitchen. Sandy tried to put on a brave smile, but mothers are rarely fooled.
“What’s wrong, Sweetheart? Didn’t Captain Danson like the brownies?”
“Didn’t Scott tell you?”
“Scott hasn’t come in yet.”
“We went to Captain Danson’s office. There was another man there. He looked like Captain Danson and he said he was Captain Danson, but he wasn’t.” Sandy paused, blinking back tears. “I know he wasn’t. Scott didn’t believe me… and neither did Dick.”
Mrs. Langlish wasn’t quite sure she had heard Sandy correctly. Captain Danson wasn’t Captain Danson? In any case, she gave Sandy a huge hug and held her close for several minutes. To Sandy, it was the most comforting thing in the world to have those loving arms wrapped around her.
Kissing Sandy on the forehead, she said, “We’ll talk about it later. Right now, you had better stir that sauce, or it will burn.”
Sandy smiled gratefully and picked up a spoon. It wasn’t long before Mr. Langlish came home from working at the furniture store he owned. He was followed closely by Scott, who had a terrific sense of timing when it came to meals.
Soon the family was seated around the dining room table. Mr. Langlish offered a short prayer of thanksgiving to Elniyn. Then dinner was served. Sandy slowly picked at the food on her plate. She wasn’t hungry and her mind was a million miles away. Suddenly, she felt Scott kick her under the table. Crossly, she glanced up at him. With his head, he motioned to Mr. Langlish.
“I asked you if you were feeling ok.”
“Sorry, Dad. I didn’t hear you. I guess my mind was wandering.”
“What’s the matter?”
Sandy’s eyes went back to her plate of half-eaten food. She picked up a morsel of food. Then she set it back down absent-mindedly.
“It’s… it’s kind of hard to say…”
“It’s not hard at all!” exclaimed Scott, still upset with Sandy. “She flipped out in the Captain’s office and told Captain Danson he wasn’t the Captain!”
“I don’t like the tone of your voice, Scott,” said Mr. Langlish calmly, but with an edge of warning in his own voice. “And I don’t understand. Of course, Captain Danson is the Captain of the Gallant.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Scott replied respectively, controlling his voice with an effort. “She looked Captain Danson in the face and told him he wasn’t Captain Danson, but some imposter. I have never been so embarrassed in my life.”
Mr. Langlish turned to Sandy, who was slightly red, “You accused Captain Danson of being an imposter?”
Sandy nodded with tears forming in her eyes, “He wasn’t Captain Danson.”
“He looked like Captain Danson. He talked like Captain Danson. He was Captain Danson,” muttered Scott.
“Scott, your father is talking to Sandy.”
“What makes you think he wasn’t Captain Danson?”
Sandy jumped to her feet with a flaming red face, bumping the table and causing juice to ripple over the edges of the glasses.
“I don’t think. I KNOW!” she exploded. “It wasn’t Captain Danson and I KNOW it! Why doesn’t anyone believe me?” She stormed off to her bedroom with the tears flowing freely.
Shocked silence reigned around the table for a few minutes. Without a word, Mr. Langlish began to rise. His wife placed her hand upon his. Mr. Langlish searched his wife’s eyes and, finding the answer to his unspoken question, sat back down. Slowly and thoughtfully, he picked up his fork and continued eating. The other two did the same. The meal went on in an almost ghostly solitude.
Scott’s mind was reeling from Sandy’s unexpected outburst. Whether she was right or wrong, he knew Sandy felt what she had said very deeply. He began to feel ashamed of the selfish way he acted, thinking only of his own feelings and not his sister’s.
It was about ten minutes later when the sound of a door opening reached them. Moments later, a shame-faced Sandy entered the dining room. Her eyes stared at the floor as if it was the most exciting thing in the universe. Actually, it was only a common diamond pattern shined to perfection by a loving Mrs. Langlish.
Her voice faltered with emotion as she spoke, “I’m sorry, Dad. I sinned and I was wrong to lose my temper like that. I… I… try to control it, really I do, but sometimes it sneaks away on me. I’ve asked Elniyn to forgive me. Now I am asking you and Mom and Scott to forgive me.” The tears were running down her face. “I am sorry that I am such a disappointment…”
She was interrupted as her father’s loving arms encircled her. Words could not express the comfort of that caring touch.
“You’re not a disappointment to us, Sweetheart. Get that idea out of your pretty head. We’re very proud of you, and we will always love you no matter what you do or what happens. You are forgiven. And I know you will continue working on your temper until you win. I have every confidence in you.”
Sandy stood there for a few minutes without saying a word. She was just enjoying and drawing strength from her father’s hug. When she looked up into his eyes, she could see the love there… and a few glistening tears of his own. He slipped his hand in hers and led her back to her place at the table.
“Finish your meal, then we’ll talk.”
Mrs. Langlish gave Sandy’s hand a little squeeze as she sat down.
“I’m sorry, too,” said Scott.
The rest of the meal was finished in uncustomary silence. But this silence was a comfortable, thoughtful silence where each person appreciated the other’s company, not the trouble, embarrassed silence that had reigned before.
After the meal had been cleared away and the dishes done, the family went into the living room and sat down. Mrs. Langlish put on some soft music, praising the wonders of Elniyn. She went back into the kitchen and returned with a cup of steaming hot tain for Mr. Langlish and herself.
Mr. Langlish sipped at his tain for a few minutes. His eyes were closed as he allowed the soft music to penetrate his mind and remind him of the love of Elniyn. The rest sat in silence, listening to the music and waiting for him to speak.
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