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Scott and Sandy’s minds whirled. Was Janna and Dick’s father, Mr. Lewis, really a traitor? Is that why he hadn’t been released yet? What would Janna and Dick think? Could they be friends with a traitor’s family?
Scott and Sandy stood breathless during the long pause that followed that statement over the intercom. After what seemed like forever there came the sound of scuffling feet.
"You know the situation now so I'll be going," came the first voice.
Quickly shutting off the intercom, Scott stepped back from the desk. Seconds later the office door slid open. The man in the doorway was tall, skinny and looked like he was in his mid-forties. He wore a high-ranking security officer's uniform. The red shirt had a short V neck and was made of soft, velvety material so that it was both good looking and comfortable. On the right arm was a patch with the symbol of the El Empire - giant, semi-transparent hands holding a galaxy. On the other sleeve was his Lt.'s stripes.
In spite of being surprised, a smile spread over his face when he saw Scott and Sandy. "You have two visitors," he said over his shoulder to Sgt. Walters.
Sgt. Walters rose out of his chair and came to the door. "You might want to stay Lt. This is the young lady who witnessed the incident in the park."
The Lt. held out his hand to Sandy, "It's good to meet you, Miss Langlish." Taking her hand he bowed and lightly kissed it. Sandy blushed with pleasure. "I'm sorry you had such a horrible experience, especially since you've only arrived onboard."
"It has been rather exciting," said Sandy regretfully. Her face twisted, betraying her troubled thoughts.
The Lt., not realizing they had overheard part of his conversation, merely thought Sandy was disturbed about the shooting. He turned his friendly smile to Scott and shook his hand. "You must be Mr. Scott Langlish."
Scott nodded, "Yes, sir."
"By the way, I'm Lt. Stern. I am in charge of the investigation into this shooting. We don’t like to think things like this can happen on the Gallant, but unfortunately, even we are not immune to the effects of the Fall."
Sgt. Walters motioned them into his office. "Come on in. I hope I didn't keep you waiting long."
Scott went a light shade of red as he replied, "Uh...no. We just got here."
"Good, I hate to keep important people waiting.”
Sgt. Walters moved behind his desk which was in the shape of a semi-circle. The desk was neat and it’s Theoakin wood finish shone as if it had just been polished. A computer console was on one end of it and a picture of Sgt. Walters’ wife and three children was on the opposite side. The walls were covered with Theoakin wood panelling. A few pictures and diplomas were modestly hung and a large video screen was on the wall facing the desk. A soft, light brown carpet covered the floor. As Sgt. Walters sat down he motioned Scott and Sandy to the chairs in front of the desk.
The memory of what had happened was still vivid in Sandy's mind and she told them what she had seen to the best of her ability. When she had finished, they asked her some questions and she tried to answer them. Sgt. Walters and Lt. Stern were so friendly and relaxed that they soon put her at ease. Scott also answered all the questions which were directed to him, but he hadn't seen much.
When they were done, Sgt. Walters said, "I want to thank you for coming down. You've been a big help."
As Scott and Sandy went out into the hallway Lt. Stern encouraged them, "I believe the rest of your stay will be more peaceful."
"I hope so," said Sandy. She liked routine, not adventure. But she knew situations that came up had to be dealt with. They could not just be ignored.
Back at their apartment Scott and Sandy settled down to their school work. The afternoon went by quietly enough. With the interview over, Sandy was able to do her school work better; although, the thought of their new friend’s father being a traitor troubled her. She hoped they had heard the last of the entire incident.
Later Sandy helped Mrs. Langlish prepare supper. Cooking was something Sandy enjoyed and she was thrilled on the occasions her mother let her make entire meals by herself. After supper Sandy put the dishes in the dish washer and wiped down the table, it was not as creative as designing a meal, but all part of the job.
After everything was done and put away Sandy said, "There's a Kerdell movie playing on level 27 and it starts in half an hour. It should be pretty funny."
"Yeah, he usually is," replied Scott.
"Yes, not yeah,” corrected Mrs. Langlish coming into the living room.
"Sorry, mom. Can we go?"
"Yes, you may."
"Maybe Dick and Janna would like to come too," said Scott. Truth to tell, he was thinking more of Janna than of Dick. "I imagine they could use a little cheering up."
Sandy didn't like the idea, in fact, she had decided she didn't like Janna very much at all. There was something about her 'superior' attitude which irked Sandy. But since it was obvious Scott liked Janna, she kept quiet about it.
"There's certainly no harm in asking," said Mrs. Langlish.
Scott and Sandy went across the hall to ask. It was Janna who answered the chiming of the doorbell.
Blushing slightly Scott asked, "Would, uh, you and Dick like to come to a Kerdell movie with us?"
"I don't think so," she said, her eyes seemed to look right past them.
"It might be a good idea, Janna,” said Mrs. Lewis coming up behind her. "You and Dick should get out of the apartment for awhile. I always enjoyed Kerdell movies. The last one I saw was 'Just Floating Around.’ I would burst out laughing for days afterwards. Tom, Mr. Lewis that is, thought I was crazy."
"Ok, mom," said Janna reluctantly. It was clear she would rather not go.
Dick appeared in the apartment hallway. He was bouncing a small ball. Glancing at his watch he said, "We'll be late if we don't hurry." Dick could be trusted to know the time and place of every movie shown on the Gallant.
There was an uncomfortable silence as they strolled down the hall to the nearest ElLift. Janna was avoiding looking at anyone, hoping no one would notice her watery eyes. Scott had his hands in his pockets wondering what to say. Sandy was walking by herself behind them and Dick was leading the way twisting and turning and bouncing his ball. He was the only one who seemed at ease.
"I'm sorry to hear about your father," said Scott trying to say something comforting to break the tension. As soon as the words were out of his mouth he knew he had made a mistake.
Stopping suddenly Janna whirled on him. The tears were beginning to run down her face, smearing her make-up. She shouted, "He's not a traitor!"
“I... I… never said..."
"But you were thinking it all the same," she spat out. "I think you're terrible… all of you!"
A couple of people watched the small group out of the corner of their eyes as they passed them in the hall. The four young people were too upset to notice them or care what they thought.
"Don't yell at Scott like that," broke in Sandy. She couldn't stand anyone yelling at her beloved brother.
"I'll yell at who I want to!"
Sandy was getting angry herself. No one ought to treat her brother like that, especially a stuck-up snob like Janna. "You're rude and inconsiderate! It's not Scott's fault if your father is selling out the Empire."
"He isn’t!” insisted Janna vehemently.
"Then what's he doing with top secret papers?"
"You...you..." stuttered Janna not knowing how to answer. Turning she fled back to her apartment.
Dick had been throwing his ball into the air and catching it as if nothing was happening while Janna and Sandy were screaming at each other. Now he merely commented, "She does get emotional at times," and went to the ElLift. "Are you coming?" When he didn't get an answer he allowed the door to close and disappeared from sight.
Scott and Sandy stood in the hall staring at each other. They were amazed at the totally opposite reactions of Dick and Janna.
"It was nice of you to defend me, but you shouldn't have. I can defend myself if I want to. And you shouldn't have said what you did, Sandy," said Scott at last.
"It was true," Sandy said in a half-hearted effort to defend herself. Now that her quick temper had passed she knew she had been wrong and hurt Janna. It was terrible having a temper that just seemed to flame up before you knew it was there. She thought it would be nice to be more level-headed, like Scott. Scott's criticism stung and didn't help her guilt feelings any.
"Sometimes it's better not to say things even if they are true. It's mostly my fault though, I should have steered clear of the whole subject."
"You didn't say anything wrong."
Lovingly Scott put his arm around his sister, "But I should have known better. Without meaning to, I lit the fuse."
"What do we do now?"
"There's only one thing we can do."
"I was afraid of that. Do you think Mrs. Lewis will be angry?"
"I would be if I were her."
Slowly they walked back to the Lewis' apartment. Their shoes felt like lead as they trudged along. Every step seemed harder than the one before. Inside they both felt terrible. They had had such a lovely evening planned and then in a moment, out of nowhere, disaster struck and ruined it all. Why did things always have to turn out so badly?
They rang the doorbell afraid of what Mrs. Lewis was going to say to them. As soon as she opened the door Scott blurted out, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset Janna."
"It wasn't Scott's fault. I said all the bad things," said Sandy, her eyes glued to the floor.
Mrs. Lewis managed a faint smile. "It's alright. Sometimes we all say things we don't mean. I know Tom is accused of being a traitor, and will be executed if convicted. From the evidence things don't look good. But I know my husband. He wouldn't do anything like that. I'm sure our fine security force will discover that in time."
"I believe you," said Scott… and he did.
Mrs. Lewis smiled again at his earnest face, "Until Tom is proven innocent all we can do is pray."
"We will every morning and night," said Scott.
"I'd like to say 'sorry' to Janna," put in Sandy. Once her temper had settled down she just had to try and make things right.
"That's a good idea," said Mrs. Lewis, "But I think you had better wait until tomorrow. It'll give her a chance to settle down."
Mrs. Lewis closed the door.
"What now?" asked Sandy, still in a subdued voice.
"We should still apologize to Dick even though he didn't get mad… and he's at the movies."
Scott and Sandy got out of the ElLift on level 21. Right across from the ElLift was a restaurant. It was on the corner of the block and two of its walls had been taken down so that the table and chairs were right out in the open.
"Oh darn," said Scott, "This is the wrong level. It must have been 27 not 21."
Sandy's eyes wandered over the restaurant. It was the first time she had seen one like that on the Gallant. Suddenly she grabbed Scott's arm. "That man over there at the table… he's the one who shot Mr. Lewis!"
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