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Silence reigned in the cell until the echo of The Boss's footsteps and mocking laughter died away.
"He wouldn't really destroy an entire planet and millions of lives, would he?" asked Janet, her eyes wide with disbelief. She read the answer on Dr. Kana's grim face.
Dr. Kana was thinking desperately of a way to keep Peter and Janet from focusing on the impending disaster. He knew the horrible truth would hit them sooner or later, but if they were to be overcome with anger or grief right now, they would not be able to offer any resistance to the future plans of The Boss. Or worse, they would be consumed with a hatred that would destroy them.
"As long as we're here together, we may as well get to know one another better," said Dr. Kana with a cheerfulness he did not feel. If only he could get them talking, give them something else to think about, he might be able to guide them through this disaster.
Peter bit his lip. He partly realized Dr. Kana was trying to divert their minds by changing the subject. At the moment, they were helpless. Brooding on the situation would only worsen things. He knew it would be good not only for Janet but also for himself if they could focus on something else for a time.
Mentally Dr. Kana assessed them and guessed they were either out of prep school or soon would be. He asked, "What profession do you plan to enter, Peter?"
"I'm still considering a few different options. Janet, on the other hand, has her mind made up. She's joining the Interstellar Patrol."
"That's interesting,” said Dr. Kana turning his attention to Janet.
"I'm taking their Intro Course, or at least I..."
"If you spent as much time studying the books they sent you as fooling around, you would already be Officer Janet Goodwin,” Peter interrupted.
Before Janet could think of a comeback, Dr. Kana asked, "What made you choose Interstellar Patrol?"
"I like what they're doing; besides, it sounds exciting, flying through space in pursuit of criminals, bringing justice and helping victims.”
"I don't mean to be negative, but I've known a few officers in my years. If you want to be one of them, you'll also have to learn to cope with boredom. Sometimes they spend weeks in space without any assignments, and only their partner and a computer for company."
"I know, but I still feel it's the way I want to go."
"As I said, I didn't mean to be negative; policing is an honourable profession."
"You U.A.F. guys hold doing the 'honourable' thing highly, don't you?" asked Peter remembering an article he had read.
Dr. Kana laughed. His laughter involved his whole face; even his eyes sparkled. "You're right, we do. But if you want to know someone who really holds honour high, you'll have to meet Stormer."
Dr. Kana's eyes twinkled at the memory. He reflected on his subject while waiting for the question he knew was bound to come.
"All right," said Janet, smiling despite how she felt, "who is Stormer?”
It was easy to see Dr. Kana admired Stormer as he began, "Stormer has got to be the best man in the entire fleet… or I should say the best Centaur."
A gasp escaped from Peter and Janet. They had heard about the noble Centaurs but had never met one.
“He’s a Flyer Squad Leader on the Courage. I can tell you; I'd rather have him on my side than half the Security force. When you meet a Centaur, you can't help but respect them; however, they do tend to go overboard on this subject of honour. Let me give you an example. Once Stormer, alone, and in just his Flyer," Dr. Kana paused, "Do you know what Flyers are?"
Janet wasn't sure, and Peter didn't have any idea.
"Let's see," said Dr. Kana thoughtfully, "how can I explain them? They have quite a bit of firepower, but they're only small one-seater space fighters. They’re part of a U.A.F. starship’s defences, although they can be used offensively for short distances.
“Anyway, in just his Flyer, he faced a medium-size U.R. ship, probably with a crew of around a hundred. When the U.R.'s saw him, they demanded he surrender to them. Well, that Centaur's 'honour' wouldn't let him run away, let alone surrender. So you know what he did?"
Peter and Janet shook their heads ‘no.’
Dr. Kana waved his arms, "That Centaur placed their entire ship under arrest."
“You're kidding!" exclaimed Janet, “The spaceship’s weapons must have far greater range than a Flyer’s guns."
"Around three times the range, I think. Anyway, Stormer started firing his guns and charging right at them. The U.R.'s were so shocked they turned tail and ran… and Stormer pursued them!"
"Did he catch them?" asked Peter in astonishment.
"No, they made Rank speed and Flyers aren't equipped to go that fast."
"He must be brave,” said Janet in awe.
Dr. Kana nodded, "That and ‘honourable.’"
For a few minutes, there was silence as they considered Stormer’s actions. Was it courage or madness? Where was the line between being honourable and being wise? As they contemplated the danger he had faced, a new thought struck Janet, "What do the U.R.'s have in mind for us?"
"I don't know," admitted Dr. Kana, "But what I do know is that somewhere out there is the U.A.F. Courage. Captain Caspian will never give up looking until we're found. Besides, as I mentioned before, Elniyn is right here with us."
"I don't see what good that's..."
Janet was interrupted by a violent shaking of the spaceship. It was like two giants were throwing it back and forth in a wild game of catch. All three were rolling uncontrollably over the floor, bouncing off the walls and each other. There was an exceptionally sharp cry of pain as Dr. Dana hit the force field and was stung.
As suddenly as the motion had started, it stopped. All was still except for their panting. Feeling bruised and shaken, they unsteadily picked themselves up off the floor and sat on the bunks.
"What was that?" gasped Peter, "Some U.R. trick?”
"Maybe,” commented Dr. Kana thoughtfully. "But I think it's more likely the Courage has arrived. That could be them grabbing us in a retractor beam with the U.R.’s trying to pull away. It might have burned out their engines trying to get away because there is no way this spaceship could break free.”
Peter frowned in thought, his eyes on where the invisible force field should be. "If it was possible to have knocked out the engines… then how about the force field?"
"I doubt it,” said Dr. Kana. "It was still working when I bumped into it a minute ago."
"But there's only one way to find out for sure," interjected Janet as she stepped toward the force field.
Peter laid his hand on her shoulder, holding her back, "I'll do it.”
Before she could object, Peter brushed past her. After a moment’s hesitation, he stretched out his hand to the force field. His face screwed up as he expected to receive the shock. None came.
“Well, praise El,” exclaimed Dr. Kana delightfully, "It is off."
Cautiously they stepped from the cell into the hallway. Glancing down the hall to the right, they saw a door not too far away. Unfortunately, they would have to pass a guard station on the way to the door.
The guard station was only a tiny room nestled between two cells where the guard had a chance to sit down and make his reports. Although the U.R.’s were not noted for paperwork, it was still a place a guard could sit and drink. It was unlikely there was a guard since no one had come to investigate after the shaking. Still, the thought of passing it did not thrill them.
Looking down the hall to the left, they saw another door. It was about three times as far away as the door to their right, but there were no guard stations along the way. Then Dr. Kana noticed something about it. It was a Security-Lock door. You had to place your hand flat on the red panel beside it. It would only open to people whose prints were already recorded. That kind of door meant something vital was on the other side, but also that they couldn't escape through it.
Reluctantly, they headed to the right. Dr. Kana was in the lead, with Janet in the middle and Peter bringing up the rear. All the cells they passed were empty. From what they could tell, they had been the only prisoners. In silence, they approached the guard station.
Sticking his head cautiously around the corner of a cell, Dr. Kana peered into the guard station. It was empty except for a small table and wrap-around seat. Two dirty cups were in a sink beside a drink dispenser. A tiny bathroom was located at the end of the cramped room. The door was open, and the bathroom seemed empty, although he could not see the entire room.
Heaving a sigh of relief, Dr. Kana strolled past the guard station with Peter and Janet on his heels.
They had only gone a few yards past the guard station when Peter heard a slight noise. Whipping around, he saw a man step out of the room. He was muscular, medium height and wore grease-stained pants and a dark green T-shirt. His low-slung gun holster was empty because the gun was in his hand, pointing right at them! The man must have been hiding behind the bathroom door when they passed. There was no time to think. Peter had to act quickly, or they would all be recaptured.
Go to Chapter Three.
Nov 27, 23 09:17 PM
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