to the victims of the European Heatwave Summer 2003.
sometime after the Battle of Tarkon
mission had mixed results: if viewed strictly by the book it
would be called a success, but unlike their Captain, neither
Walter "Doc" Hartford nor Shane Gooseman were
had been a fairly simple job. One of the long range probes
routinely patrolling the most distant and thinly populated
sectors had sent pictures of probably artificial structures on
planet Do'onarithus – simply called Doon as abbreviation of
its complicated Andorian name – that might or might not be
an outpost of the Queen.
had been called and Walsh – without wasting much thought on
the issue – commed Goose to collect Doc from Tarkon and get
to Doon to find out what the old witch was doing on that heap of
eroded sand. The Queen had been silent for too long anyway,
giving Walsh the distinct feeling that they were missing
So far, so good.
had set down the Explorer beyond the horizon and crossed the
remaining stretch of wasteland on their hover bikes, parking them
well out of detector and hearing range behind a stone formation
and crept up on the place.
up the last meters along a rock formation, Goose had soon
signaled Doc an 'all clear'. It was a Crown outpost, all right,
but it had been abandoned years ago, probably even before the
Armada paid its visit to Earth. The reason the ramshackle
barracks hadn't shown up on earlier recon pictures was because –
apparently – it had been buried under one of the wandering
dunes. At least, the low buildings looked that way.
had no clue why the outpost had been abandoned, though Goose
would put money on lack of water and abundant amounts of heat. He
wouldn't bet on lack of scenery in the landscape: Tortuna wasn't
much of a sight either, after all.
far, so good.
Doc decided to look into the old shacks to see if there was
technology left behind, and didn't wait for Shane to voice his
objections. He probably should have.
was technology left behind.
it was a surprise for nosy visitors.
It didn't kill them,
but definitely destroyed all electronics. Including their
implants, comms, Doc's CDU, as the hacker heartbrokenly
discovered, and – to Goose's everlasting pleasure –
the glider bikes.
So far, not so
that Doc wasn't a pleasant traveling partner.
was – when taken minus the smart remarks, easy quips, and
endless complaints. The last thing Goose actually listened to
from the hacker included something like 'reason no. 984',
whatever that meant. He would prefer Doc to save breath and water
– and spare him the bull in the process.
actually told him that, shortly after nightfall when they'd
started – on foot, how else? – back to their ship.
Goose calculated three nights for the trip, maybe four. He could
do it in about a day, but then he'd have to leave Doc behind, and
there was no way to predict whether the ship was still
functioning or not. He had no way to calculate the EMP flash's
range. If the ship was dead, he wouldn't be able to get back to
the outpost in time, and the hacker couldn't find his way back
through the wasteland to their ship without electronics. And
those were fried.
Even now, in
the wee hours of the morning, the temperature was well above
thirty degrees Celsius. By midday it would soar to fifty and
above. They had to dig in, taking cover under the safety foil
blankets for Doc to make it. And Shane knew that with the fried
implant, his own chances at fifty plus were limited as
Water was his main worry.
They had two canteens, standard rations for two days, that had
been stored in the glider bikes. Not enough for the distance
ahead. It wouldn't last until the end. He was rationing strictly
and didn't talk, keeping his mouth and nose covered. He was an
ST, he knew what options he had for survival, implant or
Unfortunately, being an ST
also meant that he was unscrupulous when it came to
He just hoped not that
The white ball of
churning fire crept above the horizon.
in," he snarled with a voice hoarse from a dry
"Wow! He speaks!"
Shane ignored him,
driving the small folding shovel into the ground. The sun was
rising quickly. It was the enemy.
day would be long under the blanket.
jiggled the canteen, judging its content by weight, then took the
first swallow of the night. Keeping it in his mouth as long as
possible, he moved it back and forth between his teeth and over
his tongue, as he shouldered their backpack and stomped on
through the thin drifting sand.
Doc seemed to have realized the gravity of their situation by
now. The hacker was mighty silent on the second night of their
hike. At least he'd stopped joking about Goose being their homing
pigeon, since they were relying on his senses to lead them back
to their ship.
Shane had ground
his teeth at the joke, knowing full well – better than Doc
– that the real joke was that it actually was a "pigeon
sense" which helped him to keep his bearings in the middle
of nowhere. But he'd rather die – or actually, Doc would
die – before Goose told him.
the direction sense was the only pigeon quality included in his
genetic makeup. Relying on it led them back, but also meant he
couldn't suppress his ST senses as a whole. And the rest of them
focused on survival, which meant...
liquid now that their canteens were almost empty, holding only
two more mouthfuls of water for each of them. Not that STs were
choosy when it came to drinking water. Salt, oil, bacteria,
chemicals... didn't matter much except for the taste and that was
unimportant. If there was any drinkable stuff around, his senses
zeroed in on it.
The sun crossed the
filled his mouth with water before he slipped under his foil
blanket to sleep away the daylight heat. Now only one ration was
left in his canteen. He would take it when they headed out the
next evening. Next night, they had to reach the ship,
...he didn't want to go
there. Closing his eyes he forced his body to sleep. As for his
prey lay still now, breathing heavily as if in fear. Or in
passion. The smooth skin of the neck was exposed, covered in
He didn't mind the
additional salt when his fangs penetrated the skin. His ears sang
with the faint cry of pain and defeat from the prey. His mouth
filled with the sweetness of both: water and food. Blood. Metal
on his tongue lapping over the punctures in the dark neck, not a
drop would be wasted...
his foil blanket Goose awoke with a start, breathing harshly,
trying to calm down. He'd never get used to these... dreams. They
were far too real. Dammit. He still tasted the sweet copper of
blood on his tongue.
night had fallen already. If only he could take his last sip of
water to wash the memory of the dream from his mouth. But his
senses told him the sun was still up outside.
had a really strange dream last night," Doc yawned, trying
to get to his feet about five hours later. After watching the
wobbly knees a moment, Goose pulled him up in a single pull
before he resumed packing up the foil blanket. The hacker shook
his head, obviously dizzy. "I don't recall all the details–"
he sighed theatrically, "–but it revolved around Maya
nibbling my neck and she did all these naughty things
the ST snarled. "I'm not the person to tell your dreams
about the princess to! Understood?"
yes." Belatedly, the hacker realized who he was
talking to and decided to change the subject. "I wish I had
more water left. I've never felt this parched before, even though
I was doing fairly well before I slept." He shrugged. "I'm
from New Orleans. I'm used to high temperatures." He shook
his head. "God, the last time I felt that dizzy was when I
went through a closed glass door."
Goose's inquiring glance: "I lost a lot of blood,
Wordlessly Goose gave
him his last sip of water. It wouldn't change much and he didn't
want the hacker to become truly weak. It didn't bear thinking
about what could... would?... happen then. After a moment, he
pulled out his blaster, checked its charge, and handed it with a
lethal charge to a flabbergasted Doc. "If anyone comes near
Here?" The pallid hacker blinked. "Even if it's
it's me." Goose's voice was harsh from thirst. "I don't
do well without liquid. Unlike you I can go on without – I
will function – but I'm at a point where any liquid will
"Then I'm safe,"
Doc announced with a ghost of his usual cheerfulness. "I
don't have any either."
aren't very choosy when it comes to survival, Doc. You do have
drinkable liquid." Goose's eyes glittered strangely pale in
a grim, sand-plastered face. His gaze fixed on the hacker's
throat. "About six liters of it."
the pack onto his back he stomped ahead, taking pains not to look
back at Doc.
reached the ship just at sunrise, sir. The EMP hadn't affected
it." Goose finished and awaited his
to report?" The commander asked sternly, scrutinizing him
sir." He stood at attention.
was there anything unimportant, Gooseman?" Walsh tapped on
night... I had a dream, sir."
don't have to report your dreams, Gooseman. Having dreams is
"If you say
shook his head. "It's ok, Lieutenant. You'll be called if
further questions arise. Dismissed."
watched the boy leave. He looked rather pale after the final
question. Maybe Doc isn't the only one returning with anaemia