Destiny's Choice is an original work of fiction, a science fiction thriller of novel length with über qualities. The plot is layered with romance, political intrigue, sex, and violence. At times the drama can be intense. Enjoy. Once completed, I hope to find a publisher. I appreciate comments good and bad, especially if they are constructive. (For the academy, my email is and my name is Karen Hockemeyer)

Destiny's Choice
Chapter 12: Goodbyes

The cacophony swelled, its dissonance gnawing on nerve, metal, brain, muscle, and stone.

"Release! Release! Release!" The chant echoed. "Release! Release! Release!"

The air was unbearable, hot, not as blistering as when Jon'ai most embraced Yreta on its annual course, but still hot. Indeed, the embrace was much less, but the presence remained.

"Release! Release! Release! Release! Release! Release!"

Perhaps it was the crowd, more than inflamed. The chant coming undone. The message droning on its underlying percussion punctuating a churning frenzy.

"Release! Release! Release! Release! Release! Release!"

The large twin doors to the portico eased open on their tracks. Frenzy turned to hysteria when a squadron of prison guards decked out in shimmering red and orange, the uniform of their profession, flanked the robotic Xylem Chamber as it followed its course center stage.

"Where's the bastard?" a less than restrained observer asked in a less than hushed, overly-heated tone.

Every head in the crowd strained as the guards opened the chamber door.

"Release! Release! Release! Release! Release! Release!"

"He won't show" said a more restrained, wiser spectator. A pair of arms crossed to hold one who was smaller, but not cool in temperament.

"Coward!" The one who had demanded the "bastard" shouted.

"Cowards all!" The younger one within the restraining arms shouted with the crowd.

"Release! Release! Release! Release! Release! Release!"

"RELEASE THE PRISONERS!" Others mixed in the crowd cried.

"Release! Release! Release! Release! Release! Release!"

Just then, several dozen more of the brightly attired guards emerged. They moved as a regiment in a box formation. Within the box the prisoners, stumbling, ghastly, they had been stripped of clothing, health, and dignity. Poly-molecular laces bound them, hands tied behind their backs.

"RELEASE THE PRISONERS!" More in the crowd cried.

"By all that is of Jon'ai!" Came a quiet gasp. "We can't let this happen." An arm wound around this speaker's waist and though tried provided no comforting.

"Give me a weapon," the youngster and the then the first cursed.


"There!" The one giving comfort pointed at two of the prisoners in the center of the pack.

"By Jon'ai, they look already dead." The one being held shivered with rage.

"Easy, child."

"We've got to do something!" The youngster tried to break free of the restraining arm, but failing, youth having no advantage over a parent desperate to protect its young.

"We must do something, Ta li."

"Look—" Ta li nodded with a head.

The speaker looked. Heavily armed and armored guards, too many to count, ringed the angry protesters.

"We should do something."

Now the speaker could no longer hide the emotions of desperate hopelessness. "Ommahdyan, my blood. Galvrin—what shall happen to Orn'a? – There's the bastard! Vzul! Vzul!" The speaker pulled away and pounded an angry fist at the air. "Murderer! Murderer!"

Ta li dropped the arm that had held its child. With a step, Ta li remained quiet, but near, intese eyes focused on the prisoners who were so dear. Ommahdyan. Blessed Ommahdyan. Precious Galvrin.

The perimeter guards raised their weapons. They fired. Beams of energy stuck out haphazardly at any and all in the crowd.

"Ta li," the youngster wrapped its arms around the parent in a protective cocoon.

Screams and screeches of fear, pain, and dying filled the square. Some tried to run, only to be stopped by the guards who shot those who tried to escape. So the crowd pushed closer together, friends, families, loved ones, clutching possessively to those who had fallen. Pushing closer, closer, closer. The cloudless sky shattered and shook.

"They're going to murder us all!" Someone yelled.

"Pray for us, Jon'ai."

"I don't want to die!"

"Easy friends," Ta li reached out, gathering in those sobbing the most. "Don't let them win. Don't. Jon'ai protects."

"Ta li, it's Ja."

"Chart'aa!" Ta li reached with an arm.

"Mrelx." Chart'aa embraced its mate and looked at the Yretan still sobbing on Mrelx's shoulder.

"Ja!" an arm flung around Chart'aa's neck.

"Andastiadastran," Chart'aa's snout nuzzled its adult child.

Footing was precarious with the crush of bodies. "Tagk't?" Mrelx cried out.

"With Hrelx and O'Beneah. I know they will keep the ghal from acting rash. Safe."

The sky cracked again.

"Defense Force," Mrelx said without ever looking up.

"Does Kali know?" asked Andastiadastran

The guards had stopped firing their weapons and as a voice made familiar over the last thirty years blasted from the portico's sound system, the crowd, still hovering together with fright, quieted.

"Bastard!" Andastiadastran swore beneath a whispered breath.

"Rebels you! Sympathizers! Destroyers of progress and prosperity. You who prefer backwardness and poverty! That's good," a toothy grin parted Tern's mouth. He stood on the portico, arms folded in obstinate superiority. "Quiet as it should be. See before you those who would defy the legitimate rule of Yreta-Cuta. Those who would ruin all we have built up these last years."

"Murderer of teachers and scholars," bit Andastiadastran.

Chart'aa held Andastiadastran closer.

"Marvel at the mercy of this government. You who call us barbarian. By all accounts, treason is punishable by fire, a slow and torturous death. Now this chamber, in a flash of energy greater than our sun, in a great fire so painless, they shall simply be no more—even their ash consumed. Consumed by the sins of those who refuse to listen and obey the lessons of humanity. They are paying for your sins.

Mrelx looked from its mate, who held their child, to the sobbing child in want of support, to Tern and the guards, then to the child, their third, who could barely stand, but kept an eye of unwavering devotion to its mate. "My dear, Ommahdyan." A tear leaked as the Guards of the Execution, their costumes so like the flames of the old penalties, began to shove the prisoners into the chamber.

"Their end will be just. Our democracy shall stand," Tern rambled on as the windowed doors slid shut.

The arm Chart'aa had keep on Mrelx's shoulder pulled tighter. "Will our blessings and love eternal."

"Love eternal," Mrelx and Andastiadastran murmured together.

"Jon'ai keep thee, precious Ommahdyan, precious Galvrin."

"I want to kill the bastard!"

Mrelx reached out to stroke Andastiadastran's face.

Tern removed a small clicker from within the pockets of an impeccably pair of pressed black uniform trousers.  He and the rest of the guards covered their eyes with protective goggles that they had removed from their belts. "As my duty permits. As executive, it is my duty to enforce all laws. So, I do now. These traitors to the Yretan shall die."

With that, Tern's thumb pressed down and in a beat of Mrelx's heart the purist light of white engulfed the chamber. "Cover your eyes!" Mrelx commanded loudly, just as others, too, shouted.

Knocking mate, child, and the rest who had come to witness what they had hoped not to see, Mrelx flung its body across those so loved. Be with my others, it thought at the same moment. Jon'ai keep us safe.

Suddenly, the light winked out—vanishing. Standing and looking at the place where the chamber had stood, those who could see cried out with distress.

The chamber was opened.

Absolutely nothing remained within.


The attendants finished affixing identification transponders to Hayley's suitcases and the large old-fashioned steamer. Hayley watched the three pieces of luggage as they wound along the spaceport's conveyors and then disappeared through the yawning entrance of the main sorters. Escorted by Carol and her mother, she went with her family and friends to the main waiting area of the large intergalactic docking bay.

Hayley half listened to the small talk of her parents and sister as they discussed the start of the impending parliamentary session and the legislation they intended to present. Never joining in, Hayley's mind wandered in a maze of morose, regrets, and trepidation. Staring out across the expanse of the large waiting area, she watched the doors to one concourse fling open and discharge passengers arriving from the Lunar Colonies. Hayley envied those she saw, those coming and those greeting the arrivals. A little boy ran into his mommy's arms. Another woman flung her arms around the neck of a man, obviously her lover. A middle-aged couple and their two pre-teen children embraced an older couple, grandparents, she guessed. With each affectionate welcome and their accompanying kisses, Hayley anticipated her farewell. Turning away, tears seeped through the protective barrier she had tried, without much success, to build.

      Carol and Tanner had taken the morning off from their assigned duties. Carol locked elbows and rested her head against Hayley's shoulder. "I fly by Parliamentary at least twice a month. I'll make a point to drop by whenever I have a chance," she promised.

      "Besides," Tanner added, putting a hand first on Hayley's shoulder, and then around Carol, "depending on the opposition, even at one-quarter light speed, you'll be docking in about two hours. In actual miles, Mars looks a long way away, but in reality in relative time, you're very close. Did you know it takes less time to fly to Parliamentary than it does to get to the Argyre Mining Settlement here on Mars?"

      "So you see, you aren't really going too far," Carol said softly in a vain attempt to lift their spirits.

      "It won't be the same." Hayley almost gagged on her words.

      "Each day never is. Come on, Hayley. You're embarking on your journey, your great adventure. Everything to now has just been part of the preparation. I know you're frightened, but you'll be fine."

      "Carol's right," Delores, having heard the last of Carol's remarks, joined in the conversation. She reached out, pulling Hayley's long bangs away from her face. "Just remember, you're a Genetti."

      "Whatever that means?" Hayley mumbled, beginning to detest every implication and obligation that went with the family's historic moniker. Why couldn't she be a Smith or Gonzales? 

      "That means," her father's voice seemed to boom, "that you will do your best at whatever you do and because of that, you can do anything."

"You always have, darling," her mother added.

      A resonant dinging sang. "Transporter 1045 to Parliamentary Space Station is ready for embarkation," a soft feminine voice announced. "Passengers in rows M through Z should begin boarding at this time."

      A large hatch at the end of the bay opened. An older, uniformed gentleman stepped up to a small lectern. Another, a woman wearing the same red unisex jumpsuit standard to attendants employed by the GTA, emerged from the opening. Smiling, she spoke to the gentleman and then began to check the handprints of those queuing in line.

      "You took your space-sickness medicine?" asked her mother.

      Hayley nodded, pointing to the skin-toned patch stuck behind her ear.

      "What seat do you have?" Delores asked.

      Hayley couldn't remember. She looked down at the boarding card in her hand. "Ten A," she answered.

      "You got a window seat?" asked Tanner.

      "Yes—I like to watch the stars."

      "I remember," her mother said, "when you went on that study-trip to Earth several years ago. You had a window seat. Just think of this as a long study-trip, darling."

      "A very long study-trip." Hayley fell into her mother's opening arms.

      She did not cry, but she enjoyed the maternal embrace. Unlike the cold caricatures often done in the media about her mother's political instincts, Hayley found her warm, and at this moment, a little emotional. Farewells for vacations and extended business meetings were one thing; but for a new future, a future that could turn into forever, this was different.

      "Daddy." She gave the big man a hug. Then Delores. "I won't have you around to help me."

      "Bruce will stay on Parliamentary until you're settled."

      "What about the baby?" Hayley fretted.

      "Hayl, I'm not even showing." Delores tightened the blouse around her skirt producing a small bulge. She laughed. "Well at least not much. Besides, I still have over six months."

      "I'm going to be here for the big event."

      "You'd better come home before that," her mother warned. "Your father and I are celebrating our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary in July."

      "I'll be home, Mom."

      "And with all the business Dad and Bruce have on the station, you'll see more than enough of the family." Delores gave Hayley a quick kiss. "And once my morning sickness goes away, I'll have some business to do as well."

      "Rows A through L—"

      "That's you." Carol touched Hayley's shoulder.

      Pivoting around, Hayley's eyes moistened. I can't leave my best friend.

      "It's time." Carol broke the awkward moment.

      "I'm going to miss you, Carol."

      "I know--me too."

      "You'll come?"

      "You won't be able to keep me away." Carol drew Hayley close and gave her a hug.

      Reaching over, Tanner kissed the top of Hayley's head. "You take care," he said softly.

      "I'll call often," vowed Hayley. "And you'll tell me how things go?" She gave Tanner a kiss.

      "I'm sure you'll be the first to know," Tanner joked with a wink.

      "Definitely." Carol gave Hayley one last kiss.

      Her father took her arm. "Come on, Hayley. It's time."

      "Oh, Carol." Hayley hugged her again.

      This time tears fell.

      Turning, she hugged the members of her family one last time, then picking up the small, polymer fiber crate holding Sparky, happy she had taken Bruce's advice to have him go through quarantine before leaving, she joined the end of the line preparing to enter the passenger concourse.

      Placing her hand on the print panel, the VAS flashed green. Homesickness gnawed at her as she passed through the airlock. Each step that carried her down the long gangway increased the illness consuming her. With great resolve, she forced back her tears and stepped through a second and then a third security airlock into the narrow, claustrophobic confines of the transport. Hayley quickly found her seat. She set Sparky's container on the floor beneath the seat in front and fastened the harness-system around her shoulders and waist. Picking Sparky's carrying case up from the floor, she fastened a secondary harness to the cage.

      "All set?" the older gentleman asked as he walked up and down the aisle visually inspecting the required safety restraints. "Your first trip?" He stopped to help a young boy seated at the opposite window.

      Hayley saw the boy's head bob.

      "With these newer interplanetary passenger transports, you'll hardly feel anything—maybe just a bit of a pull, like a slow roller coaster," he added, anticipating that the young boy enjoyed the rides found at the amusement park.

      Hayley turned her attention back to Sparky. Having given him a sedative, the little dog laid curled up. Not quite asleep, but definitely lacking his usual yappy hyperactivity, he nuzzled one of the air slats. Hayley slipped a finger through the slot. The puppy gave it a couple of moist licks and rested his chin against the reassuring appendage. Hayley said nothing, but somehow the little dog's need for reassurance calmed her melancholy disposition.

      "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," an automated voice seeped into the cabin. "Welcome to Transporter Flight 1045 from Martian Central Intergalactic Spaceport to the Parliamentary Space Station. Your captain is Natasha Stanley and your navigator is Lieutenant Changa Tsielup. Your flight attendants for this voyage are William Gator and Sheila Jalixico. Before the transport elevators take us up to the surface ...."

      Hayley was no novice. She had flown on interplanetary transports before. She knew the procedures. Feeling the subtle lurch of the elevator platform, she looked forward toward the large doors through which the transport would pass. Her stomach gurgled. She checked the anti-space sickness patch positioned just beneath her ear. Peering out the observation portal the reflective yellow spots along the dark gray walls moved away as the elevator platform on which the vessel rested followed its track to its assigned access shaft.

      Docking Bay 45.

      The bright red and white lettering blazed as the transporter's platform slowly rotated clockwise. Hayley sighed, blinking hard to keep back the building emotions.

      "Today your transit will be aboard a Boeing-Toyota 2253 Gamma-Omega Class Commercial Interplanetary Transport. Capable of reaching one-quarter light speed, our ETA for Parliamentary Space Station will be two hours. For your safety, GTA asks that you follow several very important safety precautions. During take-off, everyone must remain buckled in the harness restraints …"

      The letters disappeared from view as the platform continued forward on its predetermined course. Docking Bay 43.  Docking Bay 41.  Docking Bay 39. 

Like a convict savoring every bite of a final meal before execution, Hayley drank in the final vestiges of the life she had loved so much. The platform rotated again, and then again, as it continued along its path.

      The voice ceased speaking.

      Silently, Hayley's tears fell. "Oh, Sparky." She gave the sleeping little puppy a tickle with her finger. She whispered. "Why am I doing this? … I'm so glad you're with me." She wished she could remove the soft sleeping ball of fur from its container and hold him close.

      Her gaze returned to the portal and the bays, now only brief indentations in the distance, then only mere shadows. Like the low hum of a bow scraping against sharp cello strings, accented by just an occasional creak or groan, the platform continued its trek. What were they now—one or two kilometers out? The negligible vibration of the transport, like a pot going from simmer to boil, rumbled more emphatically throughout the ship as the platform, with a gentle jolt, stopped. The mechanisms played their dirge as the large interlocking cogs beneath them engaged and then slowly began their hundred-meter ascent to the unprotected Martian surface.

      "Attendants, please prepare for lift-off." A decidedly, feminine voice ordered.

      The sunless night of the shaft hung heavy like a monk's shroud, the foreboding baritone, mantra of the whining machinery echoed. Suddenly, the mechanisms screamed and cracked like the breaking of a large metallic egg. An anemic shaft of yellow- pink light showered down. The churning engines boiled more rapidly. The ship's shaking increased noticeably. As the platform reached the surface and locked, the engines raged with fury. A few moments later, the percussive crescendo peaked and the transporter lifted, rising vertically at a quickly accelerating pace.

      Through the sheen of her watery veil, Hayley watched as the familiar red landscape departed the craft. Holding onto the precious red-orange of the Martian terrain, Hayley's avarice eyes spied the visible domes of Martian cities and villages as they rose above the natural Martian landscape. Below, she could just barely make out the faint outlines of the capital's skyline. In the far horizon, green domes from the gardens, hydroponics agrocenters, and the parks of the university and city glittered like Christmas jewels.

      As the main engines ignited, the craft pushed forward along a horizontal plain. Quickly those treasured jewels, like the glow of a cat's eye, faded from view. The Martian terrain, littered by numerous partially exposed communities and mining and manufacturing operations, faded from view as the fusion-graviton engines slung the speeding craft into the black of space, leaving only a diminishing red ball in the shadows of two equally diminishing moons. Hayley was on her way. The trip had begun. From here, there was no turning back and in the dark silence and solitude of her seat, Hayley hid her eyes and cried.   


      The sable night of velvety darkness, the eternal nocturnal abode of serenity and sleep filled the observation portal with an ocean of emptiness so vast and endless that even the most brash and courageous mariners of old would have been driven insane with a lunacy usually reserved for lonely widows lost on ancient prairies of endless grass. Into this vastness of nothingness, the god of war and his reddish hue, Hayley's bastion, had been quickly swallowed. From the vast distance of time, pinpoints of light, minute sequins, Milton's living sapphires, littered the sky, not with twinkling merriment, but with the shimmering tears of a crying child huddled in the dark. Trying to find the dog-eared pages of the celestial epic, Hayley vainly searched the chronicles for clues to her many questions, but they proved too elusive. Even the glorious daystar and life-giver of mankind's ancient and adopted celestial homes offered no help as the transport hurled onward in a daring race against the light.

      The first trips across the mere forty-eight million miles, when the Earth and Mars were in opposition, had taken the first daring pioneer-explorers and their antique clipper ships nearly five tedious months. Now, in the new intergalactic ships used to explore and seed the stars with humanity, that trip only took minutes, if not seconds. Limited by the U.G.C. to 12.5 psol, one-eighth normal light speed, the trip varied, lasting only one or two hours, depending on the position of the two planets.  With the Earth and Mars just short of conjunction and not quite one hundred eighty-five million miles apart, the transport needed to cross the span of the inner solar system. Within an hour, the ship drew close to the sun and skimmed the interior edge of Mercury's orbit. Emerging from the brightness of the sun's aura, the transport passed the gaseous turmoil of Venus's tempestuous beauty. Hayley barely noticed the goddess of love and when the transport snuck up on the lunar night side, she could not enjoy the brilliant waning golden crescent that had mesmerized spacefarers over the last two centuries. Below, clusters of lights from the lunar settlements and cities, cloaked in the constant vacuum of an Arctic winter, blazed upward. Gazing down at the landscape as the transport turned and followed its preordained trajectory, mankind's fair coquette of the Heavens, the huntress, chaste and fair, emerged from its night. White and yellow, orange and red like a maiden wearing just a dab of blush, the awesome lunar landscape only intensified a homesickness that blinded her. This was no twin to the home she loved; Hayley cursed in silent disgust. It was a cheap imitation, a lifeless, barren, angry rock that knew only hot or cold. Where were the ice caps? Where were the winds and gales of the Martian spring? Where was the natural beauty and flaming red locks of her beloved Martian sky? Where was home?

      Then ahead, hanging between humanity's terrestrial cradle and Tranquility City, the largest of the lunar colonies, in the brilliant ever-present rays of the sun, the three-tiered wheels of Parliamentary Space Station clung to a symmetrical, but potbellied, axle. Revolving slowly, the station's aura emitted a lustrous blue sheen as the sun's light played against its azure-purple-gray supersensitive solar-collective membrane. Pink, green, red, turquoise, and orange lights blinked and twinkled at the apex and on the tips of the large spiraling top. More lights blinked at the end of the six spokes extending beyond the rims. Bolder beacons of light, windows and bay openings, glowed in the darkness.

      A small speck, a ship or intergalactic transporter of some kind, emerged from the largest of the openings. Flying quickly away from the light, the blur reminded Hayley of the flies she had seen on her earlier visits to Earth. Expecting to see the vessel pass, Hayley was disappointed when it turned and made its way toward the gigantic blue ball hanging in the distance.

      "Damn," she muttered when she realized it would not stop and let her hitch a ride home. She sighed. The air vents circulating fresh, cool air caressed her hot, wet face as she leaned again against the portal and looked out at the velvety nothing.

      Ping. Like a wooden mallet striking a marimba, the soprano chime rang lightly. "We have touchdown. Final docking procedures have begun. Parliamentary Space Station time is now eleven hundred twenty-three minutes. PSS Environmental Services maintains a constant gravity of .8 gees and an average temperature of 22 degrees Celsius. We would like to thank everyone for flying GTA this morning and we hope everyone enjoys his or her stay. Please remember the Galactic Transport Agency for your return trip to Mars and all your future intergalactic travel needs."

      "Excuse me, Miss?"

      Hayley barely noticed the hand nudging her shoulder, yet for some reason Hayley reacted with complete astonishment. She said nothing, but as she turned away from her opaque view of the cavernous surroundings of the immense docking bay, her reddened eyes widened. Lost in her emotions, Hayley could barely comprehend the alien environment surrounding the transport or anything anyone had said during the last hour as the transport waited in a holding pattern and then slowly entered through the gateway of the station's spaceport.

      "Miss, we have docked."

      Hayley noticed the other passengers. Most had already departed through the gapping hatch. A few still struggled with their stowed possessions or just moving slowly filled the streamlined cabin with activity. One, impatient with the older flight attendant as he awakened Hayley from her stupor, pushed his way up the aisle to the main hatch. Sniffing, Hayley wiped her eyes.

      "Are you all right?" Not quite as old as her father, she detected a paternal caring in his tone.  Sighing, she gave him a weak grin. "Can I help you?"

      "No, thank you," she said softly, angry that she had succumbed to the demands of her emotions. Such childish behavior! She released the safety catches to the restraining harnesses and checked her small companion. Still curled in a little ball, nose tip to tail, he barely stirred as she picked up his cage and stood. Sighing, she forced back any telltale signs of her emotional defeat. Then waiting for the last passenger in back to walk by she stepped into the aisle.

      Offering a word of thanks to the crew saying their farewells by the hatch, she found herself in an extended concourse and made her way to the main assembly area.

"Finally!" Bruce greeted her with a hug and an arm around her shoulder." Have a nice flight?" He gave her cheek a peck.

      "Yes," she lied softly.

      "I had begun to wonder if you had changed your mind," Christine teased.

      Hayley tried to ignore Christine's comment. She did not want her to know just how true her words had been.

      "No," she shook her head.

      Bruce took Sparky's carryall from her hand. He held the case at eye-level and inspected the sleeping pup through the long air slats. "I've never seen him so still."

      "The agency requires that all on-board pets receive a sedative," Hayley explained flatly, aware they probably knew the rules.

      They left the spaceport's small waiting area. Curious about her new surroundings Hayley's eyes wandered.

      Similar to the waiting area she had just left on Mars, Hayley noticed the bustle was less intense. Parliamentary's spaceport was much smaller. Instead of the two hundred or so uncomfortable plastic-laminate, chairs in harsh canary yellow and black arranged in militaristic rows outside the dozen or so doors leading to the connecting concourses and docking bays on Mars, Parliamentary only had fifty of the orthopedic instruments of torture. Fortunately, for the Space Station travelers, the gray-blue tones and bright silver metallic braces on which they rested offered a more dignified and less frenzied environ for the uptight traveler. The large bay windows filling the far walls allowed those waiting to watch the arrivals and departures within the flight bay. Several children pressing their noses against one such window waved as a small shuttle slowly flew by.

      They walked by several dining areas, each with a bar serving refreshing cocktails and other potent portables. On one far wall, Hayley saw the comforting image of the Intergalactic News anchors as they outlined the latest crisis to plague the Confederation and Trinidia. The scene depicted several Trinidian rebels being led from a courtroom where the judge had sentenced them to death. A crowd pressed forward toward the armed guards escorting the five prisoners. Passing quickly by the display, Hayley didn't have a chance to see the reason for the protest or the prisoners' crimes.

      Descending on a vertical mover, Hayley walked quietly. Christine and Bruce discussed business, something about the colonies on Ceta Bine Two petitioning for greater autonomy in allocating their natural resources. 

      "I'll see it's buried in committee," Bruce promised.

      Christine slapped his back. "I knew I could count on you."

      Bruce glanced over at Hayley. Distant, she continued to survey her surroundings, "Hayley," he said her name gently.

      Hayley turned her head. A small, sheepish grin masked the despair shredding her courage. She didn't want to let Bruce down or embarrass him.  She didn't want to embarrass Delores. She didn't want to embarrass her father, mother, the memory of her grandmother, the university; her fears were making her sick. Most importantly, she didn't want to embarrass herself.

      "We'll get your things and take you to your quarters. The Governor General has asked to meet with you this afternoon at fourteen thirty hours," he said.

      "So soon?" she could taste the bile in her throat.

      "He is most anxious that you begin your work," said Christine.

      Hayley swallowed, hard and with a deep breath, said as confidently as possible, "I'm ready."

      "I told him you would be." The twinkle in Christine's eyes flashed as she smiled.

Part 13

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