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 lifetrekker@
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!
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!
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!
"He won't show" said a more restrained, wiser
spectator. A pair of arms crossed to hold one who was smaller, but not cool
"Coward!" The one who had demanded the "bastard"
"Cowards all!" The younger one within the
restraining arms shouted with the crowd.
"Release! Release! Release! Release! Release!
"RELEASE THE PRISONERS!" Others mixed in
the crowd cried.
"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
"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.
"RELEASE THE PRISONERS! RELEASE THE PRISONERS!
RELEASE THE PRISONERS!" A new refrain replaced the old.
"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.
"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
"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.
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
"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
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
"Jon'ai keep thee, precious Ommahdyan, precious
"I want to kill the bastard!"
Mrelx reached out to stroke Andastiadastran'
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
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
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.
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
"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."
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."
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
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 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."
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."
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.
gave the big man a hug. Then Delores. "I won't have you around to help
"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,
"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
Carol touched Hayley's shoulder.
Pivoting around, Hayley's
eyes moistened. I can't leave my best friend.
Carol broke the awkward moment.
"I'm going to miss
"I know--me too."
"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
"I'm sure you'll
be the first to know," Tanner joked with a wink.
Her father took her
arm. "Come on, Hayley. It's time."
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.
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
"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.
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
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'
"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
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.
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,
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
Then ahead, hanging
between humanity's terrestrial cradle and
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.
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.
"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
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
"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
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.
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'
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
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.
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