Destiny's Choice is an original work of fiction, a science fiction thriller of novel length with uber 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.

Destiny's Choice
Chapter 8: Hiding

            A sharp "yap-yap-yap" greeted Hayley as she emerged from the bathroom. She walked over to the bureau, an old eight-drawer antique chest of solid oak with the little knobby features characteristic of ancient American craftsmanship. Ferried from Earth when the Karolek family first moved to Mars over two hundred years ago, it had belonged to her grandmother's grandmother, who had received it from her grandmother. Encased in over two centuries of wax and polish, Hayley maintained the treasured heirloom in the same meticulous fashion she had seen modeled throughout her childhood.

Opening the square, box-like drawer in the center of the central-most row of drawers, she removed an old, faded, red University of Mars T-shirt.  She let the towel wrapped around her torso fall to the floor. She quickly pulled the baggy shirt over her head. She took an equally worn pair of faded gray sweats from the large drawer at the dresser's base and pulled them on.

            "Yap-yap-yap." The small tan and white terrier-poodle kept up its unanswered conversation. "Yap-yap." The pup would have Hayley's attention, now.

            "Wait a second, Sparky," she laughed. "What more do you want?" she teased as she put the towel in the clothing recycle unit.

             She picked up the squirrelly dog. Full of vim and excited energy, he reminded Hayley that in the last week she had not been around as much as he would have liked. Hayley would have to remember who really controlled their home. Of course, it was he.

            "We've already gone running. We spent all afternoon playing at the park. By Mars! It was good to get out and really exercise."

            She let the little dog give her an affectionate lick across the tip of her nose. Wiggling, the dog was persistent. Obeying his instructions, Hayley set the dog back on the floor. Immediately, the puppy renewed its vocal yapping, repeating its demands.

            "Okay, okay," Hayley chuckled. "I know—I know. It's late, nineteen-forty hours. I know—you want supper."

            With her hair mummified in a large towel, Hayley went to the kitchen. She ordered a dish of Sparky's favorite food, a canine liver nutrient with cheese, from the universal food modulator.  A red light flashed on the console a beat later. Hayley lifted the door to the unit. A small, but sufficient, portion of kibble intermixed with a soft liver-cheese filling appeared in a small dish. The dog's hyperactivity increased. As he danced around her feet, Hayley nearly tripped.       "Wait a second," she laughed. "Whoa, wait!"

            She set the dish in the corner next to a larger bowl of water. Instantly, as if he had never eaten and was starved beyond all belief, the little dog tore into the mound of food with quick little nibbles.

            "Sparky! You're so silly."

            The little dog looked up with that what me expression. I'm a good puppy. You should be on time.

            She chuckled again. "I'll try to be on time. That damned book talk is over and I have no major appointments in the future. I promise."

            Returning to her bedroom, Hayley removed the towel and dried her long, wet mange.

            "Yap, yap." Sparky was at her heels by the time her efficient hand-held hair dryer had done its job. Sparky demanded Hayley do the rest of hers.

Hayley reported as ordered to the kitchen. This time Hayley asked the food processor for a cookie. A small dog biscuit appeared.

            "Today was fun," Hayley said, giving the pup his treat. "I haven't had a free day forever." She reached down and stroked the silky smooth strands of the dog's hair. Playfully, Sparky nipped and then licked her hand. Hayley scooped the pup into her arms.  "Another treat," she gave her surrogate child a kiss on the muzzle and set him back on the floor. "Popcorn, air popped, with low sodium cheddar sprinkling. VAS, video—American in Paris—Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron." The wall monitor flickered. "Pause."

            The image of a lion captured behind a red circular frame with the letters MGM emblazoned in golden gild appeared. In mid-roar the majestic feline, its mane like a cloak of finest ermine, posed. Playfully, Hayley roared. The canine yapped a response, obviously more interested in the distinctive, mouth-watering fragrance emanating from the food preparation unit.

            Popcorn, their favorite. Hayley removed a large blue bowl piled high with white fluffy clouds coated in a fine dusting of the yellowish cheddar topping. Taking one of the puffs, Hayley tossed the morsel to her little friend. Snapping at the air, the dog caught it in mid-flight.

            "Way to go, Spark," she praised.

            The comfort of her chair, ottoman, a light afghan, and her treat beckoned. Sparky jumped up on the ottoman and then into her lap making himself cozy. With a keen eye, he kept a close watch on his mistress, just in case she presented him with another cheesy snack.

            "VAS, play," she said, popping a kernel into her mouth. "Lights twenty percent." The lighting over her chair dimmed and the melodic Gershwin strains surrounded her as the movie's opening credits flowed across the screen.

            "I've got rhythm," Hayley hummed as Jerry Mulligan performed a wonderful tap dance for the Parisian children he had befriended.

            "Isn't he divine?" Hayley asked the dog. His ears perked. With a sparkle in his eyes, he waited for a tasty morsel. Seeing his whimsical expression and plea, Hayley gave him several fluffy kernels. Sparky ate politely, almost daintily, wagging his tail.

            The buzzer sounded.

            Slightly annoyed by the intrusion, Hayley grumbled, "VAS, pause—who's there?" She called out, initiating the two-way speaker system.


            The response was brief and direct; Hayley immediately recognized Carol's voice.

            "Come." Hayley swung her legs around in her chair.

            The locking mechanism released and the front door slid back into its recessed panel.

            "Hey, guys! When did you get back?" she asked, extending the bowl so Carol and Tanner could each take a handful.

            "Seventeen forty." Carol took fistful of popcorn.


            "During the debriefing," Tanner nodded, bending down to pet the little dog jumping up to greet him. "Hey, Spark." He took a kernel from Carol's hand and gave it to the dog.

            Carol flipped several pieces into her mouth and fell onto the empty couch.  "How you doing?" She looked at the screen. "Let me see—Gene Kelly—American in Paris—popcorn—afghan—and faithful companion. Hiding."

            "Not quite," Hayley defended herself. "Sparky and I went to the park and played almost all day. Can I get you guys something to drink?"

            "Like I said, you hid." Carol let a cocky know-it-all grin spread across her face. She took another handful of popcorn.

            "I'll get myself a beer." Tanner led Sparky into the kitchen. Hayley always kept the processor stocked for their visits.

            Carol continued her diagnosis and scolding. "One in hundreds, you blended in with everyone else hoping to find solitude in their anonymity. Well, how did it go? Tanner, get me a beer, too?"

            "I survived." Hayley extended the bowl again.

            Carol took a third handful. "I like this part. How many times have you seen this movie?"

            "Which one is this?" Tanner asked from the kitchen.

            "American in Paris," Carol answered.

            "Oh, the one with Gene Kelly," Tanner said with recognition.

            Carol ordered VAS to continue rolling the movie. "I know I watched it at least a dozen times with you and your grandmother. I guess you missed her pretty much yesterday?"

            Tanner returned. He handed Carol a bottle of Marian Brew and sat next to her. Carol leaned her head against his arm. Large canyons dug by fatigue emanated from her slivered eyes. Her black hair, pulled back into a ponytail, swung limply. She still wore her fatigues, so did Tanner. He wrapped his dark, Creole arms around Carol's waist and held her. They made a handsome couple. 

            "Lower volume," Hayley instructed when the musical number had ended. "I wondered what she would have said," Hayley admitted.

            "I'm sure you wowed everyone. As soon as I get a moment, I plan to watch the most important opinion," Carol laughed enjoying her conceit. Then, I'll give you

            "Commander Hall said he caught a clip of your talk on the nets this morning." Tanner reached across and took a handful of popcorn.

            "I guess Kimberly Adams got permission to use it after all."  Hayley was not impressed.

            "You didn't see it?" Carol asked.

            "No." Hayley extended the bowl. "How was the sortie? The cadets hold up?"

            Carol answered, "They did well enough. We actually did little. Just fly maneuvers out around Alpha Centauri. It was really very basic. Rumor has it, Command is putting together a new squadron, using our Martian cadets to replace the Lunar based squadrons recently assigned to Trinidia."

            Tanner took a swig of beer. "Eventually, we could even be sent to Trinidia."

            "Hall told Tanner his name's at the top of the list to get command."

            "If that happens, I've told Hall I want Carol assigned as my first officer."

            "You're leaving Mars," Hayley realized with a touch of melancholy.

            "Just for duty," Carol responded. "Besides, it's time we both fly just a bit—cut the umbilical. I've got my military career and you know I want an assignment on one of the new deep space exploration vessels as an engineer and shuttle pilot. Plus, you have a zillion books and lecture tours."

            "Please!" Hayley dismissed the entire notion. "One book talk was enough. I threw up."

            "I expected you would. You always have."

            Hayley addressed Tanner, "If you get command of the new squadron, would they let Carol be your first?"

            "I don't know," he replied. "We got so accustomed to meeting on the sly when she was a cadet. Except for Carol's mom and you, no one knew about us." He gave Carol's forehead a kiss. "There's nothing in the regs against married couples serving in the same squadron."

            "Marriage?" Hayley coughed, then clapped. "You finally got the nerve!"

            Tanner grinned slyly. "The engagement's a secret—just in case Command doesn't agree with our logic."

            `When's the big event?" Hayley asked.

            "Next year—after I graduate," Carol said.

            "I'm so happy for you."  Hayley gave Carol and then Tanner a hug.

            "Of course, you're going to be our best," Carol insisted.

            Tanner agreed. "Without you, we would've never been able to be together. You're our special yenta?"

            "Yenta?" Hayley laughed.

            "Hush—" Carol said suddenly. "Hayl, turn up the sound. This is your favorite part. Tanner, you'll just love this dance."

            "And how many times have I seen this?" he said softly into a hair covered ear as he kissed the side of Carol's cheek and Hayley ordered the volume raised.  As the music swelled, Hayley's mind wandered. Evenings spent in conversation with good friends, a bowl of popcorn, her puppy sleeping in her lap, gorgeous music, and a beautiful dance in one of the most romantic musicals ever, this was how life should be. She wished nights like these would never end, but now, she knew they would. She looked back at her friends. If only, she gave Carol a quick smile. She would be brave and bit her lip. She always had. Besides Tanner was a great guy, and maybe—but the thought of life alone without either one. Tears filled her eyes as she turned back and tried to pretend the beauty of the dance and music was touching her emotions.

Part 9

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