Part VII

Lieutenant Hovart stood in front of the desk in the Commander's office.  The general was standing with his back to the lieutenant as he stared out the shielded window of his office. 

Hovart had arrived at Command Station a short time earlier and had demanded to be escorted to the Commander immediately.  As soon as he had been ushered into General Midd's office, Hovart informed the Commander of the liberation of the prison camp Beta II and of the general's sister's key role in that accomplishment.  He now waited for the general to respond to the report he had just delivered.

While he waited, Hovart wondered as to the source of the parallel rows of strafing holes running down the middle of the general's office.

"How many were freed?" the general asked, his tone low as he tried to rein in his growing anger.

"Four hundred and twenty three, sir," Hovart replied, his attention returning fully on the general.  "Most are coming here, should start arriving in a day or two.  I came ahead when we spotted the base.  A few took the Alliance cruiser over the mountain pass at the other end of the valley.  Captain Midd thought that would be the most likely way to discover where the Alliance camps were."

"We received word from Corporal Tankjey two days ago," the general snarled.  "He also informed me of Captain Midd's role in your escape."

"Couldn't have done it without her and the sergeant, sir," Hovart nodded to the general's back.  "Not too many would have dared to go over that fence, even if they thought the power was off.  Took a lot of courage for them…"

"I get the point, Lieutenant," the general growled. 

"Have you heard from the captain?" Hovart asked, unsure as to why news of the prisoners' escape would cause the general such obvious distress.

"The captain's whereabouts do not concern me, Lieutenant," the general whirled away from the window.  "Colonel," he shouted for his second-in-command.  "Take the lieutenant to the map room," he commanded as soon as the other office stepped into his office.  "Have him pinpoint the location of the freed soldiers and send transports out to pick them up.  As soon as you see to their health and get a hot meal into them, disperse them to the outlying bases as you see fit.  That will be all."

"Yes, sir," the colonel answered.  "If you'll come with me, Lieutenant."

"What about the captain?" Hovart refused to leave.  "And Sergeant Arhina?"

"That will be all, Lieutenant," the general turned back to the window.

"But, sir," Hovart continued to protest.

"You have your orders, Hovart!  Now get OUT!"

The lieutenant was pulled from the room by the colonel who knew better than to push the general any farther.  "Don't be a fool," the colonel hissed as he yanked Hovart out of the room and slammed the door shut behind them.  "You can't do the captain any good from the brig," he continued in a low voice so he wouldn't be overheard.  "Besides, she's fine.  At least she was a couple of days ago when she shot the General's office full of strafing rounds."

"She did that?" Hovart grinned as he pictured the captain bearing down on the command building, strafing rounds firing from the belly of her tasar.

"Yes," the colonel led Hovart down the stairway to the second floor.  "Showed up here in a tasar we thought had been destroyed, telling a story of freeing Beta II and wanting the general to give her troops to search out other prison camps."

"What happened?  Why isn't she still here?"

"General didn't believe her.  He ordered her to Gephi Base to fly escort for supply convoys.  And he ordered the sergeant back to her Islands."

"Oh, boy.  I bet the captain didn't take too kindly to that."

"Matter of fact, she slugged me in the jaw," the colonel reached up to rub his still tender face, "and took off for their tasar.  Before we could stop them, they shot the general's office full of holes and disappeared.  We've been looking for them ever since but they're doing a real good job of hiding from our probes and reconnoiter vessels.  Either that or the Alliance has recaptured them."

"Let's hope it's the first, Colonel," Hovart smiled.

"I'm with you but I don't think the general would share that hope," the colonel added as he pushed open a door to a room on the second floor.  "Better we concentrate on picking up the rest of your freed prisoners and hope the captain can take care of herself because I doubt she's going to get any help from Command."

"Think he'd care more for his own sister than that," Hovart mumbled as he followed the colonel into the map room.


The women had spent the past few days evading Alliance patrol cruisers and Confederacy scouting probes as they searched for another prisoner-of-war camp.  So far their quest had been futile as they found little but uncharted and unoccupied terrain in their search. 

 "What's wrong?" Terri asked when she felt the tasar's momentum slow until the craft was simply hanging in the air, all movement stopped. 

Tarp had been guiding the tasar to the head of another unnamed valley following the incline of the chasm's slope, its gentle grade having gradually steepened as they climbed towards the summit.  Now above tree-line the slope below them was sparsely covered with scrub brush and a few wind-bent and twisted trees, the safety of the thick forest having been left a few clicks behind them.  Her eyes, which were keeping a constant vigil on the numerous displays and screens in front of her, paused when the tasar's sensors detected an anomaly on the ground. 

"Something is down there," Tarp answered absently while tilting the tasar slightly off center so she could look out the cockpit's window.  She studied the ground trying to spot what the display screen told her was there.

"What?" Terri asked, unable to see anything from where she sat in the rear of tasar.  "Is it a prison camp?"

"Don't think so," Tarp tilted the tasar even more over onto its side as she studied the ground below.  "I'm going to set us down for a closer look.  Better lock in a couple of decoy stars just in case we have to get out of here in a hurry."

"Locked," Terri completed the request. 

"There isn't much cover on this ridge," Tarp said as she set the tasar down close to a cluster of distorted trees about fifty steps from the top of the ridge.  "I've covered the tasar with a camouflage shield but we'll be out in the open as soon as we move away from it.  Keep your rifle ready," she ordered, sliding the cockpit cover open and pulling her own weapon free of its resting place at the side of her seat.  Before stepping out onto the tasar's wing, she picked up the remote she had made in order to have access to the tasar's displays and manipulate the tasar's controls from a distance.

"What are we looking at?" Terri asked, joining Tarp on the wing.

"Over there," Tarp pointed the barrel of her rifle in the direction of a small mound of rocks near the top of the ridge.

"Midge, that looks like it used to be a building of some sort," Terri shaded her eyes from the morning sun to get a better look at what appeared to be the ruins of stone walls.

"I know," Tarp said, stepping off the wing to land with a thud on the ground.  "There's a couple more on the other side of the ridge," she said as she turned to help Terri off the wing. 

Cautiously, the women approached the mysterious structure.  The slope was steep and they were panting hard by the time they reached the stone ruins.

"Looks like it was a hut of some kind," Tarp walked beside what had once been a circular wall of stones stacked taller than she stood.  "This must have been a doorway," she paused at a break in the otherwise solid remains.

"Wonder who built it?" Terri asked, looking at the jumble of rubble and debris encircled by the collapsed stones.

"Whoever it was," Tarp bent over to pick up something shining in the sunlight.  "They left a long time ago."  She studied a small rectangular piece of metal, pounded flat and with unusual markings covering one side.  "Any ideas?" she asked, handing the metal to Terri.  "I've never seen that kind of writing before."

Terri stared at the piece of metal for many minutes before she answered.  "It's an ancient prayer to Mo-Tah," she said, her voice full of emotion.  "It hasn't been used since the last party of explorers left the Islands."

"Are you sure?"   It wasn't that she doubted the Islander's knowledge but she had been caught off-guard by the explanation.

"Yes.  It asks Mo-Tah to keep the explorers safe and to return them home when they have completed their journey.  Midge," she looked at Tarp, tears in her eyes, "this means…"

"I know," Tarp nodded, stepping closer to the Islander to look at the piece of metal.  This time she gave it more than just a casual glance.

"What do you think happened to them?"

"Come on," Tarp grabbed Terri's hand and started to climb the remaining distance to the top of the ridge.  "Maybe we can find a clue in the other ruins."

"Do you think they're still alive?"

Tarp twisted her neck, giving Terri a quizzical look.  "How long do Islanders live?" she asked.  "I thought you said it was several generations since the last ones left the Islands."

"It was," Terri laughed at the look on the captain's face.  "I believe Islanders' life-spans are equivalent to your own.  But I meant their children's children."

"Oh, good," Tarp breathed a sigh of relief.  "You had me worried there for a minute."

A sharp beep sounded from the remote Tarp carried.  "Probes," she cried out, pulling Terri along as she started to run.  "We need to find cover."  The women raced over the top of the ridge.

"There," Terri pointed. 

An arch formed by large stones carefully placed one on top of the next revealed an opening into a mound that looked unnatural on the barren ridge but the women didn't have the time to consider its peculiar appearance.     

"Go," Tarp urged, running for the safety of the opening.   

Terri led Tarp through the arch, diving into the darkness beyond without thinking of what might be waiting for them inside.  Tucking her body into a ball, she hit hard-packed dirt and rolled until something solid stopped her progress.  Before she could regain her bearings Tarp crashed into her, forcing her against the hard obstruction again.

"Sorry," Tarp mumbled as she quickly freed her body from the sergeant's.  "You okay?" she asked, concerned she might have caused injury to her friend.

"Yes," Terri, twisting around to get her feet underneath her, readied her rifle and leveled it at the opening they had just come through.  "Can they find us in here?"

"Probably," Tarp said reading the printout on the remote's display, its faint glow barely visible more than a few inches from her hand.  "But the dirt and stone should help shield us from the probes unless one of the scans goes directly over us.  If it's after us, it'll be looking for us on the surface, not underground."

"Who are they?  Can you tell?"

"The identity code says it's an unmanned Alliance scout probe and its several clicks away so chances are it didn't pick up our heat signals before we ducked in here."

"Wherever here is," Terri murmured staring into the surrounding blackness.  Being completely enveloped in a black void made her uneasy and she turned her attention back to the one thing that kept her from running back out to the comfort of the daylight just a few steps away.  "What's it doing?" she asked of the probe just to have the reassurance of hearing Tarp's voice when she answered.

"Give me a minute," Tarp grunted, concentrating on the remote's display and unaware of Terri's anxiety.  After several minutes, she let out a long breathe in relief, "it's passing without any course change.  It didn't pick us up."

"That was close," Terri released her own breath of relief.  "Now what?  Is it safe for us to stay here or should we get back to the tasar?" she asked, her voice a little unsteady.

"Let's give it a few minutes to clear the area."  Hearing the catch in Terri's voice, Tarp reached out in the darkness and was rewarded when her hand came into contact with the sergeant's back.  She stepped beside Terri and wrapped an arm around her waist.  Feeling Terri lean into her touch felt good even if she couldn't see her.  "Nice roll, by the way," she complimented, having caught a glimpse of the sergeant's perfect tuck and roll before she had disappeared into the darkness.

"Much better than my first try at doing that," Terri laughed at the memory of their escape from the prison camp when her attempt to tuck and roll had resulted in a badly bruised shoulder.

"Been practicing?"

"No, just lucky."

"It's gone," Tarp said as a single chirp sounded from the remote in her hand.  "Now what do you say to us seeing what exactly we're standing in?"

"I'd like that," Terri readily agreed.

"Hold on," Tarp swung her rifle onto her shoulder, freeing up a hand to pull a crystal stick from her jacket pocket.  Pressing her thumb against the depression on one end of the stick, she waiting as a soft glow grew stronger gradually revealing the women were standing in a circular room. 

The room appeared to have been carved into the ground but having seen the outside of the mound, the women knew that wasn't the case.  Except for the stone entry the room was formed from dirt and mud with all the surfaces purposely rubbed smooth.  The ceiling of the room was low enough that the women could easily have reached up and touched it and a knee-high bench circled the room at the base of the wall.  Above the bench, at irregular intervals and heights, niches had been carved into the wall, each uniquely shaped, and a carved line connected each with the others.  Though they probably held items of value at one time, the niches now were empty.  Between and around the niches were several markings, their meanings lost over time.

"Don't know what I was expecting," Tarp stood in the middle of the room, slowly turning in place as she took in their surroundings, "but it wasn't this."  The room had an eerie feel to it, almost spiritual, and she shivered slightly as she looked around. 

Terri moved closer to the wall as she studied the strange yet oddly familiar markings, her steps eventually taking her around its entire length. 

 "What are you thinking?" Tarp asked seeing the pensive look on Terri's face.

 "It's almost like I feel a presence in here."

"What kind of presence?"

"I'm not sure," Terri shrugged. 

Tarp shivered again, she decided she'd feel better out in the bright sunlight even if it meant they might be exposed to another passing probe's scans.  "Maybe there's something in one of the other huts that will make more sense," she suggested as she turned for the arched opening, relieved when the sergeant nodded and began to follow her lead.  She let the crystal stick go dark as soon as they stepped back out into the bright sunlight.  "Strange place to put a village," she frowned, looking around at the collection of collapsed stone structures of varying sizes.  "By the look of the few trees that manage to grow up here, the wind must blow most of the time but they were too high for the forest to provide protection.  And the ground is too hard and rocky to grow much in the way of crops," she scraped her boot against the ground to emphasis her point.  "I wonder how they managed to survive."

"Mo-Tah provided," Terri said, walking towards the ruins. 

"Even Mo-Tah would have a hard time providing enough to sustain a village here," Tarp muttered as she followed.

Their investigation of the remaining structures yielded nothing of value and the women started back to the tasar disappointed at their failure to find any answers to their rapidly growing list of questions. 

 "Midge, look," Terri was hurrying to the beginnings of a trail at the edge of the village unseen in their prior explorations.  "It looks like that one we followed after escaping from Beta II.  Do you think they made that one too?"

"Hard to say, hon," Tarp followed the sergeant.  "One trail looks pretty much like another," she said but she had to agree the existence of the trails on a land mass where most occupants traveled by air did seem more than just an odd coincidence. 

"Where do you think it goes?" Terri's eyes followed the trail until it disappeared into the forest below the ridge.

"Hard to say but…" Tarp paused to gather her thoughts.  At the back of her mind something was trying to make sense.

"But what?"

"I'm not sure but something about this trail…" Tarp squeezed her eyes shut, trying to force her thoughts to visualize.  "A map," her eyes popped open.  "It's a map."

"Midge, what are you talking about?"

"Come on," Tarp broke into a trot as she started in the direction of the strange mound at the top of the ridge.

Terri could do nothing but follow if she wanted to find out what the captain was thinking.  When she entered the circular room she saw Tarp intently staring at the markings on the wall.

"Okay," Tarp said when Terri walked up beside her, "for argument sake, let's say that this niche represents the room we're standing in."  She jumped up onto the bench and placed her hand beside a round recess.  "And this line is the trail you discovered," her finger traced the marking.  "Then that trail must lead to this next niche or village or whatever these places were to the people who made them."  She was getting more excited as she spoke and Terri picked up on her enthusiasm.

"Then these markings must be mountains," Terri pointed to what appeared to be a string of upside-down V's that snaked past the round niche.  "Because we know we are in the mountains here."

"Good," Tarp nodded.  "And this could indicate a valley or low spot," she had followed the marking for the trail to a pair of flat lines drawn parallel to each other.

"And this could be a stream or river," Terri traced a series of squiggly lines near another niche. 

"Or the sea," Tarp suggested.

"No," Terri shook her head as she walked to the opposite side of the room.  "This is the sea," she waved her arm in a sweeping motion along a large expanse of wall unadorned except for several irregular shaped carvings near the ceiling.

"How do you know?"

"Because these are my Islands," Terri said quietly as she reached up to touch the markings.

"Damn," Tarp sat on the bench, her arms resting on her knees, a puzzled look on her face.  "Why go to all this trouble?"

"What do you mean?" Terri glanced over her shoulder at the captain.

"Why do all this yet never go back home?  It doesn't make much sense."

"Maybe they couldn't," Terri walked back to Tarp, sitting beside her.  "Maybe something happened to their boats.  Or maybe there weren't enough of them left to sail them.  Or maybe they didn't know how to get back." 

"Don't know why not.  I mean, they obviously knew where they were and they obviously had the ability to build things.  If they could make this room, they should have been able to make a new boat and sail it back to the Islands."

"Maybe Mo-Tah wanted them to stay."  Terri slumped against Tarp as she said the words, unable to think of any reason to make them true.

"Maybe," Tarp turned her head just enough place a tender kiss on top of the Islander's head.  "Something for sure kept them here instead of going back to your Islands."

"They survived, Midge," Terri murmured, pulling the small piece of metal from her pocket and turning it over in her hands.  "They survived but they never came home.  Why?"

"I don't know," Tarp replied.  Though she was a recent arrival on Organi and didn't share their culture and history, she was just as curious about the fate of the explorers as Terri.  "Let's make a copy of this map and get back to the tasar.  Maybe if we follow their trails, we'll find the answer."


They had just entered the camouflage shield when the remote squawked a warning.  Knowing they were safe from the unseen danger, both women looked to the remote to see the identity of the threat.

"You'd think Mica would have given up by now," Tarp grumbled as she read the identity code for a Confederacy reconnoiter vessel on the remote's display.  "Let's get out of here while it's still too far away to detect the shield," she placed her rifle and the remote on the tasar's wing, freeing her hands to press herself up onto the surface.  Bending down, she offered Terri her hand and pulled the sergeant up beside her. 

Terri tried to move to the cockpit but found herself firmly held in the captain's grip.

"I love you," Tarp whispered as she leaned in to place a tender kiss on Terri's lips.

"I love you, too," Terri smiled when their lips separated.  "But is this the best time to be doing this."

"Probably not," Tarp smirked, releasing the woman she loved.  "But I felt like doing it so I did."  She bent down to retrieve her rifle and remote.

"I'm glad you did," Terri smiled, stepping into the tasar and settling in the gunner's seat.

"I'm glad I did too," Tarp grinned, pulling the cockpit cover into place. 

Moments later the tasar lifted into the sky.  


"The prison camp is located here," the colonel was explaining to the soldiers standing around him in the Command's map room.  "With what Lieutenant Hovart has told us," he nodded to the man standing at his side, "we should have no trouble destroying the vaporizing barrier once we land and locate the entry gate.  There's no reason to believe this camp is set up any different than Beta II."

"Why haven't you found them?" General Midd barked the question at the roomful of soldiers as he barged into the room.  The search for the missing captain and sergeant had been more successful in locating another prison-of-war camp hidden in a mountain canyon then in locating the women.  "How the hell have you let two women outsmart you?" he demanded, not really caring that several hundred Confederacy soldiers could soon be freed to rejoin the battle against the Alliance.

"We're doing the best we can, sir," the colonel tried to placate the agitated Commander.  "There's a lot of ground to cover and a single tasar isn't that easy to spot.  Especially if the pilot knows how to shield it from our scans and it appears Captain Midd knows."

"I'm tired of your excuses," the general glared at the colonel.  "The scout probes should have picked up the tasar's signal within thirty hours.  It's been days since they left here and you haven't found any evidence of them.  She," he sneered the word, "can't be that good.  Triple the number of scout probes and put every available tasar in the air.  I WANT THEM FOUND," he bellowed, his fist slamming down on the table they stood around. 

"What about the prison camp?" Lieutenant Hovart asked.  "Now that we know it's there, we can't just leave…"

"It won't hurt them to wait a few days more," General Midd snarled at the lieutenant.  "Right now, the priority of this Command is to find Captain Midd and Sergeant Arhina.  And bring them back here to face a court-martial."

"But, sir," Hovart continued.

"You have your orders," the general glared at the soldiers staring back at him.  "Follow them," he turned on his heel and stormed out of the room.

"But…" Hovart muttered as the general slammed the door behind him.

"Umm," the colonel scratched his head.  He had to follow the general's orders but he wasn't about to abandon the rescue of the prisoners.  "Sergeant Bextra, how many tasars are on base?"

"Two hundred and six, sir," a short, dark haired woman who was in charge of tasar maintenance answered. 

"All flyable?"

"Thirty two are out of service for maintenance and four a waiting for repairs to be completed."

"Sergeant Trank, how many troop cruisers?"

"Sixty four, sir," a tall, balding man said.

"All flyable?"

"Yes, sir."

"Trank, how many scout probes are looking for the Captain?"

"Fifteen, sir.  And until the next shipment arrives, we don't have enough to triple that number.  Not to mention putting that many up at the same time would only result in them misreading each other's signals," the sergeant added with a satisfied grunt. 

"I'm aware of that, Sergeant," the colonel growled.  He might agree with the sergeant's distain for the Commander's plan but he'd not allow the soldier to be disrespectful towards the general.  "Hovart, taking thirty of the troop cruisers, can you complete your mission?"

Hovart thought for a minute before answering, he had expected to have that number of tasars under his command to free the prison camp.  The cruisers, though well armed, were slower and less maneuverable than tasars.  Moving slower meant they'd be more likely to be picked up by Alliance scans and, if that happened, it would be hard to defend themselves against the enemy.  "Would like to have more firepower, if needed, Captain.  But I'll take what I can get."

"You'll have your firepower, Lieutenant.  You'll be following this route," the Captain pointed at the terrain map on the table in front of them.  "There's a tasar depot hidden in this canyon.  I'll give you the security codes before you leave."

"Sir," Hovart studied the officer, "are you sure you want to do that?"

Compromising a hidden supply depot was not taken lightly by the Confederacy.

"There's forty tasars in the depot.  Make sure you have enough tasar crews with you, Hovart," the captain said, prepared to take the risk.  I suggest you be ready to leave by nightfall."

"Yes, sir," Hovart smiled.  "We'll be ready."

"Trank, put all the scout probes you have in the air.  Make sure you give them plenty of room to operate so they don't interfere with each other."

"Sir," the sergeant started to protest than stop when he saw the gleam in the captain's eye.  "Yes, sir.  I'll spread them far enough apart," he smirked knowing that meant the most of them would be flying over the sea where they would have no chance of picking up any signals on the missing women.

"Bextra, get all the tasars in the air.  Have their scanners set to pick up any heat sources.  Maybe we can find the other prison camp the Captain said was out there."

"And if they find the Captain?" someone asked.

"Let's hope they don't," someone else murmured.

Ignoring the comments, the Colonel continued.  "You have your orders."

"Yes, sir," everyone snapped to attention.


The tasar was hidden under the branches of a tall pine tree, a camouflage shield spread out around it for added security.  A few feet away, Tarp and Terri sat side-by-side finishing up their evening meal as day gave way to night. 

"You take the rest of the berries," Tarp asked, wiping a drip of berry juice off her chin.  "I can't eat any more."

"Okay," Terri grinned, tilting her head back to scoop up the final handful of fruit inside her waiting mouth.

The women had spotted the ripe berries hanging heavy on a bush when they began to set up their camp.  After eating military rations for the past several meals, they had been delighting to add the juicy berries as a welcome dessert.

"Those were delicious," Terri announced after swallowing the last mouthful.

"They sure were," Tarp started to gather up the used dishes and ration containers spread out around them.

"What are you doing?"

"I forgot the remote," Tarp explained.  "I want to get it.  And I might as well put this stuff away since I'm going back to the tasar anyway."

"Guess that makes sense," Terri halfhearted agreed.

"But?" Tarp asked.

"Now that I have you this close, I don't want you to leave," Terri pouted.

"I'll be right back, silly," Tarp chuckled.  "Besides we've been close all day," she said, standing with her arms full.

"Staring at the back of your head all day is not what I would refer to as close," Terri grumbled, pushing herself off their blankets to help the captain.

"Stay put," Tarp told her.  "I won't be long.  I promise," she bent down to place a kiss on Terri's nose.

"You sure?  I don't mind helping."

"Yes," Tarp was already halfway to the tasar. 

Terri lay back on the blankets as she watched Tarp.  It was a warm evening with little breeze and she was looking forward to the next few hours.  It was true that they spent all day with each other but it was the evenings when they could really be together.  When they could hold each other and talk about the future they hoped to have; when they had the freedom to explore their growing feelings for each other.

"Hey," Tarp whispered as she returned to the blanket and stretched out next to Terri.  "What were you thinking?  You looked to be a million clicks away."

"Hmm?" Terri rolled onto her side, propping her body up on an elbow.  "I was thinking how much I enjoy our nights together," she reached out, cupping her hand around Tarp's face.  "And how much I love you."

Tarp leaned into the caress for a few heartbeats then turned to kiss the palm of Terri's hand.  "I like that."  With her lips still pressed against the warm hand, she tilted her eyes up to look at Terri.


"That you love me.

"Come closer," Terri dropped onto her back and waited for Tarp to snuggle against her before wrapping her arms around the captain.

Her head resting on Terri's shoulder, Tarp slipped an arm under the sergeant's body to hold her tight.  "This is nice," she murmured as she pressed her lips against the soft skin within easy reach.

 Terri hooked a finger under Tarp's chin and gently tilted her head up.  "This is better," she sighed.  She slowly ran her tongue around Tarp's lips, tasting the lingering sweetness of the berries she began to nibble on the lips.  She felt tremors ripple through the body pressed against her and reluctantly pulled away.  "I'm sorry."

"Don't ever be sorry for loving me," Tarp murmured, pressing her lips against Terri's cheek.  "I'm not sorry you affect me the way you do," she said as she rolled onto her back, pulling the sergeant with her.  "I'm just sorry that we can't do much about it right now.  Besides," she smiled, "I'd like to be in a nice comfy bed when I show you just how much your touch affects me."

"Lying on the ground under a camouflage shield isn't romantic enough for you?" Terri smirked, adjusting her position so she could snuggle against Tarp.  Rested her head on the captain's shoulder, she draped a leg over her thighs and her arm across her stomach.

"Not very," Tarp laughed.  "I picture a nice private room somewhere.  Soft music playing, candles flickering or maybe a fire burning, and you and me naked on a soft mattress."

"Hmm," Terri sighed, "sounds nice."

"Unfortunately, for now we'll have to be satisfied with snuggling together."

"I can live with that," Terri said as she unbuttoned Tarp's shirt and slipped her hand inside.  "But not for very long and only if I can feel you."

Tarp couldn't prevent the sharp intake of breath when she felt the warmth of Terri's hand on her bare skin.  As the hand began to crawl up her body, she placed her own on top of it.  "If you try to go any higher, I'll have to sleep in the tasar," Tarp grumbled.

"I was only going to hold one," Terri smirked.

"I've heard that before," Tarp moved the wandering hand back down to her stomach.  "That's as high as you go," she patted the hand.  "Be good."

"I'm always good," Terri purred, but she kept her hand in place.

With one hand holding Terri's and her other aimlessly running through the sergeant's hair, Tarp sighed in contentment.

"Happy?" Terri asked.

"As happy as anyone could be under the circumstances.  How about you?"


"We should get some sleep.  You want first watch or second?"  Even with the protection of the camouflage shield, the women felt safer with one of them always being awake.

"I'll take the first, I'm not very tired yet," Terri said.  Her mind was still reeling with the events of the day and she knew it would be a few hours before she would be able to sleep.

"Okay, wake me in a few?"


"I love you."

"Sleep well, my love."


Continued in Part 8...


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Author of the Sweetwater Sagas

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