Shoot the Sun, part 10

“I’ve got to hand it to you, Kyle, you’re a genius. Still a prick, but a genius never the less,” Kenny told microbiologist.

The man’s eyes widened a bit as he shoved his fingers into his pant pockets. “Well gee, thanks,” Kyle said pleasantly with a chuckle. “It’s good to know my peers think so highly of me.”

“Kyle, you’re a pain in the ass and socially inept but you know your stuff. Will Brandon would have taken his plant home and never saw its potential. You, on the other hand, took one glance at his burn and knew right away to test it.  Marla told me that Erica’s burns are healing well and she’s going to be allowed to return to her cabin soon. Her skin shows no sign of infections or blistering. I hope you keep up the studies on it. Maybe it’ll have effects on skin cancer too.”

Kyle looked away and mumbled, “It does.”

The Marine Biologist grabbed Kyle by the elbow and looked at him hard. He might not be in the research area of his specialty but he knew enough about the morality of experimenting to know Kyle was pushing the boundaries. Kyle shriveled under his gaze.

“Will Brandon had a habit of getting sunburned. I found a spot on his back that was probably Actinic Keratosis. It wasn’t very big. We talked it over and he agreed to wait until we get back home before having it removed. Since he was waiting anyway I asked if he’d apply the aloe to it until then. It’s gone.”

“The pre-cancer cells?”

“Yeah. Short of a biopsy I can’t prove they’re gone. He’s going to go to his doctor when we get back and be checked thoroughly.”

“I bet. Damn, the potential for this stuff is amazing. You and Queen Cierra are gonna be rich once the pharmaceutical companies get hold of it.”

“Huh? Why would I share it with her? William should get a share since the plant was originally given to him.”

“Ahh, didn’t read the fine print her lawyer put in the contract you signed. We all signed,” he added. “Basically if we find anything of value on Mother Earth she has the right to collect 10 % of the profits. I have a feeling Cierra White has no idea her lawyer stuck that in there. It doesn’t sound like her at all. She’ll probably give it to charity or something.”

Kyle sighed and nodded in agreement. He was amazed the lawyer didn’t make it for far more than a measly 10%. Even so, the potential revenues from the gel would easily make her a wealthy woman. He didn’t tell Kenny that he himself would only get a small fraction of it as well. In truth, the University he worked for legally owned the rights of the aloe gel. He had discovered it while under their employment as a researcher.

They would indeed make a killing off the plant for a while, at least until people found it growing wild. It wouldn’t take long before either someone stole a plant or cutting to grow their own. Or maybe someone would pick them up if they returned to Africa on ME to study the hominids. Regardless, the plant wouldn’t be exclusive to the school for long. It would spread like wildfire until it was growing everywhere warm like the aloe plant of the Old World.

“Knock, knock. I came by to see if you needed a ride home,” Rachel teased.

“I just might. Parts of me atrophied while I was stuck in here. They need extensive therapy to recover.”

Rachel scooted close to her lover and placed a small kiss on her lips. “Is this one of the ‘parts’ that need help?”

Erica’s lids hooded as she mumbled out a gravelly ‘uh huh’ and took possession of Rachel’s lips. Both were too occupied to hear the door open and close. They broke the kiss when breathing became necessary.

Rachel grinned at her lover’s aggression then it disappeared at the look of fright on Erica’s face. She looked over her shoulder and gasped.

“Captain Harrison!”

The officer was leaning against the door so no one else could enter. Her arms were crossed and humor quirked one corner of her mouth in spite of the stern glare.

“Ladies. I understand Cadet Hull will be released today.” She turned her gaze to the shocked patient. “ I wanted to check up on you Ms. Hull, but I see you have your friend taking care of you. She seems the kind type so I think you’re in good hands. If you’ll excuse me, ladies.”

Janet opened the door and shot the two cadets a look of conspiracy and a wink, then left the room.

Erica pointed at the door. “Did…did--”

“Yeah.”

“Oh God!”

“Save that for later, Sweetheart. Let’s get out of here before someone else walks in.”

The ship sailed past the barren islands that Hawaii back home. Here, they were mere rocks jutting out of the ocean. Jeren stood next to Janice at the railing.

“We’ll be anchoring in California in about a month, aren’t we?” she asked sadly.

The captain stood silent for a while before finally answering. She knew the reason why Jeren was morose because she was thinking about it too. “Yes. A few weeks after that we should be back home.”

It was all she could do to resist leaning against Janice for comfort. Now that the time was nearing she had to face her feelings. She didn’t want to lose Janice, not now. “Are you going to retire like you planned?”

“Yup. I’ve sailed my last voyage with the Coast Guard. I’ve been thinking about selling my condo too. The idea of living in that huge place alone…well, it has no appeal for me. Maybe I’ll move to another city. There’s no reason to remain in New London.”

“Oh, any ideas where you’d go?” Jeren mentally crossed her fingers.

“Hmm, well, I was thinking about moving away from the coast. I hear they have a heck of a University in New Britain.”

A warm glow spread inside of Jeren. She smiled and agreed that the school was outstanding. “Why don’t you wait before buying a new place. See if you like the area. You could stay with me if you want.”

“I just may do that.”

Jonathon couldn’t help himself. He was on watch duty when he spotted the distant shore. “Land Ho!” he shouted with gusto. It had been a long trip and he was eager to get home.

Those not tending lines or on watch on the deck rushed forward to view the distant haze that was California. The crew was aware that the Bay Otter Clan was located near San Francisco Bay. They were nearly home. They knew that it would be a few weeks before Cierra could be fetched and return to the coast but the short wait was minimal. During the wait they could sit and relax until she arrived. No more core samples or expeditions. Only bare watches would be done to maintain the ship and prepare food.

Several hours later they were close enough to shore to see distant village of the Native Americans. Amazingly enough, the ‘village’ consisted of huge cedar wood homes. The scene reminded Janice of the photos she had seen of the Pacific North West houses of the Inuit peoples. All they needed was totem poles and bright paintings to complete the picture.

They anchored away from the village since they didn’t want to be in the way of the fishing village. The landing party went ashore in one of the dinghies and they walked to the Clan community.

The local leaders were more than happy to give them a tour; proud of the progress they’ve made. The homes, all on stilts, looked sturdy and well maintained. Each family lived in one huge home, often holding upwards of twenty people. The bachelors lived in another building. Although the weather rarely got cool enough to need to use them all, each large home typically had three free standing fireplaces. The center one was the largest and had ‘ovens’ built around them. The oven was large enough that to adjust the temperature that the food baked by merely sliding it to another spot in the oven. The other side of the rounded fireplace had spits and hooks for hanging kettles.

The social area of the homes combined kitchen, living room, and activity room into one large area. Sleeping areas were for just that—sleep. The rooms were built around the other two fireplaces in a square pattern and held just a few occupants at most and their personal possessions.

The adults usually had doors on their rooms but unless they sought privacy for sexual reasons they kept them open to allow in the warmth of the fire.

Janice toured one of the houses and asked if it was typical. Finding that it was like most homes, she noted that people slept on well-padded mats on short pallets rather than beds. There were few windows in the homes since the only glassmaker was overworked trying to produce the needed ingredients that made up glass. At least a couple of them were handy and that made it easier for the elderly man.

Outside, the fishing nets were carefully hung on smooth wooden poles between trees. The nets had to be dried after each use and inspected for broken cords. Each home also had a small garden plot. Since the soil near the beach wasn’t suited for growing vegetables the families had to haul in topsoil from other areas. The community also had a compost pile located downwind of the village.

The village elder and one of the leaders pointed up the shore. “You may set up camps down that way. I have a favor to ask. I noticed you have many young people on your ship. I realize they are finally home and might be a little zealous in celebrating but do your best not to make your parties loud. Our village is a quiet one and we like it that way. The rowdier ones we asked to leave.”

“Wait, are you telling me there’s a band of your people out there wandering around. People you found undesirable?”

“Yes. They committed no crimes but we felt they wanted a life different than the ones who remained. We agreed to part ways. They headed east and we haven’t seen them since.”

Janice felt a foreboding. What if the group that had split away ended up raiders or worse? They didn’t sound like the types to settle down and become farmers. She would warn Cierra when they met.

Tomorrow a pair of riders would head for Napa Valley to let them know they were there. In the meantime, her crew would relax until Cierra arrived.

The older man spoke once more after a long silence. “I think my people are planning a small feast tonight for your crew. Maybe some of them will entertain us with tales of your trip?”

“Of course. Although you might think some of the stories would be tall tales,” she teased.

“All the better, my dear. Until tonight?”

She nodded and headed back to her crew.

To be continued later in the story “Tales in the Making”

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