Chapter 3: Last Words

Finn looked at Leah as Lakshmi’s footsteps faded quickly away.

“You still want to be a Scout?” he asked with a half smile.

She laughed but it abruptly turned to sobs and she turned her back on him. Finn knew that it was a stress response but he felt guilty about teasing her.

“Hey, it’s okay,” he said, patting her shoulder.

Leah spun around and hugged him tightly, still sobbing. Finn jumped but hesitantly put his arms around her and patted her back. She let go of him and stepped back, wiping her face.

“Sorry,” she sniffed. “You don’t like to be touched.”

“It’s okay, mostly it’s crowds,” he said awkwardly. “No one has hugged me in quite a while.”

“I saw Tyohac hugging you two days ago.”

“No, you saw Tyohac assaulting me two days ago.”

She smiled shakily. “Don’t tell me Kitt never hugged you.”

Finn laughed. “Kitt was many things but a hugger she was not.”

“But you two were….”

“Lovers?” Finn shook his head. “You’d be more her type. But even if she’d been hetero, we’d worked together so long that it would have been like kissing a sister.”

“Oh. Well, at least she wouldn’t have been paralyzed by fear down there.”

Finn shrugged. “Leah, I emptied an entire clip into that thing and it barely twitched. Whatever Kitt might have done, it would have been just as ineffective. Sometimes everything comes down to dumb luck.”

She nodded but didn’t look convinced. Finn had been the same way, convinced he could get himself through any situation. She’d find out soon enough that sometimes life and death were decided by things they had no control over.

They were standing on what appeared to be an artificial construction. It was a slightly concave oval they paced out as eight meters wide and twelve meters long. The platform was made up of timbers, like the surrounding forest. The smallest of the parts was about the thickness of his wrist, the widest were at least as thick as his entire body. Somehow, the builder had woven the impregnable wood together. Neither had seen how it was attached to the immense tree but it felt as solid as the ground.

In the center of the platform was what looked like a shelter. It was a low dome with a meter wide gap between the roof-wall and the floor of the platform. Looking inside, they could see the floor was covered with thick pads that looked like grass and moss. Neither knew this world well enough to be sure, but they agreed that the structure was very old. Looking over the edge, Finn guessed they were easily a hundred meters in the air.

Once they’d looked around, they began taking stock of what supplies they had left. Luckily they hadn’t been there long enough to get out of field clothes. They both still had water bottles that were designed to fill themselves with the ambient humidity. It hadn’t been that useful on the Celestial Reverie but the high humidity here filled it in less than an hour. They each carried several OneDay bars. Every field crew carried them and every field crew fervently hoped to never need them.

From the size, it could have been some sort of chocolate bar. The meal substitute was a dense amalgamation of vitamins and calories that was supposed to provide twenty-four hours of energy. Finn wasn’t sure, he’d never been able to choke down more than half of one. Leah mentioned that the bars hadn’t been that bad originally. Then the chocolate flavor had been dropped in favor of carob. Neither of them were sure what carob actually was but they agreed it wasn’t an acceptable substitute for chocolate. Or for anything remotely edible.

They both carried pens and a standard field journals and Finn still had several unsharpened pencils and a small, fairly battered sketch book. The rest of their belongings were a compass, two folding knives, and a few hard candies. Finn popped a lemon flavored one in his mouth and Leah chose blue, whatever flavor that represented. They’d only been walking for a day, so getting back to the colony wouldn’t be a huge problem.

Inventory completed, they sat down and recorded as much of the day’s events as they could. Leah didn’t care for writing everything out by hand, but both their tablets had been in their packs. Finn got her to laugh a little, imagining the tentacle monster biting into the lithium batteries.

Leah watched as Finn used his pocket knife to carefully sharpen a pencil. Finn concentrated on slowing his breathing as he worked. Finally, he flipped through the sketch book, finding a blank page. He spent some time sketching the Other that had saved them with Leah supplying additional details. As he finished it, Leah stopped pacing and settled into a lotus position and closed her eyes. Finn flipped back to a sketch he had started, a three-quarter view of the USS Constellation, most of her sails reefed in heavy seas. After considering it for a minute, he flipped to another page and began to sketch their surroundings.

It was late afternoon and huge golden-red beams of light shone obliquely through gaps in the canopies. Two of the three moons were appearing, ghosts in the bright sky. Finn tried to let his mind empty as he concentrated on getting the outlines onto paper but he kept going back to the English speaking Other.

He really hoped they hadn’t discovered a new race of people. That was usually handled by First Contact Teams. They were highly trained in a broad spectrum of skills and consisted of ten people. The Terran’s Colonial Fleet had trained three teams but the more senior races, the Archreylen, handled situations like this. There would be hell to pay if humans were the first representatives of the Commonwealth to a new civilization. He didn’t take it personally, the youngest of the Archreylen had been in space for centuries when humans were still figuring out agriculture.  

Something hit his left shoulder and then his neck. Raindrops. Finn closed the book and they both stuffed everything back in his pockets as more rain began to fall.

“Should we get under the dome?” Leah asked.

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I only did the one required Exo-Diplomacy module but they kept saying not to take anything for granted. What if it’s some kind of shrine?”

“Or her food,” Leah added. “Okay, but I hate wet clothes. I’m going to strip down and tuck my clothes under the roof at least.”

“Good idea. I’ll do the same, no peeking.”

She laughed and they stripped down, folding the heavy garments into bundles. They both pushed them into the shelter of the dome. Finn went and sat back down, thanking fate that they were on a warm world. Leah sat down beside him and both of them kept their eyes on the forest around them.

The heavy downpour turned into a deluge and they both leapt to their feet. Leah looked at him, eyes wide. Finn tried to reassure her but the roar of the storm was so loud that he had no idea if she could hear him. Finally he gave up and tried to look reassuring.

Finn lifted his face to the strengthening downpour. He was strangely happy, almost gleeful, and began to sing as the warm rain washed over his face and down his body. For once, he was delighted to be alive and laughed as the waterfall fell on him. Leah shook her head and pointed at the dome. She went to sit in the large doorway but Finn was enjoying the moment and stayed in the rain. A minute later, he felt a thump through the deck and turned to see that Lakshmi had returned and was inside the dome with Leah. He splashed his way over and stopped outside the dome but Lakshmi motioned for him to step inside.

“Have a good dinner?” he muttered, using his hands to squeegee the water off his body.

“I consumed. This act is not discussed however.” The reproof was obvious, even with Lakshmi’s stilted accent.

Finn was even more embarrassed and wished there was somewhere to slink off to. Lakshmi didn’t say anything else but busied herself with stowing her harness and gear in a net near the ceiling. Looking up, he saw that she’d put their clothes up there as well. He really wanted some pants but wasn’t about to try and jump high enough to retrieve them. She was unwrapping the clothing from her upper torso and as she rolled it up, Finn saw that it consisted of a single piece of fabric that had been draped around her. Putting clothes on while she took hers off didn’t feel quite right and he consoled himself that he was just as alien to her as she was to him, no need for embarrassment. Leah was sitting with her back to him but Finn knew she was probably smiling.

Lakshmi was carefully wiping the water off of her fur with some kind of towel and Finn sat carefully on the edge of the mat, not wanting to watch her in case it caused more offense. A few minutes later, there was a tap on his shoulder and Lakshmi handed him something like a chamois cloth.

“It is to become dry.”

Finn nodded his thanks and wiped away the remaining water. When he turned back, Lakshmi had folded her four legs under herself.

“There is much to understand at this place of junction,” she said. “You will rest beside me and we will speak.”

Finn nodded and climbed up on the moss mats. It was still slippery but cool and comfortable. Leah turned around and faced them, sitting cross legged. Finn was very aware of her nudity and it was difficult to keep from looking at her. 

“I was curious, how old is this place?” he asked.

Lakshmi tucked the four legs under her body and settled on the mat. “We do not share the obsession with time numbers with your people. It was very long ago. The Ancestors built this place in the time when there were more of us.”

 Finn had already guessed the answer, it was damned unlikely that a Scout from an off-planet species could eat whatever food was here, let alone move so comfortably through the forest. The confirmation still made his stomach drop.

“This planet is your home?” Leah asked.

“I do not understand ‘planet’ but as I said, my Elder and my clan are the Great Waterfall Meeting.”

“You were born there.”

“I understand most of your words but not the meanings. What is a ‘planet’ and how could one know their own birth place? I became near the Great Waterfalls and joined them.”

“Became what?”

Her large black eyes regarded them both before she responded. “We are saying much and understanding little. This thing may be easier if I can…feel your brain.”

“How does that work?” Finn asked, visions of trepanning dancing through his head.

She held out her front arms and they both put their hands in Lakshmi’s catchers-mitt sized palms. Again, he felt the curiosity and amused frustration and it startled him all over again. Finn pulled his hand away.

“I will not allow harm to come to you, Finn Morgan.”

He took a deep breath and put his hand back in hers. The feelings from outside of his mind returned, worry and confusion. Finn closed his eyes and concentrated on the feeling.

After a few seconds he suddenly laughed. “Because I was standing in the rain?”

“That is not the action of a rational creature.”

Leah laughed as well. “It’s not that strange for us, we love water.”

“I know the sky people are strange but I did not believe one would willingly be immersed in the wet.”

“Two-thirds of our world, the place we came from, was covered by water,” Leah said. “Our people enjoyed swimming and floating in water.”  

There was a feeling of disbelief and laughter in return. “Then I understand the reason why your people left the sky.”

Finn and Leah looked at each other and didn’t say anything. Lakshmi examined each of them in turn.

“There is a great sorrow within you both. I regret I caused this, we will speak of other things. I felt surprise when you saw me. You did not know we inhabited the hoom?”

 “The hoom, that’s your name for all these trees together?” Finn asked.

“What your people call the forest, yes but not. We need to share experience before you can know the hoom. Very few sky-people have ventured this far into the hoom. Why have you come so far?”

“We’re searching for others that came this way, before the last wet season.”

It was Lakshmi’s turn to feel sorrow and regret. “I saw them come, my sisters and I watched them from above, the same way I watched you today. We were not to contact the sky-people but then they were injured in a way we did not understand. We went down to them and summoned both Singers and Elders to help them but we were too late.”

Finn nodded. “There was nothing you could have done, it was too late when they entered the trees. There was a sickness in their home.”

“This is what Yuri Stepanovich Bogdanov told us, yes.”

“Oh no,” Leah said, sitting up. “I knew Boggie, we were friends.”

Both of the humans felt an uneasiness in Lakshmi. “You are the same clan? He was made comfortable before he left the path and their remains were honored.”

“Yes, we were the same clan,” Leah said. “Thank you for helping him. This is how you learned English?”

“I do not speak it comfortably, I learned from my sisters’ memories only. Yuri and his clan brothers gave us the objects that spoke and sang for a short time. I learned only some of your words, the ones spoken most often. There was sorrow when the objects followed their makers from this path.”

“It is good that their sickness did not spread to your people,” Finn said.

“No, we would never allow that. Now that their clan has come, it is good that the end of their song can be told. We do not easily speak of those who leave the path but we did not know when you would come, all of them were adopted as our clan sisters and we honored their memory as our own.”

“Thank you for that,” Leah said. “When we return to the outpost, I will send word of their passing…leaving the path.”

“Will it be necessary to collect them? Very little remains.”

Leah shook her head. “It is enough that they were honored and we know of their end.”

“You know more about the Commonwealth than I do,” Finn said. “You’re sure they don’t need to be included in the evacuation?”

“I’m not sure, I don’t think it matters as long as all the living colonists are removed.” Leah answered.

“I do not know the meaning of the word evacuation,” Lakshmi said.

Leah sat up, still holding the Other’s hand. “We did not know your people were already here. It is very important that my people never take living space from anyone else. Now that we know you are here, we will remove everything and return to the sky.”

Lakshmi was confused. “We do not live in the open places, we are the people of the errsha and the hoom. You have  taken nothing.”  

“There were very dark things, evil things, done by our people in the past,” Finn explained. “One of those things was the killing of others in order to steal the places they lived. We must never repeat these things.”

Lakshmi thought about that for a little while. “Then, by saving your lives I have driven your from their Meeting, their

 homes.”

“Our people could someday threaten yours,” Finn said.

“The Elder must be told,” Lakshmi said after another long pause. “My sisters and I were not to reveal ourselves to the sky-people yet. I have disobeyed her word and now the sky-people will depart.”

“We owe you our lives,” Leah said. “Would it help if we explained this law to her?”

Both humans felt a pulse of agreement. “She could ask her own questions of you. Tomorrow I will take you to Yuri Stepanovich Bogdanov’s last words. He said it is important that his clan read them. Then we will go to Waters Leap Meeting. The sun is becoming low in the sky, I must soon sleep.”

Leah yawned. “Not a bad idea.”

The Other effortlessly picked up Leah and moved her beside Finn. Lakshmi moved to the edge of the mat and curled up. Her eyelids extended from the sides of her eyes and she pillowed her head on the front-most, human sized arms.  

“Really glad it’s a warm planet,” Leah muttered to Finn.

“We are in way over our heads here,” he whispered back.

“We’re not going to set up an embassy. She shouldn’t be punished for saving us from our mistake.”

Finn thought and nodded. “As long as we don’t end up on an orbital welding crew over this.”

Leah chuckled sleepily and then her breathing deepened. Finn wasn’t nearly as comfortable and stared at the bottom of the dome for a long time before falling asleep.

~~~~

The temperature went low enough overnight to turn the ambient humidity into a heavy mist. As he drifted out of sleep, Finn was aware that his back was cold and clammy. The front of his body, on the other hand, was pleasantly warm. Lakshmi stretched and the sound woke him the rest of the way up. He was startled to realize that he had his arms around Leah. Her arms were folded over his with her back against his chest. Their legs were intertwined as well. The next thing he became aware of was his morning erection pressed against her hip. Mortified, he slowly tried to extricate himself but the movement woke her up as well.

“Oh, hello there,” she mumbled.

“Sorry,” he muttered.

“Noo, I’m warm,” she protested, holding his arms in place.

Finn cleared his throat as he untangled his legs. Leah let go of one of his arms and reached back and patted his butt.

“You’re still naked,” she said.

“Yeah, sorry,” he muttered. “I didn’t mean to…y’know.”

“No, what?” Leah asked, sounding suspiciously close to laughter. “You mean the strangely hard object poking me?”

Finn’s face was hot as he pulled away from her. Leah did start laughing and rolled over to look at him.

“Relax. It was cold and we’re in a survival situation. Right?”

“Uh, right,” he said, getting off the mat and looking for his clothes.

“If we’re going to be traveling the stars together, you really need to relax.”

Thankfully Lakshmi handed him the bundle of clothing at that point and Finn busied himself unwrapping everything.

“You are very curious beings,” the Other said.

“Right, whatever,” Finn said, face burning.

He grabbed his gear and walked away from the dome, hopping as he tried to get dressed at the same time. When he had gotten his shorts and pants on, Finn came back to the dome. Leah was pulling her clothes on as well.

“I’m going in just my sports bra today, it’s already getting hot,” she said.

Finn looked at the heavy long-sleeved shirt in his hand, thinking longingly about the t-shirt that had been in his pack. Leah was right about the heat but it was this or nothing.

“Just pretend you’re John Carter,” she said, smiling at him.

“Who?”

“Barsoom? Princess Thuvia?”

Finn shrugged. “No idea.”

“How are you a Fleet Scout?” she laughed, pulling her boots on. “Classic sci-fi, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.”

“Never heard of it. I didn’t like Naked Lunch though.”

She rolled her eyes and got up. “That’s William Burroughs. No relation.”

Finn was distracted by the sight of Lakshmi wrapping the long strip of cloth around herself. It would have been an awkward process for a human but the larger, rear facing arms made it graceful, almost a dance. Leah looked over her shoulder as watched, just as fascinated as she finished and buckled the harness over her upper body.

“These will be cumbersome,” Lakshmi said, pulling the oversized machetes off. “You will need to stay out of trouble today.”

“How far do we have to go?” Leah asked.

“Again, there are no common words. Further than the distance here but I see a way I can carry both of you.”

Finn wanted to protest but didn’t. For good or ill, they were completely dependent on Lakshmi to take them to the ground.

“Are you going to eat?” Leah asked him.

Finn thought about the OneDay bars and shook his head. “Not that hungry.”

“You talk about…consumption very easily,” Lakshmi interrupted. “My people do not talk about such things.”

Leah and Finn glanced at each other.

“We’re sorry,” Leah said. “We won’t bring it up again.”

When they were ready, Lakshmi lifted Leah to her back. Finn offered to walk behind them but Lakshmi ignored him and lifted him up to her back, tucking him against Leah. The large, rear facing arms, folded over him and held them both in place. Finn wasn’t sure what to do with his arms until Leah took them and put them on her hips.

“You’re going to get to know me, whether you like it or not,” she said over her shoulder.

“I guess so,” Finn said, trying to forget what she’d felt like in his arms this morning.

“Yes, I can carry you both to the place of Yuri Stepanovich Bogdanov’s last words. Once we are there, I will summon a sister to help bring you to our Meeting.”

Without another word, Lakshmi vaulted off the edge of the platform and to the immense trunk. Finn’s heart was in his mouth and he clamped his jaw tight. The Other ran lightly along one of the lower branches and hopped to a branch on the adjoining tree. After several more jumps, Finn began to relax. Half an hour later, he was enjoying the experience and looking around as they moved through the forest.

When he pointed out a river below them, Finn realized that Leah wasn’t enjoying the experience nearly as much. She shook her head slightly and he saw her eyes were tightly shut.

“Heights?” he asked.

She nodded slightly and for the first time, he saw that she was sweating slightly. He didn’t really understand why, Lakshmi’s heavy arms held them tightly and they hadn’t shifted an inch.

“Does this help?” he asked, wrapping his arms around her waist.

Her hands clutched his forearms tightly. If her nails had been longer, Finn was sure that she’d be drawing blood right now.

“Thank you,” she said quietly.

Almost without thinking about it, he squeezed her slightly, trying to give her a comforting hug. She relaxed fractionally and leaned slightly back against him.

Late that afternoon, they’d arrived at “the Last Words of Yuri Stepanovich Bogdanov,” a platform that was almost identical to one they had left this morning. They were higher this time, the mists totally hid the ground when Finn looked over the edge of the platform.

“Please stop doing that,” Leah said, shuddering as she watched.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to bother you,” he said, standing up.

“Could you come away from the edge?”

He couldn’t help chuckling as he walked over to where she was standing. “You’ve got it bad. Did something happen?”

She shrugged. “Not that I know of, it’s just a phobia. It’s embarrassing, I had to drop out of the technical climbing courses at Echo. That’s why I was a Raptor, not one of the Immortals.”

“Don’t think of it as a phobia. Just an over-abundance of common sense. What’s an Immortal?”

“They were the elite Colonial Guard cadets, like Raptors were the elite pilot cadets. Sorry, I assume everyone went through the Echo program.”

“Nope. Didn’t even go to the Air Force Academy, I’m one of those lowly ninety-day-wonders.”

“You couldn’t have been too lowly if the Project put you in a Red Tail,” she said.

He smiled slightly. “That was after a lot of on-the-job training. Do heights bother you in the cockpit?”

She shook her head. “It only bothers me if I’m near the edge of something. I know, it’s weird.”

Lakshmi was taking down several large bundles from the rafters of the domed shelter and Finn followed Leah over to see what the “Last Words” actually consisted of. It was strange, he wasn’t as wary of her today. Maybe it was helping her deal with the trip here, or their shared near-miss but his guard had begun to come down around her. Addie probably would say it was because she was an attractive young woman and they were half naked.

The bundle was wrapped in a tough skin that was somewhere between rubber and heavy plastic and Finn realized that they were leaves from the trees. Everything about them seemed ridiculously durable.

“These are the things he said should come back to you,” Lakshmi said, setting the last of the bundles on the platform.

Finn stepped back and saw that Leah was doing the same thing. When Lakshmi opened the bundle, he was relieved to see that none of the mapping teams’ clothes had been saved. It was their tablets, a few pieces of jewelry, glasses, and an envelope made of the same leaf material.

“You think all those shots will protect us?” Leah asked.

“You know the saying about old pilots and bold pilots?”

Leah patted his shoulder. “A man after my own heart. Too bad our gloves are slug poop.”

“We have cleaned these things,” Lakshmi said, in the same tone of reproof she’d used this morning. ” Yuri Stepanovich Bogdanov and Charlene Victoria Cooper explained what must be done. The Last Words are protected within the leaf.”

“We didn’t mean to offend you,” Leah said, kneeling down. “This sickness frightens us.”

Lakshmi knelt down as well. “Can you not keep sickness from your bodies? We can easily teach you this thing.”

“That would be very kind of you,” Finn said.

He watched Leah unfold the envelope. The first thing to fall out was a grossly ordinary USB thumb drive. Leah ignored it, taking several sheets of paper out. It was the tough waterproof grid paper Finn had used himself. Instead of mapping notes or sketches, these were covered in paragraphs written by different people. Leah handed it to him and Finn saw that they were farewell messages written to family and friends. There was one more that she read carefully. It was a longer message written by a single person. Finn folded the other messages back up. He’d make sure these got to the right people, provided they were still alive.

“Boggy, what the hell were you doing here?” Leah muttered.

She turned the letter over but the other side was blank. Sitting back on her heels, Leah reread the letter carefully and then looked at Finn.

“Something bad is happening.”

He’d heard more dire warnings but Leah’s four simple words made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Lakshmi’s head swiveled, looking at each of them.

“That is what Yuri Stepanovich Bogdanov said to me. I am glad his words have been heard by someone who understands them.”  


Later, Lakshmi had gone to call one of her sisters. Leah and Finn took shelter in the shade of the dome to talk things over. She showed him the letter but it didn’t make any sense to him. It looked like something written by someone deeply delirious.

“That’s what it’s supposed to look like,” Leah said. “Have you ever heard of Section Tango?”

Finn shrugged. “I was assigned to Section Lima but I think it was just an administrative thing.”

“Exactly. There were all these different sections for the specialists. It wouldn’t make sense to lump you in with the Colonial Guard or Fleet cadets.”

“With you so far.”  

“One of them, Section Tango, was weird and none of us could figure it out. It was like a black hole for personnel. No notes or assignment details, just a list of random names. If you looked deeper, it began to make sense. We recognized a few names, they were all people with very interesting skill sets; insurgency, demolitions, that kind of thing.”

“Who is ‘we’ in this case?”

“A project group in my Military Intelligence module. We were developing some interesting theories but then it came down that the Operations group was not amused. All of the records disappeared and my group was split up and reassigned to different modules. Later, I found out that every one of us had been given perfect scores for the module.”

“You were snooping around that kind of stuff for real? At Echo? The same place in New Mexico that executed a guy for hacking?”

“It wasn’t just hacking, but yeah. In our intel and counter-intel classes we were set loose on the Project databases. It kept the real counter-intel people on their toes and provided good experience for everyone.”

Finn just shook his head. Just when he thought Echo had run out of weirdness, he found a whole new level of it.

“Anyway, I knew a couple of people that disappeared into Tango. Yuri, his nickname was Boggy, was one of them. He taught my unarmed combat classes and we went out a few times. Then, one day he just disappeared. I heard that a couple of others did as well. I know for a fact Boggy was ex-spetsnaz. Rumor was that the other two were spec-for as well. Before they stopped us, we’d found out that various black-op teams were assigned to Commonwealth units, off-world. There was a lot more but we didn’t get that far.”

“Maybe your friend had a change of heart. Lots of people changed after the Defense failed.”

“That would really surprise me, but it’s possible. But Benjamin Schwartz’s name is here too. He was a few classes ahead of me. Nice enough, but a really creepy guy. He disappeared after graduation, rumor was he’d gone to Tango. One ex-special forces guy here, maybe it’s war-shock. But two of them in the same place? That’s too weird. There’s also the first sentence of the letter.”

Finn looked at it again. “‘I have sailed the stars and come to the sacred planet of Byzantium.’ It’s a misquote of a poem by Yeats. He did it again near the end here. ‘What rough joker, his hour come round, is loosed to shuffle off to Buffalo.’ The line should be ‘and what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.’ The poems are Sailing to Byzantium and Second Coming.”

“I’m impressed, Finn.”

“Don’t tell anyone. Leah, these guys would have been really bad off. He might have been delirious.”

She nodded. “That’s what anyone would think except for the errors. Stars and planet instead of ocean and city. The big one are the words ‘joker’ and ‘loose’ near the end. The joker is loose is a very specific event in the command simulations at Echo. It’s a secondary event that is unrelated to the original issue but is worse.”

“Let’s pretend I’m an idiot who has no idea what you’re talking about.”

She frowned at him. “You’re not an idiot, don’t say it again. We practiced being command teams for different situations. One of mine was a multi-state forest fire. We had to get it contained with too few resources. Then the synthetic running the exercise threw in the Joker, a magnitude eight earthquake on the Juan de Fuca fault and the resulting tsunami.”  

“He’s saying there’s a whole new problem to deal with. The strep infection?”

She shook her head. “I don’t think so. Kai Westergaard is on the Xerxes. He did a tour with Tango, I bet there’s more here.”

Finn sighed. “If it’s not one damn thing, it’s something else.”

Leah laughed. “Where did you get that?”

“My grandfather was a farmer, he said it all the time. Maybe there’s more in the tablets?”

“Maybe. Let’s take a look.”

1 thought on “Chapter 3: Last Words”

  1. Once again, yet another wonderful chapter. The story is complex and developing at a nice rate with enough detail and character development but not at too slow of a pace.
    Brilliant, once again.
    Thanks.

    Like

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