Castaway Resolution – Chapter 13

Chapter 13.

Campbell stretched, testing his body’s sensations. Mostly back to my old self, but still a little off. That damn disease really took it out of us.

Still, he’d gotten off pretty light. He looked at Francisco, who was sitting in bed, trying to paint a picture of the view out of the window, and shook his head. The little boy still had to pause every ten minutes or so to rest; Maddox was a little better than that, but even now after three and a half weeks he was only up to a little light labor.

“Is he going to recover all the way, Doctor Kimei?” he asked, voice low.

Laura bit her lip. “I. . . hope so. This was a complex disease. It actually started adapting to some of the nanotreatments, and I don’t remember ever seeing anything like that in the literature before. If we had a full-scale hospital setup I’d be sure, but. . .”

He could see the dark doubts on her face. He put a hand on her shoulder. “What you’re really telling me, ma’am, is that if we hadn’t had the incredible fortune that you landed here, and that we were able to reach you, that little boy and the rest of us would be dead now. You reversed most of the systemic damage, including the neurological, and whatever happens, Franky’s going to still be himself, and that’s okay.”

Laura shook herself and then smiled at him. “Playing therapist now, Sergeant?”

“Hell, that’s the job of a noncom, isn’t it? Half of your job’s running out the recruits who really shouldn’t have signed on in the first place, and the other half’s helping build up the ones who belong there. And the way you looked? Ma’am, I’ve seen that expression before, more times than I care to remember. In my line of work, you see a hell of lot of medics and doctors losing patients, haunted by what-ifs and I should haves.” He frowned, remembering. “Sometimes the patient’s only one of the victims that needs treatment.”

Laura nodded. “They teach you that lesson in medical school,” she said with a rueful grin, “but it’s hard to keep in mind.” She looked back at Francisco. “But. . . yes, I think he will. The nanos are working on the repairs and I don’t think there’s anything irreparable. It was very close, though.”

“Too damn close. Your upgraded medical suite should keep that from happening again, right?”

“It should. I’m confident that it will. I had to do a complete wipe-and-reprogram on your nanos to enforce full compatibility and consistency, but that’s done, so I think our little colony has full coverage on medical safety now.”

She gestured upward. “And since you were saying how grateful you were for our presence, let me just add how grateful we are for yours. Those satellites are a godsend. Now we can talk to each other anywhere on the planet, and if there’s a medical or any other kind of emergency we’ll know about it right away, with all our omnis linked to the network.”

“Well, now, I guess it’s just that we’re both groups lucky. Together I think we can really make a go of it here, even if we’re never found.”

She was quiet for a moment, and the two of them moved out of the doorway of the shelter to let Hitomi through; the little girl ran over to Francisco and dropped a flower chain on his lap. Campbell grinned at that.

“So, Sergeant. . . do you think that’s where we are? That we’ll never be found?”

He shrugged, and started walking slowly away from the shelter, looking up at the immense trees surrounding them. “Well, I’ll tell you, ma’am; I was givin’ about one-in-ten odds a rescue ship would show up in the first six months — which time was actually spent while we were still tryin’ to make our way here.

“Now? I wouldn’t give you one in a thousand. The only reason anyone would have to come here is if they either suspect there’s castaways on Lincoln, or if they notice something funny about this planet. The star someone might notice, but then they’re not gonna be so concerned about the planets here, but on what it was that managed to hide a whole star this close to Earth. So they’ll go looking in space along that line-of-sight. Only likely thing to draw anyone to Lincoln otherwise is if someone maps it with wide-baseline telescopes, and then notices the map ain’t always consistent. But that’s a matter of years at that distance.”

Laura Kimei nodded; her thoughts clearly ran along the same channels. “So we’re here for good.”

“Unless one of those contraptions the kids are working on is built, and manages to make it to Orado. If that happens you can bet there’ll be a big mission here straightaway.”

A pair of arms slipped around his waist from behind and hugged. “And what do you think the chances are of that?” Pearce Haley asked, letting go and stepping up to join them. “Hi, Laura.”

“Hi, Pearce!” Laura gave Pearce a quick hug. “That’s a good question. I know Whips, Tavana, and Xander are spending a lot of time on those alternatives. What do you think?”

Campbell stole a quick kiss from Pearce before answering. “Well, first off, there’s no problem with them trying to figure these things out. Chances. . . really hard to say. Engineers are usually either complete optimists or total pessimists about how something they designed will work.”

“I like the idea of going home under our own power,” Laura said after a moment.

“So do I. You can’t beat ending a shipwreck story that way, with everyone hammering out a solution and beating the odds to get home on their own. Look at how many times they’ve dramatized the wreck of the Nebula Storm over the century and a half since it crashed on Europa.” He swatted at a buzzbug that was flying too close. “But they’ll have to do a hell of a job of convincing me that they can get that hulk skyworthy again before I green-light that. Doing the separate probe might permanently ground Emerald Maui, but it won’t risk any of us, and honestly I like that a lot better.”

“I agree,” Pearce said. “But we’ll decide that when the designs are all done; have a family conference about it.”

“Sure thing.”

He took Pearce’s hand in his as they walked around the clearing, and noticed Laura’s expression. “What are you grinnin’ about, ma’am?”

“Oh, seeing the two of you and then remembering Hitomi running in with that flower chain.”

“Ha! Though I think the ones you need to keep an eye on are Tav and Sakura.”

“Oh, I am,” she said, “but Tavana seems like a very nice young man, and it’s not like Saki can’t take care of herself. Mostly the problem is keeping them from distracting each other now. Tavana especially.”

“I hear you on that,” he said with a chuckle. “Especially Tav; when he came to us to ask about what a guy might arrange to have a date, he was practically incoherent. But what about Xander and Caroline?”

“Honestly? I don’t know if there’s anything there or not. They’re clearly friendly, but I haven’t got a sense as to whether they’re interested in each other.”

“I hate to say it,” Pearce said, “but right now it’s Maddox who’s interested in Caroline.”

“What? He’s only, what, fourteen?”

Campbell heard his own laugh echo across the clearing. “And she’s eighteen, which is only four years apart. Looks like a big separation now, of course, but it doesn’t mean much to a young guy. Or gal, for that matter; can’t tell you the number of young ladies I know who got crushes on older teachers. Yeah, I’ve seen Maddox sneaking looks at Caroline myself. Tries to hide it. Kinda like Xander and Pearce.”

Pearce boggled at him. “What?”

He laughed again, reflecting on how good it was to laugh now, after all the prior months where good laughs were in short supply. “What, you never noticed him staring at you back on the ship? Or sometimes givin’ me the narrow side-eye when he thought I didn’t notice? Think he’s pretty over it now, but he had it pretty bad for a bit.”

As Pearce chewed on that minor revelation, Campbell looked to Laura. “Anyways, one question I gotta ask, have you got the critical issues on this covered? The emotional ones they’ll have to work out on their own, but. . .”

“Oh, I absolutely have that covered. None of us — not me, not Pearce, and not any of my girls — will be having children unless and until it is decided they will. Obviously, if it comes to that, Pearce, it’s completely your decision; you’re my patient but not my responsibility.”

The redhead gave a grin up to Campbell that jolted him and sent his heart racing as though he was a teenager again. “Oh, maybe it will come to that. But not just yet.”

“Uh, yeah,” Campbell said, noticing that his own conversation wasn’t as sparkling as it ought to be. “Hm. Not yet, that’s for sure. We’ll need to finish getting established and comfortable before we worry about that.”

There were, of course, other problems with the long-term viability of their colony, but for now the real problems were simple: make long-term homes, secure long-term food sources, keep improving their resources and capabilities. . . and be ready for anything Lincoln threw at them.

Because even now, with all of them together, Samuel Morgan Campbell could still feel it. Lincoln had more surprises in store for them.

And some of them could be lethal.