Thursday, February 15, 2007

Chapter Fifteen

Clark found that he couldn't get comfortable on the ship. He had too much space. He had a private cabin and if that had seemed cramped, which it didn't, he could have walked out into the corridor that, to him, seemed to go on forever.

He sat on the cot and stared at the deck, hugging himself and wishing that he could get off the ship. That was the thing about him. The older he got, the less he liked having to be on the main ships. They were too big and had too many people on them. If he could just dock with them for supplies and fuel, dispose of the waste on his ship, and replenish his supply of holographic movies, he would be happy.

He heard the quiet chime near the hatch and for a moment didn't know what it meant. He remembered and touched a button letting the hatch iris open.

Price stood there and asked, "Mind if I come in?"

"I'm very tired," said Clark.

"I can imagine. I just have a couple of questions that I wanted to ask outside the normal channels. Nothing on the record. Just your impressions, right or wrong."

Clark stepped back to allow Price to enter. He didn't like being that close to another human. He felt his space was being invaded. He was nervous, wanting to retreat as far from Price as he could.

"Mind if I sit down?" asked Price.

Clark pointed at the chair. "Go ahead."

Price sat down and studying the scout for a moment. "You get any feeling about the opposition?"

"You said that they fired on you the instant they spotted you."

"And got into range. Or what they thought of as being in range."

"What did you think about that?"

Clark closed his eyes, as if putting himself back into that time and then shook his head. "Nothing. I was just interested in evading their missiles. I didn't think about it one way or another."

Price rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm not sure exactly what I'm looking for here. You didn't get a chance to see any of your adversaries did you?"

"What do you expect? That they made some kind of radio or video contact?"

"It's a thought," said Price.

"I have no idea what they looked like. I have provided pictures of their ships, their home world and city, and the system where I found it. I provided everything that I was required to supply."

"Yeah," said Price. "But you have no clue."

"No, Captain. I have no clue. I saw absolutely nothing other than their ships and their world. Hell, for all I know, those ships could have been controlled robotically."

"You think of anything else," said Price, "you let me know. I've got to have some answers but I don't have any."

"I might be going out on a mission soon," said Clark. "Very soon."

"If you do, please stop by the intell office before you go, just in case I've thought of something else."

Clark moved to the hatch and stood there as it irised open. When Price didn't stand, he said, "I'm very tired, Captain." He gestured toward the open hatch.

"Sure." Price stepped to the hatch, hesitated, and then left.

When Price was gone, Clark sat down on his cot again. Finally he stretched out on the cot, and rolled to his side so that he was staring at the bulkhead. He jammed his knees up against it, almost as if bracing himself in his cot and in seconds was asleep.

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