Chapter 13. And now, what’s up?
A week had already passed since that terrible disaster; the crew went terribly shocked by the stupid accident that had claimed the life of two of their companions. Due to the exceptional nature of the events, Bishop O’Keefe was awakened from hibernation and was informed in detail of all that had happened. That religious was still weak from the years of immobility, but wanted to see immediately to Camille, who was still in her room. He was taken on a floating chair until the girl’s cabin, one of his assistants called … Camille opened the door, and her eyes were red and wild hair.
“Camille, my daughter, will you let me a few minutes?”
“Of course, Monsignor.” The Bishop entered the chamber while his aides remained in the corridor. “Excuse the mess.”
“It’s a difficult time for everyone, especially to you.”
“You can’t get an idea, Monsignor” Camille’s words sounded cynical, as if the brutal coup had destroyed her faith.
“I understand you’re confused now, my daughter, but I know there’s a mission that you have to fulfill for the good of the colony.”
“Ah yes, the mission for the good of the colony, of course, how could I forget? I have to marry a man as soon set foot on the surface of Miracle and get pregnant the wedding night if possible without enjoying too much the act. My future husband has disappeared in the depths of an unknown sea and you are already looking for a substitute to take his place in my bed.”
“I do not like your tone, young lady, what would your father say seeing that you are so impertinent with a bishop?” The bishop was not accustomed that a member of the Soldiers of the Faith faced him up, it infuriated him so much.
“You’re not my father, Monsignor, if you were so you’d understand the grief that I feel right now. I feel the death inside me, I think I’m more than a female available, you should respect my pain.”
“You signed a legal and binding contract; right now you have a civil duty, military and spiritual. We need to fill this planet of strong and Christian children to take out forward our colony.”
“There is an item that can this alleged binding contract become wet paper, the eighth clause specifies that if I enter as a nun in the order this obligation to marry gets automatically cancelled.” That man didn’t expect such a strong response, the same way that no one would have expected that a nice girl took a so radical decision out of spite.
“Are you defying me? Are you serious?”
“As serious as the habit that I have in the closet and I’ll get today. No man will have contact with my body; I’ll only serve the Lord from now on.”
“As you can deduce, due to my position I also have an executive authority in religious matters, and I decide that as a nun you won’t’ be able to get to the planet Miracle and will stay locked in your room like a closed cell, you only can go out an hour a day for meals. And besides, when section D of the ship back to Earth, you will leave in it and you’ll enter into the monastery that the highest ecclesiastical authority of the Soldiers of the Faith assigns you and I promise you that it will be so far from civilization that you will regret your decision.”
“It seems perfect, but now I beg you to go out because I have to put on a habit. I think the bishops still do not have the power to see bare their nuns.”
“This will not end so, Sister Camille. You’ll end up doing your duty even if I have to put you through Hell on Earth.”
A few hours later, once the Bishop Seamus O’Keefe had already fully recovered from the side effects of hibernation and could wear boots Newton, met with the Captain in his office. Upon the death of President Coelho few months before the expedition, a person of Bishop O’Keefe confidence was placed instead of choosing Camille’s father for the job; this maneuver gave to that demon in cassock absolute power with respect to members of the Order of the Soldiers of the Faith intended for the mission.
“Jan, I demand that the Lieutenant Schwartz immediately marry a man of the crew. Choose whoever you want, I do not care, but I want to see that girl with a womb before six months. The Colony will only prosper if all women of childbearing age get pregnant and that is not going to break a spoiled and haughty girl.”
“Sorry Monsignor, but things are like this: legally, if Camille has appealed to the eighth clause there is nothing to do at the contractual level. According to the Military Code I cannot give any orders to civilians in peacetime, the behavior of Lieutenant Schwartz is out of my jurisdiction.”
“I saw in her watery eyes the sin of fornication, I’m sure this blatant had sex with the late Captain Lavall. I think you’ve been too with your subordinates, Captain Mickiewicz.”
“Damn it, O’Keefe, do you suggest that maybe I’m a bad Christian? I’m a decorated Navy’s officer, my duty is that crew lead a ship to port with complete safety and order, and it is what I have done in a flawless manner, damn it! What officials do in their free time is their business, they’re adults. You have asleep all this time but basic crew has ensured that the ship worked in perfect harmony and so it proved; the coexistence of the different members of the crew has been exemplary! Furthermore, it is not sure that Captain Lavall is dear, he has overcome worse things and by law we have to wait ten years to consider dead a missing person.”
“Anyway, this woman is possessed. At any of our missions in Africa we will remove the devil from inside her and she will come around to the great stupidity she has committed.”
“I have known Camille since she was a child; Will Schwartz is my mentor and a great friend. There isn’t the slightest evil in it; in contrast you must believe me when I tell you that this girl is the creature with the purest soul I’ve met and the Soldier of the Faith more fervent in her Christian beliefs.”
“As the highest religious authority and head of the Soldiers of the Faith in this ship my judgment is final and irrevocable, Lieutenant Schwartz … I mean Sister Camille will be confined to her room until the section D come back to Earth.” The Bishop got out very angry from Captain’s office, if there had been enough gravity the door slam would have been very noisy.
The next day someone knocked at the door of Camille’s room, she opened without looking who it was. The person who came to see her was the Captain Mickiewicz who looked with surprised face the black habit that the young lieutenant was wearing.
“Camille, this was not necessary. You won’t get anything with this attitude, today I’ll send a message to your father and he will get you out of this predicament.”
In ten years, that is what it will take to come back the answer? Now I’m a nun, it’s already decided.”
“What I mean is that you don’t need to punish yourself this way. I assure you that I can fix it if you have a bit of patience, I’m sure that David would want that you fight to keep your hope. I might convince the Bishop O’Keefe to reconsider his stupid idea of forced marriage, in addition you’re a Navy’s Officer, and I am convinced we can skip the contract with the Soldiers of the Faith. When we wake up the lawyer I’m sure he gives us a satisfactory and legal solution for all.”
“I’m sorry, my body is alive but soul has died. I have no reason to pursue a secular life, from now I’ll serve the Lord. I appreciate what you want to do, Uncle Jan, but I have no desire to live, if you want to send a message to Dad tell that I l love him.” Camille had only allowed herself a second one second of familiarity with Mickiewicz.
“Camille, remember why your father recruited David; he realized before anyone else that the crew of the ship was very young and needed to see that a normal person could do the most extraordinary things. He was the most obvious example; the secret of his courage is in his humanity, remember he survived several wars precisely because of the desire of living he had.”
“And what happened in Tel Aviv? Did you really think that he came back from there eager to live? I remember his face of that era and not was of the one who had been too much eager to live.”
“Anyway, he came back from Tel Aviv, maybe sad and devastated, I don’t deny it; sure with doubts inside his heart apart from his post-traumatic stress, but he eventually remade himself because of you. He won’t settle to die in a so stupid way, he’ll return to seek thee, I’m convinced of that. Survival is the basis of the evolution of species and I apologize to the bishop to agree with Darwin.”
“Then you are much more confident than me, Sir, my heart is in mourning, my hope crashed into the sea like that slider.” They were words full of sadness, from a girl with the heart broken by fate. She was a widow who had not gone through the altar.
“Time will prove that you’re wrong, just hope it’s not too late, remember my words.” As he said that the Captain left the room totally dejected by his failure.
That night Suzanne was sitting on her bed, anxious as she waited for her lover Lucien, they had agreed to meet in the bedroom of that beautiful octoroon woman born in the bank of the river Mississippi. The Catholic Suzanne had decided that, despite the commitment of chastity that she had with the order, she was already ready to take that step with the person she loved. At first meeting she thought he was a scoundrel that took advantage of any opportunity that he found, but time proved her she was wrong at her first sense. Someone gave two knocks at the door…she opened the door and her Bavarian of mischievous look appeared.
“Hello my love, do not need to do anything now if you don’t want.” Lucien did not want to force the issue because he had in mind that this step was very important to her.
“Better now, maybe there’s not a tomorrow. We will cover the image of the Virgin Mary” Suzanne covered with a T-shirt her religious image which was hanging on the wall.” Do you already know who will drive the slider two?”
“Tomorrow will be published.”
“Then come with me to bed, tomorrow is another day …”
The next day, as soon the slider two was repaired and equipped, Lucien and a young Bulgarian pilot who had been awakened from hibernation were preparing themselves on the dock seven for the landing maneuver on the surface of Miracle. Suzanne broke into the room where they were dressing for the mission, her expression was furious.
“Lucien Gerhard, you’re a bastard, you fucked me tonight and didn’t have guts to tell me that you had volunteered to the first landing over that fucking planet.”
“I didn’t want to worry you, David was a great friend, and I believe I owe him this landing. I wanted that the first object to be deposited on our colony would be a small altar with a picture of him and Xavier and I think I must do it because Camille can’t go down.”
“Why did you tell the first officer Lagarde to not out me as copilot? Do I am a hindrance to you? What about what you said yesterday that you would be always with me to protect me? Do you protect me so, looking for death?”
“Enough is enough Ensign Rourke; you’re under arrest for insubordination to Second Officer. Guards: take her away to module 651 for her to relax.”
“Are you so stupid that you do not remember the number of my room? So you forget quickly.” She began to cry. “You’re everything to me.”
“I said to the module 651, go now and you will not leave this room until I land. When come around we’ll discuss about this matter calmly.”
“Lucien, please, another can do.”
“I do it because I love you. I would cause you any harm and you know it.” He looked at the naval police. “Take her out of here immediately.”
Two huge naval policemen were escorting Suzanne down the corridor; surely if she had tried to escape they would have prevented her with a stun punch. In a couple of minutes they reached the door of the module 651 and one of the guards gave a couple of gentle taps. Camille opened dressed in her black colored habit and a cross on her neck.
“Lieutenant Schwartz, I’m sorry, I didn’t want to bother you, and it has been a thing of that stupid Lucien. Already I told him that this wasn’t my bedroom but he has insisted to bring me here.”
“Please gentlemen, this is already a thing of women, I kindly ask you to leave us.”
The naval policemen obeyed and Camille closed the door as soon Suzanne entered the room.
“I do not understand, ma’am. I guess you want to be alone and calm with your pain, I don’t want to get you into the middle of a lovers’ quarrel.”
“Suzanne, now I’m already not your superior officer, I am the Sister Camille or just Camille for you. Is it that we’re not already friends? To bring you to my room was my idea, feared that you did not understand that he needed to pay his little tribute to David, he also misses his friend.”
“All we miss him, me too, I have not met any officer like him. Camille, I have a lot of fear. I do not want the same thing happens to him, I do not know what I would do without him.”
“Sit down here next to me, we’ll follow the operation from here, if you want we’ll see it hand by hand.” They put together their hands.
This time the crew had made some modifications to improve the quality of the signal so that it could also have images and sound as well as data. Lucien was close in age to David, but characterized him that mischievous look that made him look older, also influenced the mustache that he had let it grow during the trip.
“All right Ensign, we’ll simulate that this is a jet commercial, commercial jet, I mean you have to forget what happened and you give a routine air to this trip. Imagine you are carrying two hundred Swedish tourists to Tahiti, OK?”
“Aye, Sir, I like the idea of Tahiti.”
“Now let the slider to drift through space until the probe comes out, we’ll follow it and we’ll have an impeccable Entry burn, such as the simulator. We will operate the controls smoothly and very judiciously, if we follow strictly the security protocols does not have to happen at all, our excellent mechanics have reviewed this toy from top to bottom and is completely safe. ”
The ship repeated the turns and the movements of the previous slider and initiated the entry into Miracle’s atmosphere. Suzanne took tightly the hand of Camille in the minutes that contact was lost, until the screen turned to display images inside and outside the ship: the incredibly relaxed face of Lucien, the tension in the facial muscles of the copilot and how the sky became blue.
“Start the ignition of engines.” Lucien commanded clearly and concisely, with the aplomb befitting a great officer, there was no fear of death at that time.
“Correct ignition, engines at full power.”
Shouts of joy could be heard from bow to stern. With the modification that had been made, the slider worked correctly. It had managed to make ships work without having been spoiled by the reigning magnetism of Miracle.
“Speed eight hundred and fifteen knots, estimated time of arrival at the security zone is one hour and forty two minutes.”
“I wish I could describe what I’m seeing right now, is the most impressive thing I’ve seen in my life. Hopefully the images that computer is sending you capture what we have before… I guess you’re seeing how we see the rings from here, I’m amazed at this sky.”
Once passed the time indicated by Lucien, the slider he was piloting reached the safe zone for landing. The cameras of the probe testified the vertical landing of the aircraft in the middle of a clearing in the forest sheltered from the brutal heat of the star Alpha Centauri A thanks to the protection of the rings made of dust and small rocks surrounding the planet and that marked exactly where was the Ecuador from space.
That landing was the green light to the ships started to go down with the staff and materials needed to build the facilities of the new colony. Suzanne embraced Camille with all her might, she knew that landing is what David would have done if things had not failed, the two girls cried to release the tension accumulated during these hours.
The new colony.
Lucien and the copilot Stefan Vazov opened the warehouse of the slider and pulled into the bravefrog. As soon the atomic battery started fission process Lucien grabbed the joystick and put into operation that machine. First of all, they needed to analyze the outside to check if there was any problem on that environment. They dropped a robotic probe that began to take soil samples in search of dangerous elements.
“Ensign Vazov, give me air data please.”
“Computer indicates seventy eight point one percent of nitrogen, twenty percent oxygen and the rest is a mixture of water vapor, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, krypton, and argon … seems a copy of the earth’s atmosphere. 1009 millibar pressure, gravity 1.01 G…”
“Are there pathogen elements?”
“The probe which is at ground detects some potentially dangerous bacteria; there is a kind of mutation of the bacterium E. Colli which is spread by air and it has a quite dangerous aspect.”
“Put a sample in Doctor Droid for preparing a preventive medication for us and to transmit the data to the Santa Maria immediately.”
After an hour, Lucien took off his uncomfortable piloting suit with the help of Vazov and once wore military fatigues he applied a patch with a prototype vaccine in his neck that would immunize him from potentially harmful germs outside. The ensign Vazov did the same and accompanied his superior at the first exit by that alien surface, but that had very familiar traits. Getting off the bravefrog, their feet made the characteristic noise of stepping on dry leaves; they could hear the birdsong and before them was a forest of conifers and other vegetation as far as the eye. The large number of fallen trees on the ground evidenced a rather extreme weather, surely because hurricanes similar to those of the Caribbean.
“It’s like being at home,” said Vazov “If it were not for the sky with two suns and rings would say we are in a forest as those in Bulgaria.”
“It’s our new home, it’s why we have to take good care of this land, “answered Lucien” Stefan, please help me with this, “He opened his bag and pulled out a photo.
“What is it, Sir?”
“It’s a promise I made to myself, a small altar for our friends lost at sea. The hole of that rock will be fantastic.”
Lucien and Stefan Rock introduced a photograph of David and another of Xavier, unaware that they were still alive at the other end of the planet. Between the two photos placed a small plaque where one could read: Your friends will never forget you. It was the small homage the crew rendered to the first two fallen comrades in the planet Miracle.
After mounting the small altar, the two men unloaded from the bravefrog a mechanic shovel which they installed on the front of the vehicle for use as bulldozer. They had instructions to create a space of about ten hectares to establish a first camp prior to the installation of the colony itself. Throughout the first week eleven prefabricated sheds would be mounted to welcome the first group of forty people in charge of building the first phase of the colony. The immediate objective at that time was to leave a surface clean of vegetation big enough so that a cargo shuttle could land with the first ten skilled workers and their utensils, that shuttle would be making trips with people and materials to build the base camp. In a matter of days that corner of the planet would be filled with machinery, vehicles and construction materials that help to build a small city.
That night I went early to sleep; only a few minutes after Suzanne abandon the room. They had been hours of much tension and I was tired. Thanks to Bishop I had nothing to do but go to have some dinner or go to bed, I decided on the second option because I was not hungry. I haven’t slept well for days and needed medication to rest, but I fell asleep that night when I closed my eyes. In my dreams I went back to happier times, to the days of training at the Moon Defender, even though David was my superior officer he treated me very tenderly and always introduced me to everyone as his fiancée.
“Dou you really consider me as your fiancé, David?”
“Only if you want to be my fiancé, you know my feelings and I hope that the difference of age won’t be an obstacle.”
“But you know we can’t do many things.”
“For now it’s enough for me, I’m only regret not being able to make the wedding preparations right now because I’m overworked.”
“We’re getting married in Miracle, under contract I must be the first to do so.”
“What do you mean? Are you saying that this contract is legal? It doesn’t seem constitutional.”
“I have to set an example to the young people of the order of the Soldiers of the Faith, is a matter of Christian morality.”
“I find it odd, but for me it’s OK if it makes you happy.”
“It is a debt of faith.”
“Like what I have with your father?”
“What you have with my father is loyalty, you keep your word, what is yours is honor and mine is faith.”
Do you do for God?”
“Something like that, I know it’s difficult to understand for you, but if you love me let me do.”
“Whenever you don’t be, I would never forgive me if you suffer any damage.”
“Only one thing makes me suffer, do you love Soizick?”
“Are you jealous?”
“I think so, I feel sometimes the urge of cry when she approaches you and talks about things that I have not lived, you have many things in common, and I sometimes feel displaced.”
“I understand why are you jealous; Soizick is a very important person to me, but she made a choice and must maintain it, and I have made mine. Soizick is the wife of Michael and you are my future wife, you mustn’t ever forget: you are my universe and no woman can outshine you. I won’t deny that I love Soizick, but I also love my sister and you aren’t jealous of her.”
“Of course not, I love Gisela as a sister; I find it impossible not to love her and your nephew.”
“You’ve just answered yourself, between Soizick and me there’s a blood covenant, in my locker there’s a Breton flag and into hers a Catalan one. Do you know what does it mean?”
Comrades to death, I thought that these covenants were gone, nobody talks about them.”
“We made the pledge when we were nineteen and is sacred. During the war, I have covered her back and she mine; it was so while the Squadron Albatross existed. ”
“That’s what gets me jealous; she’s got many things of you and me nothing but words of love. You notice that you have been in… ”
“Not being the first concerns you, I’m sorry, it can’t be reversed. I didn’t know you when we were a couple and made love.”
“No, what concerns me it’s that you haven’t truly broken, if it weren’t for Haifa’s incident you’d now with her.”
“She had the opportunity to choose and married Michael, my happy moments with her belong a past that won’t come back. I’ve got a new opportunity and won’t give you up; you’re my present and my future.”
“If you could see inside me you wouldn’t doubt.”
I woke up, at coming back to reality I rediscovered that David was not and would not return that accident made him past. My feelings were mixed: melancholy, guilt, sadness and anxiety, the four cardinal points of my secret grief. Melancholy for not being able to relive the happy days spent in the Moon Defender, or Barcelona walks in the company of David, or the night of Ambassador, or our first time. Guilt for falling in love with Soizick, a sickly feeling that haunts me, a dirty little secret, a double betrayal to my beloved, because my real first time was with her and because I would do it again. Sadness for losing them both, for being so far from my parents, for not being pregnant of my David. And anxiety about not being able to express any of the things that I have inside me, for failing to expel my demons, anxiety because I knew I would go to Hell for my sins, anxiety because I didn’t want to be a nun but I had to keep my word even if it was to piss off that damn Bishop.
I already saw Lucifer waiting for me at the gates of Hell to take me to my eternal punishment. In love with Soizick? Yeah, sounds terrible for a radical Catholic like me, the most fervent Soldier of Faith bisexual, what a scandal! To whom was I going to confess it? I was not able to tell David, how do you tell the person you love that a corner of my body desired wanted to another? My love for David was so great that I would had died before to see his face of refusal, and not by my little lesbian infidelity but by destroying everything that Soizick meant for him, a sacred figure of the small shrine in his heart along with his brother in law Marc and his mother. How do you tell that the person with whom he made a blood pact got into bed with his fiancée? I am convinced that David would have forgiven me if I have it done with a person arguing that I was young woman experimenting with her body, but destroying his scale of values was killing him, I’d have irretrievably lost him.
Tell to Michael? No, I could bear he hated me forever, but Michael would hate more himself for doubting about the loyalty of David. Soizick had always been between them, especially after her death. My silence was more beneficial than open the thunder’s box. It was easier to confess to hold it in my chest, so the only person who suffered was me, the weight of guilt that maybe I should take carry beyond death.
But I couldn’t truly stand more the situation, I had to release my soul from that slab dragged for years. But who would understand this situation? Suzanne was such a believer like me and would reject me; Captain Mickiewicz was like a father. Who would confess that to a parent? The resource of telling to the priest of the ship was the easiest, to relieve my soul protected by the seal of confession, petite heroism! I kept thinking of more people, Lucien was a fanatical disciple of David and I knew I would gain its eternal hatred, and Ensign Rasmussen? Yes, Helen is perfect. I looked her shifts in the navigating bridge on computer and I could see that she would be free to go to the dining room; I just had to wait to the next day.
That day was distraught, but it was necessary, I knew that she was a person almost unknown and could not manage her not to reveal what I had to tell, it would be my punishment…I found her at the dining room and sat beside her.
“Hello Lieutenant, how are you?”
“Now I’m the Sister Camille, Helen, but if you do not mind, I’d rather you call me just Camille.”
“Of course, thank you Camille. I regret your decision. Is there any to possibility to change your mind?”
“Only if David appears in the door.”
“I cannot even imagine what you’re going through. Okay, a little, in a way I also have lost him.”
“Yes, and I hated you for your luck, I blamed you for the certainty of knowing he would never be mine.”
“My luck has been my conviction, now I’m alone.” I began to mourn.
“I’m sorry to hurt you, but it’s hard to love someone who does not know you exist.”
“Why not? I saw you doubting many times…you know.”
“What do you know?” I felt irritated and anxious at the same time, that girl was accusing me of something. She knew more than she wanted to confess.
“Forget the issue; we will only damage even more each other. I have never had him and you’ve lost him, it’s the reality and we won’t change it.”
“You’re right, we can’t change it, but perhaps we can clarify what you have against me.”
“The morning of the bombing I saw the Lieutenant Gonnet leaving your bedroom; she looked like she had been spending all the night with you, even worse, she was also seen by the Lieutenant Gerhard and…”
“David. They looked at each other; I still cry at nights seeing the look of your fiancé, have you ever seen how a heart breaks? I do, thank you.”
“Did David know? That Soizick was leaving my bedroom means nothing.”
“I just told you, they looked each other and she showed guilt. And although it he never stopped loving you at any moment, nor he did look at another woman as he looked at you.”
“Will you ever forgive me?”
“I have nothing to forgive you, but not break your promise. If it is true that you loved David, it’s time to prove it.”
Helen left the table without saying anything else because everything was said. She didn’t taste anything of her tray. When she was out of my sight I also went to my room, my refuge until they make me return to Earth.