A Second Chance
‘What I am about to show you is top secret.’ Driver picked up a remote control and pointed it at a flat screen. She hit the button on the remote control and fast-forwarded the film. ‘Just so you know, to all involved with the IGSF, you’ll be dishonourably discharged and returned to Earth. On the way home, your ship will have a little accident, and you’ll no longer exist…get my drift? I mean, that’ll be their reality, not yours.’
‘Yes, Ma’am.’ Hope it’s not my reality.
Out of the fuzz and snow, a woman emerged. ‘Help! Someone help me! It’s Boris—he’s got me!’
‘Who is that?’ I asked. I hoped against hope that she was not who I thought she was. How could it be? Last time I checked; she no longer existed.
‘Who do you think?’
‘I don’t know. That’s why I am asking you.’ I lied.
‘Well, you must have some idea!’ the Commander retorted. Had she seen through my lie somehow?
‘If I knew, I would tell you. I can only guess. It’s the snow girl with the dirty face from I don’t know some science fiction show.’
‘Oh, come on! Have a shot at it. Who do you reckon?’
I shook my head. I knew, but refused to admit or believe who she was, really.
‘You’ve heard the rumours. It would seem she also lacked insight and sense and came under the spell of a Boris agent.’
‘Oh, but that could be anyone.’
‘Okay, I’ll tell you, Holly, “seer” extraordinaire. One, the girl appears to be Minna.’
‘No, that can’t be right, Minna’s dead. I was there, I saw her die.’
‘Two, the girl sounds like Minna.’
‘I’m telling you, Minna’s dead, I saw her die.’
Driver rolled her eyes. ‘Did it ever occur to you, that the girl you saw die wasn’t Minna?’
‘So what are you saying? Looks like Minna, sounds like Minna, so does she smell like Minna too? What are you asking me to do? Go to Boris World and find out?’
‘See, Holly, that’s why we have asked you to view the evidence. What we want to know is if this girl is Minna. Or is she a hoax? Is she a trap?’ Driver froze the re-run of Minna.
I shrugged. ‘She only looks like a young woman to me, a female with a very grubby face in a poor video picture.’
‘What help are you, then?’ Driver thumped the desk.
‘Well, that’s all I can tell you. That’s all the help I can give. I don’t feel anything. Interpret that as you will.’ I turned to face the exit.
‘Oh, one more matter.’ Driver left the best of the worst news until the final crushing moment. ‘We are prepared to over-look your right and royal stuff-up, as long as you undertake the next mission, we’ve planned for you.’
‘Mission?’ I needed an explanation. I glanced at the walls for moral support.
‘Hello?! That’s why you are here! That’s why you joined the IGSF,’ Driver shouted, purple veins marked her chubby cheeks.
‘You have one more chance to redeem yourself, Ensign Mueller,’ Driver took a deep breath and made a tent shape with her hands and fingers. ‘You will be heading for Boris’ hideout; his planet. Over the past few days, we’ve been able to track Boris’ movements. It’s a distance, many light years from here, close to the galactic hub near a black hole. This mission is extremely dangerous. You’ll sever all ties with family, friends and shipmates. Although for you the time will seem only a few weeks, because of the time distortion near the epicenter of the Milky Way, for the rest of us, time will pass into years, maybe decades. You will be gone a long time. Everything and everyone may be different when you return.’ Driver paused, then, ‘Blah, blah, blah.’ I imagined decades passing listening to Driver’s monologue.
‘So it is a long mission,’ I repeated.
‘No, not exactly. For you it won’t be long, but for us years, or decades, perhaps centuries will pass by,’ Driver reiterated.
I assessed the situation. I knew now that my options were limited. The video of Minna had further limited my future with anyone—the LSS crew—family and friends on Earth—and guaranteed a lonely future. There was one upside, though—no more Johann… I sighed. ‘Okay, what do I do?’
‘You will be infiltrating the Boris Grotto Planet. I will be accompanying you and guiding you.’
‘Oh, come on! I’m not so bad once you get to know me.’
‘Alright, yeah! I mean, yes, Ma’am.’ Sure, I failed, but never expected joining in a mission with the Commander.
Driver gave me a broad smile. She looked like the Cheshire cat. ‘Oh, come on, Ensign, we’ll have a jolly old time. Trust me, you’ll really like the mutants.’
My dreams made sense now. Minna was not a ghost. Maybe, Driver’s right. Maybe Minna did get abducted by Boris and needs to be rescued. My heart became lead and sank to my feet. ‘Yep, we’ll have a jolly good time,’ I murmured.
The Commander shuffled papers on her desk. ‘You’ll leave in two days after the medical. You’ll receive training and an interview with Chief Admiral August Fahrer on the Mother Ship.’ Driver scribbled on a piece of paper and handed it to me. ‘Tomorrow we’ll descend to the Pilgrim Planet where we’ll wait for the Mother Ship to arrive to collect us. Now I think Fritz wants to see you regarding signing discharge papers.’
I headed for the door, and then turned. ‘I don’t understand why your brother, I mean, Gunter doesn’t go to Boris World and rescue Minna?’
‘I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that part of the conversation. Erased. Got it? Now go!’ Driver waved me off. ‘Just one more thing…’
I turned on the ball of my heel. ‘What Ma’am?’
‘Whatever you do, Gunter must not know. Understand? We don’t tell Gunter. If this is a Boris trap, better he does not know. Okay?’
‘Yes, Ma’am.’ I saluted Driver and then shuffled out of the office.
Liesel was waiting outside Driver’s office as I exited. She caught my arm. ‘Now you know why we don’t form romantic liaisons with ANYONE in this line of work. The missions, well, they sort of stuff things up, they get in the way of all that.’ Liesel looked away at the wall glassy-eyed as if remembering thwarted chances of romance of her own.
Dipping my head up and down, my vision blurred as hot tears welled up in my eyes. The shame of my disgrace and the possibility had set in, of never seeing anyone I knew again. Except perhaps Driver.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2019
Feature Photo: Daisies © L.M. Kling 2010
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