Secrets and Preparations
© The author reserves all rights to this work.
This story is of an adult nature. It is not intended for minors nor for those whose law in their land forbids them to read this material.
This story is entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual people is purely coincidental and unintentional.
NB: Words found between asterisks (*) refer to words exchanged in psychic or telepathic communication.
Date: 7 October 2674, Wednesday
“What do you mean that Stef’s here on Uranus?” asked Mark Keith, Stephanie Robinson’s ex-boyfriend. He was talking to Jacques Robinson, Stephanie’s brother.
“You mean you didn’t know?” asked Jacques.
“Of course I didn’t. I thought she had two more months before she graduated. I knew she’d probably be here in July for the hols but I figured that the ship would’ve started operating and I wouldn’t have the chance to meet her. She seemed to be always around on Earth. I’d thought that after about two months of not seeing her, I might be able to begin to let the memories go.”
“Even on Earth you could’ve avoided her. Earth’s not that small,” retorted Jacques.
“You wouldn’t believe it if I told you. After the break-up, I avoided her favourite places. Even the guys I’d hung out with helped me but I meet her many times. There were even a few times when I’d go out on my own and then she’d come in to the same place with her friends. I remember the time I decided to go somewhere far away. After some searching, I decided to go to a dance hall in Manchester. The music was loud and I thought it’d numb my mind. Twenty minutes after being in there, I was just moving to the music, thinking that perhaps this place would help me get over Stef. Would you believe it? In comes Stef and her friends. It was a school night. I was so sure that she wouldn’t travel so far but there she was. I hid in a small booth and had a thoroughly miserable time.”
Jacques was very amused. He tried very hard not to smile. He had never believed in fate but these events might just change his mind. He did not think that Mark was lying. Mark was letting all his frustrations out. Jacques decided not to stop him as he related the other times that he had bumped into Stephanie.
“… and then I saw her friend, Rachel. I knew for sure that she wouldn’t be far behind. I was right. I even kept some of my destinations secret because I suspected our mutual friends were responsible for the coincidences. That didn’t work either.”
“You mean ten out of ten times you met her?” asked Jacques.
“No. Let’s say seven out of ten times. Since I’d finished my dissertation early, I’d more free time. Dr. Brown was right. Staying in the house gave me memories. I was out almost every night for the few weeks after I finished. I’d remembered overhearing Dr. Brown saying that there was a position of Assistant Cruise Director open for Uranus. The moment I finished, I applied, thinking that it’d be good to be near friends like you and Heath to help me get over Stef.”
“I’ve got more bad news,” Jacques said cautiously.
“How can things become worse?”
“Stef’s decided to move and finish her Masters here.”
“That’s just great! Why is this happening to me?”
“Mark, calm down. Like you said earlier, the ship is not going to here all the time and you’ll probably not see her all the time.”
“Yeah, you’re right but I get the feeling that there’s more.”
“Yes …” said Jacques not knowing how to put it gently. He decided to just say it out and try to calm Mark later. “She’s going to be on the ship on her maiden voyage.”
“What?!!” exclaimed Mark. “You’ve got to talk her out of it. I don’t think I can handle knowing that she is within the same vessel as me … maybe I can try calling in sick … or maybe lock myself in my quarters … or maybe …”
“Stop it, Mark!” Jacques commanded in a slightly louder voice. “If you can’t handle this, perhaps you should get a job back on Earth. I’m sure you’ve got offers there.”
“I can’t do that. I spent all my money on the trip here. I can’t even afford a ticket back, not to mention accommodation back on Earth.”
“What about your family?”
With the mention of his family, Mark became silent. “My parents split up and I can’t decide who to go to. If I go to my father’s, my mother’ll have nothing to do with me. If I go to my mother’s, my father’d hate me as well. It was a very terrible break-up.”
“When did this happen? I was at your place just a few years ago. Your parents seemed so happy.”
There was a pause before Mark spoke. “About a year and a half ago, my younger brother scraped his knee and it got infected. During the medical examination, it was discovered that he wasn’t my father’s son. He started accusing my mother of infidelity. My mother denied it, of course, and seemed to be as shocked as my father. My father left the house and filed for a divorce. The matter was finalised within three days. My mother was totally broken. My brother went into depression and was, at one stage, suicidal. He blamed himself for the family break-up. I was already in university at the time and I consulted a professor regarding the accuracy of the genetic evidence and the possibility that my brother was conceived by another man. After going through the family’s genetic record, including my own, he came to some startling conclusions. My mother may’ve given birth to my brother but he certainly wasn’t related to my family. To explain simply, one-fifth of my brother’s genes are neither from my mother nor from my father. My mother could’ve been the victim of an unscrupulous gynaecologist. I did some digging of my own and found out that my mother’s gynaecologist had died some years before. He retired a few years after my brother was born. He had an excellent reputation and there was never any evidence to suggest that he’d any bad dealings.”
“Wow,” said Jacques, “I’m sorry. How’s your brother now?”
“He’s bad. He’s never at home and when I try to get close to him, he lashes back at me. Though he isn’t my biological brother, I love him. Before I came here, I sent him a message. I told him that once I got settled here, I’d send for him. If he wanted, he could come and live with me. I was surprised when I got a reply saying that he’d come. I only had to tell him when. I’ve calculated the costs and will ask the company to allow me to rent a larger flat. I'll pay the additional costs over what they are providing now. Once they give me the go ahead, I’ll get Matt to come to Uranus.”
“Mark, I know that Heath and I’d gladly help in whatever way we can. Don’t hesitate to ask,” Jacques offered.
“Thanks. I hope you see why I can’t leave. I haven’t got the money and I’ve got to stay for my brother’s sake.”
“Okay, I see the captain coming. Let’s finish the rostering exercise,” said Jacques.
Jorg came up to the two of them and asked, “So, guys, how’s the rostering coming along?”
“We’re almost finished. We’ll be able to start the first activity punctually in half an hour,” informed Jacques.
“Good.” Jorg turned to Mark and asked, “Can you finish the rostering on your own, Mr. Keith?”
“Yes, Captain Brown.”
“Very good. I need to talk to Mr. Robinson.”
“Yes Captain?” said Jacques.
“Please come with me, I’d like you to explain to me again how I’m supposed to go up to the stage for the introductory address.”
Jacques gave a nod to Mark who smiled and said, “Don’t worry, I can handle this.”
Once out of earshot, Jorg said to Jacques, “Jacques, you’ve got to control yourself. Mark volunteered the information about his family because you subconsciously removed Mark’s inhibition.”
“How does one control one’s subconscious? How do I even know what I’m subconsciously doing?” Jacques asked.
“First, you should’ve noticed something amiss when he started going into the intimate details of his family problems. Only your closest friends do that. He’s definitely not that close to you yet. That should’ve given you the indication that you’re doing something to him.”
Jacques nodded, “Ah … I understand, I should’ve realised it but didn’t. Will there be serious repercussions of my actions?”
“I don’t see any at the moment but be careful. Sometimes sensitive information may be overheard and that’d cause problems.”
“I see. What about the subconscious thing?”
“The subconscious is sometimes mistaken for the unconscious. Fortunately, the unconscious can’t make use of magi power. The subconscious, however, is different. It’s hidden but not unknown. The moment you detect that there’s magi power being used without your knowledge, there’re two possibilities. The first is that another magus is nearby. If this is the case, you’d need to steer a person away towards less sensitive or intimate things. If you were at a higher level, you should be able to detect the other magus’ power. The second, and more common cause, is your subconscious. You wanted more information and your subconscious guided your magi powers to block his inhibitions. To counter it, just consciously go into the target and remove the cause. For Mark’s case, you could’ve easily entered his mind and let his inhibitions come back to him without him really knowing what happened.”
“I presume you know about his family?” asked Jacques.
“Of course,” answered Jorg. “Do you think I’d employ him if I didn’t?”
“Are we going to help?”
“The process has already started. Don’t worry. When you and Heath are needed, you’ll be informed and let me tell you now: the both of you’ll definitely be needed.”
§ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ §
Date: 12 October 2674, Monday
Frank Robinson had not expected Captain Michael Brown to be so young. He seemed only in his late thirties, or early forties at the most. Captains of commercial vessels tend to be older, usually transferring from military vessels. The many military captains who switch were usually in their mid-forties to mid-fifties when they first take over a commercial vessel.
“Good morning, Professor Robinson,” greeted Jorg after he closed the door of Frank’s office at the university. Jorg was in his Michael Brown persona.
“Good morning, Captain Brown. Please take a seat.”
After taking his seat, Jorg said, “Titan Tours was pleased that you accepted to be our consultant for our test run. Earth’s World Council demanded that an approved Astro-engineering consultant be used.”
“I’m also pleased to be of service, especially when my son would be serving on board the ship.”
Jorg took out a file and handed it to Frank. “Here are the tests and manoeuvres that the ship’ll have to go through. I hope it meets your satisfaction.”
Frank looked at the schedule for a few minutes and nodded his head. “It all seems in order to me.”
“There’ll be a few other test consultants that’ll be on board. I’ve managed to get someone whom you know to examine us at the helm and at security: General Aaron Evers.”
Frank’s eyes perked up when he heard the name. “How did you manage to get him. He’s usually very busy.”
“When I mentioned that you’d agreed to be consultant, he jumped at the chance to be on the consultation team,” said Jorg with a grin.
“It’d be good to see Aaron again. I’ve not spoken to him for over a year.”
“Yes, he’s involved in the space program and I believe he’s almost reaching the goal.”
“You are aware that I was in the same program but I pulled out because of the family?” asked Frank.
“I believe Jacques had mentioned it.”
“Good. I believe that our business is concluded. Would you like to have a drink?”
“Thank you,” replied Jorg.
Frank got to the small bar he had and took out a bottle of whiskey. He lifted it up for Jorg to see and Jorg said, “I’d prefer gin if you have some. If not, whiskey is fine.”
“Yes, I’ve got gin.” Frank poured a shot of whiskey for himself and a shot of gin for Jorg.
When Frank returned and gave Jorg his drink, Jorg said, “Actually Professor, our business is not finished yet.”
Frank had his glass at his mouth and he had not yet drunk anything. He lowered his arm.
“Professor Robinson, I need to be very frank with you. I’ve been approached by some people from the World Council when they found out that you’d be involved in the consultation. Normally, I don’t get involved in politics but I felt my hands were being tied. I was afraid that if I didn’t get involved, the ship wouldn’t be able to begin her cruises and the company, in which I have shares, would suffer.”
“That’s blackmail!” exclaimed Frank.
“I know. However, please listen to me and perhaps you’d understand what a precarious position I’m in. Please don’t breathe a word of what I’m going to say or else all our hides may be in jeopardy. It’s about the Aurelia.”
Frank’s eyes widened when the word “Aurelia” was used. Only those who were on the project and a few members in the World Council knew of its name. The person, Frank decided, must have been very high on the World Council. He took a sip of his whiskey and said, “Please proceed.”
“I don’t really know what the real story is. I’d heard from Jacques that you’d left the space program because of the family but the World Council told me that General Evers insisted that you be taken off the program and that it was due to the fact that he suspected that you were involved in the sabotage that destroyed the Aurelia.”
“Aaron suspected sabotage and suggested to me that I move out of the program and monitor the advance of the program from outside. He suggested that I get into the Sol Academy and use their sophisticated instruments for the monitoring of the program. He mentioned to me that he’d use some grave excuse for getting me off the team. I suppose that was the excuse he gave. The Sol Academy wanted to employ me but my time to the instruments I needed were limited and restricted. I was wondering why.”
“Can I make an observation?” asked Jorg.
“The reason given by General Evers didn’t do much for your reputation. In fact, it was counter productive if he wanted you to pursue an investigation. He could’ve easily said that you were negligent. As a result of his accusation, you weren’t able to get to the right instruments to carry out an investigation. Perhaps General Evers was trying to get rid of you for real. Because you wouldn’t be able to use the instruments at the Sol Academy, your investigations would be slow and difficult.”
“Aaron wouldn’t …”
“Even good friends betray. You would recall that General Evers wasn’t so pleased when you told him of your post here on Uranus.”
“Come to think of it, yes. He was less happy than I’d expected.”
“Professor Robinson. My purpose isn’t to sow bad seed between the general and yourself. I’d just like you to be cautious when dealing with him. The members of the World Council who approached me requested that I could move the ship towards the spot that the Aurelia was. Ordinarily, the relays wouldn’t be able to handle a ship as huge as a cruise ship. However, we do have a small Captain’s yacht that would be small enough. It has all the standard instrumentation. I’ve instructed my crew to equip it with analysing sensors and anything else you require. I’d be willing to risk my license to let you have a short voyage to the site of the Aurelia.”
“If Aaron comes with us, he’ll sure know what I’ll be doing if the smaller vessel disappears.”
“If General Aaron is on your side, he won’t object but if he isn’t, he’d try to stop you. Even if you don’t get to the Aurelia’s destruction site, part of the truth will be known. Anyway, you worry about the tests on board the cruise ship and I’ll worry about getting you into the smaller vessel.”
“What is the name of the ship?”
“The Peregrine. It’s stated in the schedule I gave you. She’ll be delivered robotically in a week’s time.”