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Part of USS Daedalus: Mission 2 – The Edge of Hope and Despair and USS Mackenzie: Mackenzie Squadron : The Edge of Hope and Despair

DEHD 016 – The Pilgrims of Thalis

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Presely Atega sat against a tree, typing her report on the PADD while waiting for Ford and Reid to return.  She was nearly finished with the narrative when her badge beeped, “McKee to Atega.”

She tapped it, “Go ahead, Lieutenant.”

“We’ve found a body inside the ship.  The time of death seems to align with when the signal was lost.”

Atega stood, looking into the town, “Reid and Ford are still in there.  Should I try and reach them?”  She could hear McKee and Tir discussing in the background.  She felt her heart rate pick up speed.  A dead body could mean anything, and in the land of no knowledge, it meant danger and risk had suddenly increased.

“Wait until they come back.  We’re going to do a preliminary investigation here.  Keep your eyes open and ears wide, Lieutenant.” 

The channel closed, and Atega was left to keep her restless reaction under control.

 

“Your community is incredibly functional, Holbrook.”  Ford followed the community leader from one end to the other as the community watched in wonder, concern, and some glances of fear.  As they returned to the main entrance, he asked, “You said this was the Thalis Settlement…where does that name come from?”

Orena told the story of Thalis, who brought them to the land generations ago and how he had cared enough to grant them the seeds, plants, and woods to help keep them alive.  “We were brought here from a far-off land in the blackness as pilgrims to begin anew under his watchful gaze.”  He pointed out a non-descript statue, “Thalis will return someday to see us home again.  Until then, we must live, toil, and seek the peace within ourselves.”

Reid had trailed behind, scanning as many people as she could.  She was starting to develop a theory.  She kept her thoughts to herself as they continued to walk.

Milton stood under the arch, “We’d like to return to see and understand more.”

Holbrook bowed, “The town elders will need to meet to discuss this, but I see no reason for them to deny you.  I must ask you for something before I leave you.  You spoke of…eyes on your ship that can see great distances.  My wife hasn’t been home in a few days.  She is known to go out and forage…even hunt at times.  If you can use those…eyes to search for her, I would be in your debt.”

Ford replied, “We’ll do our best.”  He and Reid returned the bow and walked to where Atega stood, a panicked look on her face.  “What?”

 

“Shit.”  Milton Ford stood in the cabin of the colony ship, staring at the body of what he now knew was the wife of Holbrook Orena.  “You’re sure about the time of death?”

Reid looked up from where she knelt by the body, her tricorder beeping as she repeated her scans, “Give or take an hour…but she died really close to the time when we lost the signal.”  She stood, “Cause of death is severe blunt force trauma to the head.  She bled to death and faded off into the darkness – at least, it was quick.”

McKee leaned against a bulkhead, “So what does this all mean?  Is Holbrook lying to us?  Did he kill his own wife?”

Ford stared at the body and the blood.  “He’d have to be a sociopath on a level I haven’t seen in a while.  I think he’s genuinely concerned for her- we didn’t ask about her.  I think someone else in his community did this.”  He let out a long and frustrated sigh, “And we’re going to have to talk to him about it.”

Jordan asked, “Do we take the body with us?”

“No, if whoever killed her comes back…we run the risk of showing our hand.  Let’s return to the Daedalus…see what the captain wants us to do.”

 

“This is just too wild.”  Dread sat at the head of the briefing room table, “More than a few someones are lying here, and we’ve got a murdered woman in the mix.  Do we just confront Holbrook with it all?”

Ford disagreed, “I think we have to start with his wife being dead.  We can collect the body and have him meet us outside town to reveal what we found and where.  See where that takes us.  Hitting him with everything we have may send him running…or pit us against the town if he chooses to turn on us.”

Reid stood, “There’s another layer here.”  She tapped at the large screen and connected her PADD, “I did scans of everyone I could see and get close to – the older population comes back 99% similar to an Earth human.  That’s about 15 of the 50.  The adult-aged males and females – are less – somewhere around 85%.  That indicates some minor mutations from the environment.  The young adults, teens, and children are at 65%.”  She tapped to another screen, “The plants and animals they’re consuming are doing something to them over time.  They’re changing, and I don’t know if they know or would know to be looking for it.”

Halsey stared at the report.  His deputy chief was good.  He pulled up the details on his PADD, “It looks like most of the genetic mutations are coming from the local plants – the computer was able to get a closer look.  Within a generation or two more, they won’t resemble humans.”  He shook his head, “I can’t imagine this was their plan.”

Captain Dread tapped her fingers on the table, “Well, we’ve got some answers and more questions.  Reid, take Halsey with you this time.  Secure the body, and talk to our new friend.  See what you can find out.”

“Bridge to Captain Dread.”  She tapped her badge.  “We’ve got three Raven class ships on an intercept course with our position – estimated time to arrival – four hours.”

“Understood.”  She turned to the crew, “New plan. You have four hours to figure out a way to get them off the planet before things get complicated.”