Dr. Aimee Sandoval stared suspiciously at the man standing before her. She had hung up on Doctor Armstrong, and her finger hovered discreetly over the panic button on her phone. “Can I help you? If you require medical attention, I cannot help you. I’m an anthropologist.”
After glancing at Aimee, Jonas took a half-step back, his hands held up. “My name is Colonel Jonas White, and I’m here to fetch you. I was sent by a civilian scientist you should be familiar with,” he said, still holding his hands up. “Doctor Cheon Kyo,” he stated.
“I am familiar with Doctor Kyo. He sat on the panel for my doctoral dissertation hearing.”
“Is there a problem?” Another woman demanded, approaching from the opposite direction. Rebecca Sandoval was wearing a navy version of the Colonel’s uniform with the rank of Captain. “Are you bothering my daughter?”
Jonas turned his head and looked at the woman approaching, “Not at all, Captain,” he said as he looked at the woman. “I am just here to escort Doctor Sandoval to Doctor Kyo per his request.”
Suddenly a woman came around the corner in black fatigues and walked smartly towards the group. “Is there a problem here, Colonel?” she asked. On her collar, she wore two silver bars, the rank of Captain. An M4 was slung over her shoulder as she stopped next to Jonas.
“Not at all, Captain Vax,” Jonas replied as he suddenly felt like he was back at home being surrounded by all of them. “I had just begun to…” he looked at Rebecca. “Daughter?” he paused as his head cocked to the side. “Captain Sandoval?” he questioned as he kept his eyes on Rebecca. “Captain, aren’t you supposed to be at the UEC confab in Paris?”
“No, I am not,” Rebecca said, finding this exercise highly suspicious.
“Mom, it’s okay. I know Doctor Kyo. Well, I know him professionally anyway. I’ll be fine. Let’s do dinner tonight instead of breakfast, okay?”
Rebecca eyed them with suspicion, “I have time. I’ll come along.”
Vausees looked at Rebecca with a raised eyebrow. “Um, Captain, do you even have the clearance to enter R&D?” she asked.
Jonas looked at Vausees and shook his head. This action caused her to look at him. “What? We all know that Doctor Kyo would have my head if I let anyone in that wasn’t cleared.”
“I have the highest security clearance,” Rebecca countered.
Vausees thought to herself, ‘I doubt that.’
“Mom. It will be okay.”
Rebecca looked her daughter over and finally assented. “Fine, but if I don’t hear from her by 15:00, I’m sending in the MACOs.”
Vausees smirked as she looked at Rebecca. “I like you,” she said in a soft tone. “but I am afraid that won’t work,” she stated in a tone that was all business. “You see the MACOs get their orders from,” she paused and motioned with her head towards Jonas, “him.”
“Captain Sandoval, you have my word your daughter will be in the best of care and hands,” Jonas stated, knowing, all too well, that that wasn’t going to be enough for a mother.
Aimee leveled her gaze on Vausees, “True, but he answers to my dad, General Talon. I’ll be fine, mom.”
Rebecca stared down at Jonas like he was a raw cadet caught in the act of misbehavior despite them being technically the same rank. “I lost a daughter and her half-brother to people like yourselves. I am holding you personally responsible for my daughter’s safety.”
Jonas nodded. “She’ll be in the safest place with Vausees and me.”
Vausees nodded as she slipped the M4 from her shoulder. “That she will be, Captain.”
Jonas continued, “I will even have a unit of MACOs posted outside if that will keep your mind at ease, Miss Sandoval.”
“How would I know? I won’t be there,” Rebecca said with evident frustration. She hugged Aimee slipping a micro comm unit into her hand. “I’ll see you tonight, Sweetheart. I’m going to get a room here in San Francisco instead of going up to the Challenger.” With that, Rebecca turned and walked down the street. The decision had been made, and she didn’t even look back as she rounded the corner heading for the navy shipyards.
*** Office of Doctor Cheon Kyo Research & Development ***
Doctor Kyo sat behind a desk in the center of the room as he plucked away at the monitor attached to the desk. He heard the hiss from the door that led into his laboratory and knew that only a hand full of people had the authorized access codes to enter his part of UEC’s compound.
“Greetings, Colonel and Captain,” he said without looking at Jonas and Vausees. “I see that you have brought Doctor Sandoval with you. I sure hope that Captain Sandoval didn’t cause too much fuss about not being able to join us, Aimee.”
“More than I’d like, but I cannot blame her. A similar situation occurred to Ethan and Liv just before they died. I admit I am a bit disconcerted about this myself. What could you possibly want an anthropologist for?”
‘Interesting,’ Kyo thought to himself as he looked away from the monitor right at Aimee. “So you think that I brought you here for your anthropology?” He asked as he stood up and walked over to a wall-mounted monitor. “Take a look at this, Aimee,” he said as he motioned for her to join him at the monitor.
Aimee moved into position to look at the monitor and raised an eyebrow, “Is this some sort of a joke because I’m not laughing.”
“Aimee, when have you ever known me to play a prank on anyone? We picked up a strange transport signature a few hours ago, and when I examined it, I found what you had just seen,” he stated as he singled out both Ethan’s and Aimee’s life signs on the data stream. “What do you think can cause your dead brother to be still alive?”
“I honestly don’t know,” she admitted. “If it’s not a hoax, why would either of our signatures appear? Clones, maybe?”
Cheon nodded to her suggestion, “I thought that too. However, when I ran the synthetic detection protocols,” he stated as he brought up the mentioned protocols, “I did not find any of the embedded techs that are required to create synthetics.
“Instead, I found,” he selected Aimee’s signature and singled out a singular protein, “this.
He points at the flashing content, “An element that isn’t located on any periodic table that I am aware of.”
“That is strange. Perhaps it’s a sensor error. How do you suggest we proceed?”
Cheon turned and looked at Jonas and Vausees. “How do you two feel about a snatch and grab on both of these two?” He indicates the signatures of both Aimee and Ethan on the monitor.
Jonas looks at Vausees with a grin. She mirrors it perfectly back. Cheon saw the look between the two marines and cleared his throat. “Remember, I need them unharmed, and please, for the love of God, don’t kill anyone.”
*** Bastion Inn ***
Jolie looked out of the window as she kept watch. She was unsure why, but something in her gut told her something was right. Not that anything made sense, but she and the rest had surmised that it was definitely due to the rift and possibly an alternate timeline. But how they still were not entirely sure.
“Ethan, you still awake?”
Ethan’s eyes cracked open. He never rarely slept during an operation. Just quick naps between action or watches. “Yeah. You see something?”
“Yeah, a lot of some things. Looks like MACO’s,” she states as she steps back toward him.
He was on his feet and moved to the edge of the window to peer out and swore. “I don’t want to get into a firefight with the locals.” He turned away from the window and pulled on his boots. “Talon to Pike.”
“Go ahead,” Audren’s voice came over the combadge.
“Gonna need an extraction here.”
“Sorry, Ethan, there’s some kind of interference keeping us from getting a transporter lock.”
Ethan swore a second time in as many minutes. “Prep an extraction team then. It looks like we’re about to see the inside of a jail cell.”
“Understood. Pike out.”
Ethan sighed and looked from Jolie and then to Aimee. “We can probably fight our way out of this, but there’s no guarantee all of us will walk away. We best let Audren rescue us.”
“That won’t be necessary,” came a voice from inside the closet as the door opened, and Vausees stepped out with her hands held out in a non-aggressive manner. The M4 was slung on her back but still in reach if she had to get to it quickly.
Ethan’s hand fell to his hip. He wasn’t reaching for his revolver, but it was within his grasp. “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
“Captain Vausees Vax, Second in Command of the 24th MACO division stationed here in San Francisco. The reason for the what you will find out soon enough, but I must insist that you and your group come with me. It’s either that or,” she pauses and motions to the door as it opens, and Jonas stands there backed by six fully armed MACOs, “they can take you. I leave that up to you.,” she states as she lowers her hands and stands there waiting for Ethan’s decision.
Ethan was bothered how she had snuck up on them like that. He hadn’t heard a transporter cycle. He glanced at Jolie and then to Aimee and nodded. After they disarmed themselves, Ethan stood facing Vausees. “Just answer one question. How did you get the drop on me?”
Vausees looked at Jonas. He nodded as he turned and gave an order to the MACOs behind him. Each one reached up and unzipped their uniform tops and pulled down the top of their shirts. A white scar could be seen on each of them.
“That even includes us, Commander Ethan Sandoval,” came a voice behind them as the MACOs parted down the center and Doctor Kyo appeared in the room. He looked at Jonas and was met by irritated eyes. “Sorry, Colonel, you were taking too long, so I thought the worst.”
“Doctor, you and I are going to have some words soon enough,” Jonas stated as he watched Cheon walk up to Ethan.
“Fascinating,” Cheon stated as he looked at Ethan.
“Doctor wouldn’t it be more prudent to do this back at the lab,” Vausees said in a low, almost whispered voice.
“Lab?” Ethan demanded. “If I’m some sort of science experiment, just go ahead and kill me now.”
Aimee had followed Dr. Kyo into and stood silently, taking in everything. From her “brother” and now Dr. Kyo’s daughter and finally the familiar face of a woman she had seen many times before staring back at her in the mirror.
“What the hell?” Ethan muttered.
Jolie looked at Ethan, and then her eyes were drawn to Aimee and then to another Aimee. She then looked back at Ethan, “Please tell me that I am not seeing doubles.”
Ethan gave Jolie a shrug. They knew this was a possibility. “You Are not,” he said finally.
The two Aimee’s ignored Ethan and moved within half a meter of each other. They stared for a long moment of silence, each taking in the similarities and differences. PhD Aimee had a small scar over her right eye and M.D. Aimee touched her own scarless right brow. “Bicycle accident when you were ten?”
Aimee-PhD touched the scar feeling subconsciously suddenly. “Yeah… how did you?”
“Because the same thing happened to me. Do you not have dermal regenerators?”
Aimee-PhD shook her head, “I don’t know what that is. I got seven stitches. So, are you are a soldier?
Aimee MD shook her head, “No, I’m a doctor.”
“Medical. I take it you never gave up on your Indiana Jones and Laura Croft obsession?” Aimee MD asked.
“I did not. What made you choose medicine?”
Ethan’s Aimee shrugged, “I grew up, I think. I wanted to help people, not dig up the past.”
“Your Ethan is alive. What about Liv?”
“Livvy’s fine. She’s in Star… she’s in our military too, just a different ship. We served together for a short time aboard a ship named Europa.”
Aimee-PhD looked as if she had seen a ghost, “That was the ship my Ethan and Liv died on.”
Aimee MD gave her counterpart a sympathetic frown, “I’m sorry to hear that.”
Jolie looked at the mirror-imaged Aimee, “I promise she is very much safe,” she stated before looking at the man who looked like her father.
“Doctor Kyo,” she said to Cheon, who looked at Jolie with confusion.
“Jolie, shouldn’t you be home with your husband?”
“I am afraid that this conversation will have to wait, Doctor Kyo,” Vausees stated as she saw that Jolie was about to speak. “This is drifting into a that needs to be secured.”
Jonas nodded in agreement as he stood there near the doorway. “I agree. And with this being a matter of planetary security, I must insist that our guest be blindfolded for this next part,” he stated as he looked from Cheon to Ethan and the rest of the away team.
Ethan rolled his eyes, thoroughly done with all the theatrics, “Oh, for crying out loud. If we wanted to know your secrets, we would have. Stop with all this cloak and dagger bullshit and get on with it.”
*** Office of Doctor Cheon Kyo Research & Development ***
The room was silent after Cheon had laid it on thick and heavy about an anomaly that he had detected while running a system check on the planetary sensors. He turned and looked at Ethan, “You see, Commander Sandoval, you should not be here, and yet here you are.”
“Talon,” Ethan corrected. “My name’s Talon. Sandoval is my step-mom’s maiden name.” He said that last part in his low grumble. “And did you bring us here to state the obvious? I know that much. I just don’t know how to get back.”
To be continued…