Chapter 6: Mutiny

"It worked! We scared them in their little command boots!" Terry Bannion exclaimed to the group assembled at Kukua. "They're all meeting tomorrow, the entire leadership team in one place!"

Everyone cheered wildly. "Fred should have just dropped that whole cable on Bergman," Mandy Lindsey sneered. "He needs to be gone!"

"We've got to leave the folks being left behind someone," Jerry Travis laughed. "Might as well be him. Poetic justice when we take Doctor Russell and our Commander. He'll just be a lonely old man."

"They've got Fred though," Joan Conway reminded them. "They know he did it."

"Fred's got the gift," Pete Johnson grinned. "The gift of the gab. He'll convince them it was just a sad little accident. He was quite the thespian back on earth, in amateur theater. That's why we chose him."

"Are the weapons checked, Pete?" Terry brought them back to focus.

"Checked, loaded. Man, that's some amazing stuff that was on that ship. Shoulder missile launchers, laser cannons much more powerful than any we have. Explosives, knives, woohoo!"

"There won't be much rest for us tonight. We need to get the remote missiles placed now we know when the meeting will be." Terry turned to the women. "Have you prepared the place?"

"Yes, Terry," Ann Coulther replied. "We have food supplies for several weeks in case those people are stubborn. No one will find the hostages."

"As soon as the meeting starts, our teams will move in to take the hostages. We have moon buggies parked everywhere to whisk them away. Then you take them the last few klicks by foot. The others will drive the buggies away and eradicate our tracks. Once you have the hostages secure, inform the main team immediately. We'll go and visit that meeting and present our case."

"You all have to work very fast," Pete Johnson stressed. "We don't know how long that meeting will last, but I think it will be a long one," he said with a nasty grin. He studied the faces around him. From a group of eight, their numbers had grown to 22. A few of the women looked scared, but most of the faces reflected the anger and disillusion at the state of affairs on Berg that had united them.

"Do you know our demands by heart?" Pete Irving, one of their new recruits asked. "You'll need to state a convincing case."

"Pete is right. Let's go over it one more time, the team going to the meeting," Terry Bannion said. "I know we're all excited that our plan is finally coming together, and we'll soon be gone from here, but we need to stay cool. They'll try to reason us out of it, so we have to have our facts straight, while keeping our emotions at bay. It would still be better to convince them, instead of kill them."

"Here's the list," Shermeen Williams said, handing Bannion a folder. He read:

"1. We want the course to earth, using the data from the Superswift. We want the course plotted on a star chart for us, and also programmed into the databanks of the ship. 2. We want the ship refueled for the full journey. 3. We want the ship stocked with enough supplies and equipment for the equivalent of the return journey, based on the reverse plot in point 1. 4. Once the ship is stocked and ready, we want unhindered access to board, the 22 of us, Commander Koenig, Doctor Russell and Alan Carter if he wants. 5. Once we are certain that everything on the ship is as it should be, we want an unimpeded liftoff and departure. 6. Once we are satisfied that no eagles have followed us, and that we are out of range, we will contact you on interstellar frequency and reveal where the hostages are. 7. If any of our group are accosted or harmed during the time of preparation, one of the hostages will die. 8. If there are any more serious efforts at resistance, we will destroy Kukua, and then Uzazi."

"Do you have our little demonstration ready, Jerry?" Pete Johnson asked.

"I do. Those shoulder launchers are fantastic. You just give the word, and that recreation center will be no more!"

"What if there are people in there?" Ann Coulther asked.

"If they're not one of us, they don't count. Casualties of war, because that is what this is: war for our future, our destiny."

"But what if there are others who'd like to go with us? Back to earth?" one of the other girls said.

"Our group is final. We're the ones doing the work. We don't know how many people can go on that ship, but us, the Commander, Doctor Russell, maybe Alan. Twenty-five sound like a safe number."

"What if the Commander doesn't want to go?" Ann Coulther interjected one more time.

"Are you getting cold feet, Ann?" Pete Irving laughed. "Just tell us now, so we can deal with it. Can't have you falling apart once our plan is in motion."

"You know me, Terry." Ann made her appeal at Bannion. "I'm always just playing devil's advocate. Things are not going to be as easy as you think. Someone has to bring up the hard parts."

"Why would he not want to go?" Mandy whined. "He'll be reunited with his love, away from that meddling old man, heading back to earth with us, to fulfill his destiny!"

"The Doctor may not want to come," Ann persisted. "Then how will you get the Commander."

"I can see you've never really been in love, Ann," Mandy said condescendingly. "I've seen them look at each other. The one will go where the other does."

Ann glared at the disturbed young woman. Of all the things in their plan, this was the weakest link: fantasies and conjectures from a girl herself very much in love with John Koenig, projecting those feelings onto Helena Russell and trying to live the fantasy from that twisted perspective. Ann had confided these thoughts to Terry Bannion, their leader, but he thought it was harmless and helped keep some of the other young women chained to their cause. Mandy was pretty and popular, with a certain charisma to attract others.

"I'm just saying you have to give that part of the plan second thoughts. If they do not want to go, it should not affect our destiny to return to earth."

John Koenig sighed and put his head in his hands. "It seems we're not getting anywhere!"

"We just don't know, Commander," Paul tried. "We have not found the missing girl. There has been no new security alert at the Superswift, nothing recorded by the cameras, and Fred Dobson was interrogated carefully while we monitored his vitals. He seemed to be telling the truth, the accident at the tunnel site was just that… an unfortunate accident."

John looked at his leadership team. "Yet I have a feeling, Paul, a very dark feeling that something is going on."

"I agree Commander," Alan Carter said. "One thing… just a mishap. Two things… perhaps coincidence. But three things, so quickly, one after the other, in my book that smells fishy."

"I've analyzed the data from the winch platform. It shows clearly that the cable was released manually, and the communications to the man below turned off," David Kano repeated. "And according to Toshiro, Dobson was lying. He said Smitty went to the bathroom, Smitty insists he was told to report to the eagle."

"That's why Dobson is confined to quarters," Koenig confirmed. He studied the faces: Victor Bergman, Helena Russell, Paul Morrow, Alan Carter, and David Kano. Sandra Benes Morrow should have been here, but they had all agreed that she didn't need the stress of this meeting. These were the best minds and hearts on Berg, and if anyone could help him figure out what was going on, it was this group.

"John, if something is brewing… as you think, do you think it's related to the ship? The Superswift?"

"That's what I think, Helena."

"But why, Commander?" Paul asked. "Even if we could get the ship operational again, and reverse plot the course to earth, why would people even want to go back… presuming that's what they want to do? Earth is a wasteland. Alpha Nova gives us a far better chance of survival and raising healthy families."

"At least you're thinking along the lines I'm thinking, Paul. That there's a group of people with an unhealthy interest in that ship."

"But what does that have to do with a missing girl and an accident in an ice tunnel?" Carter threw his hands up. "I agree, something is up, but nothing makes sense."

Koenig turned to Professor Bergman. "Victor. You've been quiet. Far too quiet, as a matter of fact. Are you OK?"

"I'm fine, John. Just listening. Thinking. Keep talking, please. Don't mind me."

John looked at Helena, who simply shrugged. She had assured him Victor was fine after his adventure in the tunnel.

"Well, the link with the missing girl is that she was one of Bob Mathias' helpers when we had our spot of discomfort with some people on Erath. People who wanted, at that point, to force some sort of outcome based on their desires." Koenig turned to Alan Carter. "Now thank goodness, Alan, that you've come to your senses since, but I was never convinced that we completely got rid of that problem. And Melita Kelly had been the one who, according to Bob, had infiltrated the group to learn their agenda."

"Who else was in that group, John?" Helena asked.

"Bob never said. He felt it was best we suppress it by inviting cooperation, instead of calling people out. He felt it would deepen resentments. I never pressed him for names."

"Dobson must be part of it!" Alan Carter exclaimed. "We need to get him in here so we can all question him more thoroughly."

"The Bounty," Victor suddenly said, and all heads swiveled his way. The scientist's green eyes focused on each set of eyes slowly before he spoke. "Do you all know the story of the Bounty?"

"That Mutiny movie?" David Kano laughed. He was somewhat of a movie buff. "I saw Brando in it, and oh… Richard Harris… but Professor, this is not the time to talk about movies."

"Actually, there was an earlier version with Clark Gable," Koenig held up his hands, "but let Victor talk." Comprehension was dawning in his eyes, cold shivers running down his back.

"'Mutiny on the Bounty' was based on true historical events," Victor continued. "A ship from the Royal navy had set out on a journey tasked them by the Crown. During their stay in the South Pacific, the crew became enamored with life on those islands. When the ship, called the Bounty, set sail for England again, the crew rebelled, threw the captain and his men in a dinghy, and returned to Tahiti."

John stood up, pacing around the table. "I think you got it, Victor! I think you figured it out! We have a group of people disillusioned at our life here on Berg, and now that the Superswift is part of the equation, they may be planning to take the ship!"

"It still doesn't make sense, Commander," Alan sighed. "What does it have to do with the girl? And the tunnel incident?"

"Testing our defenses, Alan. Testing our reactions. The girl may have found out and tried to warn us…" John shook his head. "If they have harmed her…"

"Mutiny? Here on Berg? But… that's ridiculous," Paul laughed. "These are educated people."

"Our security people are good," Alan said. "We have weapons, discipline…"

"The eagle… of course…" John snapped his fingers. "The eagle that flew to Erath. Victor, who was on it?"

"Wait, Commander, you're going too fast," Paul said. "What eagle? When?"

"A few days ago Victor told me that you had told him an eagle had been requested to fly to Erath to pick up building supplies for Kukua."

"Yes, it was a routine mission, Commander," Paul said defensively.

"I'm not questioning your authority, Paul. It was completely within the scope of your duty." He turned to the scientist again. "Victor, who was on that ship?"

Victor scratched his head. "Pete Irving was one pilot, the other… Terry… Terry someone, I think. Uh… Jerry Travis was on the ship, and me. That's all. We hardly spoke."

"I bet," John hissed. He stood and faced his team. "When we first started going through that ship on Erath, we found weapons, many powerful weapons, in one of the storage pods. I made the decision to leave them on Erath, and we secured them in one of the storage areas, but we made no secret of it. Several of the relay crews helped us store them. Many of them would have seen those weapons. David, is there anyone at all on Erath?"

"No, Commander, you recalled all the teams."

"So, we cannot check within a short time period whether all those weapons are still accounted for."

"John," Helena said; her face a mask of confusion. "You're beginning to scare me. Weapons? Mutiny? This is the 20th century we're living in, not some primitive, superstitious society."

"Our toys may be better," Victor stated softly, "and our minds filled with knowledge that will astonish even the gods, but the human heart in its darkest form, is still filled with destruction, betrayal and hatred."

John held up his hands. "Well, people, before we get even gloomier, let me reiterate. I believe Victor hit the nail on the head. I believe somewhere in our communities is a small group of dissidents, armed perhaps, who even as we speak may be planning to take the Superswift. Our task now is to come up with a counter plan we can put into effect immediately without alarming all the other people in our communities."

John looked down at his side, where his commlock had started beeping, with annoyance. "I said, I did not want to be disturbed," he barked into the small screen.

"I think, Commander, that you would need to take this," the timid voice of Anna Wong whispered. "Please open the door."

Koenig frowned, glancing at his team briefly. Then he stepped in front of them, and opened the door from his office to the command room.

Behind him, he heard Helena gasp, heard chairs scrape as others jumped up. In front of him was a group of four men he knew well, or had thought he did, for now they were armed with laser cannons unlike any they had known on Alpha, stun guns and knives. And one man had his arm wrapped around Anna Wong's neck, a stun gun at her side.

"Thank you for seeing us, Commander," Terry Bannion said, his voice laced with sarcasm. "Now, all of you get back in your seats; then this little girl won't get hurt."

John turned to his group. "Sit down, sit down." His eyes implored especially Alan Carter and Paul Morrow not to escalate the situation by word or deed.

"Good. Very good," Bannion drawled, drawing closer to the door. "Let her go," he instructed the man holding Anna Wong.

The man pushed her away. "Run girl, run for your life!" he laughed as the terrified girl scrambled away.

"Enough!" Bannion shouted before he turned back to Koenig. "Commander, we are reasonable people, and we have come here to talk to this… cozy little group. Were you to call for reinforcements or any type of security, however, we will have to take steps to ensure our safety. We have weapons trained on targets in Kukua, and Uzazi, and while it is our desire not to use them, we will, if provoked."

"Reasonable people don't arrive at a meeting with weapons and threats!" Koenig replied.

"Let's just say, Commander, we felt our odds of you listening to us, were slightly better this way. Now, let's talk… no… leave that door open. Mark, Jerry, cover the outside exits. If anyone enters, shoot… to kill. Pete, you're with me, but keep them covered." He grinned at the leadership team. "Too many wannabe heroes here."

"Terry? What has happened to you?" Alan Carter exclaimed. "You're a good man."

"That I am," Bannion replied with a smirk. "So, why don't you all just listen to my ideas, then we can all be friends again." He pulled a chair around, sitting in the doorway while his men covered his back.

"Commander Koenig, we want that earth ship you've been trying to keep from us, the people from earth."

"The ship is not operational."

"We've seen it flown twice, Commander."

"That was interplanetary flight, Bannion. Before she does any interstellar flight again, she needs a major overhaul."

"That's what you say," Pete Irving interjected. "That's what you want us to believe."

"It's the truth, Pete," Victor Bergman said. "David and I have been working on that ship, and there is a lot wrong with her."

"You just shut up, old man." Pete turned on the Professor. "We've just about had it with you."

"Pete! Enough!" Bannion commanded. "We're not here for personal grudges, but to make our case."

"I'm waiting." Koenig glared at the young man. "So far, I've not heard a case worth considering."

Terry Bannion took a deep breath, smiled a dark smile, and then looked at John Koenig menacingly. "While you've been having your little meeting, discussing, no doubt, the little problems you've been having the last few days, my men and women have been going around collecting us a little… collateral. Here is the list."

Koenig took a list from the man, and as he scanned it, his face grew deathly pale. Eventually he looked up at Bannion; then handed the list to Victor Bergman with a shake of his head that meant: eyes only, don't let that out of your hands.

Victor glanced down at the list. It was a list of names: Melita Kelly, Angela Robinson, Sandra Benes, Dina Chang, Lesley Picard, Carolyn Powell, June Broadley, Debbi Stein, Renata Santori, Kate Bullen. As realization dawned on him too, he compressed his lips and slowly folded the list into a tiny square of paper.

"What do you want, Bannion?" Koenig snapped.

Bannion reached to Pete Irving, who handed him another piece of paper, from which he read:

"One: We want the course to earth reverse plotted, using the data from the Superswift. We want the course plotted on a star chart for us, complete with all relevant coordinates and also programmed into the databanks of the ship." He paused, looking at the group. "Two: We want the ship refueled for the full journey back to earth."

"You're mad, Banning," Paul hissed through clenched teeth.

Banning wagged his finger. "No judging here, among friends. Three: We want the ship stocked with enough supplies and equipment for the equivalent of the return journey, based on the reverse plot." He laughed. "And a little extra, just in case. Four: Once the ship is stocked and ready, we want unhindered access to board. There are 22 of us, then you, Commander Koenig, Doctor Russell of course, and you, Alan, if you want. You once shared some of our thoughts."

Alan jumped up. "I will never go with you!" John pulled him back into his seat.

"Five: Once we are certain that everything on the ship is as it should be, we want an unimpeded liftoff and departure. Six: Once we are satisfied that no eagles have followed us, and that we are out of range, we will contact you on interstellar frequency and reveal where the hostages are." He gestured to Professor Bergman, referring to the little piece of paper Victor clutched in his hand. "Yes, that's our collateral the Commander wants to keep away from you. Just as he's kept many things from us."

Paul was on his feet. "Give me that list, Commander!" he implored. Victor looked at John, but Koenig shook his head. "Let him finish first, Paul."

"NO!" Paul yelled. "I want to see it now!"

"Sit down, Paul." Koenig's voice sounded defeated.

Eventually the young man slumped in his seat dejectedly.

"Seven: If any of our group are accosted or harmed during the preparation time, one hostage will die. A life for a life. Fred Dobson's 'confined to quarters' needs to be lifted immediately." He looked at Koenig, until the Commander nodded wearily.

"Eight: If there are any other efforts at resistance, we will destroy Kukua, and Uzazi, piece by piece, until you see things our way." He stood up. "We actually have a little demonstration for you, Commander Koenig. Please follow me, and keep your dogs leashed."

"I believe you, Bannion. No demonstration is needed."

"Oh, I think you'll enjoy it, Commander."

The defeated little group trudged outside. Victor put his arm around Helena's shoulder, but he was roughly pushed away with the muzzle of one of the laser cannons. Outside was a moon buggy, and in the cargo bay, a long, white, menacing tube with the tip of some sort of missile protruding from the front. Jerry Travis shouldered it, his face a smirk.

"No need, Bannion," Koenig pled again but the man ignored him. The leadership team watched in horror as the man armed with the shoulder launcher slowly turned in a circle, then lined up with the newly completed recreation center in Uzazi. Jerry Travis looked at Bannion, who simply nodded.

The blast was deafening, the Alphans stunned not just by the sound, but by the sheer brutality of the unprovoked act. The missile slammed into the side of the structure, leaving a gaping hole and sending flames and smoke spiraling into the air.

"NOOOO!" Helena screamed, her hands over her ears. She gave a few steps towards the smoldering recreation center, but John pulled her back. "Not now," he whispered urgently.

"People may be hurt in there, John!" But Koenig gently pushed her towards Victor, while turning to Bannion.

"Will you give us time to discuss your demands, Bannion?" Koenig's voice was barely audible as he indicated his people. "To see if we can come to some sort of… compromise… to give you what you want, without all… this…?"

"I said, leave her alone!" They turned to see Pete Irving, who had since taken the missile launcher from Jerry Travis and placed it in the moon buggy, rip Helena away from Victor Bergman. Victor stepped up to the young man, seldom seen anger flashing in his eyes, but John raised his voice:

"Victor! NO!" The Professor stopped and turned slowly, his eyes meeting those of his Commander and friend. What he read there made him take a step back slowly, a sad, dejected grimace on his face. Irving released Helena, who instinctively reached for Victor, but John stepped between them and grabbed her hand to stop her. She looked up at him uncomprehendingly. Koenig backed away, leading Helena, his actions forcing his friend behind him to back away too. When they reached the rest of the leadership group, he pulled Helena against him briefly and whispered urgently by her ear. "They want him dead, Helena. They're looking for an excuse." Then he pushed her behind him and turned to Bannion.

"Will you give us time, Bannion?"

"I don't see why, Commander. Our desires are simple… and not negotiable."

"We need… to discuss the allocation of tasks, the preparation of your ship, the gathering and loading of your supplies… and how to best inform those who will be… helping us."

Bannion looked at his own men, somewhat uncertain. Finally he shrugged. "Sure, Commander. Like I said, we are reasonable people. You can have a little time…" He held up his thumb and forefinger, barely apart. "Just a little. In there." He indicated with the muzzle of his laser cannon, "and leave that office door open. But I warn you, Commander, one word to security, one move from anyone out here, and another structure will go up flames."

People had started coming out of buildings, having heard the explosion, and were running to the recreation center to help. A few stopped and looked at the group gathered by the doors of the command center, but not understanding what they were seeing, continued on to assist.

"What about them?" Koenig asked.

"As long they don't come bother us, Commander, let them do their little jobs. Now, get in there, have your little talk. We'll be waiting right here," the four men sat down on chairs in the command room, two covering the doors, and two facing the Commander's office, "and we'll be watching the clock."

Koenig ushered his little herd into his office. He turned his chair so his back was to the men and indicated to the others to do the same. They huddled their heads together.

"Victor, the list."

Victor handed John the small square of tightly folded paper, and Koenig passed it to Paul. The young man unfolded it, and as his eyes began to scan it, he looked up slowly at the commander. "The bastards!" Then, overcome with terror, he handed it to David Kano.

"We don't have much time," Koenig whispered.

He received no reply. His people were obviously in a state of shock, as he was, but he knew that what they decided in the next few minutes would not only determine the lives of ten people they knew and cared for, but also possibly the lives of all those on Berg.

"I propose," he continued through clenched teeth, "that we simply accept all their demands and give them their ship."

"We can't, Commander," Alan replied vehemently. "They're nothing more than criminals… terrorists. We have to stop them."

John Koenig looked at each of his people in turn, reading nothing but despair, fear and hopelessness in each set of eyes. Even Victor Bergman, a man he knew would rather die than give up, looked utterly defeated.

"If we let them take that ship, what do we lose?" John asked. "What do we really lose?"

"It's not about the ship, Commander!" Alan was still fuming, ready to take on the world.

"I know, Alan, but we have to make it about the ship. For this one moment we have to throw off all our ingrained, programmed reactions, everything we've learned about terror, everything mankind has always done about terror, and give in."

"I don't want to go on that ship, John," Helena whispered.

"No, no, you're right. That's the one point we'll negotiate. I don't want to either. But," he spoke slowly, enunciating each word with venom, "we have to get those people off Berg. That's our best chance. They carry within them a seed of hatred and destruction we don't need here."

Eyes were now meeting his, as his words slowly stared getting through to them.

"What if they don't release the hostages?" David Kano asked softly. "What if we do everything they ask and they still don't release them?"

"I can't give you any guarantees, David," Koenig continued. "But I can tell you that, once we start working on preparing that ship, somehow we will look for them. Somehow we will do everything in our power to find them, and free them unhurt."

"How, Commander?" Paul insisted. The young man's fists were clenched tightly.

"We still have friends here. Once we start working, I'll find a way to get the word out, Paul."

"John is right," Victor finally offered. "If we let them have that ship, we don't really lose anything, except face. But if we fight them, we might lose a lot more; we might even lose everything we've fought for up to this point."

"Yes, Victor. Our struggle has been for our survival all these years. We've fought this struggle by ourselves, and we've dealt with situations that no human had ever seen or even conceived of before. We've had to make decisions that no rational mind can ever understand, nor begin to justify." John looked at his people, silently pleading for them to understand. "We remained on the moon during the events of September 1999. We rejected offers of a home, of cooperation, from beings and planets that could have offered some sort of future. We allowed our moon to rush headlong into another planet, irrefutably on a collision course. We left two people alone on an unknown planet to build a destiny for themselves, and perhaps, all of mankind. We did all this," he shook his head slowly, "perhaps because sometimes we didn't know what else to do. But we made these decisions as humans, with our limited capacity, and we are still here. We made these decisions because we are Alphans, and through all the despair, the loss of life, we each knew in our hearts that we did have a future, somewhere. We made those decisions from hope. Victor?" John looked at his friend, his words drying up, needing help.

"I think what John's trying to say," the scientist continued, "is that we… most of us… have changed. We have freed ourselves from the confines of normal human thinking. We have evolved through all our adventures, unaware mostly, of that evolution, but we are at the dawn of a new way of thought, a new way of life, and we can, and should make a decision not rooted in the narrow ruts of conventional human thought."

"Thank you, Victor," John said, having caught his breath, collected his thoughts. "We cannot fight these people," he continued. "We are not prepared. And even if we had been, and chose to, there would be loss of life and destruction of much that we have already built here for ourselves. Even if we did fight, and won, what then? It would have left us with those who set in motion these events, those who silently but no less certainly sympathized with their cause. We would forever carry the distrust, the suspicion in our hearts, and the seed of hatred would remain, ready to sprout at any moment. For us, now, lies the option to forever free our communities and those who choose to remain in them, of that seed."

There was silence as the small group of Alphans looked at each other, considering these staggering thoughts.

"It still feels as if we are just giving up, Commander," Alan said. "Letting them win."

Koenig turned to the young man. "We are giving up, Alan."

"I don't understand, Commander."

"We are giving up the desire to win at all costs. We are giving up the desire to be right, to prove that we are right, and to bring everyone in line with those desires. We are giving up the thought that everyone can benefit only from our way of thinking, our way of life. We are giving up the desire to make everyone conform to our view of our destiny."

"I don't really understand it," David Kano offered with a half-hearted, sad smile, "but it does sound good. Better than the alternative anyway."


"I agree John. Anything to avoid further violence."


"I'm with, Alan, Commander. I don't really understand, but I'll support whatever you decide."


"With you, Commander."


"One hundred percent, John."

John Koenig swung his chair around. "Bannion? We're ready."

The man looked at the leadership group with distrust, nervously fingering his weapon. "There are people outside," he said. "We can hear them. Your answer better be good, and you need to take care of them. We are not playing, Commander."

"Bannion, except for a few small points, you can have everything you demanded. We will help you get your ship ready. We will trust your word that you will eventually release those hostages unhurt. We will trust your word that there while be no more violence when we cooperate. You have my word that we will not attempt any violence, towards any of you, while we are working together to prepare for your journey, and that we will not try to stop you. You have my word that everyone helping with the preparations will do it to the best of their ability, and with your safety and survival their prime directive."

The man took a few steps back, confusion flashing in his eyes. Pete Irving jumped up, grabbed his leader frantically. "He's lying. They're planning something. Don't trust them!" Bannion shook him off.

"What are the few small points?" he asked, his eyes narrowing.

"Neither I, nor Doctor Russell will be joining you on that ship. That is our only non-negotiable point."

All four men now glanced at each other with confusion. Then Pete Irving stepped up. "But we're trying to help you, Commander. You must go with us! You'll have Doctor Russell back! You'll have what you want!" There was a manic glint in his eyes.

Koenig stepped forward towards the four men, who scrambled back, but remained clustered and trained their weapons on the Commander.

"You can have everything you want, Bannion," Koenig said, his voice strong, his posture reflecting his strength and conviction. "But you cannot make us part of what you perceive to be your destiny. You cannot presume to know what I want, or what Doctor Russell wants, or Alan Carter, Paul Morrow, David Kano, Victor Bergman. You are the master only of your own destiny. I am the master of my own. That one thing, you cannot have." He paused. "Now, let's allow these people to get back to work, to go help the injured, assess damage to our community, to communicate with our duty units, and let us begin to prepare your ship."

(To be continued...)