"Alonzo. Where's Julia?" Devon asked noticing the pilot was alone as he came to greet the group.
"She's back at the camp site, she was just waking up when I saw you approach, which is just as well as she thinks you were riding in the Transrover."
"Told you." Danziger muttered from Devon's side before asking Alonzo. "More importantly where's the Dune Rail?"
"There are more important things than the rail." Devon said as she processed Alonzo's words. "Wait, Julia was sleeping? What's wrong with her?"
"Nothing's wrong she just needs the rest."
"But she's ok?" Devon pressed.
"Devon relax. Julia will be fine." Alonzo assured her, although the future tense did not ease Devon's fears.
"Where's Julia?" Morgan asked hurrying over and looking round.
"In the tent at the camp."
"Is she still nuts?" He asked resulting in a chorus of chastising voices saying.
"What? You all want to know." Morgan said.
"She's fine." Alonzo replied.
"Fine, fine." The pilot said irritably.
"So back to normal?" Morgan persisted.
"Thank god! I can finally get these blisters treated." He exclaimed before hurrying towards the solitary tent.
"Morgan." Devon called trying to stop him only for Alonzo to say.
"Let him go."
"But doesn't Julia need to rest?"
"Yes, but right now she needs to feel like part of the group and a doctor."
"Why wouldn't she feel part of the group?" Danziger asked scrunching his eyebrows together.
"Long story." Alonzo replied, not wanting to go into details. Picking up on Alonzo's vibes Danziger said.
"Well we'll have plenty of time to talk after we set up the camp. But Lonz why are we here?"
"Step this way and I'll show you." Alonzo grinned. Shrugging Danziger took hold of True's hand and followed Alonzo and Devon through some trees until they appeared in a warm clearing which was full of what looked like miniature ponds. Approaching the nearest one Danziger said.
"It's bubbling. Should it be steaming? What chemicals are causing that? Why are we standing so close" He added suspiciously.
"Relax Danz, it is just geothermal energy. There are hot springs all over the place." Alonzo said grinning.
"Hot springs?" Devon asked.
"Yep. They are all over the place. There is an amazing spring over there shooting really hot water about thirty metres high. But the best parts are these small pools of water. There are enough thermal jets coming through for it to feel like a Jacuzzi"
"What's a Jacuzzi?" True asked.
"It's like a bath tub, full of hot water and jets." Devon said staring at the tranquil suuroundings.
"You brought us out here for Jacuzzis?" Danziger asked in disbelief.
"It's perfect." Devon said smiling.
"You've complained the whole route that we are behind schedule." The mechanic pointed out.
"The group really needs something like this." Devon continued ignoring John.
"Because we haven't been sitting around doing nothing for days on end." Danziger muttered, resigned to loosing the argument.
"I assume it's safe." Devon said.
"Julia and me are fine." Alonzo smiled.
"Ok then. We should set up camp and then let every one enjoy themselves. John can you organise a guard duty roster so everyone gets some R&R?" Devon asked as she followed Alonzo back to the main group.
"I wonder why I bother sometimes." Danziger muttered. "It is not as if anyone listens to me."
"I listen to you dad." True said.
An hour later the camp site resembled a ghost camp. The tents were all standing, empty. Apart from Baines and Walman, who drew the first guard duty shift, the only other life forms in the camp were Julia and Morgan. Everyone else was enjoying the hot springs.
"Are you sure they are ok. I mean they look kinda infected to me?" Morgan asked again.
"I'm sure." Julia repeated calmly.
"They're not are they. I mean you are being way too nice. It is something serious isn't it? That's why you are being...well not you. Should I get Bess?"
"Morgan." Julia said in a raised voice, finally loosing her patience. "They are blisters. You'll be fine."
"Are you sure?"
"Morgan, you have blisters. You have had them before and will have them again. Your previous experience should have taught you that your feet will recover."
"But-" Morgan started only to be cut off by Devon entering the tent.
"Morgan, can I borrow Julia a minute?"
"I guess. I'll just limp back to my tent." He said leaving.
"Everything ok?" Devon asked once Morgan had gone.
"Just blisters." Julia answered.
"Good. We were getting worried about you."
"I'm fine." Julia said.
"Good. Do you fancy a walk?"
"A walk?" Julia asked. "Well I would, but I have stuff to do."
"Julia, it can wait. I'm not accepting no as an answer." Devon said sternly.
"Fine." Julia said knowing she was not going to win the argument. Standing she followed Devon out of the tent towards the edge of camp. All the while waiting for the lecture she assumed was coming. Finally Devon stopped and turned to look at Julia.
"What?" Julia asked.
"I'm just glad to see you looking relaxed and refreshed. Alonzo clearly has many talents." Devon said, causing Julia to blush.
"So how are you feeling?" The doctor questioned wanting to change the subject.
"I'm fine. It is you I'm worried about."
"There's no need Devon."
"Yes there is and I'm sorry."
"Not noticing how hard you were pushing yourself. Not taking the time to make sure you were ok."
"Devon you were effectively in a coma."
"I meant after that."
"Devon, I'm fine. I just needed some sleep."
"Julia I know you don't want to talk about this and I'm not going to push you. But I want you to listen to me. You are an important member of the group because you are the doctor, but more importantly you are our friend. I'm asking you as a friend to take the same care of yourself as you preach to the rest of us and talk to us, to me."
"Fine." Julia said.
"You are a terrible liar Dr Heller, but for now I'll accept it. But we'll have this conversation again." Devon smiled.
"If you're finished we can talk about you resting." Julia returned.
"Morgan you should really go and try one of the pools." Bess said smiling as she entered their tent where Morgan was sitting on a cot. "They're amazing and relaxing. I would have paid to come here."
"It's a pool of water." Morgan said unable to get in the mood. "You'd really have paid?
"It a hot pool of water with relaxing jets." Bess said still smiling as Morgan suddenly developed a distant look in his eyes. "It is only you not enjoying it. Even Danziger admitted it was refreshing. Morgan honey, what's wrong?" Bess asked noticing her husband was sitting lost in thought.
"Nothing. I was just thinking we were not that far from New Pacifica."
"And everyday we get closer." Bess smiled, glad that Morgan was being more optimistic than normal.
"That's good. And when we get there it will be even quicker to get back thanks to vehicles." Morgan said to himself.
"Why would we need to come back?" Bess asked.
"We are sitting on a gold mine." Morgan said his eyes wide.
"Gold mine? What are you talking about?"
"This place, with it's thermal stuff."
"The springs?" Bess asked.
"Whatever, you said you'd pay. If you would chances are others would. We could seal it off and charge people to come here. It would be a relaxing vacation for them. God knows they'd need it with all the sick children, drooling natives and Terrians." Morgan explained as he started to pace.
"How exactly are you going to seal it off? You know what trouble we caused with the geo-locks." Bess replied, worried about what her husband was planning.
"I will just make a legal claim. I'll fill in some paperwork and neglect to tell anyone and it'll be ours. We will be rich."
"Morgan, for once please try to enjoy this planet without thinking about the profit." Bess said, her mind, however, was already running through some calculations.
As the group slowly dispersed to their tents as night fell, Alonzo saw Julia sitting on a ridge looking away from camp. Picking up a blanket he scurried up to the ridge and dropped the blanket over Julia's shoulders before sitting down next to her. After a few moments of silence he nudged Julia with his arm and asked.
"So, how are you doing?"
"Better." Julia said. "I'm going to miss this place though."
"Well then, we had better make the most of tonight then." The pilot grinned grabbing hold of Julia's hand.
--Voice of John Danziger
As we get ready to leave this, for lack of better words, hidden paradise, there is a feeling of optimism that we are putting our toughest challenges behind us. We will never forget what we have faced and what we have lost. But we could have lost more and for getting through this we are all grateful. In merely surviving we have learnt just how well formed and gelled this group has become. In some ways that is a good sign for the future. But I can't help thinking that recent events have shown us just how vulnerable we are and how dependent on each other we have become. I fear what it will do to this group if we loose anyone else. For now though we can not dwell on our fears instead we do what we always do. Move on towards New Pacifica.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed the story. Thanks to TesubCalle, TheNaggingCube and Joan Powers for the feedback.