Published by Celestial Recursion, a -30- Press Imprint

Copyright, 2022 © Kristopher J. Patten, C.J Manor , Ashley Franz Holzmann, V.R. Walker

All Rights Reserved

Galaton sat at the head of a large mess table that Rad had dragged from the galley. She smiled at the meeting space they had scrounged from other parts of the ship; the galley table, chairs from various terminals around the ship that weren’t in use, the Crew Chief even pulled a pane of reinforced viewport material from the spare shuttle parts bay and mounted it on some mobile IV drip carts from the infirmary to use as a moveable writing surface.


The meeting space had been designed with comfortable chairs arrayed around the room—a perfect set up for CogNet-enhanced meetings where every participant would have relevant information sent directly to their visual stream. The inability to engage a local CogNet, at least for the time being, had made the space less than useful. So they got creative.


Galaton had just informed the group—those who weren’t on the observation bridge to overhear the conversation with One-Twelve and One-Seven, or the subsequent report from Ladipo—of Gilgamesh, Ishtar, and fifteen years they had lost in the blink of an eye.


The table was quiet. Confused. Scared.


“Do we know how this could have happened? Is it,” DuPont paused, embarrassed to finish his thought, “time travel or something? Is the anomaly a wormhole that also transports you through time?”


Galaton looked to Meli.


Meli shook his head.


Galaton continued to stare at him.


“I don’t have much of an answer,” Meli sighed, standing to address the group. “But, no, it’s not time travel. The Gilgamesh and the Ishtar—”


DuPont raised his index finger as he spoke up. “I believe it’s just Gilgamesh and Ishtar. No ‘the’.”


“OK, great. Thanks, DuPont,” Meli said as he exhaled. “Anyway, Gilgamesh and Ishtar weren’t delayed. They’ve been there for years. Enough time has passed that the very few survivors and other settlers have been able to build at least one colony, Homestead, and establish a presence on a few larger asteroids. So, it’s not passing through the anomaly that caused this.


“I’ve been talking this over with K—” Meli cleared his throat and took a drink of water. “The other Technician who was supposed to go back through the anomaly with the sensor data. By the way—update on that—we sent the pod back but elected to keep the Technician on board to be monitored by Bio-Corps. Anyway, we think our time issue has something to do with the full stop we made while we were in the anomaly.”


“You mean,” Rad said, “when this mission was sabotaged.”


Meli shrugged. “Sure. I mean, that’s your thing. I’m just concerned with where we’re at.”


Rad huffed and sat back in his chair with his arms crossed. In that moment, he reminded Meli of a bull preparing to charge and Meli fought to keep his smile to himself. He didn’t want to end up an unwitting and untrained matador.


“Gilgamesh is huge,” Meli continued, rising from his seat and walking over to the viewport where he poorly drew scale versions of Stargazer and Gilgamesh. “Way bigger than we are. It is literally the size of a city. The amount of time we spent in the anomaly, even though we stopped, had to have been less than the time it took Gilgamesh to come through. Especially considering it was likely traveling at a snail’s pace because the maneuvering jets would have a hell of a time moving that hulk around.


“And, yet, it doesn’t seem like they were delayed at all,” Meli continued. “One-Twelve told us the other side—Cygnus Arm—received the sensor data as expected. So what gives?”


Meli held his hands out in front of him, as if distancing himself from his next statement. “Maybe it has something to do with what we saw going in; nothingness. Not even really darkness or blackness like space but an absence of matter and energy. The wall of nothingness passed through the ship and then we were inside. The whole ship.

“For a second, I thought we were being vaporized into quarks. And then I’m still on the ship in a dark expanse. That’s when Arley stopped us; the whole ship was in that nothingness. I think it was that strange confluence of stopping at the exact moment the entire ship was inside the anomaly that caused us to slow down significantly.”


Ladipo raised his hand. “Are you saying the anomaly knew when Stargazer was in there?”


“Yeah,” Meli waggled his hand. “Sort of, but not, like, in a cognitive way. I think it’s an observer effect.” Meli looked around the room, expecting to see nods of agreement.


The sea of faces was mostly blank.


“Is anyone following me?”


Yazzie shook her head.


“Ok. Uh.” Meli began drawing boxes and hash marks on the viewport. “If you allow a single photon into a box and you watch where it goes, it will move around the box like a particle and splat onto some photo-reactive substance on the walls. If you do the same thing and don’t watch it, you end up with a pattern on the walls that shows the photon was behaving like a wave. So you have one thing, a photon, that acts differently when someone is observing it or not. It’s a particle when you look; it’s a wave when you don’t.”


“Observing it causes the uncertain wave probability to collapse into a single point,” Rad said.


“Yeah. Wow. I didn’t expect— Good,” Meli nodded. “So, the fact that all the observers on Stargazer collectively understood Stargazer was inside the anomaly may be what caused us to experience the whole ship as being inside the anomaly.”


“But that doesn’t explain the fifteen years, Jankowicz,” Galaton said.


“No. That’s actually a different thing. Where, uh, two twins are traveling at different speeds and they see different things, or…,” Meli trailed off. “I think we might have to pipe in PRIME’s Technician for this one.”


“Just page him to come down to the meeting room, Jankowicz,” Galaton said. “We have nothing but time while we wait to get to Homestead I.”


“We can’t,” Yazzie said quickly. “He sustained a few sprains when he fell unconscious and he’s still connected to the HEAL-R.”


“Very well,” Galaton motioned for Meli to continue.


Bonn, in the infirmary with It.0, answered the call.


“Can you move this conversation to a terminal where the Technician can hear it, Bonn?” Meli asked.


“He’s right here, Meli. Sorry, Technician Jankowicz,” Bonn corrected quickly.


“Technician,” Meli said, ignoring Bonn’s flub, “can you describe for the captain and the ship’s chiefs how you think we ended up fifteen years behind everyone else? There’s a question of time travel.”


“It is certainly not time travel, Technician Meli Jankowicz. I believe what happened was merely time dilation, a phenomenon that is quite common in the Cygnus Arm. And, indeed, in all observed areas of the known universe. The speed at which a particle, person, or ship travels is directly related to how that object experiences time. This was first hypothesized and tested in small scale in the 20th century but, as human ability to travel into deeper space continued to evolve, it was confirmed in large scale. In fact, Captain Galaton has probably experienced this herself, as she used to serve aboard jump gate haulers in various roles.”


Galaton nodded. “Yes. That’s true. Those jump gate ships, they’re lonely vessels. There’s a crew, sure. But everyone on there has taken the job because they don’t have anyone waiting for them. You don’t sign up for a five-year journey lightly, especially when five years for you is something like ten for everyone else because of relativity. If you have a child, you can end up younger than them. A spouse can be as old as a parent. You could watch them all die of natural causes if you ship out enough times.”


She snorted out a single, sad laugh. “People think the Navigators of jump gate haulers wear the leather jackets to look vintage. That’s partially true, but it signifies being out of time, always and forever out of sync with everyone else. Anyway, Technician, yes; I am familiar.”


“I have always been fond of those jackets, myself,” It.0 said.


Meli caught Yazzie’s eye at that comment.

Did PRIME just express nostalgia? Or was that Kazumi’s memory? Meli tried to say with his slightly raised eyebrow.


“The jump gate haulers always came back younger,” It.0 continued, “because they experienced the effects of acceleration for long periods of time. That means, in our case, we experienced a prolonged period of acceleration. Perhaps the anomaly provides a reprieve from the constant movement of the Milky Way galaxy or the universal expansion but has its own movement, which is greater than those forces. We wouldn’t feel it because we have inertia. The collapse of the uncertainty about our location allowed us to gain the inertia of the anomaly without feeling it.”


Murmurs among the crew.

“Thank you for that explanation, Technician” Galaton said. “Now that we have an understanding of our situation, we need to be ready for the rest of the mission and what it means now that we’re not alone on this side of the anomaly–”

The conversation moved to planning for what they might find on Homestead I. Meli was glad to be out of the spotlight.


After an hour of deliberation, the meeting was adjourned. Meli hurried to the door when Galaton called to him.


“Jankowicz, a moment, please?”


“Yes, Captain?” Meli said, stepping to the threshold of the door where he could see Rad had not moved from his chair.


“Don’t you think the Technician in the Med Bay sounded an awful lot like PRIME, Defender Rad?” Galaton asked.


“I haven’t had the pleasure of speaking to PRIME much, Captain. But it did sound familiar from some of my briefings.”


“Why do you think that is, Technician Jankowicz?” Galaton asked, leaning back in her chair.


“I wouldn’t know, Captain.”


“The CogNet is inactive, so it can’t be PRIME.” Galaton theatrically stroked her chin.


“That’s correct,” Meli said, drumming his fingers on the door frame. “If that’s all, I’ll—”


“Could it be there’s a communication channel open to the Cygnus Arm?” Galaton asked.


“No. Unfortunately not, Captain. We are on our own,” Meli said.


Galaton stood.


“Technician Jankowicz, I think you’re hiding something. But, tech-nically,” Galaton emphasized the ‘tech’ syllable, “a Tech-nician doesn’t fall under my chain of command. Sure, an Engineer does. And, when you’re performing your duties as Chief Engineer, I’m your commanding officer. But, when you’re acting as a Technician, PRIME is your only commanding officer. PRIME isn’t here. So, I assume that makes us equals.


“Which means I can’t question what’s going on with that PRIME sound-alike. But I have a good nose, Jankowicz, and I smell something strange.”


Meli took a deep breath.


Galaton stepped closer to him. “Just do me the professional courtesy of telling me the truth before we walk into an already complex situation voluntarily blindfolded. Are you putting us in danger? Or, are you keeping anything from me that could keep us out of danger?”


Meli could see Rad glaring at him from his chair, red shoulders of his armor gleaming in the bright lights. The bull and matador metaphor wasn’t so funny now.


“Captain, I assure you, I don’t know anything at all that could help us. If we’re in danger, it’s not because of something I know. That Technician is not PRIME. But he could be an asset.”


“I believe you, Technician. Dismissed,” Galaton said. Then she smiled. “Not that you need my permission.”




The Stargazer crew crowded around the viewports on multiple levels to watch Homestead I come into view. They had been briefed by their division chiefs earlier about their situation: loss of time, humans in the anomaly, towed from a quarantine zone to meet with the new government.


The sense of fear and confusion that had settled over the chiefs didn’t take hold over the crew. The explanations Meli and It.0 had given the group alleviated the crew’s fear of the unknown, even if they didn’t completely understand the finer points.


Homestead I was a space station, though—unlike Gilgamesh—it wasn’t the size of a city. It was also not an enclosed, metallic behemoth. Homestead I was a simple, smooth ring gleaming in space. Skimmers and other small craft jetted around the surface, the quick movements of human life standing in sharp contrast to the dead, lazy tumbling of Gilgamesh.


Homestead I’s outer surface was metal, like Gilgamesh, but the inner surface was a patchwork of viewports, through which the crew could see greenery. It was a fairly simple variation on a von Braun Wheel or Stanford Taurus, not unlike the designs built by NoEtic Industries for the Ceres and Sirius stations. In such a configuration, the rotation of the habitat provided artificial gravity that used almost no power to generate, unlike the gravity projection systems on Stargazer. This, coupled with the greenhouse level at the top of the ring, provided fairly familiar accommodations for humans, plants, and animals.

“Stargazer, you are free from tether,” One-Twelve radioed to DuPont.


“Copy that, One-Twelve. Thanks to you and One-Seven for a smooth ride.”


“It was an honor,” One-Seven said. “We hope to meet you all on Homestead.”


Galaton walked down the main egress ramp from Stargazer at the head of her chiefs, who had formed into a semi-formal triangular pattern, corps sigils glowing proudly on their chests. They were greeted at the end of the ramp by a lone man. “Welcome to Homestead, I’m Chairman Leon Aquitaine.”

Aquitaine wore a fairly simple brown suit with a noticeable, though well-sewn patch on his left elbow. He was a tall man, almost as tall as Rad, though he was thin and graying. He wore a khaki sash as his only formal regalia, with two green stripes astride a four-pointed star. Galaton hadn’t seen the symbol before.

“You must be Captain Galaton!” Aquitaine said, taking her hand in a ferocious shake. “What an absolute unexpected pleasure it is to meet you.” He gestured to the crew behind her. “And the rest of the Astraeus Initiative. My God! We thought you were lost.”

“It’s great to meet you, too, Chairman Aquitaine,” Galaton said, smiling at Aquitaine’s infectious good nature but glad to retrieve her hand in one piece. “We’re grateful you pulled us out of the quarantine zone but, even though it’s been fifteen years for you, we’ve just barely begun our journey. We’ll be happy to give you a full account of our mission thus far, but we still have standing objectives from CASC”

Aquitaine’s smile faltered.

“Is there a problem, Chairman?” Galaton asked.

“We,” Aquitaine said, wringing his hands together, “are not able to travel back to the Cygnus Arm. Traveling through what you refer to as the anomaly requires a local CogNet to perfectly align a ship. The quarantine zone doesn’t allow for that. There is, essentially, no communication with CASC, PRIME, or the Humanity Council. We’re self-sufficient and self-governing here.”

“Yes, Chairman, I read the briefing,” Galaton said, smiling.

“Which means, I’m afraid,” Aquitaine closed his eyes as he spoke, “ we can’t allow your mission and objectives to take precedence over Homestead law, rudimentary as it is”

“Are we in violation of any law?” Rad asked, taking a heavy step forward.

Galaton held up a hand and Rad returned to a resting posture.

“That will be decided.” Aquitaine stepped closer to Galaton and lowered his voice.

“I’m sorry, Captain. My desire was to interview your crew and send you on your way with fresh supplies. Some of my fellows in government wanted to integrate you with our operations. However, what prevailed was neither; a legal inquiry was set in motion as soon as word spread that the Stargazer had been found.”

“By whom? And why?” Galaton asked.

“A governance council member who is the governor of the asteroid colony Bright Star and who was on the Humanity Council in the Cygnus Arm when your mission began. Marko Klaidçiri—”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Meli muttered under his breath less quietly than he anticipated.

Galaton glared at Meli.

“Yes, that’s usually my response to his requests, as well, Voidager,” Aquitaine said with a barely restrained chuckle and slight smile. “He claims that he’s the highest-ranking member of the CASC government in the Void and, as such, has the legal right to impound and study your ship.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Galaton said. “We were given our order directly from PRIME and the Humanity Council, including Siddiqah Nólan, who outranked Klaidçiri.”

Galaton snapped her fingers. “And the one with the foul mouth over there,” she pointed at Meli, “is a Technician who worked directly with PRIME. Certainly he outranks a single member of the Humanity Council, especially when you are operating an entire government divorced from the Council.”

“Yes,” Aquitaine nodded. “Yes, I agree with you. I do. But Klaidçiri is a master at, well, to put it frankly, whipping up bullshit. Are you familiar with the Recursionists?”

“Yes. We have several Recursionists among the crew. I know that they are relatively uncommon in the Cygnus Arm because their religious beliefs stand opposed to donating cognitive resources to the CogNet but, because CASC knew we could not depend on PRIME’s signal to reach into the anomaly, many of the initiative recruits came from the Recursionist settlements. My Navigator Chief, in particular, is quite devout.”

“Indeed,” Aquitaine agreed. “I’m not a Recursionist myself, but I do appreciate some of their philosophy. I find their conception of what it means to be human quite beautiful, though I still see the necessity for the CogNet and for AI in general.”

“I’m not sure I follow, Chairman” said Galaton.

“Most of us—Recursionists included—are very excited to see your return. You were a great mystery and an inspiration for many. A group of humans rejecting our virtual caves and coming out into the natural light again. I could go on, but…” Aquitaine trailed off.

“Anyhow,” he continued, “there is a splinter sect of Recursionists here who call themselves The Navarcs. Recursionists in general believe that the universe is eternal, in an endless cycle of death and rebirth. The Navarcs believe these cycles are directed by a deity of some kind and that it is their sacred duty to help bring the next recursion.”

“Bull,” Rad snorted. “Why do we care what a bunch of cultists think?”

“Defender Rad,” Galaton whispered, annunciating each syllable like an assassin’s blade.

She turned to Aquitaine. “Sorry, Chairman. Continue.”

“Right, ehm, to put it bluntly. The Navarcs believe that the anomaly is the gate to this deity and that your disappearance was divinely appointed to lead them to the ‘true path’. Klaidçiri was able to mobilize some Navarc voters and council members to stop your mission.”

“But why, Chairman?” DuPont asked. “Perhaps if I were to talk with them, as a fellow Recursionist, we could reach an agreement.”

Aquitaine waved the suggestion off. “That’s not a good idea. They’re wary of what they call doppelgangers. They have been for years. Your arrival,” he shook his head, “well, they think your showing up here could be a divine warning. They think you’re not the original Voidagers, but copies. Um, I suppose demonic copies who stand opposed to their desire to advance the rebirth cycle.”

“That makes no sense!” DuPont yelled. “Recursionists don’t even believe in demons or spirits; in fact, I thought no one did anymore. There’s nothing in the Recursionist texts that would sustain this belief.”

“Navigator, I know. I’ve heard the arguments time and again. They fill our radio broadcasts if you tune to those stations. I’m sure that there is something I don’t understand in their motivation—in Klaidçiri’s motivation because he does not live his life as a Navarc—but, for the time being, they are able to tie up your ship.”

“That’s insanity!” DuPont said.

“It is. Regardless. Our government relies on the will of the people and enough people have called for legal proceedings. I’m sorry,” Aquitaine spread his hands, as if to symbolically show he had no options.

“All Voidagers are welcome to live on Homestead I for the time being,” Aquitaine continued. “I’m the governor of the habitat and I’ve passed an emergency authorization. There are quarters for everyone. However, you are not permitted to board Stargazer or to leave this station.”

Rad stretched his arms and stepped forward again. “I feel like that won’t be happening.”

“Rad, no,” Galaton said. “Stand down. Let this play out.”

She turned back to Aquitaine. “Where can some of my crew and I learn about Homestead’s legal system? I’d like to provide myself the best defense possible.”

“I’ll be your legal counsel, Captain,” Aquitaine said. “I was a lawyer before I was a politician. Hell, I even made some of the laws on our books. My goal is to get you back on track. A loss in this case would also cause Klaidçiri to lose some political clout and that would be just fine by me.

“Everything here is… different without the aid of PRIME or even local CogNets. We’re having to rediscover and reformulate much of how we do things. My colleagues and I will do our best to make sure you are taught everything you need to know.”

“But,” Aquitaine wringed his hands again, “there is one final issue. And this is a health issue, not something Klaidçiri or the Navarcs are pushing: one of your crew entered the quarantine zone far enough that we have to take more extreme precautions.”

“Ladipo. My archaeologist.”

“I’m afraid so. Mr. Ladipo?” Aquitaine asked, running his eyes over the assembled crew, waiting for someone to acknowledge they were being spoken to.

Ladipo strode forward after a pause.

“You’ll have to quarantine in a self-contained apartment pod in orbit around Homestead I for 40 days. Then you will be free to rejoin your crewmates.”

Ladipo nodded. “I understand, Sir.” He fiddled with the tablet he held in his hand “But, if I may, the objective in this exercise is for me to be away from all others for 40 days. Correct?”

“That’s correct,” Aquitaine agreed.

“Would it be acceptable if I spent my quarantine on the asteroids around Homestead I? I noticed some interesting debris as Stargazer came in.”

Aquitaine considered this for a long moment. “I’ll allow it. They’re technically part of the Homestead I colony. But I’m a little bit of an armchair archaeologist. My condition for granting this is that I get to have you show me everything you find. Perhaps some artifacts from survivors of the Welcoming Committee.”

“I can do that,” Ladipo agreed.

“Captain,” Meli called, waving for Galaton to come closer.

She approached with a grim set to her face but a slight gleam in her eye. “Something you’ve been keeping from me going to come in handy about now?”

“I hope so. We do have a person on board who’s a Technician but not technically a Voidager. If the warrant or whatever they’ve got for us stipulates the crew of the Stargazer or members of the Void mission, he might be a technicality.”

“Good,” Galaton said. “Nice.”

Her mouth fell slack by a millimeter. “We actually have two.”

Arley and It.0 stood next to each other in Yazzie’s medical suite. The Chief Clinician stood with her hands clasped behind her back, gray-streaked hair pulled back into a tight bun. Meli was, as usual, a polar opposite to that. His shaggy hair stood uncombed and unruly, making up in height what he lost by slouching against the doorway.

Arley stood vaguely at attention with his hands in his pockets. His gaze, apathetic and bored, was locked across the room to Rad’s, which seethed in anger. Rad flexed his crossed arms, attempting to intimidate Arley.

It.0 mirrored Yazzie’s posture, his proper bearing and Technician uniform reminding Meli of Beldon. He felt a pang of regret at how things had been left between them.

Fifteen years. Surely Beldon is still alive. But we never got that beer.

Bonn had perched herself on Yazzie’s operating table, where she absently dangled one foot. Evelynth, who sat in a chair next to Bonn, had assured Meli that Bonn was a competent surgeon but Meli couldn’t see anything but an adolescent child when he looked at her. He hoped he never had to find out how good she was with a microsurgery.

Ladipo stood in an unoccupied corner of the room, poring over data on his handheld terminal.

Galaton rushed in, making sure the door slid closed quickly behind her.

“They need to be gone within the hour,” she gestured at Arley, “Homestead security will be here to start locking rooms,” Galaton said.

And then she noticed Kazumi.

“My god,” she whispered. “Technician Ito? I thought you were seriously injured.”

“He was,” said Yazzie.

“Clinician Theophania Yazzie is correct; Kazumi Ito’s body sustained life-threatening injuries,” It.0 said. “He was clinically brain dead.”

“What you’re talking to is PRIME,” Meli said, gesturing to It.0. “Or, the amount of PRIME that could be stored in Kazumi’s brain.”

“Indeed,” It.0 continued. “I am comprised of stored knowledge PRIME deemed useful and several subroutines, including one to restore Technician Kazumi Ito’s neural connections to a previous state.”

“You’re trying to bring him back to life,” Galaton said.

“Which is extremely illegal,” Yazzie said. Then she smiled. “Or, it is in the Cygnus Arm. Here, it’s exciting.”

Arley had been assessing It.0 throughout the discussion. He chuckled. “So, you’ve got two criminals as the only people in this entire bunch who won’t be under house arrest.”

“Seems that way,” Galaton said. “Arley, your case is documented in Stargazer’s records, so we’re good if anyone starts asking questions.”

She turned to It.0. “But you… I’m sorry, I don’t know what to call you.”

“My designation is Iteration Zero, or It.0. You may pronounce it ‘Ito’.”

“It.0, you’re not documented on this journey. If Klaidçiri knows about you, he might try to wrap you up in this legal case, too.”

“Klaidçiri definitely knows about Kazumi’s injuries,” Meli said. “Kazumi was overseeing the Agamemnon at PRIME’s request, which Klaidçiri fought until the day Kazumi set foot in that ship. He’ll know something is going on.”

“Alright,” Galaton said, stroking her left eyebrow in thought. “We need to keep you hidden until you’re far from the ship and only the people in this room can know your true identity. Stay near Yazzie, Bonn, or Randrianasolo so they can evaluate your neural status.”

“I will,” It.0 said.

“Rad,” Galaton gestured behind her, “was able to find these communication devices in a shop today. They’re all keyed to the same frequency. If there’s any kind of emergency, use them.”

“Are these personal radios?” Meli scoffed as Rad distributed the small cylinders. “Are we pretending we’re in ancient times?”

Evelynth looked hers over proudly. “It’s vintage. I like it.”


5 Months Later

Arley swung a sickle through a patch of comfrey, relishing the strain on his abdominal muscles as he harvested the mineral-rich companion plant from his planting guild. It could get hot on the surface level of Homestead I but that was alright to Arley; the guild needed warmth to grow. The current guild he was working on consisted of plantings of pumpkin, multi-sprouting purple legumes, comfrey, and a stone fruit tree that would produce 8 different varieties of stone fruit from its branches. All of it was good but Arley had developed an insatiable hunger for corn. He thought of making cornbread for dinner that night.

Maybe a corn souffle?

He spotted someone walking down the rows of crops toward him. Another Voidager?

You’re not a Voidager, he reminded himself.

The community garden in which he worked was tended by a lot of former Stargazer crewmembers and Homestead citizens who supported Aquitaine. Arley liked to work alone but sometimes they’d venture out to get him for large group meals or parties.

But, no. This wasn’t a farmer. The clothes weren’t right. He could see the Bio-Corps sigil glowing on the front of armor that hadn’t been stored and replaced with more practical farming clothes.

“Arley?” The voice was familiar.

“Yazzie?” Arley asked.

“Yes! Arley, I’m glad I found you. I need your help.” Yazzie jogged the last few yards toward Arley.

“Is it Kazumi?” Arley asked.

“No. No one knows about him. A lot of the Bio-Corps have been working throughout Homestead I, bringing medical expertise and medicine to these people,” Yazzie explained.

“I know. I’ve been keeping track of where everyone is. It’s hard to turn off Defender instincts.”

“I sent Bonn out this way to get medicinal herbs to make burn salve for the people in that silo accident. She hasn’t come back.”

“That was two weeks ago. She’s been gone this whole time?” Arley asked.

Yazzie nodded. “Almost. We had supplies left from Stargazer but then she went out. Maybe it’s been a week.”

“Ok. I’ll head out to ask some questions after I clean up,” Arley said.

“It’s worse than that,” Yazzie said. “When I started asking around through the Clinician network, Bonn isn’t the only one who’s gone missing. There are at least ten of the Stargazer crew unaccounted for among the different corps.”

Yazzie bit her dry lips. “I think someone’s hunting us.”