Lost Colony Ch. 14-4

Bhatt raised his eyes sharply when Sparr mentioned the murder attempts, while Li gaped in astonishment. But it was his one-time lover who provided the most telling reaction. As soon as Sparr yielded, Calista’s face lit up in smug satisfaction. She was obviously less worried about being labeled a murderer than whether or not she could collect her payday from K2 Mineral.

Fowler was no less surprised than the others. “Any conditions?”

“I have two,” Sparr said. He pointed toward where his gene sequencer had been placed on the table. “The first is that I am allowed to send my own, much smaller, DNA package. The second is that we do this now.”

Calista was already leaping forward. “Oh no,” she said. “No, I already submitted my claim. You’re not jumping in front of me!”

“Chill,” Sparr said. He shook his head. “Li already explained that your data is in the queue. I only ask that my data be sent immediately after.”

“Any problem with that, Charlotte?” Fowler asked.

Li tapped on her data pad. “No,” she said. “I was waiting for the latest map updates to go through, but they just wrapped up. We can send Ms. Brandt’s packet next.” She turned to Sparr. “You said your packet is smaller?”

“Considerably so, yes. At most two hundred species.”

“Two hundred?” Calista snorted.

“Well, I might have been able to collect more if I hadn’t been dumped into space without a sequencer.”

“Let’s stay on track,” Fowler cautioned.

“Okay,” Li said softly. She was still working on her pad. “Ms. Brandt’s data are being sent now. I’ve paused other traffic so the transmission will complete as quickly as possible. I’ll also need Mr. Sparr’s data.”

With the security specialist watching him closely, Sparr attached the sequencer to the camp’s network and uploaded the DNA data first to his account, then to the queue for subspace transmission.

“I see it,” Li confirmed. She touched her tablet again. “Timestamps are set. Your data will transmit following Ms. Brandt’s.”

“I don’t get it.” Melissa Carpenter, the chief of anthropology, had been standing back, but now addressed Sparr. “You say that you weren’t the one who set off the false alarm, that Calista and Kevin did, and that they also tried to kill you.”

“They did,” Sparr said.

“Then why let their claim go through first? Why not fight it?”

“Because he’s lying,” Calista said, her smug expression plain.

“Earth needs the DNA to explore new cures and crops,” Sparr continued. “If I fight it, how long will it be tied up in the courts? Plus,” he said, “hers isn’t a legal claim.”

“It’s been a year,” Calista said with an exaggerated sigh. “The contract is non-exclusionary now.”

“It hasn’t been a year.” It was Sparr’s turn to allow a touch of smugness to enter his voice. “It’s only been three hundred and sixty-seven Kaybe days.”

“Did you go native for so long that you’ve forgotten that a year is only three hundred and sixty-five days?”

“On Earth, yes, but Kaybe days are shorter by twelve minutes. You keep forgetting that.”

Calista just stared at him, but Bhatt punched the numbers into his data pad. “Mr. Sparr is correct. On Earth only three hundred and sixty-four days have passed since we arrived. Your employer, no doubt, is wondering why you sent your claim early.”

“But you said it’s been a year already!” The blonde was starting to get agitated, her earlier smugness melting away.

“I said no such thing,” Bhatt replied indignantly. “In any event, you were the one who submitted your data without consulting Legal.”

Sparr couldn’t help but smile. “Don’t get too worked up about it, Calista. You probably didn’t send back a single piece of alien DNA anyway.”

“That packet contained tens of thousands!”

“Of Earth DNA. Cali, did you even bother to analyze the data you were gathering? Insects, birds, mammals, amphibians, bacteria… didn’t you ever wonder why the animals here are all so much like life on Earth? They’re from Earth!”

With those in the room looking on with disbelieving expressions, Sparr related what Brielle had explained to him less than one week earlier.

***

“I don’t know for how many millions of years the Originals have been around, but it’s been longer than life on Earth. They aren’t even native to Kaybe, but they’ve lived here long enough to have evolved and adapted to the planet. Their home is in the ice, which is why neither we nor the original colonists spotted them at first.”

Melissa Carpenter spoke up. Like the others, her face was a mask of astonishment. “You’ve made contact with a sentient alien species?”

“Sort of.” Sparr explained that the Original’s language was impossible for adults, and how he had relied on Brielle as a translator. He resumed.

“But their planet is changing. Like Earth, Kaybe goes through warming and cooling cycles. It has been warming for millions of years, creating an ever-expanding temperate zone. When that began to happen they looked to Earth for plants and animals to fill the gap.”

“They’ve been to Earth?” Fowler asked. Despite an overabundance of theories, it had never been proven that aliens had visited Earth.

“At least twice. Once either during routine exploration or looking for a new home. The second time to bring back species for Kaybe.”

The room went silent, those present either disbelieving or so overwhelmed with Sparr’s revelations that they were left speechless. He remembered the feeling well.

“So the animals we’ve seen here are really Earth species?” Melissa Carpenter was the first to break the silence.

“Yes,” Sparr said. “There are no doubt more than a handful of new subspecies, and perhaps entire new species, but for the most part you’re seeing plants and animals not too different from those on Earth, at least the ones that aren’t extinct.”

“But why?” Carpenter continued. Sparr had no idea what she and Fowler had been discussing when he broke in on them, but it was long forgotten. “Why would the Originals bring species from Earth? Why not just wait for evolution to work its course here on Kaybe?”

“They knew we’d come. The Originals looked at Earth primates and figured it out. They knew intelligent life would emerge on Earth, and that at some point we’d explore space. Leaving another habitable planet was their way of paying it forward.”

“This is all such bullshit,” Calista cut in. “There aren’t any aliens here. Anyway, how would you know? You cataloged what, just two hundred species?”

“Oh Cali,” Sparr said, shaking his head. “You don’t realize how close you were. Here.”

With permission from Fowler, Sparr connected the room’s screen to the powerful DNA analysis software back on his lab aboard the Odysseus.

“You’re right, Cali, I only cataloged around two hundred species. Here’s one I cataloged on the eastern continent. I’m guessing you did the same.” The screen displayed the familiar double helix of DNA alongside an image of a chicken. “The Kaybe version is adapted for the color of foliage, and the habits of certain predators, but it’s a chicken.”

“They’re just similar,” Calista grumbled.

“Yes, but when you were there on the ice, you were so close to this.” This time Sparr pulled up one of the sequences taken from the Museum.” His portable sequencer could only collect data. The much more sophisticated software package in his lab would dive into the structure. He watched the display with fierce interest as the system visualized the DNA. It was a marvel, still a double helix, but packed with more bases, and containing many more base pairs. It would take years of study to understand, but the alien DNA was considerably more complex than that on Earth.

“And that’s just one segmented worm embedded in ice,” Sparr said. He was practically giddy with the discovery. “Oh hey Calista, speaking of ice, how did you get here from the southern ice before I did?”

“We have shuttles, remember? Unlike you I can just call for a ride.”

Sparr said nothing. He just grinned at Calista, wondering how quickly she would realize her gaffe.

Fowler caught it first. “Wait, you two were together before we sent that shuttle?” His eyes bored into Calista.

“Huh? Oh.” Calista suddenly went stiff. “No, I mean, I was surveying there, but I didn’t see Mr. Sparr.”

Sparr snorted. “Let me guess,” he said, “you told them the sub went haywire, or sank or something?”

Calista shot Fowler a nervous glance before turning to Sparr. “It had a control malfunction,” she said.

“Your sub is in a mangrove habitat northwest of here,” Sparr said. “There’s no malfunction.”

“And how do you know that?” Fowler asked.

“Because I stole it.”

If the confession surprised Fowler, he didn’t let it show. He addressed Calista. “It sure sounds like you two ran into each other. Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

Calista hesitated, trying the lie on for size before she released it into the wild. “I didn’t see him,” she insisted, “but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised he’s behind the Sea Otter’s disappearance.”

“And what about you, Mr. Sparr?” Bhatt seemed more intrigued by the theft of the sub than he had been by the discovery of alien life. “You say you stole the sub. Why didn’t you call for help once you were on board?”

“I’ve been attacked by drones several times already, including less than one week ago when I liberated the sub from Calista. I had no intention of giving away my position.” Sparr turned his attention to Captain Fowler. “Captain, do you have someone you trust, someone besides Kevin Happner, who can review drone logs?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll give you dates and places,” Sparr said. “I suspect you’ll find either that military drones were used, or that logs have been deleted. Oh, and I bet there are at least two military drones that are unaccounted for.”

Bhatt nodded somberly. “You’ve made some serious accusations, Mr. Sparr. If you’re correct the entire crew will have to rethink what we’ve been told about you.”

Bhatt conferred with Fowler, but Carpenter had more questions. “There’s something I don’t understand, Mr. Sparr. Everything we’ve seen suggests that the colonists at some point gave up on their technology, fled the cities, and regressed to an agrarian economy. While what you’ve said about alien life and Earth species is astounding, it doesn’t seem to explain the actions of the colonists.”

Sparr sagged with fatigue. The bruises Kevin had given him were starting to make themselves felt, tender patches beneath the evacuation suit. His adrenaline, which had peaked while sneaking into the camp and during the fight, now subsided. Sparr had focused so much of his energy for so long to reach the camp, but he still couldn’t exhale.

“The colonists got set up and started drilling for minerals. They needed the materials to fabricate homes, farming equipment, vehicles, and tools. But life on Kaybe is ancient. In addition to the Originals, which they had missed entirely, there are still traces of life from previous ages. Mine deep enough, in the wrong places, and you’ll find ancient microorganisms.”

Carpenter nodded cautiously. “So they dug up a plague?”

“Not at first. The Originals knew the risk and tried to warn the colonists by setting off something like an electromagnetic pulse. The strike disrupted the colonists by scrambling their computers, but instead of slowing down, the colonists plunged ahead. They rebuilt their systems and also began minting the tokens now in use as currency. The tokens are capable of surviving an EMP, and were seen as a precaution in case another strike hit them.”

“So the second time was the charm?”

“Yes,” Sparr sighed. “Eventually they hit a mineral pocket containing traces of the plague. It ravaged their population. I suspect the EMP had already planted suspicions between different colonist factions. When the plague hit, their society fractured. The cities were gutted and abandoned. The only written language was stored on computers; they had no printed books or even paper. Writing was probably lost within a generation.”

Carpenter swore. “Those poor bastards,” she muttered.

Sparr sought out Fowler. “Captain, I don’t know how much mining has been authorized, but it has to be shut down. The entire crew, not to mention the surviving colonists, are at risk. Everyone.”

The captain, despite having enjoyed a full night’s sleep, already looked tired. He let out a long sigh then spoke into his implant, ordering several more Alliance officers to join them. He rubbed at his eyes.

“Sparr, there’s a lot of evidence that you’ve gone rogue here, for whatever reason. It isn’t just the footage from the false alarm. We have stills of you destroying at least one drone, and you’ve outright confessed to hijacking that sub.”

Sparr said nothing. He was beyond arguing, and in any event, was sure that whatever lies Calista and Kevin had woven would fall apart under scrutiny.

Fowler continued. “But you’ve raised enough doubt here to merit further consideration. You’re not under arrest, but you’ll be confined and observed. Any attempt to leave the camp will be seen as a sign of your guilt. Now, go get some sleep. You look like hell.”

“Captain Fowler!” Calista yelped in protest. She had become increasingly distraught, watching first as Sparr revealed that her claim wouldn’t hold up, and then as he chipped away at the accusations against him.

Fowler cut her off with a glance. “He isn’t going anywhere, Ms. Brandt. And for that matter, neither are you or Mr. Happner. We’ll sort this all out, but for now the three of you will remain in the camp. Just try not to kill each other.”

Escorted by a security specialist, Sparr allowed himself to be led from the command center into the warm light of a Kaybe morning. He drew in, then released, a deep breath. The threats against him were slipping away, weakening. Not only had he finally reached the safety of the Odysseus compound, Calista and Kevin were no longer a danger to him. They might never be charged with their crimes, but neither would they profit from them. And they would no longer dare to attack him.

He could rest.

***

“Lie still, Mr. Sparr! Your therapy isn’t complete.”

Sparr lay on his back in the camp’s clinic, half naked and impatient. After four days of being partially wrapped in scar treatment bandages he had watched with a blend of curiosity and relief as Tracee had peeled them away. Beneath, the skin of his right shoulder emerged smooth and pink.

“Your recovery is coming along nicely.” For her part, Tracee had forsaken the Alliance standard anti-microbial lab suit in favor of an outfit which might have taken its inspiration from an erotic holo-vid. A pair of tight shorts showcased her round ass and compact but shapely legs. Tracee’s plain white blouse might almost have passed as a professional garment, except she had unbuttoned it halfway down and clearly wasn’t wearing a bra. Sparr kept getting distracted by glimpses of inviting female flesh.

“So am I cleared to return to duty?”

“Mmm, no. Not. Quite. Yet.” With contrived clinical detachment Tracee opened the disposable exam gown. “We have to check all of your… oh.” She brushed her fingers lightly along his penis. “I remember this guy.”

“‘This guy’?” Sparr chuckled. “Is that a medical term?”

Tracee’s cybernetic lenses were designed to mimic the appearance of natural eyes by widening in surprise, narrowing in harsh light, and looking from side to side when reading. They now helped her simulate mild offense. “How about you be the patient and I be in charge of your care?”

“Are you also in charge of locking the door?” Sparr had known the moment he saw Tracee’s revealing outfit that she had a repeat session in mind.

“Yes. Observers are strictly forbidden.” Tracee stroked him again, watching as his organ began to swell. She had arrived at the camp one week after he had, courtesy of a ship from the Portal, herself relatively healthy given her months in captivity. “Alain junior seems to have come through your adventure unscathed.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be checking my scars?” Sparr let his hand wander to Tracee’s leg, exploring the soft skin at the top of her thigh.

“Yeah yeah, those are fine,” Tracee said dismissively. “And so is this.” She lifted his organ, gave it a squeeze, then popped it into her mouth.

Sparr groaned, soaking up the pleasure of Tracee’s soft lips on his organ. “Yeah, that’s good.”

“Tell me,” Tracee said, pulling her mouth free, “did you have any other sexual adventures since last we met?”

“Mmm, I might have.” When Tracee and he had been briefly reunited a month earlier Sparr had described his adventures, including those with some of Kaybe’s more sexually inclined women.

“Yeah?” Tracee said, seemingly unbothered by the admission. “Tell me.” Her tongue found his balls.

“Mmmh. Well, the tribe that rescued me-“

“The tribe of hot Asian huntresses?” Tracee broke in.

“Hooo,” Sparr gasped. Tracee was performing skilled work on his sack, her tongue teasing and circling his balls while short brown hair tickled his thighs. “Yeah, them. They wanted me to put on some kind of show for their leader.”

“Let me guess.” She began to lick up his shaft, her small tongue sliding from the base toward the tip. “You had to satisfy the leader of the tribe before she’d let you pass.”

“It was more like I had to please one of her hunters.”

“Well that’s stupid,” Trace muttered. “When I become the leader of a hot female gang the men we capture will have to satisfy me, not my crew.” She had worked her way to the head of Sparr’s shaft and was exploring it.

“Why don’t we work on that now?” Sparr suggested with a groan.

“Yes, let’s.” Abandoning her oral play, Tracee stood and quickly finished unbuttoning her top.

Sparr allowed himself a smile. A session with Tracee, one of the most sexually playful women he had ever met, would go a long way toward relaxing him and restoring normalcy. After several days in the Odysseus camp he drew fewer stares but just as many questions. He was ready for some alone time with someone who already knew his story.

Tracee’s top slipped away, revealing a figure just as sweet as the first time they had shared a bed back on Earth. Her body was slim, practically girlish, but she moved with a woman’s confidence and hunger as she wriggled out of the minimalist shorts. She vaulted on top of him.

“Captive,” Tracee said, affecting a husky tone, “you will please me or suffer the consequences.”

“Are the consequences that I won’t get extra froot snacks tonight?”

“Just try and play along.”

“Yes, mighty huntress,” Sparr said, chuckling. “This humble captive is at your mercy.”

“‘Mighty huntress’. I like it. You should call me that for the rest of the mission.”

“Now who’s out of character?” Sparr wriggled his hips against Tracee, hoping she would get the message.

“Silence, foreigner!” Tracee pressed back against him, carefully aligning her damp center with his cock. “You will speak only when I… mmm,” Tracee said, faltering as the head of Sparr’s cock entered her.

“Yes, huntress.” Sparr held himself still as Tracee carefully pushed down.

“Unh,” Tracee groaned. Her eyes had narrowed to slivers. “You foreigners are a big lot.”

As Tracee gently worked herself onto him, Sparr let his hands roam over her slim body. He stroked her thighs, then slid his fingers over her taut torso. When he reached her breasts he cupped and tugged at them, teasing her nipples. His partner remained quiet, still concentrating on taking more cock, but she trembled at his touch.

For a long moment neither spoke. Tracee took her time, pushing herself against him in a hundred small movements. Once she had taken his full length, she began to grind and twist, pressing his hard flesh against her slick insides. Gradually, as their bodies came to share an understanding, she picked up a rhythm.

“I might change my mind, captive,” Tracee said, back to affecting the husky huntress voice she had settled upon. “I might not let you go after all.”

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