“We have to go,” Jill said, and she shared a small chit in her kiss, which gave Ethan a full understanding of the distress call; what there was to be understood. The guardian was Kera Ann Barton, a former secretary in a bank, and she was calling for help from a world where artificial intelligence got an accidental, very early start.
“We have to go,” Ethan said to the others, interrupting their conversation. “It seems some are caught in yet another war.”
“Sir.” DeMarcos stood. At last, this was something he could understand.
“No, just Ethan and I,” Jill tried. “We don’t know exactly what the problem is, but if we need help, we can signal ship to ship and bring in the help we need.”
“Not a chance,” Alexander said with a smile. “We have just been discussing the possibilities and it is important for us to see.
“For our learning,” Ali Pasha interjected.
“Don’t even think about leaving us here while you go off traveling without us,” Lars agreed.
“Besides, I must see with my own eyes,” Ali Pasha added.
Jill and Ethan looked at Manomar. He smiled. “I go where you go.” He spoke calmly, as if that was a given and they had no choice.
“Ethan?” Jill looked up at him, but Ethan shook his head.
“We don’t know what we are facing,” he said. “If it turns out to be nothing, everyone can stay on the ship. I understand the need for trainees to have exposure to other worlds, and no more exposure than necessary, but unless you held something back in your communication chit, I would not mind having the others along, and a unit of trained soldiers besides.”
“You are all hopeless,” Jill said and she returned to her comfortable spot in Ethan’s shoulder. “I only wish Doctor Grimly were here.”
“He is the guardian for your world,” she said. “And he also needs the experience of real time confrontation to understand his job.”
“He is the guardian?” Ethan asked, and he suddenly felt both relieved, foolish, and a little frightened to think that this beautiful creature actually loved him as she said.
“Of course, what did you think?” She looked up at him again.
“I thought.” Ethan’s tongue stumbled. “I didn’t think.” He paused and watched Jill’s perfect blue-gray eyes grow big with understanding.
“Oh.” She breathed as she realized what he must have been thinking. “I never made it clear.” Her own tongue began to cramp. “I’m sorry. You must have felt.” She could not bring her mouth to say the word used, but she honestly understood. He must have thought he was to be the guardian for his world and as far as their relationship went; what could he have thought?
“I didn’t want to lose you,” he said.
“Oh, Ethan. I am so sorry. I have given you everything a native Gaian has, not just guardian chits. I thought you knew that. You have everything but three, my work chit, Lela’s work chit and my personal chit.”
Ethan paused to think. “And when we share our personal chits, we will be really married.” He understood.
“Jill, I am so sorry I doubted you.” He placed his arms gently on her shoulders for emphasis.
“Ethan, I am so sorry I misled you.” Her hands were in his chest.
“No, I’m sorry.” Both felt a gentle push from behind, Manomar on Ethan’s back and Lars on Jill’s back. Lars was the one who spoke.
“Would you two hurry up and kiss. Soldiers are already beginning to show up.” The Sergeant from the automobile ride was in the doorway with his two fellow riders and deMartin came back to the table.
“This won’t take long,” he said. “What did I miss?” Jill and Ethan both heard but they were busy, and the others were smiling too hard to answer right away.
It took, in fact, about an hour before the soldiers all arrived. Jill held tight to Ethan’s hand and went to instruct the officers while Ethan tried his key. The door reformed, but this time Ethan left it against the wall. Then he had to slide the door along the class three ship to the right location. When he had it where he wanted it, he played with the key to return the door to its’ normal pure white glowing appearance. He turned his eyes to Captain deMarcos and smiled while Jill spoke.
“You will find the crew quarters inside. It includes a lounge and rooms with bunks and comfortable berths. Please confine yourselves to that portion of the ship, and if you want something to eat or drink, just ask. The ship is programmed to supply your needs and will direct you. There are also view ports, but I doubt you will see much until we arrive.”
“In there?” DeMarcos doubted it.
Colonel deMartin laughed. “Sergeant,” he said, and the Sergeant reached for the shimmering door.
“Excuse me, Captain.” He squeezed by and went in, followed by his two and then the rest. After a moment of hesitation, deMarcos also took a deep breath and followed. Ethan, meanwhile, had fiddled with the key and figured out how to open a second door.
“Any who wish to ride with the troops are welcome,” he said. “The crew’s quarters are much more comfortable than the control room.” He paused. “Of course there are lounge rooms and quarters behind the control room, too.” He realized he knew more than he thought; only he had to ask the right questions to get at that information.
Everyone declined his offer to ride with the troops. They went into the control room, and Jill immediately took Ethan to the Main. Alexander and deMartin took up their spot by the viewport. Lars and Manomar were content to stand by the door, and Ali Pasha interrupted with a question.
“How do we get from here to the lounge?”
Jill turned and pointed to a blank space on the wall. It was a door, but built so perfectly into the wall, no one would know unless they already knew. Once she pointed, the door outline was made visible and Ali Pasha nodded. The Colonel’s military mind went a step further.
“Any enemy in the control room would have a hard time finding their way into the rest of the ship,” he said, and Jill mimicked Ali Pasha’s nod.
“There,” Ethan interrupted. He let Jill check his work before he engaged the ship. The men were all loaded by then and their door was temporarily deleted. He had shrunk the front door to the size of a nickel, and was ready to go. Jill smiled and activated the system herself while Ethan held her free hand. As far as he was concerned, he was never going to let go again.
Be sure to return Monday (Tuesday and Wednesday) for Guardian Angel-14, Distress Call.