Kira's dream keeps coming back. Is it a warning? All she knows is that her destiny lies intertwined with the prison planet. Will Chavez understand? It is six hours away from rendezvousing with Dr. Winters, who will attempt to help Kira with her problems. But Captain Maddeson is on an intercept course to capture them and return them to the warden. Will they escape? Dr. Winters has diagnosed Kira with the Chameleon Effect and in an attempt to halt its progress, he will use Chavez's DNA. But Kira has other plans and escapes off Chavez's ship, without a word to anyone.
Chavez’s massive hand whacked down onto the side of the systems array station. “How did she get in there? That’s what I want to know! I kept the cargo bay locked with a special password. Did you unlock it for any reason?”
He continued pacing around the bridge, while Dr. Winters stood completely still. They had been alerted of Kira’s escape when the computer signaled Chavez that someone had opened the outer doors and decompressed the cargo bay. By then it was too late to get in to stop her, even if he could have overridden her commands. So, he watched with impotent anger as she left with Dr. Winters’ ship, and no word of explanation.
Dr. Winters cleared his throat and answered Chavez’s question. “Yes, I did unlock the door. I needed supplies that I’d brought with me. How was I supposed to know she’d try to steal my shuttle?” Dr. Winters stood with his hands held up as he shrugged, trying to understand what had just happened. “Chavez, how did she know how to fly the shuttle? Is she trained as a pilot?”
“No! That’s what I don’t understand either. Her file says she has no technical knowledge of spacefaring vehicles.”
Dr. Winters pointed at Chavez. “It’s the chameleon effect. She is adapting to her surroundings.”
“And part of that is learning to fly the shuttle?”
“Her brain is working faster than ours and she is using her surroundings as an integrated learning situation. She’s assimilating from everything she sees.”
Chavez’s brow wrinkled, as he was lost in thought. “What else can we expect?”
“That’s the thing. We don’t know, because we don’t know where she went.”
But Chavez shook his head. “Yes. I know. Prison Planet 452.”
“Then we need to get there before her. Once they get her back in their clutches, I doubt if we’ll be able to retrieve her. And, I also doubt if they’ll be able to control her, so their only option would be to eliminate her.”
Dr. Winters had been discussing Kira analytically, but Chavez was starting to get upset. He turned and glared at him, all the while suppressing the urge to grab him by the throat and shake him.
“She’s not one of your lab rats, doctor! She happens to be a frightened, but intelligent young lady who has feelings that need to be remembered!”
Dr. Winters paused from his monologue and gave Chavez searching look. “Are you in love, Chavez?”
Chavez sputtered as he back-pedaled from the question. “Me? In love? What a ridiculous question. I don’t have time to be in love with anybody, let alone a mouthy young lady who steals your shuttle and causes me twice the work to get her back home!”
Dr. Winters raised his hands in surrender and backed away from the bridge monitors and a very angry acquisitions agent. He continued backing all the way across the bridge until he reached the double doors that slid open on his approach.
“I’m going to be in my quarters, Chavez. Let me know what the plan is before we get there.” The doors slid closed leaving Chavez alone on the bridge, with no clue as to how to retrieve Kira.
As he prepared to call in a report to The Agency, Chavez found himself mumbling to himself. “Some cases are harder than others and this one is going to get harder starting right now. I knew it was too easy! But in love? How did that wrench happen to get thrown in the machinery? Winters doesn’t know what he’s talking about! Or maybe he does…?”
It was then that The Agency answered his call. “Greetings, Chavez, how can I direct your call?” It was the same young lady as the last time he had reported in. Someday I’ll ask her name.
Chavez settled his frame into the captain’s chair, exhaustion pushing at his thoughts. “Is Vida in?”
“One moment please.” Her pleasant smile reminded him of Kira. She had attempted to smile once and it lit up her whole face.
Vida, the head of Covert Operations appeared onscreen. She took one look at Chavez and asked, “Don’t you ever sleep?”
“It’s been problematic. But I’ll be able to get in a few hours soon. Kira Rostropov has escaped in a stolen shuttle and is believed to be going to Prison Planet 452. Dr. Winters has diagnosed her with the chameleon effect. Apparently she wasn’t irradiated. What I saw was the beginnings of the markings that appear on her body.” Chavez went on to explain all the ramifications of her escape and how she could hide anywhere, learning from her environment.
Vida was silent for a few seconds. “What a useful tool for a government that wanted to infiltrate another sector. Do we know where she was injected?”
“According to her dreams, it was while she was on the prison planet. The warden must be doing some kind of experiments there. They have all kinds of subjects available to do tests on.” Chavez said.
“Then why did they specifically grab an ambassador’s daughter? What reason was there for it?” Vida asked. “We have to look at the big scope of this. Is it because of her nationality? They needed her gene pool?”
Chavez jumped up off his chair. “Of course! If they were going to use people from her planet, they need to see their reaction to the injection. But why pick someone so high profile?”
“Maybe it’s a warning? To the ambassadors?” Vida shook her head, tapping her finger against her jaw in thought. “No, it’s more like a demonstration? I don’t know at this point, but try to get her back if you can. Her parents would be most grateful. And if you do get her back, keep her tied down until you get her back here for debriefing.”
To be continued...