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A New Piece To The Puzzle
Written by Paul M. Hansen
Posted March 12,1999

  Monica and Dekel sat playing their forty-seventh Ares Seven game. The number of games was only half as many as Dekel had first predicted they would be playing. It was their tenth day of travel on their way to Effendi and Monica had gained a little help in learning new strategies around her sixth day, when L.C. Mason had wandered back to watch the game. After a few hours, he mentioned that he knew how to play and that if Dekel did not mind, he would like to be Monica's coach. Dekel agreed to it. In all his years of playing, he had never played a military person. Since the game was strategic, he thought Mason would add a little spice to the game. But Dekel was also only a few points away from being a Grand Master at the game. The marine was able to help prolong the games an hour or two, but the team of Mason and Monica never could get control of the games direction. Even though Dekel was known to gloat to the losers, in this case he did not. This was because he knew Monica did not stand a chance and she was just learning. The average game usually lasted a good month. Dekel's longest game had lasted over two years. He had lost that one to a Grand Master. Still after each game played, he would give Monica a few more tips or ideas to think about for the next time. He was impressed, that she had lost forty - seven games in a row and yet she thirsted for more.

  L.C. Mason on the other hand would shake his head and walk away after every game. He would return later with new ideas to be shot down once again by Dekel.

  It was during the beginning of the forty - eighth game when Dr. Sakae came back to speak with Monica. "You're a glutton for punishment Ms. Tanner," Sakae injected comically.

   "Yes, but at least I'm not bored," Monica answered back. "And to be quite truthful, Mr. Relmore isn't half bad company."

   "He's been playing every game in silence," reminded L.C. Mason. "Like I said, he's been quite pleasant," pursued Ms. Tanner with a smile playing across her face.

   "It's your move Ms. Tanner," was Dekel's dry response.

   "Actually," interrupted Dr. Sakae. "There's something I discovered that Ms. Tanner might find quit interesting."

   "What's that?" asked Monica turning her attention to the Doctor.

   "Well, as you've noticed, one of the marines has spent a lot of time in the bathroom. I've given him some sedatives to relax his stomach."

   "Yes, go on."

   "Well, I checked his medical records and he has an acute case of Motion Hypo Instability."

   "What's that in plain English?"

  It was here L.C. Mason interjected. "He's a dam M.H.I. What the hell's he doing here?"

  After giving the marine an evil eye the doctor continued, "An M.H.I. is the military term for saying this soldier does not handle space travel well do to a chemical imbalance in the brain. This also restricts the soldier to limited air travel on planes. These cases, I might add, are very rare and most are treatable. Except his."

  Monica gave the Doctor an inquisitive look, "What's his name?" she then got up from her seat not waiting for an answer and headed for her folder of top secret files. Flipping through the crew's paper work, she found the marine in question. On the line for special notes were two statements. One was the mentioning of the soldier's M.H.I. condition and the second stated that he had been requested by Captain Jorbane. His condition had been noted, but over ruled.

   "Son of a"

   "What is it Ms. Tanner?"

  "The mysterious Captain requested this marine, knowing damn well the soldier had this preexisting condition. What the hell was he thinking?"

   "The marine is in the bathroom right now if you'd like to question him. This has got to be one of the most peculiar things I've ever seen, even for the Military. No offense L.C. Mason," Sakae followed up hesitantly.

   "None taken," came a mild reply.

  Getting up Monica headed for the back of the shuttle to have a little talk with this soldier. His name was Laizroe R. Johnson. He had been decorated for many heroic deeds in his twelve year career. This mission would go down as one of them. The back of the crew's courtiers was for sleeping, showering, and waste disposal. The entire crew's quarters actually was a rectangular box that fit into the shuttles bay. This box could be easily pulled out and replaced with anything NASA wanted to put in the shuttle.

  Upon reaching the back, Monica found herself feeling the call of mother nature as well and looked for an open stall. Of the two stalls they were both full. This did not concern her all that much. This model of shuttle transport came with extra facilities in a back compartment designed for over flow passengers. She went to the door leading to the rear and gave the handle a tug. The door was locked, which was standard. Monica thought to wait for one of the two stalls to become empty when her need became urgent. Being a veteran, Ms. Tanner knew a few tricks about the NASA shuttles. Turning around, she pulled a panel off the wall next to the locked back door. After a few short minutes she had the door unlocked.

  Smiling to herself for her craftiness, Monica opened the door slowly not wanting to let anyone else know her little secret. The rear compartment was small with one disposal unit, two beds, and twelve seats. Not the most comfortable, yet it would work. Monica took a couple of steps before she noticed the solo figure sleeping next to a window at her left. Monica froze in her tracks. The lone occupant was fast asleep in his chair with a book resting on his chest. For a top secret mission, it seemed quite odd for someone to be where they where not suppose to be. Giving the man another good look she could see the man had black hair, cut just above his ears. His nose was long and slender, complementing his mid-eastern features. Monica recognized the man's deep crimson colored robes as someone from the church, though she wasn't sure exactly which one. Setting off the robes rich darkness was a large radiant silver cross that hung down from around his neck. Monica figured the man to be a priest, or so it appeared. Monica's eyes lit up with having yet another surprise to add to her list.

  Ms. Tanner quietly turned around and returned from the direction she had come. She closed the door and made her way up to the cockpit to have a word with the pilots.

  The two pilots sat attentive, yet seemed to be bored of the card game they we're playing when Monica entered.

   "How may we help you Mamme," the two NASA pilots snapping to attention.

   "I have a question and I want a straight yes or no answer. Do you understand?"

   "Yes," they answered in unison.

  "Are there any passengers on this flight that are riding in the rear compartment?"

   "No," they answered with a confused look on their faces.

   "If I was to go into the rear travel compartment behind the main one, it would be empty?"

   "Yes," came another hesitant answer.

   "Mamme, this is a Top Secret mission. The only people on board this flight are those in the main travel compartment," the pilot to her right interjected.

  Monica gave their responses some thought and asked another question. "According to your flight registration how many people are aboard this shuttle?"

  The other pilot scrambled through the flight book looking for the flights registration form. Finally he pulled it out. "It says here, four high ranking officers, sixteen NASA personnel, and twelve military personnel," looking up the pilot concluded his sentence. "We were not given any names."

  Monica compared this with her paper work and everything matched up. Everything, except for the man sleeping in the back.

   "Is there a problem?"

   "No, just wanted to know," Ms. Tanner turned around and headed back to the crew's courtiers. Upon reaching them a chill began to run down her spine. The first person she met was a female marine named Isabel.

   "Isabel!" Monica barked.

  The marine snapped to attention, with a confused look in her eye, not expecting any trouble on the shuttle's flight.

   "Do you have a weapon with you?"

   "Yes, Mamme"

   "I need your assistance, we have an intruder on board."

  This really made the marine snap to attention. In a matter of seconds, she had a small assault rifle in her hand. She made eye contact with one of the other marines, giving him a gesture to follow her. He, too quickly produced a hand gun. His reaction was noticed by L.C. Mason and many others.

   "What the-," Ky-vanya was cut off as the hand of a close by marine covered her mouth silencing her words.

  .L.C. Mason turned back to Dekel who sat unmoving, his eyes charged with a new intensity. "So how many games have you won now?" L.C. Mason spoke in a normal voice, while he pulled a hand gun from off his back.

  Monica, followed by two of the marines, approached L.C. Mason who was carrying on a senseless conversation with the astrologer. Upon reaching the L.C., Monica whispered in his ear. "I found someone in the rear travel compartment. He is not on the flight register, he's not part of our mission, he appears to be a priest, sleeping." The L.C.'s eyes widened as he motioned for his soldiers to move everyone slowly to the front of the shuttle. Private Isabel and he took the lead with Monica close behind.

  Talking in whispers L.C. Mason questioned Monica for more info. "One person?"


   "Did you confirm with the pilots?"


   "Could there be anyone else back there?"


  The Lieutenant Corporal made a couple of quick hand jesters letting all the marines know they were going to move in and move quickly. The three-some approached the rear door. Isabel ducked low and Mason crouched. Two more marines waited behind them, about two meters, for the point team to move. Their job was simple, if the front team dropped, they fired. Monica unlocked the door once again, getting a curious glance from L.C. Mason. Isabel eased the door open scanning the floor. Mason spotted the man right away and gave the go ahead signal.

  The rear guards rushed forward knocking Monica ungracefully aside, targeting their weapons towards the far back of the small compartment. At the same time, Isabel lunged forward while producing a short metal cable known as a Tiger's Claw. A Tiger's Claw is a 50 centimeter cable about 1 cm in diameter. When a Tiger Claw is slapped on someone's wrist it coils while producing small half centimeter teeth that dig into the victims arm or ankle. In seconds the cable can be coiled around it's target. When caught by the claws, the victim's struggling only increases the pain. Charging forward, Isabel slapped the man's forearm. Isabel used the cable to wrench the man's arm behind his back, pitching her victim forward. He woke up screaming in pain. Then his screams were cut short. As L.C. Mason was posed with the barrel of his hand gun about a decimeter away from the victim's head. He gave one command.

   "You're coming with me!"

Notes from the Author
  I'd like to take this time to thank my friend and partner Daryl, for if not for him this wouldn't be here. And I'd like to thank my beloved Gretchen Hill, for if not for her this story would be here, but wouldn't be as clear or as perfect as I would like it. And yes I am having fun with Photoshop!
  Your input is invaluable, but above all read the novel and let it pull you in.
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