One by one the pods opened and the ship slowly came back to life. Kenzi sat in sickbay when one of the Freelancers, wearing sergeant stripes, stepped through the door.
“Miles Gordon said you wanted to see me, Ma’am,” he said.
Kenzi paused for a moment and looked at the name label on his camouflage shirt. He stood in front of her with his feet spread and his arms behind his back. His eyes looked somewhere behind her.
“Did Miles tell you why, Sergeant Brackett?”
“I think I know, Ma’am.” His eyes never wavered from the spot behind her. “The Major was supposed to be up before me and I’ve not seen him.”
“Relax, Sergeant,” said Kenzi. She held out her hand to Brackett. “Doctor Kenzi Sheppard.”
Immediately the tenseness in Brackett disappeared and he shook Kenzi’s hand. “Mike Brackett, Ma’am, glad to meet you.” Spreading his feet apart, he stood with his hands behind him.
“Major Grayson’s pod malfunctioned,” Kenzi informed the Sergeant. “It happened sometime after we left.”
“Can I see the Major, Ma’am?”
“He may be hard to look at.”
Kenzi rose from her chair behind the desk. “Follow me, Sergeant.”
She led Brackett to a corner of the small sickbay where a black body bag rested on a gurney. Kenzi unzipped the body bag. The sergeant looked at the remains of Major Grayson for a couple of minutes, then looked back up at Kenzi.
“Thank you, Ma’am, I’ll break the news to the men when we’re all together. One more thing, the Major was really looking forward to this mission. If you don’t mind, I’d like to bury him wherever we decide to settle down.”
Despite the sergeant’s rough exterior, Kenzi could see the sadness and hurt in Brackett’s eyes. “I think that could be arranged, Sergeant. We have a chaplain with us. I’ll talk to Miles about it.”
“Thank you, Ma’am. Me and the Major go back a ways. We met in the Corps. Fought a lot of wars together since. He was a warrior and a gentleman. You would have liked him.”
“I’m sure I would have,” replied Kenzi.
“Well, I should go be with the men. Thanks for taking care of the Major.” Sergeant Brackett turned and strode out of sickbay.
Kenzi zipped up the body bag and returned to her desk. She’d been apprehensive about the dangers of the Genesis Project, but if the rest of the Freelancers were like Sergeant Brackett, they were in good hands.
* * * *
“If you’re watching me tonight, your journey is almost over.” Doctor Sheppard quietly slipped through the door of the darkened crew lounge, winching as the door latched loudly behind her. The President of the World Council of Nations spoke from behind a desk in front of the Council’s flag on the screen at the front of the room.
“Earth, as you know it, no longer exists.” Kenzi scooted into an empty seat next to Sergeant Brackett at the end of the back row. “Did I miss anything?” she whispered.
“No, Ma’am,” Brackett whispered back after a shake of his head. “He’s just getting started, but he’s getting ready to tell us how he appreciates the sacrifice all of us are making.”
“All of mankind appreciates the sacrifices each and every one of you is making.” Kenzi covered her mouth to stifle a laugh when Brackett looked at her with a raised right eyebrow.
They sat for the next twenty minutes and listened to the President rehash the objectives they’d gotten in a pre-launch briefing fifty years ago. Mercifully, the screen finally went white. Kenzi looked over at Brackett with his chin on his chest and gently poked him in the side. The sergeant opened his eyes and looked over at her, lifting his head as the lights brightened the room. “The torture session is over,” said Kenzi.
They rose from their seats as the rest of the room started to file through the door. “I talked to Miles Gordon about your request,” Kenzi said to Brackett.
“Yes, Ma’am, I talked with him earlier. Thanks for going to bat for us. Now we can give him a proper sendoff.”
“Better that he be among friends than being shot off into the stars all by himself,” said Kenzi.
Miles Gordon, trailing the line leaving the crew lounge, stopped beside them. “That wasn’t as painful as I thought it was going to be.”
“Speak for yourself,” replied Kenzi.
“I should be getting back to the men,” said Brackett and nodded at Kenzi and Miles.
“Sergeant, I’d like to see you when you get time,” said Miles.
“Yes sir,” replied Brackett and followed the last of his men out the door.
“Mister Gordon, “ said Max, the android’s soft voice appeared from the overhead speaker.
“Yes, Max,” replied Miles, looking up into the speaker.
“Our destination has come into view.”
“I’ll be right there.” Miles looked at Kenzi. “Care to have a look at our new home?”
“I’d love to,” replied Kenzi and followed Miles out the door.