Chapter 10

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Before completion of their deadly task the Swarm communicated back to the Legion. These life forms differed from those in the original programming.  Next time adjustments would be made to improve their efficiency.

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[Mora]

Two nights ago I hardly slept.  The nightmare reappeared, all of it.  I knew it by heart.  It was the one where I sat passively in a chair and watched a woman being brutally beaten by an enraged man.  The woman screamed in agony and begged me to help her, but I just sat there.  Finally, the woman collapsed to the floor near death.  The man's eyes mocked me as he left.  The battered woman's vacant eyes accused me, why did I not help her?  Her broken face was mine. 

My logical self knew it was never ever my fault.  Yet, still sometimes, the accuser judged me.  I traveled twelve light-years to escape her, but she came with me. 

The accuser was sure I lost any chance with Gan, and it was all my fault.  I felt so alone that night.

I should have talked to Gan the next morning, but emotionally I could not.  And I felt ashamed of that.

Later Gan sent me a message that he wanted to talk.  It took most of the day to gather enough courage to call him back.  Then his kind voice lifted my spirit.

I slept much better last night.

I spent most of yesterday with Samir testing the blight samples and reviewing the results.  We found no toxin or disease that explained the blight, nor evidence of radiation or thermal event.  Genetic scans revealed curious fragments inconsistent with Earth-based DNA or of the few local microbes that predated the terraforming.  Samir promised to continue the testing.

Gan's discovery of a large area of blight near the west settlement left me with a sense of dread.  What if it was spreading?  The matter became that much more urgent.  I bypassed two levels of management and went straight to the Governor.  I hoped Vic would not be upset, but I didn't care if Director Sander was.

Both the Governor and I wanted to see it with our own eyes.  We made an early start the next morning in her hovercar rather than taking the later shuttle. 

Once we were underway the Governor turned to me.  "Mora, there is another matter.  I would like to talk about what happened at the north settlement with the Watchers.  I've seen the reports, but I want to hear it from you."

I turned my eyes down.  This is not something I wanted to talk about, but she should know.

"I gave the agricultural orientation.  The Watcher men were not receptive to it coming from a woman."  I paused.  "Gan tried to warn me, but I didn't listen.  The Elder told me they brought over their own seeds and I told him they could not use them until approved.  He grabbed me and made some threats before Gan intervened."

I lifted my shirt sleeves and showed her the bruises on my upper arms left by his big hands.

The Governor widened her eyes and then dipped her head.  "I'm so sorry Mora.  I expected they would be difficult, but nothing like this.  To let you know, I have ordered an inspection of all their cargo.  They will not get their seeds."

"Thank you, Liz."

"Also, I am going to put controls on how we interact with them.  It's not right, but effective communication may require male messengers, at least in the near term."

Gan tried to tell me that.

Liz continued.  "By the way, they have named their settlement Zion."

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