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Pilgrims (The Blue Planets World series Book 3), page 1

 

Pilgrims (The Blue Planets World series Book 3)
 

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Pilgrims (The Blue Planets World series Book 3)


  Pilgrims

  Darcy Pattison

  Contents

  Pilgrims

  Also by Darcy Pattison

  1. The Pup

  2. The Cadee Moon Base

  3. The Smugglers

  4. Welcome Home

  5. Godzilla

  6. Strategic Planning

  7. We are Risonian

  8. One World, One Galaxy

  9. The Risonian International Council

  10. Earth’s Decision

  11. The Challenge

  12. The Bo-See

  13. The Vote

  14. The Fight Floor

  15. Untangling Threads

  16. The South Seas

  17. Onyx Island

  18. The Villagers

  19. The Umjaadi Starfish

  20. The First Sail

  21. Daughter of Tizzalura

  22. Fishing

  23. Smuggler Negotiations

  24. A New Captain

  25. A Folk Tale

  26. Hunting Starfish

  27. Ultraviolet

  28. Into the Depths

  29. The Sick Planet

  30. Ultraviolet

  31. Waiting

  32. Evacuation

  33. Implosion

  34. Gone

  35. The Cadee Moon Base

  36. Quarantined

  Read More: THE BLUE PLANETS WORLD SERIES

  About the Author

  Pilgrims

  BOOK 3:

  THE BLUE PLANETS WORLD

  PILGRIMS

  by

  Darcy Pattison

  Mims House, Little Rock, AR

  Also by Darcy Pattison

  The Blue Planets World

  Envoys, Prequel

  Sleepers, Book 1

  Sirens, Book 2

  Pilgrims, Book 3

  For more on

  THE BLUE PLANETS WORLD SERIES go to:

  MimsHouse dot com / More-BLUE

  OTHER NOVELS

  Liberty

  Longing for Normal

  Vagabonds

  The Girl, the Gypsy and the Gargoyle

  Saucy and Bubba: A Hansel & Gretel Tale

  

  And thus ever, by day and night, under the sun and under the stars, climbing the dusty hills and toiling along the weary plains, journeying by land and journeying by sea, coming and going so strangely, to meet and to act and react on one another, move all we restless travelers through the pilgrimage of life. —

  Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens

  The Pup

  Earth calendar. January 10, 2040

  The great white shark moved silently through the warm Risonian ocean, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail. It had no conscious thought for what it was doing half-a-galaxy away from its home waters; it just waited. Overhead a gorgeous blue-violet sky reflected a perfect day on the planet Rison of the Turco solar system.

  A lone figure emerged from a squat building, trotted down the weathered stone steps to the water, and kicked off sandals. Toes hanging over the edge of the cliff, Utz Seehafer studied the ocean swells ten feet below. When he spotted the shark’s fin, he dove, hanging for a moment, a dark form against the brilliant sky. Utz let the dive carry him deep, and then kicked, lazily looking around.

  Where was the great white?

  A hundred yards away, the great shark heard the splash and stirred, moving toward the disturbance, an arrow shooting toward a bull’s-eye. The shark closed in and hurtled past the teen, a dozen feet to the side. Utz’s eyes grew accustomed to the underwater filtered light, and his water-breathing through the Risonian gills under his arms came regularly. The villi on his legs had interwoven, or mokwa, into a powerful tail.

  Utz greeted the fish by flapping his hands to make waves. It was a crude communication, suited only for simple concepts. When the shark answered back a greeting of joy, Utz took off for their usual swim around the enclosure. The female great white used to join him and this mate for a swim, but lately, he hadn’t seen much of her.

  Utz’s dad, Pharomond Seehafer, the leader of the Bo-See Coalition in the southern hemisphere of Rison, had paid smugglers millions for a breeding pair of great whites. They’d been here for a year under Utz’s care. He loved the sleek beasts, but really, why were they here? Rison was due to implode within the next few weeks or months, and they wouldn’t survive.

  Utz realized the great white wasn’t following him. Instead, the shark dove, rapidly circling back to herd him downward and toward the opposite shore of the tiny cove. The cove’s entrance to the ocean was tightly secured with shark-proof nets. That had been easy because Risonian oceans boasted even more vicious creatures, such as the mighty kyrra, than Earth’s great white shark. Risonian oceanographers had perfected such enclosures for use in scientific study, and it had been simple to adapt for these Earth creatures.

  Utz happily followed the shark, glad that he seemed to have a destination in mind. Kicking lazily, he dove even deeper to where the waters grew murky. Finally, they stopped before a shallow cave. Puzzled, Utz flapped his hands at the shark asking, “What’s here?”

  The shark ignored him, though, and cautiously nosed into the cave.

  In a flurry, the shark backed out and thrust against Utz, shoving him away. Utz barely held his panic in check, almost bolting for the surface. But the shark stopped just as abruptly as it had charged him and turned back to the cave opening. The sleek body quivered. Clearly, he was anticipating something.

  Shadows.

  Utz peered at the cave opening and swore that something moved. Had some other large marine animal crept into the cove without them knowing?

  Another sleek white form burst from the cave.

  After an initial shock, Utz sighed in relief. It was just the female great white. She moved to nuzzle the male before darting away with a powerful tail thrust.

  Utz turned to go, too, but looked back when he realized the male wasn’t following. Instead, he was almost stationary, moving only enough to keep his breathing regular. And he was staring at the cave. Waiting.

  Utz let the currents spin him around to face the cave.

  Another shadow. Utz half-turned, ready to swim away if needed.

  The shadow moved. It was small. White.

  Awestruck, Utz froze.

  It was a great white pup.

  The Cadee Moon Base

  Jake hugged the wall of the corridors, trying to keep away from the press of people and the babel of various languages. In the last five years, Rison had built ten-story dormitory buildings on the Cadee Moon Base. They could house 5000 comfortably, but at least four times that had crammed into the base, and more desperate individuals arrived daily. Rooms were shared by two or three families. Jake had heard that it was common for families to take shifts sleeping or wandering the halls. When it wasn’t your shift, you had to find other places to be. Hence, the crowded hallways.

  The medical research team from Earth had arrived at Cadee the day before and spent the time talking with officials, making arrangements to refuel and restock their spaceship, the Eagle 10, and other mundane details. They were assigned a suite with two tiny bedrooms and a kitchenette. This was Jake’s first time to wander the halls.

  Suddenly, someone slapped his back. “Jake Quad-de! I heard you were on the Base, but with this crowd—” A tall teenager gestured toward the mass. “—I didn’t think I’d see you.”

  Surprise gave way to recognition. “Kirkwall Rudak! You’ve grown, but I’d know you anywhere from your nose ridges.”

  The boy’s nose ridges were thick and pronounced. Jake thought, Kirkwall will never pass for human
.

  “When’d you get here? Did Derry come with you?” Jake said. His Tizzalurian had been rusty at first, but after just 24 hours, he understood everything as if he’d never left. However, he still stumbled when speaking or searching for the right way to say something.

  Kirkwall frowned. He was a couple inches taller than Jake and carried himself with grace. “I’ve been here three weeks. Derry’s still down there. She went to Marasca University, and I haven’t seen her in several months.” Derry was Kirkwall’s younger sister. She’d been a grade behind them at school

  Jake hesitated, but had to know: “How much did you have to pay to get here?”

  Kirkwall’s frown turned to a rueful smile. “10,000 yen.”

  Jake raised an eyebrow and said, “Yen?”

  Kirkwall shrugged. “Yen was the preferred payment three weeks ago because the Japanese government said something nice about Rison in some obscure broadcast. The rumor was that they would take 5000 people in Japan. But that rumor was false, and this week, it’s India that is supposed to be welcoming us. This week, you’d have to pay in rupees.”

  “At inflated exchange rates, right?” Jake’s voice was tinged with disapproval, but really, what could anyone expect? The planet—the whole, huge planet!—was going to implode soon. When it did, no one would care about Risonian money. They had to exchange everything to some sort of Earth currency and the sooner, the better.

  “Derry coming up soon?” She’d always been a cheerful girl, even if she did like her studies too much. On Earth, they would call her a nerd.

  Kirkwall looked upward, staring at the ceiling, unable to meet Jake’s eyes.

  Jake inhaled sharply. “She’s not coming? Why?”

  “She was caught in a volcanic explosion last year, and it broke her leg. It healed badly. There are strict rules. Only healthy people can evacuate. She limps.”

  “No!” Jake said. “That’s wrong.” The tragedy was that he understood. There were so few spots for evacuees that they took any excuse to cross off a person’s name. They had to. Millions were going to die, and they could do nothing. But some could live. They had to pick and choose, and it made sense to only bring the strong and healthy.

  The whole situation was tragic, partly because it was their own fault. Decades ago, Risonian scientists decided to try to prevent volcanic eruptions by using Brown Matter. No one realized that the Brown Matter would eventually find its way to the center of the planet, and once joined together, the tiny bits became strong enough to create a black hole at the core. It was slowly gaining strength and would one day implode the planet.

  Kirkwall’s face looked like he was about to implode. He shook his head, as if to shake off the harsh decisions that everyone was making. His voice shook, but he forged ahead. “Anyway, I’ve been here three weeks. And that’s three weeks too long. Your mom making any progress? Will we be evacuated soon?”

  His voice carried the same edge as everyone Jake talked with. Tension was building, and these people needed good news soon. Silently, Jake shook his head.

  “I know she’s trying, but this place is like ziza burrows!” Kirkwall said.

  Jake grimaced at the comparison. It would be like Dad saying it was like a rabbit warren, which is exactly what Dad had said that morning.

  “Where are you going?” Kirkwall asked.

  “To Pool #7. We have swimming time scheduled.”

  The need to swim, to be immersed in water, was like an itch that he couldn’t reach. Excitement made his insides quiver. After three weeks en route from Earth, he was almost desperate to swim. Never again would he go months without swimming like they had asked him to do on Bainbridge Island. Did they really think they could stop a Risonian from swimming in Puget Sound? Swimming, water—it wasn’t optional for him. It was crucial to his health.

  Kirkwall whistled. “I’ve heard the Earthlings were swimming, and you got a whole hour! All I’ve had this week is two fifteen-minute time slots. You really are VIP these days. Like your dad.”

  He means like Swann Quad-de, thought Jake. Living on Earth as just another teenager, he’d almost forgotten what the Quad-de name meant on Rison. He’d forgotten the respect that came with the family name. Coming back to Rison, his biggest fear was facing his step-father again. He’d missed Swann so much. Would he be changed? Would he see and understand how much Jake had changed?

  Jake hesitated, then shrugged. “Come with me. We have the pool to ourselves, and no reason why you shouldn’t join us.”

  “Really? Well, sure.” Kirkwall’s face lit up.

  Guiltily, Jake wished he hadn’t felt compelled to ask his old friend to come along. The pool would be crowded. But it was the right thing to do.

  Kirkwall fell into line behind Jake, and they hugged the corridor walls until they reached the entrance to Pool #7.

  Outside the pool, a throng had gathered. A sign pointed up a set of stairs and said, “Viewing Windows.” Jake left Kirkwall by the entrance to the pool and climbed the steps to the viewing window. Tiny kids knelt with foreheads or hands on the window. The next row included a large round girl and her skinny friends, all joking about who would win a high dive competition—if they only had a place to hold it. Behind them stood various adults, presumably parents of the kids. The swarm of people were like Earth’s bees drawn to a field of sweet nectar, only kept away by a thin pane of glass.

  Around the periphery, a dark-haired man stood guard over a woman who was dozing against the wall. He wore a backpack and often called to a scrawny girl, Merry, who knelt on the front row.

  Apparently, even if you didn’t have pool time, it was entertainment to watch.

  Jake stood at the back of the crowd, tall enough to see something of the pool area below. Three lanes were separated by stripes for lap-swimmers. The current swimmers were families. A mother and small boy, maybe three years old, were seated underwater on the pool’s floor. Three girls, obviously sisters, ran squealing and cannonballed into the pool, splashing water everywhere. The floors had a slight decline, so the precious water dribbled back into the pool.

  “Waste not, want not,” Jake could hear his Earth grandmother, Easter, say.

  The girls climbed out and got ready to run again. Their parents swam back and forth in lazy circles.

  Jake bounced on his toes in excitement. It was a small pool, but it would be enough. Better than what he’d had on the Obama Moon Base, which was a slightly larger than bathtub-sized jet pool, where you swam against a current created by a pump.

  In the hallway and in the pool room, a bell rang, and a loud speaker announced, “Five-minute warning. You must be out of the pool and exiting the pool room in five minutes. If you’re scheduled to swim next, please line up on the right side of the pool entrance. Allow the others to exit before you enter.”

  Everything was timed, Jake realized. The man with the backpack sidled up to him. Dark shadows surrounded the man’s eyes, and he blinked at Jake and asked, “Are you swimming next?”

  Jake glanced at the man and cringed. He looked worn-out. Briefly, Jake wondered how the man had bought his way off-planet. What skills did he have that would be valuable on Earth?

  “Yes,” Jake said shortly and turned away.

  But the man plucked at his sleeve. “Sir, is it true? You get a whole hour to swim?”

  Jake narrowed his eyes. Did everyone on this base know his business? “Yes, an hour.”

  The man put a hand on Jake’s arm. “Please. We’ve been here for 113 days. But we don’t have the money for bribes, so we’ve only been in the pool five times. Still, my Merry, she loves to watch. Please, sir. Could she swim for just fifteen minutes?”

  The girl was scrawny, like she wasn’t getting enough to eat. From experience, Jake knew the pain of not being allowed to swim. For a Risonian, it was almost torture. And the child—Merry—looked at the water with such longing. Just then, she turned a pleading look to her father. For a moment, she tugged at his heart.

  Dad, Dr. Mangot, and
Captain Bulmer had arrived and took their place in line. Dr. Mangot and Captain Bulmer were both Phoke, the Mer people of Earth. During the trip from Earth, they’d worn blue camo uniforms with the insignia of the Aberforth Hills Militia from their underwater Phoke city. The group was on Rison to research the water-borne illness caused by the Risonian organism, the umjaadi. The emergency medical research team had been assembled in less than a week and arrived here as quickly as possible.

  The spaceship from Earth was so, so—he struggled to put it into words—so dry. Desert-like. Parched mouth, parched skin.

  He had to swim. But maybe he didn’t need a whole hour.

  What would Swann do? The old mantra came back so easily. The attitude had been ingrained into him: he should always think of what a Quad-de would do. They served the people and put everyone else’s needs above their own.

  It didn’t matter that on Earth, no one would’ve given Jake a second thought. He’d be just like this man, who was so poor that he couldn’t even buy swim time for his family.

  Reluctantly, Jake gave in to the Quad-de directive: “Yes, she can swim with us. Would ten minutes be enough?” He winced inwardly that he’d tried to limit the girl’s swim time. “No, no,” he said shaking his head at himself. “Fifteen is fine.”

  “Thank you, sir!” The man’s face looked suddenly younger. He crooked a finger at the girl to come to him, and turned to shake his wife awake.

 
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