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FLUENCY(108)

By´╝ÜJennifer Foehner Wells



It would be far better if the government would set it up with heads of state, but Ei’Brai was perfectly capable of hacking into the communication satellites that encircled the globe and broadcasting a message she’d already prepared in dozens of languages.

Jane’s voice rang out, strong and sure, “I’ve just told you what I will not do. Would you like to hear what I am willing to do?”

Now she had Bonham’s attention. He swung back to the camera, his features pinched. “Let’s hear it.”

“As you know, the Providence was affected by a massive EMP, but Dr. Gibbs assures me that most of the information gathered in flight should still be salvageable. The capsule is no longer capable of return to Earth under its own power, however.”

Bonham’s nostrils flared and he inhaled sharply. He appeared to be about to unleash some military wrath.

Jane held up a hand. “I know what you want. I’m sorry. I can’t give it to you. But I can give you something of great value.”

She paused. Tension on the bridge was running high. She was about to make it worse. “I’ll put the Providence crew in a Speroancora shuttle and program the autopilot to land anywhere you designate. You’ll have an intact specimen, exactly like the one from 1947. You’ll finally be able to unlock all of its secrets, General Bonham—including a database I will download to its computer core that will contain information vital to the survival of the human race. And you’ll have the capsule too, which is certainly valuable. I’ll deposit it in the Pacific for you, off the coast of California. You’ll have all of this as soon as Commander Walsh is well enough for travel.”

She felt the shock of her companions. Fleeting impressions of their feelings percolated through her mind. Ajaya was torn. She was considering asking to stay aboard. Compton and Gibbs were both relieved, ready to go home. She knew Walsh would feel the same.

Alan was pissed. He outright rejected the concept of getting on that shuttle and leaving her behind. That set off a small flutter of hope in her heart.

Bonham sat back against a desk and frowned. “What on Earth are you planning to do, Dr. Holloway?”

Jane’s lips twitched involuntarily. “I’m going on an adventure.”

Mission Control went completely silent. Everyone on the bridge froze.

Bonham looked shocked. He asked, “By yourself?”

Jane lifted her chin a fraction more. “Yes.”

The Providence crew converged on Jane with an outcry of objections. Mission Control erupted into chaos as well.

Bergen rounded on her, pushing Compton out of the way. He grabbed her arm so hard it hurt. “Jane? What the fuck? No way are you going out there, alone. Where the hell do you think you’re going?”

Jane raised her voice above the din, speaking to those back on Earth as well as those around her. “I’m going to take Ei’Brai home, to Sectilius.”

Despite the noise, Bonham honed in on Jane. “Is this a one-way trip?”

She blinked rapidly and smiled slowly. “I don’t believe it will be, no. Who knows where it’ll take me.”

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