DOCK AND LAND
3: DOCK AND LAND
It had been a very busy day and Thomas Cradwell’s umpteenth yawn proved it. He had scanned more people than he could count – thank goodness, his DDI kept track – for various bio-data variables. He barely understood what any of them meant and he didn’t care. His job was to scan. The results were transmitted to control and they flagged the person as clear or quarantine. The latter verdict meant more work for him as he’d have to take the person out of line and lead them to the examination room while explaining that everything was okay when it was apparently not. Thomas looked up to examine the next person in line and beheld the strikingly beautiful dark-skinned girl in front of him.
“Um… hi…” Thomas said and then trailed off.
“Is that part of the scanning process?” Maggy asked and then rolled her eyes.
You might as well have rolled my heart… off a cliff…
Thomas sighed and continued.
“Step forward please.” Thomas said in a professional tone.
He placed the glass face of the scanner on Maggy’s neck, and in a few seconds, the device beeped, indicating it had collected all the bio-data needed. Thomas examined his DDI, and soon it beeped as well with the response from control.
“What’s the matter? Can I go?” Maggy asked.
“Please step aside ma’am. I need to take you in for further examination.” Thomas said, sternly.
“Stay calm ma’am. It is only routine.” Thomas gestured for her to step out of the queue.
“What’s the problem?” An elderly woman who stood behind a redhead and a blonde asked.
“No problem ma’am. Is she with you?” Thomas asked.
“Yes. She’s my granddaughter.” The woman responded.
“Not a problem ma’am. We just need to check and re-check her bio-data that’s all.”
Maggy was handed off to another dock security personnel, who took her away from the busy queue and through a maze of pathways, lined with long fluorescent lights and evenly spaced hatch doors on either side. The pathways were cylindrical, much like the interior of a pipe, save for their top and bottom, which flattened out as the sides curved in. At the end of the pathway they were currently on, was an open hatch door. The dock security personnel gestured for Maggy to get in.
“What do you want with me?” Maggy asked.
“Just stay calm ma’am. The station commander will be with you in a few minutes.” The guard responded, before assuming a wide stance, with his arms behind his back.
“Station Commander?” Maggy wondered out loud.
What would the station commander want with her? Had she committed any crime? Was it her treatment of the other dock security personnel? No, it couldn’t have been that. He had been dumbstruck after seeing her and while she was used to the reaction, it didn’t make it any less annoying. Suddenly, Maggy remembered the space colony intern with them.
She knew there was no need harboring the guilty feelings she had for being mean towards Kaya. The lady had got her pound of flesh.
“Why Kaya… when I am out of this…” Maggy muttered to herself.
“You seem to think of me a fair bit even when I’m not around you.”
Kaya’s voice startled Maggy, who looked up to see her and Clieo walking into the examination room. They observed the room and all the equipment it housed. There was a bed with lots of robotic arms holding various medical instruments that were attached to fingerlike appendages, or simply screwed on. Other devices that appeared to take various readings, lined the side of the room, wrapping around.
“What are you guys doing here?” Maggy asked, with an embarrassed look on her face.
“Well, we were also asked to step aside. Status read as ‘quarantined’” Kaya responded, still looking around.
“And what does that mean? You are an SCI. Aren’t you supposed to know the process?” Maggy asked in a condescending tone.
“This is my first time going through an actual DDL. So, no I don’t have a lot of experience and might overlook certain things. Jeez, why do you have it out for me?”
Maggy sighed and looked away.
“Um… What’s a DDL?” Clieo asked, walking beside Kaya.
“De-board, Dock and Land” Kaya responded, smiling at Clieo.
What a cute one.
Just then, a man stepped through the open hatch door and all three ladies were immediately aware of his presence.
“C… Commander.” Kaya said in shock.
The commander turned his gaze towards Kaya. He had kind eyes that pursed together in a natural squint. A graying mustache and a wispy crop of gray beard, enshrouded his mouth and jawline, giving him an almost regal look. His beret-like hat covered most of his head, though strands of gray-white hair could still be seen jutting out all around the beret’s rim.
“Ah, Dr. Dresden’s student.” The station commander said with a smile on his face.
“Y… you know me?” Kaya asked, still in shock.
“Of course. I know all of you.”
“Care to tell us why we are being held in this examination room then?” Maggy asked. She stood at the back of the room, arms folded, glaring at the station commander.
Kaya turned around and shot Maggy an incredulous look. It conveyed her message and she buttressed it by mouthing words at Maggy.
Are you crazy? It’s the commander!
Maggy mouthed back.
“It’s okay Kaya.” The commander said as if reading into the exchange of glares. “Maggy isn’t it? I’ve known your grandmother for some time. We were both taken aboard this station, some forty years ago.”
“Oh…” Maggy said. “Did we do something wrong?”
“Oh no. We just detected anomalies in your bio-data readings. Anomalies that warrant a special entry pod to be allocated for your entry into Gaia.”
“What anomalies?” Clieo asked.
She put her hand on her hips and frowned at the commander, who beheld her with a bemused look.
“That will be explained once we are terrestrial. I just need you three to be patient and wait here for a little while okay?”
The commander looked at each of them, smiled and turned around to leave.
“What about my grandma?” Maggy asked.
“What about my parents?” Clieo followed up with her own question.
The commander stopped in his tracks and responded without looking back.
“They are all safe, I assure you. Maggy, your grandmother’s fine. Martha’s a strong girl she is. And she always wants what’s best for you.”
And with that, he left the room.
“Grandma’s name is Martha?!” Clieo asked, smiling at Maggy.
Maggy, however, did not respond. She kept staring at the open hatch door blankly. She was suddenly jolted back to reality by Kaya, snapping her fingers in her face.
“Hey. Don’t space out on us now okay?”
“I’m not spacing out.” Maggy snapped.
“Relax, okay?” Kaya responded. “For once, I believe we are on the same side. You saw what I saw didn’t you?”
“Yeah…” Maggy responded.
“Saw what?” Clieo asked, with a puzzled look on her face.
“The commander.” Kaya responded.
“He did look kinda nervous if you ask me.” Clieo bunched up her face in a frown. “It looked like he was trying to hide something.”
“Yeah…” Maggy said again. “But nervous is not the word. Afraid is more like it.”
“Exactly.” Kaya concurred. “His expression had me putting on my wizard’s hat.”
“What?” Both Maggy and Clieo asked.
“It’s what I say when I’m thinking deeply. The question is, what would the commander be afraid of and what does it have to do with us?”
“Finally, how come he knows grandma so personally as to address her using her first name?” Maggy felt goose bumps form on her skin as though something big was about to happen. All the while, one name kept ringing in her head.