Cole watched the small party as they moved away from the central dome from a precipice of an outcrop of rock. He clutched at his ribs fresh with growing bruises from his recent ordeal and winced under the pressure from his own hand. He was careful to remain hidden from view while still in a position to view to group comfortably from his vantage point. From this distance, Cole could make out four figures moving into the main causeway, walking their way through the mud in the direction of the huge bio-dome; Faith which dominated the horizon. The figure at the front of the group was undoubtedly the Norton woman, with the holy man and a girl following her as she pointed over the various domes as they walked. At the rear, he could see the form of the Chancellor of the council, and frowned at the notable absence of that fool the Chamberlain. Cole wondered over his presence from the group and surmised that the sniveling form was always close by Lorraine's side and wondered what could have happened to prevent his servitude, especially with such an illustrious visitor to the planet. The thoughts of the Chamberlain were pushed from his mind as a shooting pain across the guts brought his thoughts back to the duty in hand. Satisfied in the direction the group were heading, Cole turned and withdrew from his position and slid down the small incline, then regaining his footing at the base of the slope ran in the direction of Creed's dome.
"Has anybody managed to analyze the rain?" asked the Reverend as they walked through the colony.
Lorraine shook her head, "until the water has been run through processing units, it has eluded all forms of testing" she explained. "Any vessel which it’s been placed in has either melted or shattered"
"I don't understand..." the group turned to face Lotti who was respectful trailing her master. She blushed under the scrutiny of the group and faltered.
"Go on..." urged Aston. Lotti allowed her head to fall toward the floor and stared at the ground, embarrassed by her sudden outburst. "Please...my child" soothed Aston, "there is nothing wrong with asking questions, do not be embarrassed for your curiosity, for it is how we learn. Only be sure to ask the right questions"
Lotti looked at Aston and absently stroked the book at her waist, "how will I know what is the right question?" she asked.
"All questions are correct in their own right, but not always at the correct time" he replied cryptically.
Lorraine shook her head at his reply, but Lotti appeared to understand the extent of the Reverend’s answer and looked straight at Lorraine. "How can the water be processed, but not analyzed?" she asked.
"That is a good point..." concurred Aston and turned to face Lorraine.
Lorraine shuffled under their gaze and looked embarrassed by the answer, "I'm afraid I do not have a definitive answer" she said, "I'm not completely aware of the technological process, all I know is the water is contained in the large stills and appears to lose the corrosive properties during filtration".
"But...can't the water be analyzed while in the stills?" asked Lotti.
"As you can see from our colony..." said Lorraine indicating around her, "our facilities are hardly state of the art. When we left Earth, we could only bring limited supplies and believe it or not...but scientific analyzers were not high on our list of priorities" she snapped, then immediately regretted her outburst. "I'm sorry..." she whispered.
Lotti appeared visibly shaken at the harsh response and her eyes seemed to glaze over, but her apology was waved away by Aston James who had walked in the direction of one of the domes. "Do not concern yourself" he called as he walked. The Dome he was heading toward was smaller in size than the other domes throughout the colony and it was set back from the other buildings. "What is the significance over this building?". The Reverend stopped and stared at the prefabricated panels which ran across the surface of the dome and casually allowed his hand to pass over the paneling. His fingers ran over the metal building and beneath his touch small flakes of rust drifted from the surface. Aston watched the flakes as they floated silently to the floor and her dragged his hand along the panels watching as the rust fell away to the soft muddy ground. Since he had arrived Aston had taken a keen view over the colony, even at the hectic pace which had driven them on their arrival. He had noticed the state of the buildings and was not surprised to see this building was in the same state of disrepair as the other buildings. A state of decay had cast its wary shadow over the colony and through the weather and lack of materials the colony was on the point of collapse, that much was obvious.
"It’s the powerhouse" said Lorraine catching up with the Reverend. He turned and looked at her briefly before returning his attention back to the flaking surface of the building. "The generators..." she continued, "are located within this building. All of the power to the colony runs through this building and out into the separate buildings" she explained.
The Reverend ran his fingers across the lock hanging limply from the door, "its locked..." he stated.
"Yes" agreed Lorraine, "we always keep this building secure"
"Well...err..." the question threw Lorraine and she wished her husband were here to deflect the questions and attention from herself. "we...well...the building houses all of the equipment which keeps the colony running, from electricity to the domes to power supplies to the mining area and the Bio-dome. The solar generators are the lifeblood of the colony...so we keep the building secure to protect the equipment from the elements"
"So it’s from natural resources that the building is protected and not an internal problem"
"What do you mean? "Lorraine asked.
"You’re not worried that someone within the colony may attempt to sabotage the equipment in order to lever control of the council..." Lorraine could feel an anger rising in the pit of her stomach at the suggestion.
"No" she snapped. "Everyone in the colony is working toward the same end!"
"Not quite everyone..." replied Aston.
"What do you mean? we are committed..."
"Liar!" shouted the Reverend.
"I beg your pardon..."
"I said Liar! snapped Aston. She saw his hand as it snaked toward the crucifix which hung from his belt, "I have been observing your actions...and those of the people around the town" he gazed around at the people walking in the causeway as he spoke. "They are scared" he said simply.
"Yes of course they are" snapped Lorraine, "the rain..."
"No, not the rain..." interrupted Aston, "There is something else...or someone" Lorraine followed his gaze as he spoke. She watched as they populace went about their daily chores and she frowned. Everything seemed normal to her.
"I don't know what you mean..." she whispered.
"Yes you do" said Aston, "I can see the fear in your eyes. I can see the apprehension in the faces of your people. Someone in this colony is breeding fear...it’s not just the rain you fear is it?" Lorraine refused to match his gaze, but watched her people as they walked. She could see with a clarity what the Reverend could see. They glanced furtively as they walked, they whispered in hushed silence as they spoke, Lorraine had never noticed before; probably because she was part of it, but they looked scared. "We were followed" said Aston keeping his attention on the building before him. Lorraine glanced about the area, but could see no-one. "He's gone now, but I know he was there...I could sense him". Aston turned to Lorraine and spoke to her earnestly, "It’s not just the weather that threatens your colony is it Madame Norton...its yourselves" he paused and looked over her shoulder toward the imposing shape of the Bio-Dome. "I think we'd better get moving...don't you?" he asked as he moved away from the building rubbing his hands together allowing small particles of rust to fall away under the pressure from his palms.
"Where is Creed?" demanded Cole as he burst into the Dome. The two bodyguards turned their attention from the crumpled body of the woman on the floor and leered in his direction. "Well?". Cole looked past the men and his eyes met the half-naked body of the woman. Blood was still spreading from an unseen wound presumably from the back of her skull. Cole stared, allowing his eyes to wander over her scantily clad body until they reached her face, which was masked in a quiet scream. Her lifeless eyes stared solemnly toward the ceiling as though searching accusingly for the person that had pushed her from the gantry above their heads.
"Please forgive the mess Mr. Cole" purred a smooth voice from above. Cole tore his eyes from the body and up to the source of the voice. Creed stood leaning against the railing staring down at the mess of flesh beneath him. "There appears to have been a dreadful accident" he dismissed the notion of any wrongdoing on his behalf, "poor thing" he said as he began a slow descent down the stair. "I shall miss her...charms" his smile extended sickly over his face and caused Cole to swallow involuntarily. Creed stood by Cole at the base of the stair and cast a quick glance toward the limp body. "She had...how would you say...certain qualities..." he turned his attention back to Cole, and immediately Cole wished he hadn't. "And what Mr. Cole, do you have to report?"
"Err...yes...well..." stammered Cole.
"Get on with it man!" raged Creed.
"The holy man is heading toward Faith with Lorraine Norton and a couple of councilors". Cole spoke quickly and winched as Creed raised a hand. The action caused Creed to laugh at the feeling instilled in Cole as he allowed his hand to run through his hair, then placed it tightly around the smaller man's shoulder.
"In that case Mr. Cole, I think we had better go and pay them a visit don't you?"