FOUR WEEKS LATER
November 7th, 2040 – 08:57
“Don’t worry,” said Sam. “I’m sure they’ll rule in your favour.
“How can you be so sure?” said Ripley.
“Because Eduardo’s in one piece,” said Selena. “And according to Sommer, she saved his life. That means you were right. So you have nothing to be afraid of.”
“It doesn’t change what she did,” Selena. “She attacked you and injured people on her way out. They’re going to look for someone to blame for that.”
Sam placed a hand on her uniform-decorated shoulder. “Well, they’re not going to blame you, Ripley. They don’t know about our breakout but they do know that what you did to Sommer – for Sommer . . . saved Eduardo’s life.” He gave her a warm smile.
So much had changed since Sam and his friends had gotten to 2040. Four weeks had passed since Sommer had shocked all and returned with a broken Eduardo in her arms. They had all come to realise that the experiment had worked. They had also come to realise that maybe there was something more to their arrival. Maybe, with the arrival of Sam, Selena, Eduardo, Doug and Sarah, that there was a possibility... that they could win the war!
When her watch read nine o’clock, the double doors in front of Ripley opened to a courtroom-styled room. It was small and only had five people in it. She walked into the steely eyes of the General; the Captain; the President and two high-ranking soldiers.
“Morning Sergeant Trautman,” said the Afrikaans General. He was in the high chair that would have normally been for a judge. It was second only to the President’s chair. He was clearly there just to observe. “Shall we begin?”
“Yes Sir,” said Ripley. She went behind her designated table and took off her hat.
“So, in the interest of keeping this briefing short, we’ll do you the favour of sparing you the formalities.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
“So we’re here because you broke the rules. You let a dangerous pscybotic loose in the compound. What do you have to say for yourself?”
Ripley hesitated before speaking. “Sir, the pscybotic now known as Sommer, did escape the compound under my watch. She did injure U.N. Army personnel during her escape, I admit that.”
“Okay, so you admit that you were wrong,” said the General.
“Sir, I admit that we were running experiments on her to see if we could use her as a weapon.”
“Experiments that weren’t successful, I understand.” He picked up a file and slammed on the table again.
“No, Sir! As you can tell, she’s succumbed to the experiments. She’s on our side now.”
“We don’t know that yet!”
“Sir!?” Ripley couldn’t help but notice that the General’s Afrikaans accent became that much more pronounced when he was angry. If Ripley wasn’t used to it, she would have had a hard time understanding him.
The General continued. “But what we do know is that the Department of Scientific Research and Development has wasted precious time doing experiments on our enemy when they could have been helping design better weapons.”
“We have been working on that.”
“Well, not enough.” The General was on his feet.
“Just a minute Sir,” said the Captain. “I don’t believe that that is a just accusation.”
“Not now, Noah!” said the General, silencing the Captain.
Not wanting his senior officer to take the heat for her, she continued to defend herself. “Sir, with respect, the Department of Scientific Research and Development has been working on weapons for you. And I’d also like to point out that Sommer did come back which is proof that our experiment did work.”
The General was about to say something else but then the President stood up. “Gentlemen, gentlemen. I think this is a stressful event for everyone. I think it would be a good idea for us to all calm down.”
The General sighed, not wanting to disagree with the President. “Of course Sir. I was simply trying to point out that the Department of Scientific Research and Development could have used their time more effectively.”
“I agree.” said the President to Ripley’s dismay. Then he continued. “However...” Ripley sighed quietly, “I also believe that the Department of Scientific Research and Development has done substantial work on weapon’s development. So their experiment on the pscybotic, now known as Sommer, – he nodded at Ripley – was not in the way.”
“Sir,” said the General, “are you suggesting that we let her go?”
“What I’m suggesting,” said the President “is that we discuss this in private.”
“With respect, Sir,” said the Captain, “this directly involves Sergeant Trautman. I believe we should keep her in the conversation.”
“I understand,” said the President. “But what we have to discuss is leaning towards politics. We’ve laid down all the facts. Now, what needs to be discussed lies in the realms of how things need to be handled around here.” He turned to Ripley. “So, if you’ll please excuse us.”
Ripley nodded. “Of course, Sir.” Ripley put her beret back on and walked out of the room. The two soldiers closed the doors behind her. As soon as they did that, Ripley took off her beret again and shrunk to the ground against the wall. “Another day in Paradise,” she said in a quiet voice.
As she sat on the floor, Ripley couldn’t help but remember the last time she’d been sent out of a room like that. It was the day before she had been granted permission to join the army. She touched the golden coin at the end of her necklace and sighed.
EIGHTEEN MONTHS AGO
August 22nd, 2039 – 9:22
The doors closed behind her with a bang. “Dammit.” Ripley punched the wall. Then the doors opened again, this time another one of two soldiers came out to her.
“Are you okay?”
Ripley looked at him and sighed. “I don’t know, Brent.”
“Look Rip, it’s going to be okay. They are going to rule in your favour.”
“How do you know that, Brent?”
He shrugged. “I just know.”
Ripley smiled amusingly. “You don’t know that. I mean, how could you?”
“Well, I can also say that you don’t know either that you’re not going to make it.”
“You might be right, but what I do know, is that they don’t want me there. And that’s regardless of the fact that I’ve wanted this for the past nine years.”
Brent knew that she was referring to the night her mother was killed. “Ripley—”
“Look, Brent, just don’t. The General was clear. I’m not ready to be enlisted. Maybe he’s right.”
“No, he’s not, Ripley. You’re more than ready. You’re one of the most capable people I know. I mean, you joined the Department of Scientific Research and Development three years ago at the age of fifteen.”
“Only because of my father.” Ripley sighed. “Look, recess ends in an hour. I’ll be back then, okay.”
“Where are you going?”
“I just need to be alone for a while.”
But Ripley disappeared around the corner and out of sight. Ripley didn’t know where she was going. All she knew was that it was over. She was never going to be enlisted. Not as long as the General was in charge.
As Ripley waited, she couldn’t help but feel lonely. It had only been a month since Brent had died, yet inside her, it felt like yesterday while at the same time it felt like he’d been gone for ages. She waited diligently as they talked about the “politics” of the situation.
Ripley thought about Sommer and wondered what the men inside would think to do with her. She hadn’t admitted it yet but she had also been just as surprised when she came back. The General had been right: every experiment with Sommer had failed, so how was it that she had come back? Part of her thought that it had to be Eduardo.
Ever since coming back and recovering from his injuries, Eduardo had been keeping close to Sommer – at least as close as he could due to constant bar of experiments the Department was doing on her – and what was interesting was that he didn’t seem as out of step as he had before being kidnapped.[Sphu Kubh6]
Later, the double doors were opened by the two soldiers, which meant it was time to go back in. Once again, Ripley had a flashback of the last time she’d seen those double doors open like that.
EIGHTEEN MONTHS AGO
August 22nd, 2039 – 10:20
The double doors were opened by Brent and the other soldier. Ripley walked in and stood behind the table as she did an hour ago. She’d had a lot of time to think about how to protest to the decision she knew they were going to make.
The General looked at her with stern eyes. “Miss Trautman, we gathered here today to discuss your enlisting into the United Nations Army. I’m afraid to tell you...”
Ripley’s heart skipped a beat in that second, but it recovered when she heard what the General said.
“... that we have yet to come to a decision. We will have to reconvene this hearing for oh nine hundred hours tomorrow morning.”
Ripley knew that this couldn’t be good news, but she nodded anyway. “Uh, yes Sir.”
“Dismissed, Miss Trautman.”
Ripley gave the captain a look and saw that he didn’t agree with the General. As soon as she got outside, Brent followed her.
“This is not the end. You still have a chance. Don’t sell yourself short.”
Ripley wasn’t listening. She walked in no particular direction. She eventually found herself in the Army canteen. She wasn’t a big drinker but she didn’t care. She ordered the strongest drink and downed it. She ordered another one and followed suit.
It wasn’t until her seventh drink – she thought – sometime later, that somebody came up to her and tapped her on her shoulder. She turned around to see a soldier, a Lieutenant standing in front of her.
“Hey babe,” said the Lieutenant. “You do know that only soldiers are allowed to drink here on the house, right?”
“So?” said Ripley, a little impaired.
“So, I couldn’t help but notice that you’re drinking like a soldier. Do you plan on paying for those drinks?”
It was only then that Ripley actually thought about it, but then shrugged. “How is that, any business of yours?”
“Well, I’m making it my business, babe.” He stroked her cheek.
Ripley quickly stood up and threw his hand away. “Don’t call me babe.”
The other soldiers starting cheering. She knew that they wanted to see a fight.
“Well, well, well.” The Lieutenant started circling her. “It looks like we have someone here who thinks they can fight.”
“I can fight,” said Ripley defiantly.
The Lieutenant looked back at the other soldiers who started cheering louder. But when he looked back at Ripley, she knocked him down with a punch.
A fight ensued between the two with the Lieutenant having the upper hand throughout, but he was taunting her and Ripley took advantage. She went so far as to knock the lieutenant over the head with a barstool. It wasn’t until Brent stepped in that the fight stopped.
While Ripley was pulled away from the canteen by Brent, she couldn’t help but notice the Captain sitting in the corner. He had an intrigued look on his face as if he was actually impressed by her.
Ripley stood behind the table again and awaited the verdict. The President and the Captain shared a look before the General spoke.
“Well, to keep this simple, I hereby inform you that all charges against you have been dropped. You are free to continue being a part of the U.N. Army as well as work in the Department of Scientific Research and Development.”
Ripley couldn’t hide her smile. “Thank you, Sir.”
The General nodded, clearly displeased. “Dismissed, Sergeant Trautman.”
Ripley turned on her heel and left the room, but not before giving the Captain a pleased look. She remembered how it was he who approached her after the bar fight and told her that he would put in a good word. She didn’t forget that it was he who had basically gotten her into the Army. And deep down, she knew that it was he who had pushed to keep her in the Army.
She left the room and went out to the courtyard. She felt like a heavy weight had just been lifted off her chest. While her most dominant feeling was relief, she also felt lonelier than ever. She wished more than anything that she could share this moment with him. But he was gone. She was about to start weeping from all the loneliness when the most unexpected person came to her.
“Ripley.” It was Sarah who spoke. “I heard about your hearing. Sorry I wasn’t there before you went in.”
There was so much he wanted to say to her. “You’re here now.”
Sarah smiled. “So how did it go?”
“My suspension’s been lifted. I am once again a Sergeant in the U.N. Army.”
“Congratulations. I guess this calls for a drink. I don’t suppose there’s anywhere we could get one?”
“Yeah, there is.” Ripley led the way. “This way.”
When they arrived at the canteen, Sarah remarked in amazement. “Wow. I’ve been here a month and I didn’t know that this place existed.
“Well the compound is big. According to the history books, it’s as big as the biggest university in what used to be the United States.”
“Huh,” said Sarah sitting on one of the bar stools. “Funny. They teach us all about history in school but somehow you seem to know more than I do.”
“Speaking of school,” said Ripley taking the seat beside Sarah, “aren’t you a bit young to be drinking.”
“Oh, so they check I.D.’s here?” Ripley’s smile gave it away. She looked around amusingly and Sarah couldn’t help but ask why. “What is it?”
“Oh, nothing. It’s just that" still smiling, "the last time I was here, I got into a bar fight.”
“Really, you?” After a moment, she smiled. “Now why am I not surprised?” They both laughed out loud. For Ripley, she couldn’t help but feel that despite Brent not being there, everything would be alright.
TWO HOURS LATER
November 7th, 2040 – 12:18
Doug walked down the darkened corridor as stealthily as he could. He’d been exploring the compound all morning for all the secrets that they hadn’t told them. If this was the future, then there had to be some cool gadgets lying around somewhere.
On the south side of the compound, Doug came across a locked door. He used a hammer he had found to break the padlock. He then sneaked in and switched on the flashlight. His light beam immediately landed on a machine that Doug didn’t at first recognise. But when he did, all he could say was one word.
“Whoa. Now this is cool.”