"I had him."
"They're not doing a good job at invading, Major."
"I really don't think we're dealing with a gang of horny teenaged space girls here."
"Inside was a woman, apparently Doctor Kayla Asselin but DNA tests are being done to confirm her identity."
Chapter 9 - Happy Canada Day
July 1, 2128
"One more arc, then we can go in," Darcy said over the radio. The rest of Beaver Flight acknowledged the order. "Then, we can celebrate properly. Minus the beer and fireworks."
"It's not the same, McGee," Dominique said.
"Oh, sure it'll be." Darcy angled her power suit, beginning Beaver Flight's last pass over the moon's far side. "I asked the Major to try to get us live coverage from Parliament Hill. She's told me that she managed to arrange something extra."
"And you didn't tell us?" Victoria said. "McGee, we've been moping--"
"You've been moping," Renée corrected. "I've been just fine."
"Geek, if I had told you, you would've been nagging me for details for the entire patrol." Darcy glanced at her radar screen. The only blips around were her team. "This way, now you're eager to finish up and get back in."
Victoria twisted her power suit to face Darcy's. "When did you become a psychologist?"
"It was part of my courses on commanding and leadership. You have to know how the troops think before you can order them around. Part of leading is knowing what motivates your people."
"I think McGee does know you," Dominique said. Renée's laughter carried over the radio.
"Okay, people, let's focus on our sensors. We don't want to be surprised out here."
"Not when we're being surprised inside," Renée added.
Victoria reoriented her power suit to face her direction of travel. "I still think we should've been told."
"If you knew there was a surprise, it wouldn't be one." Darcy adjusted her power suit's speed. She flipped over to Darkside One's command channel. "Darkside Control, this Beaver One. Making our final pass. ETA on our return is fifteen minutes. Over."
"Beaver One, this is Darkside Control." Fay's voice remained as steady and calm as ever. "Copy that. ETA fifteen minutes."
Darcy returned to Beaver Flight's frequency. "Let's keep our eyes sharp. Last thing we want is to get caught with our pants down at the end of our shift. Everyone else would just laugh at us. No one here wants that, right?"
"Damn straight, McGee!" Victoria called.
"Can I comment, McGee?" Renée asked. "Please? Pretty please?"
"Bite your tongue, Princess," Darcy said.
"Possible contact," Dominique reported. "Bearing two niner five mark one seven. Course, looks to be stationary for now. Wait, now accelerating towards the moon."
"Confirmed," Victoria said. "Acceleration is from gravity."
Darcy checked the blip on her own radar scope. "Geek, anything on the neutrino detector?"
After a moment, Victoria answered, "Negative. The position is also outside the aliens' normal appearance area."
Darcy kept her eye on the blip for a few seconds as she worked over what to do. "Geek, Dom, maintain your current course. Keep watching for anything else. Princess, you're with me. We're going to take a look at the bogey. Everyone, switch over to the command channel." Darcy changed her radio's frequency. "Darkside Control, this is Beaver One. We have contact with a bogey. Are you picking it up?"
"Affirmative, Beaver One. Command wants your flight to investigate. Do you need assistance?"
"Negative, Darkside. None required yet. Who's on stand by right now?"
"Bones of Eagle Flight is at Ready One." Darcy placed the name, Irene Weber, Eagle Flight's doctor.
"Have her launch, so that she's available, thanks. Beaver One out. Princess, follow me." Darcy fired her thrusters, vectoring away from the rest of Beaver Flight. She worked out an intercept course for her power suit. Behind her, Renée's suit banked to follow.
Darcy let her radar ping to tell her how fast she was closing in on the bogey. She engaged her lidar, narrowing it to just the object. "Princess, use a wide sweep. Watch for anything else showing up."
"Wide sweep, on it."
On Darcy's scope, the lidar reported the size and shape of the unknown object; cylindrical, approximately three metres long, three-quarters of a metre in diameter, no propulsion detected. About the same size as the cylinder with the missing woman. Darcy transmitted her findings to Renée and Darkside One. "I'm going in closer. Princess, hang back. Darkside Control, are there any other missing women that we should know about?"
"Negative, Beaver One. Be careful, hun."
"I will." Darcy fired her thrusters, picking up speed. As her suit approached the new cylinder, she kept an eye on it, looking for any sign that something was wrong. The cylinder loomed in bother her view and her radar scope. Darcy eased back on her speed.
"Neutrino emissions," Victoria called. "Source is – Darcy, look out!"
Darcy opened her forward thrusters full. Her harnesses dug into her chest, hips, and shoulders with the sudden acceleration. In front, the cylinder turned into a white flare. Shrapnel peppered Darcy's suit, the pings echoing throughout the cabin. A large piece of debris smashed into the power suit's right leg, adding a spin to its path. Darcy fought to regain control.
"McGee, are you okay?" Renée called. "McGee?"
Through gritted teeth, Darcy responded, "Hang on. Busy."
"Beaver One, this is Darkside Control. Status?"
"I'm good," Darcy reported. "No idea about the suit."
"It's not going to walk," Renée said. "Your right leg is bent."
"Beaver Flight, this is Darkside Control. Eagle Flight is launching."
"McGee, check your radiation levels," Victoria said. "I couldn't tell what sort of blast that was."
Darcy glanced at her radiation detector, then at the backup strip of film. Both showed no radiation. "I'm good there. Darkside Control, I'm going to need a crash cart standing by when I land."
"Roger that, Beaver One. Hangar crews have been informed."
"McGee, come next to me," Renée said. "Maybe you can hobble in leaning on my suit."
"Are you sure? Princess, this isn't like helping someone with a broken leg hop around."
"Why not? If Geek can pimp slap an alien, then I can take your weight as you hop."
Darcy tapped her thrusters, picking up enough speed to float towards Renée. Renée wrapped one of her suit's arms around the waist of Darcy's. Together, they returned to the hanger, keeping things slow to prevent any added damage.
Victoria and Dominique waited at the hangar door. Renée fired her thrusters as she brought herself and Darcy in for a landing. Darcy flexed her suit's damaged leg, testing its motion. On the count of three, she and Renée entered the hangar. Once all of Beaver Flight crossed the threshhold, the hangar door closed. Pressurization began immediately, the roar of the fans growing louder as more air entered the hangar. Several engineers ran out from cover, air masks over their mouths and noses. A crash cart loaded with fire fighting gear passed the engineers, its light strobing red.
Darcy cracked open her suit's hatch as soon as she got the green light. She leapt down, cushioning the fall with her legs. One of the fire fighters ushered her away from her suit. Ground crews guided the rest of Beaver Flight to their docking bays. Darcy looked over her shoulder at her suit's mangled leg. "Christ," she whispered.
The fire fighter waved to get her attention. "Ma'am, any injuries?"
"No, none. Well, bruising from the harness, maybe. I haven't looked."
"None." Darcy turned her attention back to her power suit. Its surface was pitted from the debris. "How close was I to the explosion?"
"No idea, ma'am. This way, please."
"I don't need a doctor."
"Not my call." The woman led Darcy to a waiting stretcher with two women in scrubs standing near. "She's all yours."
One of the women took Darcy by the shoulder, eliciting a strangled scream of pain from the pilot. "Sorry. Sit." The woman had an Australian accent.
Darcy saw the captain's bars on the woman's epaulettes. "Yes, ma'am." She sat down on the stretcher.
"I don't believe we've met. Doctor Melissa Nielsen." The doctor brought out a small flashlight. "Look at me."
Darcy's eyes watered as Doctor Nielsen shined her light in each of them. "I didn't bump my head," she protested.
"That you know of, Lieutenant." Doctor Nielsen put away her flashlight. "Any ringing in your ears? Headache?"
"No and no."
Doctor Nielsen started feeling along Darcy's arm. She stopped at the shoulder when Darcy winced. "Doesn't feel broken.'
"That was the harness."
"Let me see."
Darcy unbuttoned her coveralls so she could reveal her shoulders to the doctor. Rectangular red welts appeared on both of her shoulders and on her chest.. Doctor Nielsen examined the injuries. "Anywhere else?" she asked.
"My hip, probably."
"How does it feel?"
Darcy shrugged, regretting it right away. "Sore. Not as bad now as when I got the welts."
"And you're not feeling any dizziness, nausea, or headache?"
"None of those."
"I'd say you were lucky, Lieutenant. Still, I want to see you in Sickbay by this time tomorrow, to make sure there's no lasting effects. If your shoulders, chest, or hips get too painful, I can get you a topical painkiller. There's going to be bruising."
The other pilots from Beaver Flight ran over to join Darcy. "Are you okay?" Dominique asked.
"I'm fine." Darcy let some irritation lace her words.
"She appears fine," the doctor said. "I want to see her in Sickbay at some point, but I'm not going to force her or order her to go. For now."
Darcy got to her feet. "Am I free to go?" She fixed her coveralls, shrugging into the sleeves and shoulders.
"You are." The doctor stepped away from the stretcher. "If you feel nauseous or dizzy or get a headache, get your ass to Sickbay right away." She looked over at the rest of Beaver Flight. "If you notice those symptoms on her, get her down to me. Understood?"
"Yes, Doctor." Dominique wrapped an arm around Darcy's waist. "Let's go. You need to rest."
Darcy glared at her tall teammate. "I can walk on my own."
"I could carry you." Dominique bent her knees. "Your choice."
Darcy sighed. "Fine. The mess. I need tea."
Beaver Flight meandered through the corridors, travelling from the hangar through the ready room and on to the mess hall. The aroma of the day's cooking still lingered in the mess. Victoria dashed ahead to start steeping the tea while Dominique made sure Darcy sat down. Renée retrieved tea cups, setting them down at the table before she herself sat.
"Guys, I appreciate this, but I don't need this. Really." Darcy tried to stand up, only to be pulled back down by Dominique. "Dom!"
"You were at the centre of an explosion," Dominique said. "Just take it easy, okay?"
Victoria returned with the pot of tea. As she started pouring, she said, "We were worried for you. That was too close."
"You warned me in time, Tori." Darcy picked up her tea and took a sip. "Ow, hot. How did you know?"
Victoria sat down. "There was a neutrino surge."
"From the object?"
"No." Victoria blew steam off her tea. "I have no idea where it came from. I wasn't facing the right way. But, I figured it couldn't be good."
Darcy nodded. "Thanks for the heads up, anyway. I saw my suit's leg. That would have been bad if it hit my chest."
"How is your chest?" Renée asked. "That looked painful."
"Doesn't hurt yet." Darcy shrugged. "Now we know what happens when we throw the suits into reverse too hard. Nothing I haven't done to myself before. Have you ever felt the turbulance in a helicopter? Made what I did feel like a roller coaster."
Renée set down her tea cup. "Roller coasters don't have explosions or have airtight seals."
"Guys, I'm alive. Can we enjoy that for a bit?" Darcy checked her watch. "Besides, we need to get to the lounge soon. That's where the Major's surprise will be revealed. We've had the fireworks already."
Dominique stifled a laugh. "Okay, Darcy. We're just happy and relieved you're not hurt."
"Thanks." Darcy smiled. "Let's grab the tea and go to the lounge. It'll be more comfortable there."
The lounge was busy, considering the hour. The women already in the room were broken into small groups; one group of four played cards, another group of three sat in the corner and chatted, a third group of six stood around the foosball table working out a tournament. The uniforms were a mix of the nations on the base, Russian and American, Indian and Australian. Dominique led Darcy to a free couch and helped her sit down. Victoria fell into the seat at the end of the couch, curling her leg underneath her. Renée pulled a chair over to join the others.
Darcy raised her tea cup. "First, I want to make a toast. Normally, today, this wouldn't be tea but something stronger."
"Ideally six feet tall?" Renée giggled. "Or just hung like a horse?"
"Not where I was going, but I like that image more than a beer bottle." Darcy smirked. "Unfortunately, we have neither. However, we have each other. Whether that's good or bad is up to you. I, for one, think it's a good thing. We worked hard to get here. We've encountered aliens. We're working with people from around the world. We're on the freaking moon! For all that, I salute you. To good friends. Cheers!"
The other women clinked their cups againt Darcy's. "Cheers!" Renée said. She downed her tea. "To good friends. Even Tori."
"Aw, thanks." Victoria got up and leaned over to hug Renée. "I like you, too."
"Okay, enough. Enough!" Renée gripped the chair to keep from falling out.
Dominique laughed. "Just like my little sister. Tanya always loved tackling me."
"How tall is she?" Darcy asked.
"Tori's height. She takes more after Mom. I get my height from Dad's side. But that never stopped Tanya. She was determined to pin me down."
Victoria disengaged from Renée and sat back down on the couch. "Did she ever succeed?"
"Never. She always got to find out how the world looked upside down." Dominique's smile became wistful. "It didn't stop her, though once she hit her teen years, she didn't try as often. She didn't want her boyfriends to think she was rough and tumble." She shook her head. "Dainty didn't really fit her, but she pulled it off."
"My brothers were always trying to get me to play with them," Renée said. "Action figures, toy cars, video fighting games. Never my style."
"I don't know. I got my brother to play Barbies with me in return for playing something I didn't really care for." Victoria said. "Then I discovered interesting stuff, like science fiction. Instant cred with the guys at school."
"You had Barbies?" Renée laughed.
"Gifts from family. They thought I was going to be normal."
"They must have been disappointed."
Victoria stuck her tongue out at Renée. "Normal's overrated. If I was normal, I wouldn't be here. I'd be doing something unfulfilling, living in a boring suburb in a house that looked like every other house in the division. No, thank you. Not for me."
"There's something to be said about having some sort of routine," Dominique said. "Less stress about what you're doing day to day."
"I have that," Victoria said. "I was doing post-doctoral work when I got this offer. I got to set my own times, other than when I had to go teach, and I got to work with all sorts of fun toys."
"I had to leave my fun toys behind," Darcy said. "Vibrators weren't considered 'essential'. Had to be a man who made that decision. Old socks would've gotten through."
Major di Carlo entered the lounge and scanned over the crowd. She spotted the pilots of Beaver Flight and walked over to them. "Hello, ladies. Don't get up." She pulled another chair over and sat down. "I heard about your excitement. That was new. Did Doctor Nielsen give you a clean bill of health, Lieutenant?"
Darcy nodded. "Sort of. She still wants to see me before our next patrol."
"Make sure you do." Di Carlo reached into her pocket and brought out a nano-SD card. "Here. I think all of you will enjoy this. Thank your commanders back on Earth for arranging this."
Darcy took the memory card from the di Carlo. "Thanks, Major."
"Is there anything else that could help with your celebrations?"
"Beavertails," Dominique said. "Deep-friend pastries with brown sugar and chocolate on top."
Di Carlo nodded. "I'll ask the kitchen to do what they can." She got up. "Enjoy the rest of your Canada Day." She left.
Darcy flipped the nano-SD card over in her fingers. "Well?"
Victoria stared at the card. "Well?"
"What are we waiting for?" Renée asked.
"That's my question," Darcy said. "Any reason to wait?"
Dominique stood up. "None. Back to our room?"
"Yes, back to our room!" Victoria stood up and struck a dramatic pose.
Renée tossed a throw pillow at Victoria. "Dramatic much?"
Back in their quarters, Darcy sat down on her bunk. She passed the nano-SD card to Dominique to place into the holodisplay. Victoria parked herself beside Darcy. Renée disappeared into the bathroom for a moment. Dominique checked the files on the memory card and saw that the filenames were ordered. "Hey, they made this easy for us," she announced. She queued up the playback.
Renée dashed back out and climbed up to her bunk. "Okay, I'm set," she said as she flipped on to her stomach.
Dominique picked up the holodisplay's remote before stretching out on her bed. She pressed the play button. The holodisplay flickered on. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's logo appeared, rotating a metre above the display unit. It faded out as "O Canada" began playing. Parliament Hill appeared, starting with the Canadian flag at the top of Peace Tower and panning down towards the crowd in front of a stage.
"Yes!" Dominique said. "The show from the Hill! I hope they got Farming Dirt in this year. I kept missing them when they were in town."
"Farming Dirt?" Victoria asked. "Are they any good?"
"What sort of music do they play?" Renée asked.
"They're a techno comedy troupe. All original songs, but about beiung Canadian. Lots of songs about hockey and Tim Horton's. I should see if Tanya can send my collection up for the next mail shipment."
Darcy leaned against the wall, gasping a little as her shoulders twinged. "Okay, now it's starting to sting."
"Need the doctor?" Victoria asked.
"Not right now." Darcy tried to get comfortable. "If it gets worse, I'll see her. I want to see this. I've been to the Hill once, when I was a kid. I never got a chance to go back."
"Good lord, that's a lot of people," Renée said. I didn't think Ottawa had that many people."
Dominique rolled her eyes. "Ottawa's a big city. It just doesn't look like it. Or act like it. Not like Montreal."
"Still, that's a lot of people there."
"A lot are tourists. Where else do you go to celebrate Canada Day?"
"Stanley Park," Victoria answered. "At least if you're trying to find a secluded spot to celebrate with one other person."
Darcy glances at Victoria. "I don't think we need that much information on your sex life. Besides, poison ivy, have you heard of it? It gets everywhere."
"Okay, I think that's more information than I wanted to know," Renée said. "And have either of you heard of blankets? You avoid getting pebbles stuck in you."
"Guys?" Dominique paused the playback. "Are we about to tell our 'weirdest places to have sex' stories?"
"Good point," Darcy said. "Let's watch the show. We can share embarrassing sex stories later."
Dominique resumed the show from the Hill. An emcee came out, encouraging the crowd to get loud for the cameras in both official languages. Subtitles popped up, translating the French to English. Renée made approving noises at the decision. Several acts, both English and French, of all genres appeared on stage, from the well known to the up-and-comers, interspersed with speakers from the Governor-General and the Prime Minister to various MPs, authors, and comedians of all stripes.
"It's official," Victoria said, "I miss home."
"We're not here forever, Tori," Darcy said. "We'll get to go home, even if I have to carry each one of you myself."
"Or we carry you, on our shoulders," Dominique said.
"Guys, I just realized something," Renée said. "We've got new entertainment, including all sorts of acts that no one else has seen before."
"You wouldn't be suggesting trading favours with other flights in return for viewing the show, are you?" Darcy asked. "Because that would ignore all the support staff here."
"You make a very good point, Darcy."
"We can't just hold on to this," Victoria said. "Have you seen some of the Russians here? They look ready to jump down someone's throat just to have an excuse to fight. They're beyond bored."
"It's just Lieutenant Emelin that's looking for a fight," Dominique pointed out. "But, yeah, it looks like the women here the longest are getting cabin fever. It wouldn't hurt to have something new for them to enjoy. We've got a short window, though. The Americans will be getting their Independance Day shows in a few days."
"Damn, right," Renée said. "Maybe we can arrange trades of whatever entertainment anyone else has? Even a collection of Bollywood movies wouldn't be a bad thing."
"How about we sleep on it? It's been a long day, at least for me." Darcy got up to grab her night clothes. "Besides, I'll think better after I see the doc."
"All pilots report for launch."
"Now they decide to zerg rush."
"Approaching the event horizon."