An Echo of Yesterday

Part Two -- by Becky Ratliff


(See Disclaimer in Part 1)

Part 2
(aboard the Saratoga, time indeterminate)

River and Starlight

..........It is night. Alone on the bank of a wide, slow-moving river,
She shivers in the cold misty air rising from its black surface --
God knows what lies in those depths. She reaches out
Across the water, as if to touch the other shore,
Hidden and unknowable though it is, through the fog.
But the distance only seems greater for having made the effort.

She falls to her knees in the wet grass and raises her eyes to the sky,
Trying to give anguish a voice in prayer. Too great for words, that --
Can God hear the language of the heart?

The sky has been dark every time she has looked guidance there.
But now, for a moment, the clouds part and she counts five stars,
So small in the immensity but yet so very bright...
No, wait, there is a sixth! Dim and far away but still
part of that unnamed constellation.

She catches a wild hope in trembling hands,
Daring that yet another dream will turn to ashes in her grasp --
To live is to hope, to live..........

........Vansen turned from the viewport where she had been
sitting sleepless. Being lonely, missing people, those were
never things she had allowed herself to do before. But now,
with time on her hands, she was learning just how slowly a
few weeks could pass by. Everyone else had the good
sense to be asleep.

For a moment, she thought Vanessa was having a nightmare
and considered waking her. But before she could cross the
distance between them, her friend smiled a little in her sleep
then quieted.

On silent feet, she crossed the room. The others were long
accustomed to her midnight watches at the viewport, no
one wakened as she passed by. She lay between the sheets
and closed her eyes.

(Washington DC -- at the Times Sentinel, August )

Amy remembered when she had been a little girl, visiting
the paper with her father. It had been a real “paper” then,
she still remembered watching the presses and smelling the
ink and the huge rolls of newsprint. A lot had changed
since then. There was still a printed version of the
Times, but the subscribers were mostly traditionalists
and their numbers were dwindling. Amy could soon see the
day when the only hard copies they would sell would be to
people wanting a printed copy of a wedding announcement
or some such thing. Most people downloaded their copies
of the paper from the web whenever they wanted, the
on-line version was up to date on the hour rather than every
morning. But still...her mental image of the Times was
watching the papers roll off the presses, folded and ready
for delivery.

She felt a little sorry for the kids born too late to have a
paper route. There was something very satisfying about
throwing the paper in just such a way as to THUMP it
against the screen door and have it land square on the
mat...not in the shrubbery or out in the yard! She
remembered her sneakers wet with dew and grass
stains...the morning sun warm on her face after the chill of a
predawn start...the robins waking with the light...the
sleeping city coming to life around her.

The elevator doors opened and she snapped out of her
reverie in time to jump off before the crowd behind her
pushed her out. They scattered in individual directions,
most of them with some important job to do before the next
hourly deadline.

Amy’s destination was the Washington desk. She docked
her computer and filed the latest two stories she had
written, they’d be on-line by the next edition.

She clicked on the assignments screen to find out what she
was going to be working on today, but before she had a
chance to download her schedule, someone sat down on the
corner of her desk. She looked up, annoyed.

It was her primary rival and best friend, John Fairchild. He
was a few years younger and always hungry for a scoop,
that led him to take risks she avoided...most of the that she had children. At the moment, he was
grinning and twirling a datachip in his fingers.

“What’s that, pictures of your new girlfriend?”

Fairchild looked around to see if anyone was close enough
to overhear. “Pictures, all right, but they’re from Vesta,
they’re almost five years old and I think you’ll find them
VERY interesting. Can we talk trade?”

“How firm is this?”

“My source is impeccable. He wants this to come out but
he’s scared. If we can confirm his story, he’ll come

“What do you want for it?”

“Your lead on the Veep and the bank deal.”

Amy thought about it. That was a good solid lead on a
story she could break as an exclusive. “Let me see one. If
it’s as interesting as you’s a deal for the rest.”

Fairchild slotted the chip and pulled up an image. It was
grainy, the camera hadn’t had a very high resolution. But
she didn’t need a studio image to recognize a dead chig lying
beside a machine of some kind. “What’s this thing?”

“One of their radio transmitters, my source told me.”

She leaned forward. “You have someone who can confirm
Aerotech knew about the chigs over four years ago?”

“That isn’t all. They killed this chig and shut down the

“But they didn’t leave evidence lying around on Vesta.”

“Unfortunately for them, they did, but you aren’t going to
find out what till you pony up.”

Amy found a blank chip and copied several files to it, then
handed it over. “Talk, Fairchild.”

“Look at the rest of the pictures.”

She flipped through, they were carvings in a rock cliff. All
of them had seen images of the chig alphabet from the
phony peace conference, it seemed obvious to Amy that
some of the carvings were in that same alphabet. Others
were abstract designs that she had no way of interpreting.
“Jesus Christ, Johnny, it’s all true, isn’t it?”

“Well, I don’t know about all. But it sure explains why
the chig ambassador was willing to commit suicide in order
to take out CEO Wayne, doesn’t it? My source took these
other pictures, but when the Aerotech recon team killed
that chig, he didn’t turn them over to the company.”

“So why didn’t you keep this for yourself?” Amy asked
him. “This could be the story of a lifetime, if we can
confirm it.”

Fairchild looked at her long and hard. “Because I may be
nuts, but I’m not suicidal, Amy. I think whoever tries to
break this story will never live to file it. Aerotech is not
going to let this come out. But you’ve been on them like a
bulldog as long as I’ve known you, sooner or later you’re
going to become just too much of a pain in the ass for them
to put up with you anymore. They’re going to get you
anyway one of these days if you don’t get them first. It
might be your only chance.”

Amy tucked the chip safely in a zippered pocket. “I only
need one chance, Johnny my friend. Go get the Veep!”

“Amy --” He took a deep breath. “Amy, play this one
really smart. I don’t want to have signed your death
warrant by putting you onto this.”

“How do you know I wouldn’t have come onto it myself
anyway down the line?” She countered. “Like you said,
I’ve been on them like a bulldog for almost five years now.”

“Good luck.” With that, he went back to his own desk.

Amy took a deep breath. Could everything she’d been
waiting for all these years really have just fallen into her
lap? She pushed away from her desk and headed for the

She had known the paper’s editor in chief, Jarrod Brand,
since she was a little girl. That got her into his office
without an appointment, but that was all the preferential
treatment she had ever expected or wanted from him. When
he’d hired her three years ago, he’d given her the chance and
the challenge to prove herself to be something more than
just her father’s child. She had lived up to that challenge
and she was proud to have earned Brand’s respect.

She shut the door behind her. “I need travel permits to

He laughed. “Yeah, you want a castle in France while I’m
at it?”

“Jarrod, I am serious here. I’m sitting on the scoop of the
century. Slot this up.”

He took the chip and looked through the files, and stopped
joking around as soon as he saw the first few. “Is this

“The source will come forward if we can confirm the
story,” Amy said.

“Do you know who the source is?”

“No, but I trust the person who gave me the pictures with
my life, and he vouches for this source.”

Brand tapped his finger on the desk, thinking. “I can get
you out to the war zone, no problem. There are news
teams on the carriers all the time. But you’d be on your
own to get from there to Vesta. The war zone’s shifted the
other way for now...Vesta is in Earth-held space. But
you’d probably have to hire an independent trader to take
you there. Considering that both Vesta and Tellus have
been placed off-limits, that would have to be a smuggler.
Are you sure you want to do this?”

Amy said, “I’m sure, Jarrod! You know what breaking this
story means to me.”

“I know. In your place I’d be doing the same thing...but
I’m not a father. Is avenging Justin worth leaving your kids

Slowly she said, “It isn’t only Justin any more. If this is
true, then the people at Aerotech who engineered this
cover-up are directly responsible for this war, and guilty of
all the deaths it’s caused, and all the ones it will cause
before it ends. Someone has to get to the truth, Jarrod,
there has to be justice for all those people. This is my job.”

He nodded. “I’ll get back to you as soon as I’ve arranged
something. Take the rest of the day off and wrap things up
at home.”


“Amy. Didn’t you say your ex is a Marine? Any help
from him? If you can run this through the military, it could
really grease the wheels if you play it right.”

She hesitated. “I don’t know about involving
wouldn’t be ethical to use the relationship we had in that
way, would it?”

“I’ll leave that decision up to your judgment. It isn’t
unethical to ask a friend for help when you need it, though
-- just keep that in mind. Good luck.”

“Thanks, Jarrod.”

“Whoa, don’t thank me until they hand you your Pulitzer.”

She grinned and said as she ducked out the door, “Don’t
worry, you’ll be in my acceptance speech.”

Jarrod Brand looked after her for a long moment. “Just be
alive to make it,” he said under his breath.

<end part 2>

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