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'A Medical History'

Punthoon Lunar 5, Condores System

The dust devil stormed over the parched plains. Its whipping wind harshly scraping the young girl's face as it passed a small distance away. The sun stood high at its zenith, hammering down the heat that propelled the dust devil and the all encompassing pall over the land as the summer's day reached the midway in its thirty-eight hours.

Little Judy squeezed her eyes shut as the dry gravel peppered her face but she endured the harshness before the wind abated and the pressing heat swamped her small frame. She tilted her head up so the wind embraced her throat and whistled down the neckline and through the light clothing of her garments. Behind her back, in her small hands, she retained a tight grip on the sheer shawl knitted by grandmamma. Her strawberry blonde hair caught in the wind formed its own vortex as it blew wildly around her tanned freckled face.

Through the tightly shut eyelids, the harsh rays of the sun still penetrated piercing her retinas burning the large sun's image into the back of her head. The image would take a time to fade and Judy's father warned her many times of the strength Punthoon's Sun. The great sun Condores! Condores dominated life on Ponthoon, which was not surprising as an agricultural planet, on the rim of Federation space, dependent upon the rays of the sun and the rains from the mountains. It was a planet of extremes.

This phrase Judy learned from her teacher Ms O'Keefe at the small school in the Yunkers region. Because of the vast distance needed to be covered and the busy life of living on a farm, Judy like many others in her class only attended classes sporadically. On occasion, she would board in the limited dormitory built onto the school to house the few teachers and occasional pupil. On other occasions, Ms O'Keefe would come to the farmstead and instruct Judy and other ‘local' children.

During one such stay, the teacher had focused on the geography of Ponthoon. From the topographical features, to the geological history of the planet. Ms O'Keefe had done so as she had taken the children out for a walk in the early hours of the morning before the sun became too unbearable as moisture from the night steamed into the sky. During the day, as Condores climbed ever higher in the sky, the plains of Ponthoon Lunar 5 became a furnace. A furnace in which it would be believed that no living thing could live. But, in the cool of the sinking sun, as dusk shrouded the far horizon in bands of gold ebbing outwards vainly holding back the purple shroud of the cold night. The far mountains became basked in shrouds of fog, a refreshing dew of moisture that breathed life into the inhabitants of Ponthoon Lunar 5. As the night skies rolled in, the fog shrank away as if in retreat as the harsh cold of open skies permeated the ground. Then in the approach of dawn storm clouds rolled in. Clouds shaped like anvils, rode in on the fronts. Dark heavy anvils that rang out with massive thunderclaps as the deluge of the dawn began. Rain that hammered the frozen ground. Pelted the farmstead and Judy's window frames. There was no need for alarm clocks when one lived on Ponthoon Lunar 5.

But farmers eked out a living here. The native species evolved to survive this harsh and unforgiving climate. The pertigee ‘armadillo' burrowed deep into the earth to build its den so as to escape the cold of the night. And each night it would encase itself in its burrow so as to escape the floods of the dawn deluge. In the fresh moist earth after the deluge, in the steaming morning, its snout poked its way upwards out of the soil to sift and feed on the new hooi roots and fuire worms. The hooi roots were the staple of the pertigee ‘armadillo' and it became the staple of the farmers who came to Ponthoon in the first colony ships as their grains and crops struggled to grow in the harsh climate, four seasons in one day as her mother called it. The hooi roots if not dug up by the pertigee grew up to five metres producing potato like stores of food, and wheat like stalks. But all of which grew under the surface.

From above, Ponthoon lunar 5 might not be recognised as an agricultural planet, for there were no vast tracts of crop fields visibly growing. Instead, one had to look to see the freshly dug surfaces of harvested hooi crops, dark lineated fields with no visible growth on the surface but rows upon rows of seeded hooi furrows. From above the planet looked like a scored dust bowl except for the harsh Polar Regions where even the heat of the great Condores could not beat back the snow and ice.

Small towns grew up around the space ports where the harvested found its way out into the stars to feed alien worlds and sustain the simple hard working farmers of Ponthoon Lunar 5. Administrative hubs that allowed for small businesses to prosper to some small degree. Ponthoon Lunar 5 was a back water, a seemingly unimportant moon, one of five orbiting a gas giant in the Condores System. And yet the planet provided vast stores of food to the frontier worlds and neighbouring factions with its vast tracts of crops. There were few populated areas. Yes, Ponthoon Lunar 5 fed the stars and each day fought a duel with its own burning star. It was just another example of the paradox that was Ponthoon Lunar 5.

Grandmamma sourly called Punthoon a ‘bread basket' dust bowl. Judy did not understand the resentment in the voice of her grandmamma. Nor did she understand the science behind what Ms O'Keefe had tried to explain about the climate and geological features of Ponthoon Lunar 5.

But enamoured with her teacher, as any little girl is wont to, Judy strove to understand both the science and the resentment in her grandmamma towards the Federation and the planet of Ponthoon Lunar 5. Judy could only muse that grandmamma missed grandpa. Judy could only assume so because she had never met her grandpa as he died mere months after she herself was born.

Of the Federation, Judy knew little. Ponthoon Lunar 5 did not merit attention so long as it continued to furnish other struggling frontier worlds with its bounty. Stories, wild adventurous stories, of a legendary captain named Kirk had featured in the stories her father told before bedtime were the closest Judy ever came to knowing of the Federation. Some on Ponthoon, like her grandmamma resented the absence of the federation. Others like ‘Red' Joe Gump derided this unknown political entity as a perverse machination to control the minds and souls of its citizens.

Her father and mother though would merely chuckle quietly to one another out of sight of grandmamma when she and ‘Red' Joe argued over the same laborious when intoxicated with hooi root vodka. Grandmamma arguing how the federation could not care to outfit homes with replicators and bestow the advances to its lowly frontier worlds were people had to patch and repair outmoded technology. ‘Red' would retort that that was exactly how the Federation kept tabs on people and how it secretly laced all replicated foods with mind controlling drugs. Father would simply retort to both when they pushed him to voice an opinion that replicators would only put him out of business.

Father though had a secret passion for the stars but felt his talents lay in the simple honest hard work of farming. And yet in the late night hours, as the fog retreated and the cold settled, father would sometimes steal out into the old frigid night to look up at the stars. Sometimes he'd be joined by mother, his devoted wife who'd carry out a warm brew and together they would wrap her family heirloom blanket around them both as they hugged one another tightly in a loving embrace before the cold induced them back to the embers of the hearth fire.

Judy could not quite understand these unstated passions and dreams. She wanted to be a teacher. Just like Ms O'Keefe. And she just had to let everyone else know it. Not just occasionally, but each day and on numerous occasions. Either she would inform the person to whom she was addressing just how exactly Ms O'Keefe would do it. Or state how Ms O'Keefe says ... such and such which was in direct agreement with what the original speaker had stated but which held no validity to Judy because it had not sprung forth from the lips of Ms O'Keefe. So young Judy Monroe, was more certain of anything that she was going to grow up to be a teacher, just like Ms O'Keefe, and teach like Ms O'Keefe on Ponthoon Lunar 5.

That was, until the day Judy discovered the Federation, the day the Federation turned its attention to Ponthoon Lunar 5. Turned its attention all too late ... The day they came. The day death stalked her home.

The day she blinked away the image of Condores and watched the dust devil pass into the distance whereupon looking in the direction of the farmstead she saw the shuttle craft descend from high orbit towards her home.

* * *


A flash of excitement ran through Judy. She recognised the shape of the shuttle as being like Sheriff O'Malley's. That could mean that Ms O'Keefe was coming to stay with them! Normally, such a visit would be planned, but again normally, the only reason the sheriff ever had to visit, was to drop the teacher off.

Then fear gripped Judy for an unknown reason. Only after it had seized her heart and chest did she realise the shuttle trailed a dirty smudge in its wake across the sky and an unearthly screaming accompanied its rapid and uncontrolled descent. With a sharp downward trajectory, the shuttle tore through the atmosphere. Judy gripped the hem of her skirt. Clenching the hem tight in her hands as fear bubbled up her body and pee trickled down her leg. Her lips trembled between fear and the wish to cry as she witnessed the shuttle on its death plunge. And it headed down, down, down towards the homestead.

Judy wanted to run screaming; In fear, to warn, to seek comfort. Instead, she found herself frozen to the spot. Paralysed and numb to the ensuing tragedy about to engulf her home, her family, her life.

At the last moment, the sheriff must have managed to pull the crippled vessel up from its death plunge. But it was still too late. The shuttle ploughed through one end of her home. Smashing through the house, leaving it in ruin as the shuttle veered up into the sky only to fail and careen towards the hard packed earth. Its fiery nose gouging into the ground before somersaulting head over heels on itself, each landing a further self-inflicted hammer blow to the shuttle. Pummelled and ruined, it tumbled towards Judy, bearing down on her little figure. Judy could not compel her legs to move and she remained rooted to the spot awaiting her death.

She closed her eyes and accepted her fate with tears streaking down her face as she sobbed for her mother and father. Dirt, rocks and smoke engulfed her face, choking the breath out of her as the last squeals of the shuttle subsided as it screeched to a halt within meters of her position.

Through heavy eyes, clogged with dirt and tears, Judy took in the ruined visage and her proximity to death. Her knees collapsed under her as she dropped heavily to the ground.

Long moments later, she looked up from the dirt, through the smoke and settling dust. Overhead the sun was starting to burn harshly. Judy felt a cold resolve steel her nerves as she stood, not without effort, and purposefully strode through the whipping smoke and past the burning hulk of the shuttle.

Clearing the crash site, she took in the sight of her home. Flames engulfed one half of the homestead and were quickly consuming the remainder. She saw figures staggering from the ruins. And this compelled her to run. Her family were alive! She ran on tripping and stumbling over the trough furrowed by the crashing shuttle.

Coming closer to the house though her feet faltered. Shock then punched her gut as she saw the unmistakable figure of father carrying her mother lifeless in his arms. At his feet, grandmamma pulled on his ripped and charred trousers, harking out for her daughter. Pleading and shrieking for her ‘little doll' to open her eyes.

"DADDY?" A cry of anguish and horror roared through Judy.

Her father's head, looking down forlornly on his loving wife, lifted slowly with grief and puzzlement and when his eyes took in his little Judy, dress torn, face soot covered and tear streaked, Judy saw his heart break as he took in his now motherless daughter. He tried to mouth, "Judy," back in response but he sank to the ground instead. In his arms he continued to cradle his wife as her mother with bleeding legs dragged herself across the burning debris strewn yard towards her daughter.

Judy took in the tableau before she darted forwards shrieking out ‘Mummy' again and again and again. Imploring of the heavens to grant her, her mother back. Her father groped forwards and pulled Judy into him. Together they burying their faces to kiss and plaster her mother, his wife with tears and tender whispers. Judy felt herself suffocating as her world narrowed down to the vision of her mother's serene death mask face.

Behind them, the house burned, churning wild flames and smoke up into the sky.

* * *

Long hours passed. The sun overhead burned furiously but they cradled and rocked one another in dumb grief oblivious. The raging fire continued to burn but had abated and the structure started to collapse in on itself. Another dirt devil churned through the detritus of their life.

Eventually her father stirred. He looked up, all tears cried, to the distant horizon. A niggling question had penetrated through to his conscious mind. Where was help? Why had no-one come? The smoke would be seen for long miles. He got his answer as he took in the smoke filled horizon telling similar fates across the countryside.

This started him into action. Releasing hold of his wife he stood uneasily and staggered to the jeep transport. An archaic combustible type vehicle frowned upon in the core worlds of the Federation but on the frontier, especially sparsely populated, agricultural and such large planets as Puntoon Lunar 5 such were a lifeline. He clicked the radio communication on and clutched up the hand held mouth piece. But he stopped his call for help as the radio screamed with life and horrors of a Nausican attack. Across the planet people were dying and calling out for assistance or trying to offer resistance to the attackers.

A stark warning cut through the chatter, as Clyde Dale a former sheriff, shouted the speakers down. "They're hunting us down and using the radio communications to zero in on your locations. So shut the frak up! I know lots of you are hurting and afraid. But remember our plans. Seek out refuge and keep a low profile. Starfleet has been contacted and have despatched help. Pray to goodness that they get here soon. Stand together and help one another. Be vigilant and seek out refuge. And maintain radio silence unless absolutely necessary."

He cut off and Judy's Dad stumbled backwards as he took in the enormity of the situation. Judy's cries over her mother brought him to again. Racing forward he picked her up and dragged her to the jeep. He hollered at Grandmamma to get to the transit too. Judy protested but he hauled at her and finally buckled her in. He then disappeared into one of the remaining outbuildings, grabbing his hunting weapons and some of the stored goods they grew and bartered for, stocking them into the back of the jeep. He then helped grandmamma into the jeep beside Judy and the two of them cried atop one another's shoulders.

Lastly, he picked up his wife. Kissed her forehead and cold lips. Her body hung limp in his arms as he carried her towards the jeep. He would not leave her here to be possibly desecrated. Then with a shudder, the transit coughed into life and with a rocking motion set off. Behind them, they left the charred ruins of their once peaceful and happy life.

After a time, Grandmamma appeared to care about their fate and asked in a hoarse broken voice, "Where are we going?"

Judy's Dad didn't respond immediately. His eyes remained focused and determined on the road ahead. The rifle sat in the passenger seat with spare ammunition ready to hand. "To the mountains."

"Why? We should be headed to town!"

"All the settlements have been targeted and ravaged by the attackers in the first strike. They'll come to all the homesteads next. Our only choice is to run to the hills and hide within them. We have sanctuaries and caves stocked for emergencies there from our first days of colonising the planet. Anyone else with wit will seek out the safety of the mountains too. That's where Starfleet will rescue us."

Grandmamma spat. "Starfleet? What have they done for us? They let this happen."

"No, the Nausicaans did this."

"Only because the cowardly and weak Federation won't stand up to them! Instead, they allow those monsters to steal into our worlds and hurt us! It matters not to them in their mighty ivy covered consulates. It's us, here on the frontiers who make the Federation and yet they leave us to rot. Where is our help? Where are the glorious Federation?"

"They'll come." He said it so matter of fact that Judy felt the first spike of emotion since she saw her mother dead. A feeling of trust, of hope, Starfleet would come to their rescue.

Grandmamma did not heed him but continued to harass and speak vile towards the Federation. "Too late for my daughter! They didn't protect her. They aren't protecting your daughter."

To which, he retorted, "It's up to us to save ourselves. But they'll come. Yes they'll come."

Judy turned and looked up to the darkening skies, watching and hoping for their saviours.

* * *

The Mountains of Ponthoon Lunar 5

Little Judy woke with a start. The cold biting into her skin brought her to. She pulled a blanket up under her chin. Shivering under her covers, she brought her focus on her surrounds. No longer was she being jarred and jolted by the movement of the jeep. Instead, she found herself huddled in a corner of small cavern. Looking at the entrance, she concluded that she must be in one of the many caves that lined the steep sides of the mountains.

Around her, others lay huddled in semblances of their homes, blankets and clothes used to shelter them from the cold of Ponthoon's nights. The night sky was clear leaving the refugees in the cold of the world's nights. Some lay moaning from injuries received in the attacks.

Little Judy took in the shattered remnants of the colony huddled here. No doubt, other caverns in these and other mountains across the planet, held other survivors. Or so they could only hope. A lone nurse moved among the injured tending what little medicine and care she could among the many injured and sick. A few others tried to assist but with little medical knowledge they were reduced to offering support and issuing rations.

At the entrance, sentries stood watching over the valley below. Hoping to spy any pursuers from the attacks. They stood with weapons ready. These weapons were like her father's simple weapons for use on the farms and to protect from the wilder beasts of the planet. The weapons, and the sentries who bore them, were not suited or expected to fight in such a fashion.

Near to the entrance, she spied her father in a small group of angry men. Drawing the blanket around her shoulders and picking herself up carefully from the floor, so as not to disturb her grandmother lying next to her, Judy padded towards her father. Upon approaching, she could hear clearly the angry voices of the men and the calmer voice of her father.

"Enough of this! My family has been killed and injured. I will not stand here and wait for the Nausicaans to come and hunt the rest of us down." Angry tears filled the man's eyes that stared at Judy's father accusingly. "Won't you be satisfied until they've come here and killed my only boy?" He gestured at the small form of a blonde soot covered waif looking up with scared, sad eyes.

Judy's father looked at the boy and then spied Judy too. His features softened to a meek smile and then he turned to the accusing father. "As have I lost family. My little girl here has no mother. Do you suggest I charge off to battle Nausicaans and leave her with no father too? Leave her here, unprotected, so that they can find her?" Judy blanched and cowered at the prospect. Her father seeing this, ran over to the frightened girl and picked her up. Hugging her tight in his arms, he turned to the other men and forcibly told them and reassured Judy, "I won't do it. I won't leave her alone to go on a suicide run fuelled by revenge that can achieve nothing. You won't even have your revenge Maddox. They'll cut you down before you get anywhere near."

Clutching his rifle, Maddox returned just as forcibly. "They can try but I'll have my revenge."

"And your son can bury two parents come the morning. Not enough losing his sisters is it?" Judy winced, the small waif whimpered, and Judy's father cursed himself at his harsh words. But they seemed to have effect as the man staggered backwards and then stooped to stoop up his little boy. Tears spilled down his cheeks as he hugged, kissed and whispered words of fatherly love to the last of his family.

An elder man however scratched at his head. Dried blood plastering a deep gash over one eye. His ear and clothes were similarly caked in blood. "So what do we do? We might not be wise heading out to attack the Nausicaans head on but we can't just sit here hiding. They'll track us down. I don't want to scaremonger but tis the truth and ye all know it."

"Starfleet will come before that."

"Bah! Starfleet." The old man waved the suggestion off. He staggered over to a rock and seated himself on the makeshift stool. He produced a flask from his deep pocket. Unscrewing the cap he took a greedy gulp of the alcohol within. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he smacked his lips as if he had downed a life saving medicine.

"Starfleet? Starfleet! Huh. They've left us to rot. Would we be prey to attack from Nausicaans if we were Vulcan, Andoria? No. But because we are merely a piddly frontier world. Fodder. That's all we are. Fodder. At the most, we are a breadbasket for the Federation. A mere obstacle should some unfriendly force come tripping across the border. A safety valve. Measly offerings to be had for the picking so the likes of those bastarding Nausicaan don't go interfering with fancier folk from richer more important worlds."

He took another swig of his brew. "For all their talk of a precious society that values one and all, it's a pile of crock." He pointed at himself defiantly. "I should know. I've farmed on this world for decades now. And in all that time, the Federation has never cared a damn about our fates. Where are the promised infrastructure developments? Where are ..?"

"Donald, enough." A scolding woman, leaning on a crutch hobbled forwards. Her right leg packaged in bandaging. "Yes the Federation didn't come through on many of its promises. But we came here to carve out our own world, our own infrastructure. And if it weren't for the medical care the Federation brought to our world, our little boys would never have survived the Altarian Plague outbreak. Nor would many of us who lived back then."

She looked around the cavern and met defiantly the eyes of those who looked upon her. Her voice carried despite her small frame and Donald shrank in on himself, mumbling under his breath. "This is our world. We will make of it what we will. But we are a part of the Federation. And what this young man says is true, the Federation will come. They've never let us down before. They always come through in the end."

"Bah Mary. You always lilted wistfully about the them. The Fleeters are too busy cosying up to new worlds, exploiting their resources and studying nebulas."

Mary lifted her chin and looked down her nose at Donald. "May be. But I'll tell you what. The Dogs will come."

"Ack!" Donald dismissed her beliefs, although not as convincingly this time round.

"Oh my God!" One of the sentries shouted in alarm and the cavern erupted in screams and chaos as five Nausicaans charged the sentry post, gutting the two farmers come failed guards, before unleashing mayhem within.

Without a thought or a glance behind, Judy's father charged out the back passage with the other fleeing colonists with Judy's small frame wrapped around him. She clung for dear life as he pushed and barrelled down the passage with the others. Any thought of standing bravely and holding off the horde dismissed immediately as his primary concern became getting Judy away from the carnage.

Into the night the escaping colonists ran. In different directions and with shouts and calls for family they disappeared into the night. But around them menacing shadows moved and zeroed in on their positions. Hunting the injured, the frail, the weak, the small, the fathers, the mothers, and the innocent. The stalking Nausicaans came and the screams started.

Judy and her father though, ran on. The screams and the figures dragged to the ground were left behind as they broke through the bushes and dove down into the scattered trees that struggled to hang to life at the side of the mountains. But the cover was sparse and the trees mere branches. Slabs of rocks funnelled into broken water riven veins down towards the valley. Judy's father smashed into them, stumbled through the tough, wiry bush that had to be hardy enough to survive the extreme climates of Ponthoon.

The sounds of the bloodshed above and behind them on the mountaintop disappeared. However, in the quiet they could hear crashing in the bush, signs of pursuers hunting them down. So on they had to run, even as the sounds crept closer and closer, hungry snarls accompanying the crashing sounds.

Looking back over her father's shoulder, Judy could make out the looming shapes of the Nausicaans in pursuit through the trees and between the rocks. Her view constantly jarred by the desperate race across the uneven downward sloping terrain. But then a terrifying visage filled her view as a Nausicaan beast bore down on them. He smashed into them and it propelled her father to the ground. Hitting the ground hard they tumbled and tumbled with Judy falling away from her father. With a cry she came to a stop as she slapped into a tree trunk.

The Nausicaans rushed to a stop and grinned a macabre thirsty grin. "Lovely!" This tall brute advanced towards a whimpering Judy. She pulled her knees up tight. Behind the monster, she could see two more advancing on her unconscious father, their knives drawn and brutish teeth already dripping with blood.

Judy whimpered a soft but pleading cry. "No."

"It won't hurt little one ... for too long!" He hoarsely laughed withdrawing a long blade. The look of bloodlust and madness fervent upon his face as he stepped closer to her.

"Ahem." A voice cleared its throat above them. A lone figure stoop atop one of the rock outcrops. He wore a uniform Judy recognised as being vaguely Starfleet. And he stood with a cockish grin illuminated in the moonlight, leaning on an umbrella. "I'm somebody your own size."

The Nausicaan looked up, stooped over Judy, his dagger blade inches from her throat. "Huh, I don't think so." He stood up to his full impressive height.

"No. Maybe not then." The figure admittedly, unperturbed, then inclined his head in the direction behind the Nausicaan. "But I'm pretty sure he is."

"Pathetic human. I'm not like to -ngh!" The Nausicaan fell a dagger driven to the hilt into his skull. Judy looked on wide-eyed with fear and amazement as a huge cat came out from the darkness.

"Fang!" He intoned in a scolding voice. "I was trying to give him a fighting chance."

"There's six more of them." He plucked the dagger out of the skull and looked over to the two frozen Nausicaans lumbering over Judy's father watching the two spectres. "They'll have plenty of fighting chances."

The man atop the rock crop smiled delightedly. "I suppose you're right Fang. Stay tight little miss." He turned then and ran throwing himself off the rocks and into the fray. The large cat, a Kzinti, Judy thought amazed, shot off in a different direction. After a second or two, hollers and sounds of engagement came from that direction.

Looking back towards her father, Judy saw the man with the umbrella stab it one of the Nausicaans whilst firing his phaser at the second. He felled the second Nausicaan and went hand to hand with the first, swathing the umbrella around like a sword and pummelling fist blows into the Nausicaan's face.

Enraged the Nausicaan tossed the umbrella aside, grabbed the man by the lapels and threw him backwards. The man slammed into the rockface. "No good you giving me your angry face. Besides, didn't your mother tell you if you pull a face and the wind changes it'll stay that way. I have to tell you. That isn't a good look you've got there."

The Nausicaan growled in response.

"Tough audience. What did you do? Swallow a dictionary. You're a regular walking lexicon mate." He darted forward and head butted the beast. The unexpected blow causing it to stagger backwards, losing balance almost tripping over the form of Judy's father, the uniformed man darted forwards again to throw the beast to the ground. He pulled a dagger from the leg of the Nausicaan and with a swift vicious flick cut his throat. The beast stilled and the man stood triumphant over his trophy.

The night air quieten again and in a moment a bloody and smiling Kzinti returned to the fold as Judy's father stirred and started calling for Judy. She hurried over to his side and helped him to sit up.

"Take it easy. You're safe now. So is ... Judy." The man reassured Judy's father who frowned in confusion at the turn of events and then grew alarmed at the frightful sight of the Kzinti. "Not to worry. The big cat is with me. He's nothing to feared. Give him a ball of wool and you'll keep him entertained for hours."

The Kzinti glowered and rolled his eyes in despair. This elicited a small laugh from Judy. To see the laughter in his daughter's face after the day of hell brought tears to her father.

"Th ... thank you so much."

The uniformed man pretended to not notice the thanks broken by constant sobs as the father kissed his little girl and held her protectively in his arms. "No bother. All part of the job. Though we do accept tips."

"Thank you so much. The rest of the colony!"

The Kzinti looked back up the mountain keenly, apparently ill at ease remaining here and desiring to get back to the fight. "Our people our helping. The others will be ok."

"What Fang said, everyone will be fine. We beamed in at the right time. A minute later and we'd have missed you and the little girl disappearing into the night and being pursued by these animals."

"Who are you? Where did you come from?"

"The name's McGregor, Chief of the Boats, USS Kestrel. This is my pet, Rah Eyrrs. He likes it if you tickle him behind the ears."

The Kzinti frowned. "We must be going. The captain will be wanting to know our sit-rep."

"He can put it in his pipe. Nevertheless, we best be going. Take care. And never fear little girl. The Border Patrol will always be there." He winked and then disappeared into the night behind the Kzinti. Back to the fight.

Young Judy watched as the man disappeared. She watched and marvelled at the fighting spirit. The swagger and the cool but brutal demeanour. And she looked up at her father and remembered his promise that help would come from the skies above. Marvelled at the certainly of that promise and how it was faithfully kept by these ... heroes.

She looked back at the stars trying to decipher which star above was ship in orbit. A starship dedicated to protecting them. A starship staffed by brave persons, awesome and scary persons capable of such bravery and dedication. A starship serving in the Border Patrol. A starship called Kestrel.

* * *



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