Paradigm - June 1997
Home, Sweet Home - L'Morte
(page 14/20)

Home, Sweet Home

Montgomery Homestead, Deneb IV, early evening local time

"There's a bad man coming, Katherine," Sarah whispered to her doll, "Mommy and Daddy won't believe me, but he is." She shivered in the cool lilac-tinted twilight.

Off near the fence that surrounded the compound, the man she called Daddy was shoulder-deep in the ore processor's bowels, trying to fix something he called an inductor. Daddy was nice, Sarah decided, even though he wasn't her real daddy. Her real daddy was a soldier, fighting rebels on Tau Ceti, or so her Mommy said. She hugged herself tight, and not from the cold.

"Sarah! Dinner's ready!" a female voice called from the confines of the main tent, though tent wasn't the right word for the pre-assembled ceramic shelter. Mommy's voice and she sounded tired, thought Sarah. The little girl stood and brushed the red dust off her dress solemnly before going in, Katherine hanging limply from one hand.

Montgomery Homestead, Deneb IV, approaching midnight local time

robotAn inhuman scream pierced the still night, its echoes bouncing crazily through the nearby Jakobar hills before dying out. The barest trace of those echoes washed over the Montgomery homestead, rescuing Sarah from her horrid dreams and causing her to wake.

Her shift clung uncomfortably to her clammy body as she slid silently out of bed and shuffled into Mommy and Daddy's room.

"I'm frightened," she whispered, her voice quivering with fear.

"There, there. It's alright chipmunk." Daddy's rough voice comforted her more than the warmth she got snuggling between the two of them. Mommy remained asleep. "It's probably only one of those dingos the original colonists let loose. It must have fell down a crevice or something," he breathed, his voice low in an attempt to lull her back to sleep. Unfortunately the added "or something" was enough to ensure Sarah recalled the details of her dream.

"It was the nasty man I told you about Daddy," she replied, not noticing his sigh of despair. Quick to exploit the silence she added, "I saw him in my dream. He kept fiddling with this horrid scar on his cheek."

Rhys, the man she called Daddy, went still for a moment, then started trembling. That frightened Sarah so she said no more, wondering which of them was the more afraid. She lay there for what seemed like hours, before the comforting closeness of her parents lulled her to sleep.

Montgomery Homestead, Deneb IV early morning local time, the next day

Sunlight streamed into the room dancing gently across Sarah's sleeping form, alone amidst the crumpled sheets. Katherine lay in a crumpled heap on the floor, her glass-bead eyes staring sightlessly at the door.

gunOut in the compound her mother was squatted down besides the quirky sentry droid they'd bought on Altair Prime. Of her father, there was no sign, but the door on one of the crates he'd previously left unopened swung soundlessly in the wind, revealing just moulded packing foam and a single bullet, lying lonely and forgotten.

On the wall above the bed an ancient plaque hung, not quite straight. Worn and faded it read "Home, sweet home", though the purple cast to the light made it more alien than comforting