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Mandy nodded. “The scars are there.”
“And she’s convinced that she was kept under the influence of drugs for a considerable period of time,”
Duncan continued. “Her description of her symptoms when she regained consciousness in the Whorsk
village seem to indicate classic drug withdrawal. Her memory is only a vague blur. She remembers
making love with a handsome man. Shall we assume that that man is the father of Theresita’s fetus?” “I
think we have to,” Mandy answered.
“And that makes an expedition to the Great Misty River a high priority,” Duncan said. “And yet we
can’t afford to lose any more personnel. Our original group of a thousand colonists was a minimal
that this colony would not, due to the lack of qualified people, revert to pre-industrial primitivism.
We’re dangerously overextended as it is. The loss of even one more person would be critical.”
“Yes,” Mandy agreed, feeling her cheeks getting hot from the ever-present guilt and remorse.
“On the other hand, we can’t afford any more surprises like the Whorsk attack,” Duncan said. He
spread his hands and smiled. “It’s a nasty situation: Send an expedition now and risk conflict and loss,
or do nothing and risk a surprise attack from an enemy about whom we know nothing.”
“If it will help you in your decision,” Mandy said, “we can watch the baby very closely as it develops,
without endangering its health or Theresita’s. Perhaps we can learn something of the nature of the
father in that way.”
“Yes, do that,” Duncan said. “Keep me posted.”
“Now,” Mandy said, opening a file folder, “there are some more routine matters.”
For another half hour he listened, nodding in agreement or making suggestions as they discussed
various aspects of policy regarding the health and well-being of the colony. Finished, Mandy rose,
closing her folder.
“Thank you for your time, Captain,” she said.
“I think, Dr. Miller, that we should schedule a conference such as this on a regular basis—say every
two weeks?”
“I would appreciate that,” she said.
He came around his desk and opened the door for her and, on impulse, stepped out into the hall, out of
range of the recording instruments.
“How are you, Mandy?” he asked, and she realized that his question was deeper than the casual, often-
used words.
“I have my work,” she answered.
“I’ve never taken the chance to say how sorry I am. about Rocky.” She shrugged.
“I hope you don’t blame yourself for what happened.” “I could have come to you about Rocky’s
He looked at the floor. Yes, she could have come to him. and if she had, perhaps two hundred people
would have lived, but he couldn’t find it in his heart to hold her responsible.
“Mandy, I want you to know that, regardless of what has happened or will happen, you have a friend.”
“Thank you,” she said, her eyes misting. She put out her hand, and he took it. “That’s all it can be,
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