Captain Benson stood in the town’s church, the largest building in Wallisville. On the front pew, the boy Charlie lay shirtless, a large bandage from the transport’s first aid kit wrapped around his middle. He was lying still as the nanobots Ensign Kilmeade had injected worked on him, silently patching things up, repairing the bullet’s destruction.
Outside Benson had stationed four guards, one on each corner of the church. They were armed and keeping an eye out for trouble. Few civilians were let inside with the crew, but most of the town’s population milled about in front of the church, anxiously waiting to hear word about little Charlie.
Mayor Carver stuck his head in the wide double doors at the front of the church. Benson waved at him to come in, and he did so, shutting the doors behind him as he came, hat in hand.
He looked down at Charlie, who looked back up at him from the pew.
“Will he be okay?”
Benson said, “Yes. He needs time to rest, and he shouldn’t move much for a week. The nanobots will rebuild what was damaged.”
The boy said, “Will they stay in me forever, Captain?”
Benson could not help but smile. The wide-eyed innocence of the boy had captured everyone’s hearts, including hers.
“No, Charlie. They’ll stay and speed your recovery, then their power will go out and your system will flush them out.”
“Through my pee?”
“Yes, through your pee. But you’ll never see them go. They’re almost microscopic.”
“I’m gonna look! I’ll pee in a bottle so’s I can see ’em!”
Benson and Carver smiled at his enthusiasm.
The Mayor turned back to the Captain and said, “I apologize again for the shooting. Those boys were part of the Darcy Gang. They don’t represent the town. And, truth to tell, nobody will miss them now that they’re gone, either.”
“Who is this Darcy Gang? Could one of them have been responsible for shooting us when we landed near the beach yesterday?”
Carver nodded. “Could well be. The leader, Bill Darcy . . . he prospects quite a bit on the other side of the mountains. If he saw your transport touch down, I could see him opening fire on you. That man hates the Navy with a passion. Unfortunately, out here, that sentiment is not uncommon.”
Benson said, “Come on, let’s leave Charlie alone for a while.”
She led Carver into the back of the building, behind the baptismal chamber, where a few private rooms offered tables and chairs.
“Not a bad little church you have here,” she said, opening the door for him into one of the rooms.
Carver nodded and said, “We use it for all denominations. Well, except the Catholics. They’re funny that way, you know. Something about having to bless a building and reserving it only for Catholic use. I don’t understand it all. I was raised Church of Christ myself. Anyways, we don’t have a Catholic priest out here, so the point is moot. But the Methodists use it first thing every Sunday, then the Baptists. For those that want to show up, that is.”
“What if you’re neither? What if you’re not a Baptist or a Methodist?”
Carver shrugged. “You just choose whichever one fits you best. Or don’t bother coming at all.”
They both sat down at the table in the small room. Benson noted it and the chairs were crude, like the church building itself. She decided it must have been constructed from local materials. An oil lamp hung on the wall, giving light. She suddenly realized there was no electricity in the town. That was interesting. She filed it away for later.
“So tell me about this Darcy Gang. You’ll pardon me if I feel a little bit like I’m in the Old West here.”
Carver nodded and said, “I can see how you might feel that way, Captain. There are some similarities. So, your people took out some of the members of that gang when they shot back. Bill Darcy has about 15 or so close followers. They’re men who like to stick together, you know? Same ideology and everything. And, uh, they never show up for either the Methodist or the Baptist services, if you know what I mean.”
“So . . . what ideology are we talking about?”
Carver grew visibly uncomfortable. He shifted in his chair and refused to meet Benson’s eyes.
“They’re separatists, Captain.”
“Separatists? Separate from what?”
“From the League. They are for a free and independent Halcyon. They made their way out here to the edge of civilization on this planet so they could gather gold and prepare for things.”
“Prepare for things? You mean, like the return of the Navy?”
Carver nodded and finally met her eyes. He said, “Now you see why they was shooting at you.”
Benson frowned and sat back in her chair. She said, “What are they, like a cult or something?”
“No, no. It ain’t religious or nothing. It’s like this . . . You know something of our history, right? Halcyon was to be the newest planet in the League. Colonization ships landed, we got all our resources together. We were going to be the next major planet.
“Then the war came and everything stopped. We ain’t heard nothing. Weeks stretched into months, and now it’s been near three years since the last spaceship has been in our orbit.
“There’s a movement out here, Captain. It’s made up of men and women like Bill Darcy, who hold a grudge against the League for abandoning us. They want full independence. You all been gone so long, they think they can get it.”
Benson steepled her hands, listening. Carver searched her eyes to see if he was getting through.
“You understand where they’re coming from, don’t you Captain? We ain’t seen hide nor hair of the League . . . no Naval ships, no merchants, no supply ships . . . nothing in three years. Meanwhile, we’ve done okay. We’ve got ample resources. Draft animals for heavy lifting and transportation. Food animals for eating, plus the local wildlife. Water power, sawmills, forges. We’re making it okay by ourselves. It ain’t the height of technology, but people have gotten by on less.
“Truth to tell, most of us share Darcy’s sentiment to one degree or other. There’s always differing opinions, and some people just want to go home. But out here in the sticks . . . well, most of us came to Halcyon to help colonize this place. We’re happy to stay out here . . . alone. We’ve made it this far without help from the League, and most of us are happy to keep it this way.”
The Mayor drew himself up straight in the chair. Benson could see the pride he held. They were independent in many ways. And, despite the crudeness of everything and the lack of modern conveniences, they were indeed making it quite well out here in Wallisville.
Carver said, “Of course, that don’t make it right to shoot at the Navy when they finally do show up. But you wanted to know why they shot at you. That’s the reason why.”
“Okay. I understand their reasons,” Benson said. “My question for you is, what will this Bill Darcy do when he finds out that I’ve killed four of his men?”
The Mayor nodded, and his eyes went down to the table again.
He said, “Yeah. I think there’s gonna be trouble.”