Excerpt #2 from "The Defenders" (Sequel to #1)

Read all the way to the end! I PROMISE it gets better!!! I promise!!! PLEASE read! 

It had been a nightmarish two days since losing her younger
brother in a heart-rending tragedy. Kellie awoke still clutching his picture to
her chest, and she sighed deeply, again not feeling like eating anything for breakfast.

            Swinging her
legs off of her bunk, she dropped to the floor and pulled on her favorite jeans
and one of her crew shirts. Doing her wind-blown auburn curls into a messy bun
and slapping on a little bit of highly water-proof makeup, Kellie left the
room, not even realizing that she was wearing the neon pink shirt that she

            She was
about to pass by the door to the kitchen when she almost ran head-on into
Brett. Gazing up at him, she realized that he had on his “captain” expression
and he meant business about something. “What?” she asked, edging to the side.

            “No matter
how we’re feeling right now, we both need our strength. Come on, let’s eat.”

            “I don’t
want to.”

            “Do I need
to make this an order?”

            “What, are
you going to shove food down my throat?” Kellie rolled her eyes.

            “If it comes
to that, yes. Now, are you going to come and eat of your own free accord?”
Brett asked, raising his eyebrows with that look in his eyes that was

            “Yes sir.”

            “If you go
all ‘sir’ on me, I might make good on my threat about the food, lieutenant.”

captain.” Then, seeing the look on his face, she made a hasty retreat. Despite
their lighthearted exchange, they both felt just the opposite.

            After a
quick breakfast, the two made their way to the main control room and sat down
in their seats, powering up the computers. Brett typed in the key codes for
contacting Base, and waited for the system to give its Contact Established message. Kellie hopped up and joined him.

            “Hello, captain,” Priscilla greeted over
the computer. “Good morning, Kellie. Any

nothing, lieutenant. Has Alex drawn up a search radius for us?” Brett asked,
removing his glasses and setting them on the desk.

            “Yes. He’s currently exporting it to your
computer. I hope it helps.”

            Kellie caught a glimpse of
Scottlyn in the background and smiled slightly. Seeing them on Priscilla’s
computer screen, her best friend waved frantically at her until Kellie waved
back. Scottie never changed.

keeping at the computers during the long morning hours, Kellie went to her room
for break time. Forcing herself to eat a granola bar, she sat leaned against
the glass of the outer wall. She had always loved doing this, because it felt
like she was actually outside of the ship, in space. Tears again filled her
eyes. The sticky, sweet food felt like sawdust in her mouth. “I know it’s late,
Shane, but… I love you.” She whispered. The light inside of her, the tenacity
that had always been there, was gone. What reason did she have to live, now?

            Don’t go there! Her mind warned her
severely. Brett needs you!

            Does he? She retorted silently. He’s gotten along without me just fine

            The voice went quiet.

         The rest of the day dragged on.
Before long, day three of the biggest crisis of her life ended, and she was
waking up on the fourth. Sighing, she rolled over on her bed, feeling the numb
emptiness, that drowning inside of her sink in.

Leaning her head back, she thought
of the airlock chamber for the Astro. Maybe
if she stepped out that door, and it was all over, everyone would be better

            Her eye
caught sight of a poster on her wall. “Life
is learning to see the rainbow in the rain, and to look beyond. The storm right
now does not mean that God doesn’t have sunshine for you ahead.”

            Reading it
was like splashing cold water over her thoughts, like a slap in the face. What am I thinking?! God, I’m so stupid!
Shane’s life was precious to you. I refuse to throw away mine.

Peace quietly filled her. It didn’t
eliminate the pain, but it gave her strength to bear it. Suddenly she felt hope
for a future beyond this.

            The day went
much like the previous, but she didn’t feel quite as empty. The grief still
overwhelmed her, but she felt like eventually everything would be okay.

Until they checked in with Base
that afternoon.

            “I have some bad news.” Priscilla’s
voice said over the communication. Her eyes looked reddish and slightly puffy,
and with a sinking stomach, Kellie realized that their communications
specialist had been crying.

            “What is it,
Priscilla?” Brett asked, no longer looking like captain, but like the man
Priscilla had always known – and loved. They had been courting for a year
before the team launched.

            “The team activated a nearby probe and did
an extensive metal-detecting search within a one million mile radius of your
ship. We…”
Priscilla took a deep, shuddering breath. “We found nothing.”

            And this
time, it finally hit home. Shane was dead.

barely held back her tears as Priscilla continued.

            “The Christian Space Exploration has set a
date for a memorial. Next Friday. The Director wants me to tell you that if you
would like to, we can terminate the mission and you can return to Earth.
Permanently. I know it would take you about three months, but we could hold
another one.”

            Bursting into tears, Kellie
sank to the ground.

hesitated, then answered firmly. “No, Priscilla. We’ll finish strong.”

silently, Kellie agreed with him. Needing to be alone, she fled the room,
racing into the stargazing/astronomy hall, settling herself in a huge chair and
crying bitterly until there seemed to be no tears left inside of her.

            A slight
noise from the wall startled her, then she realized it was one of the
transmitters. Getting up and walking over to it, Kellie heard something that
sounded like a weak radio transmit. It was barely audible at all. Did Brett
transmit Priscilla’s message to this room so that she could hear? If so, she
needed to turn up the volume. Reaching for the knob, Kellie turned it up until
it was a little more hearable, but it was filled with so much static that only
sporadic words came clear.

dizzy and breathless, Kellie pulled back in disbelief. That wasn’t Priscilla’s
voice. Leaning in, she strained to hear. And then one clear line burst through.

            “Astro to Infinity. Astro to Infinity. Do
you read me?”

            “Oh God,” she whispered. She
wasn’t swearing. It was an uncomprehending, blindly hoping prayer. “Oh, God…”
she breathed again. “Shane!”

            “Hello? Astro to Infinity, do you copy?”

            “Shane!” she
shrieked, racing back into the control room. Brett turned around with a start.

What’s the matter?”

            “Turn on
communications, Brett!” she demanded, trembling with excitement, fear, joy,

            “What? Why
do you want me to –?”

            “Now, Brett Duke!”

he turned the knob.

            “Astro to Infinity, hello? …Dang.”

            While Kellie burst into a
mix of tears and laughter, Brett almost passed out. Snapping out of it, hands
shaking with disbelieving hope, he pressed the intercom button. “Infinity to Astro, we copy. Can you hear me? Over,” Brett answered, his voice

            “Loud and clear!” Shane’s cheery voice

escaped Brett’s eyes and he closed them, tilting his head back slightly. “Thank
God,” he whispered. Straightening back up, he pressed the button again. “Shane…
we thought we’d lost you!” he rubbed at his face.

            “Well, after doing WAY too many upside-down
360s, I finally straightened my path out. I had limited fuel by the time I
could stop, and so I used only a little every few hours to keep myself slowly
heading in your general direction. I think I can see the ship now, so I’ll use
the last of it. Be there in… five? I hope you have some good food ready. I’m SO
sick of jerky!”
Shane joked.

            Brett shook
his head in disbelief, smiling from ear to ear. “You gave us a real scare,

            “You missed me?” he replied, sounding

herself, Kellie lunged at the microphone. “Shane! I wanted to tell you I love
you! I even love your goofiness!” she choked, caught again between laughter and

            “Aww. Hey, I kind of like my goofiness too.”
Shane sounded pleased with himself.

            Brett threw
his head back in a full-blown laugh. “I expect you to be aboard in exactly two
minutes, Shane.”

            “Could you make that three? I’d rather not
use my oxygen supply for propulsion.”

            “Fine then.
We have a lot of work to do on the ship when you get here.”

right!” Kellie interjected. “Oh, we should probably tell Base what’s happening
so they can call off your memorial service next Friday.”

            “Coolness! Could they just go on with that?
I want to hear all the nice things people would say about me!”

            “No!” Brett and Kellie said
decidedly in unison, then laughed at each other.

            “Okay, I’m almost there. Let me dock.”

            “Hey, why didn’t the metal
detecting search pick you up?” Kellie wondered aloud.

            “The Astro is made out of Vectrobar,

            Brett slapped his forehead
with the palm of his hand. “I totally forgot about that!”

Shane agreed, coming through the airlock doors.

herself at him, Kellie flung her arms around him tightly.

            “And I love
you too,” he continued with some effort and strangling noises, “but I could live
to love you longer if you’d let me breathe!”

            Laughing in
delight, she stepped back.

Wordlessly, Brett stepped up and
gave Shane a tight embrace, trying not to lose himself again. Taking a deep
breath, he straightened up. “Alright, guys. We have work to do. Not all the
repairs are done.”

groaned. “Now? I thought I could get a break!” Looking from one face to the
next, he saw unsympathetic, unwavering gazes.

“You had four days,” Kellie put in. “I think that’s enough. What about you,
captain?” she asked, turning to Brett.

            He nodded.
“I completely agree, lieutenant.”

Shane finally gave up. “You guys are getting just cold,” he sighed, sounding oh-so-rejected.

laughed again, and prayed a silent prayer. God,
thank you for Shane. Thank you for bringing him back to me.  


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Excerpt #2 from "The Defenders" (Sequel to #1)

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