If you thought we were done with the fanfic prequels to Isaac Asimov's "Black Friar of the Flame", you thought wrong! In the stirring tradition of "New Management" and "An Audience with the King" comes . . .
by Johnny Pez
Dr. Nelda Hartz was shocked, to say the least, to find one of Admiral Roh's marines pointing a gun at her when she returned to Lhasinu Base. The marine escorted her to her quarters, and she was even more shocked to find that her possessions had all been removed. She attempted to call Admiral Roh, but her monitor had been disabled. In fact, she was unable to speak to anybody else in Lhasinu Base except for the marine, who had stationed himself outside her door. It was really quite astonishing how easily her quarters had been converted into a prison cell.
Lacking any other means to communicate her wishes, she finally said to the marine, "I'd like to speak with Admiral Roh, please."
The marine looked at her without expression as he replied, "I'll pass along your request, ma'am." And that was all. Would he shoot her if she tried to leave? She preferred not to experiment.
Her books had been removed with the rest of her belongings, and the monitor was still disabled, so Hartz found herself in the extremely unusual position of having no way to pass the time. She stared out of the window at the grounds of Lhasinu Base, and at the primitive, alien buildings of Lhasinu visible beyond the base's outer wall. The more distant parts of the city were obscured by the falling rain, and puddles were forming in their usual places within the base. She was briefly puzzled when the scene outside began to grow dark, then realized with a start that night was falling, and that she had been sitting and staring out of the window for hours.
It was nearly full dark when the door to her room opened and the lights came up. Turning from the window, Hartz saw Admiral Roh Bon-hwa standing in the doorway, dressed in the white version of his Sirian Navy uniform. A marine entered the room behind him, a different one from the one who had been guarding her door earlier.
"Doctor Hartz," said the Admiral, "I must ask you to accompany me."
Hartz sighed and rose from her place by the window. "Can you at least tell me what's going on?"
she asked as she followed him from the room. The marine followed behind her.
"Lhasinu Base is being repurposed," Roh replied as they walked through the corridors. "The research establishment is being closed down, and the base will be used as a training camp for the Vegan recruits. You and the other scientists are being flown up to the Dauntless, to be taken back to Sirius for internment. Your personal effects have already been transferred up to the Dauntless."
Hartz had suspected all along that the base personnel would wind up being shipped back to Sirius for internment, but Admiral Roh seemed to be moving quickly. She noticed that they were moving in the direction of the base's landing field.
As the three emerged from the building, Hartz found a minor sense of relief that the rain had stopped. She strongly suspected that Roh would not have bothered to provide her with an umbrella. The area around the Sirian Navy boat was lit by floodlights, and they provided enough light to allow Hartz to navigate around the various puddles that were scattered across the landing field.
Roh unexpectedly spoke up. "If it's any consolation, Dr. Hartz, I believe the Sirian government is planning to establish its own research base on Vega Six after the war. I wouldn't be surprised if scientists from the other nations were allowed to take part."
Hartz found the use of the phrase "other nations" jarring. It looked like the human race really was reverting back to the 21st century. And now that the Sirians were recruiting Vegan soldiers, the Vegans would soon be experiencing a technological leap forward.
As they entered the boat, Hartz found herself wondering what would happen when the advancing Vegans caught up with the regressing humans.