"Oh my god, we finally made it," Maddy breathed as they arrived back at the gates of the colony.
"Don't come any closer! Hands in the air."
Mark recognised Gonzales' voice from above the gate.
"It's Reynolds," Mark said sourly. "We're not Sixers," he said, holding up his hands.
Gonzales grinned and called down to the guards below to let the motley couple through.
"You sure look like Sixers. Smell like them, too," Gonzales remarked as he came downstairs.
"Our Rover broke down about six klicks from here – I'll go and retrieve it after I clean up and pick up the spare parts," Reynolds him.
"And after you have a word with me, Reynolds," Washington's voice was extremely severe.
Maddy took one look at Washington's grim face and exclaimed,"I'd better get home."
"That's a very good idea, young lady," Washington told her. With an apologetic glance at Mark, Maddy fled. He didn't blame her. Washington on the warpath could be absolutely terrifying.
"Reynolds – with me."
Reynolds fell in beside her and sighed. "What's it going to be lieutenant – a month of latrine duty?"
"Oh that's just the start of it, Reynolds. What were you thinking? Going OTG without telling anyone where you were going – and worse, taking a civilian out there with you."
"We weren't far from the gates, and if it wasn't for the EMP that took everything out – we would have been fine ..."
"No Rover, no weapon – you and Miss Shannon are lucky to be alive. It's not like you to be so stupid and reckless."
"I'm sorry, ma'am," Reynolds said quietly.
"I take it she put you up to this?"
"No ma'am, it's entirely my fault," Reynolds said stoutly, looking very serious despite his mud-encrusted face.
Washington stopped and looked at him incredulously. "How stupid do you think I am, Reynolds? You've had an exemplary service record, then Miss Maddy Shannon appears – a troublemaker like the rest of her family – and you mess around with the duty roster, you disobey direct orders, you post guards outside her little sister's door and now ... you go OTG with her and come back smelling like dinosaur crap."
She stared at Reynold's expressionless face. "There really is something about these Shannons – coming to Terra Nova and tipping everything upside down, inside out ..." she mused to herself. "Latrine duty for a month in the early mornings and then in the afternoons – you're assigned to nursery duty at the school." Reynolds winced.
"I'm going lightly on you – you're lucky I don't tell the commander what you've been up to, Reynolds."
"Thank you ma'am," Reynolds said quietly.
"Now go and clean yourself up, you stink!"
Reynolds sat in Boyland's staring into his glass a little moodily. He had spent an absolutely disgusting morning helping to dispose of waste from the latrines and was still convinced he could smell it on himself – although that might also be attributable to residual traces of stink leaf. Then he had spent a demoralising afternoon at the nursery being bossed around by child carers and thrown up on by screaming babies.
There were a lot of babies in the colony – the colonists were encouraged to have children and to have many of them. Detailed records were maintained of all births and marriages to ensure that genetic diversity was maintained and that there could be no accidental inbreeding in future given the relatively small population.
"Hey there, soldier," a familiar voice spoke.
Mark looked up into Skye Tate's assessing gaze. She stood before him, one hand on her hip, a challenging smile on her full mouth. Skye had always been fully aware of her physical attractiveness, and there was a decided confidence to the way she stared at men. Her dark blonde hair was pulled back in a careless braid and her bare arms and legs were lightly tanned.
"Hey Skye," he said politely, nodding at her.
"Mind if I sit?" she asked him, sliding in beside him even before he could answer. Her bare leg rested against his, whether deliberately or accidentally he didn't know.
"So what's this I hear about Mr Perfect being assigned to latrine duty for a month," Skye asked in amusement, studying him narrowly with her deep blue eyes.
"Word travels fast," he said dryly.
"So does the smell," she said leaning closer and sniffing at him deliberately. She ran a fingertip lightly down his arm absently. "So was it worth it?"
"Getting your ass kicked by Washington over Maddy Shannon?"
He took another swallow of his drink but didn't answer. She shrugged to dismiss the fact that he hadn't answered her question. "You look good," she complimented him, her eyes travelling slowly over his tanned face, lingering on his firm mouth, sliding down to his leanly muscled body.
"Thanks. You, too," he said politely.
"I didn't know that babbling geek girl was what turned you on – things might have been different if I'd known that before," she commented.
"How are things going between you and Josh Shannon?" he asked her coolly and she stared at him angrily.
"How do you think?" she demanded. "He's totally fixated on Kara - his girlfriend in 2149 ... barely sees me ..."
"I doubt that, Skye," Mark said gently.
Skye's smile was forced and she shook her head. "Really? Not the first time I've been rejected. There was a time when I really thought that there could be something between you and me ..."
Mark's jaw tensed and he pressed his lips together in a tight line. "That was just one time, Skye and you and I both know that it was a mistake."
Skye's smile was crooked. "If I ever told Taylor about it – he'd force you to marry me whether you like it or not," she told him.
Mark looked up at her and shook his head slowly. "And then you'd be stuck with someone who doesn't love you the way you deserve – doesn't really sound like a good deal to me."
"First you – now Josh Shannon? What is it with me and falling for guys who don't love me back," Skye whispered in a harsh voice. Her eyes glistened for a moment but she wiped at them furiously and glared at him. "And no – don't even mention Hunter – he's like a brother to me."
"OK, I won't," Mark said agreeably. "I heard he was infested by some parasite – he's ok now isn't he?"
Skye blanched. "It was at least 30 feet long ... he's definitely never drinking unfermented Taroca root again."
"I've told you before that moonshine will kill you."
"You've told me a lot of stuff."
"Do you ever listen?"
She shrugged. "Sometimes."
Mark frowned slightly. "Aside from the Josh Shannon thing – what's going on with you Skye? Something wrong?"
Her mouth twisted in a bitter smile. "Is big strong Mark Reynolds going to sweep in and save the day? Solve all my problems?"
"Depends on what they are."
"Do you want to help me make Josh Shannon jealous?" she suggested abruptly.
He turned and stared at her squarely. "No," he said flatly. "I don't play games and to be honest, you probably shouldn't either."
She scowled at him slightly. Then she forward and rested her head on his shoulder, her lips very close to his cheek. If he turned his head, his mouth would be against hers, so he didn't.
At that exact moment, he saw Maddy standing in the doorway of the bar, looking around uncertainly. When she caught sight of him, she started smiling – a smile that matched the one curving his own mouth. It was the same brilliant smile she had given him earlier that morning – dazzling despite the fact that she was covered in mud.
She also looked at Skye, her head resting on Mark's shoulder and looked very puzzled rather than annoyed. Walking carefully through the bar, she came to stand at their table.
"Hi," she greeted them both a little uncertainly.
"Hey Maddy – take a seat. I was just catching up with my old friend, Mark," Skye said with an exaggerated smile.
"Given that you both came over on the Fifth Pilgrimage, I guess you hung out a lot before."
"That's one way of putting it," Skye drawled. "Well, I'll leave you two lovebirds alone. See you both around," she told them, adjusting Mark's collar before she left.
Mark looked a little uncomfortable. "Maddy – I uh – I hope you don't think that ..."
"I'm not jealous," Maddy said bluntly.
"She's in love with Josh."
"Oh," Mark said.
"And unfortunately for her, Josh is still in love with Kara."
"So I hear," Mark muttered.
"So I feel sorry for her more than anything. Was she your girlfriend before?" Maddy asked curiously.
"Not really. A group of us came over together on the Pilgrimage but I always knew I'd join the security forces – Skye and the others had different interests."
"Moonshine, breaking the rules and going OTG?" Maddy asked.
"Something like that." He stared into Maddy's steady, dark eyes and marvelled at the contrast between the two girls. There was no artifice about Maddy – she was as honest and forthright as she was intelligent and there was just something about her which he found irresistible. "Skye's parents both died of sincyllic fever – it was a really hard time for her... I tried to be there for her, as a friend. For a while, I think she hoped it would be something a more."
"But you've slept with her, right?" Maddy asked, just as Mark was taking a drink from his glass. He started choking and Maddy slapped him on the back vigorously. "I'll take that as a yes."
He wiped his eyes and cleared his throat. "It was once – a long time ago. I knew I didn't love her."
"But she's beautiful."
"Yes," he agreed.
"More beautiful than I'll ever be," Maddy said honestly.
Mark grinned. "Are you fishing for compliments, Maddy?"
"No," Maddy told him. "I'm just stating the facts."
He brushed her hair from her face, fingertips touching the skin of her cheek. "That day when I first you ... the day the 10th Pilgrimage arrived at the colony – I thought that you were the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen in my life ..."
Maddy swallowed hard. "Really?"
"Yeah really. I just said so," he said with a grin. Then he frowned. "What are you doing in here anyway? You're not supposed to be in a bar."
Maddy rolled her eyes. "Oh come on – 2149 underage drinking laws and licensing rules hardly apply to here!" she scoffed.
"I suspect they do," he told her with a frown and threw some cash down on the table and stood up. Her hand slid into his and they walked out of the crowded bar together into the cool night air.
"So what were you doing here?" he asked her.
"I had to make sure you were ok – I felt so bad that you got into so much trouble because of our date," she said regretfully.
"It's not your fault," he told her. "I shouldn't have taken us out without telling anyone – it was stupid of me."
"I was the one who wanted to sneak out."
"So are you volunteering to help me with latrine duty?" he asked her quizzically.
She laughed. "I think not." She was silent for a moment. "It's funny you should mention that first day we arrived here. It was like a blur ... so many sights and sounds – the air was so clean, it was like a dream ..."
"You looked so happy."
"I was ... it was probably the happiest day of my life even though there were a few scares along the way ... A few weeks before mom was recruited for Terra Nova, I came home one day coughing up blood. Mom totally freaked out, thought I was dying ... It turned out that my rebreather hadn't been working properly. I spent time in hospital with a machine breathing for me – so I guess you could say I was really, REALLY appreciative of the fact that in Terra Nova – I can breathe fresh air with my own lungs ... "
She shot him a quick glance and saw that his face was very serious. "I'm fine now," she assured him. "Don't worry about me."
They were outside the front door of the Shannon house and she moved into his arms as if she belonged there. Her head tilted back expectantly.
"Maddy ..." he breathed, his eyes very dark and serious.
"Yes ...?" she whispered hopefully.
The front door opened and Jim Shannon's shadow fell over the two of them as they jumped apart rapidly. "Well welcome home," he said grimly.
"I'll see you around, Maddy," Mark said, nodding at her.
"Good night, Mark." She went inside, pulling a wry face at him as she went inside past her father.
"So can I ask what you've done to deserve being condemned to latrine duty, Reynolds?" Jim asked curiously.
"Just making my contribution, sir, to the hygienic welfare of the colony," Reynolds said gravely.
"Are you mocking me?"
Jim's mouth twitched slightly. "Have a good night, Reynolds," he said before closing the door.
"Good night, Mr Shannon."
"Dad – do you have to be to mean to him?" Maddy complained.
"It's a rite of passage, Maddy – I'm sure Mark understands."
"Hazing is wrong – you told me that."
"This isn't hazing, I'm just ... testing him."
Maddy rolled her eyes at her father. "You know I like him though, don't you?"
"You don't say ..." Jim said grinning at his daughter. "Maddy – that's why I'm giving him a hard time."
"Fine ... Just don't sing the spider song at him, OK?"
"Go away spider go go go!!" he crooned at her and with a shriek of laughing protest, Maddy ran out of the room where she was joined by a delighted Zoe who started singing along with Jim at the top of her lungs. Josh and Elisabeth who were in the kitchen laughed at the sight, shaking their heads in amusement. The laughter of the Shannons spilled out of the house and Mark who was walking back to barracks paused for a moment, a smile flickering over his face.
Lieutenant Washington was right, the arrival of the Shannon family in Terra Nova had tipped everything upside down and turned it inside out – and this was a good thing.