Maddy listened to her father explaining to Zoe why they were in the camp. The journey had been beyond exhausting and to be honest, as she had approached the camp, all that had kept her going was the knowledge that each step brought her closer to Mark. She knew that it was small and petty of her to be fixated on her own matters when the world was coming to pieces around her but he had become something of an anchor to her – a point of sanity when everything else was unravelling.
When her father had brought back news that Taylor and his men had regrouped as a resistance in the jungle, she had waited for any mention of Mark. He had said nothing. Instead, he had spoken at great length about Taylor’s plans, those of Taylor’s men who had been killed or injured, Weaver’s unsuccessful attempt to detonate a pyrosonic device to clear land for mining, of the destructive hatred of Taylor’s son Lucas ... he had spoken of many things, but he had not spoken of Mark.
Eventually, she had been unable to restrain herself any longer. "Mark – is he alive?" she had asked in a voice that was little more than a whisper.
Her father’s mouth had tightened slightly. "Yes – he asked after you, too."
"Jim, you should have told her right away," Elisabeth had reprimanded Shannon sharply. "She’s been worried sick."
This was no understatement on Elisabeth’s part.
Tension in the colony had grown since preparations had started for the arrival of the 11th Pilgrimage - and an anticipated invasion from an unknown enemy from 2149. To Maddy’s profound despair, she would have three loved ones at the front – her mother was to be in the med tents in a clearing a little way back from the portal terminus. The tents would be equipped with CO2 infusers if genuine pilgrims arrived but also contain a mobile trauma unit in case an invasion took place and there were casualties. Both her father and Mark would be at the terminus itself – in the direct line of any potential attack. The uncertainty had been unnerving. All in the colony has known that when Hope Plaza activated the particle accelerator, there would either be 100 colonists arriving or an army bent on the destruction of Terra Nova.
In an attempt to take her mind off things and to allay her concerns, Mark had given Maddy a book on military strategy – incurring considerable mockery from Josh. Reading the book had helped to a certain extent but all her bravado vanished on the morning she had to farewell her family and Mark – seeing them drive away to an unknown fate had been almost unbearable. Mark, despite attempting to remain stoic had taken that moment to declare his love for her – and she had found herself being honest about her feelings as well.
The first inkling that Maddy had received of the attack was the arrival of the Phoenix Group, an army of brutal mercenaries who had laid siege to the colony and who had initially been held at bay by the efforts of Lieutenant Washington. As a result of an explosive device detonated at the portal terminus, the fracture had been untethered and the portal had opened up close to the gates of the colony – Taylor and his men were not able to make it back in time and Washington and the soldiers deployed to the colony had been the only line of defence. They were outnumbered and Washington was forced to surrender in order to prevent more needless bloodshed.
During this time, Josh, Maddy and Zoe had huddled inside their home, terrified and desperately worried about their loved ones. With relief, their mother returned unscathed with the news that their father was also alive but unconscious in the infirmary. Meanwhile, amidst the news that they were now under the control of the brutal Phoenix Group, Josh was overwhelmed with guilt and grief at the news that Kara had been killed. There had, however, been no news, however of Mark.
The assumption – or the hope – was that Taylor and other survivors had fallen back into the jungle to regroup and that they would make contact somehow. Nonetheless, there was no proof of that they lived. There had been no time, however, for her to grieve openly. Within the colony, her father, Lieutenant Washington and a number of other colonists had worked together to formulate ways to hinder and harass the Phoenix Group.
Josh had returned to work at Boylan's bar in an effort to help gather intelligence on the soldiers and Maddy had put aside her aversion to gore and illness and worked with her mother at the infirmary. At the infirmary, she had asked for any word of Mark from any of the other survivors but all they could describe was an explosion, death and chaos.
Maddy looked up and saw a familiar face standing further up the ridge. "Is Mark Reynolds around?" Maddy asked Corporal Reilly.
"He’s on patrol duty." Relief flooded her as she learned that he was still safe.
"Oh. OK .." Maddy said, her voice trailing off as she prepared to follow the rest of the family.
"Oh hell," Reilly muttered in resignation. "Dunham!"
Dunham turned around. "Find Reynolds and take his shift."
"Me, why?" he demanded with a hint of a whine in his voice.
"Just do it, private," Reilly told him curtly.
"Thanks," Maddy said quietly, a smile curving her mouth and she reached out to touch Reilly’s wrist lightly in gratitude.
Reilly smiled and nodded but said nothing as Maddy continued walking through the camp.
"Maddy – this spot’s for us," her father called out and she walked over and helped the rest of the family set up camp.
"What’s going on?" he asked.
"Beats me," Dunham lied, a smirk on his mouth which made Mark frown with perplexity. He ran back to camp at a swift jog, arriving in the clearing where Reilly was giving instructions.
"What gives? Dunham said you needed me back." His eyes followed where she was pointing with her gloved hand. Reynolds froze in disbelief as he saw Maddy turn her head and look at him. She dropped whatever she was holding and ran towards him. He made it to her in three quick strides and he was holding her tightly she had to laughingly him her to release her.
Reilly watched the reunion with an unreadable expression in her eyes.
"Young love – so touching. Are you jealous?"
She turned and stared steadily into Curran’s eyes.
"Fuck you," she told him calmly.
"Been there, done that," he said evenly. His hand caught her fist before it could make impact with his face.
"You’re lucky we need every one we can get," she told him in a low voice,"Otherwise I would – "
"Make me regret? Make me feel lower than I already do?" he mocked her.
"Curran go away," she told him, even though she knew that he wouldn’t go far. Like many others, she couldn’t believe that Taylor had let a murderer return to the fold. Taylor hadn’t reinstated the man – he’d known that that would have caused an uprising, but he’d put a damned assault rifle back in Curran’s hands because they’d needed every able-bodied man to prepare for the attack on Terra Nova.
All Reilly could remember from that day at the portal terminus was the sound of an explosion, of screams ... the smell of charred flesh and freshly spilled blood – and the weight of Curran’s body pressing her into the earth, protecting her with his own flesh. It didn’t right the wrong he had done, though. He had killed one of their own.
Reilly was just filled with self-loathing because once in a fit of drunken despair, she’d slept with the man and told herself it was just a quick moment of madness. It sickened her that she’d allowed a murderer to kiss her ... touch her ...
Her gaze returned to Maddy and Reynolds who were standing at the edge of the clearing, very close to one another, deep in conversation. Reynolds couldn’t take his eyes off the girl and Reilly rolled her eyes. Young love, indeed.
Mark was listening intently as Maddy was speaking. "We were relatively safe. When the invasion took place, we stayed inside the house. Later, even when things got bad - they still needed mom and dad pretended he was still deaf and addled from a sub-cranial swelling caused by the explosion – he isn’t amused when we tell him how good he was at acting dazed. The colony's like a prison – completely shut down ... search lights at night to stop people escaping ... a curfew at eight .. but for the most part they left us alone. But last night, Taylor’s son attacked Skye, Josh tried to help her and then dad tried to help him and then both Josh and dad were thrown in the brig. When they found the transponder it was all over."
Mark closed his eyes and winced "I heard a lot of people died ..."
Maddy nodded soberly. "When the Phoenix Group attacked, they were shelling the colony - 26 people were killed ... more would have died if Lieutenant Washington hadn’t surrendered when she did. When we decided to escape, Lt. Washington created a diversion for us so that we could get away – but Lucas Taylor executed her .."
"Wash is dead?" Mark demanded in disbelief. "Does the commander know?" There was grief in his own eyes as he studied the people in the clearing, looking for Taylor.
"He knows – he was with us – he saw it happen ..." Maddy’s dark eyes were filled with sympathy, knowing how difficult Wash’s passing was – she had been almost like family to the young soldier.
"I came through as a kid .. she and the commander were the closest I had to family," his eyes deepened to a dark blue as his mouth tightened.
"I know .." Maddy whispered, reaching up her hand to touch his cheek.
"Let’s get out of here," Mark said, reaching up to tear off his armour and toss it to the side in a heap. He grabbed her hand and walked with her through the jungle to where they could be alone.
"I want to welcome you properly," he said pulling her into his arms, his firm lips coming down on hers and her lips parted willingly, tasting him again.
"I’m all sweaty and gross," she muttered thickly.
"I don’t care," he muttered back. "At least it’s not stink leaf."
They held hands as they walked a short distance from the camp and she asked him about all that had happened. He described the attack at the portal terminus, his voice tight as he remembered the shock and humiliation of the defeat. He told of how he and a group of survivors had retreated – of the shame they had felt as they had fled into the jungle, aware that Terra Nova had been overrun by the Phoenix Group.
"You had to do it to survive," Maddy pointed out gently.
"It hurt to run," he told her,"But the commander said that Terra Nova’s only hope lay with our survival so we regrouped ... scouted ... sabotaged ... bided our time. We lost two people to Carnotaurs the first night before we had a chance to secure the perimeter – Bailey and Gonzales. Gonzales was engaged to be married ... "
"I’m sorry ..." Maddy said inadequately.
"I didn’t know if you were alive or dead until I saw your dad." He didn’t tell of how Taylor had had to physically restrain him from rushing back to the colony to try to rescue her, how Taylor had talked sense back into him and reminded him that he was no good to anyone – least of all Maddy – if he got himself killed on a suicide mission. "It felt good to strike back ... the intel from your father and others helped us to attack the Phoenix soldiers."
"After the attack – none of us knew what had happened to Taylor ... if there were other survivors ... I had no idea if you were dead or alive either until my dad told me had spoken to you."
Maddy glanced around. It was dark now and the shadows had begun to engulf them. "I should head back – my parents will be wondering where I am," she told him.
"Wait," he said urgently in a low voice, not releasing her hand. "Don’t go. Not yet ..." He backed her against a tree and kissed her again, slowly and tenderly. Her response was immediately and slow and tender immediately became frantic and hungry. "Kiss me again before you go ..." he told her.
"I missed you so much," she breathed between kisses.
"Me, too," he told her, his hand sliding up into her hair as he cupped her head to deepen the kiss.
As a dinosaur’s cry broke through the night, he paused and listened intently.
"Carnotaur," she identified. They relaxed slightly as they realised that it was some distance away. Turning back towards her, he stroked her cheek lovingly. "It’s okay, perimeter’s mined, besides you can tell from the call it’s just a juvenile."
To his amusement, Maddy went into professor mode. "Actually they may be smaller but juveniles are even more vicious, kind of like hormonal teenagers with claws ..." He cut off her babbling with another kiss.
A sound made them stop abruptly again as Jim Shannon appeared from the darkness.
"Dad," Maddy exclaimed, running a hand over her hair as Reynolds pulled back immediately.
"Don’t mind me," Shannon told them awkwardly. "I was just passing through." Maddy patted at her mouth which she suspected was red and swollen.
Mark muttered,"I have sentry duty," and bolted, just as Maddy also announced hurriedly that she was leaving.
Back in the clearing, he sought out Reilly. "Dunham back? I’m up for patrol duty ..."
"Yeah, you’re about up now," she commented, looking up at him with a quizzical look. She fell into step beside him as he walked to his vantage point where he had the best view along one side of the encampment. "To be honest, I thought you’d be off somewhere reuniting with your sweet young thing."
"Don’t start," Mark muttered. His gaze flickered to the left where Curran was standing and watching Reilly casually.
"If you want time off, Curran’s offered to take your shift."
"Not a chance," Mark told her. "I’ll take the next four hours. What is the deal with him anyway?" Mark wanted to know.
Reilly shrugged. "Beats me ... I guess the commander knows what he’s doing ... Not like anyone wants Curran in the field with them."
"He used to be our friend ..." Mark pointed out.
"Until he killed our other friend Foster, yeah ..."
"I never knew either of them were in such trouble..." Mark said slowly. "They never really let on that anything was wrong ..."
"Curran always said it wasn’t a problem ... everything was all right," Reilly said bitterly. "I don’t think any of us could have guessed how bad it had become."
"So how are you holding up with him back here, and all?" Mark asked her carefully.
"I don’t know what you’re talking about, Reynolds," Reilly told him coldly.
Mark stared at her steadily.
Reilly glared at him. "We fucked, it didn’t mean anything. Don’t read too much into it."
Mark decided that it was a good time to change the topic. "Thanks for making Dunham swap with me."
"It’s cool – you’re all right," Reilly said with a quick smile. "Catch you later." Then he was gone and Mark was alone with the jungle and his thoughts. Having Maddy at the camp filled him with mixed emotions. On the one hand, he was extremely happy to have her away from the Phoenix Group and so close to him. On the other hand, the jungle could be just as dangerous as the most ruthless of mercenaries ...
End of Part 1