Chapter 20 - Stuttgart

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5th June 2311 10:31 EST - The path they took was only wide enough for two abreast, but it still didn't stop the soldiers from keeping their spacing. For the last ten minutes, Jason and Aurora had been reminiscing their endeavours since they last saw each other. With Aurora's long term rehabilitation and Jason's inability to reveal much about the missions he went on, it didn't take them long for them to catch up with their tales.

As they trudged on the rocky path with a massive drop to one side and a cliff to the other there was a brief awkward silence.

Jason's conscience was gnawing at him and tearing him up inside. He felt he had abandoned his colleague and never at any time had he tried to resolve this. Now had to be the time, for there was no telling when they would have the opportunity to meet again.

Deactivating his helmet he called toward Aurora. "Aurora, I'm sorry."

She turned and smiled at Jason. "What for?"

"I let you down on Loki and I was not there for you when you needed me, I feel responsible for all that happened."

Aurora let out a light chuckle before frowning. "Loki was never your fault. We were not meant to survive that mission and we achieved the unachievable." she hesitated slightly "But yes, you were not there when I needed you. Six months I spent waiting for them to grow a leg while you played hero, another four before I could use that damn leg properly. I heard nothing from you and I thought the worst."

Jason remained silent.

"I thought I had let you down by not being at your side, but now I realised that I had simply been traded for a better model." she said spitefully while looking towards Donnelly.

Donnelly didn't react to the comment and fortunately, her helmet disguised her expressions, but Jason knew she would be angered by that comment.

"Hang on!" Jason responded, "I didn't replace you, there's been a lot going on."

"I'm sure there has!" Aurora's frown seemed to disappear but the venom in her voice hadn't. "Maybe after the mission if you've got five minutes of not playing boy hero you can tell me about it."

She turned briskly away from Jason but before he could respond he felt the slight touch on his shoulder. Looking around he spotted Donnelly shaking her head slightly.

Donnelly was right, there was no point in being drawn into the argument at this time. Aurora had every right to be angry that Jason hadn't supported her when she needed it, but her desire to have a more serious relationship with Jason was clouding her judgement. At this time she would be too emotional to see common sense.

Re-activating his helmet, he returned to the task of locating Achilles.

The walkway expanded so that there was space for the team to all congregate, it was a perfect chance for Turner to gain a SITREP on the situation.

"Pendergast?" Turner called towards Aurora. "Is this where you last saw them?"

"Yes sir, " she replied, "We lost visibility just as they came into this spot."

"Donnelly, check the area, maybe they've continued on along the ridge?" ordered Turner.

Donnelly used the various tools built into her visor to study the area. Despite all the technology that was at her disposal, she could find no trace of the Ceti's.

"Are you sure they went this way because I have nothing?" she asked with a hint of exasperation, also aware that it would undoubtedly cause unnecessary friction.

"I don't make this type of stuff up." Aurora paused before continuing "Ma'am" frustrated by both the question and the person who asked it.

Turner, being astute, could see that tempers were starting to flare, and with a priority target on the loose, he needed everyone at their best. "Muller, report."

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