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"So she panicked. Happens all the time when someone's afraid for her life." Peters leaned back in his chair until it creaked (as was his habit whenever he had satisfied himself with his own reasoning) and tucked his balding head forward to place his hands behind it.

"Well, I would've expected more from a girl who's about to travel forty-six light years to a planet no one's ever seen."

"So she panicked. What can we do?"

Bettmann uncrossed his arms and closed the window against the fresh air after he removed his butt from Peters's sill. Then he slid his hands in his pockets as he approached the center of the room. "What I did is notice that all of the identity victims are the same age."

Peters grinned at his subordinate. "Go on."

"I scanned the Base," Bettmann told him. Peters encouraged him with a flick of one wrist. "And all our victims, potential and otherwise, were born within a month of each other."

Peters frowned. "Well, that's not too surprising. Goodall wanted all Colonists to be recent college grads--"

"Born in the same Manhattan hospital."

Peters leaned forward and placed a fist on his desk. "Sounds like you're on to somethin'!"

Bettmann had crossed his arms once more. "Maybe so, and it gets even better--"


"There was a suit filed against the hospital that very year. It seems one of the nurses had been taking unauthorized blood samples from select infants." Bettmann was now sitting in one of the two plastic chairs Peters had for guests.

First Star by W.R. Hammons:

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