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Purify - Chapter 18 Cathy

Cathy had been exploring a planet in the Telubi three system, looking for a suitable destinations for her tourism company. She ran New Worlds, a tour company for the new age as it says in her publicity.

New Worlds looks for planets that haven’t developed a dominant intelligent species yet and then adds then to their catalogue of holiday destinations with a list of the attractions.

In the five years that she had run the company she had added twenty five new words to her brochure but this was after exploring over a hundred. Most of her destinations were benevolent planets of temperate climate and small mammalian life forms but she also included some planets that were devoid of animal life and others with big game carnivores.

Exo-planetary tourism was strictly for the very rich and Cathy’s company was doing very well. Since Earth flooded there was a growing demand for ice worlds so that the rich could pursue skiing holidays like they used to in the pre-global warming era and anywhere green always sold well.

The Telubi three planet was an ice world with multiple temperate zones. This made it a valuable addition to the New Worlds brochure since tourists like to arrive somewhere warm, even if they are there for the skiing. Cathy was surveying for the best location to build her base camp resort in one of the temperate areas when she received a message from her crew back on board the String Slider Bill Oddie. They had decided to take her ship and make a new life for themselves in the next galaxy. String Slider ships and their special abilities with respect to time travel were a very valuable commodity in the universe. Cathy had been forced to accept this new crew at short notice after her usual team had accumulated sufficient slide-time credits to be able to demand, and get, a decent three week break. As owner of the company, Cathy didn’t need to take a break and so she had taken the new crew and headed straight back out again.

It was like the feeling you get, the moment you pull the door shut and realise that you have left your keys on the mantelpiece. Hundreds of times before you have left the house quickly checking your pocket first to make sure you have your keys with you but on this occasion you didn’t and then bang! The door is shut and you just know that, no matter how much you pat your pockets, the keys are still going to be on the mantelpiece. Only, with being stranded on a previously unexplored planet, the chances of being able to telephone your partner to come back from work with their keys are pretty slim. Unless you have a b-Link fitted.

Getting the b-Links was the most touching thing that had ever happened to Cathy. Oh, being asked to get married was one thing but if marriages don’t work out there is always divorce. But being asked to be a partner in a pair of b-Links is way above the commitment involved in marriage. That anyone would feel that level of trust in her made her feel more than special. It made her feel like the most special person in the universe. It is a hell of a commitment getting them fitted. You have to be really sure that your partner is going to be willing, for life, to agree to drop everything no matter what or where they are and come and rescue you.

For Tibor it was the obvious thing to do. He loved Cathy and knew that she felt the same way about him. If there was anyone he would trust with his life it was her. The decision was made easier because he wanted her to be safe from Stranding. He wanted to protect her from the dangers that String Sliding brought with it. He met her and they fell in love when he had just graduated from medical school. His first assignment was on one of her advanced builder crews. Her company had established a base on a jungle planet in the Cydona system. It was to be a jungle safari adventure world for rich, would-be Dr. Livingstones. One of Tibor’s specialities was tropical medicine and so he was the ideal choice.

He was already on the planet setting up the medical facilities there without having met Cathy until she visited the latest addition to the New Worlds brochure to inspect how the building was getting along. When she arrived, he was busy supervising the construction of the operating theatre and so wasn’t part of the welcoming comittee sent to meet her and make sure she saw the progress that they had made building the base camp. In fact, the camp commandant had arranged it so that he would be busy when she got there because he was known to be upset that his plans for the hospital had been scaled back.

But eventually she heard of the doctor’s dissatisfaction and went to see what the fuss was about. She was surprised at first to see how young her Cydonian doctor was, pleasantly surprised. In fact she first took him for a medical student and openly discussed the fact that she had heard that the doctor in charge of the facility wasn’t happy. He played along with her misunderstanding at first, saying that he had also heard the doctor complaining about it.

Eventually, when he could bear it no longer, he cracked and revealed that he was the doctor in question. Cathy wasn’t amused and almost fired him on the spot but she soon saw the funny side and listened to Tibor’s gripes. He got his way and the budget grew accordingly. This proved to be a good move as, just as the second ship of paying guests arrived, the camp crew were all struck down with a form of haemorrhagic rhinitis where they would sneeze and then almost bleed to death from the ensuing nosebleed. If he had not been given the funds to build the facility that he had planned all along there would have been fatalities.

But that was yet to happen. Right now Cathy, having met Tibor, wanted to get to know him better. Always one to kill two birds with one stone, she needed to try out the safari part of her New Worlds experience and persuaded the doctor to accompany her. Over the course of the two week trip, they fell in love and over the next two years they got together as often as their busy schedules allowed. Having a time bending fleet of spacecraft meant that that was more often than you might think. They knew that they belonged together and of course they planned to get married. But when Tibor asked her to b-Link with him she was so happy that she cried for what felt like a week. The commitment involved in becoming b-Link partners is huge. Quite apart from the life-long agreement to be there for each other in their hours of most need there was the three and a half hour long brain surgery to consider. But that didn’t matter to Cathy. She was sure that it was the right thing to do.

When they chose their b-Link devices it felt like they were choosing the engagement ring all over again. Visiting jewellery shops in London’s Hatton garden (b-Links were sold from jewellery shops because of their expense, gold content and the similarity to his ‘n’ hers jewellery). As they trudged the rain slickened streets on that cold November day it felt as though they would never find a pair that they could both agree upon until they took a short side street just off the main road. And there they saw them. As soon as they saw them, they both knew that they were the right ones.

The form that a b-Link takes is always the same three layers but the outer layer is where the craftsman’s skills come to the fore. The pair that Tibor and Cathy had spotted were adorned not just with a golden filigree patterned outer shell but it also was encrusted with rubies and emeralds in the form of a mobius strip motif which seemed to wriggle and writhe as though it were alive – twisting around, first showing its rubies side and then its emerald one.

They say that you don’t choose your b-Links, they choose you and the jeweller said that in all the time that these had been in the window they had never become animated in the way that they had for Tibor and Cathy that afternoon. They knew that they had to have these ones.

The fitting of the b-Links, whilst more intimate than sex was also a time for celebration, They kept with tradition and invited their closest friends and family to the hospital to witness the operation, which was preceded as usual by a short dedication ceremony where the partners say a few words about the commitment that they are entering into and what it means to them to become b-Linked. Whilst Tibor twittered on about wanting to be the protector and how he wanted to be Cathy’s lifeline for the rest of his natural life, Cathy said some very moving things about her love for Tibor and how, though she hoped never to have to call upon the b-Link’s primary purpose, she hoped to be able to feel the other, deeper connections that others have reported felt from their b-Linked partners.

After realising what had happened and deducing correctly that her crew was not going to come back for her, Cathy tried to figure out how long it would be before she was missed and her colleagues started to look for her. Then she remembered that the Telubi planet was actually a detour that her crew had suggested and that, if they followed normal search protocols they would never find her. It was then that she realised that she must have activated the b-link.

Now to find out if it actually worked.