Dog Tags was a short novel, barely zaidi than 100 pages long. In the two weeks from when John gave it to her and when they docked at TAU 14, Meg had read it a dozen times. She kept the book rolled up in her back pocket and carried it everywhere so she could read it whenever she had a spare moment. She had hoped to learn zaidi about her dad, but the book was zaidi of a romance novel than a biography.
The book takes place mostly before Earth was destroyed, back when Korso was in the military. He fell in upendo with a woman named Charlie Galins. They couldn't spend much time together (and the time they did spend together was explicit enough to make Meg want to get a lobotomy to remove the image of her dad and the woman in kitanda together). Korso spent most of his time with his partner, Sam Tucker, trying to save the planet. Charlie only knew what they were working on was called the Titan Project, but Korso wouldn't share any other details with her. The siku everyone evacuated Earth, Korso tried to find Charlie, but he couldn't. He gave one of his men his dog tags and told him to find Charlie Galins, give them to her and tell her he will find her as soon as it's safe. It took the man four years to find Charlie and in that time he never saw au heard from Korso again. He assumed Korso was dead and when he gave the dog tags to Charlie he told her Korso had died. She was heartbroken, but kwa that had already moved on and was married to another man. She and her husband had a baby whom she had named Joseph, after Meg's dad. Meg knew that was supposed to be a touching scene and sentimental, but it always made her roll her eyes. She knew it wasn't a true story, but it angered Meg that Charlie had aliyopewa up on her dad so quickly and just married some other man before she even knew he was dead.
Meg reached up and touched her dad's real dog tags that she always wore around her neck. She was glad she had received her dad's dog tags and not some woman who didn't actually upendo him.
While the Legacy's pilot, Eric, navigated the ship towards TAU 14's dock, Meg sat in the galley and pulled out the book. She flipped to the last page. It was a picha copied image of a ripped journal page. Meg didn't know if the uandishi on the page was her dad's since she didn't have anything to compare the handwriting to. But, there was something off about what it said:
Sam and I sent our dog tags today. We hope the Titan Project will be successful and we'll be reunited with the ones we upendo on New Earth. But in case we don't survive this, we want proof in the universe that we existed. And maybe when they receive the dog tags, it'll help them remember us.
Meg didn't know why the journal entry would seem displaced in this book while the rest of the entries fit, but it puzzled her nonetheless.
A bump jerked the ship slightly and Meg knew they had docked. She put the book back in her pocket and headed down to the cargo bay where the walkway from the ship to TAU 14 was. The captain and Jim were already gathered there, but Meg didn't see anyone else.
"Are wewe ready?" Jim asked her.
"I think wewe should stay here," Meg told him. "We don't know what we're walking into wewe and we need wewe and the map salama so we can still find Treasure Planet."
"Meg's right," John agreed. "She and I will find Cale; wewe stand guard here and make sure no one else tries to board this ship."
Jim scowled at them, but didn't argue. It's not like he would be missing out on much; it was just a salvage station.
John unlocked the door and he and Meg started down the walkway. Before they entered TAU 14, John stopped her. He pulled one of the guns out of his holster and handed it to Meg.
"Do wewe know how to use one of these?"
Meg carefully took the gun from him. "I've never used one before. Just point and shoot, right?"
"Don't forget to aim."
Meg nodded as they walked into the salvage station. The first thing she noticed was the smell; like a mixture of rotten food, a backed up toilet and month-old garbage. Meg put her hand over her mouth and nose and did her best to keep her lunch down.
"Let's find Cale and get off this rock as quickly as possible," John said.
Meg didn't say anything, afraid if she opened her mouth she might vomit.
They wandered the station for a few dakika before they finally found someone. He was a large alien of a species Meg had never encountered. His size was intimidating, but his face seemed friendly enough.
"Excuse me, sir?" John approached him. "We're looking for Cale Tucker; do wewe know where we might find him?"
The alien pointed down a long, narrow corridor. "His quarters, most likely. His shift just ended. Make a left at the end of this corridor, then a right when that corridor ends. His is the last one on the right."
"When wewe see him, tell him Firrikash and Po are looking for him," the alien said, before walking away.
John and Meg followed the directions they were aliyopewa until they found Cale's quarters. The metal door had rust in some places and looked like it hadn't been used a while. At first Meg thought they had the wrong place, but on the ukuta inayofuata to the door Cale T. was written in black stencil letters.
Meg hesitated for a moment, not sure if she was ready to see Cale again after he had abandoned them two years ago. She took a deep breath and knocked.
A few moments later, Cale opened the door. The chain lock prevented him from opening it all the way, but Meg still found herself staring into his mizeituni, mzeituni brown eyes.
Cale stared blankly at her for a sekunde before he registered it was her. "Meg?"
Cale closed the door, unlocked the chain and then opened the door all the way. "What are wewe doing here? And who's that guy?" He motioned at John behind her.
Meg glanced at John over her shoulder, then turned back towards Cale. "I need to talk to you. Can I come in?"
"Of course." Cale stepped out of her way.
"I'll wait out here," John told her. "Don't take long."
Meg nodded before stepping into Cale's quarters. Cale closed the door behind her. There were no windows and a lightbulb above the door provided the only light.
Cale pulled Meg into an awkward hug. She half reciprocated it before stepping away from him.
"What are wewe doing here?" Cale repeated. "Don't get me wrong, It's good to see you. But, you're the last person I ever expected to onyesha up here. Jim au Sarah, maybe. But not you."
"Jim's with me. He's back on the ship."
"I'm guessing you're not just here for a visit."
"Not exactly." Meg turned away from him and looked around the room.
Cale's quarters were barely bigger than the one Meg was sharing with jimmy, hunitumia on the Legacy. There was a sink on one ukuta inayofuata to a table. A kitanda sat against the ukuta across from it. The corner was sectioned off and Meg guessed that was the bathroom.
"What's this?" Cale asked, pulling the book out of her back pocket.
Meg spun around to face him again. "Give it back."
"Another one of those steampunk romances?" Cale teased. He unrolled the book and looked down at the cover. His eyebrows shot up in surprise and he looked at Meg. "This is your dad," he said, pointing at the cover.
Meg took the book from him and stuck it back in her pocket.
"Meg. Why is there a picture of your dad on the cover of that book?"
"It's about him. Sorta. Your dad is in it, too. It's about how they were heroes, trying to save humanity."
Cale let out a cruel laugh. "Heroes? They abandoned us."
"They died trying to save us."
Cale shook his head in disbelief. "I can't believe, after all these years, wewe still believe in that fairy tale."
Meg bit her lip. "Speaking of fairy tales: wait 'till wewe hear why Jim and I are here."
"Why are wewe here?"
"Jim found the map to Treasure Planet. Professor Porter hired a crew with a ship and we're heading for it," Meg told him. "That man out there is John Smith, the captain."
Cale stared at her. "Is this a joke?"
"No. This is real. This is happening." Meg shrugged. "You don't have to come. But, Jim refused to do this without you, so here we are. But, if you'd rather stay here…"
"You guys are out of your minds," Cale said. "Even if Treasure Planet was real, and even if that map is legit; do wewe know how dangerous it is? Everyone is after that treasure and most of them will kill to find it. Plus, who knows how long it would take to get there-"
"Six months," Meg told him.
"Six months of just flying through space, hoping we don't get Lost out there au face enemy ships and natural disasters."
Meg crossed her arms over her chest. "Cale Tucker, are wewe scared?"
"No. I'm smart. I don't want to die chasing some story through the universe."
"Fine. Don't come. It's just as well, anyway; I was against wewe coming with us." Meg headed for the door, but paused and looked back at him. "Oh. And I was supposed to tell wewe that Firrikash and Po are looking for you."
The color drained from Cale's face. "On sekunde thought, Meg; it would seem I need to make myself scarce. I'll come with you."
Why is there a picture of your dad on the cover of this book?