Thursday, December 27, 2012

War Angel: part eighty-eight

2142- Inside Pluto

Wilma raised the top of the bed so that Jack was almost sitting up. She shook her head at the sight: two black eyes, three broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, bruised kidneys. He was lucky to not have a punctured lung. The rest of his body was covered in bruises as well, and it was, she thought, miraculous that he made it back to the ship and to the medlab. “You’re a lucky man, Jack Keys,” she said as she looked him over.

He smiled weakly. “Oh, tell me about it, doc. Will I be able to make it to the dance?”

She snorted. “You’ll be able to go back to your quarters. If you behave. No fooling around with Sarah for a little while, unless you want to pop a lung and aspirate blood in the middle of it.”

“You know how to kill the romance, Dr. Gray.”

Gray shook her head. “Be happy that there’s some romance left. Until we save the planet, the rest of us are going to be in a long dry spell.”

Jack blanched. “I did not need that in my head. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” She backed away from the table and looked across the room. “I need to get back to that skeleton you brought me.”

He coughed and cleared his throat. “About that. As M’isti was beating the life out of me, he said something that could have been a lie or it could have been a truth he was tantalizing me with as I died. He mentioned something about ‘the tomb of Prince S’agas T’horoth’ and about eradicating a genetic mistake.”

“Well, Earth has spent two hundred years piddling around with genetics. I would guess that the Omegans are no different. Maybe what we have will show us what they have been up to.”

“Fingers crossed, doctor. The sooner we solve the riddle, the better.”

Richard pulled the power coupling away from the wall and examined it thoroughly. He sat down and then began looking for nicks, dents, and cracks, making sure that the Angel’s journey through the interior of the Kan’Tar had not left any damages that could come back to bite them later. “It wouldn’t do,” he said to himself, “to randomly blow ourselves up.”

A response startled him. “I agree completely,” Sarah chimed in. “I’m glad you’re down here checking this stuff out.”

He shrugged. “It just seemed like the right thing to do.”

Sarah sat down next to him. “That seems to be your instinct.”

“Huh?” Richard looked at Sarah, puzzled. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“I mean, you have a nose for doing the right thing. The smart thing.”

“That hasn’t really been my strength in life. I’m mostly good at screwing things up.”

She gave him a light punch in the shoulder. “Which is how you wound up with the nickname Clover. But think about what you have done in the past couple of days: FTL travel worked, you snuck onto an alien ship, you rebuilt the War Angel’s systems from inside that alien ship, you guided us through that ship’s interior, gave us a pathway out, and then helped get us safely away.” She paused to think about it, and then smiled at him. “That’s pretty much a year’s worth of work to most people. At least.”

“Wow. I hadn’t thought about it like that.”

Sarah stood up. “So you’re a Clover. But now it isn’t an ironic nickname. It’s a reality. This ship… none of us… would be alive without you. So when you’re examining these power couplings, keep that in mind. Clover.”

His head tilted back down toward the power coupling in his hand. He brought it closer to his eye, and then reached for a microscope and examined it further. As he did, a slight grin crossed his face for a moment, and then he put it back and moved to the next one.

“I don’t even know what to say to that,” Gina offered, plopping down on her bed. “I just don’t.”

Kate laid down next to her, propping her head up with her arm. “I can’t say that I do, either. It was an honest, pure moment of bravery. I didn’t think he had it in him.”

“Do you think he did it?” Gina paused for a moment, trying to picture it in her head. “Killed himself, I mean?”

“I hope so.” Kate saw Gina roll her eyes. “Not like that, bitch! I just… no matter what a piece of crap he was, I hope he had a choice. I certainly hope he wasn’t taken alive and then blown up when the ship went kaboom.”

“Agreed.” Gina shifted so that she was on her side, facing Kate. “So how do you feel about… what you did?”

“It was the right thing to do at the time.”

“This isn’t that time. It is, however, the end of a genetic line.”

Kate rolled onto her back. “I hate you. Let’s talk about something else. Like your fancy flying. Very impressive. You totally saved our asses.”

“Fine. Change the subject. I will admit to being pretty happy with how much better I am getting at flying this thing. That being said, I would prefer to not do so through the interior of other ships. Ever. Again.”

“I will always be there to carve you a path.”

Gina brightened. “Oh, wow! That sounded like it had some sentiment to it! Admit it! You have a heart!”

Kate rolled and faced away from Gina. “I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you. Because you’re such a bitch!”

“I’m your best friend, bitch,” Gina responded with a giggle. “And you know it.”

“Ugh. Fine.”

The two both rolled onto their backs and stared at the ceiling. The room went silent for a while, only the hum of the ship’s systems in the background. Words flooded into the minds of both women, but neither one chose to speak them. Instead, they turned away from one another and went to sleep.

Jack closed the journal and set it down on his nightstand. It was a Herculean effort to do even that, as rolling on his side was not possible thanks to his myriad broken pieces. As he did, he thought he heard footsteps outside his door. Realizing he was laying around in only his undergarments, he made a move to slide off of the bed and get dressed like a proper ship’s captain.

But before he could speak or move, he heard the code being tapped into the pad next to the door and it opened, revealing Sarah Matto in silhouette, carrying a computer padd.

“About time to get yourself moving, champ,” she said with only a hint of sarcasm. “Why aren’t you out and working yet?”

Jack cleared his throat. “I got caught up in some reading. Smartass.”

She walked across the room and kissed him gently on the lips. “Looks like these are the only part of you not broken.”

“Sad, but true,” he said, shaking his head. “What brings you by?”

Sarah took on an official tone and handed him the padd. “Status of the ship update, Captain.”

Jack took it from her and examined the available data. “No ships heading our way. That’s promising. We hid our tracks well.”

“They were kind enough to dig the hole, so why not use it?”

He continued. “Repairs seem to be going great. Richard is really on it.”

“I let him know how happy we are with his performance.”

“Nice work, Commander.” Jack read further. “So the bad guys are regrouping at the moon. Have to keep an eye on that.”

“They’ll be looking for us. Hard. But for now, they’ll have to figure out who is replacing M’isti. That should buy us some time. Hard to believe this crazy plan of yours worked, Jack.”

“It worked, but it cost us. We lost a crewmember. And we have to assume that they will find a body or two, discover the bug, and produce a cure for it. We won’t be able to use it again.”

Sarah shut her eyes tight, seeing the dead bodies of Omegans at her feet again. “I’m okay with that, Jack.” He handed her the padd. “So what next?”

The War Angel’s captain laid back and stared at the ceiling. “Well, we still have plenty of bad guys. But hopefully, our side did get a little stronger.” She looked at him quizzically. “They took our fleet out of the air. But on the ground, there have to be resistance cell.” He smiled grimly. “There are always resistance cells. If they have eyes on the sky, they know what happened. The RGC is gone. That should boost some morale.”

“I hope you’re right. So maybe we have a chance. Maybe we win. Someday.”

He nodded. “Someday. And when that happens, I will accept my fate knowing I did the right thing.”

She tilted her head at him. “What does that mean?”

Jack closed his eyes. “I committed an act of mutiny. I murdered my superior officer. That can’t go unpunished.”

“And you saved our lives in the process. Oh, and if we win, then you also saved the planet. I think they’ll overlook that, don’t you?”

He turned his head to look at her. “Maybe. Maybe not. But I won’t run from it. On the day we win, I will report to whoever replaces the Admiral and turn myself in. If military protocol is followed properly, I will spend the rest of my life after that in a cell. Exactly where I belong.”

End WAR ANGEL volume one

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