Baby, hit me - snippet 3
“I found these in the ship’s logs,” she gestured to the vid chips on the console as she cocked a hip against it.
“And…” he prompted.
“Apparently…Captain Sun’s last mission was…unsuccessful.” She slid the chip into the reader, the air shimmered and wavered, and then suddenly there she was.
He heard her quick intake of breath and stiffened at the image in front of him. Pale and sweaty, with a fine sheen of perspiration covering her features, drawn and haggard, eyes dull and glassy, Captain Sun began to speak, voice low, raw, and raspy.
This will probably be my last entry. I do not know where the rest of my team is…or if they were able to successfully escape and evade. Our mission was a complete failure. None of our objectives were met, and we suffered significant losses.
John slid his eyes to Aeryn, took in the set of her shoulders, ran them along the rigid line of her spine. Her sharp, focused stare never left the image of the woman in front of her.
What I do know is that our intel was faulty. The Hokothians are much further along in the development of their bio-chemical weapons and facilities than we were told. I believe I’ve been infected by the virus we were sent to secure. And without the cure we were sent to recover…we still face a very direct threat.
A sudden wash of blue light bathed the cockpit in an eerie glow as the image flickered and wavered and disappeared.
“That’s all,” Aeryn said softly, removing the chip. She tilted her head and looked at it from beneath lowered lashes, holding it loosely between her fingers, running her thumb gently along the smooth surface. “That was her last entry.”
“You know what was wrong with her,” he said softly, coming to stand in front of her. He put his hands on the console, one on each side of her, leaned forward to look in her eyes. “Don’t you?”
She looked at a point over his left shoulder, smoky eyes somewhere else, her voice far away.
“She looks exactly…like I did after my final mission,” her voice thin and brittle cut through the space between them, “just before…” she slid her eyes back to him, “...Scorpius…found me.”
He leaned in farther to breathe warmly in her ear. “Before you came back to Moya?”
“Yes.” She inhaled deeply breathed. “Records indicate the ship’s environmentals were up as high as they would go.” A full body shiver ran through her as she wrapped her arms around her middle. “And she was still burning up from…the fever.”
He slid one hand on to her thigh, fingers tracing light circular patterns along the outside. “You think it’s the same virus you were infected with?”
“It explains her condition.” She exhaled slowly. “And her death.” She pulled back slightly to look into his eyes as a broken smile bled at her lips. “She wasn’t as…lucky as I was.”
“It doesn’t explain her. Being here.” He leaned forward and rested his forehead on hers. “Or is that the part I’m really not gonna like?”
“You already know the answer to that,” she said softly.
He slowly straightened, stood in front of her, fingers curled into fists at his sides. “A wormhole dumped her here.” His voice was as flat and as cold as his eyes.
“That’s what the ship’s navigation data indicates. Readings similar to yours.”
He brought a hand up between them, let his fingers do the walking across the empty space. “Then its time for us to go,” he growled harsh and low. “Leave now. Run away. No questions asked.”
“We know she came out of a wormhole near here. We have the coordinates from the ship.”
“Doesn’t matter,” he hissed, vision narrowing to a black haze on his periphery as command closed in on him.
“She’s dead, John,” she said, voice suddenly sharp with grief as she slid off the console, locked storm grey eyes on his. “Her team failed to assassinate the creator of a plague that kills Sebaceans. Even more importantly, they failed to bring back the cure.”
She brushed past him, stalked across command, and stood staring out the forward portal.
“She was infected,” her voice, small and low, floated back to him. “Cut off from her team, sucked into a wormhole and spat out here, where she died alone in her Prowler.”
He turned and crossed the distance to stand behind her, chin resting on her shoulder. “I know what this is, Aeryn,” he breathed softly in her ear.
“I thought we both agreed. No more running off to play the hero.”
“Frelling bastard.” She spun hard on her heel. “I get this from you, the man who left his pregnant wife,” she jabbed him in the chest with a steel finger, backing him up a step, “without a word,” she stepped forward glaring, backing him up another step, “while she was sleeping to go to Einstein?”
He took a stance. “That’s not fair, Aeryn. This is different.”
“Fair? Different?” She jabbed him again. “You left with no idea when or if you were coming back. I’m having this conversation with you.”
“You don’t even know…”
“I know they’ll debrief and plan another mission. That will take them some time.” Her shoulders dropped and her entire body relaxed slightly as she continued, voice suddenly low and toneless, words uninflected as she wrapped long, slender arms around her middle again. “Captain Sun needs to set things right.”
He stepped forward, set his hands gently on her waist. “That does not mean you need to go do it for her.”
“There Aeryn Sun is a Ghost captain with resources. I’m familiar with the mission…”
“So? That makes it all right?”
“What about ripples?” She might have been asking about the weather.
“Let it ride,” he whispered fiercely.
“When did she die?” The question cut through the haze in his head.
“From what I can tell, just before we found her. Why?”
“The logs...she was infected and dying when she went into the wormhole. That’s why she couldn’t navigate. And when she got spat out into unfamiliar space she was so disoriented she couldn’t find her way back. She gave herself a kill shot, hoping her team would find her…in time. They didn’t.”
“This is important…why?”
“She came through the wormhole alive and infected. The kill shot is not reversible after thirty-six arns…”
“What if the contagion is still viable?”
That hit him like an axe to the head, cut right through the lingering haze to crystal clarity.
“You think it is?”
His stomach lurched as the wormhole opened, gaping maw and undulating blue waves that shifted everything in his universe.
“If it is…what about D’Argo? And everyone else should the Hokothians decide to unleash the contagion here?”
He pulled her back against him, held her more tightly. “You know I’m blond again,” he breathed harshly in her ear.
“It doesn’t matter,” she slid her arms to cover his. “That technology was standard issue on the Prowler.”
She turned in his arms to face him.
“Based on what I found in that ship and in the data logs, Scorpius solved his wormhole problem. And laid waste to the Scarrans.”
He snorted harshly. “Of course he did.”
“Which is why they’ve so desperately sought an alliance with the Hokothians and the virus.”
She’s so calm and it’s all so reasonable, standing here discussing the possibility of her infection and death. Again. It made him want to scream.
“I can get back.”
“How long do we have? The last time you caught this cold… ”
“About a weeken. I seem to have had a longer incubation period.”
She shrugged. “Altered DNA?”
“Fine,” he spat. “We go.”
“You know you have to stay here with D.”
“No way in hell. No how. Don’t even go there.”
“I know how this works, John. They won’t like unexpected arrivals.”
“Then you come up with a plan.” He’ll go to hell and be damned if she’ll do this alone. “We both go. We both come back.”
“Stays here with Chiana.”
“Fine,” he spat again. “It’s settled then. You go talk to Chi.”
“What are you going to be doing?”
“I’ll get rid of the…body.”
His hands moved slowly, reverently, smoothing the leather taut down first one then the other long, lean leg. The rest of the bay faded into a smoky haze as gentle fingers slowly slid around her narrow waist tucked her shirt carefully into the waistband of the leathers.
Everything as it should be, in its proper place.
His hands moved up again, softly, slowly closing fasteners along the trail of her jacket. He rested them briefly on the slim shoulders before running them gently down one arm, smoothing the sleeve. He took her hand in his, laid it across her midsection, rested his on it.
He wondered how she had done this.
His hands moved again, repeated their work on the other slim arm and hand. And then he stood, simply looking at her.
“Commander?” Pilot’s voice came softly from his comms.
“The pod you…requested has been prepped and is waiting for you in the docking bay.”
“Thank you, Pilot. Where’s Aeryn?”
“She’s still in Chiana’s quarters. Do you want me to contact her?”
“No thanks, I’ll do it.” He tapped his comms, eyes never leaving the body on the med-bed and asked quietly, “Hey, babe?”
“Yes?” She sounded wired and tired.
“She’s ready,” he said softly. “Wanna meet me in the docking bay?”
He waited the length of a very long heartbeat before she answered.
“I’m on my way.”
With a small grunt he slid his hands beneath her and lifted. He turned and walked slowly out of the bay and into the corridor, carrying her still form cradled tightly against his chest, her heavier weight now oddly familiar in his arms.
He moved slowly through the corridors, listened to the sounds of Moya and the sound of his own breathing, felt his heat beating against her. He wondered what she was thinking on her way through the corridors, what he would say or do when he saw her again.
He entered the bay he found it empty, except for the burnished cylinder that glowed shiny and sleek in the ambient light, open and waiting for its occupant.
He laid her softly, carefully in the pod, gently smoothed her hair, arranged it to frame her face, brought her hands to her midsection, folded them one over the other. Unaware, he straightened up and stepped back, ran his hand over the sleek metal of the open top.
A jolt ran through him and his hand dropped, as if burned, and he stood silent and staring, suddenly unable to move, something indefinite and undefined heavy in his chest, weighing him down.
She slid to her spot by his side without a sound, and he wrapped her in an arm, pulled her tight. Buried his nose in her hair, lips grazing her ear as he breathed her in.
She nodded once, and her voice was soft as she asked, “Are you?”
“Not sick or anything?”
She shook her head slightly.
“Doesn’t seem like much,” he murmured, tilting his head toward the pod.
“It’s the best we can do.”
He reached forward to close the pod. Ran his hand gently one last time along the burnished surface.
Holding her close, he felt her shiver. Ran his palm over her shoulders slowly, trailed his fingertips gently down her arm to lace his fingers with hers.
“Go ahead, Pilot,” he called as they reached the corridor and the bay doors closed behind them with a whoosh.