Andy entered the darkened ship and walked toward the engineering bay while fiddling with her comm unit. The tiny tapping and electronic beeps and blurts were all that could be heard in the corridors of the alien vessel. It was like a ghost ship now, completely powered off and devoid of life. If it weren't for the small light from her hand unit, Andy wouldn't be able to see two feet in front of her. Of course she didn't need to see, she knew the layout of the ship after spending a week meandering through it alone. They'd intended to merely tractor the ship with them to a space port before sending the aliens off on their own but the Ambassador had felt it was taking too long and requested that the ship be brought inside the Ark's expansive bay. Captain Hunt had obliged and Andy had taken the opportunity to explore the vessel a bit.
She's always been interested in how things worked, and every chance to see alien technology made her a bit giddy. Plus the ship was obviously damaged and if she could help them out before they got to the space port, all the better right? At least that's how she rationalized it as she ducked out of engineering again, leaving Dex even more short handed. She'd probably catch some of his daily tirade later. As she entered the main bay, she pushed Dex out of her mind and started working.
The sound of light footsteps echoed into the bay and Andy looked up from the console in surprise. She glanced around the bay and out into the corridor; "Hello?" she said. Her voice traveled down the corridor, echoing all around her. There was no response. "Anyone out there?" she said; again, no one replied. She shook her head and let out a breath. Returning to the console she immersed herself in the ship's computer core, the occasional beep and tweet was her only company.
"What are you doing?" the soft, female voice broke startled Andy so much she whirled around and jumped out of her chair. The small, alien female tilted her head curiously. "What are you doing?" she asked again.
"Whoa..." Andy was breathing heavily, she placed her hand over her rapid heart beat and leaned back against the console. "You scared the life out of me!" she said finally. "What are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be in the medical ward?"
"What are you doing?" the girl asked again. She was an odd one.
"I'm just trying to figure out what's wrong with your ship." Andy said; the strange prickly sensation on the back of her neck told her not to turn her back to this girl.
Freya tucked the girl back into the bed next to her sister. Freya couldn't figure out why the girl had wandered away from the ward considering she'd been unwilling to leave her sister's side the entire time she'd been here. Andy was leaning against the rail, looking out across the main thoroughfare deck, when Freya came out.
"That girl is seriously weird." Andy said, without looking at Freya.
Freya didn't say anything, she'd noticed the girl seemed a little off but had chalked it up to cultural differences. From what she'd seen of their alien visitors, they were a trusting but somewhat quiet group. She'd actually gotten used to the feeling of being watched when she was around them - because one of them always seemed to be watching. It wasn't in a menacing or even calculating way, they simply watched because it was what they did.
Across the deck, a small scuffle broke out between a shop owner and a group of people that had been loitering near the entrance. In the last week, tension on the ship had risen as the strike wore on. Some of the strikers had taken to boycotting and simply making a nuisance of themselves on the thoroughfare. Freya started toward the scuffle but Andy put a hand on her arm and held her back. With her other hand, she pointed toward the security office where Bonwick emerged, flanked by two other security personnel. "The school has closed now," she said as they watched the security team close in and break up the scuffle. "if this strike and everything goes on much longer, we're gonna be dead in space too; can't keep this place going with so few people working for much longer."
"Think the Council realizes that?" Freya asked, she grimaced as one of the security guard dealt an unnecessary blow.
"I hope so." Andy sounded subdued, far too quiet compared to her normal self. "I better get back to Engineering, if Dex hasn't torn it apart already."
Freya didn't have time to consider her friend's mood before she heard someone clearing their throat behind her. She turned and looked around but didn't see anyone nearby. She turned back in time to see the security team disappear with the loiterers in tow and her cheeks flamed in anger. She knew the only reason Bonwick was taking them in was because they were embryotics. "Ryan!" a voice hissed. She snapped around and then saw Meng in the shadows.
"What are you doing here?" Freya hissed, glancing around for Bonwick. The security team had disappeared into the office. She thought for a moment about not following him, even as he waved her over and disappeared further into the darkness, but curiosity overwhelmed her sense of better judgment. Several minutes later they stopped and he turned toward her grinning. It was probably one of the first real smiles she'd ever seen on his face. "What's going on?"
"They've agreed to talk, they want to end the strike and they've agreed to talk." He was still grinning like crazy and Freya realized how hopeful he was; how excited the prospect of peace made him.
"That's good, it's great..." Freya said the words and instantly wondered if it was really great. Sure she wanted change but this all seemed too fast, too easy.
"Oh come on, why aren't you more excited? You remind me of Brandon - all doom and gloom. This is it; we can all be equal..." Meng's smile faded and was replaced by his normal neutral expression she was used to; she knew that this was the face he'd wear during the talks.
"It just seems too easy I guess." Freya said lamely. "Look I have to get back...um, you be careful - on your toes and all." she looked around the tight, dark service corridor and felt a prickly sensation on her neck like they were being watched. She shook it off after a moment and returned the way they'd come.
"We'll be arriving at the space port in about sixteen hours Ambassador." Captain Hunt said. On the surface he was completely calm and respectful of their visitors. Inside, though, he was eager to be rid of them. They were disconcerting at times, they barely said anything and just made everyone a little uncomfortable. While the crew of Unity has been very welcoming of their visitors and shared information about their history; the visitors had told them nothing at all since they'd arrived.
The Ambassador merely nodded, gazing at the viewscreen in front of them for several minutes. Captain Hunt watched as several of the bridge crew shifted awkwardly in their seats, some straightening up as they felt the eyes of others on them. Some looked around discreetly until they saw the Ambassador standing there; then they turned their gazes forward quickly.
The captain of the other vessel walked through the bridge doors but only Captain Hunt and the Ambassador turned to look at him. He approached the pair and then began whispering quickly with the Ambassador in their own tongue. They were talking so softly and so quickly that the translator would do him no good even if he was in the mood to ease drop.
Captain Hunt kept his eyes on his bridge crew and tried to ignore them until they left the bridge, saying nothing to him as they left. "Strange people." he said under his breath once they were of the bridge. As soon as they were gone it was as if the whole bridge crew let out a collective sigh of relief and Hunt could see the tension leave them.
Julian fidgeted by the bed. He'd come for his follow up appointment but Freya wasn't there and his only company were two of the odd aliens. They watched him with casual expressions and he felt an all too familiar sensation creep up his neck. What was it about these people?
"Sorry I'm late!" Freya said as she hurrying into the ward. "I got called over to the science lab for something." she rolled her eyes at some unspoken thought and then smiled at Julian. "Sit."
At the end of the exam, Julian leaned over to give Freya a quick kiss but stopped as he became all too aware of their silent audience again. "Um..." he glanced over at the sisters and then back at Freya. "I'll see you later." he said and hurried away from them.
Freya nodded to the sisters and started back toward the front desk. "The suit, it helps him walk yes?" the older of the two said.
Freya turned back to them startled. "Yes, he had an accident and is paralyzed from the waist down."
"But the suit, it helps?" she said again. The younger girl looked at her sister, clearly surprised as well. Freya nodded and waited for a few moments while the girl seemed to be contemplating something. Assuming this conversation was over, Freya turned her back on them to walk away once again. "We can help...help him walk without the suit." the woman said to Freya's back. "Can help..."
Freya turned back to her wide-eyed; her expression was mirrored on the girl's face as well. "How?" Freya had a dozen more questions on the tip of her tongue but was cut off by the sister who started talking very fast in their native tongue. The translator was able to pick up every fourth or fifth word but not enough for it to make sense.