The mood in the medical ward was jovial and happy. In spite of the death of the Council members and the resulting turmoil it had caused, the surgeons felt confident with what they were doing.
There was soft music playing of the speakers and everyone was smiling. “Alright, it’s time.” Dr. Hapsberg said. “Doctor Ryan…” she motioned for Freya to take over the operation.
Freya nodded and looked down at Julian’s back. He was knocked out of course – no one would want to be awake for surgery on their back. Finally she turned to the nurse who was cradling the device carefully and took it from her. It had only taken them a week to replicate it from the information that had been provided by the alien.
Within moments of the device being placed, the engineering marvel of it went to work and made the vital connections in Julian’s body. Freya’s happiness and excitement was cut short as Andy burst into the room. “You have to stop!” she shouted frantically.
“It’s too late…” Hapsberg said. Her words echoed in Freya’s mind, bouncing around as if bouncing off the walls of a cave. What if Andy had shown up five minutes earlier? Would things be different now?
Freya sat up with a start. The vivid memory that played across her dream was fresh in her mind. Thinking about Julian was too painful for Freya to permit during her waking hours so he was isolated to her dreams – which were more like nightmares. She checked her watch and sighed; she could try for another hour of sleep but that was looking like a grim prospect at best.
Captain Hunt nodded to Jamison as he left his office and crossed the bridge to the lift. “I’ll be back shortly; you have the bridge Mr. Jamison.”
“Very good sir.” Jamison said with a nod.
Hunt considered his position carefully as he made his way to Lady Ice’s suite. His first priority was to the ship and the safety of the crew; a point that was often lost on the Council. In these turbulent times, he’d had complete authority over every aspect of the ship but suspect that that arrangement did not sit well with Lady Ice.
“Ma’am” he addressed her after being admitted. He bowed his head slightly before acknowledging the person standing behind her. Though he wouldn’t show it, Hunt was disappointed to see Julian Ice standing behind his aunt.
“Captain, how good of you to come.” Lady Ice said with a cold smile. She didn’t bother to stand or even make a move toward him as she considered it beneath her. He didn’t bother to remind her that as Captain he was the only other surviving member of the Council – she wouldn’t have stood for it.
“Your communication indicated it was of great importance Lady Ice.” Captain Hunt said, trying to remain neutral and diplomatic.
“Oh it is Captain!” she said emphatically. “As you know, the Council chambers were one of the first places the rebels desecrated after their heinous attacks on my fellow Council members. As such it has lain in ruin for nearly four months now and before a new Council can convene, it’s important to have those chambers restored to the dignity they deserve.”
“I was not aware that a new Council had been selected.” Captain Hunt said, ignoring the majority of her statement.
“Well it has not, yet.” She placed a great deal of emphasis on the last word. “But the Families are considering their choices as we speak and within a weak I expect to have formed a new Council. So, as I said, it’s top priority that the Council Chambers are restored.”
“With all due respect; no it’s not Ma’am” Captain Hunt kept his tone level as he said it but he was firm. Lady Ice’s eyes narrowed and she opened her mouth to speak but Julian laid a gentle hand on her shoulder to still her words. “At this time, my first priority – and yours Ma’am – is to keep the ship flying and repair our defenses as soon as possible. Every engineer we have is dedicated to those tasks so none can be spare to decorate the Council chambers at this time.” Hunt paused for only a moment, he knew if he gave her more of an opening she would start questioning every decision he’d made in the last four months. “Your nephew himself can tell you of the potential enemies we have laying in wait the moment we let down our guard.”
Julian’s gaze, so far vacant, turned cold and icy as Hunt’s words dragged him into Lady Ice’s attention. “There are two alien vessels nearby ma’am. But they have made no move thus far and the fighters are on alert constantly.”
“You see – the fighter squadron will surely keep us safe enough to spare a few engineers for the job. It shouldn’t take but a day or two.” Lady Ice said with a confident smile. “I’ll expect them in the morning then.”
“No ma’am.” Hunt said firmly. “As I said, my priority is to the safety of the crew and the ship. The Council chambers will have to wait.” He nodded and dismissed himself before she could argue. It wasn’t proper protocol but his patience with Lady Ice had been wearing thin for months.
“How did it go?” Jamison asked as Hunt reentered the bridge. When Hunt didn’t reply, Jamison understood. “That well huh?” he said to himself.
“With Brandon’s death, we have to consider the possibility of surrender.” Lana said meekly. No one liked the idea but they’d suffered far more losses and had just lost a major leader and inspiration to much of the movement.
“No!” Meng said firmly.
“Would the troops even accept surrender at this point? After the Council was eliminated, so many of these people flocked to Brandon because of what he’d ordered. For the first time they thought the movement had a real chance…” someone else chimed in. “I imagine most of them would be enraged into a new fury by his death and unwilling to just give up.”
“Perhaps…” Lana said. She was so quiet, only Meng ever paid her much attention anymore. The longer the rebellion had worn on, the less she spoke up. Now she was little more than a figurehead for the other mixed Quuvarii on the ship.
“What about a separation?” he’d broached the topic that they’d been debating since long before the rebellion fired up. If one of the sections of the Ark could safely be jettisoned from the rest of the ship, they could break off and form their own colony somewhere.
The group was silent. It was as if someone had suddenly turned off the sound in the room as each person looked to the next and back again. They’d had this discussion so many times; they could do it without speaking really.
And the conclusion was always the same. “It can’t be done.” Freya said. She was taking her time about getting some coffee and had overheard the same debate before. She knew the risks were too great to give the idea any real merit. “You would risk everybody’s lives, everybody’s home…” she had been looking between the various leaders of the Sons of Liberty but turned her attention onto Meng. “This is our home Meng…”
“I’m aware of that Doctor,” he said, not meeting her eyes. She knew, then, that he was giving the theory more serious consideration this time. The losses, the deaths – Brandon – all of it had shaken Meng’s resolve to the point that he would rather run away than finish what he started.
“No!” Freya shouted, dragging his eyes to hers. “For months you’ve destroyed everything around you all under the premise of reaching for something better – for a better life here! You wonder if your troops would accept surrender!? Well this is practically the same thing! You promised them a life here!” Freya couldn’t help but think of all the lives lost, all the destruction that had happened at the expense of the rebellion. “You’d be running away…” she said quietly.
Meng’s eyes were on fire, his features were rigid, he was angry but he wouldn’t respond to her. Not here and not now.
Freya narrowed her eyes at him. “You can’t seriously be considering this.” Freya had lowered her voice an octave but was no less fierce with her reprimand.
Meng took her by the arm and very nearly dragged her from the room while giving some sort of excuse to the others. “Why do you have to do that?” he hissed as he pulled her toward another room.
Freya struggled against his grip but allowed herself to be directed. They stopped and she was backed up against a cold wall; Meng was fuming in front of her. He was trying to control his emotions but she could always read him better than anyone else. “After everything…all the battles and deaths…you just want to run away? Why couldn’t you have done that when they busted you out of the brig and saved us all the pain?”
“Freya…” he warned, his voice was hard but he still didn’t look at her. She knew what she’d see in his eyes – hurt, rage, anger, sadness. “Sometimes…” he turned toward her finally, “You just have to know when to cut your losses if you want to keep your head above water…” She’d never expected to see the defeat on his face.
Freya thought of a half dozen replies and dismissed them all in favor of silence. She didn’t agree with him but she knew he understood that already and didn’t need to be berated.
“If we can separate – at least we could make our own society somewhere. It’s better than dying or staying here to be arrested.” Freya wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince her or himself.
Freya’s mood was tempered by the expression on his face and he dullness in his voice. “I’m sure you’re right…” she lied.
“No you’re not. You blame me – and Brandon – for all the death and now….now you think I’m running away.” Meng said. “And that it was all pointless right?”
“Maybe I do…” Freya conceded. “But I wasn’t going to say it.”
“Good, I don’t need to hear it.” Meng said, he lowered his head and put out his hand to lean against the wall. It was the first time Freya had seen him look so meek.
His face was only inches from hers and though she’d vowed to herself it would never happen again, she leaned forward and pressed her lips against his. His initial reaction was slow and unsure.
After a moment, his kisses became more insistent and he was leaning further into her, pressing her against the chilly wall. Freya felt the same sense of urgency and wrapped first her arms around him and then her legs. He lifted her away from the wall with ease and he carried her the few steps toward the bed.