After cutting off the hate-filled words of Lady Ice, muttering and whispering broke out among the Sons of Liberty who'd gathered to watch. Freya heard sadness and dejection in many of their words.
They were losing hope.
Without realizing she was doing it, she reached out for Meng and entwined her fingers with his. He looked over her in surprise and then back down at their joined hands. The corners of his mouth turned up in a small smirk but he said nothing.
Everyone was slowly turning their eyes on him. Their leader. They needed his strength – Freya could understand that, hadn't she turned to him for the same thing more than once? She glance at him and could see he was calculating his words, choosing just the right words to inspire the troops one more time.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.
The ancient, practically alien quote from Earth of old, sprang into her mind suddenly. Though she was sure they weren't words Meng would use or recognize, the sentiment would be the same. As he began to speak, the whispers ceased and all eyes were on him, rapt with attention and, soon enough, renewed fire.
Meng's attention was so wholly diverted by then that Freya was able to slip away. For this once, she did not need his strength or his words – she had enough fire in her belly to take out the whole of the opposition if they opportunity presented itself. Part of her, the part which recalled Andy's crumbled body, hoped it would present itself.
She was halfway to her makeshift hospital when Lana called out for her, her quick footfalls echoing in the deserted corridor. "Freya! Wait!"
Freya stopped and turned to face her only to be greeted with a hard slap in the face. Freya recoiled as the sting burned on her cheek for a moment. "What the hell was that for?!" Freya cradled her cheek in her palm, rubbing it gently.
"Considering it a warning Doctor," Lana practically spat out the last word, her voice dripping with disdain. "Meng Asada is mine, keep your ancestral hands off him!"
"Ancestral?" Freya asked in surprise – not so much at the accusation as the fact that Lana knew. Her mind flashed back to the data pad she'd handed off to Meng; what had become of it? And then she knew, Meng had left it behind when he'd come into the shower and Lana must have seen it.
Lana seemed to be watching the realization dawn on Freya and nodded smugly. "Oh yes, I know...what are you? Some kind of spy or infiltrator? Doesn't matter! Once Meng knows, he'll come back to me and drop you – lock you up as a prisoner or better and better, have you eliminated!" This possibility brought the woman a great deal of pleasure it seemed. Freya had no doubt she was imagining the whole thing in her mind even as they spoke.
As Meng already knew here secret, Freya focused on the other of Lana's assertions, the supposed relationship between them. Freya's extensive memory precluded any knowledge of a relationship between Lana and their leader and she said as much, only to be rewarded with another attempted slap. This time Freya saw it coming and was able to dodge it, putting Lana off guard for a moment. "As I recall, and I recall very well, you scared everyone away from Brandon too – not that he needed your help, he was scary enough all on his own." Freya backed up a step before Lana had recovered herself to avoid another strike. "Is your attachment to him real or some delusion in your head Lana?"
Lana growled and launched herself at Freya, surely intent on tackling the good doctor to the ground. Even as Freya braced herself for the assault, a pair of strong arms wrapped around Lana's waist and held her back. "Lana!" Meng growled in her ear.
Lana's body went almost limp in his arms and she twirled around to face him, her previous rage replaced with a delicate smile that looked foreign on her face. "Meng," she purred.
Freya rolled her eyes.
Meng looked past the woman in his arms toward Freya, "I heard shouting, what happened?" Freya shrugged and pointed at Lana, who was now doing everything she could think of to seduce him right there in the corridor. Meng had barely spared her a glance since he'd stopped her assault. Now, however, he turned his attention to her. Lana reached up and stroked his face affectionately. Meng's brow furrowed in confusion then and he let go of her, pushing her away.
Lana pouted, she actually pouted! Freya had to cover her mouth to hide her snigger but couldn't hold her tongue, "maybe she has a brain tumor." Her words earned her a hiss from Lana and a halfhearted glare from Meng but he couldn't deny that Lana's behavior was irregular. After a moment to compose herself, Freya straightened her shoulders, "she said you were hers and warned me to stay away. I believe she feels wronged by the shower scene she walked in on earlier."
Meng's eyes grew wider and, if possible, the confusion on his face became even more evident. "But she and I...we never..." He looked from Freya to Lana and back again. Settling his attention on Lana he grasped her by the shoulders, "we don't have a relationship Lana. We never have and we won't."
Freya had to turn away as Lana visibly wilted and whimpered at his words. The moment of weakness was mercifully short though and Lana's face hardened as she straightened her back and met Meng's eye. She seemed inclined to say something for a moment, her mouth opened and then snapped shut. She shoved past Meng, shouldering him aside in the process. Freya came up beside Meng then and they both watched silently as she stormed her way through the corridor. They heard a scuffle of chairs and feet and she pushed through the crowd still lingering in the lounge. "I should go after her – make sure she doesn't do anything crazy," Meng said, though he didn't move.
"I think that ship has sailed," Freya muttered. Meng either didn't hear her or ignored to snark on his unofficial second in command. "Well go on then," Freya said, gently pushing him in the direction she'd fled. "Just don't do anything stupid yourself."
Ash Swanson's head slumped forward and blood trickled into his eye – not for the first time. His wrists burned beneath the ties that bound them together behind his back. Wryly, he wondered if the initial bruises had begun to show on his pale blue skin. Having only had a handful of scuffles in his short lifetime, he couldn't immediately recall how it would look and longed for a mirror just then. He did not give voice to his request though – Bonwick had been distracted by one of her junior officers for the moment and he didn't want to draw her attention unnecessarily.
"...several people have been moving to the Third...." the officer, a different one than the one who had brought him in, was saying. This one was timid and looked down at the floor as he delivered the news.
Ash flexed his fingers, or attempted to, and realized at least two on each hand were swollen stiff and likely broken. In a flash, he recalled the moment Bonwick and pushed them back and the sound of snapping bone. And the pain that had followed. Before the memory could overpower him, he tucked the pain away – deep in his mind – and rolled his head around to work out the stiffness. While the popping of his joints sounded loud to him, Bonwick didn't look at him or seem to notice.
All to soon, Bonwick shooed the officer away and turned her attention back to Ash, a sadistic smile on her face. Katou, who had been watching uncomfortably on the sidelines, had the grace to look anxious and a little bit ill.
"I was beginning to," Ash's speech was halted by a series of coughs. Blood trickled from his mouth and he wondered about the source for a moment. "Was beginning to miss your attentions Commander," he concluded finally. They were foolish words meant to annoy her.
She grabbed the dagger from her desk and knelt before him, pressing the razor sharp blade against his cheek. He could feel the wetness as the blood escaped the new wound and watched as it followed the line of the dagger, falling onto her hand as it grasped the hilt. "Where are the rebels holed up?" She accented each word by pushing the dagger further in, widening the cut on his face.
"My name is Ash Swanson, I'm eighteen years old, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother was Amy Swanson." He's repeated the words at least a dozen times since he'd been brought before the sadistic security chief. This time he turned toward her, meeting her eyes and narrowing them at her. "Can you trace your lineage so far back?"
By way of answer, she yanked the dagger away and slammed it into his thigh causing Ash to cry out for the briefest of moments. It bit through his flesh with ease and blood spurted out at first, followed by a steady stream down the leg of his torn pants. Though the pain was excruciating and the blood loss was likely to kill him, he pushed all of it away and leveled his eyes at her. "I'll...take that...as a...no." His words were slow to come, and it took every bit of strength he possessed to say them instead of curling into a ball of agony.
"He's no good to you if he's dead," Katou ventured. Her skin, which was always fair, had visibly paled in the last few moments as she watched the interrogation session. She seemed to be resisting the urge to throw up even now.
"He's no good to me at all," Bonwick snipped, kicking out at the chair Ash was bound to. The jostling brought a new wave of pain from his wounds. "You!" She alerted one of her officers, who came over instantly to do her bidding. "Bind his wounds and throw him in a cell – alone – I'll come back to him. If he lives," she sneered the last few words in his direction but Ash had neither the strength nor the care to respond.
Katou watched as the young Quuvari rebel was man handled back to one of the small isolation cells. She hoped, rather than believed, that the security team would take care with treating his wounds so that he didn't die. Though, given the way Bonwick had gone at him, perhaps it was a disservice to keep him alive.
Without a word to anyone, Katou left the security office – her heart heavy and her head suddenly conflicted. No one tried to stop her as she made her way back to her disheveled science lab. None of her science officers were around, all the better, as she'd assigned them to bridge duty or a secondary lab after the fire had destroyed this one.
She glanced around the room and picked her way over the wreckage to the only station that was still operational. Her head was full of images from the sessions she'd observed with Bonwick as she waited for the system to power up. On the one hand there was Julian Ice – who Bonwick had barely glanced at as she questioned him but who was so obviously lying to Katou's inexperienced eye. Then there was Ash Swanson. The boy Bonwick had very nearly killed though she had only his skin color to base her suspicions on.
Katou tried to dislodged the bruised and bloodied image of Ash from her mind. It wasn't until she focused her attentions on Julian and his twitching hand that her scientific curiosity got the better of her and she was able to push Ash out.
She started at the only place she could: his medical history. It was all logged in the computer including all the details about the alien implant he'd received. It was the implant that had enabled him to walk again. It was after the implant that his behavior had started to shift; including, but not limited, to his treatment of Freya Ryan. She couldn't help but wonder if the device was a factor there – or had he simply gone annoyed with her rebelling against his aunt and the Council?
Captain Hunt was in the arboretum when Jamison caught up to him. "Captain," Jamison glanced around at the greenery that surrounded them, taken aback though he'd walked passed the windowed walls hundreds of times. "Wow, it's like another world in here..."
"Indeed," Hunt said. "I rarely have cause to wander amongst the plants but it's easy to forget we're in deep space here." They said nothing for a moment, absorbing the energy given off by the plants in silence. "What is it Jamison?"
"Oh right! I've reassigned most of the families and personnel you told me to but with all the recent arrests by security, there are quite a few still in the Second, held in the brig. And many of the family members have been reluctant to move with their relatives locked up..." Jamison said, handing a data pad out to the captain with the full report.
"Thank you. I'm sure you did everything you could, the rest will be up to me."
"Might I ask...why sir?" Jamison seemed reluctant to ask but his curiosity had overwhelmed him at last. "Why are you moving them?"
"You can ask but I'm afraid I best not tell just yet. Still, thank you for your work – I'll take the matter of the prisoners with Commander Bonwick," Hunt said. Jamison grimaced at the thought but kept his mouth shut. Hunt dismissed his faithful right hand and resumed pacing about the arboretum, hoping for genius to strike him.
If the Sons of Liberty opted for a separation – he hoped to make it as easy and bloodless as possible and moving everyone to one section was the easiest way to ensure just that. If Bonwick insisted on holding the prisoners, however, there would be a firefight in an attempt to free them. And Bonwick would insist – the woman always insisted.
With half a plan, he left the plants behind and strode toward the security office. No doubt the brig cells were overcrowded with all the people she'd dragged in as of late and she'd need to see the reason in at least moving them. There were empty space they could be secured elsewhere on the ship – space in the Third.
"Captain! I was just coming to look for you!" Commander Katou all but jumped in front of him as he happened past her. She was out of breath and looked nearly frantic to him. "I need....I need to talk to you about Lieutenant Ice..."
Hunt raised his eyebrows in surprise, "what about him?"
"Earlier – on your insistence – Commander Bonwick questioned him in regards to Lieutenant Kowalski's death. I noticed a twitch he seemed to have during the questioning..."
"Considering all that Lieutenant Ice has been through in the last few months, I doubt it's unusual for him to have a twitch or two Commander," Hunt said, hoping she'd get to the point.
"Of course – but it wasn't constant! I suspected he might be lying, Commander Bonwick didn't agree with me but I couldn't get the interrogation out of my mind," she said, it was a partial lie as it wasn't Julian's interrogation that haunted her now. Still, she could see that the Captain was waiting for the point so she's continued, "the device Captain. The alien one – that's when his behavior became erratic. And while researching it, I found Kowalski's concerns about it and," she paused, glancing around for something – as if afraid of being overheard.
"And what Commander?" Hunt, though impatient to get to security and deal with the prisoners was intrigued by Katou at the moment.
"I found a signal. It's faint – we probably wrote it off as noise all this time but the device had a transmitter built it – supposedly to communicate with the brain but I think it's more than that, I think they are communicating with Lieutenant Ice."
"They? As in the aliens. How did no one notice this until now?!"
"I only noticed it after looking at everything in hindsight sir. When looking at the plans for the device itself, it's all the appearance of what it's supposed to be – that is a mechanical spinal column. But, in order to do that, it integrates into the body and brain. It's a computer – and computers are controlled by the programmer," Katou looked down at the deck plating and then back up.
"But we built it, we programmed it – it was an alien design but it's ultimately human in construction," Hunt argued, hoping it this theory could be debunked. He didn't want to believe that the aliens who had lied to them, incapacitated their ship and meant to destroy them had been controlling one of his officers all these months. "What if we cut the signal...surely we could manage that."
"It modulates at incredible speed – pin pointing the exact algorithm that is program would take days probably unless we had the device in hand and even then...if we block or terminate the signal, I don't know what would happen to Lieutenant Ice," Katou said.
"Well figure it out, we'll have to cut the cord eventually and I'd like some idea of what's going to happen to my officer," Hunt ordered.
"Yes sir!" Katou felt relieved and energized, a first in the last few weeks. She had a purpose and use again.
Hunt resumed his trip to the security office but turned back to her once more, "you surprise me Commander – I'd taken you for a staunch Loyalist."
"Oh I am sir," Katou reassured him, thinking he was accusing her of wavering to the wrong side of the rebellion.
Hunt merely nodded and turned away, leaving her confused. "Pity," he said under his breath.
The command center slash lounge slash cafeteria was in an uproar when Freya walked in after putting in a few hours with patients and charts. The lapse in violence had given her a chance to finally get her hospital organize but she was beginning to feel restless – and she wasn't the only one. "What's going on?" she asked as she pushed her way toward the center of the crowd.
Everyone in the room turned their attention to her and began speaking at once so that the noise that ensued was unintelligible garbage mostly. "Everyone shut up!" she bellowed, climbing onto a chair to be seen and heard over everyone. "One at a time shall we? What's going on?" The chaos began anew and she waved them all off and then pointed to the person nearest her to speak.
"Do you know where Meng is?" he asked timidly.
Freya's eyes scanned the crowd to ascertain he wasn't in the room amongst – he wasn't. Neither was Lana she noted. "He's not come back?"
There were a lot of shaken heads and a few muttered, "No."
"He went after Lana a few hours ago and now no one can find either of them..."
"Shit," Freya cursed silently.