As the electrical charge surged through Julian's body, the monitors emitted a single beep before returning to the monosyllabic drone of a flat line. "Charge again," Hapsberg said, her own heart hammering in her chest. When the nurse nodded, she placed the paddles on his chest for the third time and said a silent prayer to whomever might be listening.
The initial beep was followed by several more in steady intervals signaling Julian Ice's return to life – such that it may be. "Okay he's back, let's get to work. What do the scans say?"
"The device appears to have fused to the spine and the electricity that passed to his brain has caused a bleed there," the nurse looked grim and started putting the scans up on the screens around the surgical bay.
"So even if he lives..." Doctor Hapsberg trailed off, her depressing thoughts were better left unsaid. "Where is Freya?" she asked, even as she picked up an instrument from the metal tray.
"Here," Freya said, pushing past the nurses huddled in front of the door. She was already gowned up and gloved. She took a moment to glance over the scans and then nodded, taking her place on the other side of the surgical table. "Bleed first?" Hapsberg merely nodded.
It was a couple hours before the medical team emerged from the surgical bay, everyone looking haggard and exhausted from the surgery that may have been for nothing. Two of the nurses moved Julian into one of the small isolated units while the doctors huddled together talking about the outcome. Tired of considering the possibilities, Freya pulled off her gloves and tossed them into the nearest bin.
"Hey Doc," Ash said from a nearby bed. He was looking much better and seemed to have recovered his casual smile. "I hear you led quite the coup."
"Really?" Freya said with a weak smile. She pulled up his chart on the data pad and glanced over his vitals. "Where'd you hear that? Medical ward the new gossip center?"
"It's what everyone is talkin' about. And I, for one, am glad you were on our side." He winced as she began poking at his abdomen and checking his healing progress.
"We're all on one side now," Freya said, a hint of sadness in her voice. What a price had been paid to get them here. "I think you'll be freed from my company soo...."
"Doctor!" The doors had hissed open, admitting one of the former Sons of Liberty. In his arms, he was carrying the limp form of Lana. Freya dropped the data pad on Ash's bed and ran over to help.
"What happened?" She asked, already looking over Lana's body for injuries. A deep gash on her wrist was still bleeding out.
"We just found her, in one of the solitary cells," he said, trying to catch his breath after setting her down on the floor.
Freya had clamped her hand over the wound to try and stop the bleeding. Though Lana's body still felt warm, there was no steady pulse of blood under the skin. Freya checked twice at the neck before falling back. "Who did this? She..."
"She was found with this..." he pulled out a long, thin dagger and Ash let out a hiss from where he'd watched the scene unfold. "She'd already...."
Hapsberg, who'd been seeing to Julian, came out in the midst of the scene. She confirmed Freya's findings with a scanner. "She's been dead less than an hour. If no one has seen her until now then...."
Freya nodded, scrambling away from the body and staring at her blood soaked hand. "Suicide..." she whispered, her stomach rolling. She barely managed to stand before the nausea overtook her.
"Are you okay Doctor?" Doctor Hapsberg was already coming at her with the scanner and Freya shooed her away.
"Yeah, I just haven't eaten in..." Freya closed her eyes, trying to will the nausea away.
Captain Hunt pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers and leaned against the conference table. "Well, what comes now?"
"Now Captain?" Meng asked, looking up from the data pad he'd been holding. Holding but not actually reading as his thoughts were wandering.
"The crisis with the aliens...the Koval," he said, recalling the name the Quuvarii had called them, "is over. The rebellion has ended and, with any luck, we'll be able to break away from this blasted moon soon."
"All good things. Of course there are a lot of repairs to be made – and rebuilding to be done," Meng said.
Captain Hunt nodded, "Honestly, this is not a position I'm accustomed to."
"And what position is that Captain?" Meng asked.
"Feeling as if I'm not in command on my own ship. Your Sons of Liberty have control of every department after all..."
"Freya assures me that you support equality...given Lady Ice's vitriol toward you, I'm inclined to believe her," Meng said, earning a smirk from Captain Hunt. "I'm not interested in your job Captain. Or telling you how to do your job."
"Well then I have a proposition for you Mr. Asada, which I hope you will agree to so we can reunite this crew."
"I'm listening," Meng said, leaning forward.
Thirty minutes later, the senior staff – such that it was – began trickling into the conference room. Captain Hunt was still standing near the head of the table. Meng had now assumed the chair to the captain's immediate left and trained his eyes on a spot across the room.
Freya, who had been prompted by Hapsberg to use the staff meeting as an opportunity to eat, was the last to come in. More than one pair of eyes watched as she took an empty chair beside Meng. She couldn't read their expressions, perhaps out of mental and physical exhaustion, so she ignored most of them.
After glancing Meng's direction once more, as if still expecting the former rebel leader to take charge, Hunt settled into his own chair at the head of the table. "Let's get started with a few announcements. By now you all know that the conflict with the Sons of Liberty has come to an end so we must all work toward becoming a cohesive crew once more. Mr. Asada," he motioned to Meng, though all eyes were already turned toward him, "has agreed to become my first officer and assume the newly created position of Tactical Officer. He will be granted the rank of Commander, effective immediately."
Commander Katou was the only one in the room to look truly horrified, "don't tactical operations generally fall under the purview of the security department sir?"
"Yes, but if we've learned anything from the last several months, it's clear that internal security and external tactical operations are two different things and need individualized attention. Speaking of security, the entire security team will be relieved of duty while we investigate allegations of misconduct on their part. Commander Asada will oversee the department until such time as a new security chief is appointed." Captain Hunt looked toward Katou, expecting another interruption, but she kept her mouth clamped shut.
"Other temporary changes: Lieutenant Jordan Dexter will be in charge of Engineering until Dex is back on his feet and Mr. Jamison will be our alpha shift helmsman in place of Mr. Ice. Lieutenant Franklin will take charge of the fighter squadron. Finally, the Council has been dissolved – though Mr. Trane will be a temporary representative of the civilian population until we finger out the specifics of a new system." Former Councilman Trane, who had been sitting quietly at the table, nodded as everyone turned toward him. "Any questions?"
"Is it true? What they're saying about a Quuvarii ship sir?" Jordan asked anxiously.
"Yes, after destroying the Koval ship, we were contacted by a Quuvarii vessel that is still a couple hours away. According to their captain, we're not the first ship the Koval have targeted like this. The virus is, apparently, their modus operandi. They play the wounded lion act to get access to an unsuspecting crew and plant the virus. The Quuvarii captain transmitted instructions on how to purge the virus from our systems I'd like you to look over," Hunt slid a data pad across the table to Jordan. She began reading immediately, with Liam hovering over her shoulder. "Make the virus your first priority, followed by primary system repairs."
"Understood sir," Jordan said, glancing up from the pad for a moment.
"We're facing a long road of recovery here – not only physically but emotionally. Aside from reintegrating the crew, we've lost many good people over the last few months, including three today..."
"Four," Freya said, interrupting and drawing the attention of everyone – even the engineers. Freya looked over at Meng for just a moment, pain in her eyes, before turning back to Hunt. "Lana Swanson was found in one of the isolation cells in the brig. She died before she was discovered."
"How?" Meng asked, his voice low.
"She had deep cuts on her wrist – they appear to be self-inflicted but we're not completely certain yet." A heavy silence fell in the room as the news sunk in. Despite her treachery to the Sons, Lana was a comrade of half the people in the room and no one wanted to believe she'd committed suicide.
"And your other patients?" Captain Hunt ventured, breaking the silence after several moments.
"Dex suffered a stroke following the assault in engineering. He is currently stable but serious. We won't know if there was any lasting damage until he wakes up but I think his prognosis is good. Ash has come out of surgery and is recovering, he should be cleared to leave the ward within another day. Commander Bonwick suffered severe burns, we'll have to use grafts for the more severe burns. She's stable as well, though serious of course," Freya said. "And Julian has come out of his surgery, though there may be more yet. We have no idea how much brain damage there was from the device. We'll know more if he wakes up."
The 'if' was not lost on anyone in the room.
The meeting broke up not long after that as everyone had places to be and things that needed doing. Before Freya could leave, Meng caught her by the arm and pulled her into the corner of the conference room. "What is it Meng? I'm exhausted." She yawned then, as if to reinforce her statement. "Or should I call you Commander?" she asked with a teasing grin.
"Where are you headed? Back to the ward?" Meng asked, ignoring the comment.
"To find a bed so I can sleep for a couple hours with any luck." In truth, Freya would have preferred to go back to the medical ward and sit vigil over her patients – particularly Julian and Dex, but Doctor Hapsberg had made it clear that she'd be kicked out if she came back anytime in the next six hours. "Doctors orders," Freya added with a chuckle.
"Come on, I have just the bed in mind," Meng said, placing his arm around her waist as if to guide her and probably intending to hold her up.
"That bed is rarely conducive to sleep," Freya said laughing. "I'll go back to my quarters....I think they're still my quarters anyway. Either way they have a bed – a single bed in fact. Wake me up when the Quuvarii arrive though?"
"You sure?" He didn't clarify which part he was questioning, the bed or the Quuvarii.
And Freya didn't respond. She gave his hand a light squeeze and then offered a weak smile. "See ya later Commander Asada."
As it turned out, Freya's former quarters were no longer hers and all the entrance codes had been changed. She considered forcing the door with a medical override but she didn't want to terrify whoever might actually be on the other side of the door. She knew there was an empty bed in the medical ward but was smart enough to realize she'd succumb to working instead of sleeping if she went there.
After a moment of indecision, her feet moved the familiar trip through the bowels of the ship. Hidden from view, no one stopped her or tried to get her attention. It wasn't until she entered the former head quarters for the Sons of Liberty that she realized where her body had taken her. Looking around the space, she felt all the emotion and all the action of the last twenty-four hours crash into her.
Had really been less than a day? How had everything changed so quickly?
Exhausted, she pushed all of it away and made her way to the room she and Meng had shared on more than one occasion. She hadn't actually intended to come here, to end up in this particular bed, but it welcomed her. She expected to be kept awake by her own thoughts and nightmares but the pillows still held his impression and the blanket still held his scent.
She fell asleep instantly.
"Freya...." Meng waited a moment to see if she'd wake up before gently shaking her.
Freya bolted up, eyes wide, "Wha!? Oh!"
"Morning," Meng said, struggling to hide a smile that was creeping onto his face. "I thought you said this bed was not conducive to sleep?"
"Well it is if you're not in it," Freya said as she rubbed her eyes. "What time is it?"
"Time for our visitors. The Quuvarii ship will be here in ten minutes – Captain Hunt has arranged for a small party to come aboard. Apparently they're quite fascinated by our existence. The Unity Project is something of myth in their history I guess."
"Is that really such a good idea? Inviting them aboard...?" Freya asked.
"Well it's been three hundred years, I imagine they've changed alm..."
"No, that's not what I meant. After what happened with the Koval I thought there might be a bit more hesitation about having 'visitors,'" Freya explained.
"Well, their suggestions for purging the virus have proven very useful and Liam says they might just have it cleaned out within a day," Meng explained.
Freya nodded slowly, "right. Okay....hey, you're wearing a uniform!" She scolded herself for not having noticed it right away but blamed the fact that she'd been in the midst of a really good dream when he'd woken her.
"I am. I am a Commander now after all," he said. Then he held up a small bag, "and I brought yours. Time to look like part of the crew again."
"Oh, thanks..." she looked at uniform as if seeing it for the first time. It seemed odd to think of putting it on again. "Meng..." she looked up, trying to put her struggling thoughts into words but was met with a kiss instead.
"Yeah?" he asked, after their lips parted.
Freya shook her head, "um, not so important." He looked at her confused, "how long did you say we have again?"
"Maybe half an hour?"
"That'll have to do then," Freya said grabbing a hold of his new uniform and pulling him closer. She wrapped her arms around his neck and refused to let go, even as he started to resist. It didn't take long to bring him around to her way of thinking though.
Freya tugged at the jacket of her uniform, feeling awkward wearing it again after so many months. Beside her, Meng was fidgeting and pulling at the sleeves of his own uniform. Captain Hunt and Commander Katou stood along side them as well. Although the Captain had asked for someone from each department, the engineers had excused themselves of course. For a moment, Freya almost wished Haspberg was here in her place.
For the first time, Freya noticed Ansari standing at the controls. She was glad to see him alive and well but couldn't help but wonder if his presence was a ploy on Captain Hunt's part. Though what his thoughts were, she could only guess. Ansari smiled at her and then nodded to the Captain, "They're ready Captain."
After a habitual tug at his own uniform, Hunt returned the nod. In a moment, their guests materialized in front them.
"Fascinating," the voice belonged to the same captain who had initially contacted them. "Absolutely fascinating. Thank you for having us, I am Captain Alawi Nava," he motioned toward the two people who accompanied him to introduce them. "This," he turned to his left, where a tall Quuvarii male stood looking almost uninterested in everything, "is Niall, my security chief. And this is Aryn Darcy..."
"You're human," Commander Katou said, her face the picture of shock. Standing just behind the Quuvarii men was a small, blond woman with bright green eyes. She couldn't have stood out from her companions any more if she tried. If she hadn't been nearly completely obscured by the their frames, they all would have noticed her from the start.
"Indeed I am," the young woman said with a smile. "It would appear that we have even more in common than we thought," she added as her eyes fell on Ansari. "We were not aware of any Quuvarii on the Unity vessel when it left the Sol System."
Though Captain Nava seemed equally stunned by Ansari's presence, he put a hand on his officer's shoulder, "I think we will have plenty of opportunity to learn about each other in time Aryn." She nodded and fell back into her original spot just behind him.
Captain Hunt took his turn and motioned to Meng first, "this is Commander Meng Asada, my first officer. That is Doctor Freya Ryan, one of our medical staff and this is Commander Hoshimi Katou, my chief science officer." Though it was a second thought, he turned toward Ansari as well, "this is Mr. Ansari, one of a single line of Quuvarii descendants we have on board."
"Fascinating," Nava said once more. His obsession with the word was beginning to grate on Freya's nerves but she merely smiled.
They stood awkwardly together for a few moments before Hunt motioned toward the door, "why don't we take a small tour – the transporter room is hardly the place to get to know each other."
The human woman came up alongside Commander Katou and immediately struck up a conversation of their respective histories. Freya got the impression Aryn Darcy was a scientist as well and felt a kindred connection with Katou but couldn't be certain.
The two captains walked side by side as well, neither sharing too much but both clearly interested in the other. While Nava was absorbing everything they passed, Hunt was pay particular attention to the behavior of their guests.
Meng and Freya had fallen in behind Ansari and the silent security officer. Unlike the other two pairs, these two said nothing to each other beyond brief pleasantries. When they approached Engineering, Ansari made his excuses and disappeared from their group under the pretense of helping the engineering crew continue repairs.
"Repairs? Was the damage from the Koval extensive?" Captain Nava inquired politely.
"Not overly but due to the virus, our general maintenance has been put aside and many repairs have been delayed until now," Hunt said, as if he'd rehearsed the answer. It was a partial truth actually, merely left out the tiny detail of the rebellion that had done the majority of the damage to the ship recently.
"You and your ship would be welcome at Ne'Vha," Captain Nava said. "It is a planet nearby with an extensive population. In fact, you might find you have a great deal in common with the inhabitants," he glanced back at Aryn.
She was practically bouncing out of her skin at the prospect, "Yes! We have a full ship yard in orbit where your ship could be overhauled – as a generational ship, I imagine you do not have that opportunity often."
"You said we had something in common with the population," Freya chimed in, "do you mean there are more humans there?"
"Oh yes – the population is primarily mixed hybrids, Quuvarii/humans much like your Mr. Ansari. Though a small percentage are full human like Ms. Darcy and, of course, full Quuvarii."
"But how?" Meng was the one to speak up this time. He asked the question that had been burning in all of their minds since seeing Aryn Darcy step out from behind the Quuvarii in the transporter room.
"Your ancestors weren't the only ones to make it away from Earth that day," Captain Nava said, his smile dropping. "Many humans had been taken from Earth by my own ancestors – onto their ship in orbit. After the destruction on the surface, those humans, along with the Quuvarii survivors, left the system. Eventually they were forced to settle on Ne'Vha and, despite early conflicts, have been quite prosperous over the generations."
"I suppose they would be like cousins to us," Freya said. "Very distant cousins but still...."
"Perhaps it's time for a family reunion then," Captain Hunt said with a glint of excitement on his face.