Chapter 20 - All That
way back to her quarters without the need for a crutch. The
medical wrapping had included an inside layer of a powder that
quickly aided the mending of flesh, so at least she had that much
going her way. Yeah, it hurt a bit to walk, but it wasn't a big
deal. Especially not after a moment of real and honest relaxation. Even
if it did happen to have occurred in a secret back room of
sickbay. Kind of a eerie thought, indeed...
Taking her sweet
time, she reveled in the abandoned passageways. Maybe it was the
luck of the draw, the time, the possibility that she was sending out
mental waves of "don't bother me", or all of the above. Regardless, it
was nice to just sort of... saunter. A strange thing
in that. There was a time when the thought of more or less doing
nothing would have driven her insane... and yet, in the situation,
she was enjoying it. Of course she knew it couldn't last, but...
every second would be savored.
There was a mild pang of something
resembling anxiety when she boarded the lift to the Captain's Hall,
but that was erased before the doors ultimately opened. After all,
there was nothing to really worry about. Even though she was glad as
hell that she saw no people moving around, it wouldn't have been the
biggest of deals if they were all standing around waiting for her to
arrive. A little intimidating in a sense, perhaps, but... not so
Not that the idea wouldn't give her
reason to hurry the hell
up into her actual quarters. As the door shut behind her, she let
out a breath of relief. A shower was a little too much to ask for,
given her leg and all, but just laying down in bed would be
absolutely welcome. Just for a little bit. A rest before the
inevitable, she was sure.
Speaking of inevitable... walking by
her bedroom left her with a rather sudden feeling that she should
look back. Something... had not been visually right. Backing up a
step, she peered in... somewhat floored by what met her vision.
was Doxy. But not just Doxy. It was Doxy, the monsterous-sized
beast, sitting on her bed and purring. Granted the bed itself had
collapsed under the cat's weight, causing what was once the frame to
be little more than a useless rectangular metal sculpture underneath
the fallen mattress.
She glared at the animal. It only
with a louder purr, then closed its eyes. So, she tried something
different. "Doxy, come here."
Instantly the purr
stopped. The cat's eyes opened and the ears sagged just a little,
knowing he was in trouble. Still, he obeyed her command slowly,
carefully stepping off the former-bed and padding his way up to her,
his head and shoulders down. Stopping a few feet away, he glanced up
just a little bit with great big eyes.
"Do you know what
you've done?" she continued, her voice hard and cold. It was so
difficult to go against those huge eyes, but she didn't need him
to know that.
As if knowing her every word, the
back at what was once her bed, toppled to the ground. He then looked
back and her, cautious. Taking a chance, he lightly rubbed the soft
fuzz just on top of his nose against her ankle in apology and
whimpered quietly like a sad puppy.
"Don't ever do that
again, Doxy." She kept her voice firm.
The eyes seemed to
grow impossibly bigger. There were almost glittering tears there for
Jack sighed. Powers
of the universe help me... Without
a word she kneeled and embraced the poor creature. He just looked so
"Aaaaww." Came two male voices from
She squeezed just a little bit
tighter in reflex--but
the cat simply began to purr again, satisfied. "All against
me." She mumbled against the fur. Nex and Julian must have
snuck in while she was reprimanding the creature. Damn them. And
damn her for not remembering to lock the door.
Captain." The boy apologized profusely for his pet. "I
didn't know he'd try... that. I just thought it'd be a nice surprise
when you got back..."
"Brilliant tactic, Nex." Jack
released the animal, a little loathe to try and raise herself on
the bad leg. That was okay, she could kneel for a while longer
without losing too much necessary circulation. "Taking my mind
off everything by destroying my furniture."
grinned sheepishly. "Good thing I'm not a tactical
"Damn straight." She couldn't help
agree--and then a thought came to mind. It was enough to get her to
stand on her own (and partially regret doing so), but she wasn't
worried. Just then, anyway. It was a strange thing to realize at
that very point in time, and stranger still not to have thought about
or questioned it long before... but understandable. She hadn't
really wanted to think about it. Pulling the sheets back from the
end of the mattress, she found an almost familiar slit cut along the
bottom. Reaching inside, she immediately found what she sought,
removing it for inspection. A little of the metal casing was dented,
with a gentle line of stress fracture. Not so bad, really.
recognized it right away. It was the drive she'd pulled from the
computer on their little "mission" to Centuri... revealing
a bit of his past that he still wasn't certain he cared to know.
"Yeah." She confirmed,
simply and quietly. Julian's life was still contained in that
thing... she swallowed the thought down, knowing that Pheta must have
brought it in, having found it in her other mattress aboard the
Sefirot. Well now. This was interesting on a number of levels. No
matter just yet--she only wanted to be sure it was safe. That much
apparent, it was put right back where it belonged--out of
While the other captain seemed a
little involved in
gathering himself, Nex looked to be deep in thought.
understandably, worried Jack a bit. So, she changed the subject just
a little. "How'd it go? And where's the commander?"
found himself incredibly glad for the shift in thought, serious
matter though it was. "She's gone to her own quarters to have a
word with Domani, I think." He tried to ease into a weightless
sense of humor again.
"I'm sure this brings up some
issues." She joked, leaning against the door frame of her
bedroom. One couch and one bed already gone. Maybe it'd be better
to learn to stand all the time.
As for the other matter... he
switched gears almost unwillingly. "It went... okay. Domani
did most of the talking. It was best that way."
glanced down at Nex as he pet Doxy, catching the boy's feint shiver.
Yes, she remembered being a little more than simply creeped out when
she'd first discovered the entity. She was a breath away from asking "So, what exactly was
discussed?" when a piercing
look from her partner in crime almost erased the urge to speak at
all. He hadn't consciously meant
anything by that look, but she could read it as clearly as a neon
sign. Alright, this was up to her. "Hey Nex."
looked up, trying to hide the eagerness in his eyes. Her tone had
been... inviting. "Yes?"
"How'd you like to see
the cockpit of the Black Albatross?" she continued,
An impossible smile lit the boy's
every feature. "Technically, I already have." He admitted, having
searched endlessly for detailed photos and schematics. "But not
"Well, here's your chance." She
he could hardly believe this. He couldn't
believe this. But he couldn't question whether or not it was real
for the very sake of preserving the moment. She'd just offered him
the chance to sit in the pilot's chair...
Then again... "There
might still be some blood in there, though--"
mind." He interrupted, serious but excited, standing
immediately at attention.
She couldn't help but shake her head
in wonder. "Well, okay. I trust you'll be reporting for your
duty in three hours."
expression turned to a most absolute awe. Three hours? He wanted to
see the vessel, but even he couldn't sit there for thre--"Wait...
are you saying I can...?" He didn't dare to finish the
"As long as you stay within
sprinting distance of
the DarkHorse, have a blast." She offered sincerely. He was
after all; it wasn't as if he were going to get lost. That, and she
knew he wasn't the type to do anything recklessly. At least, not
when it came to anything other than dealing with her on a personal
level, apparently. She knew he'd been seeking out every tiny glimmer
of information on that ship before he'd even asked, because that was
just his nature. Chances were that he knew the controls better than
she did. And, were anything to go wrong, Domani would have override
"Thank you, Captain!" he literally
over his shoulder on the way out, Doxy at his heels.
It was an
incredible sight. For all his light body structure, he could haul
ass when he wanted to.
Julian waited patiently until the
her quarters closed and all sound of footfalls ended. He gave her
one careful look, mentally pinning her in place as he strolled over
to the door, locked it with the keypad, then walked back to where
he'd left her. Alright. Now, then. "What else is going on?"
he inquired almost innocently. Quietly.
A lot of people would
respond with another question. She would normally be one of those
people... but it wasn't the time. "I kind of wanted to make an
"I don't think I can wait
for 'eventually'." He admitted blandly. His wandering mind and
increasingly horrific imagination would not allow her any more time.
"It's been bothering me too much."
A lead weight
wrestled around in her stomach. She hadn't meant for him to... well, worry,
for lack of a better word. For some reason, it suddenly felt like it
would be easier to address the group rather than just him. Alone. Here
But he was not backing down. He
didn't want it to
feel like an interrogation, but... at the moment, that seemed to be
the only way to break through all of the barriers at once. That
whole thing with Nex and the piece of crap ship felt like she were
attempting to get her possessions and affairs in order. Not a good
sign, considering the mounting pressure...
She attempted one last
diversion. "Shouldn't I wait for the others so there are no
more secrets between any of us?" Even before the question left
her lips, she knew it was bullshit--so much so that she didn't even
give him the chance to respond. "Alright, strike that. What,
exactly, are you aiming for?"
He cut to the quick. "You're
planning on leaving. Why?"
And she... was surprised. Not
in a shocked kind of way really, but... his skills at commanding (or
perhaps "captaining") had sharpened dramatically over the
past few days. Either that, or she'd unknowingly given him an
unintentional edge. Not that she minded... until situations like the
ones before her. "Domani is a dimension traveler. And I'm...
going to go with it."
His pause was almost unnaturally
and disturbingly unmoving. It was as if it had taken a moment for
the gears in his head to get moving again, a genuine shock having
rattled them out of alignment. He wasn't sure what right he had to
ask for more. So, he didn't. "You should probably get some
It was her turn to be shocked into
definite and to-the-point reaction surprised even her for a moment.
"I'm not running away. It's not like that."
swallowed with the almost hidden intensity in the words, unable to
allow them to be ignored. The breath he'd taken to speak caught in
his throat as he realized that he didn't know what to say. Her eyes
were completely clear, keeping his gaze focussed back on hers. It
was... an unusual sort of thing. It wasn't as if he hadn't made eye
contact with her before, but that was the feel of things in the
moment. "What is it, then?"
"An adventure." There was no reason
he should have been comforted in the least by that statement, but she
could see it in his eyes. The details weren't expressed, but the
most important things were understood.
The rest of the story
could be saved for later. He nodded unconsciously, getting what he
needed for the time being. "Get some sleep, anyway."
silent sigh of relief rushed her, but she was careful not to give it
voice. Could ruin the moment and all. "I'll try."
was a real moment there when he pondered hugging that girl. But,
perhaps luckily for him, he thought better of it. Instead, he
clasped a hand on her shoulder, turned, and excused himself.
too, Jules." She offered after him.
"I'll try." He called back with a
mild but sincere smile right before he waved
once and stepped out.
to sponge bathe herself with a ratty leftover Sefirot washcloth was a
little... disheartening, maybe. It was an aggravation more than
anything else, but she was incredibly loathe to do it on some other
level. There was no way she could get away with showering until the
surface wounds were healed over, though. That and they'd probably
just burn with the soap and water. That was a terrible annoyance
when a person was trying to relax.
So was a racing mind. She'd
tried to suppress it already with some classical music thanks to
Domani, but that sure as hell wasn't working. She elected for
something in the computer's musical library called "hard rock",
instead. Boy was that an interesting thing.
"I think that's
enough music for tonight." She finally relented, rinsing her
hair in the sink.
"I have thousands of other music types
suit your mood." Domani offered kindly.
"Thanks." She grinned at the Nex-like
eagerness. "I don't think I'm in a
music mood right now." Of course, she wasn't in a silence mood,
either. Nor a conversation mood. Maybe just a sleeping mood.
a matter of human intricacies," the entity began carefully,
"Might I ask why you didn't wait to tell the others about this
'journey' as well?"
Jack pondered that for a moment,
toweling off. "You'd think you'd have experience with these
sorts of things with so many brains at your disposal."
pause. "So I am to take it that you definitely don't want to
Alright, so that was funny. She could
it. "I'm not sure I'd have much to talk about."
word of advice, Captain?"
you should stop avoiding the desire to reflect upon your own thoughts
and emotions until the point at which you feel forced to do
Well, that was... "Interesting." There
that downside to having so many brains again... "And what leads
you to this advice?"
"A hunch." The computer
"Hm." It was almost a shame that she
too tired to come back with a simple response--or, better yet, a
defense. "We'll worry about that after I wake up."
remained thankfully silent as she dressed, blessed as being the only
computer that could take a hint. She seriously pondered having a
good stiff drink before bed... until she came to understand that she
could handle either a flattened mattress on the floor or a sour
stomach in the morning, but not both. The days of sleeping
half-wasted on cement were over, and would remain so in all
Ah, no matter. Not really. Sure there
wasn't really any
more bed frame to speak of (although the corners still stuck up a
little, giving the impression she was laying in a soft sinkhole), but
it was still comfortable. Tapping the light panel, pulling the
blankets up around her, she cleared her mind and readied it for
all-enveloping unconsciousness. Tired. Oh so tired. So sore and
so--absolutely, unequaled to any other feeling, ever--tired. The
warmth of a bed, the soft warm covers pulled up snugly around her, an
adventure before her, on a sentient ship, with a great big
Her eyes grew wide quite suddenly.
Something had hit
her like the force of two planets crashing into one another. Only
one word struck, but it was a word so important, so utterly more so
than any other seemed to have ever been... Gold.
to all texts, all accounts, all art and illustration she had ever
seen, heard or read... the Tree of Life was supposed to be gold. But that branch, that incredible
little bit of miraculous shrubbery,
was silver. What did that mean? And why hadn't
she even thought about it until
then, of all times?
Obsessed as she was,
she'd have thought that the
subject would have come up long before; in Julian's mind at least, if
"Jack?" Domani suddenly spoke up,
physical reaction. "Are you alright? Your body temperature is
"Fine." She responded
honestly, but with hesitation. "I just thought of something.
The Tree of Life... isn't it supposed to be gold?"
all accounts I am familiar with." The computer admitted.
sat up slowly, almost afraid to make any sudden movements before
voicing her revelation. "But the branch you have is
There was an all too realistic pause
responded to that little detail. "Perhaps all of the accounts
Granted. It was certainly possible--no
really knew if anyone had ever seen the Tree of Life before. It
could have been merely a theory. But that minor detail, color...
seemed pretty damn major, suddenly.
"You're concerned." The computer
presented a gross understatement.
"Very." She admitted carefully. She sat
in silence for a moment,
pondering... "Is there any way you can locate Dr. Carn?"
was a pause--one of uncertainty, no doubt. "Attempting to
locate Kulthadeus Carn."
It took a beat before she
questioned that, not sure she'd heard correctly. "Kulthadeus?"
"That's his first name according to
She chuckled softly to herself. "Now I
why he never introduces himself by anything but 'Doctor'." She
thought to herself, running that name through her entire history. She
couldn't place the way it sounded with any region in particular. "Do
you have a history file on him?"
nosy, Jack?" the computer actually joked. There were both
advantages and disadvantages of having living brains... "At
last report, he was still alive in the trader colony you'd banished
She grinned unconsciously at Domani's
that last report was when?"
"Two days ago." A
pause. "Shall I send the Sefirot to pick him up?"
ask Pheta what she thinks." The captain admitted. "Follow
"She's asleep as of now." The computer
Well, that incited a chuckle. "She's
asleep. She's Pheta. And if she complains, remind her how much her
captain appreciates her. That should do it."
even a computer was capable of sighing.