DarkHorse Vendetta by Orin Drake
Chapter 27 - A Very Dim
Light at the End of a Very Long Tunnel--Maybe
it was unfamiliar. What seemed a little more important
at that very moment hit her even harder than the unwinding situation
her universe had suddenly become--the molecular transportation
device. Was something in Domani disconnected? Was the entire system
Blurred light... and that goddamn sick feeling that crept over her with all the subtlety of a south coast ice storm. Yep, that was waking up from stasis, alright. Blinking several times, she decided the world would be a little less tinted by nausea if she stayed laying down for as long as possible. Possibly weeks. She might want to look into room service...
"How's the stomach?" only Pheta's slightly vicious delivery came through the haze of buzzing in her head. "Would you like a rich pastry, perhaps? Or something with a good deal of oozing cheese? Maybe a Maracen fried tendril or two?"
Not that Jack wasn't glad to be awake and alive, but... she was less than glad about her greeting. "Cruel, Commander."
"They're both good to go." Dr. Carn's voice, from across the room. "Whenever they choose to suck it up and get out."
Still laying down, the good Captain Veis raised her formerly broken arm and then her middle finger at the general area she'd heard the doctor's voice come from. It seemed appropriate enough. "That didn't take too long, did it?"
"A couple of hours." Pheta confirmed. "On the up side, Domani was able to reboot. There are a few... issues, though."
She swallowed. The woman hadn't made it sound too dangerous, but... "Issues?"
"Some systems will take a little longer to get back to normal function." The commander informed.
"Good to know." Regardless of the circumstances looking better... she just didn't want to sit up. Not until the effects of stasis wore off, which would likely be... a long time. There was silence while she pondered her situation... something she was grateful for. Unfortunately, she knew better. "I suggest you stand back. Just in case."
Pheta grinned, not that the expression could be seen. "Go rest in your quarters. Both of you."
She nodded, attempting to blink the rest of the general blur away. So, Julian was in the same room. Strange how he'd been so quiet...
As one set of footsteps led away, another seemed to take its place--going so far as to sit beside her. A puzzling thing until she heard her partner in crime's voice. "Lazy." He accused jokingly.
Dammit. "How the hell are you up and walking so soon?"
"Apparently your break was worse than mine." He announced with absolute smugness.
Dammit, again. "So you're already over your crippling case of nausea."
"Not quite." Not that it wasn't a pleasant reminder...
She took a deep breath, knowing what was to come... and forced herself to sit up anyway. Boy, what a mistake. If Julian hadn't been there, she probably would have fallen off of the recovery bed. And at that, he seemed just a little too helpful. Or at least, he held on a bit longer than she would have thought... unless that was just the post-stasis screwing with her mind. "I'm out of practice." She admitted, eyes finally able to make out shapes and most details.
Damn. He was grinning. Much more brightly than she was used to--and then the exact events and conversation that had occurred right before stasis hit her. Wow... so that wasn't a dream... Weird.
More surprises were in store, however. Julian... wasn't letting go. For a moment, Jack had really started to wonder if she'd actually woken up... but the next violent spin of the room and her stomach convinced her otherwise; he was... holding her. In both arms. He'd picked up her entire body and was in the process of... carrying her?!
He felt her body stiffen with sheer surprise (and a little sickness), taking the most perfect, absolute advantage for himself. Ignoring the very small medical staff (and the blandly shocked stare of Dr. Carn), he transported her to the lift.
Only after the door closed was she able to find her voice. "Jules?"
"What the fuck?"
Her drop-dead, brilliantly simple delivery only made him feel that much more smug about the whole situation. He could not help but appreciate the moment. "You're not embarrassed, are you Jack?" he nearly teased, refusing to let her down.
That was an interesting question. Regardless of her vision having gratefully returned to her, she elected to stare off into space while she pondered the nature of the situation. Embarrassment... was not what she was feeling. "No..." she began, no other words forming. Her arms rather awkwardly hung at her sides, unsure of whether to start hitting him now, or later.
"I'm going to take you to your quarters." He informed her.
She blinked, unaware of what the hell was going on. "I'd have made it there eventually on my own..."
"That's not the point." The lift stopped, door opening to interrupt him for a brief moment.
She finally met his gaze with narrowed eyes. "And what is the point?"
That all too satisfied grin responded. "You're supposed to wrap your arms around my neck and get all sappy." He informed her jokingly, stepping out into the Captain's Hall. With a false sigh, he carefully lowered her to her feet and set her upright in front of the window overlooking the universe. "But I guess this is good enough."
His humor finally set her at ease... enough. For a moment there she was pretty certain she'd encountered a horrifying alternate reality. "You've had a few too many fantasies about this."
Well, since she'd brought it up... "You have no idea."
"This is not some grand, romantic love story." She turned to face him as she spoke, having felt a completely insane need to clarify.
"Don't I know it." He countered, unshaken.
The guy was still grinning. Dammit, he just wouldn't stop. And worse, that cocky playfulness was spreading. She tried not to let it, she tried! Defeated almost instantly, she shook her head. "I'm going to regret this, aren't I?"
"In the worst way." He responded, but patiently. "You get some rest. Take a shower. Eat something."
Hm. Not that she was complaining, but... it wasn't quite what she expected to hear. "And you will be..?"
"Waiting for you." The word "cocky" didn't even begin to fit the mood he had been lodged in. "There's no rush." With a small but well-meant wave, he turned and walked to his quarters without looking back.
She stood there for a little bit too long in silence. The words themselves could have been taken a number of unpleasant ways... but they weren't. None of the important things had changed. He'd wait... and she'd assuredly find him, as she always had. It was enough to annoy her in most usual situations. This time, though... at least they both knew about it. How... weird.
She was greeted by a somewhat uncharacteristically (for a cat, no matter how large or from what planet) excited Doxy at the door. It was almost touching--until he lead her straight for his food bowl. Ah well, she was glad to be greeted, anyway.
When all of that was taken care of, she prepared herself for a shower. Though, it'd be nice to find out... "Domani?"
The response was immediate, but the language itself was cluttered and slurred in a way that only a jumbled computer could create. "J-Jack. E-excuse my l-language process--ssors. They a-are in need o-of repro-programming."
While the sound of the words was actually a bit creepy, she was glad to know the ship was still responsive. "Are you alright?"
"N-nothing was imm-mediately damaged." Domani replied. "And y-you?"
"My stomach could be better." She felt the need to complain about it until it went away. Hey, why not. "But everything else... recovered."
"A-and of Ju-ulian?"
Her eyes narrowed at that question. "What about Julian?"
"I h-heard rumors-s. From Do-octor C-Carn and t-the C-commander of Def-fense."
Those bastards. She couldn't help the semi-amused sigh that came of it, though. "Yeah, well. I guess we're an item now."
"It's ab-bout t-time."
Hm. "Yeah. Thanks." Suddenly she felt like a shower was the least of her worries... but she was going to get one, anyway.
The computer paused for a moment, gathering other resources. "I-I will be ab-ble to an-analyze th-the situation s-soon. Right n-now, my err-rors must b-be fixed."
"Understood." Jack responded, adjusting the water temperature. "I take it the basics are still taken care of, right?"
"A-all life sup-port remains unaf-affected." Domani confirmed. "I w-will be onli-line again with-thin the ho-our."
"Take it easy." She partially joked, eager to wash away the far too familiar stench of stasis. Not that it had a smell in itself, but... it sure felt like it. And to think she'd once naively hoped she'd never have to go through that again...
Even with her tender arm, a hot shower was the way to go. Of course, it was also very conducive to thought... thought that seemed perfectly innocent at first. Just going through the events of the last few hours to be sure she remembered everything of importance... But then the obvious reached up and struck her so hard that she couldn't possibly think of anything else.
Why, why wouldn't that silver-eyed creature merely have killed her itself rather than get Julian to do the dirty work? The freak could have done her in with great ease, certainly... ended it all right there, forever. So... why? Apparently the ship Domani had thought it may have spotted, turned out to be a ghost to distract them. At least she thought that the proper assumption to make when she hadn't gotten immediate reports about following a Pordethre ship.
Deeper still. Maybe the Pordethre weren't quite as blind and stupid as she'd thought... but they couldn't possibly be geniuses, either. Though... that thing, Silver Eyes, wasn't Pordethre in origin... was it?
The government had been experimenting, that was certain. Julian was living proof that they had quite a bit of technology... so was that thing some kind of "creation"? Even then, that explained nothing... but it opened up more questions. Headache-inducing as that was, it was closer to answers.
Julian had been reading. While Domani's internal communication systems were down, all of the collected logs and external information was still available. He'd been able to gather some basic information about the galaxy they were in, simply curious to know what it was like. He'd seen some pretty scary shit over the years, but some of the pictures of the creatures wandering the planets around them... eeeeeh.
The instant the door chimed, however, he was up. Not running, exactly, but... walking quickly. Hey, there was no reason to be rude about it. It wasn't as if he didn't know who would be waiting for him. Opening the door, he was delighted--and not at all surprised. Still riding a wave of nearly impossible cockiness, he actually leaned in the doorway and greeted her with a supposedly suave, "Hello, Jack."
It was very close to unbelievable. Not that she wasn't somehow happy about it. He really was enjoying the whole situation way too much. So much so that, without really being aware of it, she'd reached up and prodded an all too familiar pressure point on his shoulder that caused that arm he was leaning on to give out, sending him tumbling. She couldn't have said that she was sorry to see it happen... but she did catch him before he hit the floor.
He... wasn't quite sure what to think. She caught him, yes... but he decided it was in his best interest to hold onto her arm. Just in case.
"Aren't you smooth." She teased, recklessly.
Well, at least that was in his favor. Regardless of exactly what had happened regarding his memories, he did remember one thing. Arms hooked together, he was able to pull her down and use her center of gravity over his hip to flip her onto the floor beside him.
That was actually quite the unfortunate surprise--only in the fact that it surprised her. She was able to recover remarkably fast, getting her feet underneath and balanced as if for a fistfight.
She'd gotten up at least two full seconds before he had. That much... worried him. Almost enough to dissolve his playful mood... almost. Unfortunately, he was just feeling too good. He mimicked her stance, that goddamned cocky grin coming back. "So this is how it's gonna be, huh?"
She really could do little more than laugh at the whole situation--until he made a mocking punch-jab for her. She caught it and used his sloppy, unexpecting momentum against him.
He stared up from his soft landing on the floor. It was a good thing that no one else was there to see this...
"Is this what we're going to be doing all night?" Jack grinned as she suddenly came into his range of vision from above, quite aware of how that question could be taken. And, perhaps, looking to gain the upper hand by making him uncomfortable. Hey, some situations required dirty fighting.
"Only if we're lucky." Came the unplanned response. Well, seeing as how it didn't look like he was going to get the upper hand physically... "So. How have you been?"
"Absolutely aggravated." She answered honestly, electing to sit cross-legged beside him. "I just can't figure it out."
Well, he had asked. The meaning of her words was instantly understood because he'd been thinking the same thing right after stasis had cleared--the why's. The same frustratingly illogical why's that she'd no doubt combed through with no clear answers. But... there was more than that... "I don't know what memories are real."
She nodded, managing to throw her attention across the room for a moment in thought. Wow did moods change quickly around there. "Time will tell."
The cavernous nature of the comment made him sit up. "You think?"
"Nothing else will help." She remained staring out into the room for a moment, almost as though she were trying to put thoughts away.
And he noticed. "What?" She looked absolutely relaxed there on the floor. As if nothing could bother her if it tried. But he'd learned it was more of a... of an internal feeling rather than a visual signal. She still remembered her training in body language, apparently.
Meeting his gaze in an almost lazy fashion, she supposed there was just no reason to pretend she could hide anything anymore. "I'm kind of wondering who the real 'pawn' is, here."
Those words were... quite terrifying for a reason he couldn't begin to fathom. "As in?"
"As in..." she gazed out into nothingness again for a moment, gathering her thoughts. "We both got fucked by 'the system'. I just wonder how much damage I've done without knowing it."
His throat felt quite suddenly dry. "Does it really matter?" No more guilt, Jack...
"No, not really." She responded as honestly as she could. "Curiosity, that's all."
It took him a few seconds to realize that yes, he could attempt to offer her comfort without it being misconstrued. There was nothing left to interpret in the wrong light--
But there was an interruption. Another chime. At the door. That door. Oh, dammit.
Not that it was unexpected, in the grand scheme of things. Fucking "grand scheme".
Silence. Neither of them really wanted to invite anything that would undoubtedl shatter that small moment... but another chime more or less reminded them of their duty. Fucking duty.
With a grunt, Julian stood. Hey, it was his quarters. And he pretty much knew who must be at that door.
Jack didn't really get around to standing... but let loose an incredibly (and surprisingly) mild sound of frustration. "Yes, Commander? What horrible thing has happened this time?"
Pheta looked only quite pleased to have interrupted a "moment"--but only in an almost friendly sort of way. Regardless of her expression, she carried an announcement with a great deal of weight. "There is an empty ship circling a nearby moon that might be of great interest."
An eerie feeling of deja-vu accompanied her announcement... with a rather dark afterthought.