A Sea of Stars - Ch. 19 - Traitor

              is
there
anything more terrible
than being betrayed
by a       man
that         you've
come            to call

friend


”… Adrian.” Lillian jerked straight up in her bed. For a second, she wavered between her dream of events years gone by and the disasters of the present day.

Immediately, the throbbing headache she thought she’d been rid of came rushing back. It felt even worse than it had she she’d first smashed into the floor…

She sat up again, ignoring the screaming pain in her head and side trying to force her back down. At least the pain in her side seemed to be somewhat controlled by a what felt like stiff bandages wrapped around her middle.

As she looked around, she saw that she was in the infirmary. There were only two other patients here now. The first was involved in the command structure–possibly navigation–judging by the color of jumpsuit laying neatly folded by the foot of her bed. But her face was bandaged and Lillian could tell for sure who she was, even if she had known her. In the other bed, on the other side of the navigator was…

“Quinn!” she yelled. She immediately tried to stand, first swinging her legs over the side of the bed. Some machine that had been sitting right beside her bed started beeping like mad, but she ignored it. She shifted her weight to stand… and promptly fell face first to the floor. She managed to take part of the blow on her hands and arms, but her head and side still screamed in protest.

As she lay there, whimpering slightly, she heard a commotion coming from the direction of the door. She saw feet running towards her but before her, the world went black. Her last thought before losing consciousness had a touch of anger to it: not again!

When she came to, she was back in her bed. This time, there were straps holding her arms and legs in place and another band carefully cinched over the bandages around her middle. They really don’t want me moving, do they? she thought to herself.

Her mind felt muddy and for a few minutes, all she did was stare at the ceiling. It took her those few minutes before her thoughts cleared up enough to remember what she was doing here. And why she was strapped down.

When she remembered, she jerked against her straps yet again, crying out. “Quinn! Adrian!” She strained to turn her head towards where’d she’d seen Quinn lying on the bed the last time she’d awoken.

“Aw, not a cry for me?” she heard Jacobs’ voice coming from behind her. She spun in place–as well as she could while strapped down–and payed for it with another burst of pain from her head. It was dulled somewhat though. Perhaps they’d finally gotten some of those drugs into her system. The ones people that visited the medics where always raving about.

She turned her head the rest of the way and saw Jacobs and Madeline sitting there in uncomfortable looking folding chairs. Despite Jacobs’ flippant tone, they both had concerned looks on their faces.

“I’d be a lot better if people stopped asking that.” She said it with just a touch of humor to be sure that they knew she wasn’t serious. At least not entirely serious.

Madeline did smile at that, just a little, but a moment later the concern was back in her face. “So. Do you want to tell us why you decided to go running across the infirmary with a bruised skull and half a dozen cracked ribs?”

Lillian’s mind flashed back. “Quinn!” she cried out.

“Quinn?” Both Jacobs and Madeline said it at the same time. Jacobs sounded slightly puzzled, but Madeline seemed to understand. She continued, “He’s fine. He was working in the kitchen when the power went out. In the dark, he managed to knock over one of the shelves. Wasn’t too bad though, so they let him go after you went…” There was a pause, as if she’d changed her mind about what she was going to say. “… after him.”

“Where is he now?”

“I’m sure he’s fine. I think he was going to the shuttle bay to help prep his suit.”

“Prep his suit?”

“Yeah. They’re going to go out in the shuttles over to the living quarters. See what they can see. But there’s only enough room for someone in a suit to get back in through the damaged section. I never would have guessed it, but Quinn has the training.” There was a slight lift at the end of her sentence. As if there was an unspoken ‘but’ hanging in the air between then.

Lillian waiting a second but when no but was immediately forthcoming, she asked instead. “But what?”

“But we don’t really have anyone else trained to use the suits correctly.”

“Sure we do. There’s Hans…” She paused. Had they heard from Hans?

Apparently there was some good news, because Jacobs face lit up for a second. It fell again, but not as far as she would have expected had the news been truly bad. “Not an option. We got the comms back, so we can talk to him. But he’s trapped in his room.”

“That’s some good news at least.”

“Sure. But no one’s figured out how to get the people trapped in their rooms back out. The seal on the door is the only thing keeping the air in.”

“How long do they have?”

“It varies, based on how close they are to the damage. The ones closest lost the most atmosphere before the system automatically sealed them off. A few were punctured entirely.” There was a moment of silence following that.

Lillian used the opportunity to try to wriggle out of the bands holding her to the table. It was hard to try to talk to Jacobs and Madeline strapped down as she was. And she wasn’t planning on trying to get up so quickly again. Not if she could help it.

Madeline noticed her struggling and shared a look with Jacobs. Whatever the look said, it must have involved helping Lillian loosen her restraints, because that’s exactly what they did–Madeline at her hands and Jacobs at her feet. They worked in continuing silence. A few minutes later, when they had all of the bands loosened, Lillian sat up on the bed. Her head still swam, but it wasn’t as bad as it had been. And her sides were wrapped tightly enough that they barely hurt at all.

She looked around and noticed that the navigator she’d seen earlier was the only other patient. She’d yet to see a medic since the one who’d diagnosed her through the blast doors–missed the ribs though. “Where’s the medical staff?”

Another look between the two of them. This time it was Jacobs who answered. “Only two of them survived. One was the medic you met earlier. I think he said his name was Jonathan?”

“And the other?”

“Prepping for surgery next door–Evelyn over there …” He gestured at the navigator. “… got flung around even worse than you did. Internal bleeding of some sort or another. He’s going to see what he can do about getting her patched up. Or at least stabilized.”

Something about what he’d said triggered a memory. Over there… Evelyn over there. Evelyn. Eve. “Eve.” She reached for her waist, but realized that she wasn’t wearing her jumpsuit any more. Instead she started looking around a bit frantically.

“Eve?” Jacobs said, the question clear in his voice.

“Lillian!” Madeline hissed at her, but looked around as well.

When Lillian didn’t reply, Madeline did for her. “We’ll explain later. First, have you seen Lillian’s jumpsuit?” She turned to Lillian, “And you have tried your comm?”

Lillian’s eyes lit up. Should have thought of that. “She’s normally listening even when I don’t try to contact her directly.”

“Who?” Jacobs sounded confused, but was looking at least.

Madeline turned on him. “Later I said,” she said, a touch stronger than she probably would have normally. He raised an eyebrow, but stayed quiet. To Lillian, “Do you know her id to send a message directly?”

“I don’t think she even has one.”

“But then everyone…”

“If you keep it general enough, it’ll be fine. There’s all sorts of chatter flying about now. I doubt anyone will even notice one more message.”

There was sense in that. The message Lillian queued up to send out to the entire ship was simple. “Eve, call me.” With a wave of her hand, it was off.

While she waited, Jacobs had found her jumpsuit and was bringing it over. There was a glimmer of hope. It looked like Eve’s shell was still attached. But why wasn’t she answering?

She picked up her jumpsuit and carefully took out the shell. She leaned close and whispered. “Eve. You there?” Still no response. But the glow blinking light she was starting to think of as Eve’s heartbeat was still going. It seemed slower than normal, but there really wasn’t any basis for comparison–probably it was just in her head.

Jacobs started to pen his mouth again, but at a glare from Madeline shut it again. I have to figure out how she’s doing that, Lillian thought.

To take her mind off Eve, she cast her mind back to what they’d been talking about before she realized that Eve was missing. It was getting easier. They’d been talking about sending people out to check on the living quarters.

“Who else do we have that’s trained to space walk?”

“Well…” Jacobs started, but trailed off without finishing.

“Me?”

“You’re the only other person in this section of the ship. We checked the crew records. You were certified back on the Daedalus.”

Her eyebrows raised. An entire ship full of deep space and they only had two that could actually go out into space. It was like an ocean liner whose crew didn’t know how to swim. Not there there were any ocean liners any more. At least none where the water was anywhere near warm enough to survive swimming in.

“Well then I have to get down there.”

“That’s actually part of the reason that we’re here,” Jacobs started. Madeline continued for him with, “Jonathan–the medic that was working on you…”

“The other one they’ve got suiting up.”

“Right. Quinn really didn’t think you’d be up for it. But when he saw how desperate we are for people, he said that he’d leave the decision up to you. The medics wrapped you up as well as he could before he left, so you should be fine. But it’s going to be rough.”

“Well, we really don’t have a choice, do we?”

“We could just send Quinn,” Madeline suggested.

“No,” Lillian replied, her training coming back to her. “Spacewalks have to be done in pairs. At least. It’d be better if we had three.”

“But we don’t,” Jacobs countered. “There was some talk about asking for volunteers even who don’t have the training.” He sounded as if he wished that they had asked for volunteers.

“Can’t do that either. It’s dangerous enough out there, even for people that know what they’re doing. One wrong move, and you’re going to have a looong time to contemplate exactly how wrong it was.”

Madeline shuddered at that, but she was out of ideas.

“And as you said it, if we don’t send people out, we won’t know how bad it is over there. And the people trapped in their rooms don’t have the time.” As talked, she was already swinging her legs over the side of the bed. She moved much more slowly than she had the last time she had been awake. She definitely didn’t want to make that mistake again.

“Hans is over there.” Jacobs said simply.

Lillian nodded. She’d already decided that it was what needed to be done. Carefully she stood. She felt a breeze and realized that she wasn’t wearing much more than a hospital gown and the bandages around her ribs. She sat again, closing the back of her gown as she did.

“A little privacy?”

Madeline smiled at that and even Jacobs smirked. He handed over her jumpsuit he’d been holding and both turned aside. She wanted to go to a more private room to change, but she just didn’t have the time. So she shucked off her gown and donned the jumpsuit as quickly as she dared. As she did, another glimmer of memory was starting to surface.

Two men. Talking. But not here. Not on the Borealis. On the Daedalus.

Madeline jumped at the sound and spun around. “I wish you would stop doing that.” Jacobs didn’t jump, but he spun almost as quickly. He looked a little surprised and perhaps a little disappointed to see Lillian fully dressed so quickly.

She started to apologize, but time was too short. Instead she said, “Adrian is the other Sympathizer.”

Both of them stared at her. “How do you…” “What do you mean?”

“While I was out, I was dreaming about my time on the Daedalus. I remembered when I’d seen Jenkins, but I also remembered an argument I’d over heard. Jenkins was arguing with Adrian. As quickly as she could, she outlined what she remembered for the two of them.

Jacobs looked skeptical, but Madeline’s face grew darker with each word. “You don’t think they were looking for…” she started.

“I do.”

“Eve,” they said together.

“Seriously. Who is Eve?”

They both turned to him, considering. After a bit, Madeline turned to Lillian. “I think you should tell him.”

“We really don’t have time.”

“Abbreviated version?”

“On the way.” She started for the door, the other two falling in beside her. “But what about Adrian?”

“He’s listed among the missing,” Madeline said. “No one’s seen him in any of the three sections that we have access to and we haven’t been able to raise him in his room.”

“Thank goodness for small favors…”

As they walked, Lillian gave Jacobs the shortest short version she could think of about Eve. They hadn’t know her long, but the silver briefcase was a long enough story all by itself. Luckily, he knew some of that. A few minutes later, when they were closing on the shuttle bay, Jacobs had gone from confusion to skepticism to outright disbelief finally to a grudging sort of acceptance. It was a wild story, Lillian had to admit that much, but he knew as well as she that she wouldn’t be lying to him. Not here, not now of all days.

When they got to the shuttle bay, they saw Jonathan already suited up. Another suit had been prepped, but it didn’t look like anyone had actually expected Lillian to show up. When the small crowd that had gathered saw her walking through the door–wincing when she breathed, but only a little now–they cheered. But it was a curiously subdued cheer. Everyone knew just how much was at stake.