“Safe,” Ophelia sighed. “At last.”
“great,” Grace muttered. “Now I just have to go back and repair my ship all over again. You are way too rough with her.”
“Wasn’t much choice,” Ophelia said. “I wouldn’t worry, though. the old girl’s been through worse both before you got here and since.”
“Oh, be nice to her, Heart,” Lucy said. “She’s had a rough day. First we wrest Farah away from her for duty. Then she has to do rushed alterations to the Radiant Healer and now she’s got to work really long hours to repair the Cerberus & the Healer.”
“Point taken,” Ophelia said. “Sorry, Grace, but bear with it for now, okay?”
“We’re getting a transmission from Kat on the Blazer,” Farah reported. “I’m patching her through.”
“Ophelia,” Kat said. “How’s the Cerberus?”
“Damaged but still space-worthy,” Ophelia answered. “But you knew that already. So, what do you need?”
“How isss Elijah?” Ussie’s voice hissed. “Sstill alive, I hope?”
“He was taken to Medical,” Ophelia answered. “His injuries don’t seem to be severe but our Doctor is examining him thoroughly to be certain.”
“You will inform me when hisss condition isss better known?” Ussie asked.
“We will,” Ophelia answered. “I promise. just keep looking after your passengers in the meantime”
“I know my dutiesss,” Ussie said. “Don’t worry about that.”
His eyes opened. It took him a moment to realise that he was alive. Another couple seconds to remember why that was amazing.
“That was dangerous,” he muttered.
“I’ll say it was,” Paul said. “You’re lucky to be alive especially when relying on a tractor beam to pick you up during a high speed pass and drag you to safety.”
“Ouch,” Elijah said. “I suppose that you must be the Doctor?”
“Doctor Paul Albrecht, at your service,” Paul introduced himself. “Tell me, how do you feel? Any discomfort?”
“My stomach hurts,” Elijah answered.
“Not surprising,” Paul said. “The tractor beam improvements made it possible to carry you safely, but it certainly wasn’t a pleasant or easy ride.” He handed Elijah some powder. “Drink this, it’ll help settle your stomach.”
“Thanks,” Elijah said. “I like your goatee, by the way.”
Leon loomed over Elijah and stared at him.
“That… That’s a scary look,” Elijah said. “Why are you looking at me like that? Did I wreck something of yours or something?”
“Too close to Paul,” Leon muttered. “Too close to my Paul.”
“I could back up as far as I can in this bed,” Elijah offered. “Don’t know if I can get up yet.”
“You shouldn’t,” Paul said, a professional strictness in his voice. “Sorry about Leon. He gets like that.” He turned to Leon. “Fuzzy, I’m consulting with a patient. There is literally nothing for you to be concerned about.”
“I know that,” Leon said. “And you know that but does he know that?”
“I feel you, Dude,” Elijah said. “Don’t worry. I just wanna be friends is all. Like, totally platonically. I don’t have that kind of interest.”
Leon looked him over. “Fine. I’ll believe you.”
“There you go,” Paul said. “Pl;ease tell Ophelia that Mister Tawaig’s condition is stable and he’s going to be just fine. I’m going to meet Allison in the shuttle bay.”
“All right,” Leon said.
“Going somewhere?” Elijah asked.
Paul nodded. “You’ll be fine but you’ve got quite a few passengers, some of whom went through some very severe stuff before you took them aboard. I’m going to check their conditions and do everything I can.”
Elijah nodded. “You’re a good dude, Doc.”
“It’s nothing special,” Paul said. “It’s just my duty as a doctor.”
The Cerberus made her way back to Earth. With Grace spending her time working on the repairs that she could do from the inside, and Paul spending his time on the Blazer helping the former slaves.
Leon was on the bridge with Farah. “How long’s it been since you saw Grace?” he asked.
“I saw her earlier today,” Farah said. “But we didn’t get to talk much.”
“At least you’ve gotten to see her a bit,” Leon said. “Paul’s been over on that ship with our only shuttle attached to its only docking point.”
“Sorry,” Farah said. “But we should reach Earth tomorrow. I just know you’ll see him then.”
Leon nodded. “And, in a way, I’m luckier than you. Grace has to work her tuchus off every time one of the fighters or the ship gets damaged. Paul only really gets busy when one of us gets hurts.”
“Tuchus?” Farah asked. “I… I don’t know that word.”
“I learned it from Paul,” Leon said. “It’s some old ass slang term for the bum.”
“Oh, okay,” Farah said. “Hey, Leon.”
“What’s up?” Leon asked.
“What’s going to happen to all of them?” Farah asked.
“Lucy is looking into colonies and worlds that are sympathetic and will provide sanctuary,” Leon answered. “She asked Elijah what he was going to do but, I guess his plan was just to drop them off at a refugee centre.”
“I hope we can find some place good and they’ll go on to have happy, full lives,” Farah said.
“Some of them will,” Leon said. “But life isn’t so convenient that it can become happy or full for everyone. Shit will happen and some will end up miserable or die young.”
“That’s a really sad way to think,” Farah said.
Leon shrugged. “I’m a realist. But, chances are all of them will have better lives than they would have. So… go us.”
“Go us!” Farah laughed.