“Welcome back aboard,” Ophelia said, her voice coming in clearly over the communicator.
“Thanks,” Kat replied. “Any word on Allison yet?”
“Paul and Lucy are operating on her,” Ophelia answered. “I haven’t gotten any updates since they arrived in Medical. Kat, meet me on the bridge. Leon and Farah, you’re free to do whatever you like, for the moment.”
“I’m on my way,” Kat said.
She hurried to the bridge, glancing at the door to medical as she went. Both Grace and Yuri were waiting outside.
“You wanted to see me?” Kat asked.
“That’s right,” Ophelia said. “I’d like you to start going over the files we got from the enemy ship. Look for anything that could be of use, anything altered, anything that tells us why we were targeted.”
“No problem,” Kat said. She worked in silence for a while. “Hey, Ophelia, do you think she’ll be okay?”
Ophelia paused before answering. “I honestly don’t know. I hope so. She may love joking around a bit too much, but she’s a valued member of the crew and a hell of a friend.” There was silence for a while as Kat continued her work and Ophelia piloted the Cerberus away. “You know,” Ophelia said. “Lucy didn’t want her on the crew at first. She thought she’d be an undisciplined troublemaker. But I liked her immediately. She had a ready smile, a charm to her. I convinced Lucy to give her a month. At the end of that, Lucy had to admit I’d chosen well. She may be a goof, but she’s also loyal, good-hearted and hard working, when she needs to be.”
“She certainly loves to tease me,” Kat stated. “At first, it took some getting used to. Especially when she set up that device to play an alert when I was a couple minutes into my bath. But I can’t say I mind it any more. She doesn’t go too far or mean any harm. I also can’t deny that the ship is livelier when she’s around. Maybe I should tell her that when she’s well enough.”
“She’ll never let you forget it,” Ophelia said. “But, it will mean a lot to her.”
“I’m surprised to see you out here,” Leon said, looking at Grace. “I thought you didn’t like Allison.”
“I don’t dislike her,” Grace said. “Not even remotely. I mean, I let her drop by to play with Wolfie on an almost daily basis. It’s just fun to take the piss out of her on occasion and to scare her by hitting something close to her with a wrench. She knows I wouldn’t seriously hurt her.”
“Allison has referred to you as her ‘friendly rival’ on more than one occasion,” Yuri stated. “She has speculated that if you had not been seeing Miss Jilani when I became a member of the crew you would have likely fought her for my affections. If only to spite her.”
“Oh please,” Grace said. “I don’t chase after women just to get to someone else. I’d have to really like you.”
“I was under the impression that you did really like me,” Yuri stated. “Has our friendship existed solely in my imagination?”
“No… I mean… like you romantically,” Grace said.
“I was cognizant of that fact,” Yuri stated. “I was attempting to make a joke.”
“Hard to tell with you,” Grace said. “Still, you’ve started making jokes. Allison’s really rubbed off on you.”
“She has become the most important person in any universe to me,” Yuri said. A good half hour passed in silence. “She will be repaired, will she not?”
“Paul will save her!” Leon declared, confidently. “If anyone can, he can. Besides, I’ve still got to get her back for all the jokes she’s pulled on me. Especially that one where she replaced my hand held with a broken one and made me think all my data was fried.”
Grace laughed. “I remember that. You thought the love ballad you’d spent months writing for my brother was lost forever. And then she did a dramatic reading of it over the intercom.”
“I do not recall that,” Yuri said.
“That was before you’d joined,” Grace said. “It was shortly before we recruited Farah.”
“She never really pulled pranks on me,” Farah said. “She’s just teased me a bit. I wonder, does she not like me?”
“She is concerned that you will be sensitive,” Yuri said. “She has expressed a desire to preserve her friendship with you and avoid hurting you emotionally.”
“I’m not that frail,” Farah said. “I can take a joke!”
“You should pull a joke on her when she’s better,” Grace suggested. “I guarantee, she’ll get you back.”
“Ooh, good idea,” Farah said. “I just need to think of something good.”
“I’ll help,” Grace offered. “We’ll make it a team effort. Assuming that Yuri doesn’t warn her.”
“Allison enjoys pranks,” Yuri said. “Whether she is having them pulled on her or she is pulling them on someone else. I will not ruin her enjoyment.”
They waited outside of medical, talking off and on. The hours went by. Finally, Paul’s voice came over the communication system. He sounded tired.
“Ophelia,” he said.
“Paul,” Ophelia’s voice answered. “What’s the word? How…”
“Allison Aiza,” Paul’s voice interrupted. “Time of death, 02:47. I’m so sorry.”