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Chapter 38:- Aftermath

 


The drone of engines sang to her for days. Murray ignored them. She ignored the footsteps in the hall outside, and feigned sleep each time her sister wandered in to check on her, to leave food that she never ate or to try to coax her out of bed.

The hollow feeling in her chest refused to fade. The void in her stomach gargled in protest, but it was her bladder that eventually drove her to her feet. She’d drunk next to nothing, so the bodily intrusion seemed fairly unjust. Still, a persistent pressure assured her that her morning period, at least the horizontal portion, had come to an end.

Murray groaned and rolled to a seated position. The Slug One’s engines hummed, vibrating her narrow cot. She’d have guessed she’d slept at least four days, but she looked around for her hand-held to get a more definitive answer.

She couldn’t find it. Her pack rested on the floor beside her cot, but her computer failed to turn up inside it. She checked the slim storage locker, even looked for the device in the tangle of bedcovers. She found no trace of it.

Zora. Murray felt a tickle of irritation, but it barely registered. She didn’t remember much of the rioting, couldn’t say how she’d found her way back to Bull’s nor give any details about their departure from Damascus, but she remembered telling Zora where her hand-held was. Zora must have fetched it.

Well, she needed the lav anyway. She could stop by Zora’s room, possibly find something to eat. Her stomach growled agreement. Life, it seemed, would continue despite her intentions. She eyed the door and took a shaky breath. Some life would continue.

She used the facilities, wandered toward the bridge and stopped short of entering. Not ready yet. That was one empty chair she didn’t feel like facing. No answer at Zora’s door, and a common area empty except for a mountain of Earth Burger wrappers and the scent of stale coffee. That left the cargo bay. She shuffled her way to the back of the ship.

She leaned around the slime trail and triggered the door, but when the big metal panel slid aside she couldn’t close it fast enough. She rested against the wall for a moment and tried to force that particular image from her mind. 

She’d have to try the bridge. She retraced her steps, checked her sister’s room again on the way past. No one answered her knock. She could just go back to bed, but it seemed like a lot of wasted effort. If she took a step in that direction, a step backwards, it would only be harder to get up next time. Like it or not, there had to be a next time. She couldn’t hide in bed forever.

She stood outside the doors for longer than she’d ever admit. When she finally entered the room, she found it empty. The view screen showed a field of stars, and the console lighting cast a faint blue glow across the controls, the mesh flooring and the chairs.

Murray held her breath and crossed the space. She touched the back of the pilot’s seat, ran her hand along the padding. She exhaled and closed her eyes while her fingers pressed into the seat. The console beeped softly as the autopilot made subtle course corrections. She let the room and the tactile feel of the empty chair envelop her. She let the tears come again. 

She sat in his chair. Her legs curled underneath her, and her head settled back against the neck rest. She watched the stars drift, checked the console and noted their course. Interesting.

The small computer panel mirrored the view screen. Murray tapped at the buttons and brought up the recent files. Damascan revolution. Galactic investigation of illegal trafficking. She sighed and stared at the headlines. The title, Damascan Saviors, marched above a picture of Leer and Zora standing triumphantly on the steps of the detention facility.

So Rook’s murder had backfired. The people rose to Leer’s cause, and the old government toppled like a paper tower. Maybe she should have cared. Rook might have approved, even felt proud of the fact. She clicked off the screen and closed her eyes again. It didn’t make him any less dead.

Murray heard Zora enter, but she didn’t turn. Footsteps clicked across the mesh, and the second chair creaked as her sister sat down. The autopilot beeped again.

“You’re out of bed.”

“Barely.”

“Mur, Im so--.”

“Don’t say it, Zor.” She didn’t want it. Sorry wouldn’t change anything either. “Your mollusks are mating.”

“Yeah. I saw. Wow, huh?”

Murray swiveled to face her, but she forgot all about slug sex when she saw her sister’s face. “Why are you green, Zora?”

“I’ve been kind of sick.”

“You look like--.”

“I’m pregnant.”

The controls beeped a response. Murray stared at Zora’s pale, blotchy face. Her hair was un-brushed and her shirt looked like it had caught a little of the most recent sick.

“Oh my god.”

“I know.” Zora’s eyes teared up--impossible, genuine tears.

“There are ways to prevent that, Zor. You know?”

“I’m not stupid, Mur. They don’t always work. Different chemistries. I don’t know.” Zora practically sobbed the protest.

Murray’s universe had shattered. Her heart would probably never mend, but she found herself suppressing a persistent urge to giggle.

“It’s not funny, Mur.” Zora read her mind.

“I know. It’s just.” She imagined Zora raising a child—a sobering thought—but the image of her actually raising a child, changing diapers, wiping snot and doused in spit-up. The chuckle escaped. It bubbled into an all out laugh, swelled into wave after wave of hysteria.

“Bitch.” Zora said. She crossed her arms, but the trace of a grin brightened the dark shadows under her eyes.

“So.” Murray caught her breath and wiped the tears away. “Do we know who the father is, or will we have to wait and count its little limbs?”

“That’s not funny.”

“It actually is.” She let her humor settle, allowed a moment of laughter to promise at least some proof that life would, in fact, continue. No loss could stop it for long. “Hey, Zor.” She closed her eyes and leaned into the indentation where Rook’s body should have rested. “Have you seen my hand-held?”

Silence answered, and a seed of concern wriggled across her thoughts. If Zora had left it--what? She had very little anger remaining her, and no fight at all. Still, she peeked across at the guilty expression on her sister’s face and sighed.

“You left it behind?”

“No.”

“Then where is it?”

“Oh, Mur! It’s awful.”

“It usually is.”

“But I’m in real trouble.”

“You usually are.”

“And I really need your help.”

The universe had settled back to normal. It was too fast. She wasn’t ready for routine, for moving onward. She debated denying Zora, but the new emergency, whatever it was, would be something to do at least. She sat up and nodded, folded her hands in her lap and faced Zora’s tears—only half phony by her best guess. “Tell me, Zora. What is it this time?”

 
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