The Crew Who Came in From the Cold: 15

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crew who came in from the cold

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Kathleen & Kelley

As Eitan followed the others into Satsuke’s office, the General slipped around her desk, where she remained standing. As soon as the Errant crew ranged in front of her, she held a hand out to John, who passed over the cipín Pascal had given him.

She wasted no time twisting the stick open, and by the time Colonel Baek-Tenjin took his place to her right, was engrossed in the message, nothing in her expression indicating what she might be reading. 

Then again, as the commander of Special Operations, Kimo Satsuke would likely have exquisite control. 

No doubt Galileo Kane—a telepath of great ability, as well as Eitan’s old lover—would have challenged that control. 

Then again, Leo was exactly the sort of telepath that gave sensitives a bad name. Though, in the end, Leo’s constant delving into other people’s thoughts had exacted a price, in the form of a mental breakdown from which Eitan doubted the other man would ever recover. 

All of which meant that, as much as Eitan might wish to know what was in the message General Satsuke read—and why that message had led to Conn’s death—he would never attempt a glimpse into the general’s thoughts. 

No matter that, for the first time in his life, such a thing might be possible.  

* * *

The Errant was once again aloft, and on a heading towards Epsilon, when Eitan slipped past the quiet galley, the deserted training room, and into the empty infirmary.

None of this was unusual, but, after over a week of carrying passengers, ‘ship felt somewhat hollow. 

While Kallik and their party had been aboard, there was almost always someone wandering the third deck, either making a cup of tea, or searching through the lounge for a book. 

And Lakshmay, with her damaged leg, had used the training room for daily physical therapy.

Now, with only the four Errant crew aboard, there was suddenly much more space. 

More quiet. 

More time to think. 

What had happened to Conn, back in Adidas? 

Why had he turned against the Colonies?

And what, in the name of the First Landers was in the cipín that Rory had found?

“Treading a flowerless meadow,” he told himself, heading for the cabinet where Rory stowed the suture kits.

“What is a flowerless meadow?” Jagati asked, striding easily into the room. 

Eitan looked over his shoulder. “I thought you were on laundry rota?”

“The wash is running,” she said with a grimace. “But it looks like I missed a shirt.” She nodded at his, which was speckled with red-brown dots. “What happened?” 

“I may have gotten careless loading up the HBB crawler,” Eitan said, pulling out one of the packs, noting they were down to five, which meant another item to add to the supply list. “Pulled a few stitches.” 

“Ouch,” she sympathized. “And you didn’t grab Rory to help?” 

“He is communing with his least favorite engine pod,” Eitan said, then added, “and you know John is at the helm, and I thought you were busy.” 

She looked at him, then at his left arm, opened her mouth, seemed to think again, then spoke. “It’s not that I don’t know you’ve stitched yourself up, in the past, but it’ll go faster and hurt less if you let someone else do the needful.”  

Then she held out her hand.

Eitan considered that—because she was not wrong, but… “How did you know I’ve had to give myself stitches?” Which, yes, he had, and under far less comfortable circumstances. 

Even as he recalled one of those circumstances, a bead of sweat formed on Jagati’s forehead, and the pain and fever Eitan had experienced, in a small hut outside of Domino were echoed in her eyes. 

Then she let out a hiss and, a heartbeat later, the shutters dropped as she fixed her internal shields in place, which reminded Eitan to likewise fix his own.

In the quiet of the sickbay, the two sensitives eyed each other. 

“This,” he said, dropping the suture pack into Jagati’s waiting hand, “could be a problem.”

“Right…right,” Jagati nodded, huffing out a breath.  Her face scrunched up.  “Maybe it’s just that my shields weren’t strong enough, and…the woo is getting wooier.”

Eitan’s lip twitched at her description. “Neuro-psi scholars throughout Fortune should adopt your terminology,” he decided, then in a practiced move, hauled his shirt up over his head with one hand, dropping it onto the cot as he sat down. 

At her pointed look, he unbuckled the dagger, as well.

“Dude,” she said, setting the kit on the cot at his side, “that’s like, four out of eight stitches. You didn’t notice when it was happening?”

He looked down at his side and grimaced. “It was the tinned salmon that did it, I think.” 

“Of course.” She grumbled something about vat grown sushi and went to the sink to wash her hands. 

“Still,” Eitan said as she went through the disinfecting routine, “you are not wrong, about the… wooieness?” He smiled as she glared over her shoulder. “What I mean is that we seem to be connecting more frequently, and more deeply, than when I first joined the crew.” 

Jagati grunted, snagged the rolling stool from its nook with her foot, and settled next to his bunk before opening the kit. “Weird,” she admitted, tearing open the disinfectant. “Weirder that, before you came aboard, I didn’t even know I was a sensitive. I just thought what I felt—the sensations—were me interpreting what I saw, heard—you know, the standard five.” She pulled on a pair of gloves and started to clean the reopened wound. “Then you show up and suddenly I’m not just sensing a random aching knee, it’s like a freaking Fujian opera out there. And, and,” she continued, opening the tube of numbing gel, “now it goes in reverse, too, so other people can get whacked by my emotions.” She applied the gel—as carefully as if she could feel the sting—and glared at Eitan.

“So you’re saying it is my fault?” he asked.

She grimaced, unwrapped the forceps, and pulled out the broken stitches. “Well, it wasn’t an issue before.” 

“True,” he said, ignoring the pull of the suture she tugged free. “But it is the same with me, and I have spent time with other sensitives in the past,” he added, as the ghost of Leo whispered between them. “But in those days, I was able to keep my waking mind shielded.”

“Maybe it’s not that weird,” Jagati said, moving to the next broken suture. “Maybe it’s just two people who don’t trust people—“

“That would be you and I?” Eitan guessed.

“Smart guy,” she muttered, dropping the wire onto the tray while Eitan grabbed a gauze to pat away the bleeding. “Thanks. Yes, that would be us. We’re both—careful about who we let in, right?” 

“Hmm,” he agreed, watching her hands, steady as ever, as she pulled out the last two sutures. 

“Maybe,” she ventured, dropping the last wire onto the tray, “there’s something about when we do actually trust someone else, and the someone else is also a sensitive, that our shields just don’t—” She paused, inserted a fresh suture, used the forceps to tie it off, “—shield so much.”

“Perhaps…” he said, then waited for her to insert the next suture. “But I’m not sure that is all.” She held out a hand and he gave her the gauze. “I think—no, I know,” he said as she patted at the wound, “that I am sensing more from other people, as well. Conn was not the first, for me.” Her head popped up, and he dipped his head in understanding. “It isn’t much, nor all the time. But, especially when you are nearby, I am sensing fragments of other people’s thoughts, even without contact. I could never do that, before.”

“Like, what, I’m some smogging amplifier?”

“Or I am,” he said. “As you said, you hadn’t any idea you were a sensitive, before we met.” 

“Well, hells.” Jagati rocked back in the stool, her eyes narrowed in thought. “I can’t decide if this is really not good, or if we could cause a ton of trouble with it…but, you know, good trouble.”

Eitan wondered about that, as well. 

But also, he knew—too well—that good trouble could turn, quick as a viper, into bad. 

Even thinking this, unwanted memories of heat, burning, and blood began to rise.

But under, or over, those memories, he heard a voice—deep, rough, and unknown to him—and with that voice echoes of anger, pain, fear…

“Whoa!” Jagati’s head jerked and she dropped the gauze. 

“Forgive me,” he said, looking away. 

“Same,” she said, after letting out a measured breath, then taking another and releasing it. 

He waited until another suture was complete before he looked down. “I won’t ask about yours, if you don’t ask about mine.”

Jagati’s head was down, prepping the last suture, but that had her looking up. “Deal,” she said, the familiar gleam back in her eyes. “But if this is going to keep happening…” 

 “I think,” he said, filling in the silence, “short of drugging ourselves into a stupor, we need to find someone with more experience and ask for help. Or,” he paused, let out a breath, “I could leave. If it becomes too uncomfortable for you.”

“Don’t be a mammoth turd,” Jagati said, her voice almost a growl.  “I worked way too hard to get you on the crew to let you go, and really,” she added, “we are a team. No one of us is more important than the others.”

“I’m not so certain John would agree with that last,” Eitan said, then paused as Jagati poised her hand for a flick right above the latest suture.  “I will do it,” she threatened. Then she let out a loud breath, “Plus, think how much fun we could have if we can figure out how to use this, whatever it is. Like, we could make people laugh at the end of Hamlet…”

“That would be a good trick,” Eitan agreed, privately—very privately—thinking that Conn, as he’d been, would have liked Jagati, very much.


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