Inside Ray's quarters, Dr. Tsosi had just finished knitting the first of Ray's ribs—a process that was exactly as painful as Ray recalled—when the door slid aside to reveal Eineen Marifanne, escorting another Rasalkan.
"Viel!" Jessyn practically flew from Ray’s side to greet the pair. “Captain,” she added, with a hand to the heart for Eineen, whose usual cool demeanor appeared a few degrees warmer as she led Viel Invera, another adopted member of House Szado, into the room.
"The Lady heard of Mr. Slater's injuries," Eineen said, her eyes flicking towards the bed.
"What's going on?" Tsosi asked under her breath.
"What she said," Mo added.
"Forgive the intrusion," Viel turned her blind gaze in Tsosi’s direction. "I was sent to assist with Mr. Slater's healing."
"If you want to give me a run down on his injuries, Jessyn already has that covered," Tsosi pointed out, though Ray thought her expression more interested than defensive.
"Viel will be able to do for more than that," Jessyn promised, taking Viel's free hand as she added, "Mi esprieza, I have missed you.”
The woman she called sister smiled in Jessyn’s direction. "And I, you," Viel said. "I have so many stories of my visit to Sol system,” she added. “But let us first see to your beloved."
At the use of the endearment, Eineen let out a sound that was a cross between a cough and a growl.
"I mean, your patron," Viel amended, her dark skin flushing at the same time as Jessyn’s, while both curly heads tipped in unison as they accepted Eineen’s warning.
If Eineen were Terran, Ray expected her eyes would have been rolling by now, but the Rasalkan security chief managed to maintain her chill. "If you are comfortable, here," she said to Viel, "I will return to the Lady."
"I will be well with my sister," Viel promised, taking Jessyn's offered elbow.
"When you are finished here,” Eineen said, her gaze moving from Jessyn to Tsosi, "Lady Fayla would like to speak with both of you."
"Of course," Jessyn said, though Tsosi looked less enthusiastic.
Eineen, however, appeared to take Jessyn’s word as enough, and left the room.
In the brief moment the door was open, Ray could see the milling bodies of a handful of other ADs, Otto and Bader still standing outside his door, and Koz dashing across the deck.
He wondered what all was happening out there.
"I wouldn't mind speaking with this Lady, myself,” Tsosi grumbled, but watched with interest as Jessyn led Viel to Ray's bedside. "So, how do you want to do this?" she asked the healer.
Viel eased down next to Ray and he watched her blank eyes as her fingers brushed over his forehead, then his throat,
"I believe I can best handle the concussion and tracheal damage, if you would like to continue with the bone work," Viel offered.
"And how to you intend to 'handle' them?" Tsosi asked.
It was then that Ray noticed Mo wasn’t questioning Viel.
Then again, his sister had been with Jessyn, helping to pull him from the edge of death, so chances were she was less likely to question any claims a Rasalkan made.
"Like this," Viel said simply, laying a palm over Ray's forehead, at which point he began to feel a distinct lassitude overtaking him.
"Wait," he said, or croaked, as the stillness crept over his limbs—much too much like the stillness he'd felt in those last moments with Rikert.
"It is well," Jessyn promised, taking his hand from the other side of the bed. "I am with you," she said. I will always be with you, he felt her promise, and so, at last, knowing she spoke the truth, he let himself slide under.
Ray woke suddenly, but easily.
One moment, he was drifting, a speck of light in a vast sea of stars, the next he was awake, in his own bed, enjoying a remarkable absence of pain.
The room, he noted immediately, was much less crowded than it had been when he’d gone under, with only Viel and Harry—and when had he come in?—standing near the door, talking quietly
"Mr. Aliombe is much improved," Viel was saying to Harry. "I was able to heal the physical damage he suffered at Neishi’s hands, and Diotessa Quaila remained at the hospital, to help him recover from the psychic traumas."
Aliombe, Ray knew, meant Sean Aliombe, a man who had once been Harry's friend and partner. Until his time in a Judon POW station broke Aliombe and sent him over the edge into madness… and a second career as a criminal slicer named Gemini.
“Thank you." Harry said, his voice almost as rough as Ray's had been.
"Your friend is recovering," Viel said, laying a hand over Harry’s heart.
"I don't know that Sean thinks of me as a friend.”
“You think of him as such, which makes it true,” Viel pointed out. "But, in this case, I meant him." As she spoke, Viel turned towards Ray.
"Hey," Harry said, turning and favoring Ray with a smile that almost reached his eyes. “You look seventy percent less like shit. Sorry," he added to Viel, who grinned impishly.
"Thanks," Ray said—mostly to Viel—as he offered Harry a one finger salute at the exact same time the bedroom door opened to Mollin, who came rushing in, with Bader at his side.
Mollin noted Ray’s uplifted finger. “I see you're feeling better," he said before turning to the young healer. “Domina Viel,” he continued. “Lady Fayla is asking for you. If you would, our friend Callie will take you to her."
"Of course.” Viel turned to where Bader waited, looking a bit awestruck. "Callie is it? Such a happy name."
"My mother thought so, but she prefers the full version of my name—Calliope," Bader explained as she placed Viel's hand on her arm.
"Truly?" Viel asked as they walked out of the room. “I hope you will tell me your full name’s story.”
“Ah…sure?” Bader said.
Ray counted himself the most patient of men as he waited for the door to close behind the women before asking, “Where’s Jessyn?” of Harry, “And what’s got your feet on fire?” of Mollin.
“She’s with Fayla,” Harry said. “Making her report.”
“And Doyle's opened a transmission and won’t go away,” Mollin said at the same time. “I informed him you were seriously wounded, but he's chomping at the byte for a report."
"Bit," Ray corrected, wondering if Jessyn’s issues with Terran idioms was contagious. “And Doyle can wait until I've gotten a shower and a change of clothes. Or, any clothes,” he added, as he realized that sometime during the healing session, his gore-soaked clothing had been removed, and he felt a lot cleaner. He peaked under the sheets. “Huh,” he said.
“They’re sneaky that way,” Harry observed.
“Okay, so Doyle can wait until I get dressed,” Ray decided, starting to slide out of the bed.
“Since when do you care how you look when you're cooking up a good story to tell me?" Doyle asked.
"Jesus!" Ray, fell back on the mattress, yanking the covers in place as a full-body holo of Colonel Doyle himself popped in exactly the same spot Harry was occupying.
“Oops,” Harry said, and stepped aside.
“How did you get in here?” Ray asked, peering up and down.
“I persuaded your AI to open a holo in your room,” Doyle said, chewing on a cigar. “By the way, I like the upgrade. That last one had the personality of a wet blanket.”
Ray suddenly wished he were still unconscious. “About Dorothy—“
"Don't," Doyle withdrew the cigar and pointed it at Ray. "Do not tell me anything regarding your suddenly charming and very opinionated AI. In fact, don’t tell me anything that I’ll have to lie about, later.” He grimaced and popped the cigar back in his mouth as he added, “From the transmissions crossing between Libra and CFDoJ, I’m going to have enough trouble selling your after action report.”
“Okay,” Ray looked at Harry, who shrugged. “So does that mean you don’t want us to tell you that the Rasalkans now have every byte of data we gleaned from Libra, with the expectation of pursuing criminal charges against the ConFed for sapient trading in Rasalkan space?”
“Or that we brokered a deal with a Sapient Rights Committee undercover unit to initiate an audit of all regulations coming from the DoJ regarding AD restrictions?” Harry added.
“Or the two ex-GIES agents who supported the mission?”
“Don’t forget, you promised both of them jobs,” Harry said, helpfully. “Otto was pretty excited about that part.”
“Then there’s the bit with the Judon Kaij,” Mollin said, his eyes narrowing. “I’m still not sure what we’re doing with her.”
“Right,” Harry said. “Maybe we can beg Fayla to drop her off somewhere?”
All three men turned to their Control, in time to see Doyle’s cigar slide from his lips and, presumably, drop to the deck of his office.