They treated her with far too much respect, but she didn’t mind at the moment. There were too many secrets in her head at the moment. The navy seemed to be clueless about the Advocacy’s involvement with the Vanduul. She gave them every detail she could remember from the Horde ship, but when she came to the fight, she hesitated. Most likely they knew that she had the implants still, since her father knew, so she told them truth. She had them because the Advocacy wanted her back, and that even her brother visited upon the same day every year to ask for her return. They wanted to know why she refused and why she had quit, but she just smiled and asked politely for them to stick to the relevant issues. They spent most time on the Lady and the relationship there. Did she like her? Would she go visit the Lady? Did she have any way to contact her? At one point she half expected them to recruit her and tell her to go spy for them.
When they finally came to the end and her miraculous escape in a civilian ship, she was so tired that she had to ask them repeat a question three times. They asked about the strange occurrence, but she didn’t lie when she said she had no clue what happened. The missile had also been on her screen and then disappeared. When they finally asked about her health, she said that she felt fine and even forgot herself for a moment the status of her implants and her changing DNA. The ambassador was dead and Aish in a coma. No one else knew about her condition and for a little more time that was quite ok.
They thanked her for her cooperation and led her back to her father’s private quarters.
He was sitting in the sofa, reading some reports when she entered, but got up as soon as he saw her.
“Hi pumpkin, you ok?”
“Yeah, just tired.”
“You know they had to do that as soon as possible.”
Emma fell into a chair that looked much too comfortable to be allowed on a military ship.
“They were too nice, but don’t let them know I told you that.”
“They have read your file. They weren’t nice, they just knew the limits of their influence with someone with your training.”
“We do know what we are doing, you know.”
She felt the blush starting again. The tone of her father said that he knew exactly what she had been thinking. The blushing frustrated her enough that she found no words to say. Her father regarded her with that look of his.
“Do you have anything to add to the report?”
“Why do you ask?”
“We both know that you were not really qualified for this trip.”
“The ambassador knew about my implants.”
That wasn’t a lie, and it could imply a number of things.
“But he didn’t know about the fight, did he?”
“None of us did. I was the only one who would have any chance, so I took the option of refusing away from him. He was not happy, but I still think it was the right choice.”
“You’re saying you took a calculated risk.”
“The Lady did imply that killing me would look really, really bad.”
Her father made half a laugh, half a snort, then shook his head.
“You did well, I guess. She’ll probably want you back even more.”
“Not a fucking chance in hell.”
“No, I guess not.”
Something about the way her father said it, make her pause. Surely he didn’t know the reason why she quit?
“What happened with your ship? They tell me you actually disappeared from every radar for some seconds. We have confirmed it on several systems now.”
“I don’t have a clue. The missile was there, about to hit me and then it disappeared.”
“The ship is perfectly normal according to the engineers.”
“Perhaps the missile did something?”
“It was suggested, but what would that be? It didn’t affect you or the ship, at least not as far as we can tell.”
“Maybe we both blow up in 48 hours.”
That gave her a stern look.
“What happens to me now?” she asked.
“Nothing much. The Horde ship is going away, giving only brief explanations on what really happened and everybody seems ok to get the hell away from everything ASAP. For a diplomatic mission, this turned out to be a complete disaster. From an intelligence perspective, well, that remains to be seen.”
“What did you do?”
He didn’t answer, just shrugged.
“At least tell me my options then.”
“What do you want to do?”
That was not the answer she was expecting. What did she want to do? Get rid of the fucking crystal. Smash her brother to pulp, and then her. Go home. Figure out what those music boxes had done to her. See Aish. And her father was right. This mission was a disaster for the Ark. If they had trouble with their funding before, this was nothing compared to what would happen after this. She knew the story that would be spun by the media. Unless she could change it somehow, it would be a second disaster. A thought crossed her mind.
“Why are you smiling?”
Her father looked at her with puzzlement.
“I want to see Aish first, then go back to the Ark. Preferably with my team.”
“Yeah, where is she?”
“She’s onboard here actually, in the medbay.”
“And how can I get home?”
“I guess you can take the P-52 back to your ship. I’ll send them a message to see their schedule. They’re being swept for security reasons, and I guess it’s fair to say that they are in shock. I think it is a good thing if you head back there. After the sweep of course.”
Emma nodded. Her father would never try to shelter her nor her brother when it was obvious, but she was still sure he would anything behind their back. Up to a certain point of course. Right now, he was probably happy she wanted to go home, back to safety.
“Could you please take me there.”
“I have some work to do, but I’ll arrange someone to come and get you.”
Her father went to the coms and asked someone to come.
“Is there any reason to think they will come after you again?”
That was a question that hadn’t occurred to her yet. Would they come after her? She was certain the reason had something to do with the crystal, but what if it was just a coincidence? What they were really after her?
“I don’t know. I think it’s unlikely, but you never know.”
“Ok. See you for dinner?”
She went to see Aish. She was hooked up to two life-support systems and was held in a coma. She had lost a lot of blood and had to do spinal surgery and regrowth. It would take months of training before she was back to normal, but knowing Aish, Emma was sure it would be inactivity that would be the hardest for her. Her hand was warm to touch.
“Hi Aish. I wish I could be here for you when you wake up, but that’s going to take a while. But I think you would appreciate what I’m going to do. Be safe.”
She kissed her hand and left. They led her back to her father’s quarter.
She sat down with her Glas and started composing her message.
It would be unsafe to send from here, with or without encryption. As soon as she was back on the Gargle, she would send it. If she was right, they would be waiting when she came back to the Ark. They’d better be. People were dead because of her, but mostly because of them.
The sleep was welcome, but it was not without its troubles. She woke up, sweating, trying to grasp memories that felt so near, but just out of reach. There had been songs, that was the only thing she was certain of. The worst part was that she had a feeling that it was important that she remembered. She shivered, but not from cold. She was changed, that much was certain. But into what, and why? She remembered the song she had sung when the missile was about to blow up into atomic pieces. The music boxes had turned her into something that was beyond any normal human. Even beyond any technology that she knew about. Her last thought before sleep took her again was that it had to the universe’s irony that she’d never been able to make a clear tone before in her life.