“She’s right. It’s never happened before,” Laura chimed in, looking up at Morgan. “But everyone on a ship hasn’t gone crazy before in a matter of hours. Whatever it is we have to get the power back on or we’ll die, slowly.”
“Not to mention what will happen when the prisoners start getting woken up.” Jessie clutched her homemade flame thrower a little more tightly. “As the reserve power to the sleeper units starts failing, the computers will automatically initiate a wake up sequence for them.”
“How long?” Laura asked softly.
“Probably another two or three hours,” Jessie said, looking down at the weapons in her hands. “Then we’re going to have a couple of thousand of the worst prisoner’s in the Alliance free on board ship.”
Morgan frowned. She felt like she was right, it had to do with the jacks and a virus of some sort. “Fine. But this all pretty much started when Phoenix came on board. Where would he be? We turned him over to medical so they could put him on ice.”
“I don’t know, I haven’t done any processing since…” She waved vaguely at her jack and grimaced. “But if they were holding him to be frozen, he’d be in the secure medical suite, one deck under us.”
Laura’s eyes widened. “He isn’t frozen yet? You mean he could be loose right now?”
“We can’t just snap freeze people,” Jessie snapped at her, nerves clearly getting the better of her. “It takes a full work up before we can set the systems for each prisoner’s bio-readings. If he came on board yesterday then there’s no way he’s been frozen yet.”
“How do you take bio-readings? You plug them in to monitor them?” Morgan asked standing, she looked at Laura wondering if the woman was really alright or if the headache was a sign of her body fighting off the insanity. “I'm going down there. You staying or coming?”
“You’re going down there to see Phoenix Regan?” Laura blinked at her, wondering if the guard was starting to go insane. “Why?”
Jessie seemed to be wondering the same thing, watching Morgan warily as well.
“Because all of this started when we brought that man on board. I'm betting he's the cause of all this. I don't know why, don't care why, but this ship has to get up and running before all hell breaks loose. If he caused it he can fix it. Plus, it’s on the way to the core. So if he's not responsible I still need to get down there and get the power back up,” Morgan replied. She went over to Laura and undid the cuffs. “It’s probably safer if you two stay here.”
“Good idea, I intend to lock myself in this room,” Jessie said quickly, having no desire to go running through the ship.
Laura sneered at her, rubbing her wrists. “Great plan, stay here and wait for them to come get you. No thanks. I’ll take my chances with the trained marine,” she said, nodding at Morgan.
“Your funeral,” Jessie sneered, moving over to an emergency kit on the wall. “Here,” she said, opening it and pulling out ear pieces, which she pointedly offered only to Morgan. “We talk to the med techs with these when they’ve got a serious injuries to go deal with.”
Morgan took the earpiece. “Wished you'd come with, if I take a header who's going to put me back together? Plus safety in numbers.” She fiddled with the earpiece, it felt weird. She looked at Laura. “Ready?”
“Yeah,” Laura said and then smiled sweetly at Jessie. “Butch up.” She batted her eyelashes at the nurse, taking a sort of perverse pleasure in getting under her skin.
“Bitch,” Jessie shot right back, and then pointedly ignored her to talk to Morgan. “I’ll be able to read your life signs while you’re wearing the earpiece and I’ll do what I can to help you from here. I just… I can’t go out there.”
Morgan wasn't really sure why the two women didn't seem to get along. “I'm not forcing anyone to do anything they don't want. Jessie if you want to stay, stay, I'll worry about you, but you're a trained professional just like us. Do you have any control of the computers in here? If we get everything back up will you be able to restart cryo-sleep?”
“I think so, I’ll have to get to the chief medical officers office, but I think I can do that.” Jessie stepped closer and gave Morgan a hug. “Be careful,” she whispered, while Laura narrowed her eyes and glared.
“You want help getting there?” Morgan asked returning the hug.
Laura groaned. “Would you like me to step outside and give you two a moment?”
Morgan shot her a look and then pulled away ignoring the comment. “Jessie, you want help getting there before we head down the lift?” she asked again.
“That would be nice.” Jessie smiled at Morgan so brightly that it made Laura want to bash her head against a door, the headache surging back, throbbing against her brow.
“Alright, let’s get you there and then Laura and I will move down the lift.” Morgan moved to Laura. “Do you want a hug too, Ms. Grumpy pants?”
“That was more like a full body grope than a hug,” Laura muttered, ignoring Morgan’s offer of a hug as she stepped out of the door. “Oh please Morgan, come back safe to me.” She rolled her eyes, for good measure.
Jessie stayed right behind Morgan, laser scalpel as her only weapon. “Jealous much?” she asked Laura.
Morgan chuckled and then came up behind Laura and grabbed her in a full body hug lifting her off the ground for a second and put her back down. She bent over and licked her cheek before straightening back up and making her way through the mess of the med bay.
Morgan pulled her gun and pushed all her senses into overdrive. She was not loosing any more people. The ship was already turning into a ghost.
It was hard, but Laura managed to avoid smirking at Jessie. Much.
“Morgan, we have to go left,” Jessie said quietly, blanching as she got a look at the dead doctor in the middle of the med bay.
Laura was just about to make a quip about how nurses should be used to blood when she paused, studying the dead body, particularly the pool of blood near it. “Uh Morgan,” she whispered, pointing at the congealing blood. There were three tracks of foot prints that moved around the corpse. “Who’s the third set?” Laura asked, wishing she’d grabbed something she could use as a weapon.
“Like I know? Another guard, maybe. An insane person or one of the people who shut the power off.” Morgan reached to her belt and then handed the neural disruptor back to Laura, not sure it was a good idea since, she was positive the data jacks where how people were being affected.
“Come on, the CMO’s office is over there.” Jessie gave a little push at Morgan, freaking out at being in the open.
For her part, Laura vastly preferred being in the open then being penned in somewhere, not that she would ever admit to being perhaps, just the smallest bit, claustrophobic.
What could only be described as an insane giggle echoed through the med bay, the sound bouncing off walls and echoing around them so much that Laura couldn’t tell where it had started. “Going to kill you!” The voice sang, and Morgan turned in a slow circle, eyes wide in the yellow emergency lighting, trying to spot the source of that voice.
“Great,” Morgan muttered. “You two down,” she whispered. “Get down and out of sight,” she said pushing Laura down. Morgan was the tallest, and therefore the easiest to see. She stepped a couple of steps towards the center of the room. “Seems to be the theme of the day, someone trying to kill me. Here I am come get me.”
“Are you insane?” Laura hissed, even as she got behind a bio-bed with Jessie. It wasn’t she admitted to herself, the best phrasing ever.
“Kill you, kill you, kill you…” The voice giggled over and over again, until Laura wanted to scream at him to shut up.
Morgan waited patiently, gun raised and her posture relaxed. Like she hadn't dealt with insane taunting down in the pens and cells in the belly of the ship that held the prisoners. “Uh huh. You're going to kill me.”
“Kill you.” The voice repeated, louder this time and Jessie jumped, grabbing onto Laura as they watched a figure emerge from the shadows to the right of Morgan. The clothes he had been wearing were tattered rags on his body and Laura swallowed bile as she realized the things hanging around his neck like a scarf were someone’s entrails. A step closer and Laura recognized the officer underneath all that blood.
“Oh god,” Jessie whispered as the man stepped closer, eyes wild, a sealed container in his hands. “Morgan,” she called out, voice surprising steady considering what that canister could do if released in a confined space. “Gustav’s holding a plasma canister. Do not shoot it.”
“Uh huh, got it.” Morgan holstered her gun while she turned and faced him. “Lieutenant Gustav, mighty happy to see you. Glad to see you've lost all your water wheels. You know why that is?” Morgan continued on in a calm voice with an evil smile. “It means I can kick your ass and you can't have me demoted or kicked out.”
“Kill you bitch.” He giggled, eyes wide as he lunged for her, using the plasma canister like a bat and swinging for her head.
It was going to suck, but her first priority was getting that canister away from him. She ducked the blow, shifted to the left and uncoiled a round house kick to his exposed side, doubling him over. Then she moved in grabbing his wrist and twisted it until he let go and shoved him away to catch the canister. She set it down grunting as she took a punch to the kidneys.
“Careful!” Laura yelled wincing as Gustav punched her again in the same side, laughing as he did.
Movement from the corner of her eye tore Laura’s attention from the scene and her eyes widened as a second figure launched himself out of the darkness at herself and Jessie. Jessie let out a short scream as the man tackled them both, a forearm smashing into Laura’s chest, knocking the breath out of her.
Morgan twisted, grabbing Gustav's head and bringing it down as she brought her knee up. She repeated the action because she was petty and because she wanted him to stay down. Then she turned and sprinted to where she had heard the scream.
“Cut you all up.” A voice giggled in Laura’s ear. She grunted, twisting and raising the neural stunner that Morgan had given her. The man was wearing what was left of a med tech uniform and was struggling to use the laser scalpel he was clutching in his right hand because Jessie had wrapped her entire upper body around it, holding on for dear life.
“Fuck off.” Laura grunted, pressing the stunner up against his forehead and triggering it.
The man’s body went into spasm and his eyes rolled up in his head as he collapsed on top of the two women.
Morgan slid over to them and pushed him off them. “You okay?” she asked, hands checking Laura for any damages.
Coughing, Laura nodded, waving her away. “Guy weighed a ton.” She gasped, trying to catch her breath.
“His name’s Louie,” Jessie said, pushing an arm off her so she could sit up. She gingerly took away the laser scalpel from Louie’s relaxed grip. “He was so sweet before, always getting people coffee when he went on break.”
Morgan leaned over checking Louie's pulse. “It’s faint, but he's still alive.” Morgan thought things were going to be super-awkward if they found a cure for everyone. Especially for those who had disemboweled someone and worn their entrails like a scarf. Morgan pulled Jessie and Laura up. “Let's get moving.”
Laura gave Louie a good kick in the side as she stepped over him, revenge of sorts for scaring the crap out of her. “Bastard,” she muttered, following along behind the other two women.
If anything, Jessie was clinging to Morgan’s side now, jerking to study every small shadow they passed on the way to the CMO office. “Here,” she said, clearly relieved to have reached its doors without any more attacks.
Morgan opened the doors and looked around. It was empty. “You have a way of sealing these doors?” she asked Jessie.
“Sure, I’ll just jam them from the inside.” Jessie leaned up on her toes and gave Morgan a light kiss. “Thanks. Go be heroes and find out what’s going on.”
“Yes, Ma'am.” Morgan gave Jessie a charming smile. “Oh, there anything in here that could dampen Laura's headache?” she asked.
“Sure, one second.”
Jessie turned and started searching through drawers. Laura leaned into Morgan and whispered, “Notice that I didn’t get a kiss.”
Morgan sighed. “She's upset and scared. We've been intimate before so we're not strangers, it makes her feel better. You want me to kiss you?” she said turning to look at Laura. Laura's body language gave away some signs of sexual interest but it was still pretty guarded. Kind of an odd time for it, but stress had that effect on some people.
Laura’s only response was to slap Morgan’s shoulder.
“Here,” Jessie said, rounding the desk and pressing an injector against the side of Laura’s neck before she could object.
“Owe! Goddamn it Jessie, thanks for the warning.”
Jessie just smiled back sweetly and waved her away. “Be careful,” she said, looking at Morgan.
“We will,” Morgan said with a smile, and pulled Laura out the door. Once the door was shut she said, “I don't care what issue you two have but you better be one hundred percent focused on having my back out here. Are you going to give me that?” Morgan had her gun out and she was picking her way over to Gustav's unconscious body. She pulled out his neural disruptor before tying his hands behind his back with his belt.
“She might as well have been humping your leg,” Laura snorted, checking her own neural disruptor and then making certain that Jessie had indeed managed to bar the doors from the inside before joining Morgan. “And yes, I have your back.”
“Some people deal with stress differently. You get bitchy, Jessie wants to make sure she's alive.” Morgan actually dealt with it the same way but really hadn't had an appropriate time to take care of things. “What do you care anyway? You've made it clear that it’s okay to have a retard as a friend but not have one as a lover.” Morgan restrained the other guy with some tubing and then started toward the lift.
“No. I made it clear that I don’t poach on my friends. You were going to go sleep with Andrea, remember?” Laura really hoped Andrea was still safely trussed up in her cabin. “You sure we should just leave them here?”
Morgan snorted. There was no way she and Andrea were sleeping together now; something about getting shot by the woman dampened her libido. “I don't really care, it’s the best I can do right now.”
“Why do you keep saying that? You don’t have to sleep around with people; it’s obviously something you enjoy.” Laura grunted, helping Morgan force open the lift doors again. It was going to be fun opening them one floor down.
“Keep saying what?” Morgan asked confused. She pulled out her retractable line and stepped in front of Laura tying it through her belt loop.
Tugging on the line to make sure it was firmly looped around her belt, Laura shrugged. “The way you talk it’s as if that’s all you can offer, a quick fuck in a closet somewhere. Did some girlfriend in the past ruin your ability to have a relationship? I mean, with Andrea it’s that she’s kind of a whore, I love her dearly, but she just likes sleeping around.”
“Um, I was talking about leaving those two tied up back there,” Morgan replied.
Laura winced, feeling like a jackass for asking. “Sorry, I thought we were talking relationship stuff. You’re right, that’s the best you can do with Gustav and Louie, and hopefully they’ll be out of it for a long time. I talk before I think a lot. I’ll just shut up now.” Laura swung her legs down, finding the ladder rungs and started climbing down.
Morgan smiled in amusement as she followed Laura. “Listen at the door before opening it,” she said.
Glancing up at Morgan’s red eyes reflecting in the darkness, Laura nodded and continued downward. It took a bit of awkward stretching to press her ear to the door and listening intently. “I don’t think I hear anything other than my own breathing,” she said finally, looking back up at where Morgan’s dim outline lingered above her.
“You want to open it? Or you want to go down the ladder a bit and I'll open it?” Morgan asked, chuckling a bit as her stomach growled. She couldn't remember the last time she ate.
With a muffled laugh, Laura kept going down a few rungs on the ladder. “I’m really flattered that you think I could force open these doors. I must look fitter than I thought.”
Morgan laughed and leaned over hitting the emergency release, then easily pried the doors open. “Each level has an emergency release in case of power failure. It can be permanently locked by the captain who is in the brig.”
“Smart ass,” Laura muttered, reaching up and slapping Morgan’s ass. “Move, before I try dangling off this rope.”
Morgan snorted but moved. She pulled her gun but all was silent.
“Have you ever been down here before?” Laura whispered, once again almost in Morgan's back pocket. This was obviously a high security part of the ship, a guard booth was the first thing they saw coming out of the lift doors. Someone had shot at the window covering it; the bullet proof glass was cracked and starred. Blood was sprayed across the back of the booth and Laura was certain she didn't want to look inside.
“Nope,” Morgan replied. She left Laura and entered the guard station exiting with access card and a green tint to her skin.
“Someone you knew?” Laura asked, touching Morgan’s hand.
“Not really, sat at the same table a few times eating lunch. Friend of a Friend.” Morgan shrugged not really sure how she felt seeing someone like that.
It was best left, Laura thought, nodding and turning to look at the double sealed security door. “That's a large door.”
The security doors were still live, a back-up battery in the doors keeping them running. Morgan slid the card into the reader. “Yep, they wheel them in on a gurney. Only the best of the best here on a prison ship.”
The lock released and Morgan pushed it open.
“Oh crap.” Laura murmured, eyes widening as she followed Morgan inside. A ramp led from the door down into a recessed platform. Above them lights flickered on, also on a back-up power source. The far wall was lined with human sized metal canisters that had small windows to show their contents, when full. “Nice place.” Laura craned her neck, eyeing the vaguely torture-like medical devices above.
Morgan moved down the ramp and started peeking through the windows on the canisters. “Where is he?”
“Not here?” Laura followed behind her.
“Nope. He's in here.” Morgan tapped the last one. She put her gun away and checked the canister. Looks like he's asleep. Not frozen yet.”
“What?” Laura had to do a little jump to peer into the tube, blinking. “But, if he's here, who's behind the insanity?”
There was a cable coming from the head portion. “He's jacked in. I bet you a night on the town, he's uploaded something. Which means he wanted to get caught.” Morgan tried yanking the cable.
“He what? For someone who thinks she's stupid you just lost me. Why would he want to be caught?” Laura ducked down, crawling behind the cryo-tube, tracing where the cable went.
“I dunno, but for someone who's so violent wasn't he just a little docile. No crazy eyes or anything. Maybe he wants revenge on someone or there's someone on this ship he wants to free. Did he have family or a lover that was arrested?”
“So now you're interested in the news that I've heard?” Laura asked, feet kicking as she tried to squirm further under the cryo-tube. It was very tight, she doubted Morgan would fit.
“Well it’s important now,” Morgan said, watching Laura's ass as she tried to squirm under the tube.
“And you just assume I would know?” Laura twisted, kicking a leg to push further. “And are you staring at my ass?”
“Yes... to both,” Morgan answered.
“Well good.” Laura shook her head, pushing further, her finger tips just reaching the cable where it plugged into the bulk head. “There were all sorts of rumors that he was working with the Ice Maiden.”
“She's the crazy hit woman. Makes sense both crazy killer type people,” Morgan replied.
“It was just a rumor Morgan.” With a twist Laura got a shoulder pushed further in to grab the plugged-in end. “You sure you want me to unplug him?”
“Yes. It’s not like it’s going to kill him. They just use that to monitor his vitals. Right?” Morgan fumbled with the thing in her ear. “Jessie they just use the data jack to monitor the people on ice right?” She frowned. “How the fuck does this thing work?”
“Just like that.” Jessie's voice came through loud and clear in her ear, laughing a little. Morgan jumped a foot. Jessie continued, “Yes, the jack lets us monitor them throughout the freezing process. You won't hurt him by unplugging him.”
Morgan took a breath and then said, “Do it. If I'm wrong it doesn't affect anything.”
“As you wish Morgan.” Laura pulled, having to jerk hard against it to get the stubborn thing free of the wall socket.
Jessie's voice spoke into Morgan's ear, “Whatever the annoying pilot just did, it cut the feed. Computer is reading him as dead right now.”
Morgan fiddled with her radio. “How certain are we that someone cut the power?” she asked everyone.
“First off, can I get out from under here?” Laura asked, plaintively.
“Sure, unless you want to hang out under there. Oh, and can you back out so I can watch your ass some more?” Morgan grinned.
“Sure, if you step in front of me so I can kick you as I back out,” Laura muttered, skidding back out from the tight spot. “Tell Jessie that her stupid medicine's for shit, my headache's back.”
“Jessie, Laura's headache is back. Is there anyway for you to do a scan? I'm concerned, The Old Man really slammed her into that wall.”
“A scan? Morgan, I can't just scan her from up here. I'm sure her thick head survived the attack just fine.”
Laura stood up, dusting off her hands and giving Morgan a dark look. “What? You're smiling, what did she say?”
“She said you're thick skull is probably fine.” Morgan’s smile disappeared. “Is there something down here we can scan her with. Seriously how long should those drugs have lasted? More than the fifteen minutes it took us to get down here?”
There was a small hesitation before the voice in Morgan’s ear spoke. “You’re right, it should have taken care of the headache for a couple of hours at least. She really should have a doctor check her out, but since we don’t have one that’s sane right now…” Jessie paused. “You could plug her into one of the jacks and I could read her vitals from up here.”
“Okay.” Morgan looked a Laura. “Jess says we need to plug you in and she can do something doctory.”
Laura gave her a strange look at. “And you trust Jess to avoid messing around in my head?” Stressing the nick-name that Morgan was calling the nurse by.
“I have very mixed feelings about the jack, not going to lie. But the meds she gave you should have lasted for hours and she's the only medical person we have. I'm worried you might have bleeding inside, on your brain.” Morgan let out a frustrated breath. “When I was a teenager a friend of mine got kicked by cow, he was fine but when he fell he hit his head. He was dead in less than twenty four hours from pressure on his brain,” Morgan said feeling self-conscious about sharing her story.
“You play dirty,” Laura muttered, moving to one of the data consoles and checking to see if it still had reserve power. When the console lit up under her touch she shot Morgan a look and fished out the data jack. “You tell her if I go insane I’m coming after her first.”
Morgan smiled. “Jessie, Laura says if she goes insane you're first.” She stepped up closer to Laura. “I can restrain you if you think you might flip out,” she said with all security guard seriousness.
“Don’t get kinky on me Morgan, or at least wait until I can enjoy it.” Laura winked, picking up the link and jacking into the ship’s computer network. “Ugh.” She winced immediately. “Half the systems down, big black holes where ship systems used to be.”
“Morgan, I see her. I’m starting my diagnostic now, just sit tight for a few minutes,” Jessie spoke softly into Morgan’s ear. “Keep her distracted, I don’t want her trying to fiddle with my probes.”
“Uh...” Morgan blanked on how to distract Laura. “She doesn't seem to be a fan of my usual techniques of distraction.” She thought for a second and then dragged a chair over and sat Laura down, while she might be immune to her other charms, she did seem to like getting her neck and shoulders massaged. “Um, so why'd you become a pilot?”
“What are you… oh….” Laura dropped her head forward, groaning in pleasure. It was really sinful how good Morgan was at it, her strong fingers finding every tense muscle and ache. “I grew up on an orbital colony. Flying gave me freedom. I could go anywhere I wanted, do anything. I always wanted to be a fighter jock, a lot of that’s robotic now though.”
Morgan made a face. She couldn't help it, she'd been raised to hate robots, they had taken jobs away from people forcing the poor and uneducated further and further into poverty, at least they had the way her step-dad had talked about it. “Not to sound stupid, an orbital colony is where you grow up on a ship?”
“Huh?” Laura had been reduced to near slumber and had to think a moment to remember what they were talking about. “Oh. No, it’s a huge space station. The one I grew up in was in permanent orbit around Titan, a moon of Saturn. It was a manufacturing and mining facility mostly, dull, and I was happy to join the navy to get out of it.”
“My parents are followers of Daurrant, he preaches the evils of technology. I'm not sure my planet had a name.” Morgan went quiet and moved her hands down Laura's neck to her shoulders.
“Durites? Really?” Laura blinked. “I’ve heard of them, there were a couple of them at the colony, always handing out these old fashioned paper pamphlets about the evils of technology. Nobody read them.”
“Can't have been real Durites, because that requires them to live among technology. Oh the sacrifices they must have made for the greater good to damn their souls,” Morgan bit out sarcastically.
The tone wasn’t lost on Laura and she turned around, studying Morgan’s face. “You’re not a big fan I take it?”
“No, the biggest problem being the evils of same sex, sex,” Morgan replied dryly. “Now turn back around you're making it hard to rub your shoulders.”
“They’re against sex?” Laura frowned, confused as she turned around obediently.
“Unless your sex can produce off-spring then yes they are against it. Since a female sleeping with a female can't produce children, they are very much against it. The moment I turned eighteen signed up and hopped a shuttle.” She focused on a knot.
“What? But… but that’s barbaric! They’re against men sleeping with men then?” Laura asked, aghast.
“Yes, that too.” Morgan chuckled. “There was many a night my step-dad kept me up until dawn reading the scriptures to save my soul.”
“It obviously worked very well.” Laura pointed out, glancing over her shoulder with an amused look.
“Yes, Ma'am he is very proud of me,” Morgan said with another chuckle. She pushed Laura forward and started working her hands down her back, wondering how long the scan was going to take. She leaned over Laura so she could work the muscles in her lower back.
Laura shivered, eyes slipping closed as she felt the heat of Morgan’s body against her back. It was becoming a problem trying to keep a friendly distance between them and she wondered if maybe she should have encouraged Jessie to join them, as a distraction if nothing else. “You’re very good with your hands,” she rasped.
Morgan hesitated, licking her lips; she could feel that raspy want in Laura's voice all the way to her clit. “Thank you. You and I live through this and I promise you a full body massage.”
“Morgan,” Jessie’s voice said almost in the same instant. “I’m done.”
Morgan leaned back. “Jessie finished the scan.” She reached up and fiddled with the ear-piece. “What did you find?” Mentally she crossed her fingers hoping for nothing.
“I….. well…” Jessie hesitated. “I’m not really sure? Her adrenaline levels are elevated, along with a lot of other stress markers, which you’d expect of course, but her heart rate isn’t really high, neither is her blood pressure. Well, except for a blip right now from whatever you just told her. Her neural activity is the strangest; it’s all over the place. If I saw this in a patient I’d think they were having seizures, but she obviously isn’t.”
“What?” Laura asked, worriedly. “What is it? Why are you staring at me like that?”
Morgan fiddled with the thing in her ear. “Mostly I'm staring at you like this cause you got me turned on, and I'm ignoring that for more pressing matters. And then Jessie is talking med speak which is over my head but you're not having seizures are you?”
Blue eyes widened. “No. I don’t think I am. Am I supposed to be having seizures?”
“She says your brain scan...” Morgan made a face and pulled the ear-piece out. “Jessie, I don't understand I'm going to give you to Laura,” she said handing Laura the ear-piece.
Eying it a bit suspiciously, Laura put it in her ear, frowning as she listened. “But… oh…. Uh huh?” She looked at Morgan confused. “No, just headaches, and I’ve been pretty bitchy, even for me.” Another pause and she shrugged, handing the ear-piece back to Morgan.
“Morgan?” Jessie asked, when the guard had put it back in. “I don’t think you should trust Laura. Maybe she’s just in the early stages of the transformation into whatever got the rest of the crew. You should put her in a cryo tube, I can put her into a deep sleep from here and keep her there.”
Morgan looked at Laura. “I can't... I can't do this by myself,” she said feeling the weight of saving the ship suddenly. “I... Just a minute.” Morgan shut the ear-piece off and crouched down in front of Laura holding her hands. “Jessie says you're in the early stage of whatever this is. She wants me to put you in a cryo tube.”
“What!?” Laura yelped. “No! Tell her to go fuck herself. I'm not getting stuffed into a tin can and sealed away!”
“Even if you might go into a homicidal rage and stab me?” Morgan asked looking up into Laura's eyes. She didn't see any sign of madness.
“Jessie, if she's having mini-seizures are there meds we can give her to even them out? Isn't it just fucked up brain chemistry?” Morgan asked the ear-piece.
“I might go into a homicidal rage and stab Jessie,” Laura muttered, wondering if she could snatch the ear bud out of Morgan's ear.
Morgan gave her a look. “Not winning me over with sanity points making comments like that.”
“Morgan, you can't just give her neuro regulators without a doctor’s supervision. We could kill her,” Jessie pointed out. “I really think you should just stuff her in a tube before she stabs you in the back.”
Morgan sat back on the floor and rubbed her head thinking. “You.” She pointed at Laura. “You go insane and I'm hitting you with the disruptor and tossing you in cryo.” She got up and went up the ramp. “Now to do something really stupid.”
“Stupider than coming down here to check on Phoenix?” Laura pointed out, helpfully as she got up.
Morgan exited and went to the guard booth, taking his radio. Then she opened the door back up and handed the radio to Laura who was standing on the other side getting ready to open it. “Take the radio, set it to channel 2.” She then handed her the access card. “If the power doesn't come back on in thirty minutes kill Phoenix.”
“Woa! Wait a second, you're going off by yourself? Forget it,” Laura said, taking the radio from her. “I'm not letting you go get yourself killed.”
“And I can't trust you not to snap and kill me and wear my guts for formal wear. Now I'm going to shut the door and send out a broadcast and hopefully make a deal to get the power back on.”
“I'm not going to snap. Get this straight Morgan.” She edged up against her, poking her in the chest. “I'm not staying here alone.”
“I need you here. He's the bargaining chip. I need you to cut his oxygen if they don't think I'm serious.” She looked Laura in the eyes. “Please?”
“No. No way at all is this happening. So forget it.” Laura pushed past her.
“Laura I need you inside,” Morgan said, grabbing Laura's arm. “I need someone on him if this is going to work.”
Laura whirled on her. “And I told you that I'm going with you. You don't get to tell me what to do Morgan.”
“Yes, Ma'am I do. I am a Security Marshal. In this situation I do, so please get back inside or I will pick you up and handcuff you to a chair.”
Laura threw up her hands. “Have you ever seen a horror vid? Breaking up is an awful idea. It always ends up with one of the two people dead and the other one running for their lives through the ship with mutants chasing after her. Do you really want that Morgan? Having mutants chase you through the ship?”
“We already have, and one of us is infected. Now are you getting back in there or are we getting into some bondage?”
“I'm not infected!” Laura did stomp her foot this time, furious. “I have an altered Jack okay? I'm not infected.”
“What? What's that?” Morgan asked.
Crossing her arms, Laura kicked her boot. “I said I have an altered jack. It's not technically... er.... legal.”
Morgan stared at her blankly. “So what, it gives you super powers or something?”
“No. But it's not a normal jack. I'm not going to get infected by some computer virus. Which I still say is impossible.” Laura kicked Morgan's boot again.
“Would you stop doing that? How do you know you're not going to get sick? Jessie says she thinks you're showing early signs of it.”
“Jessie hasn't seen this before. Do you know how I know that? Because nothing like this has ever happened before so how, exactly, would she know what's going on? I'm obviously not having seizures.”
“Why didn't the meds work on your headache, why are you bitchier than normal? What's going on with your brain chemistry? Why are the only people I can raise on the comms those without jacks?” Morgan moved her foot before Laura could kick it again.
They stared at each other and Laura sighed. “Fine, I don't know why. I'm not even sure Phoenix had something to do with it. I don't know why all the crew is missing, or where their bodies are, I mean how do hundreds of people disappear like that?”
“Neither do I. What I do know is someone cut the power, the only reason to do that is to start the resuscitation process of the prisoner cryo-tubes. The other thing I know, is none of this started until he came on board.”
“Then it's settled. We space him.” Laura lifted her head, an eyebrow raised.
Morgan snorted. “Fine wait here and we'll see if anyone responds to my broadcast.” Morgan turned and went into the guards’ booth stepping over the body that had been torn apart. She looked at all the buttons, powered up the mic and switched over to all decks. “This is Security Marshal Saunders. You have thirty minutes to reestablish power or I will cut oxygen to your bosses cyro-tube. Feel free to respond on radio channel 5.”
“We should just space him anyway,” Laura grumbled, eying the occupied cryo-tube. He didn't look like much from here, just another prisoner who was in deep sleep waiting for freezing. “Just curious, but who do you think is going to answer you?”
Morgan shut off the power and exited. She tried to ignore the red footprints she left behind. “Jessie, do any of your monitors tell you if there is a ship docked with us?” She then looked at Laura. “I think the men who handed him over to us, played us for fools.”
“The courier ship?” Laura asked, confused. “Why would they play us for fools?”
“Morgan,” Jessie said. “I only have access to the medical systems. I can't tell anything like that from here.”
Morgan heard Jessie and continued talking to Laura. “He's some dangerous psycho killer, he didn't growl or snarl, or give crazy eyes. He just calmly let us take him aboard. Prisoners struggle, they all struggle. Not even a twitch. He wanted to be captured and handed over. So who else to get close enough to us than a friendly ship with a drop off.” She was grasping for straws and she knew it.
“So because he was calm you think he planned this all.” Laura considered that and then shrugged. “Sure, why not. Makes the most sense out of anything so far. Which isn't to say a lot mind you.”
“Okay, I'm insane.” Which might be proven in a few minutes if her radio stayed silent.
The radio crackled and a voice came through making them both jump. ”Whoever you are. You're a fucking moron. We're standing outside the cyro-tube of the guy were here for getting ready to wake him up. Don't know why you're not nutso yet and I don't care.”
“Fuck,” Morgan said banging her head against the railing.
“Fuck,” Laura agreed, biting her lip as she thought. “So they don’t give a crap about Phoenix for some reason.” She eyed the tube and a thought occurred to her as she hurried over to the cryo-tube. “If that’s Phoenix. Come on, help me with something.”
Morgan nodded and followed. “Hey, Jessie, can you tell if anyone else has been unplugged from cryo-sleep?” she asked wondering what Laura was up to.
“Sure. An alarm is set up when the thawing cycle is starting. It might take me a minute to figure out how to access that from here though, it’s hard without using my jack,” Jessie said, sounding frustrated.
Ignoring Morgan and her one-sided conversations, Laura typed in a quick command on the cryo-tube, and then started undoing magnetic clamps along the side of it that kept the lid fastened down.
“Um, what are you doing? Thought he was all psycho killer?” Morgan asked.
“Yup, Phoenix Regan is a psycho killer.” She grunted, trying to lift the lid off the tube and failing. “A little help here strong person?”
Morgan gave her a look, “I see how, it is you just hang out with me for my muscles.”
“You are easy on the eyes.” Laura flashed her a smile. “Come on weight lifter, put those things to good use.”
Morgan grumbled but slowly lifted the lid and then pushed it all the way open. “Damn.” She panted, “Those things are not light.”
“Individual life support,” Laura muttered, climbing up onto the base of the reclined pod and peering inside at the man laid out there. He was the same guy they’d picked up from the courier ship, same tattoos and everything. Although now he was rigged up with a half dozen lines plugged into his body supplying him with all his basic needs as he awaited going into deep freeze. “So if the courier ship was bogus, what if the prisoner is bogus?” She looked up at Morgan. “How would you willingly get someone to switch places with you and act as a carrier to get something into our computers?”
“Offer them something they wanted very badly or threaten harm to someone they love,” Morgan replied peering over Laura's shoulder into the bed not sure what they were looking for.
“Right.” Laura breathed, leaning in even farther to study the man intently. A breathing mask covered his jaw; tubes running in and out of it, providing air for him as his chest slowly rose and sank with each steady breath. “But he’d have to look like you. Or you’d have to make him look like you.” She bit her bottom lip and dug in her pocket, pulling out the laser scalpel she’d palmed earlier in sick bay, just in case.
Switching it on, Laura adjusted it to its finest setting, the little pinprick of a laser barely emerging from the tip of the pen like device. “Okay.” Laura took a breath and leaned in further, pressing it to the man’s shoulder, right at the edge of one of the elaborate tattoos that covered him.
“Makes sense,” Morgan said softly, watching over Laura's shoulder.
“Except he’d have to do more than just look like you, he’d have to have your DNA to fool the scanners.” The layers of skin peeled back as easily as if she was slicing through butter, peeling away as she moved the laser across his shoulder. “Fuck me,” Laura whispered, setting aside the scalpel and reaching down with her fingers. She got her fingernails under the flap of skin, wrinkling her nose at the feel of wet blood, but she’d seen something, she was certain of it.
The skin was slick with blood but she managed to get a hold of it and pull, ripping it upwards, peeling it off his body. Except that underneath it, instead of exposing muscle and bone, was another layer of white skin. This one not marked by tattoos.
“A fucking duplicate!” She looked over at Morgan, blue eyes wide. “They grew Phoenix’s skin onto this guy. Probably changed his eye color too and changed his bone structure.”
“What?” Morgan said looking a little green. “You can do that? Just make... skin and stuff.” She moved back a little bit. “Seems like an awful lot of work.” Her face looked like she had smelled something rotten.
“Sure you can. You immunosuppress them and then it takes a really talented doctor and someone with a full regeneration lab to grow that much skin to graft onto a the volunteer.” Laura’s lip curled in distaste and she stood up, glancing once at Morgan. “So I heard on the news,” she added, quickly.
“Ah.” Morgan stood for a moment then asked, “So he's not Phoenix. How does that help us?”
“Don’t know, but it explains why those people aren’t coming for him.” Laura shrugged, hopping down off the tube.
“Morgan?” Jessie asked. “Are you still there?”
“Yes, Ma'am,” Morgan replied. “Its Jessie,” she mouthed to Laura.
Laura her eyes, obviously not a huge fan of the person who’d wanted her stuck in a cryo tube.
“I think I got access to the readings coming from the prisoner area. There have been a dozen tubes open so far, either that or the people inside have just suddenly died, I can’t really tell which from the medical terminal. Just that there’s no one inside that’s alive now.”
Morgan's gut sank. “A dozen? Crap. Are they in the same area at least?” It would take too long to get each off line tube if they were spread out.
That got Laura’s attention and she looked back up from the tube, frowning. “A dozen what?”
“Morgan, they’re all in the high security prisoner area. There’s only seven other tubes down there that are still reading a prisoner inside them. I think someone’s waking up another one right now, judging by the way their life signs are fluctuating.”
“Cryo-tubes in high security are going off line,” Morgan said to Laura. Her brain raced to come up with something, anything. “We have to get the power on. That will lock them down in that area. No getting in and out without proper ID,” she said turning and heading for the door.
“Unless they brought something to cut through walls,” Laura added, following her out of the bay, leaving the open tube behind her. “Can we get down there?”
Morgan blinked she hadn't considered that. “Cut through walls? Really? Well, fuck.” She scratched her head. “Yeah, I think so. It’s, uh.” She let her head drop back and looked up at the ceiling. “At the ass end of the ship, about... um...” She closed her eyes envisioning a map of the ship. “Three levels down.”
“Not far away from the power core then.” Laura gave her a worried look as they moved back toward the lift. “And who knows how many crazy people. Yeah, sounds like a lot of fun.”
“I did tell you to stay here,” Morgan replied, opening the lift door.
There was a flash of light and Morgan pushed Laura one way as she dived the other. She had a brief glimpse of a uniform, the same one they'd been wearing on the courier ship.
Laura screamed, clamping hands over her ears as the grenade exploded between them. The world went white as the blinding light flashed across her vision, and thunder rattled her ears. A flash bang grenade, her mind noted, even as she sank to her knees, disoriented and rattled. Exactly the effect the grenade was supposed to give.
“Get them!” A voice that sounded like it was a thousand miles away, muffled by the ringing in her ears, shouted. She couldn’t see, her vision still blinded by the flash.
Figures swarmed out of the open lift doors, wearing body armor and carrying real weapons, not improvised laser scalpels.
Morgan rolled and came up, gun out. She wanted to throw up but her arms were steady and she picked her target and pulled the trigger before moving on to the next target. Her training took over her body pushing back her emotions, and her want to scream and hide.
The first man out took a bullet to the neck, blood spraying out the other side as the hollow point bullet did as designed and inflected maximum damage on the flesh it encountered. He went down with a gurgled scream, clutching at his neck and trying, and failing, to keep his life blood from flowing all over the deck.
The next one out took a round to the helmet, grunting as he swung his assault rifle towards Morgan. He took another two rounds to his helmet, one finding the weak point of his goggles, smashing through them, the eye that was behind them and finally his brain.
The one behind him was a touch smarter than his other two comrades, crouching down by the edge of the lift, and sticking out his assault rifle, intent on spraying the entire corridor towards Morgan with bullets.
Morgan got up and sprinted for the guard's station. She grunted as she took a stray bullet to the chest. She hit the wall gasping for breath. Her jacket protected her and she was thrilled they couldn't afford lasers. She hit the override button for the lift.
The doors started to shut.
“Fuck!” The man yelled, shoving the dead body of one of his fellows in between the doors, which jammed with a sickening crunch on the dead body’s torso. “You’ve got to the count of three to come out of there or we’ll use a grenade!” The voice yelled.
From the other side of the hall, Laura blinked, trying to clear her eyes. The ringing in her ears was slowly starting to fade a little. “Go Morgan!” she yelled, feeling her way over to the wall.
Morgan fiddled with her belt and then sprinted out of the booth, heading towards the lift and taking the man by surprise.
They fell down the shaft.
“MORGAN!” Laura screamed, having half-seen Morgan launch herself through the open lift doors. Laura jumped to the wedged open doors, eyes wide as she tried to see something, anything of what had just happened to her companion.
“Fucking cunt,” a hoarse voice grunted from inside and another of the armed men aimed his assault rifle down the shaft at something. Without thinking, Laura lashed out, grappling with him, wrenching up his assault rifle as he pulled the trigger.
The sound was explosive in the small confines of the lift and bullets ricocheted around them, sparks flying.
The man stiffened and a hole exploded in his throat. He fell away from Laura.
“Holy shit.” Morgan's voice drifted up from the dark.
“Morgan? Please tell me you’re not dead?” Laura begged, stretched out along a dead man wedged between the lift doors, blood splattered across her face from the man she’d just been struggling with. Far below her she could hear a dull thud as his body hit something.
“Not dead. Gave myself a wedgy.” Morgan grunted, her belt and pants felt like they were up around her armpits. “Can you swing me over to the ladder?”
It took a second, but finally Laura’s eyes cleared enough so she could see Morgan, dangling from the line attached to her belt, a couple dozen feet below. The line was looped up around the end of the ladder rung and Laura shook her head in amazement. “You nearly got yourself killed with that stupid stunt,” she said angrily, grabbing the line and starting to swing Morgan back and forth.
“Was probably going to die if I hadn't.” Morgan grunted again, grabbing the rung and climbing up. She paused, looking up at Laura. “You going to move so I can get myself unlocked?”
“You are an idiot!” Laura said hotly, eyes blazing. She stared at Morgan, breathing hard, frowning harder. Then without warning she grabbed the back of Morgan’s head, hauling her close for a bruising kiss.
Morgan's eyes crossed and she almost lost her balance. She'd been shot, bit, shot again, and trapped on a ship with a bunch of crazy people; kissing a beautiful woman, well, that made most of the day not seem that bad. She got a hand clamped on a rung and started kissing Laura back with gusto.
When they finally broke apart, Laura was breathing heavily, her eyes wide. It took her a moment to swallow before she could talk. “Thank you,” Laura said, her voice husky as she moved out of the way finally and let Morgan climb up. “For being an idiot.”
“My pleasure,” Morgan said with a goofy smile before unlocking the handcuffs and climbing the rest of the way out. “Um…” Morgan hummed, then cleared her throat. “Can we uh, maybe do that again? Sometime. Doesn't have to be right away.”
“Not if you’re going to be sleeping with Andrea.” That was as close to a rule as Laura got when it came to seeing someone. “But…” She smiled at Morgan who looked flustered. “Sure. If we live through being trapped on a ship with crazy people and some of the worst prisoners in the Alliance, we can kiss again.”
Morgan smiled and scratched the back of her neck. “Pretty much wasn't going to be sleeping with her anyways, having her shoot me in the leg ruined the mood. So we couldn't like, be kissing again, now?”
Laura gave Morgan a dry look as she picked up one of the dead men’s assault rifles, tossing it over to her before searching him for anything else of use. “We kind of have other priorities to take care of right now, don’t we? Like getting the power back on. And… Ah ha, jack pot,” she muttered, pulling out a handful of meal bars from the man’s back pack. “Dinner.”