Sky in the Stars, Part 18

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Skylar follows Gray Hunter's rabbit hole of secrets.

13 May 2933

Frigate-class Star Cruiser “Thebes”

Sector 3, Sigma 5 Space

 

Skylar had fallen asleep in the medbay of the Thebes vessel, quietly awaiting the awakening of her colleague and friend Lacey.  It had been almost a day since they were extracted from the ZanCo. Mining station, and Skylar refused sleep, a bath, and food until Lacey would wake up. Despite protests of the doctors, she wouldn’t listen, and Captain Snow could only sympathize with her. Unfortunately the soft hum of the ship and the beeping machines around Lacey had lulled Skylar to sleep. She sat slouched, her bottom near the edge of the seat. An elbow rested on the arm of the chair while she propped her head up with a hand. In her other hand she still firmly gripped the blood-stained data stick that Lacey had nearly died for.

“Skylar.” A voice called out to her in her sleep. It only took a moment for her anxiety to kick in. Skylar nearly shot up from her chair, a smile on her face as she looked at Lacey who was still asleep. It wasn’t her. A hand touched Skylar on the shoulder. She gasped in surprise but quickly calmed to see Captain Snow. Skylar furrowed her brows and plopped back into her seat, crossing her arms.

“What do you want?” Skylar huffed, looking away and focusing on Lacey.

“Skylar…” Snow began. “You should sleep in your bunk. Lacey probably won’t wake up before we get back to Citadel.”

“Then I’ll wait in Citadel too.”

Snow sighed. “Skylar I don’t want to have to do this.” She stood straight and spoke with a hushed but commanding tone. “As your commanding officer, I order you to return to your quarters.”

Skylar’s eye twitched as she gripped the datastick harder. She stood up from her seat and stood face to face with Snow. “Or what, Captain? You’ll demote me? There isn’t a single punishment you could lay down that I wouldn’t be ready for. You know me, Captain. I. Have. Nothing. That’s why I’m willing to do whatever it takes for the only family I have here, you included.” She raised the datastick to eye-level, her hand crusted with Lacey’s blood. “She almost died for this? What data could possibly be on this that was worth that? She was given anonymous orders from HQ to get this as, I can only assume, class 1 priority objective. Lacey wouldn’t stick her neck out for something stupid. She’s a smart girl.” Skylar’s demeanor calmed. “Tell me, Captain… that you don’t think something off is going on. Why her? Why keep us all in the black, even you.” The two looked at each other for a few seconds before Skylar took her leave.

“Skylar.” Captain Snow called. Skylar stopped in the doorway. “I might not know anything about this data. But… I urge you to be careful. I think it’s time you decide what answers are worth digging for. I’ve been with Gray Hunter long enough to know that they don’t have their nose clean in everything.”

Skylar paused and then nodded. “Good night, Captain.”

~

 

14 May 2933

Citadel Military Academy Station

Sector 4, Sigma 5 Space

 

Skylar retreated to her bunk and caught up on her much needed rest. She remained asleep the entire trip until they reached Citadel station where she even napped through the bustling of the crewmen. It wasn’t until Jared had shaken her awake, waiting for her to open her eyes before gesturing behind him. Everyone was leaving the ship. It was time to go. Skylar shot up and hadn’t even bothered to get properly dressed. She rushed passed Jared and the chatting crewmen, up the staircases, her bare feet pounding on the metal floors. She made her way to the medbay, and into Lacey’s section. It was empty. The bed had gone cold, the machines were off. There was nothing.

“They’ve already taken her to Citadel’s hospital.” said Captain Snow from behind.

Skylar lowered her shoulders with a sigh. “Did she---”

“No.” Snow answered abruptly. “Hasn’t woken up, but she’s stable.” Skylar turned to leave, side-stepping Snow. “Where are you going?”

“To get answers.” Skylar replied. She hadn’t even bothered to get properly dressed. She took a duffle bag and walked back through the space dock with her shorts and tank-top. The cold metal beneath her feet hadn’t bothered her, nor the stares many of the crewmen gave her. She marched through to the academy and back to her dorm where she took a brief shower and dressed in the formal student attire. It was then she marched down the halls, took an elevator, eventually reaching Lieutenant Cabral’s office. Skylar knocked before Cabral opened the door from his desk. He returned to typing on his computer before Skylar entered.

Cabral gave one glance to the student in front of him. “Officer Connor.”

Skylar briefly saluted. “Lieutenant Commander.”

Cabral finished a few more words before dismissing his holo-screen with the wave of his hand, clearing his view of Skylar. “You did well on the mission I hear. I’ll be getting a full report soon. You’ve proven a lot of people wrong.” Cabral leaned back in his leather chair and sighed. “Now, what can I do for you?”

“It’s about the mission, sir.” Skylar said, approaching his desk.

“What about it?”

Skylar took the datastick from her pocket and held it in front of her. “This, sir. While Officer Lacey Corter did an amazing job in our mission, she failed to obey direct orders resulting in unwanted consequences.”

“I’m guessing you’re not here to roast another officer.” Cabral said, looking at the stick.

“No, sir. Lacey is a good friend. What concerns me is that she disobeyed an evacuation order and got herself injured in the process.”

“Injured?”

“She’s suffering some gunshot wounds and other minor injuries. She said that this particular stick was priority information. Lacey’s not crazy. She got orders to extract this information from somewhere… and I really hope you can shed some light on why my friend almost died.”

Cabral raised his eyebrows. “I’m really sorry, Skylar. But I don’t know anything about this. I was informed that this would be primarily a hostage situation, and upholding a protection contract.”

“You don’t know anything?” Skylar said, her shoulders rising in tension.

“I’m afraid not… I think your best bet is to ask Lacey yourself.” Cabral answered. The office

door slid open. In walked the Chairman, looking no different than he always had. Same hairstyle, suit, and tie.

“I believe I can be of some help.” said the Chairman. Skylar and Cabral looked at the man. He offered a light smile. “Sorry for intruding. I was standing outside the door and didn’t want to interrupt.”

“Chairman.” Cabral said with a nod.

“Lieutenant Commander.” The Chairman nodded. He looked to Skylar. “Officer Connor, I believe congratulations are in order. Our people at ZanCo. have offered nothing but high regards and wondrous reports of your… extravagant and if not cinematic hostage rescue. They regarded it as clever, ingenuitive, and as some others remarked ‘the coolest thing ever.’ It’s a shame to hear about Officer Corter. Rest assured she will be in the best medical hands possible. Regarding that datastick, those orders came from above. Not myself… but a higher council.”

“There’s people above you?” Skylar remarked. “Here I thought you were the spooky g-man character that owned the place.”

The Chairman chuckled. “Not quite, Miss Connor. I run many things… you can consider me an… overseer, a counselor… maybe even a better title would be an advisor. You see, that datastick has some classified information that Officer Corter was to retrieve and return in order to progress in a separate division of Gray Hunter. Believe it or not, she’s far more resourceful than you might think. Her technology scores are through the proverbial roof. They chose her for a reason, and for all intents and purposes succeeded with repercussions. But repercussions are not something the Council has time for. They need results and they need them in rapid succession. Officer Corter will be recovering for some time now, lost time… time that could be spent doing other things. Now, as an advisor, I informed the Council that while Officer Corter was an exceptional choice for their many covert operations… that she wasn’t the prime candidate.”

“Who was?” Skylar asked.

“You.” The Chairman said sternly. “I put your name forward several times, but they claimed that… you weren’t ready. You weren’t qualified. You suffered too much trauma… whatever excuse they could find. But with each passing test, exam, simulation… you have been exceeding everyone’s expectations. “

“And this datastick?” Skylar raised a brow.

The Chairman extended a hand. “Information that belongs to the Council. I’m afraid I can not divulge that.”

“My friend almost died for it.” Skylar said, holding the stick firmly.

The Chairman smiled. “How far are you willing to go for this information?”

Skylar looked at the Chairman, staring into his gentle eyes for a moment. “You want me to take Lacey’s place.”

“We can’t make you, Skylar. The Council elects, and then selects… but they never force. Since Lacey is out of the candidacy, you are the next in line. So again… how far are you willing to go?”

“Me, for that information.”

“You, for whatever you want to know, no veils, no secrets.” The Chairman kept his hand out.

Cabral chimed in from behind. “Be sure of yourself, Skylar. Some doors aren’t meant to be opened.” It was a long moment for Skylar, though only a few seconds passed. She stared at the ground for a moment, then the datastick, then the Chairman. Then, the decision was made. She placed the datastick in his hand, and proceeded to shake in agreement.

“I won’t let you down.” Skylar said.

The Chairman smiled and placed the datastick in his pocket. “Excellent, Officer Connor. We’ll be in touch. Continue on with your business and answer to your current higher-ups. Your duties will be entirely separate from here.” The Chairman turned and walked out of the office. “And congratulations once again.” It was just Skylar and Cabral then. The Lieutenant looked at Skylar with a grim expression.

“I hope you know what you’re doing, Skylar.” Cabral said.

“I know exactly what I’m doing.” Skylar replied.

I’m going to go home.

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