The Measure of Humanity - Chapter Twenty-Five

Dying sucks.

I've been told this by a couple people who have done it.

No, I don't talk to ghosts or spirits or angels. I'm talking the garden-variety, heart stops and they're technically dead for a few minutes and then come back.

Let me tell you something.

ALMOST dying? Sucks worse.

I've done it a few times now. It never gets better.

Ten out of ten do NOT recommend!

Anyhow, this is it! The last chapter in this story.

Don't worry, there's more. You can read all about it in A Quiet Revolution, which has been appearing every FRIDAY for the past year.

Or you can go buy the book.


CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE

Habitat Njord

“She’s going to be fine,” said an unfamiliar voice. “The damage was extensive, yes, but I was able to repair it all. She’ll need to take it easy for some time to heal, and she’ll need to ease into any exercise regimens, but there’s no reason she won’t make a full recovery.”

“Thank you.” She knew that voice.

“Cass?”

“Hi babe.” She could hear the huskiness. Cass must have been crying.

“Water?”

There was a hesitation, then the strange voice said, “Only a little.”

A straw was brought to her lips; she sucked, and coolness flooded her mouth.

“More later,” Cass said, taking the straw away far too soon.

Kendra opened her eyes. She was in a hospital room of some sort; it had that universal air of medical-ness, but she didn’t recognize it. It seemed vaguely familiar.

“Where?”

“We’re back on Njord,” said Cass. “After…after…” She couldn’t’ continue.

“Commander Cassidy and Lieutenant Fowler brought you back aboard in a Wolf, after your initial treatment in the courthouse,” supplied Diana, appearing in her all-business persona. “She felt more confident in your care here, rather than on Earth.”

“A sentiment I wholly share,” said the unknown voice. It was slightly nasally, male, and seemed…what? Condescending, Kendra decided.

“The nanobots are certainly helping speed your recovery,” the voice continued. “I am quite pleased at that. I haven’t been able to examine their efficacy in situ, as it were.”

“Doc Zimmerman?” Kendra asked, a memory snapping into place.

“No,” said Diana. “Though he shares many of the same memories and characteristics. This is a prototype of the Holographic Medical Officer that Mr. O’Quinn and Ms. McAllister have helped design for the Defiants.”

“I didn’t know we had one on Njord yet,” Kendra said.

“I have recently been installed and activated,” said the HMO.

“Does he have a name?”

He does not, and he is also standing right here,” he said.

“Well, Doc, nice work. I feel ready to take on the galaxy.” She tried to sit up, failed, and sank back into her bed. “Maybe not today, though.”

Kendra became aware of Cass’s hand on her arm; she covered it with her own hand, the touch reassuring them both.

“Better?”

“With you awake? Yes.”

“What happened? I remember you arguing with a guard, no, that was Dianna. Then not much.”

“Junior got a knife past security. Plastic blade with a ceramic edge. It wasn’t the first time; he’s been bringing it into court at least the past several days, maybe longer.”

“How?”

“Bribes?” said Cass. “The Sonoran police are working on it. When Judge Hodge dismissed their case, Junior just snapped.”

“And then you saved me.”

“Not much of a save,” sniffled Cass. “You all bloody and crying on the floor.”

“You got him off me,” insisted Kendra. “Then you stayed with me.”

“Commander Cassidy is being modest,” said Diana. “Not only did she remove Junior from you, she then proceeded to inflict sufficient injuries that it is unlikely that he will ever walk again. Or talk. Or eat solid food.”

“I wasn’t thinking straight,” said Cass.

“Or you were thinking perfectly clearly. If I could I’d hug you.”

Cass flushed but continued. “After that, well, I didn’t see much other than you. I did stay with you while the EMT’s stabilized you, then I commed Flashdance. She landed Alexander in front of the courthouse in about ten minutes, we loaded you aboard, then got you here in a half hour. She kept accel down to 100g so you didn’t feel more than one.”

“Smart girl.”

“And that’s about it.”

“How long have I been out?”

“Two days. The Doc kept you unconscious to give your body a chance to start healing,” Cass added hurriedly.

“Two days? Oh, Zeus, the girls!”

“They’re fine,” assured Cass. “Worried about their mama, but they’ve been here a few times both days. They’ll be happy to see you awake, though.”

“I’d like a shower before they see me again.”

Cass smiled. “I think we can arrange that.”

“Junior Williamson will be charged with attempted murder,” said Diana when the silence had stretched out. “Attorney Forman has filed his appeal, but he may have difficulties as his lead Plaintiff won’t be available in the future. In the meantime, Admiral, you have become even more well-known.”

“Notorious, don’t you mean?”

“Perhaps. But judging from the messages which have been received on your behalf, it would seem to have not damaged your reputation, or the support for the Terran Federation. In fact, a sizeable percentage of the messages are requesting information on volunteering.”

Kendra tried again to sit up, forgetting her wound, and winced.

“Will you please stop doing that if I adjust your bed?” said the HMO.

“Sure,” she whispered around clenched teeth. The bed shifted under her, and she found herself in a more upright position. A questioning look got a stern one in response.

“No further,” he said. She sighed and turned back to Diana’s hologram.

“Recruits?” she asked.

“Yes. Harpo is already evaluating the veracity of the messages and conducting background checks. He estimates that roughly a quarter of them are either plants or insincere, but that will still leave approximately three hundred thousand potential candidates.”

Cass whistled. “Sounds like we have some work to do.”

“Yup,” agreed Kendra. “But after the shower and the girls.”

Cass nodded. “I’ll get the water started.”

Kendra tightened her grip on Cass’s hand. “Not yet. Kiss first.”

Cass leaned over and they shared a gentle kiss. Then they parted.

“Now, shower.”

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