Night Watch

Night had fallen over Admiral Zaha Roland’s villa. Handler opened the window to let cool, crisp ocean air in after checking Jena’s forehead with the back of her hand. The cyborg’s recovery was going as she expected, nanomachines and micromachines being pumped around her system to repair the damage from the fight and the stress placed on her systems.

The Galactic Federation Intelligence Agency officer had read through the reports forwarded to her by the Admiral. Her military career up until that point had been impeccable. Her training as a cadet was exemplary. Jena had even taken her advice to spend more time with her remaining family when she could at the weekends back on Farringdon III.

It was her first shore leave where things had started to go wrong. It had been easy for Handler to get access to some of the class records from the Asrat City Academy, and Natasha’s report to Zaha had helped fill in some of the gaps.

She let out a low, soft sigh as she resumed her place by the bed. “What am I to do with you, soldier?” She asked, taking up a damp cloth to help cool her down.

 

She must have drifted off for a bit. Movement startled her out of her doze. Handler lifted her head up and saw a pair of eyes staring at her in the dimly-lit room.

“I’m either dead… or being tormented by dreams…” Jena spoke, her voice hoarse from lack of use.

“Nice to see you too, soldier.” Handler replied, preparing herself in case she needed to administer more sedation to her former teammate. “What makes you say that?”

“As you’re here. So I’m either having that dream again, or this is what it’s like after you’re dead.” She sounded weary in spite of all the rest she’d gotten.

“Well, I can confirm you’re not dead in just a moment.” Handler said, picking up the cable running from the back of Jena’s neck and plugging it into her own MI port. With a thought she initiated parts of the soldier’s in-vision display to show her vitals.

“Good to know…” Her heavy eyes slid shut for a while until she got the energy to open them again. “So it’s a dream.”

Glancing around the room she looked back to Jena before speaking. “How do these dreams usually go?”

“We talk.”

“Shocking.” Handler smiled softly.

“Sometimes you hold me.”

“Scandalous.”

“Once you were at the farm, chasing chickens.” Jena added.

The agent laughed softly at that. “A shame I never got to see the farm. Yours, or your brother’s.”

“The food was good. There was dancing too, but I never danced with anyone.”

“Not even Ensign Herne?” Handler asked, cautious about mentioning the android’s name.

Jena shook her head. “The other girls would lynch me. I’ve not danced in years. Not since the Volsta invaded.”

“They would have to be very capable to get the drop on you.” She commented. “Do we do anything else in these dreams?”

“Sometimes…” Her eyelids drooped again, her breathing slowing before she roused herself. “Sometimes we kiss, and then I cry.”

Handler removed the cloth from Jena’s forehead and checked her temperature again. “Surely I’m not that bad at kissing, soldier.” The joke gave way to a sad look. “You’ve been bottling things up again.”

“I’m-” A building look of defiance buckled as she sagged down. “I’m struggling.” Came the admission.

Handler lifted the dataslate she had with her. “I know. I read some reports.”

“I’ll be okay once shore leave finishes.” The soldier stated.

“Perhaps, but you can’t be a soldier forever. Even if you might want to be. You made progress on Farringdon, you’ve had a little set-back here but that can happen.” She spoke gently. “A set-back isn’t the end of the world.”

“Zircon’s dead.” It was said quickly, as if it might stick in her throat if she didn’t get it out there.

“The Volsta thought that about you, but Fixer proved them wrong. I’ve had him working on the Ensign. Should be ready to restart soon.” Handler’s voice was gentle in the night air, her hand finding Jena’s wrist to squeeze. “Durand has been working on pulling data from the combat automaton you destroyed. The others are investigating the attempt to steal from the Herne. Durand has also been pestering me about you, but when isn’t she?”

The soldier had started to drift off again, eyelids flickering as she struggled between the waking world and the land of dreams. Mumbled nothings toppled from her lips, and it was with great effort that Jena forced herself awake. “Kiss?”

“What about kisses?” Handler asked, her spare hand coming up to brush some of Jena’s hair from where it had stuck to her forehead.

“Can I have one? Before…” she stifled a yawn, “Before I wake up…”

“I don’t know.” Handler gently teased the exhausted woman. “Apparently my kisses make people cry.”

Jena just pouted her lips.

Handler glanced about the room to make sure Simone hadn’t snuck in to watch. Satisfied that one of her agents wasn’t observing her in the shadows, she leaned in to brush her lips against Jena’s.

With a content sigh the tension left Jena’s body as she sunk back to sleep.

Carefully tucking her in, Handler removed the cable from the back of her neck and headed to the window. Outside the coastal plain rolled away from the beach villa, lightly dusted with sand and hardy plants. Settling on the windowsill, her implants triggered to let one side of her brain and the corresponding side of her body rest. It was GFIA technology, designed to let their agents stay active and monitor situations. Centuries ago it had been used by military snipers and assassins waiting for their target.

Normal sleep was better, but it was good enough to keep her rested as she cared for Jena.

And she did care for Jena, as much as she loathed Simone needling her about it. The body was one thing; taut artificial muscle mixed with a farmer-turned-soldier’s physique and  that boyish cut of blonde. Handler’s dreams about Jena tended to be a lot more explicit than the ones the soldier admitted to having. Her mind was another entirely. Handler wasn’t sure which she felt more. Admiration for Jena’s drive and focus on the liberation of her planet and her devotion to her military work, or pity for what it had done to the little girl who had to grow up so quickly after what the Volsta did.

She felt a tear run down the cheek of the resting side of her body.

It was going to be a long night.

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