More Than You Can Chew

“You need to stop picking fights with things larger than you, Sergeant.” Admiral Roland said, her tone and look pointed. Zaha was in her white Admiral’s jacket, though underneath a peach-coloured sundress could be seen.

“I know, Admiral. It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Jena coughed, trying to clear her throat. A quick check on her map subsystems indicated she’d been moved to the Asrat City Hospital, and it was early the next morning. “How bad was it this time?”

“New left arm, new right foot, repairs to your bio-generator and blood processing systems, a pulmonary cleansing pump, and general system repairs. Exoframes can handle small arms projectile fire, but Servitor-class firearms? You are lucky it didn’t knock your head off.” The Admiral chided. “If you’re still feeling foggy now, that will be the concussion from landing head first in the sand. Avoid bright lights, loud noises, stressful exertion, and any narcotics.”

“Sorry to be a bother, Admiral. How are the others?” Jena resisted the urge to try and shake the haze from her mind.

“Agent Huang’s getting a new leg from the knee down. Agent Durand plans to make a necklace from the bullet they removed from her shoulder and is healing well.” Jena was about to ask before Zaha cut her off. “She’s fine, Sergeant.”

Jena’s shoulders relaxed. “And the mission?”

“Priya Arnold and Adrian Spieler have both been arrested and, once they’ve recovered from their injuries, will be tried for their crimes.” She pursed her lips. “If, in the case of Mr Spieler. He put up quite a fight and after they put him down it’s been a little touch and go.”

The soldier started to push herself up off the bed, pausing to check if she had anything on under the sheets. A pale blue hospital gown covered her, which was a pleasant change from the last time she woke up from recovering. “I’ll try my best not to fight any more Servitors, Admiral.” She offered, before adding “At least while on shore leave.”

“See that you don’t. It’s bad enough dealing with Treshka, let alone another one who likes to bite off more than they can chew.” Stepping forwards, Zaha placed a small punnet of port-coloured grapes by her bedside. “I have other errands to run now, so eat these and wait for your next visitor.” She ordered, then headed for the door.

Feeling the pounding in her skull, Jena sipped at some water before deciding laying down was preferable to sitting up.

 

It didn’t take long for Handler to show up. She had changed into a fresh shipsuit, though her hair was still done up in a tight bun. “Simone shouldn’t have called you in, Jena. It wasn’t her place to, and you had no obligation to-”

“You helped me to rid Farringdon Three of the Volsta. I’d try and extinguish a sun by spitting if any of your crew asked me to.” Jena interrupted. She popped one of the berries in her mouth then offered the punnet in Handler’s direction.

What the intelligence officer was going to continue with was lost as she laughed, shaking her head as she took a seat and a grape. “A colourful description.”

“I kinda liked it myself.” The cyborg replied, brushing her fingers through her short hair. “I know we need to have a talk about some things at some point when it comes to work and us, but I think it’s for when my ears aren’t ringing.”

“That may be for the best.” Handler agreed. She reached up to take one of Jena’s hands in her own. “Thank you, though. It could have been much worse if you didn’t assist.”

Squeezing the hand in hers, Jena shuffled up the bed a little to she could sit up against the pillows. “How did they get the drop on you? It’s not like the team to miss four weapons platforms and a unit of defense droids.”

“We suspect they have some friends in various places who may have given them a heads up.”

“So, you’ll be busy tracking them down?” Jena felt her heart sink a little.

“No. That’s down to Internal Affairs. I’m bringing forwards booking the Shuck in for service, and giving the crew their shore leave to recover. It was built by Armitage Technologies for the GFIA, after all.”

“And they’re working on the Herne as we speak.”

Handler nodded.

“It makes sense.” She smiled. “Got anything nice planned?”

“I’m hoping to spend some time with a slightly reckless blonde.” Handler took another grape from the punnet. “Once she gets out of the hospital.”

“I guess I better get on that now then.” Jena said, clambering out of bed. She could feel the bedsheets on her bare skin as she sat, her gown open at the back. “Once I get pants.”

 

Discharging herself from the hospital involved more than just the acquisition of pants. There were forms to fill in, some tests to run and a lot of waiting about for some doctor to return with her results. During that time, Jena took her grapes in to go and see Simone. The brunette was propped up in bed and humming along to some music she was listening to.

“I get shot by an old pistol, you just had to go and one-up me by taking three shots from a railgun.” The agent grinned.

“I know, I’m terrible.” Jena chuckled, perching on the side of her bed. “Next time, you can fight the old Servitors and I’ll fight the ancient history fetishist.”

“We have a dea- wait, no we don’t.” Simone’s laugh was cut short by her wincing. “Don’t try and cheer me up with jokes. I’m still a little tender.”

“When are you getting out of here?”

“Tomorrow. They want to keep me in overnight. Fixer’s going to pick me and Tony up at the same time.”

“The Admiral said Agent Huang’s getting a new leg.”

“He’s being fitted for it now. I’d say you’d remember what that was like, but…” Jena had lost a year and a half of her life to the medically-induced coma she’d been put under while Fixer worked to transform her into a cyborg. “I was the one who found you, you know?”

Jena nodded. “It took me a little while, but I remember hearing you speak after the explosion and before I woke on the Shuck.”

“You looked like hell.” Simone stated.

“Thanks.”

“I didn’t think you’d last a day of the medical procedures, especially given our resources.”

“If you ever leave the GFIA, you should apply for a job here. You’ve got a great bedside manner.”

Simone laughed again, then shot Jena a wincing look. “I said no jokes.” She rubbed at her shoulder. “I didn’t mean it as… even blown up and beaten down, you still hung on and came back from the brink.”

“Where are you going with this, Simone?” Jena asked a little wearily.

“It impressed me, that’s all. And I never had a chance to say that.” She replied with a little shrug of her good shoulder.

A notification flashed up in vision, letting Jena know her test results were good and she was ready to be discharged. She placed the punnet on Simone’s bedside table. “I’ve always had good reasons to fight. I need to finish getting discharged, though.”

“Jena?” She called as the soldier reached the door out from the private room.

“Yes?”

The agent looked over her for a long while, silent before shaking her head. “It’s nothing.”

“Drop by the apartment sometime. If you bring the bullet with you, I can use my tools to make it into jewellery. The Admiral said you wanted it on a necklace.”

Agent Durand flashed Jena a bright smile at the offer. “I’ll take you up on that. Go get out of here. I’ve a new album to get back to listening to.” She said with a little tap at the side of her head.

Handler was waiting for her outside, an eyebrow quizzically raised at the contemplative expression on the blonde’s face. “Something up?”

“No.” Jena shook her head. “Let’s go home.”

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.