The Consequences (Part 6)

With her routine disrupted and having spent a while confined to her bed, Sophie’s track of time had slipped. It might have been four days since the shooting, or it may have been seven. With the rad-shielded headphones on she at least could be certain that she’d listened to the symphonic metal album currently playing eight times, even if she had drifted off during three of those.

“Miss Reynolds?” A medical gynoid asked. It was the medical Vigilant that had brought her gifts, with the black and blonde-striped hair. She had been in several times since, on some of those occasions her eyes lacked the vibrant green colour. When that was gone, so was the more animated facial movements and the personable nature. Now, with her eyes bright, her expression was one of concern.

Peeling the headphones off with one hand, Sophie flashed her a smile. “Hi again, is everything okay?”

“I was going to ask you that question. You are holding your wound, are you in pain?”

“Oh! Uh, no, actually. It feels better when I hold it there.” The teenager replied, glancing down to where her hand had slid under the paper top she had changed into that morning.

The gynoid drew a medical trolley closer. “May I take a look? Your dressings are due to be changed soon anyway.”

“Sure… um, what do I call you? Other than Santa.”

With a soft chuckle, the robot in the black and white leotard gloved up and peeled back the outer layer of the bandage. “Alice will do, Miss Reynolds.” With skilled hands Alice discarded the previous dressing into the hazardous material bucket attached to the trolley and started to clean the wound.

“Call me Sophie.” She said, trying not to wince too much. “You don’t look much like an Alice to me. More like a Kaitlyn, or a Paige. Or an Avril!”

“I picked Alice at random. While I do have a designation, it is safer that you do not know it.” Alice pursed her lips as she peered at the wound. “You are healing quicker than expected. There has been a marked improvement since this morning in the qualities of your wound. Reductions in redness, size, and the drainage quality.” On noting the look of surprise, Alice pointed at her head. “Vigilants share medical data to keep up to date on a patient’s treatment.”

“That’s a good thing though, right?” Sophie quickly asked.

“Yes, though… please, pass me your hand.” With the pale arm brought into distance, Alice swiftly sanitized the hand and rolled a blue glove over it. “I want you to hold your hand over your wound, at a slight distance.”

Doing as commanded, Sophie watched the gynoid observe intently.

“All right,” Alice picked up one of the small radiator monitors and held it near, “I want you to focus on your hand. How does it feel?”

Sophie mused for a moment. “… Warm. A bit tingly.”

Nodding, Alice grabbed a small torch from the trolley to shine on the wound. “Focus on that warmth, and make it warmer.”

“I’ll try. I’m not a space heater, so I don’t have a temperature contro-ooh!” Sophie’s body jolted a little. “That actually feels warmer. Still tingly, too.”

“Fascinating.” Alice spoke in hushed tones. “This is-”

The doors to the medical room rushed open as Teknight strode in, flanked by someone in a dark containment suit similar to the one she wore on the mission to Eighth Creek Nuclear Plant. “Step away from the patient and identify yourself!” The hero demanded, a gauntlet raised. The man in the suit grabbed a spare IV stand to brandish in Alice’s direction.

“Oh put that down, Bradley,” Alice huffed in the direction of the man before glancing to the hero. “And you? Stop charging your weapon and come take a look at this… Doctor.”

Both came to a stop, exchanging visor-concealed looks. It was Doctor Spiner who spoke first. “Who are you and what’s going on here?” He asked, still clutching the drip pole like a staff.

Sophie sat up with the biggest smile splitting her face, looking at her carer with her face full of wonder. “Brad! I’m healing!” She declared as Alice stepped to the side. Both doctors could clearly see the grey skin as it encroached on the area of her bullet wound. “I’m healing myself!”



The Consequences (Part 5)

“Teknight, wait.”

The edge to Doctor Spiner’s voice chipped away at Zahir’s resolve as he came to a stop just near the airlock doors to Sophie’s apartment at Raven Ridge. Mustering his courage, he turned the suit around to face the specialist. “Doctor, I was going to come and see you afterwards.” He spoke, the suit modulating his voice to help hide his identity.

“She could have died.” Bradley Spiner’s brown eyes bored into the hero’s visior, even if he had to strain his neck to look up at Teknight’s head. He looked in his mid-thirties, with soft brown hair gathered at the back in a ponytail and an athletic build.

“I know. If we were aware then of what we were now, I would have taken more support with me.” Zahir replied, doing his best to keep his tone level.

“That’s a little too late. In any case, if you’re here to offer her more work you can forget it.” Brad snapped. “Until she turns eighteen, Sophie is under our protective care. It’s dangerous enough for her as is without going into situations like that.”

Taking a deep breath from the cleaned and cool air that the suit’s systems re-circulate, Zahir drew himself up. “I am here to apologize to her, and to see how she is doing.”

“Come see me afterwards, Teknight. We’ve been having some issues with the monitoring equipment.” The Doctor said, walking away with hands in his lab coat pockets.


“You can come in.” Sophie called from inside the room, not quite as excited as the first time Teknight came to visit her.

Stepping through into the hospital room, his eyes were drawn to the assorted items littering her bedside table. She was sat up in bed, her hair rather messy even when tied back. Sophie managed a wan smile at him, her eyes glowing softly.

“Presents from the staff here?” Teknight inquired with a gesture of one large white and black metallic gauntlet.

“Oh, they’re… um, Santa.” The girl lied, eyes looking ever so briefly to the monitoring equipment. Minute little reactions like that were easily captured by the vision analysis software in the helmet.

“I… see. Well, I was going to bring you something, until I could not work out what to get.” The hero shrugged, crouching down by the bed to avoid causing any more neck aches to anyone at the facility. “I’m sorry, Sophie.”

“Don’t be.” Sophie smiled weakly. “I mean, I got to go out for a day and…” Her eyes were starting to brim as her voice trailed off into pained sobs, a hand clasping against her bandages.

Zahir’s armour-clad hand hovered helplessly, halfway between trying to pat her shoulder and backing off to give her space. Glancing about, he quickly grabbed several wads of tissue paper to wrap around a metallic finger. Reaching out, he carefully wiped the tears from Sophie’s grey cheeks. “You did well in that situation, given your circumstances and experiences. I’m proud to have worked with you that day.”

Sniffing loudly, Sophie plucked the tissue from the finger to finish drying her eyes. “Can you stay for a while?” She asked in a small voice, radiant blue eyes locking onto the pale blue of Zahir’s visor. Gesturing up with the patient-controlled pain relief device in her other hand, she explained “It makes me tired, but it takes a bit.”

Zahir took a moment to peer at the radiation tolerance levels of the Teknight suit. She was putting out less than she had been on his first visit. “I can stay.” Glancing about, he picked up one of the albums from the table near him. “Do you think I would like ‘Her Darkest Shadows’?”

Turning a little to better face the hero, Sophie caught her breath before pursing her lips. “That depends. Do you like symph-metal?”

Teknight laughed. “I have no idea what that is, but I’m willing to learn.”

Reaching for her bottle of fruit juice, a quick sip was all she needed to start lecturing the scientist on musical sub-genres and trends, the pain of her wounds soon pushed to the back of her mind.


“You were in there for almost five hours.” Doctor Spiner stated, a cup of coffee in his hand. He was separated from the hero by the wall of the decontamination unit.

“Time flies. She is putting out less power currently, so the suit was able to handle the radiation.” Teknight shrugged, an array of nozzles squirting a mixture of liquids over the armour.

“Even so, you may wish to limit your exposure for a while, just in case.” Brad counseled. When the decontamination procedure had finished, he waved Teknight through.

“Let’s take a look at the monitoring equipment.” Zahir spoke, ignoring the rumbling sound from his stomach. Breakfast had been skipped on account of his nerves, and lunch had long since been and gone. “I’ve something to discuss with you while we do.”


The Consequences (Part 4)

Sophie Reynolds remembered going to hospital in pain for the first time. She had been nine, fell over while rollerskating and had broken her wrist. The physical pain was beyond any stubbed toe or cut from playing about, and at the time her young mind thought she’d never feel anything that bad ever again.

Now she was laying in a secure and rad-shielded hospital room back at Raven Ridge, an IV drip hooked up to her arm and the latest in medical dressing technology protecting the gunshot wound to her stomach. The staff that came in to visit her were on loan from VIGIL, robots designed to look like humans and provide medical care in emergency situations. They were polite, and wouldn’t come down with radiation sickness due to her presence, but she still preferred talking to Doctor Spiner.

A knock at the door roused her attention, though it took a lot of effort just to look towards the door rather than staring at the ceiling. A dark-haired woman poked her head around the door, blonde streaks dyed through it and her eyes a most vibrant green. She looked around furtively before slipping into the room. Her outfit was the same black and white jumpsuit that the ‘Vigilants’ wore, but her mannerisms?

“You… aaah, shouldn’t be in here. It’s dangerous…” Sophie weakly warned, trying to shift her position on the bed to sit up.

“I will be fine, Miss Reynolds. It is you that I am concerned about, so I thought I would bring you a care package.” The gynoid replied, before touching a finger to her lips. “If anyone asks though, you did not see me. Santa brought them early.”

The mix of injury and painkillers made Sophie’s head feel packed with damp wool. Rather than try to formulate a reply, she just watched her visitor stroll towards the bed with a bright pink gift bag she procured from behind her.

“I must be quick, so there will be little pizazz or fanfare.” The woman winked. The new Her Darkest Shadows album was out of the bag first, along with what looked to be a bulky CD player and headphone set. “Rad-hardened.” Her visitor commented. “The box provides additional shielding too.”

Sophie’s head swam, weighing heavily on her neck as she tried to shake the fog from her mind. “Who are you?”

“A friend.” Came the reply, along with a stack of assorted CDs, many by groups she’d never heard of before. Then there was a couple of dark fantasy books, a bottle of apparently home-made juice judging by the handwritten label, and a soft plush cat dressed in a raver outfit complete with spiked collar.

“I don’t have many of those, being in here.” Sophie admitted quietly, her tiredness trying to draw the darkness over her vision.

“I do not have many either.” The gynoid spoke. Her hand reached deep into the bag to pull out a make-up gift set, then a bottle of “Steady” by Tia Henderson. The gifts were piling up by her bedside table.

“Sorry.” Sophie yawned. “I just can’t seem to keep my eyes open.” Another yawn brought a wince of pain with it. “You didn’t have to get all this…”

“I did not have to, but I wanted to. I shall leave the last thing in the bag for you to see later, then.” Her mysterious guest replied, placing it on the pointlessly placed chair near the bed. “You will heal up soon, Miss Reynolds. Try not to let what happened stop you from getting out.”

“Sophie? Is everything all right?” Doctor Spiner’s voice sounded over the comms system. “We lost communications for a little bit.”

Forcing her eyes open, Sophie saw the gynoid with her finger pressed to her lips again as she started towards the door. “I’m okay… I think I’d like to get some more sleep though.”

A soft laugh sounded throughout the room. “Get as much sleep as you need, Glow Bug. Huh, someone forgot to turn the camera back on after your dressings were changed.”

Sophie just managed to mumble out a “Night, Doctor.”

“It’s eleven in the morning, Sophie, but sleep well in any case.” Brad replied.


As the camera feed came back online Doctor Bradley Spiner blinked rapidly before mopping his brown hair back, a confused expression over his face. “Where did all those presents come from?!”

A Dangerous Op

The two armour-clad individuals, one hero and one villain, crawled on their stomachs towards the injured girl in the room. Sophie Reynolds was laying on her back, hands clasped over the gunshot wound to her abdomen.

“Sophie?” Teknight called out.

The teen started to move a little.

“No, stay where you are. You need to move your hands so we can treat your wound.” The hero ordered, looking over to Lieutenant Glay. The soldier was changing the head over on his sole cybernetic limb.

“Can you do anything about the radiation from the wound?” The soldier asked.

Adjusting the output levels on their gauntlets, Teknight started to project the dampening field over the oozing wound. Sophie’s body clenched from the added discomfort until Simon jabbed a needle full of serum into her thigh.

“It’s Revita.” Glay said, waiting a moment before removing the needle. “Promotes tissue regeneration and dulls pain.” Noting the sort of look Teknight was giving him, he added “Fifth generation, addiction doesn’t start to form with this until three uses in a five day period.”

“I said nothing.”

“You were saying nothing quite loudly, in fact.” Simon chuckled, carefully moving the field medic attachment on his cybernetic arm into position over the wound. “Initiating the medical scan… there is still some interference, but nothing critical.”

“I’ll see if I can dampen the radiation any more. Stay strong, Sophie.” Teknight spoke, altering the field projector settings on the fly. “Once we can move her, we have artificial blood products on our ship.”

The soldier just gave a nod of his head, going over all the data pouring into his field of view. Carefully lowering the arm, a cylinder popped out of it and started to push needles from its body, pricking the wound and injecting numbing agents to help with the pain as much as possible. Sweat beaded on his forehead inside the suit as he exercised the fine control needed to operate the limbs with such precise and minute movements.

“Why are you doing this?” The question came from the hero eventually.

“Those who die for Black Spectrum deserve to rest in its soil.” The reply was quick and confident. “Tending to your injured comrade on our terms assures my ability to carry out that sacred duty.”

“I meant coming here to take nuclear waste.”

“Ah.” Simon sounded rather amused. “When Tiberius Black commands, we obey. Perhaps another time we could debate the role and effectiveness of sanctions, but as for now…” The head on the field medic attachment quickly switched over to a claw device on a flexible cable that lowered into the wound. “The bullet did not go deep.”

Noticing Sophie’s bloodied hand reaching over, Teknight took it and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Stay strong.”

“I’d chide Sanders for his lack of trigger discipline but…” His damaged artificial arm gestured to where the corpse was. With a clink, the now irradiated bullet landed on the floor. The arm switched tasks again, patching the damage as best he could in the situation before filling the wound with a dollop of pink paste that quickly set. “She’s safe to move now.”

Cutting off the projected dampening field made the Teknight suit’s onboard computer a little happier as heat and power drain levels started to return to normal. With the uttermost care the hero gathered Sophie up and rose. “I’ll take her to be further treated. See to your men, I will inform my allies of our terms.”

Lieutenant Glay was already lifting one of the bodies to sling over his broad, exoframe-clad shoulders. “Wise, we would not want a misunderstanding, would we?”


“What the hell’s happening here, Tek?” Ruby demanded, flaming sword in hand. Between the long red hair, the red leather trenchcoat and the matching trousers, it was clear she had a penchant for crimson.

“There’s an OGRE Lieutenant in the fuel facility. Adrian? Go in and apprehend him as peacefully as possible.”

Adrian looked over and nodded. At ten foot tall and six wide, the massive robot did not seem like an Adrian, but it was what he elected to name himself. “Proceeding.” The deep synthetic voice stated, stomping off towards the target location.

Teknight kept moving towards the unit Sophie had been transported in, issuing orders to the control AI on both ships to prep for medical treatment. With a team of androids and gynoids loading with the latest medical treatment programs to work on her, Sophie would be in good hands. Ruby’s question was ignored for as long as possible, at least until the red-head dragged them aside.

“Are you sure you’re fit to back at work?” The woman asked with concern written all over her face. “No one would blame you if you needed more time off.”

Armour plated shoulders sagged down. “I need to be doing something, Ru.”

“Questions are going to be asked, though. You need to-” A chirp in Ruby’s earpiece distracted both of them as a flurry of communications came in.

“Target is not found.” Adrian reported in a rumbling monotone.

“Another spatial disturbance is occurring behind the plant.” B-VOS added. “The Black Spectrum ship is appearing again.”

With a crackle of flame, Ruby’s coat split down the back into a pair of scaled wings. With a quick beat of them she was up in the air and darting towards the location in question. Just as she crested over part of the building, the ship lurched away and faded out of sight, leaving the woman swearing and spitting flame with equal intensity.

“The trapped technicians have the system back under control.” Adrian reported from inside the facility. “They are beginning automated services. I will escort them out in the mobile shelter once they are ready.”

Getting her tempter under control, Ruby tapped a finger to her ear. “B, transfer mission control to me. Tek, you’re off duty for the moment. Get in a decontamination shower.” She ordered, looking over to where her friend was. With weary movements, Teknight departed towards the showers that had been set up at the perimeter. Every step was followed by Ruby’s worried gaze.

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.


“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.


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.”


“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.