For synopsis and disclaimer, see part 1.

Feedback: Constructive comments and criticism welcomed at sbarret_fic@yahoo.com and many thanks for reading.



Academy's Finest

By Sandra Barret

Part 8




Dray's first sensation came from the aches in her body. Her eyes felt dry and pain radiated from her shoulders when she tried to lift her arm. Where was she? Her mind refused to focus. She wanted to go back to sleep, to escape the pain, but the throbbing in her head wouldn't allow that. She forced her eyes open.

Venkata hovered over her, the Gilgaran's black eye covers reflecting Dray's pale face. "You are awake," said Venkata, leaning back in her chair.

"Where am I?" asked Dray. Her voice sounded raspy in her ears.

"Still on the Cygna-major in the middle of nowhere. How are you feeling?"

"Not so good."

Venkata leaned closer. "What can you remember?"

Dray concentrated. "We were in a cave, I think." The sensations of Jordan in her arms flooded back to her, and she felt her face flush.

"Excellent. That's good, considering you were outside at least three hours past your limit."

"I don't understand."

"When Carson and Petros went missing, Red and I went searching for them. Lucky for you two we found you first. I don't think the other two fared as well. They had five hours over-exposure to the atmosphere here."

Dray wanted to say something about Carson, something important, but her mind wouldn't focus. "What about Jordan?"

"She's doing well. She woke up a few hours ago. Those critters you brought in won't leave her side."

Dray struggled to remember how they'd found them. "I only remember one baby."

Venkata patted her arm. "You were over-exposed by three hours. Some memory loss is expected, but I don't think you'll suffer any permanent damage."

Dray rolled away from Venkata. The Gilgaran's words didn't sooth her frustration. She clearly remembered only one baby in the back of the cave when she fell asleep in Jordan's arms.

Hours later, Dray pulled herself out of bed. Her head still throbbed, but her other aches subsided. She needed to see Jordan, to see for herself that Jordan was okay. She stepped out of her room and leaned against the cool metal wall, waiting for a wave of dizziness to end. She paced down the corridor to Jordan's room but found it empty. Her head pounded its resistance, but she continued down the corridor, following the sound of voices coming from the break room. She squinted as she came into the brightly lit room. Jenny and Jordan sat on the floor where three small bipeds played between them.

Jordan looked up and smiled at her. "Finally waking up, sleepy?"

Dray tried to smile in return, but the effort made her head ache. Something in her face must have startled her friend. Jordan jumped up, frightening the babies and sending them scuttling under a table. She came over to Dray and wrapped an arm around her waist. Dray leaned on her and let Jordan lead her to a chair.

"You should still be in bed," Jordan admonished, studying Dray's face.

"I feel better than I look."

"You're a bad liar," said Jordan. She leaned down and picked up one of the babies that whimpered at her feet. "This one is Merry, short for Meriweather."

"You named them?" asked Dray.

Jordan blushed, "It was Jenny's idea."

Jenny brought over a steaming mug of broth and handed to Dray. "Well, it was easier than saying this one, that one, and the other one."

Dray sipped the broth, feeling it warm her stiff body. "What do you call the other two?"

Jenny pointed, "Flora and Fauna."

Dray suppressed a groan. "The fairies from Sleeping Beauty?"

"It seemed appropriate," said Jordan.

"So do we know what they are?" asked Dray.

"No," said Jenny, frowning. "But Franklin does. He's the one who told us how to feed them."

"Franklin? So what are they, then?" asked Dray.

Jenny leaned down to push one of the babies away from the supply cabinets. "He won't say, and Malory's fit to be tied about it."

Dray laughed, easing some of the lingering fuzziness in her mind. Jordan looked good. In fact, she looked great. "How come I feel like a used up hydro cartridge, and you look fine?"

Jordan wrapped Dray's hand in her own. "I've been awake longer, love." She leaned in and placed warm lips on Dray's, lingering just long enough to stir Dray's desire. "You'll feel better soon, I promise."

"I feel better already," said Dray. She studied Jordan, suddenly untrusting of her own memories. "Do you remember what happened in the cave?"

Jordan's cheeks flush. "Yes. Do you?"

Uncertainty seemed to wash over Jordan's face. Could she possibly doubt how Dray felt about her?

"I don't remember much before then, but I remember everything in the cave." Dray squeezed Jordan's hand.

"You don't remember before that?" Jordan asked.

Dray swallowed nervously. Was there something important that happened between them before the cave? She lowered her head into her hands, trying to force the memories back. "No, I can't really remember. I'm sorry."

"You don't remember meeting Carson and Petros?" asked Jenny.

"No. We didn't leave with them, did we?" asked Dray.

Jenny whistled. "That's unfortunate. Jordan says you were the only eye-witness to what Carson did."

"What did he do?" asked Dray. Carson's name brought up a strong sense of disgust in her, but nothing solid.

Jordan hugged her. "Don't worry. Even if you can't remember, we have enough evidence to convict him and Petros."

"Assuming either of them regain their sanity," Jenny added. "They're both under heavy sedation for now, for their own protection."

"But what did they do?" Dray repeated.

"They killed the mother of these three," said Jordan. "And then tried to kill us as well. If you hadn't come up on them, they'd have killed the babies for sure."

"If you're up for it, you should report to Malory. She'll want to know anything you can remember, for the record," said Jenny.

Dray stood up, ignoring the wave of dizziness that threatened to unbalance her. "I can't tell much, but I'll give my report anyway."

Dray caught up with Malory Grace outside Franklin's makeshift prison. By the expression on the junior pilot's face, the meeting hadn't gone well.

"Glad you're awake," said Malory, though her expression didn't match her words. "Are you ready to give your report?"

"Yes, Ma'am," said Dray.

Malory led them to the communications room she used as her office. Malory didn't sit down, but leaned against the back of a console table. Dray's dizziness returned. She hoped she was standing still and not swaying to match her spinning head.

"Tell me about your trip," said Malory.

"I don't remember much. Jordan and I went for a hike, looking for the nests that Red found the other cycle. I don't remember meeting up with Carson at all."

Malory's voice remained calm, dispassionate. "There was evidence of laser fire. Did you discharge your weapon, Draybeck?"

"No, Ma'am."

"Okay, what else do you remember?"

Dray felt her face flush as she thought about her time with Jordan. How much should she tell of that? "Jordan and I were in a cave. We had only one baby with us, I'm sure of that."

"The other two must have followed you, after you fell asleep." Malory's voice wavered enough for Dray to know that she and Jordan must have been found in each other's arms.

"I don't remember anything else that would be useful."

Malory clenched the edge of the console. "One last thing, Drabeck. Off the record."

Dray raised her eyebrows. "Yes?" she asked, cautiously.

Malory stepped forward. "I don't know what game you are playing, and officially, I can't say or do anything about it. But if you hurt Jenny, I'll be on your tail like a bad afterburn."

"Jenny?" asked Dray. "Off the record, Malory, you are the only one on this ship that's hurt Jenny."

"I know I have no chance with her now." Malory's shoulders slumped. "But I won't sit by and watch you dance between her and Jordan Bowers. As your C.O., I can't do anything about it right now. But once we are off this rock, I can and will."

The fire in Malory's eyes took Dray by surprise. "You still love her, don't you?" she asked.

Malory nodded, then looked away.

"Not that you have a right to know," Dray began. "But Jenny and I are just friends. We've never been anything more. I love Jordan."

Dray felt the truth of those words sink in. She'd known for awhile that she loved Jordan, but she never admitted it to herself. Ironically, Malory Grace held the honor of being the first person to hear Dray's true feelings.

Malory studied her. "Nothing between you and Jenny?"

"Nothing," Dray repeated, with a smile. "Jenny's still in love with someone else."

A wave of hope washed over Malory's face.

Dray closed the gap between her and Malory. "And since we're talking, off the record, if you hurt Jenny again, I'll stuff your sad, blonde ass out an air lock."

To Dray's surprise, Malory laughed so hard she had to wipe tears from her eyes. When she finally calmed down, she seemed more relaxed than Dray had ever seen her.

"If you weren't so damned arrogant, Draybeck, I'd almost like you. Now get your butt back to bed before you pass out."

Dray left Malory and walked back down the corridor. She wanted to take Malory up on the offer to go back to sleep, but she had one more task to do. She nodded to the two juniors on duty outside Franklin's room, and then let herself in. The disheveled prisoner glanced at her from his bed and then returned to staring up at the ceiling.

"Don't you get tired of poking sticks at the traitor," he said.

"What do you know about the babies?" she asked.

"I told your blond bombshell pilot all I know."

Dray stumbled into the lone chair. "Will somebody come for them?"

Franklin sat up. "What are you getting at?"

"They're sentient, aren't they?"

"My my," said Franklin, with a smirk. "A military brat that can see beyond the tip of her own nose. Are you sure you aren't on the wrong side in this war?"

"Just answer the question, traitor." Dray's head pounded as she focused on Franklin's answer.

"Yes, they're sentient, and yes, someone will come for them. Pray to your god of choice for a quick death when they come."

Dray left, stumbling back to her own room. She found Jordan asleep on her bed. Smiling, she curled up next to her on the small mat. Sleep wrapped her in its silent embrace.

The pounding noise in Dray's dream turned to reality when she opened her eyes and realized someone was knocking on her door. She tried to uncoil herself from around Jordan. When she moved, Jordan groaned and rolled to the other side. She rolled completely off the bed and ended in a surprised clump on the floor.

"I'm sorry," said Dray, laughing. "All the mats on this ship are singles."

Jordan rubbed her sore backside. "If you were sorry, you wouldn't be laughing."

The incessant knocking on the door kept Dray from inviting Jordan back to bed. She opened the door to see Red standing outside, shuffling from foot to foot.

"About time you two woke up," he said, his eyes sparkling with some hidden news.

"What's the big emergency?" asked Dray.

"We've got a signal. Terran security band. Looks like we'll be rescued sometime this cycle."


To be continued in part 9.

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