Starcraft: FATE of a Lost Cause

Interlude: They Can't Take That Away from Me

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

She found her in the makeshift plasteel rondavel where the medics spent their rare hours of downtime. Moira lay on one of the room’s cots, still wearing the mismatched scrubs she’d borrowed from the medics, poring over something on her datapad. Turning to face the door, she broke into a grin when she saw Angel. “Oh, good!” she said, swinging her socked feet from the footlocker to the floor and setting her pad down. “My knight in darkling armor is still here.”

“Of course.” Angel walked in and closed what passed for the door behind her, noting that only cots and lockers suggested that anyone stayed here. One little electric lamp lit the whole space. “I wouldn’t leave without seeing you first.”

“Relax, Angel. I’m just teasing you.”

“Oh. Okay. Are the twins still working?”

“Yeah, they’re monitoring Fenix and a few others.” Her smile grew a shade more wicked. “Mindy’s hot for him, you know.”

“For Fenix? Really?”

“That’s what she told me, yeah.” Moira blushed a little. “After they made me tell them about us.”

“You told the medics about us?” Angel felt something strangely alien; this relationship wasn’t really a secret, but sharing its existence still seemed premature to her. That’s not it, she thought. You just don’t want Revenant to know. But he did know, and he’d already made it clear that he didn’t approve of this ‘attachment.’

Moira nodded. “Well, yeah. What there is to tell so far, anyway. They can be pretty persuasive.” She stretched out her arms. “So what’s on your mind?”

“I brought you something.” She held out the pair of gray Velcro sneakers she’d found while patrolling the perimeter.

“Oh, thank God!” Moira stood up and whisked the shoes from Angel’s hands, then sat back down, holding one against the sole of her foot before sliding them under her cot. “Yes, these should do nicely. But where did you – wait, no. It’s better if I don’t know.”

“I think that would be best, yes.” Angel figured they’d keep finding bodies from the crash as long as they remained on this planet.

“I’m glad you’re here, actually. I finished my analysis of the infested colonists. I couldn’t determine how long it’s been since they were exposed, but you should definitely anticipate a zerg presence at the colony site.”

“We’ll be ready for them.” She had the utmost confidence in the skills and dedication of her fireteam.

“If they – if those shuttles are still there, do you think Silas can get them up and running?”

“I do, yes. If there’s anything there to save, Mr. Voss can save it.” And then it’ll all be over, Angel thought, and her head sagged.

“Angel? Angel, what’s wrong?”

“You know what happens if we escape, right? What happens to us, I mean? This colonization has been compromised, and we don’t have enough personnel or material to try it again.”

“I think I know where you’re going with this. Come on, sit down.” When Angel moved toward another bunk, Moira added, “Next to me, please.”

She didn’t think the cot would support them both, so she sat on the footlocker. “If we escape this planet, I’ll be reassigned, and I’ll have my memory wiped. And someday I’ll see you on GNN, accepting some science award, and the sight of your face won’t make me feel anything. Not like it does now.” She took a deep breath, feeling the start of a lump in her throat. “But it’ll be so much worse for you, living with the memory of what we could have had.”

“Hey, don’t say that.” Moira took Angel’s hands in hers. “I knew the risks, going into this. My father used to tell me that the hardest thing you can do is care about somebody else, because there’s a hundred different ways it can hurt you. But it’s also the most important thing you can do.”

Angel felt a tear roll down her face, saw Moira’s gaze follow it. “This is just like what happened to Rick, isn’t it? In the movie, I mean.”

“Pretty much. Some things are just more important than your own happiness.”

“I have to put you – and everybody else – on those shuttles, even if I… lose myself doing it.”

Moira reached up to caress Angel’s cheek. “We’ll always have Paris. Well, I’ll always have Paris. Thanks to you and your mission.”

“But it isn’t just my mission, Moira. I want to do it… even if I won’t remember.”

Moira’s smile carried traces of sadness. “There’s hope for you yet. You remind me of a song, Angel.”

“’As Time Goes By’?” The songs from that movie are the only ones I know… but she knows that.

“What? No! I mean, I love that song, of course, but ‘woman needs man’? Not very inclusive, were you, Hupfeld? No, this song. Gershwin.” She reached past Angel to tap her datapad; a woman’s voice sang out, about the end of a romance. “I always wondered who was taking her lover away; I guess now I know.”

“Her voice is beautiful.”

“That’s Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Song. You know, Hal Wallis considered her to play Sam in the movie? She’s always been my favorite.”

“I can see why.”

Moira hummed a few bars, sang a few, then got to her feet, walking to the middle of the rondavel. “Come here,” she said, crooking a finger in Angel’s direction.

“Why?”

“Because I want to dance with you.”

Angel froze. “I don’t know how, Moira.” Oh, come on, Agent. You’ve faced the zerg and you’re afraid of this?

“But it’s so easy. Come on, it’ll be fun.”

Stifling a sigh, Angel stood and walked over to Moira. “Here,” the doctor said, pulling her close, “hold my hand up, like this. Now put your other hand here.” Angel found her hand on Moira’s back, not entirely sure how it got there. “And we just sway back and forth. See? Nice.”

It was, but Angel felt like a thousand butterflies were trying to flit their way out of her chest. “Moira, I – ”

“Shush. Just dance with me. Listen to the song. Be here, now.”

She did. She let herself go, let the butterflies go, and passed being part of the moment to become the moment. Time simply ceased to matter. She didn’t even notice when the song started over.

“You know,” Moira eventually said, her chin resting on Angel’s shoulder, “I was with Nikki for most of three years, and she never once watched Casablanca with me? But you did on the first date.”

“Was it a date?”

“Well, I intend to count it. I don’t know how you do it in the military.”

“Neither do I.”

“I suppose you’ll have to write your own field manual, then.” Moira chewed on her bottom lip for a moment. “I don’t know when you ship out, but the twins won’t be back here for another three hours.”

Angel gave this a moment’s thought. “Did you have another movie to show me?”

“What?” Moira pulled back into Angel’s field of vision. “Well, yes, but I thought we could do… you know… something else.” When Angel didn’t respond, she added: “Something more intimate?”

“Oh? Oh!” Ice and fire seeped into Angel’s blood, and she felt her limbs tense up.

Moira let go and took a step back. “Unless you don’t want to.”

“No, of course I want to.” Indeed, since movie night, Angel had struggled to think about anything else.

“Okay. But you still seem really hesitant. If you aren’t ready, we can just forget I said anything.”

“That’s my problem; I have no idea if I’m ready. How could I know if I can’t remember ever doing it before?”

“Fair enough. I know your hymen’s still intact, for what that’s worth.” She shook her head, laughing. “Clinical language is always a turn-on, isn’t it?” She looked a little disappointed when Angel didn’t laugh. “Sorry, I want to respect the importance of the moment, but I also want to keep it fun. I’m in uncharted waters here.”

“Have you never had sex either?”

“I…” Moira gave her a quizzical look. “Yes, I have. But I’ve never deflowered somebody before.”

“I see. Well, everything I know about the subject comes from what I’ve seen in people’s dreams and waking fantasies. Though it’s… interesting, I doubt it has any practical application.” Most of it seemed downright impossible, really.

“Doubtful, yeah.” The doctor puffed out a breath of air. “I feel like the moment’s slipping away, here. Let’s do an experiment. I’ll provide a stimulus and observe the response. Along the lines of the ‘symptoms’ we talked about on movie night.”

“Sexual arousal. Sure.” Anything would be better than all this anxiety. “What did you have in mind?”

Moira took Angel into her arms again. “This,” she whispered, closing her eyes and tilting her head just before kissing Angel’s lips.

Fireworks exploded in Angel’s brain as Moira held her close, the warm wet softness of the doctor’s mouth sliding against her lips, the natural scent inflaming her nostrils. Moira’s tongue stole into her mouth; when she met it with her own, the doctor gave a hot, deep groan and pulled Angel back toward the cot.

Moira broke the kiss at last, gazing at Angel with dark, half-lidded eyes. “I believe the experiment is a success,” she gasped as she sat on the bed. “How do you feel?”

Angel lowered her psychic defenses, feeding on Moira’s passion until her own rose up to match it. “Like you do.” She kneeled before Moira, the perfect height to start kissing her again.

“I wish we had more time,” Moira panted between kisses. “Your first time should be romantic, and special… we’ll have to do that some other time.” Bringing her mouth to Angel’s ear, she whispered: “Because, right now, I just want to fuck.”

Fumbling with the clasps on Angel’s chestplate for a few moments, Moira gave up and reached down to pull her own shirt up and over her head, allowing her bare breasts to drop into view. Discarding the shirt, she took hold of Angel’s gloved hands and placed one on her stomach, while she pulled the glove off the other.

Moira suddenly stopped and looked Angel right in the eye. “If I do anything for you, or to you, that you don’t like, just tell me, and I’ll stop.”

Angel nodded. As Moira’s breast filled her hand – smaller than her own, and a lighter shade of gold from the doctor’s lovely face – she thought, there’s nothing you could do right now that I wouldn’t like.

Then Angel’s communicator chirped. “Docs cleared me,” Fenix’s voice announced, “so we’re just waitin’ on you now.”

“Oh, damn it,” Moira moaned. “Why am I not surprised?”

“They can wait a few minutes.” Even as Angel said the words, she knew the moment had passed.

“No, no.” Moira fell back onto the cot and out of Angel’s grasp. “For God’s sake, answer him.”

She paused before keying her com to say, “I’m on my way.” She looked into Moira’s eyes. “Moira, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I knew this was a possibility.” She laughed. “I should have kept going till I got to ‘inevitability,’ though.”

Angel collected her glove and stood up. “I’ll be back.”

“You damn well better.” Moira grinned at her, also getting to her feet. She threw her arms around the ghost, pressing her naked torso to Angel’s armor. “But you don’t get to leave until I get one last kiss.”

That reminded Angel of the movie. “Should I kiss you as if it were for the last time?”

“Yes,” Moira breathed, parting her lips for the slow, sweet pleasure of the kiss… which very nearly was their last.

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Interlude: Movie Night

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Mutalisk venom made Angel’s return to med bay a nauseating blur. Med Officer Lindy removed the spiny wheel of bone from her belly, administered some antivenin, and sent her home once she was well enough to walk.

Now she lay on her back, legs inside her little tent, staring up at unfamiliar stars. Her body was beyond exhausted, but her mind refused to give up on the day, flashing through dozens of tactical plays to try in her next zerg encounter. Her fireteam had proven themselves in every skirmish so far, but the zerg attack today was only the beginning of a concentrated effort to exterminate the terrans.

Angel had to be ready when her moment came, and it could come at any time. Now, if she could only convince her brain to let it go, to admit that she’d be useless to the mission in this fatigued condition…

“Just as I thought,” Dr. Zhang said, walking toward Angel’s tent, a small bag slung over her shoulder. “Can’t sleep, can you?” Weariness tugged the corners of the doctor’s words, but she still managed a smile.

“No.”

The doctor crouched near Angel’s head. “Brain won’t quit?”

“No. How did you know?”

“Because I have the same problem. The difference is, I know what to do about it.” Dr. Zhang must have seen the interest on Angel’s face. “You need distraction – we both do.”

It was worth a try. “What did you have in mind?”

“Movie night. Do you like movies, Angel?”

“I don’t know. Is that like a holo-flick? I never went to holo-flick night on the Liberty.”

“You’ve never seen a holo-flick?”

“If I have, I don’t remember it.”

Dr. Zhang held up her bag. “Well, I had something of a different vintage in mind. You know how I like old stories.” She glanced at the tent, the light of the three moons dancing in her eyes. “But you’ll have to make some room for me.”

The doctor watched the ghost climb into the tent, head held at a curious angle. “You sleep in your armor?”

“Of course. I have to be ready for an attack at any time.”

“Isn’t it uncomfortable? No, wait.” Moira raised a hand. “Let me guess. You’re trained for it.”

“That’s right.” In truth, it was fairly uncomfortable, for the cool of evening did little to staunch the forest’s humidity. But the mission came first.

“Well, I hope you don’t mind if I lose my armor. Hold this, please.” Handing Angel the little bag, Dr. Zhang took off her lab coat, balled it up, and tossed it into the tent. She stepped out of her shoes, then stooped to place them inside the tent before climbing inside and zipping the flap shut, laying her head on her rolled-up coat with a groan. “You know I’ve had a Hell of a day if this is comfortable. Cozy, too. Bet you’re glad I cleaned up before I got here.”

Moira smelled like bottled apples, with a hint of something underneath. Angel suddenly wondered how she herself smelled. “Maybe I should have, too.”

“Nah, don’t worry about it.” Dr. Zhang pulled a datapad from her bag. “I can’t believe you’ve never seen a movie. We’ll go straight to the top of the food chain and watch my favorite. If you don’t mind.”

If it’s important to you, Angel thought, it’s important to me. “All right.”

Dr. Zhang held the datapad over her lap and tapped it until a grayscale shield filled the screen. “This was made in black and white,” the doctor said. “Color photography was expensive back then.”

Angel was used to monochromatic holograms… “How long ago is this?”

“More than five hundred years older than we are. Old Earth stuff.”

Angel held her questions as they arose, allowing the story to wash over her. She found the complex emotions surrounding the doctor even more fascinating; though she knew this film by heart, her reactions were too strong for the ghost to block out. A strange unease underlay it all, something Dr. Zhang feared to do, but couldn’t be sure if she could stop herself…

About ten minutes into the movie, when the owner of the nightclub first appeared, Dr. Zhang asked Angel to take the pad, then sat up, crossing her legs in a lotus position. The doctor began kneading the bare flesh of her own upturned soles. Angel didn’t find it distracting – until Moira started moaning. “Are you in pain?” she asked, pausing the movie.

Dr. Zhang nodded. “Those shoes are not meant for standing up all day. I’d kill for a pair of sneakers, if you could find some in a seven.”

“I believe Mr. Ashe has already salvaged everything of value from the Liberty. Have you checked with him?”

“Yeah. Not willing to pay what he’s asking.”

“Then I’ll keep an eye out at the other sites.”

“Thanks,” Moira said with a warm smile. “You’re gonna save me again, Angel.”

Angel knew what Moira really wanted, if not why she feared to ask. “In the meantime, I can rub your feet for you, if you like.”

She didn’t miss the doctor’s gasp. “I didn’t want to impose.”

“It’s all right; I don’t mind.”

“I’ll be your best friend,” Moira said in a sing-song, childlike voice.

They shifted around until they faced each other, Moira’s feet in Angel’s lap, the datapad propped up on the bag between them. Angel went to work as the movie continued, finding a strange satisfaction in her friend’s relief, in the gentle rhythm of her breathing, the softness of her skin.

“I think you are my best friend,” she eventually told Moira as she worked the doctor’s heel.

“Yeah?”

“Sure.” Well, you might be my only friend. “I… I don’t wholly understand your interest in me. But I appreciate it.” I don’t understand why I’m interested in you, either.

“That’s great, Angel. I’m happy to be your friend. This is… this is nice.” Something bittersweet hid beneath her words. “You can – you should use more pressure, though. You’re making me ticklish.”

Angel complied, pressing her knuckles into one sole, then the other. “Why are you sad, then?”

“Is it that obvious?” she said with a dismissive, defensive laugh.

“I’m having a hard time blocking out your feelings.” She’d never been this close to Moira, had never been alone with her. And Angel was too tired to concentrate on maintaining the psychic wall.

“This just reminds me of what I gave up to be here.” She sighed. “I was engaged before I signed up for this expedition. I thought my fiancée shared my need for a new start, for adventure.”

“But he didn’t?”

”She didn’t, no.” Moira reached to pause the movie again, keeping her feet in Angel’s hands. “That doesn’t weird you out, does it?”

“What? That you were going to marry?”

“That I was going to marry a woman, Angel. That I’m gay. Does that weird you out?”

“No, of course not. Why would it?”

“People are still weird about it, sometimes.” Her eyelids fluttered as Angel worked on her instep. “Religious types, mostly.”

The idea that someone could hate someone else over something so innate as sexual orientation struck Angel as unfathomable. Didn’t humanity have more important things to worry about? “I’ve visited the dreams of nearly everybody in this camp,” she said, trying to sound reassuring. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

Moira swallowed her reply and restarted the movie, watching in silence until a man and woman appeared on the screen, entering the nightclub. A wave of desire rolled off the doctor to wash over Angel. “Hallelujah,” Moira said. “Here she comes.”

“I imagine the man is Laszlo, but who is she?”

“Ilsa Lund, my Angel. Portrayed by Ingrid fuck-mothering Bergman.”

“You’re… fond of her.”

“Understatement of the year. Wait for the close-up.” As the prefect of police complimented Ilsa, the friendly reserve of her smile triggered a… reaction in Angel. Though similar to what she felt from Moira, it didn’t come from Moira – this was something entirely her own. Ilsa Lund was indisputably beautiful, but Angel’s sudden appreciation of that beauty was not strictly intellectual.

“I know, right?” Moira wore a knowing expression. A telling expression. “Isn’t she luminous? The first time I saw her in this, I was too young to know I was gay… but it showed me that I’d never be 100% straight.”

Angel glanced from the screen to the doctor. Something about the way Moira looked at the ghost reminded her of the way Moira looked at Ilsa – both more immediate and more guarded. Not the idealized longing for a fictitious woman portrayed by someone who’d been dead for five centuries… no, this was something else.

And she suddenly realized how beautiful Moira was. She sensed luminosity in the doctor’s being, stronger than Ilsa’s camera-granted aura. Something foreign surged up in Angel again, an odd, secret thrill that left her more confused than before. She wants me, Angel thought, and she hates herself for it. She looked down at the bare feet in her lap, wondered if there were a sexual element to this massage she hadn’t realized… and her hands kept working, pulling each toe in turn. Even her feet are beautiful… “She is very pretty,” Angel managed to say. “I’m not sure if I’m sexually attracted to her, though.”

Moira snorted with laughter. “Hey, I didn’t say you had to agree with me.” She paused, becoming more serious. “Have you experienced sexual attraction yet, though?”

“No. I don’t think so. What are the symptoms?”

“Symptoms? Well, it is like a disease, I suppose. Harder, faster breathing. Increased heart rate and blood pressure. Erection of the nipples. Swelling of the external genitals, and increased lubrication inside the vagina.” Moira listed these with clinical detachment, ticking them off on the fingers of one hand. But Angel suspected that the doctor might be experiencing some of those symptoms herself. “Any of that sound familiar?”

“No,” Angel said again, over a hitch in her own breathing. “I don’t think so.”

“I see. Well, asexuality is a possibility. But I should tell you.” Moira paused the movie again before dropping her voice. “The Dominion had you on a regimen of hormonal suppressants before the crash. I don’t know how long it’ll take your system to flush that out, or what the effect will be once you do. But… I thought you should know.”

A chill swept through Angel’s body. Her hands paused, still lightly touching Moira. “They did what?”

“I know; it’s awful. But now that you’re off that stuff, and your chip is fried, I think you’ve got a shot – a real shot at being human.”

“Human? I don’t know the first thing about being human.” The Dominion had certainly seen to that. Anger bloomed in her heart, and she wondered if this was how Sarah Kerrigan felt when she turned her back on her own people.

I’m not like her. I’m loyal to the Dominion.

Of course you are, Agent X72037N; that’s how they made you. And that’s how they made her.

“Maybe not,” Dr. Zhang said, ending Angel’s mental tangent. “Maybe you don’t have a foundation of experiences to help you make any sense of what you’re feeling.”

“I’m not feeling anything,” Angel lied. “My emotions are under control.”

“I don’t have to be psychic to spot that lie. My point is that you can learn to be human.” Moira pulled her feet away from Angel and rose to her knees, taking hold of her hands and bringing her face closer to the ghost’s. “Your alternative is to end up like Revenant, and I know you don’t want that.”

“No.” She finally admitted it. “No, I don’t.”

“Then let me help you.”

“Out of kindness, I suppose.”

Moira looked hurt. “Mostly, yes. If you must know, Dr. Dark is invested in our relationship. He appreciates any soldiers who are sympathetic to us scientists – but I promise, I’m not going to use you like that.”

“That could ruin your plans to get into my pants.”

“I – is that what you think this is about?” Moira’s face flushed, and she looked away.

“I know that’s part of it, yes.”

When she met Angel’s gaze again, she did so shyly. “Okay, yeah. But it’s only a small part.” She let go of Angel’s hands. “I won’t push you into anything, Angel. If you don’t feel the same way, that’s fine. You’d hardly be the first unrequited crush I’ve ever had. But I swear to you, I only want to help you find yourself. You can…” She swallowed. “You can read my mind if you don’t believe me.”

“No,” Angel said at once, knowing what a compromise that would be for Moira. “I don’t need to do that, Doctor.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, call me Moira,” she said with nervous laughter, grateful for the broken tension.

“All right. Moira.” It felt good, and right, to call her friend by her first name. Maybe Moira would be more than a friend to her, in time; this was a good place to start. “So what happens now?”

“I think we should finish the movie, or try to, and get some sleep. I don’t know how much awake I’ve got left in me. We aren’t gonna work everything out tonight, so let’s not try.”

Angel nodded her agreement and stretched back out to her original position. Around the time Rick told the band to play “La Marseillaise,” Moira laid her head on the ghost’s shoulder and softly said, “Thank you for sharing this with me.”

She looked into the doctor’s dark brown eyes, at the enigmatic smile on her lips, and the urge to kiss her exploded inside Angel. She wondered if she’d ever wanted anything so badly… if she’d ever felt something like this before, only to have the Dominion steal it from her. As much as she loved the terran cause, this seemed like a far better thing to fight, and to die, for.

“You’re welcome,” she finally said, and turned back to the screen.

Moira fell asleep soon after, leaving Angel to watch the end of the movie alone. Finding its message almost impossibly relevant, she knew she and the doctor would have much to talk about at their next opportunity…

When she awoke with Moira’s arm across her armored chest, Angel knew she’d had a dream, but couldn’t remember a thing about it.

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Interlude: The Dolorous Stroke

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Angel clawed her way back up into consciousness, her mind a calm island in a sea of pain. Her side still screamed from the hydralisk’s attack, and Med Officer Lindy’s… determined removal of its spine and barbs. The operation had been an ordeal without anesthetic; the ghost took icy comfort in her certainty that any dosage strong enough to negate this much pain would be fatal.

She called up a psychic wall – not to keep the thoughts of others out, but to keep herself from harming anyone else in the med bay. I hope I didn’t give anyone a headache while I was passed out, she thought. Or worse.

The sheet gently lifted over her wounded side. Angel realized that she was still in the hospital bed – and naked, aside from the dressing on her wound. She also knew that she was in the presence of Dr. Moira Zhang. “Hello, Doctor,” she said.

“Hello, Angel. Hold still, please. I’m just checking up on you.”

Angel opened her eyes, realized she’d been moved to the little alcove with the scanner, the flimsy duct-taped “curtain” drawn closed to give them the illusion of privacy. The xenobiologist seemed unusually focused on her work. She seems tense, Angel thought. This is where a normal person would make a joke. Wait, a normal person? What did that mean?

Dr. Zhang ended that train of thought with a joke of her own. “Well, I think you’ll play the piano again. There’s no sign of infection, thank God, and it’s already starting to mend. I don’t know what was in that cocktail Lindy gave you, but it seems to be doing the job.”

“Glad to hear it. Thank you, Doctor.”

She carefully laid the sheet back down. “You’re welcome. Get some rest, Angel. I’ll be back to check on you later.”

“Wait,” Angel said before she realized she’d said it.

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Interlude: Attachments

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Agent X72037N found the makeshift shelter where the medics had established their triage. Only three had survived the crash, and one, Guzmán, was here as a patient, not a doctor. Pain came off the wounded in waves; the ghost found it as tangible as the walls of this makeshift shelter. She took a deep breath and built a psionic wall around herself. As long as she maintained her concentration, the only thoughts in her head would be hers.

I’ll give myself a headache doing this, she thought. I need my inhibitor repaired, and now.

But the medics had their hands full with more pressing matters. The ghost surveyed the room until she spotted a familiar face – the scientist (no, the xenobiologist) she’d helped earlier in the morning. “Dr. Zhang?” she called.

“That’s me,” Dr. Zhang said, walking toward her with the hint of a limp. Hardly an inch shorter than Angel, she still seemed much smaller. “Though I don’t remember introducing myself earlier. Did you get my name from reading my thoughts?”

“No, ma’am. From your ID badge.”

< ma’am! How very soldiery > A sudden flash of Dr. Zhang’s < too soon for ‘call me Moira’ > thoughts pierced the ghost’s mind, and she swiftly moved to mend the hole in the wall.

“Oh. Well, I certainly remember you, even if I didn’t get your name, either, Miss…” She held up a pair of reading glasses to peer at the label on Agent X72037N’s chestplate. “Is there something I can call you that isn’t, you know, that?”

“Most civilians call me Angel. I’m told Silas Voss started calling me that after I saved his life on Nova Artesia. I suppose it stuck.”

“You’re told?” Dr. Zhang’s eyebrows knitted for a second. “Of course. Memory wipes. All right, Angel it is, saver of lives. What can I do for you, Angel?”

She didn’t normally care for being called ‘Angel,’ but there was something about the way Dr. Zhang said it that pleased her. It was certainly better than ‘Number’… “I was looking for Dr. Forêt, but I think he’s dead.”

Dr. Moira Zhang nodded. “I’m afraid so, yes. He was in the psionics lab when the Liberty went down. He was – there was nothing left. If you’re having a psychic problem, I can help. I do have a doctorate in psionic studies… and I studied human biology before moving on to the exotic stuff.”

She’s your best chance to get this fixed. “My neural inhibitor has failed.”

“I see. Well, come with me; we’ll put you in the scanner and take a look.”

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Prelude: Last Light

Nav Officer Decker stood at the ships star chart holo-terminal staring into the blackness. No one had been out this far since the first war, these clusters were almost foreign to the young helmsman, he’d studied them in training, but actually traveling through them was different altogether. He peered in awe at the blinking lights before him noting their location and destination. Right there in the cluster of stars and planets, in the dark reaches of space, was Korr.

Korr was a garden planet, ripe for colonization, and if the thrice-damned Zerg hadn’t reared their ugly heads out of their hives it would already be home and haven to Terrans. Decker had the luck of having been stationed on a vessel outside of the Queen of Blades swath of destruction and managed to avoid having to actually encounter the beasts. The holo-vids and broadcasts from the core worlds displayed enough of them to make him count himself lucky that he never had.

“You excited son?” Decker jumped, the captain startled him from his thoughts. “Oh, yes sir, I’ve read that before the war Korr was rich with vespene and resources, like a treasure trove waiting for us… Sir.” Captain Stewart stood taller than Decker, and broader, heck bigger in every way it seemed. He had a fatherly air about him, not cruel or harsh, but firm and powerful. He had obviously seen military service at one time but he refused to speak of it to any of the crew, brushing it off as “Old days.”

“Who cares about all that? Resources are what the bureaucrats and businessmen care about, if you’re in this for the money then I’ve got news for you son…” Captain Stewart turned and headed to his console. “Money’s no good on the ground of a lost planet.” Decker sputtered “Well… I mean… It should be an excellent place to start a colony, lots of resources to build from.” The captain grinned at him a broad toothy smile “I’m teasin’ you boy, now, bring up the sector charts and go get yourself something to eat, I know you’ve had your eye on that colonist girl Sophie and I think it’s their dinner time.”

With a blush and a stuttered “Y- yes sir!” Decker walked briskly from the deck leaving the captain and the other helmsmen behind. In his hurry he didn’t notice the man in the hallway until he shoulder-checked him by accident. The other man was toned, rugged and sporting a day’s growth of hair on his jaws, sideburns and shorn scalp. He wore a tank top and what looked like cargo pants and not much else.

The man stared down the navigation officer with a scowl and Decker winced back at the man’s stare and apologized. Decker suddenly wanted more than anything to just get away and down to the mess hall. The man snorted through his sinuses in a menacing grunt and Decker hurried on with his head down, too flustered to be curious about what had just occurred. The gruff man continued in his path toward the bridge.

Decker found himself hurrying toward the mess hall, brushing past people hoping to catch the bespectacled brunette that had drawn his attention on this voyage. Some of the Dominion marines were finishing chow and elbowed him out of the way as he walked past, into the cramped dining quarters. He slowed himself and tried to compose himself as he approached the area where the colonists were eating and scanned for Sophie before spotting her sitting with her family.

He began to approach her table and barely took note that the lights dimmed slightly when he looked at her, he was completely smitten. He thought nothing of it until a couple of the colonists also seemed to look around and take note of the sudden change in illumination. Decker looked to Sophie again and put on his best “confidence” look so as to put her at ease and she just smiled at him, that smile that made his bones melt.

He shrugged off the electrical problem and took a couple more steps toward her when it happened. A deafening shriek of metal on metal resounded through the ship and everyone was tossed to the side as the ships gravity generators tried to compensate for… something. Decker’s foot slammed to the deck floor and his whole body felt like lead as the artificial gravity drives overcharged for a moment, causing sudden distress among everyone in the crowded dining hall. Decker pulled himself toward Sophie, who’s eyes were wide with fear as everyone was suddenly launched into the air when the grav engines died.

Panic ensued in the crowded confines of the dining hall, the lights flickered and people floated up from their seats, only to be slammed down again, hard, as the drives engaged once more, trying to compensate. Everyone was quiet for a moment, stunned, wondering if it was over, when the drives failed again and the whole ship lurched. Harnesses popped from the walls for emergencies and people fought each other for use of them.

Decker pushed off from a table toward Sophie who had nearly become lost in the confusion and got her to a wall harness and frantically strapped her in. The throng of people then swallowed him up, pulling and pushing, frantically screaming against the alarm klaxons, arms and legs moving Decker away from the wall. He quickly found himself tumbling, flailing franticly and carried by the mass of scrambling people, away from the safety harnesses, away from Sophie.

His last memories before falling unconscious to a misplaced boot to his head was a tear in the plasteel wall and the view of the on-rushing planet coming up at them, then darkness.

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