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Chapter 7: Acceptance


Several hours later, Darren was taken to the room that had been assigned to him by Zell. He laid there in his bed, thinking about what had gone on back on Earth. What were they going to do now? They had no home to go back to. The door chime sounded in the room, “Come in,” said Darren.

The door opened, and Kaylee walked in. The door closed behind her, and she stood next to Darren’s bed. “You saved my life, and you stood up for me. I wanted to thank you,” she said.

“No need to,” Darren smiled, “Nobody treats you like that, certainly not around me. I’ll never stand for it. I’m just glad we made it out of that nightmare before you got hurt.”

“Darren,” said Kaylee, “You almost died, twice, protecting me. Nobody has ever risked their lives for me, even once, and then you come along--”

“Kaylee,” Darren interrupted.

“Darren,” she shushed him, “Let me finish, okay?” Darren nodded and was silent from that point. “You come along, and you defended me in that bar, then you protected me from half a building, then you stood up to that soldier,” she continued, “You’re the most selfless person I’ve ever met. You cared more for my safety than your own. You even told me to leave you behind because you were afraid your wound would lead to our capture. Darren, I couldn’t do that to you; I couldn’t just abandon the only guy I’ve ever known that was so protective of me.”

“You saved us both,” said Darren, “When you came up with Linking our Link Units together, then bouncing the signal off of that ship, I was impressed. Where’d you learn that trick, anyway?”

Space Journey 2000,” said Kaylee, “Episode sixteen; when Dirk and McLaughlin were trapped on planet Lysari Four, they had to tie their comm-watches in together, then bounce the signal off of the orbiting destroyer to get a signal to their ship.”

Darren laughed, “Wow,” he said.

“What?” asked Kaylee with a smile.

“You sounded like such a nerd right there,” he said, “But in a good way.”

“Yeah, nice save,” laughed Kaylee.

“No, really. We need that here, based on everything I’ve seen,” said Darren, “I certainly don’t think from a ‘what-if’ standpoint, I’m a computer repair geek. But you see things from a broader approach, and it lets you come up with ideas that wouldn’t immediately jump out at those of us who are more technical.”

“Yeah. Maybe that’s how I’ll contribute here,” said Kaylee, “But I’m still going to try to learn other skills too.”

“Naturally,” said Darren. Kaylee leaned in close to him, and kissed his cheek, then got up and started heading for the door.

“You want anything to eat?” she turned and asked him.

“Yeah, a nice cheeseburger would be great,” he said in jest. She laughed and nodded, knowing it might be possible to bring him one, given the food synthesis available.

“I’ll see what I can do,” said Kaylee. She left the room and Darren continued to rest. He didn’t much care for being stuck in bed, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. His back still hurt from the rubble that had fallen on him on Earth, and he didn’t doubt Ma’Lyr’s prognosis; it probably would take a few days, at least, to heal it fully.

The door chime sounded again, “Come in,” said Darren. Zell walked in, bringing what Darren assumed were tablets of some kind.

He set them beside Darren, “I brought you some technical manuals and schematics of most of the systems,” said Zell, “It’s the same thing I studied when I came aboard.”

“You repaired the ship?” asked Darren, looking at one of the manuals.

“Not exactly. We didn’t have an Engineer on board at the time, we still don’t, unless you want the job,” said Zell.

“I appreciate the offer,” said Darren, “I’ll look through these and do my best to fill the position.”

“I can offer help at times,” said Zell, “But once you’ve learned these, you’ll be at the same level I am, and from there, you’d have to ask Auriga to teach you further.”

“Thank you,” said Darren.

“Earth,” said Zell.

“What about it?” asked Darren as he studied the manual.

“How bad was the invasion?” asked Zell. Darren put the manual down, breathing deeply, then letting out a sigh.

“I won’t lie; the Imperium is brutal, methodical, calculating, and unforgiving. They shot people for running away, people who were unarmed, couldn’t defend themselves. Even the children could be heard screaming in the background just before their silence. It was a nightmare, Zell,” he said.

“Yeah,” muttered Zell, “We’re going to be going into a sector of space that the Imperium can’t follow. At least, for now. We have to outfit the ship with defenses, upgrade our weapons, make repairs. It’ll take time, but eventually we’ll be able to fight back if necessary.”

“What do we need for that?” asked Darren. He knew that even in this part of the galaxy, money was everything.

“Several thousand Crekiks,” said Zell, “We’ll have to take it one component at a time.”

“We’ll get there,” said Darren.

“Yeah,” said Zell. He turned to leave, then turned back, “By the way, we now have something in common.”

“What’s that?” Darren asked.

“Both of us have been wronged by the same man; Kralis,” said Zell, “He was the commander in charge of the invasion of Urthe.

“How do you know?” asked Darren.

“We’ve been intercepting coded transmissions between Imperium ships, and he’s been gloating that he’d taken a primitive planet,” said Zell.

“Does his uniform have red armor symbols on it?” asked Darren. His face showed disgust when he asked the question.

“He would, as a commander,” said Zell. “Well, I guess I should officially welcome you aboard now, since you’ll be staying with us, so; welcome aboard.”

“Thanks. I’m actually looking forward to the journey ahead,” said Darren, “Even though it began out of tragedy and disaster.”

Zell stepped through the door, “If you need anything, just call me on the Link or have Auriga call me.” Darren nodded, going back to studying the manuals, and Zell left.

***

Meanwhile, in the food hall, Kaylee and Ma’Lyr had been talking about the situation. “It’s not so bad here,” said Ma’Lyr. She placed her hand on the synthesis unit, and it produced a plate with food on it.

“I guess,” said Kaylee, “I just wish I knew what I was supposed to do here.”

“Give it time,” said Ma’Lyr, “The transition will take some time, no-one expects you to adjust any faster than you already are.”

“Yeah, but it feels like it will take a long time,” said Kaylee.

At that moment, Zell walked in the doorway, “In an uoer?” he asked. Ma’Lyr looked up and nodded at him and smiled. Zell nodded in return, and left. Kaylee took notice of Ma’Lyr’s expression and smiled.

“You and Zell?” she asked Ma’Lyr.

Ma’Lyr blushed and turned back to her plate, picking it up, “We share certain interests,” she said, “And what of you and Darren?”

Kaylee giggled a little, unable to hold it in, “Well, we’ll see. I know he likes me, but he’s a gentleman. I don’t think he’ll make the first move though, so I might have to throw some hints out there for him.” She placed a hand on her unit, and it produced a salad made of various plants, some green, some blue, and a purple leaf on the side. “What’s this?” she asked Ma’Lyr.

Ma’Lyr looked at it, “Paska,” she said, “Sometimes, Auriga will give you some variety, especially if you’re not sure what you want. Paska is actually quite good.”

“How do I choose something for Darren?” asked Kaylee. Ma’Lyr tapped a control on the side of the unit, changing the color of the lighting on it from a blue, to a green.

“Set it to choice mode, then place your hand on it and think about the dish he wants,” said Ma’Lyr. Kaylee did exactly that, and the unit produced a cheeseburger with a side of fries and ketchup. She reset the unit to its default mode and took both with her. Ma’Lyr followed behind her with her food as well, “By the way, I thought you might want to know; When I did a deep-level scan on Darren, I found traces of the quarantine compound from Cryon-5PS in his lungs. It had a strange effect on him that allowed him to adapt to that atmosphere. I’d like to run some tests to confirm it, but that’s the most likely suspect, in my medical opinion.” she said.

“So it may have been a fluke that we survived... wow,” Kaylee said.

“Oh, and you might want to use the stairs when carrying food to other levels,” she said.

“The ship has stairs?” asked Kaylee as she followed Ma’Lyr’s lead.

“Yes, they’re hidden, but they’re all over the place,” said Ma’Lyr. She tapped a control at a wall, and the wall opened up, revealing a stair well. “The code to open them is all the same, on every level,” she said.

“Awesome, thank you,” said Kaylee. She started walking up the stairs to Level Yellow. After quite a trip, she finally reached Darren’s room again, and stepped in, handing him his food. She sat in a chair next to his bed and, as they ate, the two talked about what they were going to do. Darren told Kaylee what he and Zell had talked about, and Kaylee agreed that staying aboard the Auriga would be best for them.

After they were finished eating, the realization that their home was gone, hit them both. “There’s going to be a lot of rebuilding after this is over,” said Darren.

“Yeah,” said Kaylee, “And there’s no way to know how long it will take to free Earth of the Imperium.”

“Can I ask you something?” asked Darren.

“You just did,” smiled Kaylee. She enjoyed her own sense of humor a little too much sometimes.

“Yeah, okay, but; tell me, what’s with the hair? What’s your natural color?” Darren asked her.

“Actually,” said Kaylee, “My natural color is brown. Boring, right? I died it black with the blue streaks for a cosplay convention one day, and I liked it, so I kept it.”

“You really do pull off the black and blue,” said Darren, “Ever thought about dying it just blue?”

Kaylee laughed, “Actually, yeah, a few times, but I doubt I’ll find any hair dye out here.”

“I don’t know,” said Darren, “They’ve got some pretty advanced tech out here, I bet if you asked Zell or Ma’Lyr, they could tell you.”

“Are you asking me to dye my hair?” teased Kaylee.

“Er-uh, well, it was more of a suggestion that y-you ask about it, if you- uh, wanted to dye it,” stammered Darren.

“Uh-huh,” laughed Kaylee, “Maybe I’ll ask about it, I’m sure you’re right.” After a few minutes, Darren went back to studying the tech manuals he’d been given. Kaylee wanted to keep him company, realizing how bored he’d be without her there. Then there were the times he needed to get up for personal reasons, she helped him stand up out of bed, although he could walk on his own, to which she was grateful.

***

This went on for days, but finally, Darren had recovered enough to be allowed to roam about the ship on his own. The Auriga had docked at Lunar Colony Olori; a shipyard where they could make repairs, the day before. Darren had learned enough from the tech manuals during his bed rest, that he could oversee some smaller repairs, such as resetting the door sequencers and locks. He was enjoying the work, particularly since it distracted him from Earth’s fate. He didn’t like thinking about what happened, but he was slowly coming to terms with it in his own way. He and Kaylee had been hanging out a lot since they returned to Auriga as well. Darren thought that maybe she just wasn’t sure what to do with her time, but her presence was a welcome one. After the repairs had finally been completed, and Ninety-One fully restored with his system re-enforced with anti-hacking programs, Darren, Kaylee, Zell, Ma’Lyr, and Arkaz sat in the command chamber. “Prepare for liftoff,” said Arkaz.

“Communications, ready,” said Kaylee.

“Weapons, ready,” said Zell.

“Science and Medical, ready,” said Ma’Lyr.

“Engineering and Helm, ready,” said Darren. He tapped a number of controls to prepare the engines.

“Retract the docking clamps,” said Arkaz. Darren pressed more controls in response, a loud banging noise could be heard outside the ship.

“Docking clamps retracted,” he said.

“Take us up,” said Arkaz. Darren tapped a number of more controls, and Auriga lifted from the moon’s atmosphere, flying into open space. Darren could see the stars ahead of them through the forward viewport. “Ready ISF Drive,” said Arkaz.

“Ready,” said Darren.

“Set course for the nearest uncharted star,” said Arkaz.

Darren smiled and plotted the course after calling it up in the database, “Course plotted, and set,” he said.

“Commit drive,” said Arkaz, “Let’s see what we can find.”

Darren tapped the activation control. He could see the electricity through the viewport, then a jolt of energy shot them into Inter-space. This was going to be quite the adventure, and Darren knew it. ‘Welcome home,’ he thought to himself. He looked over at Kaylee, and she looked back, and they smiled at each other and nodded. At that moment, he realized both of them were thinking the same thing; They were going to be fine out here. After sharing the brief moment, they both turned to face the rainbow of colors being shown outside. This, and many more, were the wonders they likely faced. What an adventure, indeed.

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