Subject To Change

Characters: Terry Hale, Jordan Toussaint

“Are you going to wake up already?”

It was the first thing Terry understood, though she was sure it was not the only thing said to her for some time. Awareness had come back slowly, pushing through leaden layers of sleepiness and disorientation. It seemed a lot easier not to worry about anything and just go back to sleep.

“I do not see how an antagonistic tone will help,” came a disapproving and unfamiliar voice. “You must be encouraging.”

The corner of Terry’s mouth twitched up, imagining the look on Jordan’s face. She’d have to wake up just to avert a diplomatic incident.

She cracked her eyelids just a little, eyes reluctantly setting to the task of focusing. Jordan’s face swam into view, drawn, pale, and angry. It wasn’t at her, Terry knew. It was the helplessness, and fear.

She smiled encouragingly, remote from concern.

She wondered why she’d been sedated.

A faded, old Abbai came into view then, and dispensed something into her arm. Reality came a little closer after it began to take effect.

“I survived,” Terry said.

“Yes, not that anyone here would believe me.” The Abbai, a doctor, still looked a little peeved. Terry managed not to smile this time. “The drug, in the dart, it is not dangerous to humans in that quantity. Nitual. A powerful… barbiturate?” he struggled with the gaps in his English. “Quite common in the league worlds, and not illegal to possess. Though it is not frequently seen here. Too dangerous. Even small doses are fatal to an Abbai.”

“I didn’t know what it was.”

“Yes.” The doctor’s face softened. “It was a very brave, what you did.”

“I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing.”

“How did you know?”

Terry lifted her head, and regretted it for two reasons. The lingering effects of the drug was making her woozy and it was a little disconcerting to discover she had a rather large audience of guards, councilors and medical technicians attending her recovery, speaking among themselves in low voices. She focused quickly on Matsya, who had spoken. She still looked terrified, understandably. It had almost been her death, and a harsh reality-check as it stood now.

“One of my Rangers in the audience signaled me. It was a near thing,” Terry replied. She left out any mention of telepathy, for Kim’s sake, even if the audience didn’t share the human stigma surrounding the gift.

“You did this, knowing you could have been killed.” A murmur went about the room, making Terry uncomfortable with the attention. She opened her mouth to speak.

“Take praise, and criticism, where it’s due,” Jordan said quietly. The emphasis warned that he still had a few things to say, but his actions weakened his words. Unseen, except perhaps by the doctor, he stroked the back of his fingers along one cheek, before leaning down to lend his arm in sitting up.

“You can complain all you like,” Terry whispered. “Just get me out of here.”

Jordan nodded. More loudly, he said, “There’s a shuttle waiting, if you feel up to it. The doctor here says you don’t need a hospital visit, which is why you’re on a couch in the council lounge.”

“It is closer, and no waste,” the doctor said. Practical, if undiplomatic.

“That’s fine,” Terry said to both of them. She had to lean heavily on Jordan’s support when she first got to her feet, but gradually her head cleared and she was walking almost on her own as they left the room.

It was a short walk outside, and Terry’s determination was bolstered when she had a target in sight. Ahead, in the same place where Yoshino had run the operation against the assassin, another shuttle stood waiting.

“Before you ask, the assassin is in custody,” Jordan began as kept a watchful eye on her balance. “And just the first of the arrests, apparently. Your people have been closing in on the local crime organizations. I expect there will be plenty of reports when we get back to the ship.”

“All right,” Terry replied, then looked sidelong at him. “Now the rest of it.”

Jordan sighed, and scrubbed a hand over his face. It didn’t quite ease the tension there. “You were crazy. If it had been something else on that dart…”

“I know. I’d be dead.” Terry reached the shuttle and leaned gratefully on it’s side.

“You’re rather calm about it.” The hatch code on the shuttle was punched with far more force than necessary.

“Because I’m the one who made the decision,” Terry said bluntly. “I know what I did, and I had to do it. You didn’t have any say in the matter, and you can’t deal well with that lack of control.”

“You seem to know everything now. Got a solution?”

Terry ignored the growling and snapping and just answered the question. “I know, because you’re an awful lot like me. And no, I don’t know what to do about it.”

“That’s not much of an answer.”

“I’m sorry, Jordan. It’s all I’ve got.”

Terry watched his face change. He wasn’t very good at hiding his emotions, or she was just getting better at seeing through the wall. She let her breath out slowly in relief at what she saw.

“This is going to be interesting,” Jordan said.

Terry took his hand and let him help her into the shuttle.

“Guaranteed.”


Copyright (c) 2001 Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.