Read Part 1 here.
“The fetus is healthy. For now.” Paul put away his monitoring equipment. His words were tender. “It’s only twelve weeks along. It’s not too late to terminate. You’ll feel no discomfort at this point.”
“This discussion was over three months ago, doctor.” Mary pulled her shirt down over her abdomen.
“Mary.” Paul swallowed. “You will hurt more seeing the child die in front of you. The child will be in more pain if you give birth than if you don’t. It would be a mercy.”
“That is my child, doctor.”
“I’m not arguing whether or not it’s your child or even alive. I’m arguing what’s best for it and for you.” Paul’s face flooded with compassion. “Mary, you weren’t there when they brought you back. Not really. You were catatonic by then. The pain –“ Paul paused. “This thing in you is from them and will only remind you of that pain.”
Paul closed his eyes. “When they brought you in… I saw every wound on your body while I examined you. I know what you went through there, more than anyone else except you. Don’t do this to yourself, captain. Don’t hurt yourself more after everything they’ve done.” He opened his damp eyes. “You deserve better than that.”
Mary’s voice shook. “Dr. Yost, I am very… familiar with the pain of what I experienced. The child… the baby may have been conceived in pain, but he or she will be born to joy. Joy, doctor.” Mary stood and faced the doctor. “Murder is not mercy. We are only ten months from Earth. Ten months from safety. If my child can survive those last six months, she will have a good chance. And even if – if! – she is taken from me before then, she will have lived. You will not bring this up again. Are we clear?”
Mary marched out the door of the infirmary. As soon as the panels hissed shut behind her, she forced her jaw to relax. She could not let her crew see her this way. They needed a strong captain. Three months past, and they still all bore scars in one way or another. She had to be strong. For them. She strode to her cabin. Open the doors. Walk to the mirror. Lock eyes with herself.
“It’s not your fault,” she told her reflection. “You are not dirty. You do not need to wash. It’s not your fault. It’s not.” The muscles in her neck strained to keep her facing the mirror. Her vision grew bleary with tears. “You wear a white robe no man can take from you. It’s ok to feel pain. It’s ok to hurt. It’s not your fault. You don’t have to be ashamed.” Her voice was husky. Her fists shook.
She collapsed onto the floor. She should be stronger. A reminder like Paul had given her shouldn’t shake her like this. Not after three months. She should be stronger.
The thought flitted through her head again. She could find out who had done this to her. All of them were captured, in ‘sleep. She could learn the identity of the father. She could see his face, as helpless now as she had been then. He had no power over her.
Mary stumbled to her sink and splashed some water in her face. She straightened her shirt and ran a brush through her auburn hair. She should go check on the prisoners.
A few minutes later, Mary reached the repurposed weight room. She touched the pad next to the door for entry. A cold feminine voice chimed, “Security in place. Please enter access code.”
Mary nodded. “Psalm twenty-seven.”
The panels hissed open, and Mary stepped into the warm, cramped room. Sixteen steel cocoons lined the walls, their interiors illuminated with dim red lighting. The panels next to the ‘sleeper beds all indicated their occupants slumbered in the ageless rest of hypersleep. None of these men could harm Mary now.
She looked into the small window that showed the face of the first occupant. He had a dark beard and a scar across his forehead. Mary did not have to fear that face. He was helpless. He was also not the one who had hurt her. The next was an overweight woman. She had not hurt Mary, at least not directly. The third held a teenaged boy with some stubble. Mary considered his features. No, this boy wasn’t the one. As Mary stepped to the fourth coccoon, the door hissed open.
Trent Defrain’s large frame blocked the doorway. “Captain. You shouldn’t be here.”
“Trent, I have every right to be here.”
“I didn’t say you didn’t.” He stepped in. “When the computer alerted me to an authorized entry, I figured it would be you. I was wondering when you’d make it down here. When we rescued you from their hands, we made sure to do it the way you would’ve wanted, with minimum loss of their life.”
“And I appreciate it.”
“Whatever it is you’re looking for, you won’t find it here. Please, Captain, leave them to me. There’s a reason you made me your tactical officer. I’ll keep them safe, as you ordered, until we reach earth.” He stepped aside and motioned to the door. “I’ve already told Dr. Thaddeus that you were here. I’m sure he’ll want to see you.”
Mary kept herself from cursing. The crew knew her too well.
“Thank you, Mr. Defrain, but that’s not your call to make.” She turned to look into the fourth window. She saw another bearded man with a nose too large for his face.
“Maybe not. But I’m still allowed my opinion.” Trent moved to stand behind her, looking into the same window. “What would you do if you found him?” He waved a hand at a panel. “The ‘sleeper beds are easy enough to deactivate improperly. Easy enough to let someone suffocate. Or not get enough water.”
“Or awaken him to stand trial.”
“Trial on this ship? He’d be found guilty, without any doubt. But with only eighteen of us still running the ship, what would we do with him then?” Trent shook his head. “No, you were right when you put them to ‘sleep. They’re easy to control this way, take up minimal resources, and we don’t have to deal with any judgments. If we were going to kill them, it had to be right away.”
Mary nodded. “That doesn’t mean I don’t want to find out more about the father of my child. If nothing else, his medical workup.” Don’t tell him the real reason. Don’t tell him you just want to prove to yourself that you have nothing to fear. She moved to the fifth window, and then the sixth. Still no one she recognized.
“We can do a genetic workup on – on your child,” Trent stumbled. “And then Dr. Yost and I can compare and find the father. You don’t have to identify him by face.”
Seven. Eight. Still no recognition. “Maybe not. But I’ve hidden from this room long enough.” Nine, ten.
“You’ve stayed away. The only people allowed in here have been me and Dr. Yost. Some of the crew have expressed concern over keeping these people here.” Trent continued following behind Mary.
Eleven. His mouth was right, but not the eyes. “Are you accusing me of agreeing with them? Thinking it would be better to, as you say, let the beds malfunction?”
“I’m saying that I believe you made the right decision when you took them prisoner. But we don’t always like the right decisions we make.”
Twelve. Thirteeen. Fourteen. Still no match. “I’ll admit, I want the people who attacked my ship to be punished. To the greatest extent of the law. I’ve struggled with any kind of forgiveness. That doesn’t mean I would murder someone in cold blood.”
“Normally, I’d agree with you. You aren’t looking at their crew as a whole. You’re looking for one specific person. Their captain.”
Fifteen. “…yes.” Mary turned to Trent. “He had first rights to all the spoils. Even if he didn’t, he had final say on everything that took place on their ship. Just like here.” Mary closed her eyes. I am not worthless.
She turned back to the metal cocoons. One last window to check. Then she would see his face again, but she would be the one with the power. He would be the one at her mercy.
“It won’t help you,” Trent spoke.
Mary looked into the last window.
It wasn’t him.
She turned to Trent. “These are all the survivors.”
“There’s one missing. The father of my child isn’t here.”
“The father of your child died when we attacked their ship to take you back. I told you that what you wanted to find wasn’t here.”
Read Part 3 here.
Read Part 4 here.
Read Part 5 here.
Read Part 6 here.
Read Part 7 here.
Read Part 8 here.