Previous chapters of Legacy are found at

It was early morning.  The breeze was dry and cool, almost frosty.  The sun was rising over a flat horizon in the east, illuminating the thin, wispy cirrus clouds sweeping gently across a crimson sky, like long, tentative brush strokes.  Night was slowly transitioning into day.  The same timid light bathed the spires and hogback formations of red sandstone, projecting majestically from the rolling, green landscape.  They appeared almost blood-red in the growing intensity of sunlight.


Peter stood at an outlook on the Northern Trail.  He surveyed the sight before him, admiring God's creation as if it was a renowned masterpiece in a museum.  His boots scraped across the gravel as he moved.  It was a familiar sound, one which reminded him of summer days spent traversing lessor traveled paths, winding through smooth, eroded sandstone.  He squatted and grasped a mixture of red, powdery sand and gravel from the ground.  It was pleasantly cool in his hand.  Small granite pieces sparkled cheerfully in the morning light.


The sound made by the worn soles of leather boots against gravel was unmistakable.  Peter looked over his shoulder.  A man was approaching.  His form moved smoothly through the shrubbery along the trail.  He was tall, with the lean build of an accomplished athlete.  Long arms swayed with his stride and jean-clad legs moved beneath a flowing, weathered duster, which had seen far too many days of use. 


Peter observed the man with quiet, curious wonder as he approached.  He waited for the obscuring shadow to recede from the man's face.  The man had a striking familiarity: a strong, set jaw, broad shoulders, and a tough, rugged appearance about him.   


“Did you think your sister was the only one who knew all of your hiding places?”  The rough voice was the final piece.


“Dad?”  The shadows fell away from the man's face with the dim, but sufficient, light of the rising sun.  Peter studied him.  Despite the rugged, weathered creases carved into the man's skin, the face resembled his own. 


His father had little patience for shaving.  He often wore two or three days of stubble before taking a razor to it.  A habit born from too many sleepless nights spent in disaster and humanitarian relief units, where the work took precedence over the dress code.  His lack of patience extended to the professional attire often worn by doctors.  He resembled a man with intimate ties to open, unpopulated spaces.  He was a medicine man by trade, a frontiersman by heart.  However, his professional frontier was medical research.  After the death of his wife,  Peter's mother, it was his obsession.


“This place held significance for you.”  His father's voice was strangely calming in its familiarity.


“I decided to go to the Academy here...” Peter hesitated before he continued.  Something seemed strange, and eerily out of place.  “...but I never told you that.”  The man beside him seemed younger than the man he left behind on Earth.  It was not the same figure worn down by age and a lifetime of struggle on a dying planet.  He was the strong, intimidating figure Peter remembered from his youth. 


'Dying planet...'  Peter thought, and he closed his fingers around the earth in his hand as he stood.  'The Garden of the Gods was a cratered wasteland now, just like the rest of Earth's surface.'  It's majestic sandstone formations crumbled to dust by years of planetary bombing.  Its breathtaking titian reduced to the same radioactive orange which plagued the rest of the planet.  Yet, everything seemed so real:  the feel of the breeze against his skin, the earth in his palm, and the cool, clear smell of the morning air. 


Peter looked at his father standing next to him.  “This is a dream.”


“Something like that,” the man replied.  His eyes were on the rock formations rising through the fog settled in the valley before them. 


Peter opened his hand, allowing the red earth to stream between his fingers.  As he watched it fall, he realized, he didn't remember how he had gotten there.  Knowing his father was a man of few words, Peter finally asked  what he feared most.  “Am I dead?”




“If this isn't a dream and I'm not dead, then what am I?”


“Not dead.”


“It doesn't feel like a dream.”


“It will.  If you wake up.”


“Will I wake up?”


“That's up to you.”


“How are you here?”  Peter pressed, increasingly dissatisfied with his father's vagueness.  The man finally looked at him with his expressive brown eyes.  They were the reason he didn't need words.  They had a way of speaking without them.  “You're dead.”  


“There isn't much time.” 


“For what?”


“For what I have to tell you.”  His father's words had a strange serenity, but they made Peter feel uneasy.  It was as if the news of being dead wasn't really news at all.  He somehow had time to grow accustom to the notion.  “You must forgive her, Peter.” 


“What?”  A sharp pain suddenly shot through Peter's head, and he winced.


“She's doing what I taught her to do, what I asked her to do.”


“I don't understand!”  Another piercing sensation shot through his head like an electric current.  His vision blurred momentarily.  He pressed the heel of his hand into his right temple, hoping to subdue the pain.


“Jessica needs you.  Forgive her.”


“Forgive her for what?”  In the same moment he heard his own words, another searing pain shot through his head.  This one was blinding, and it persisted without relief.  Peter pressed hard against both of his temples,  and he squeezed his eyes shut. 


“I'm sorry, Peter.”  His father's words faded in and out of an excruciating ring.  Overwhelmed by the pain, Peter suddenly dropped to his knees.  The ringing burned into his ears.  Strange.  He could feel the prickly sensation of gravel against his knees.  He felt his father's hand on his shoulder.  “It's not over.  If you want to live, you'll have to fight.”  


Nova studied the monitor at the nurses' station in the ICU.  She was searching the medical records for Peter's file.  Doctor Sane provided Doctor Randal with a verbal medical history from the mission, but Nova wanted to double-check with Peter's historical data. 


The task should have been simple and quick, but Nova's curiosity was peaked when she discovered three entries under the Conroy name.  Peter and Cory were listed.  Those entries made sense in a military database, but the third entry was the father, and the father was a civilian.  'Was the father treated here?'  she thought at she  attempted to access the file.  She was immediately greeted with a warning screen.  Her request was denied.  The file was secured.  'Strange that there would be data on him here...'Why?


Before she could go further with her investigation, a patient status screen flashed before her.  There was a slight rise in Peter's vitals. 


“What is it?”  asked Linda, the head nurse in intensive care.  She was returning from another patient's room, but she was on her way to the next one. 


“It's Peter Conroy.  His heart-rate is up.”




“No, but his temperature is up too.”


“It could be the leads.  They can give false readings if they slip.”


“Do you want me to check them?”


“I would be grateful!”


Nova entered Peter's room very quietly.  Jessica was alone with her brother, and she was sleeping soundly.  Her head rested at his side.  Nova checked the monitors beside his bed, recycling each of them.  She turned to Peter and began to inspect the leads attached to his torso.


Jessica sat up abruptly, and she gasped.  She jumped like a scalded cat.  The sudden movement startled Nova and she jumped back, bringing her hand to her mouth to muffle her own reaction.  She stared at Jessica in shock. 


Jessica looked down at her hand where it rested upon Peter's.  Then she stared at Nova.  Her expression was blank, as if she was trying to gather her wits, but Nova studied Jessica's eyes for a moment.  They shimmered with a kind of terror Nova had only seen in the eyes of wounded young soldiers confronting their own mortality.  “Jessica?”  Nova pulled her hand from her mouth.  “What is it?  What's wrong?” 


The young woman suddenly stood from her chair and nervously touched her brother's body at different points. She placed a delicate hand upon his chest, his neck, then the side of his head, pausing with each touch, lost in what seemed like intense concentration.  Nova watched her in a stunned, but curious silence. 


Finally, Jessica whispered, “It's not right...”


“What?”  Nova stepped closer to hear her.


“Get a doctor!”  Jessica's whisper was harsh, but barely audible.  When Nova failed to move, Jessica met Nova's eyes with a frightening intensity.  She shouted this time.  “Get a doctor!” 


“What is it, Jessica?”  Nova persisted.


Jessica screamed.  “Get a doctor!”


Nova was not one to panic, but Jessica's reaction shook her to her core.  Her eyes were still locked with Jessica's as she hesitantly backed away, nearly stumbling over her own feet.  The soft beeps from the vitals monitor indicated another increase in Peter's heart rate.  Something was wrong.  Suddenly, Nova turned and ran, calling out the code for an emergency.


Doctor Sane pored himself a celebratory glass of sake, which was his usual custom following an especially difficult surgery.  It would be the first of many, so his recent memory would slowly recede with his consciousness.  He studied the glass he pored for Doctor Randal.  It was full of the pleasant formula, which banished his troubles, but the good doctor was attending to his other patients.  A shame to let it go to waste.  He reached across the table, grasped the plastic glass and slowly pulled it to him.


He settled back into his chair with a long sigh and slowly brought the glass to his lips.  He paused to savor its aroma.  Moments such as this should be appreciated.  Unfortunately, the union wasn't to be.  Frantic calls propelled him aloft from his reclined position.  Most of the saki found its way down the front of his shirt.  Before he could blot it with a handful of sterile gauze, Nova gathered him up and ushered him out the door of the doctor's lounge.  


“Nova!  What the...”  Doctor Sane didn't hide his irritation at being manhandled by his nurse, not even when she shoved him through the door of the ICU.  This was nothing new.  It was just easier to take when he wasn't sober.


Formalities were forgotten as Jessica placed her hand over the right side of her head.  “Here!”  Jessica seemed stricken and frightened as she looked at Doctor Sane.  “Here!  It's not right!”


Doctor Sane stared at her with obvious confusion.  “Are you in pain?  Is that what you're trying to say?” 


Jessica quickly placed her hand over her brother's head in relatively the same place as she demonstrated on her own.  “It's pressure!  Here!  It's getting worse!” 


Doctor Sane approached Peter's bedside and analyzed the readings on the vitals monitor.  “There's an increase in his heart rate, Jessica.  That could be the result of several things.”  He lowered Peter's bed to a workable height for his short stature.  Then, he carefully went about auscultating Peter's vitals with his stethoscope. 


“It's here!”  Jessica's hand was still on her brother's head.  “The cause is here!  If you do a CT...”




“A CT!  A CAT scan!  If you...”


“I know what a CT is!”  Doctor Sane's patience in his sobriety was running thin.  “I'm not doing one on an asymptomatic, post-surgical, patient, based on a slight increase in heart-rate!  That's ridiculous!”   


“There was an increase in temperature as well!”  Nova said.


Doctor Sane glanced over his shoulder at Nova.  “You shouldn't be encouraging her!”


“It's getting worse!”  Jessica raised her voice at the doctor. 


“He's stabilized now!”  Doctor Sane raised his voice in response.  “What he requires is rest and recovery!  If you interfere with that, I will have you removed!”  


“You're wasting time!”  Jessica whispered to him.


“Be quiet!”  He snapped, then he went back to counting Peter's respirations.  Peter was breathing a little fast, but, not unlike the increased heart-rate, it could easily be attributed to the diminishing affects of anesthesia.       


“It's pressure... pressure...”  Jessica persisted, and she seemed to struggle with finding the words.  She leaned over her brother's body, and grabbed the Doctor's hand.  “Doctor Sane, please!”


“How?  How can you know?”  In the interest of protecting his patient, and perhaps his pride, Doctor Sane wouldn't yield without good reason, even under the tearful gaze of vividly blue eyes.


In her desperation, words escaped her.  She looked up at Nova, silently pleading for her help.


“What are you saying?”  Nova responded.  As an observer, she often carried the voice of reason in such situations.  “Is he bleeding in his head?  Are you describing a hemorrhage?”


“Yes.”  Jessica nodded, she seemed to be calming herself.


“Doctor Sane, I understand you're trying to avoid stressing the patient after his ordeal, but perhaps this is about treating the family, rather than the patient.”


“We should do the CT.”  A calm voice came from the doorway.  Doctor Randal was still in his surgical scrubs.  He was leaning against the door-frame with his arms crossed.


Disagreeing with Doctor Randal required tenacity, something which Doctor Sane lacked after several hours in surgery with the man.  Doctor Sane released a long sigh from his pint-sized, balding frame.  He should be halfway through his second bottle of saki by now and well on his way to a blissful buzz.  He looked up at Nova and responded with only a terse nod.  Jessica's shoulders slumped with relief and she grabbed his hand.  “Thank you, thank you, thank you...” she whispered as he tried halfheartedly to pull his hand free.


As the scanner slowly moved around Peter's body, images flooded the computer.  Thin, transverse slices of the cranial cavity were organized, cataloged, and presented to the watchful gaze of the two surgeons.  As the images descended from the top of Peter's head and moved into the skull, contrast revealed a strange, light mass at its base.


“There.”  Doctor Randal touched the monitor.


“Is there something you want to share with me, Doctor?”  Doctor Sane asked.


Doctor Randal's eyes were fixed on the images.  He moved forward and leaned on the control panel.  “Not really.”


“Does this have anything to do with the cauterized scaring we found in the eldest Conroy?”


Doctor Randal remained quiet as he analyzed the monitor.  “Let's just say, things have been really strange around here since you left.”


“Care to elaborate?”


“Zoom in on this area here,” Doctor Randal said to the robotic technician at the console.  “I want a 3-D representation of the mass, with detailed coordinates and measurements superimposed.” 


“Damn it, Phil...”


“Doctor Sane, you'll find we have plenty to worry about without conjuring up any mysteries!  What's that old saying?  Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth?  Without that scaring, that kid would have bled-out long before he made it to my table.”  Doctor Randal turned to face Doctor Sane.  “It could have been that chunk of shrapnel we dug out of his belly!  I don't know!” 


“You've seen this before.”




“And you aren't the least bit curious?”


“I don't have time to be, and neither do you!  It is what it is.”


“Okay, so what is it?”


“I wouldn't venture to guess.” 


Doctor Sane slapped his palm over his forehead, then pulled his hand slowly over his face, stretching his frustrated expression.  Some things hadn't changed in his absence.  Phillip Randal could still exhaust anyone with a circular argument.


“Are you assisting or sitting this one out?”


“What do you think?”


“C'mon, let's get scrubbed in!”


Admitting was obviously short-handed, but the waiting room was fairly quiet, with the exception of two women.  'A mother and a daughter,' Jessica surmised from a distance.  The daughter was a concern.  As the young woman leaned her head against her mother she appeared very pale.  Not even her mother's gentle touch or soft words could ease her discomfort.  She seemed distressed and she squirmed in her seat, constantly adjusting, as if she could not find relief in any position. 


Jessica suddenly scooped up a basin from a nearby rack of medical supplies.  She moved quickly to the pair.  Jessica knelt before the young woman, placing the basin in the young woman's lap before her body convulsed to vomit.  The young woman's body went through the violent motions, but the heaves were dry.  There was nothing left in her stomach.


The mother held her daughter close and stroked her thick, chocolate-brown hair.  “How long has she been like this?”  Jessica asked.


“She's been feverish for a couple days, with a persistent cough.  We thought it was just the flu!  She was sick all night,” the mother's voice was trembling. “We thought it would pass, but she hasn't been able to keep anything down!”


The young woman leaned back in her seat, obviously exhausted from an ordeal which seemed to have no end.  Jessica reached up and palpitated the lymph nodes on both sides of the young woman's neck.  She was hot to the touch.  The nodes were angry, and swollen. 


Jessica felt the young woman's frightened, tearful gaze on her and their eyes met.  The young woman's eyes  were dark brown, like her hair, but highlighted with bits of soft gold.  They were full and expressive, not vacant and hollow, like her own.  Even in her nauseated stupor, Jessica could see she was a beauty.  Although pale and dehydrated, her cheeks were full with youthful promise.  With the exception of her immediate ailment, the young woman was otherwise healthy.  She was cared for, sheltered, protected... 


Jessica felt a twinge of inadequacy, and the weight of her own appearance, diminished by hardship and exhaustion.  Jessica too was young, but growing old far too fast.  How she wished for the sheer simplicity and privilege of vanity.


“Has she been traveling in the last four weeks?”  Jessica asked the distracted mother. 


“We accompanied her grandfather to the sanctuaries for Chicago and Los Angeles about three weeks ago!”


“Does she have any other complaints?  Abdominal pain?  Chills?”


“Definitely chills!  She's shivering one minute, then hot the next!”  The mother replied.  The dark-eyed creature heaved again, but the basin remained empty.  When the young woman leaned back in her chair, Jessica pressed her hand to the woman's chest.  Jessica was enveloped by the fervent sound of respiratory distress.  Fluid was thick and smothering to the delicate tissues of the lungs.


“I'll be right back.”  Jessica rose to her feet.  “They're short-handed today.”  The mother nodded her reply as Jessica turned from them. 


The motion-sensitive fluorescents flickered on as Jessica entered the vacant laboratory.  She filled her palm with disinfecting soap as she turned on the hot water.  The sound of rushing water into a stainless steel sink was not loud enough to hide the sound of footsteps behind her.  She glanced over her shoulder to find Nova standing in the doorway.


Nova had just left Peter's second surgery.  A surgical mask was draped around her neck and she still wore the paper-like protective scrubs.


Jessica didn't speak.  She continued to lather her hands, working the soap up past her wrists.  She suspected Nova would be the one to lead-off this conversation. 


Nova was silent until Jessica rinsed her hands and finally shut off the water.  Jessica pulled towels from the dispenser and wiped her hands, but she kept her back to Nova.


“You were right,”  Nova began, “but you knew that, didn't you?”


Jessica found it much easier to evade probing questions when she wasn't eye-to-eye with the interrogator.  She  her hands on the counter in front of her and watched drops of water hit the bottom of the sink.  The sound was steady, like a metronome, counting off the seconds.  


“It was a subdural hematoma.  Those were the words you were looking for, weren't they?”  Nova stepped closer.  “I'm certain it happened during the ejection.  Shearing forces stretch and weaken the blood vessels between the meningeal layers of the brain.  His blood pressure was very low when he was admitted, so we didn't catch it before he went into surgery.  When his blood pressure stabilized, the weakened vessels eventually ruptured.” 


More silence.  Jessica knew Nova was awaiting a response. 


“It was early enough...  Peter will have no lingering affects...”


Jessica tossed the towel at the trash receptacle as she turned to face Nova.  She leaned against the counter behind her.  “There's a mother and daughter in the waiting room...”


“How?”  Nova interrupted.


“Oh, here we go!”  Jessica crossed her arms and looked down at her feet.


“How did you know?”


“How did I know what?”


“How did you know about the bleed?”


“An educated guess?”


“Signs and symptoms for a cranial bleed usually manifest themselves when a patient is conscious!”  Nova counted them off on her fingers as she listed them.  “Headache, slurred speech, nausea, disorientation, dizziness...  He didn't even have a seizure!”  She paused, obviously awaiting a response.  Jessica refused to oblige.  “A seizure might have... How did you arrive at a cranial bleed from a rise in temperature and heart rate!  I don't get it!”


Jessica gave her best, nonchalant, 'got no clue' shrug as she met Nova's eyes.  “Okay, an uneducated guess.”   


Nova leveled an unsatisfied glare at her.  “Doctor Randal wouldn't have contradicted Doctor Sane like that, unless...”


“Unless, what?”


“Unless this has happened before!”


“It was just a guess, Nova!  That's all.”


“But you're right most of the time...  That's what he says...”


“I'm a good guesser!”


“You don't have the training...”


“My father was a surgeon with a serious weakness for hard-luck cases!  I spent the last three years working with him in mobile surgical relief units!  I didn't have the luxury of formal training.  I didn't even graduate high school, but I learned to triage before I turned seventeen!”  Jessica took in a breath, then exhaled sharply.  “Now, are you hanging out here to harass me with ridiculous questions or are you here to be useful?  Where's Linda?  There's no one at the admitting desk.”


“She's making her rounds in ICU...”


“You should find someone.  Quickly.”  Jessica pushed herself from the counter and started toward the door.  “There's a mother and daughter in the waiting room.  They should be admitted and isolated for observation.”


“What?”  Nova asked as Jessica walked passed her.  She knew the word 'isolation' would peak Nova's attention.


Jessica paused in the door-frame.  “We saw this in Chicago.  It's respiratory, and highly infectious.  The young woman is showing full-blown symptoms, but I suspect the mother is still incubating.  I would start them both on electrolyte replacement therapy immediately.  It's going to be a long night.  But, of course, you should make your own assessment.”  Jessica moved to leave, but she paused and looked back at Nova.  “Where is the Commander?”


Nova threw her a confused look.  “The EDF Commander?  Commander Singleton?  I'm sure he's overseeing the preparations for the launch of the Cosmo DNA!”


“You should contact him.  He'll want to know.”


“What do you mean?”


“That's his granddaughter out there.”


“Jessica,” Nova said softly, and Jessica paused at the sound of her name, “If there's something you want to tell me...”


Jessica's reply was lifeless and flat, but she shrugged with a slight smile.  “I wouldn't know where to begin.”



“You're wasting your time!”  Jessica said as she approached Cory and Wildstar in the cafeteria.  Words between them were hushed, but even from a distance, posture and body language gave the interaction away as an argument.  “I told you, he doesn't know anything.”


“But you do,”  Wildstar replied to her.  “Peter is back in surgery.”


“Yes, that's right.”  Jessica took a stand before him.  She crossed her arms.  “No more hiding in the ICU.  You can deal with me properly now.  Isn't that what you're thinking?”


“I was thinking we need to talk.”


“I'm done talking!  If you're going to have me arrested, get on with it!”


“Jessica!”  Cory whispered.  “He's serious!”


“So am I!”


“Let's not do this, Jessica!”  Wildstar shook his head slowly.  “Where are the drugs?”


“Exactly where they need to be!”


“That's not an answer!  You need to talk to me!”


“Is that an order?”  She stepped in close to him.  “Do I look like I’m wearing a uniform to you?”  She had to look up at him to confront him with her best menacing glare.  Her attempt at intimidation would have been more effective with her older brother's towering stature. 

Just as Peter had warned, she was infuriating.  Stubborn as the seal on a pressurized airlock!  She didn't seem afraid of Wildstar or whatever punishment he might brandish.  Worst of all, she seemed to take some satisfaction in it.    


'Stalemate,' Wildstar thought.  Jessica and Wildstar glared at each other with equal intensity.  She was a Conroy, in every sense of the name.  Wildstar could see it in her eyes.  She had the same fire and tenacity as her older brother.  No doubt, it was what she required to survive her position as the middle child in the Conroy family.  Wildstar knew if he was going to remain responsible for her, this was a battle he couldn’t lose. 


It seemed only physical force would shake her from her position.  'Physical force it is!'  he thought and in one smooth motion, he swept her up on his shoulder and carried her out of the room.  She kicked in protest and pounded his back with her fists, but he didn't stop until he reached the opposite wall of the hallway.  He set her down and roughly shoved her against it. 


She bumped her head and winced at the sting.  When she opened her eyes, Wildstar was looming over her, and it shocked her.  She jerked back, and bumped her head again.  He was leaning against the wall with his hands on either side of her, blocking any attempt at escape.  He glared into her eyes, his face only inches from hers.  “You illegally obtained a military security clearance!  You entered a restricted area under false pretenses!  You destroyed military property and took some of it with you on the way out!  Is that about right?”


“You forgot about breaking and entering!”  She was breathing hard from the struggle, and she writhed her body against the wall, obviously trying to put more distance between her and Wildstar’s imposing figure.  There was no where to go.  She made an attempt to push past his arm, but he didn't budge. 


“Now, you listen to me!  You're going to tell me everything I want to know!”


“No!”  She snapped back at him, meeting his eyes with determination in her own. 


“Yes!  Or, so help me God, I will put you and your little brother in the brig!” 


“I told you!  He doesn't know anything!  He never has!”


Wildstar sensed her weakness.  Attacking her directly wouldn't be nearly as effective as threatening her family.  “I don't know that, and neither do the MP's!” 


“You'll be wasting your time, and you know it!”  


“Well, time is what I've got!  We can do this the easy way or the hard way!  It's up to you!  I have thirty days of leave to follow you around and make your life miserable!  With special permission, I could probably stretch it to sixty!  I will find out, Jessica!”


Jessica's eyes widened.  Wildstar knew she was thinking it over. 


Suddenly, something dawned on him.  He grabbed her wrist and pulled her arm straight.  She fought him, but he was stronger.  He pushed up her sleeve and inspected her arm, brushing his thumb over faint needle marks in her skin.  He remembered them from when she donated blood for her brother, but they held no significance then.  He looked up at her and she immediately read his eyes.


“You think I’m an addict?  You son of a…”  She jerked her arm free and shoved him hard, but he held his ground.  “I'm a universal donor, you idiot!  I don't have the time, or the resources, to be an addict.”  She pushed him again.  “Even if I were, I wouldn't be shooting-up in the arm!”


“If you're not shooting it up, then what are you doing with it?  Are you selling it?  Trading it?  What does that stuff go for on the black market?”      


Jessica shoved him again.  “Let me go!”  she shouted as she struggled.


“Those drugs are military property!  They're used to protect people like your brother!  Look at me!”  Wildstar grabbed her chin as he shouted.  He pushed her head against the wall with just enough force to break the flow of anger and retain her attention.  She wrapped her hands around his arm and they locked eyes.


“Wildstah...”  He was suddenly aware of Hardy's presence nearby.  His crew mate responded to the sound of angry words and was now a witness to the confrontation.  For the first time since he had known the lanky Southerner, Wildstar sensed a measured threat in his voice.


Wildstar kept his focus on Jessica.  “I didn’t call security because I wanted to hear it from you first!  I’m the best friend you’ve got right now!  Stop fighting me!”  He released her gently.  “If Cory's involvement is even suspected, he will lose any chance at a commission!  Is that what you want?”


“He might live longer,”  she whispered.  Wildstar sensed her resolve was weakening under the pressure.


“I don't need your help, Jessica!”  Cory shouted at his sister.


“Shut up, Cory!”  Jessica shot back at him.  “You might hate me, but at least you'll be alive to do it!”


“Enough!”  Wildstar shouted.  “Jessica, start talking!”


“You're a hero, Wildstar!”  she said softly.  “You don't need to get involved in this.”  Jessica glanced at her brother and Hardy.  Wildstar sensed her reluctance to reveal anything to an audience.  “Walk away.”


“I'm not going to ask again!”  Wildstar straightened and crossed his arms. 


“I came back!  I'll cooperate with whatever punishment you deem appropriate!”  She raised her hand and pressed it to her chest.  “It’s all me.  Only me.”


Wildstar looked back at Nova.  She was standing silently in the hallway.  “Call security.  I want Cory and Jessica Conroy detained for questioning.”


“Stop…”  Jessica forced a heated whisper at Wildstar before Nova could move.  Wildstar met her eyes again.  The anger in them seemed to fade into weariness.  She shook her head slowly, never breaking eye contact with him.  “I really hate you…”


A chill shot through him with her words.  They had a surprising impact.  It was a sickening realization of a shattered trust between them, but he maintained his emotionless facade.  “That’s fine!”  His reply was cold.  “As long as you don’t lie to me!” 


“You'll probably wish I had,” she whispered as she turned from him and pushed him out of her path. 


“Ah'm go'n with ya!”  Hardy said to Jessica as she pulled on her jacket.


“No!”  Jessica's response was immediate.


“Jessica, ah'...”


“I don't want you to go!”  Jessica snapped as she turned to him.  “Leave, Jefferson!  Be with your family!”


Hardy was visibly stunned by her response.  “No, ah'...”


“The best thing you can do is stay away from me!”


“Ah' don't understand!”


“You don't have to understand...”


“Ah'm not leav'n you!”


Jessica hesitated, looking down at her fingers as they held the zipper of her jacket.  She was considering her words carefully, working them over in her head.  What could she say to him?  What could she say to drive him from her side?  'Make it sting,'  she thought.  'Make it hurt.  It's for his own good!'   She looked up at him, suddenly meeting his eyes.  “Why are you here?”




“Ask yourself!  Why are you here?  Are you here for me?  For Peter?”


“Ah' thought...”


“You thought what?”  She paused, waiting only seconds for a reply.  “Is it because you think I saved your life?  Is that it?  If you're here for me, you're wasting your time!”  Her voice was low, but her tone was harsh as she approached him.  “Do you honestly think something can come from this?  We kissed twiced!”


Hardy held up three fingers.


“Okay, but don't mistake appreciation for love!” 


“Ah'm not a child!”


“That's good!  Then, you can take rejection like a man!”  She sensed the heat of rising anger in him, but he concealed it with the stoic discipline of a soldier.  “You don't know me, Jefferson!” 


“But ah' want to get to know you!”  His voice remained low, almost gentle. 


“No.  You don't...”  Jessica shook her head.


“Ah' want to help you if ah' can!”


Jessica stepped in close to him.  She couldn't look into his eyes and speak her words, so she drew in closer, summoning as much strength and courage as she could.  She pressed her cheek against his and she whispered close to his ear.  “I don't need your help!  I don't need you!  What I did... What I did for you, Jefferson... was my job!  That's all!”


She didn't wait for a reaction from him.  She simply turned on her heel and walked out of the room. 


Her words must have had their intended affect, because she didn't hear his footsteps behind her.  She felt the sting of tears in her eyes as she passed her little brother in the hallway. 


“Jess...” Cory whispered.


“Don't!”  She raised her hand to him as she walked by him.  She wouldn't meet his eyes. 


To Be Continued


Chapter 13 – Fairy Tale



Author’s Note:  Enjoy!

Disclaimer:  Star Blazers is owned by Voyager Entertainment.  

Beta Reader:  Sybil Rowan!  Thanks again!

Date Written:  May, 2011

Word Count:  5900