Wednesday: Kay

I was looking at the Circlet on my nightstand. I knew it would go off. Had I woken up ten minutes before it or ten seconds before? I always hoped it was a long time before, so I would be able to snuggle down in the bed for another half hour. I should check how much time I had.

The alarm started chiming the moment I finished the thought. Damn it!

“Off,” I barked. I took a moment to stretch and then thought about the day ahead of me… I felt the morning grin set in and leaped out of bed.

I strolled into the shower room, and it responded by lighting up instantly. I loved the room they gave me on Basilica. It was supposed to be officers’ quarters and had everything I could ever want. It wasn’t apartment sized, but you didn’t get those sorts of rooms on a starship, well, unless you were on Mercia, or a pleasure corvette.

If I were at home, on Central, I could go down to the coffee shop at the end of the road and get something decadent to start my day. I glanced at the food hatch as I left the shower. I didn’t want to eat breakfast alone.

I slipped on my medical onesie and found a red doctor’s coat to go on top of it. Usually, you would never wear red, but it was the colour of the ship’s uniform. No one seemed to mind when I fabricated one. Followers were cool. They were the embodiment of live-and-let-live, but with a drive to stay on mission. Good people.

I think, I may have been the only person aboard who actually got a wage. I wished I could donate my time. Libby had me on pay roll. I shrugged to myself when I thought about it. Libby could afford it and I did need to pay my bills.

I put on my medical circlets and belt. I grabbed my sensor-display-glasses from the shelf and headed out of the door. The sensor-glasses were annoying. Every other doctor just got implants, but my biology rejected everything I tried. Had a pretty rough week a few years ago when I tried to augment one eye.


The mess hall on the ship was packed, as always. Followers liked to eat together. We all had basic-menu food hatches in our rooms, but there was something great about sitting with people. Especially when you were basically aboard a ship packed with friends.

I think I had picked up the need for company when I ate from when I dated Ba’an. Vampires said it was bad luck to eat alone. So much so that on their home world neighbours who lived alone would take it in turns to cook for each other.

I thought about my friends. I was glad that Ba’an and Lea had found each other; they were a much better fit than he and I ever were. He needed someone who was honest about what they wanted. Told him how they felt. She needed someone who would let her be herself, really be herself. Which was often its own challenge.

Leon and Mitch gave me a wave from their table. I grabbed a plate of bacon and eggs from one of the large hatches that were all across the one wall. I also got myself a bottle of Elix and a pot of coffee. The hatch struggled to put it all on one tray. I pulled it out carefully and sat with my boys.

“Good morning, guys, how’s things?” I asked as I moved my precariously balanced coffee pot from the edge of the tray and placed it on the table.

“We’re wonderful. How are you today?” As polite as ever, Leon.

I took a large gulp of coffee straight from the pot and then poured the bottle of Elix in. I noticed Mitch’s eyes go wide as I did.

“Well, I’ll be far better once I get this down me,” I said, using the handle end of my fork to stir the pot.

“It is, as always, an honour to eat breakfast with you, Doctor. Really, it is.” I liked Leon, I really did, but he needed to get over this idea that I was some figure of legend.

“Are you ever going to call me Kay?” I asked. Leon smiled. Mitch shook his head with wide eyes. Mitch didn’t speak. Not ever. There was no medical issue. He just, for reasons of his own, didn’t. He and Leon loved each other very much, though and as long as Mitch kept on being a wonderful medical assistant, I didn’t need him to tell me about it.

I saw Jon and Ba’an walk in. I half stood up to wave at them. Ba’an gave me a thumb-up to show that he had seen me, and they soon headed over with trays of their own.

“Is he really going to sit with us?” Leon asked. I just raised an eyebrow at him rather than justify his hero worship of my grandfather.

“Good morning!” Ba’an said with glee. “Gentlemen!” he added, to acknowledge the boys.

Jon was less perky. “Hi,” was all he said as he sat down, reading something from a data-tablet.

He was obviously wrapped up in some research. I was willing to bet that Ba’an had dragged him to the mess hall in an attempt to get him to take a little time out.

“Jon, do you think you should put the screen down?” I asked, giving Ba’an a glancing smile.

“He’s been at this since last night!”

“What is he researching?” I asked.

“You know how Brick space was recently expanded, because they need to open new mining operations for the rebuild?” Ba’an said as he ate. I think it was beef. It was rare to point that I was pretty sure I could save it, if I had my medical bag with me.

“Yeah, what about it?” I asked.

“Well, he saw something in the charts that made him do one of his check-outs and he’s been doing this since.”

Mitch and Leon looked like there were in the presence of Aygah herself from the way they stared at Jon.

“Oh, for the love of cake!” I said and snatched the tablet from his hand. He blinked for a second.


“Jon, research later. Mitch and Leon aren’t used to you yet, and I think you need a break before you vanish into a memory hole and they start bowing to you!”

“Sorry. Hi guys,” he said, trying desperately to change mental gear and actually engage with the people he was with.

I wanted to ask what it was that he was looking for, but I knew better. It would put him back into research mode, and he told no one his theories, until he was sure about them. He said that saying something out loud made it more real and removed other possibilities. It was nonsense, of course.

Gower had told us that it was something Aygah used to say when Jon and her were married. I missed Gower. I wish I had have got to know him better.

“What’s that smell?” Jon asked, finally switching out of research mode and into person mode. Honestly, from how visibly he changed focus, even I was shocked that he wasn’t a NOLF sometimes.

He leaned forward and sniffed my coffee pot. “Did you put Elix in your coffee?” he asked excitedly.

“Yeah, I do every morning!” I said. “Elix is super high in the types of energy that we metabolise and…” I stopped talking as he picked up my pot and started drinking it. “Really, Jon? Really?”

“You’re a genius!” he said with a grin. I leaned over and took his coffee pot.

“Well, enjoy! I suppose!” I said, realising that he had put about a million sugars into his. Not bad, actually.

“Where’s fur ball?” I asked. Ria would be usually right next to Jon like a shadow. She said it was her purpose to protect him. We all thought it was an overstatement until she saved his life and, at no minor risk to herself either. She would follow him to fire if he headed that way. I liked that someone was looking out for the old mayhem magnet.

“She’s sleeping. I’ve been awake since Monday. She can’t keep up. She only went to sleep because Libby promised to wake her if there was so much as a raised voice in my direction.”

I noticed Leon and Mitch, still in awe of Jon. “Guys, how is that every other Follower on the ship is over this and you guys are still… like this?” I asked.

They both shrugged.

“You really should relax. I’m almost a permanent fixture around here. Get to know me better. I’m actually a fucking mess,” Jon added, drinking the last of my coffee.

The Followers were a religion based on Aygah worship. One thing they believed was that Jon was ‘Her Champion’ and the rest of us were ‘The Great Family.’

The really annoying thing was that they seemed to be right. Every prophecy, every legend. They were all true. I didn’t enjoy being a figure of worship, and I knew for certain that Jon hated it. It was hard to tell someone that they were wrong when you knew for a fact that their goddess was real and in my case, was my grandmother.

Most Followers had got past this blind worship phase, but Mitch and Leon were a special pair. They were basically Follower extremist. Unlike some other religions, that didn’t mean they were nut jobs. It meant that they would do anything for the group and because they were Followers, it meant that they worked harder than anyone else, loved every stranger they met and emanated joy wherever they went. They were the embodiment of good people. They were just a little odd around some of us.

“My lord. Do you need us to get you more coffee?” Leon asked, Mitch nodding enthusiastically next to him.

“Jon, just Jon,” he said; he always said that.

I slid him his original coffee pot back, he grinned at me. “No, thank you,” he said to them as he took the pot and gave me a grin.

“Where’s Libby this morning, anyway?” I asked. The bacon on my plate was running low. I would need to get more, and I needed coffee as well.

“Her physical avatar is helping Alin fit an AI core. Her hologram is on the bridge training some people in usage of said AI and, I am told, somewhere else she’s teaching a class about moral relativism,” Jon said with half a mouth full of eggs, mentally trying to keep track of all his wife’s avatars.

“Oh!” Leon said absent-mindedly. He took in a quick breath when he realised, he had made a sound.

“You okay there, Leon?” Ba’an asked.

“Err…” he stumbled, Mitch looking a little smugly at him.

“I don’t bite,” Jon said. I knew his connection making brain had instantly reminded him of time he had bitten someone.

“Err, I… I was not aware that Doctor Michaels, err, your wife, could support so many locations.”

It always made me smile when I realised people had to specify which Doctor Michaels they were talking about. Libby, Jon and I were all Doctors, in different fields.

Jon smiled. Libby was his favourite subject in all the universe. “She can support two physical avatars. One ship-avatar, that’s the hologram. Oh, and one fully functional virtual one. She can only support the Ship-avatar because Basilica’s AI-web interface picks up a lot of slack. She hasn’t figured out why yet, but she’s working on it.” Jon looked at them, waiting for follow-up questions.

“Do all her avatars have access to the purple eyes now?” Leon sheepishly asked.

“Yes. They seem to switch over automatically when she accesses her memories and skills from the other iteration she remembers. She’s still figuring that out too.”

This went on for the rest of breakfast. Jon enjoyed being able to talk openly about this and Followers were the only people outside of the family that knew the background to all this. He would go on for hours if I didn’t stop him.


I eventually got back to the medical bay after more rounds of breakfast than even I would usually have. Mitch and Leon seemed to enjoy talking with Jon, once they had warmed up, finally. Well, Leon did. Mitch looked entertained enough buy the conversation.

There wasn’t much in the way of actual work today, but the boys insisted on finding things to do around the bay.

“Kay, you in here?” I heard as Lea walked in.

“Lea!” I said, always happy to see her. She was one of my best friends and I saw her far less frequently than I liked. She was very busy flying ships and getting trashed.

It only took me a glance to see that there was something wrong with her. “Boys! We got a customer,” I said as I sat her down on one of the medical beds.

“What’s wrong? She looks okay!” Leon said. He was right. She did look okay, to anyone else. I had known her a long time, and she looked like she was distracted and a little spaced. Not at all like her usual sharp self. Lea was laser focused in everything she did usually. To see her looking distracted like this was rare, and not a good thing at all.

Mitch had already started a full spectrum scan and was loading a table up with my hand scanners and tracer injectors.

“Lea, tell me what’s happening!” I said as I scanned her.

Leon pulled a holographic readout down above the bed. She physically looked well. She was Brick, they were always looked well, you had to look deeper. Their physiology was very far from human, even if their outward appearance was identical, well, superior.

“Kay. Kay, I can’t do it anymore. They called me things Kay… The door. I never opened the door!” She was rambling and distracted. She was drunk! Not just regular Lea drunk. She was so drunk that she had alcohol poisoning, dehydration and even swelling in her brain. She was so drunk that it would have killed a human.

“Okay guys, seal the medical bay,” I ordered. I had no wish for anyone else to see her in this state. Even if on the outside she looked okay, it would only take a glance from Ba’an or Libby and they would know instantly.

Thankfully, I knew Libby was very distracted. I also knew that her ship-presence had to honour my very specific instructions around doctor-patient confidentiality. She wouldn’t even know that she knew, unless her physical avatar saw her. The door was locked, so there was no chance of that now.

“Mitch, we treat as if she ingested a toxin, got it?” He nodded in response. “That’s how this gets recorded,” I added. They both knew it was alcohol poisoning, and her drinking was legendary. I was stern with my words. It was a toxin.

I started readying de-toxin and Injecting Cure-all. I loaded some nanite’s into her via an inhaler, countering the alcohol as fast as I could.

“I want you to confirm to me that you understand that this is not something we will discuss outside of this room.” I glanced at Mitch. He nodded gravely.

I started checking the bed scanners and making sure I wasn’t missing something.

Leon looked hurt that I would even ask. “Doctor. I understand!”

Lea had either intentionally or accidentally almost drunk herself to death, and I did not want anyone trying to talk to her about it. Not until I got to save her life, so I could throttle her later.


It took the boys and me two hours to purge her system and repair the damage she had done. She was sleeping it off now. I had sedated her to make sure she would get the rest she needed.

I sat down in my little office and felt like I was going to cry. Was this my fault? How bad had things got that she would do this, and no one knew? Libby usually monitored her drinking. We had never said anything directly, but everyone knew Libby watched over her.

I pressed the button to access the ship’s computer, which was Libby. I used the button so that there was no mistake as to which aspect of Libby I was talking to. The ship wide version of her had some over-rides regarding medical privacy that the other versions didn’t. This was the only way I was willing to allow her any access to the medical records of the people in my care.

“Hi, Kay. What do you need?” she asked in her helpful way.

“What was Lea doing before she came into the medical bay today?” I asked.

“She had been in her quarters all day. Why?”

“What was she doing in there?” I asked.

“Kay, you know I can’t tell you that.” Libby took privacy seriously. We both did, which is why we had this arrangement in the first place.

“Libby, access her patient records on your encrypted stream.”

“Oh… Is she okay?” Libby asked. Instantly aware of what I was talking about.

“Yes. But I need to know why she is in this state.”

The video on my screen showed Lea in her room at eight this morning, according to the timestamp. She was playing with one of Libby’s Pianyes’ and working her way through a bottle of something strong looking. I squinted. She was drinking Elix. Elix was basically poison to anyone except Elves and Bio-statics.

“Kay, she had been there since five, when Ba’an was called to the bridge,” Libby said from the other screen.

I sighed to myself. We all knew the little Pianyes’ showed you things that you may not be ready to see. They toys had become instantly popular with the crew. For most people, it was an affirmation, but with Lea, she had been through a lot. I don’t think she had gotten over the attack on her homeworld. She had refused to try the toy, which I think we all agreed was smart. Why would she mess with one, alone, while drinking?

“Libby, can you show me what it showed her?” I asked.

“I can put it on the screen, but it won’t be the same as the version she saw. I can’t project those sorts of holograms in here.”

“Do it, please.”

The screen filled with rain. It looked like a rainstorm on Central. The raindrops were all screaming as they fell. The camera panned up slowly as a city station came down tumbling through the clouds, in a blaze of rainbow fire. There wasn’t music like there would usually be. There was just crying and screams echoing in some horrific choir of pain. I could see how this would affect Lea. With the immersion and depth that the real thing had. Yeah, this was not something she needed.

“Stop,” I asked. The video vanished. I didn’t need to see any more. The little toys extracted your thoughts and made a brief presentation out of your mind. It was almost always a bit too deep, but only ever a reflection of yourself. No one who had used it had seen anything other than things that made them a happy, sure, a little melancholy at times but it was hardly a horror show.

“I don’t suppose there is even a chance it was faulty, is there?” I asked.


“And she watched it on loop?”

“Few hours at least.”

“Libby, this information isn’t something I want your wider self-knowing,” I said, to make very my expectations very clear.

“I know the rules. But I think you should tell me about this,” she said, almost crying.

“I know you do, and if I do, you’ll tell Jon and Ba’an because you think they should know. Which is why I won’t tell you. It’s also why I’m the doctor.”

“Understood,” she said and blinked off my screen. He was pissed off. It didn’t matter she wouldn’t know she was annoyed next time I spoke to her.


It was early evening by the time Lea woke up. I had sent the boys away, gave them the rest of the day off. I had sat by Lea’s bed and brushed up in my Brick biology.

“Hello ceiling,” she said as an announcement of life.

“That unfamiliar sense of focus you have, that would be soberness. I think, looking at your scans, that it’s the first time you have felt like this in quite a few months.”

She sat up. “Feels pretty good!” she said as her head cleared.

“That’s because you’re on enough painkillers that I think you would feel fine if I shot you right now! Which is good because I’m thinking about it.”

She looked a little ashamed. “I wasn’t that bad. I just came here for some painkillers.”

“Fuck off Lea. I know exactly how bad you were. I had to purge your system before the Elix you were mainlining did actual brain damage!” I was angry, but not really at her. I was angry that we had all failed her. We should have known how bad things were for her.

She sat on the edge of the bed quietly for a few minutes before breaking the silence. “Does anyone else know?”

“No. But only because my professional oath prevents me from telling them,” I said, scanning her to make sure she really was okay, now she was awake.

“Not even Libby?”

“Libby and I have an arrangement. She knows, she just doesn’t know she knows.”

“Smart,” she said, understanding what I meant by that.

“You like flying ships?” I asked, knowing the answer already.

She looked at me, expecting a lecture.

“The part of Libby that knows will be doing a quick scan when you sit in the flight chair on Basilica or Thirteen from now on. Controls won’t respond if you’re fucked up.”

“Basilica, I understand, but Thirteen is my ship!” she said indignantly.

“Oh, and you’ll be talking to someone, someone professional, twice a week until they tell me you don’t need to go any more, understand?” I wanted to front load the facts.

She looked at me, no rage, or argument. The fight had gone from her. “I… I saw my world burn, Kay. I never even opened the door!”

“Door?” I asked, I had no idea what she was talking about. “You were talking about a door when you came in.”

“When the sky fell, I watched. Thirteen’s shield protected me. I never went to the door. I never went to see if anyone was outside.”

“Oh, Lea… The door was locked, the ship was in lockdown. All the scans told you there was no one out there to save. Your president gave you an honorary! Lea, you’re a hero!”

She started sobbing. I sat next to her and held her while she got it out.

“Kay….” She sobbed. “Kay, I never checked.”

She wailed with tears.

“The scans, Lea, Thirteens scans. There was no one there to save. The ship was in lockdown. You wouldn’t have been able to open the door even if you tried!” I told her again.

She cried for another few minutes. “Kay, I never checked. I didn’t know. There could have been a hundred people trying to get in and I didn’t even check the screen! Kay, I just saved myself.”

I was angry. A deep anger now. I was angry that I didn’t know she felt this way. I was angry that we had failed her, that I had failed her. The so-called Great Family and we didn’t even know how broken our sister was. I cried with her.

After a while, the tears dried, she sat quietly in my arms. “Ba’an will want to know where I am,” she eventually said.

“No, he won’t. I told him you were going to be staying in my quarters this evening, watching movies and talking about him.”

She laughed. “Can we?” she asked.

“Sure, we can.”

Chapter 4