SUNSWEPT CH16


Chapter 16 "Only Human"


Ten seconds felt like ten hours as no one so much as moved in the bridge onboard Solu's Confessor, Akatsuki. Meyan could barely breathe. The stillness shattered as the bulkhead Meyan had been leaning against for support started to move. She leapt in surprise as her heart first dropped through her feet and then began trying to run a marathon. She spun around to see a glowing seam split neatly down the center of what had been the protruding bulge in the bulkhead. The two portions of what had so recently been a wall began moving laterally away from one another until Meyan could see the familiar looking outer casing of a capsuleer's pod behind it. She couldn't exactly have been blamed for her surprise either; only significant customized re-design of the ship would have placed the capsuleer's pod aside the bridge instead of just in front of the reactor where it usually was. But this wasn't just some other capsuleer, this was Solu's ship and that was Solu's pod!

Meyan watched on, mesmerized by what she saw as next even the pod's outer shell split along its seams and began opening. When all motion had stopped Meyan could see Solu suspended and partially curled into almost a fetal position within. The hydrostatic gel which encased her friend also made it hard to make out any more than just the basic form of the person within. But then Solu started moving. First her feet came down to position themselves firmly against the pods transparent inner skin. Warning alarms started erupting across the ship's network and Lt Zikk furrowed his brow in consternation but Meyan could see none of that. She was utterly transfixed on her friend and the sudden rage which even she could make out through the blurry haze of the pod goo. Then, almost as though in slow motion, Solu's arm exploded outward and crashed into the inner shell. The pure and awesome display of violence caused Meyan to jump yet again as the servos and tritanium casing of Solu's mechanical arm exploded in on themselves against the unyielding pod skin. A cloud of shrapnel began to dissipate back into the goo as the ship's network alarms screeched the critical failure of Solu's neural uplink. Fail-safes rippled in a cascade throughout the ship as Meyan's mind listened through the ship's network until the override triggered and like city deprived of its power the Akatsuki went dark.

Within moments the emergency lightly returned to the ship, bathing Meyan, Lt. Zikk, and the other lieutenant for which Meyan had no name in a sort of sickly yellow glow. Meyan's eyes once more fixed on her friend as the pod opened to disgorge Solu who fell to the decking. As the pod's goo oozed out and all around her, Meyan couldn't see Solu's face but she could hear the staggered breaths of someone fighting between pure fury and absolute loss. She didn't know why, or what possessed her in that moment but Meyan didn't even stop to think, she knelt suddenly and embraced Solu. Maybe it was seeing her own emotions suddenly reflected and amplified so much in another that evaporated her normally reserved self, maybe it was knowing in her gut that she had nothing to fear of danger from Solu despite the rage she'd just shown. Meyan's hands carefully avoided knocking one of the multiple coils still extruding out of the capsuleer's back as she embraced her friend. They stayed there for some time, neither moving.

::Bluefire Echo 1:: Ninavask

Meyan's heart and mind winced against the intrusion, even one so simple and apparently meaningless, but the woman in her arms shuddered a massive breath and used it to re-center herself. Solu's head came up to look first at Meyan. For just a moment Meyan saw deep writhing pain within those eye, then a wisp of hope. Solu took hold of that hope and willed it into her face and Meyan saw just the sliver of a smile. It was meant as a thank you, to her, but it also reminded Meyan that everything wasn't over yet.

Solu took yet another deep breath and then shifted her view to Lt. Zikk still dutifully working hard at the tactical console. "Ninavask, warp-in is on me. Aaron, please initiate transfer of the pods into Ninvask's Ship Maintenance Bay, he can fast track them to his Nestor's med bays from there."

Hearing Solu's actual voice at the same time as hearing her mental voice via the fleet network was a bit eerie but Meyan marveled at how utterly calm and collected it sounded despite the raging emotions that she could still see just beneath the surface of Solu's countenance. That orders given, Solu once more turned back to the woman who still held her.

"Thank you. I... I'm good now. Really." No mental voice accompanied these words and Meyan nodded both in answer to Solu's reassurance as well as in acknowledgement of the intimacy of the gesture. She'd never even stopped to consider how it must look for even a few of Solu's crew to see their Master-and-Commander-before-Bob so suddenly vulnerable. Whether they had seen it before, were too engrossed in their work, or were just really good at their job, the few actual crew who were present had never even flinched at any of it.

Meyan's eyes drifted down to look at the still twitching innards of Solu's mechanical arm. "I'll need to replace that I guess."

Meyan could hear just a hint of sarcastic understatement in the comment but it was a good sign. "Wait, didn't Petrian say that that arm was how you interface with all of your multiples?"

Solu nodded. "They all just dropped everything and are making for their charging stations right now." Solu gave Meyan a little smirk but there was a slight pause following it. "Yeah, they'll be fine."

"So, what now?"

Solu began rising to her feet and Meyan shifted her weight to help, still gently holding the naked and still slimy wet woman's shoulders. "Can I ask another favor of you, please."

"Of course." Meyan wasn't sure how she could be of help but if there was any way...

Solu once more looked her in the eyes and Meyan could see that the sadness was working its way back towards the surface. "I can't leave the Akatsuki yet," Solu glanced for just a moment back at the cables which still connected her into what was left of her pod. When her eyes returned the sadness was still there but muted slightly. "Can you go to Nina's ship, for both of us? I want someone I trust over there when those... two kids come out of stasis." Meyan saw the pain flicker brighter at the acknowledgement that the escape pod count had been at least one short. But then Solu's eyes resolved once more to that cold anger and determination. "Please?"

Meyan just nodded, unable to find any further words in response.


As Aaron's Astero undocked from the Demigol's small maintenance bay Solu's incapacitated Akatsuki was carefully folded into it. In the end, Solu and her pod had to be entirely extracted from the otherwise robust ship before it's rigging had been stripped off and the whole ship repackaged just to barely squeeze into the 5000m3 bay. The Akatsuki's small crew, loyal as ever to their capsuleer, were still with her as Nina's med techs carefully worked to asses whether they could separate the person from the pod without initiating the violent mindflash which would precipitate an unneeded re-cloning event for Solu. There wasn't exactly a danger in having Solu, this Solu, just die off and re-clone into her new body. But that would have involved a lot of extra work and most importantly time. Solu was adamant that she be at least conscious as Meyan carried her heart to know the fate of those intrepid kids.

::I'm reaching the fore med-bay now.:: Meyan Lui Kasil

::Thank you...:: Solu Terona

Meyan turned her attention from the private com channel with Solu as she stepped through the sanitation fields and into the best description of efficient chaos she'd ever seen. She had to step aside as a crewmember hovered a pod past her and out of the bay. Meyan's glance caught the peaceful face of a boy who couldn't have been more than fourteen within pod before it and the crewmember were around the corner and out of Meyan's view. She looked back into the med bay and all around her. Most of the people here were either busy moving pods or hunched over biometric scans. The only exceptions to this were the two small clusters of technicians and medics circled up at the far end of the bay. She couldn't see what they were circled around, but she didn't have to. There wasn't room in their midst for her to intrude and suddenly feeling very out of place with no task to do she turned to one of the bio-technicians who was flitting between pods.

"Excuse me, why are the pods being taken out of the lab?" It hadn't been her intention to intrude but it was the best thought she could come up with right then.

To her credit the biotech at least attempted to be cordial through her frustration. "Look, all we have time for right now is to make sure their vitals are good then get them safely stowed away for the trip back to Icarus. Besides, it's safer for them inside those things anyway."

That was certainly true. "You seem a bit understaffed."

"Congratulations Admiral Obvious, you win awards for that epiphany?" The biotech was giving Meyan her best 'can I please get on with this face.

"I just meant can I help?" She wasn't going to be able to actually get over to see whoever were in the two emergency pods without also having some official reason to be here, but if she was also helping to triage the standard pods it would at least keep her in the room. The Biotech gave Meyan a real hard look and Meyan realized that she certainly didn't look the part in the wispy top and smart slacks which she'd worn to meet with Delyyn what seemed so long ago this morning. "I've got the credentials."

Whether she was really just too busy or had implants as well, meaning she had access to personnel files and had just verified Meyan's claim, the biotech just shrugged and tapped gently on the pod next to both of them. "Sure! Just make sure you clear each one before you have the mates over there cart em off." The biotech nodded to one of the several personnel who were moving pods. "Oh, and here."

An invite prompt to join Demigol pinged in her implant's projected interface.

::User MEYAN LUI KASIL connects to Demigol::

The relay channel which suddenly burst into Meyan's mind was unlike any other she'd ever experienced. Unlike the text or mental voice of others she was suddenly 'hearing' many different thoughts. She knew that the Demigol was realigning for warp. She knew that massive ship had just dropped its cloak and that it had to do so in order to warp. The millions upon millions of ship process, system alerts, and moment to moment minutia that went into managing a ship was suddenly flowing through her mind. She shook her head just for a moment before looking poleaxed at the biotech.

"Oh, sorry, guess you've never been crew on a capsuleer's ship before. Just 'think' about med-bay fore 2A, that should help." The Biotech gave Meyan a good pat on the shoulder then dashed off suddenly to the next pod.

Med-bay fore 2A. Her implant took over. Something about the unspoken command must have triggered a previously dormant subroutine because suddenly the only information in that massive stream of awareness focused on the lab around her. There was an exact counting of how many 'patients', or pods, were present, how many had rotated through, the two crew who had managed to survive from the shuttle and were being quietly treated in one corner, how many pods were on their way yet, and finally the actual mental conversation between both sets of physicians encircling her friend. All she had to do was focus on that stream of information, almost like zooming in on a nanoscope, and she could hear what was being openly discussed. Meyan quickly set about inspecting the vitals for the pod which the biotech had tapped and listed in.

::...can't open them here, for sure. They are safer stowed like the rest of them.::

::These pods are different, their external information relays are burned out from the ejection. We don't know whether those inside are even alive, much less in a suitable condition for transfer. We have to get them out.::

::Get them out.:: COMMAND

There was a pause as the discussion stopped immediately at the final words. Meyan couldn't tell to whose mind those last thoughts belonged but something about the mental voice seemed familiar. Neither team wasted any time once the decision had been made and within moments both pods had been unsealed and the access covers removed. Meyan was still checking on the vitals for the pod she'd just moved to and with business going on about the two escape pods she couldn't really sneak a good view. Frustrated, Meyan tried to turn her attention to her work. At least whoever was getting out of those pods wasn't going anywhere too quickly. She finished assessing the pod; all vitals looked good.

Meyan moved onto another pod, this one just beside the last. All vitals checked out good for this one too and she again moved to the next pod, and the next, and the next. In all Meyan had reviewed and confirmed about six pods, each with their own perfect little child held in the arms of stasis. She was a little amazed at the good welfare of each child but even that was held in the back of her mind as she strained to hear or see at least some glimpse of who was in the two emergency pods. Through it all, she could follow the litany of scans and tests being performed but for some reason, only moments after clearing the covers, a sort of redacting had fallen over the conversation held between those working with the two emergency pod inhabitants.

::Everyone please move back, we need room.::

Meyan glanced around but there were no more pods to check or move out of the way. It was a good thing, it meant the work was done and all of those other kids were safely stowed for the journey home, but it also meant Meyan was about to lose her reason for staying in the med bay. She moved to the side of the bay and took her time cleaning and straightening the diagnostic equipment. It was a chore she'd done so many times that the action was absolutely natural and she could do it on auto-pilot while she waited to see who emerged from the pods.

She didn't wait long.

One of the empty pods floated on an anti-grav lift out of the group to the left and the first being to emerge from the pods shocked her. She'd been expecting a child but what her eyes caught in their periphery was the bewildered image of a grown man. The glance caused her to double take and it was on the second glance that she noticed that his hands had already been restrained as well. The man didn't struggle against the restrains nor did he even look up as one of the medics gently led him to a security officer who had appeared at the med bay door without Meyan even noticing. She had no idea who he was or why he'd been in the pod but her heart clenched even further as she realized that his presence left only one of her little friends remaining. Only one had made it out, not two. Meyan's eyes teared up but she quickly turned back to watch as the other group of medics and biotechs began to part.

H'Aki, a bit dazed and with her own eyes filling with tears stepped out of the group. A kind medic was at her shoulder instantly and guided her out of the medbay.


Solu had been taken to her own cargo bay where Meyan had found her still angry with grief. The Echo 1 wormhole back through to Origin had closed and so now they were forced to take the long way home, jumping from system to system through highsec. It was arguably safer than traveling through wormhole space but neither Solu nor the other capsuleers of Alexylva Paradox seemed to act like it was. If anything they were even more on edge outside of the anonymity of wormhole space.

Solu, it turned out, was still connected to her pod because Nina's Nestor didn't have the clone facilities necessary to safely remove her from the pod without killing off the clone. It wasn't exactly a common procedure. But then, neither was what Solu had done. Meyan had heard Solu try to banter it off with the other capsuleers who'd jokingly accused her of something called a 'rage-quit', whatever that was. Meyan had been ready to come to Solu's defense, even against the likes of Solu's fellow capsuleers, but Solu had privately sent her a message not to.

It had taken a few more moments for Meyan to realized that the hard time they were giving Solu was actually a sort of tough love meant to get her mind off of what had just happened, who they had just lost. This, of course, left Meyan wondering as to just how much subtlety and complexity a group of beings could weave into such mental communication. But that thought quickly gave way to another; she had been moments away from arguing with an entire fleet of capsuleers... just to defend Solu?

While the tough love may have been helping Solu, it wasn't doing anything good for Meyan so she disconnected from the fleet channel and opened a private channel just for the two of them. Even though they sat less than a meter apart, Meyan just felt like the com channel seemed almost more comfortable than words.


::You can go, if you want.:: Solu looked up at Meyan. She could see that Meyan was hurting as well and she tried to think of something to comfort her friend. Somehow Solu felt that a hug wasn't right, and might be just a little awkward.

Meyan looked up quickly in response with concern and sadness as well. ::No, I can stay here with you.::

Solu smiled weakly. Meyan hadn't yet mastered the fine art of emotions and implants and so while Meyan's mental voice wanted to stay, Solu could feel her heart wanting to go. But go where...

::Meyan?::

::Yes?::

Solu remembered the time she'd asked Meyan about Ellie's Heron gift and the story she'd heard in response. ::Can you go to the forward observation deck? Please, for me?::

::Uh.. yeah, but why?:: There was even a bit of hurt under Meyan's curiosity.

Solu gestured to the pod she was still attached to. ::I can't, but maybe you can use your implants to pass the feed of what you see through to me, so we can both see the stars as we go.::

Meyan nodded.


The Demagol was making good time from jump to jump, for a battleship anyway, and by the time Meyan reached to forward observation corredor and reconfigured her implants Solu's map informed them that they had only a few jumps left. Looking out through the force fields Meyan watched as the fleet repeated it's pattern at each gate. There was a sort of peace in the repetition as first Aaron's Astero would transition through the jump gate, scout the next system for any potential hostile targets, and then call for the fleet to follow. Solu had called it '+1ing' but it was actually to Ellie's description which Meyan clung. Aaron really was like a guiding angel, seeing them safely home. Thinking of Ellie brought a rare smile to her face. But that smile faded suddenly as thinking of Ellie reminded her of Kip and Bee.

::I'm... sorry that we lost them.:: Solu must have sensed the downturn in Meyan's emotions somehow. Meyan looked out again at the vast sea of stars and nebulae as they flowed past like a river and tried to rally her emotions. ::And I'm sorry that I can't be up there with you right now either.::

::Well, you are, kind of I guess.:: She continued to look out the viewport as the ship finished the last leg of its journey through highsec, coming to land just before a massive lonely wormhole. Meyan was no longer connected to the ship's crew channel and she had since left the fleet com channel, so rather than the background chatter or multiple 'bluefires' she might have heard in those channels, only the quiet rhythm of ship after ship of the small fleet disappearing into phased space as they made the wormhole jump filled her vision. But she wasn't paying much attention to what she was seeing, her mind was more troubled by what she had seen. ::I just, I don't know how to feel. Maybe I'm still in shock. How could he do something like that?::


Solu had no idea to which 'he' Meyan was referring but it didn't really matter. Her own thoughts of anger and grief matched her friend's all too well. She was furious with Xeph. His recklessness and inattentiveness had already cost the lives of two children. She didn't have the authority to challenge him with anything more than words, and she may not have had all of the information that he did, but she was damned certain that she'd find a way to make him pay for what it had cost her; what it had cost Bee, and Kip.

Mostly she was mad at herself though. If Xeph had been the one to pull the trigger it had been her who had allowed him to have the gun. She had seen the danger, she had seen the unbalanced equations in his plan but she hadn't done enough to stop him. Even if she had, would he have listened? Would any of them have listened? Solu was only a member of the Paradox, she carried no status or authority. If she had spoken up against the operation, would it have made a difference? Maybe it was time to change some of that, perhaps it was time to make a difference. Solu began a thought to one of her drone selves to set in a meeting with Nina to review potential leadership roles within the... her thought died suddenly as there was no response from her drone bodies. Oh, right. The router in her arm. She lifted the stump that remained and frowned at it. Perhaps fixing her internal communications would have to come first.

Unable to further progress on that front, her mind returned to the final piece of her anger. She may not have been able to stop Xeph, but it had been her tech, specifically her implants, which had given Bee even the ability to find xer way to that gods forsaken shuttle. It was a small thing, of course, but it had been the one true piece of the whole timeline leading up to Bee and Kip's death for which Solu could blame only herself. And maybe that was why it hurt so much. She thought she was giving Bee freedom, but instead she'd giver her death.

Solu lifted her head and looked back to the trail of snaking coils which connected her to the remaining shell of her pod. The med staff had been kind enough to leave her alone to her thoughts as she sat in the small cargo bay which they'd converted into a half medbay half clone assessment area. While she was happy to have the room to herself, away from such crew despite their professionalism and efficiency, there was something very much alone about wallowing in the wrecked shell of one's own anger and grief... literally. Solu's mind returned to the comfort of the woman who stood now at the bow of the ship watching the stars for both of them.

::Solu? Do you want me to come back down there with you?:: Meyan's mental voice sounded concerned. ::You got real quiet there.::

::...please? I know we're almost home but...::


The ship passed out of the wormhole's phase distortions into Origin and immediately swung about on its access to align for warp one final time. Meyan watched the still unfamiliar and empty space around her as she paused before returning to Solu's cargo bay.

Home was a surreal concept just now and Meyan wasn't sure just what 'home' was anymore. That was until the Demagol rushed suddenly out of the warp tunnel to land beneath the golden system primary. Over her shoulder she could see the speck of Icarus Station growing rapidly larger beneath its blazing guardian. But it was seeing that station that sparked her emotions. For some inexplicable reason, for at least a fleeting moment, she felt hope. It was small and strangled by all of the anger, sadness, and confusion. But it was there. Meyan finished her turn and walked out of the observation corredor.

*******


Xeph stood once more in the observation blister deep within The Cradle as the mechanical arm recovered the next and last of the clones belonging to Katie Annhues. She was long dead now but her parents, who had been quite rich, had actually produced two clones for their mentally ill daughter. That Bee had chosen the other one of Katie's clones to initially inhabit was only pure luck. Or perhaps even in xer haste xe had calculated that this one had a spare. Either way, the ache in his gut settled as Xeph's mind fought to find anyway at all to try to recover what had been lost. And there was at least the hint of a way for Bee.

Any of these bodies could likely work, including the two which he had just returned to their place in the spiraling lights. Those two had names as well but forever more he'd only ever be able to see them as Drake and Sophia. The best chance for Bee now was Katie's second clone. It was a few months older than the first in chronological age, but the physicality of the brain it possessed should match what Bee had just lost closely enough. Because xe had already once transitioned as a digital form into a sapient form the best argument showed that any mental advancement block xe might face xe would have faced before anyway. It wasn't much consolation but it was enough for Xeph's battered conscience.

The pain in his gut twisted further as the egg-like stasis pod and the arm moving it disappeared through an aperture into a waiting lab. Bee did have a chance at re-life and perhaps a long life to follow. There would never be such a chance for Timothy, nor could he think of any possible way to make it up to Tez. Perhaps the best thing he could ever do for her was to never let her know that, even for a brief moment, her lost son had been found again. Maybe that was the best course. Let her and her wife be joyful in their new family with Ellie. For the first time in days Xeph smiled despite the cloud which had followed him. Yes, Ellie was the best thing that he couldn't do for the intrepid young woman who'd once been his crew.

Sub-Coordinator Xepharious Wryn stepped back from the mystifying view before him and turned slowly, this time he was moving not toward the death of an enemy, but towards the new life of a child.

*******


H'Aki stepped through the doorway and into the theatre's upper viewing area. She looked around momentarily but no one seemed to really notice her enter, not that there were many others present to notice. She continued her pace down the terraced rows of seats until she was less than a meter from the force field which looked down over the operating area below. Nobody else in the viewing area was sitting so H'Aki chose to stand as well. The operating area wasn't large, but then it didn't really have to be. A single body lay supine on the medical table as technicians began inserting jack-lines into a large apparatus which had been hovered just over and obscuring most of the body's head and face. She'd arrived just in time to see the large mechanical arm surreptitiously whisk away an empty stasis pod. She hadn't been quick enough to fully make it out but something about the blue-green coloration of that pod had seemed rather strange compared any other pod she'd seen. Oh well, H'Aki was just happy to have been allowed to attend and she wasn't about to start asking questions which might get her invitation revoked.

While she couldn't make out most of the face, she did recognize the rest of the body. Its form, shape, color, and height seemed almost identical to what she remembered but the odd sort of indigo colored webbing across the left shoulder and base of the neck was new. H'Aki never really knew where her friend's original body had come from, she knew it was possible to synthesize a human body but that often came with a whole host of issues from what she had once heard. But where or even how mattered little right now. Right now, H'Aki was focused much more on hope. Hope that her friend Bee might soon return to her though that very body in the room below.

She could make out most of the faces below as well as a few in the small alcove adjoining the primary operating space. Of those present H'Aki only really knew a few. Leth and Sophia... she corrected herself; Jemmalyn were part of the actual re-lifing team. Having participated in Bee's care most recently, their direct knowledge would be, of course, invaluable despite their limited specialization with the re-lifing mechanics. She recognized both the woman Meyan as well as the capsuleer Solu from her brief few hours onboard the Demagol, the Nestor class hospital ship she'd reawakened on only a few days earlier. They were here, in part, to assist with installing Bee's new implant suit following the re-lifing but even as they both stood side-by-side in the alcove, she could tell that their care for Bee went far beyond simple implant installation by they way both of them watched her young friend so intenty. She watched them in turn for just a moment and Bee's lessons in posture and body movement came to mind. Both of them carried themselves with the utmost of professionalism, and their focus and care may have been firmly on room below, but every other part of them and the way they waited just beside eachother said that they were more than just colleagues. That thought brought a memory of Kip flashing back into her mind faster than she could prepare for it and H'Aki had to suddenly fight back the urge to tear up just a little.

For just a moment she was back in The Base's common room sitting back to back with him. She could hear the soft overflow of music coming from his earbuds and feel the rhythm of his breathing. The memory was so real, so intense bu this time all of the conflicted feelings she'd felt then just weren't around anymore. In reflection her care for him was there so stark. Had she liked him as more than just a brother? She looked down and took a very deep breath. A whole new confusion of emotions erupted into her head. Had she been someone else, watching the two of them with the objectivity hindsight was giving her now might she have thought differently? Why was she instantly so sure of what she saw between Solu and Meyan yet understanding her own feelings towards Kip had been; no, still was so difficult. She took another breath. A part of her wanted to have seen him as more. A part of her wished for her memories to be that of someone more than a friend, but after the third deep breath she brought her head back up wiped the wetness from her eyes. She knew this wouldn't be the last time that good memories of her friend might take her down such an emotional wormhole, but maybe, after today, she'd have someone with whom to share them with again; someone to offer those uncanny insights into the emotional turmoil and confusion that was being a young human. A few more moments past and H'Aki, in an effort to distract herself a little, tried to continue her scan of those in attendance.

H'Aki had overheard the name of the dour man hovering stoically to the far right of the viewing area; Dr. Cartwith. He was here of a more official capacity in his role as overseer of Origin's biomass reserves, a responsibility which continued through the formation of a new body from those reserves and right up until the repossession of that body by its intended new consciousness. Technically, until the very moment Bee reawakened in xer new body, that body belonged in his care. This re-lifing would be of particular interest to him too, H'Aki supposed, as it was quite unusual for the digitally minded to choose a new vessel still in its childhood. And more so, Bee was special in and of xerself. H'Aki wasn't privy to the same sort of information that everyone else in the room seemed to be, but to her Bee was special for entirely different and more personal reasons. That xe would even have a chance at a new life was a miracle and H'Aki wasn't about to question that much. But she did take exception to the man's scowl. By the way he looked at that same sacred vessel below H'Aki had to wonder if he'd even known that it had existed before today. Maybe he hadn't.

Her attention was pulled back to the room below as the indicator lights on the Riordan-Nilanth Gravitational Resonance Imager came on and each of the techs backed away from the body in reverent unison. All other movement below ceased save for a gentle vibration and hum which even H'Aki could feel all the way up in the viewing area. The tableau lasted only a few moments in which no one so much as breathed and then the RNGRI diminished it's pur and the lights on it dimmed.

One of the techs moved and the RNGRI was hovered away revealing all of the face. It was so exactly like Bee's had been, so much so that without the indigo markings H'Aki would have just assumed it had been an exact clone. She watched, along with everyone else, for just some sign that it had worked. Time passed, H'Aki couldn't be sure of how long, but during those moments the only moment came from the careful and efficient dance of single tech's work below .

Bee opened xer eyes.

A collective breath of air rushed from everyone around her and for just a moment H'Aki's vision flicked to take in everyone else's response. She hadn't been the only one holding her breath and now she wasn't the only one smiling either. She noticed equal expresioned from several of those below, including especially Meyan and Solu and possibly even one from the dour Dr. Cartwith. Her gaze shifted quickly back to her friend below. In the short time it had taken her to scan the faces of those around her she'd missed a lot. All of the techs were moving now and in the flurry of activity it was hard for H'Aki to really make out what exactly was being done to or for Bee and xer new body.

The movement of a large piece of equipment totally obscured H'Aki's view of her friend and she took just a few more steps forward until her nose was actually quite close to the force field. The equipment was again moved shortly thus affording her a much better view. Bee's eyes were closed again but H'Aki could see the left portion of xer temple being prepped for surgery; right, the implants. She could also see additional lights come on in the alcove and something about the way various techs were shifting out for separate techs gave her the impression that she was witnessing some sort of a differently specialized team taking over. There was so much happening, in fact, the she nearly missed it when Bee opened xer eyes once more and looked directly at her. Was she looking at her or just in this direction? Could her friend actually see her?

Bee smiled and winked at H'Aki.

*******