I was almost done with the marinades when Jessica wandered in, rubbing sleep from her eyes. “I am soo sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to crash so hard. That happens sometimes, when I have to use my power to keep someone from dying during surgery. I hope I didn’t miss anything important.”
“Someone put a tracker on Aurora and we had to hightail it to space. Other than that, you didn’t miss much. And hmm… I didn’t mean to disturb your sleep but I didn’t want you to panic and think we had kidnapped you.”
“Oh… Oh. I guess I did miss a few things” she chuckled a little. “If you woke me up, I don’t remember.” She paused to think for a moment. “Um, are we going somewhere? Or just in space? And, um, is that a normal thing here, trackers?”
“We are heading to an asteroid that we’ve been before. You don’t know about trackers even though you mend people up hush hush?” I raised an eyebrow at her.
“Good point,” she said and laughed again. “Just trying to understand what sort of crew I’ve been kidnapped by. I see all types in my work, but mostly I work with people too poor to get help otherwise so not as many criminals as you’d expect. Not that I’m calling you criminals…” She hastened to add and then trailed off.
“We do odd jobs but we are on the law abiding side. We are more adventurers if anything.”
She looked relieved at that. “So… um, is there a plan? I’m just wondering if we’re going back any time soon. And, oh, that marinade smells delicious. Does that mean the BBQ is still on?”
“Want to try the special marinade I made? I made two types, a normal one and this other one I concocted on the spot. That is not always to everyone’s taste.”
I cut up a cooked sausage, dipped one slice in the special sauce with a fork and handed it to Jessica.
“Oh, that’s good.”
“I am going to do half-half just in case. Now why don’t you go relax in the lounge? I will wrap up here. Feel free to grab stuff from the bar. Snacks should be refilled now.”
“Sounds good. Just let me know if I can help.”
“There might be such a time later.” I smiled but waved her off. She headed off into the lounge. I kept going with the BBQ preparations. After a while, Aurora’s voice came on the intercom asking Estella to come down to the kitchen to discuss a job Jessica had for us. That was interesting.
“Hey, glad to see you’re up and about, Jessica, we were beginning to wonder if you were going to sleep through the entire feast.” Estella said when we were all gathered around.
Jessica did a half-smile. “I didn’t mean to do that, I am sorry.”
“It’s no big deal. Sam invited you to our little celebration, I figured she told you how exciting life usually is on board so you decided to rest up first.” Estella smiled happily as she looked around. “Oh this is going to be a feast of legend, it smells fantastic!”
“Yes, it certainly does.” Jessica replied, still acting all polite-like.
“I’m getting hungry, Aurora. When is it time to eat? Should I go get Hue and Vines? I’m sure Vines would love a BBQ.” Guppy giggled.
“Sure, go let them know it’s almost ready,” Aurora nodded towards Jessica. “Hue is our mechanic, and Vines is our ship mascot, kind of an intelligent plant creature we rescued from inside an alien starport built inside a moon.”
“A place we’re going back to someday.” Estella added. Guppy had shot out the door.
“Oh, that sounds like something I would love to see. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that before.”
“You’ll get your chance if you stick around,” Estella told her, “Aurora said something about a job?”
Jessica takes a deep breath. “Yes. I…” she hesitated, mulling it over. “I owe Scorsby a debt I can never repay. He kept me from going to prison for… well, for the thing that got my license taken away. But he has something. Evidence that could get me locked up.” Then a torrent rushed out of her. “I didn’t do anything wrong, except stick to my principles and cross someone very powerful. And so he has me do things for him, like patching up Old Terry. Of course, Terry is a sweetheart, and I would have helped him anyway. He’s got a sad story of his own, but it’s not my place to tell it.”
“Scorsby has blackmail dirt on you?” Estella said in surprise.
“I never chalked down that old boy for being so devious either.” I said.
“That’s low, extorting you like that,” Aurora growled.
“And I don’t want him to have it anymore. I don’t want him dead, please. His death would not be worth it. I just don’t want him to have this leash on me.”
“I’d like to hear a bit more about the incident, and your principles that pissed off someone powerful.” Estella said.
Aurora nodded. “Scorsby is a… Associate of ours, so we’d prefer not to see him killed either, but I have no qualms about taking away his leverage over you.”
Jessica took another deep breath. “Years ago, there was a woman who lived on the edge of town. She was overlooked, I don’t think most people ever gave her a second look.” H squared sauntered in at this point, with Vines. He sniffed at the smell of the cooking food and smiled. A vine reached out from behind his back, snagged a beer, and put it in his hand.
Jessica did not quite notice the pair and went on. “She was… attacked by some kids. Not very old, but I guess old enough to know how to use bats and rocks.”
Aurora nodded and glanced towards the hatch she saw Guppy exit. “We saved Guppy from a gang like that recently, they’re on a bad path.”
“Oh, yes, I see.”
“Guppy’s one of us now though, you can trust her.” Estella added.
Guppy’s eyes suddenly got big. “You’re the Angel! I never met you, but I heard the stories.”
Jessica blushed. “Yes, it’s what some of the locals call me, because I help them out when I can. Even… even those kids sometimes. Well, that poor old lady came to my table in the ER, and if it hadn’t been for my powers, there is no way she would have survived. The problem is… I got a visit. The son of… well, someone powerful, well, he was in on the attack too. His father came to me, told me that it’d be for the best if I let the old woman ‘succumb to her wounds’ is how he said it. And of course, I would never allow such a thing.”
“If you were the type to let someone die you could of saved, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation honestly.” Estella told her. “Those kinds of people are the sorts we tend to drag in shackles to the local authorities for prosecution.”
“Well, as you can imagine, he didn’t like my answer. Tried to have someone silence me on my way home from work. I… I don’t like to think about this. I can still feel it like it’s happening now… He came at me, and I… I reacted… Somehow I got the knife from him and stabbed him. I don’t think I meant to, but it’s all jumbled up in my head. Under normal circumstances, I could have saved him, but I was weakened from saving the woman.”
“You did what you had to, no one here will fault you for that.” Aurora gave her a sympathetic nod.
“Power being what it was, I was tried for his death, and they used my knowledge of anatomy to say I’d misused my knowledge as a surgeon to take his life.”
“Where does Old Scorby come in then?” I asked.
“Scorsby stepped in. I don’t know what he did, but he got the charges dropped mid trial. However, he has… data somehow showing that I could have used my powers to save my attacker. But I swear I couldn’t have. I was too drained by then. You’ve seen how I get.”
“Data?” Estella blinked. “Has he ever showed you his proof? He could be just conning you into being his puppet and not have anything concrete at all.”
“Scorsby never says anything he can’t back up.” Jessica looked down at the floor with her shoulders slumped.