Thats the machine that goes ping
Consciousness returned slowly; a distant beeping sound at first, the harsh scents of antiseptic masking stale sweat and then finally, her vision; Cassandra's eyes flickering open, taking in the white ceiling tiles and muted overhead lighting in the infirmary
"Wh...?" she croaked in confusion, her eyes darting around
"It's ok" a cool hand rested on her forehead while another grasped one of her hands, Ensign Wildflower leaning into view "You're ok. You're safe"
"Shit" Cass groaned, raising her free hand to examine the mass of dermal pads and intravenous lines studding her forearm
"You were nearly dead when you came in, but you're on the mend now"
"I was shot" Cass started "What happened?"
"I'm probably not the one you should be asking" Wildflower smiled "I'll leave that to Commander LeChance; although I will say that we're still having trouble getting that rubber chicken out of Ashdown - who would have ever thought he had JMC sympathies?"
"Oh, I've said enough already. You should get some rest"
Where: The royal suite
When: Same time
Brittany gazed glumly at the monitor in front of her which was currently displaying the leering visage of William Liar, the British prime minister
"Yeah; I understand" she snapped "But I don't see what that's got to do with it!"
"We all know how enamoured you are with the romance of space flight; God knows, you've shagged most of Space Corp's officers , but I'll say it again: You need to end your association with the Blue Dwarf and it's crew of terrorist mutineers at once!"
Brittany bristled, but remained silent
"What did you really expect?" the prime minister continued "That you'd be able to continue as you did, swanning around, getting violently drunk and exposing yourself?"
"Well, I wasn't planning..." Brittany started
"Damn right you weren't" Liar, snapped "The monarchy is in dire enough financial straits without you making things worse for yourself by scaring off wealthy suitors with your damn fool antics!"
"What!?" Brittany was shocked both by this revelation and the creeping realisation that this was what the entire conversation had been leading up to
"Oh?" Liar smiled evilly "Don't tell me you didn't know about your own financial circumstances?"
"Well, no..." Brittany admitted "I've been meaning to get around to looking into them, but what with all the excitement of my re-coronation, the destruction of New Buckinghamshire, and the JMC's apparent subversion by parties unknown..."
"I've told you before that the JMC are operating perfectly legally and that it's the seizure of one of their own ships, valued at well over half a trillion dollarpounds that's in gross contravention of the law; so I repeat, yet again, that you need to end your association with the crew of the Blue Dwarf at once, so that the full force of the law may be meted out to the mutineers without us having to worry either about you being used as a human shield , or killed in an over enthusiastic application of the proper judicial process"
"There are still those who are loyal to the JMC on board here - what about them?"
"After you have left the Blue Dwarf" the prime minister continued, completely ignoring her "the matter of your succession needs to be addressed; it's high time you were married off and produced a suitable heir"
"You've got to be joking!?" Brittany snapped
"My dear" Mr Liar leered "You should know by now that I never joke"
"I've drawn up a list of potentially suitable consorts" he continued "Dull, uninspiring, and boring men mostly; but all of them excessively wealthy, and more than willing to bail the monarchy out in exchange for a royal title and the opportunity to sire the next heir presumptive"
"Smegging hell" Brittany breathed "You've got this all worked out, haven't you?"
"Indeed I have. What the great British monarchy needs right now is a steady hand at the tiller, which I aim to provide until such time as you demonstrate yourself capable of acting like the Queen of our realm"
"What you're proposing is worse than bloody prostitution!"
"Well..." Mr. Liar smirked "You'd know all about that wouldn't you?"
Brittany stopped short, shocked by what had just been said to her
"I'm sorry?" she asked
"You heard" the prime minister growled "You've a couple of days grace before I send a simulant kick squad in to rescue you; if you haven't come quietly by then, I'll make sure they have orders to execute every last living thing on board that ship, judicial process be damned!"
"You can't do that!" Brittany protested "What of the interstellar shipping accords? - and more is the point: You know as well as I do that it's only FeBuggure and a few others who are behind this 'mutiny' - the rest are largely blameless!"
"Damn right I do" the prime minister chuckled dryly "But I don't smegging care. You've a couple of days before you'll have over a thousand needless deaths on your conscience. Consider your next actions carefully"
The prime minister cut the comms link, leaving Brittany alone, seething with anger
When: A few hours later in the medibay
"No, you don't understand! That's the sigma phase variant; you know: part of the Von Naumann series?"
Rufus' brow furrowed as he tried to comprehend what Cassandra was saying
"Damn right I d-don't; w-w-where are you getting the mass from?"
"The mass is initially negative - which is where the Einstein-Rosen Bridge comes from in the first place; we're generating it by manipulating vacuum energy?"
"Yeah, yeah, I-I get that - q-quantum field theory..."
Cassandra closed her eyes and breathed a silent sigh of relief
"Ok" she began "Now, try working it backwards: Begin with a hypothetical singularity with a ten metre Schwarzchild radius, ok?"
The ward door slid open
"Hey there" Brittany sauntered glumly into the infirmary "Glad to see you two are finally getting on; Wildflower said that they had bought you out of your coma"
"Oh, hey" Cass smiled "How's it going?"
"Ok..." Brittany walked across the room and stopped by the side of the bed to gaze silently at her former self for a moment, taking in the mass of machines and tubes surrounding her "You don't look so good, though"
"Yeah, I guess... Doc says I'll likely be in here for a week or so"
Brittany turned her attention to Rufus who was looking in puzzlement at a handheld terminal displaying wormhole schematics
"Would you mind if Ms Jones and I had a bit of a catch up Rufus?"
"Sh-sh-sure... uh, y-yes Ma'am"
Cass smiled at him
"It'll give you a bit of a chance to try and get your head around my notes anyway"
"Yeah" Rufus scratched his head, tousling his lank blond hair "I-I still can't believe you came up with all this in only half an hour!"
Cass smiled as she watched him go
"That's because I'm clever", she murmured to his retreating back as the infirmary doors slid closed with a hiss
"You've got a bad attitude Ms Jones"
"Hey, that's unfair! I'm playing nice and everything! - I didn't even try to kill him once!"
The two women chatted for a while after that, Cassandra relating what she remembered of her ordeal in the sewers with Rosette, and Brittany in turn describing the predicament she found herself in
"So Liar wants you married off and knocked up, eh? So much for progressive twenty second century values!"
"Huh" Brittany sneered "As far as he's concerned, he's killing two birds with one stone - if I acquiesce to his demands, I'm both under his control and off this ship, so he can attack with impunity; but the problem there is that if I don't get off the ship he'll kill everyone anyway"
"Nicely outmanoeuvred and damned if you do, damned if you don't" Cass nodded sagely "You should go to the captain with this; she needs to hear about it... Oh, look! Here she comes now!"
The door of the high dependency unit shot open, admitting Keto, snapping orders at the other members of the duty staff, who hurriedly wheeled a blood besmirched patient through the room into the operating theatre next door
Captain FeBuggure, looking shocked and pale followed behind them
"Bloody hell" Cass muttered as the medical staff started hurriedly bringing the theatres life support systems online "That doesn't look good..."
Brittany took a couple of tentative steps towards where Amber was left standing in the middle of the room
"Not now, your Majesty" she shook her head, but relented when she remembered who she was talking to, and heaving a sigh, nodded towards the frenzy of activity around the patient in the theatre
Brittany stood mutely for a second before her eyes widened with horror and her hands flew to her mouth
"Oh, shit. What happened!?"
"It was a bomb meant for me" Amber started glumly "He's still alive - just - but he's lost both his legs..."
<tag / tbc/>