For a moment, I didn’t know what was said. I was still processing the image of Emeric, lying on his back as Asher pushed Skyler away, and once I understood what was being asked of me, I swiftly moved to the nearest cryo pod. I grabbed a syringe and stabbed it into Skyler’s leg.
“You can’t do this to me! I won’t be a prisoner on this ship,” Skyler said, as his whole posture started to shift. His shoulders began to slump, and his eyes fluttered. “I was going to be remembered forever.” He barely finished speaking before his body crumpled to the floor in front of Asher.
“You could have caught him,” I said in an accusatory tone to Asher.
He looked stunned. “Sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”
“It’s okay. Help me get him in his pod?”
Emeric stood up, dusted off his pants and pulled his shirt straight. “I can’t kick him off my ship anymore, but I think assaulting a commanding officer of an I.H.S. ship is good enough grounds to force him into cryo.”
I wanted to argue with Emeric, but everything was so confusing and I was so exhausted. We slowly slid Skyler into his pod and turned on the monitor.
“I can’t put him into cryo until the sedation wears off,” I said firmly.
“Asher,” Emeric called, “do your best to find out what could have caused the Raven to explode, and let me know if you find any answers.”
I wondered if Emeric had sabotaged the Raven in some strange retribution for what Skyler likely did to Lalonde’s Dream, but it all seemed so out of character for him. “Maybe we should just go back to Earth,” I said, mumbling undering my breath.
“Are you kidding?” Emeric said. He came close to me, inside what I’d consider my personal bubble. “We will complete this mission. If you are unwilling or unable, you can join the Raven crew in stasis.”
“Captain, that’s not fair,” Asher said.
I appreciated Asher coming to my defence, and wished I could put what was happening on pause to tell him so. Instead, I took a deep breath and focused my attention on Emeric. “Sorry Captain Harris,” I responded with exaggerated annunciation. I stood firm, my hands at my sides, shoulders ridiculously high, eyes as wide as I could make them and my feet close together. If one could stand at attention sarcastically, that was what I was doing. It was an attempt to bring some levitity to the madness of the situation, but the icy stare I received from Emeric let me know my humour was not being well received.
Emeric spun on his heels and began walking away.
I followed a few steps behind. “Sir, can we talk?”
“Not now,” he said, his pace constant.
“I really don’t think that putting Skyler and Willow into cryo makes sense,” I pleaded. “They could help us maintain the ship. I’m sure we can find something for them to do.”
A grunt was all I heard as a response as Emeric entered his quarters and the doors closed behind him.
I walked back upstairs to the medical area, and Willow stared at me.
“Well, what did he say?” She asked.
“He didn’t say anything. I think he needs some time.”
“Well, as I told you before, I don’t want to be frozen for the trip home, especially if it basically would be the same as killing me today.”
“Speaking of which, it might be a good time to let Emeric know how sick you are. It might convince him to at least let you stay awake. He has it in his mind that both of you tried to sabotage this ship.” I was hesitant to add that it was partially my fault that Emeric felt that way.
A look of genuine shock washed over Willow’s face. “I didn’t do anything to the Lalonde’s Dream.”
I wanted to believe her, but the evidence was stacked against both of them. “I overheard you and Skyler talking,” I said slowly.
“Yeah, it was just talk. Skyler is set on being history’s next great explorer. He really wanted us to go back to the Raven and try to beat your ship to the goal.” She paused and her shoulders drooped. “I told him that this ship is much faster, had more resources, and that I didn’t know if I could maintain the Raven long enough for us to get home.”
There was something in how she talked that made me feel like she was holding something back. “And how did Skyler take your response?”
“He wasn’t happy, but he understands that if he can’t get back to Earth, or at least let Earth know he succeeded, then reaching the one light-year goal is useless.”
“Anaya, if you aren’t busy, can I talk to you?” Asher said. He was standing at the corner of the room, just far enough away that he likely couldn’t overhear the details of my conversation with Willow.
I looked at Willow and she winked at me. At first, I was taken back by her intuitive understanding of the situation, and then I felt a little embarrassed.
“Sure,” I said walking over, “what’s up?”
He smiled at me, and I did the same. “I would really like to try that dinner again in my quarters if you’re interested.”
“I would like that very much.”
“Hopefully, nothing blows up this time,” Asher replied before letting out a small chuckle.
Asher pushed the button and the door to his quarters hissed open. He gestured for me to enter first. I carried my tray of food over towards the desk. His room was the exact same layout as my own. It felt so familiar yet strange. Here and there were little touches of Asher. His space was definitely tidier than mine. I couldn’t help but smile as I looked around. Beside his bed was a copy of the Holy Book, and next to that was some small metallic pieces that looked like engine bits to me. His glasses case sat open beside his console, a small square of blue silk folded inside it.
“Oh, I guess I didn’t think this through very well,” Asher said with a small, nervous laugh. “There is only one chair.”
“I can get the one from my room,” I offered.
“I can get it for you if you’d like.”
I thought about my clothes still strewn about that I kept meaning to pick up. “Nah, it’s alright, I can get it.” I smiled and it pulled on the cut in my lip. I winced slightly in pain.
A moment later, I returned with the chair from my desk. As soon as he saw me, Asher took the chair. I raised an eyebrow at him.
“Please, you’re my guest.” He smiled and the corners of his eyes crinkled.
“Thank you,” I said with a nod. “This is a nice change.”
Asher smiled. “Do you mind if I say a blessing before we eat?”
“Not at all.” I folded my hands and closed my eyes while he spoke a few words of prayer, but my mind was so preoccupied that I didn’t hear any of them.
When he was done, we both opened our eyes and dug into our meal.
“Wow!” Asher said after choking down his first bite, “I didn’t know this stuff was capable of tasting like the paint on the bulkhead walls!”
I was having trouble swallowing my own mouthful of grey. I nodded and let out a little laugh with my mouth shut.
“What a crazy time it’s been,” he continued, filling the silence while I tried to eat, “I never expected us to encounter so much during one period of waking.”
“Yeah,” I said after I finally managed to get the food down. “I’m curious to see how it all turns out.”