CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR – Another breakfast with the Captain

When I awoke in the morning, I felt like I had the best night’s sleep and couldn’t even remember having a nightmare. My situation still wasn’t perfect, however I could see that it was improving. I got out of bed, leaving Caroline to sleep and grabbed The Pebble from my jacket while going to the toilet. 

Placing The Pebble onto the sink, I went to do my business and began searching the news again. This time I searched for Fabula’s article. I found it and read, getting engrossed by it. He had done an amazing job portraying me as some type of hero. 

‘Even against the greatest odd’s, after being hunted. He still rescued the girl!’

I couldn’t believe that he was talking about me. It seemed he used his creative ability of story telling and pushed it to the extreme. Making things fit together that he was told by making things up. In reality, he hadn’t been told much since none of us talked about the village. We didn’t tell him that Ave was melded with a bunch of animals from the forest or that she now could read minds. 

All he knew was that not only did we ‘rescue’ the girl, but we also fought and won the Tuhingan hunting me. A Tuhingan that was trying to annihilate me and killed many other Tuhingans. This individual (who couldn’t be named) prevented the rest of the party from searching for the girl. But somehow, against all odds, with the help of a few brave Tuhingans and Tu. Me and Caroline found the girl and brought her home. 

I felt like people should cheer when they read it. It was so different from everything else I read about myself. When I was almost finished, I received a message from the captain.

“James, I’d like to request the company of you and Caroline for breakfast in the captain’s suite.”

I replied as soon as I got the message. “We’ll be there soon!”

I finished up in the bathroom, placed The Pebble back into my jacked pocket, woke Caroline and we got ready. Quickly just throwing everything on. 

“It’s nice the captain can finally see you again!” Caroline said as she was putting on earrings.

“Yes, Fabula’s article must have done wonders!” I explained. 

“You read it?” she asked.

“Yes, it’s amazing.”

“I know, I read it when he released it last night! It really casts you in a good light.”

After feeling great about myself as Caroline admiring me, we rushed out of the motor home. Then dashed to the pod station and was on our way.

When we arrived to the captain’s dining room, the captain was sitting at the end of the table. Her back against the back wall, facing us as we entered. “Come, sit down!” It felt strange to think the last time I sat here was with Perilcum. A small amount of sadness came over me at that thought. I looked up and noticed that the captain was staring at me.

“Still sad about Periclum James?” she asked.

“More than you know, captain!” I replied.

She nodded, “I know the feeling well. I feel it too. However, today should not be a day of mourning, it should be a day of celebration!”

“Celebration?” I asked. Servers came round and served us all up some Tuhingan beer.

“Yes, a change in your circumstances. Your actions and that article Fabula wrote about you have done you a world of good!” she raised her glass. “Cheers, to your better reputation!”

“Cheers” me and Caroline said, joining the chorus.

“Now, we should try to improve your public image even more. Before I contacted you, I was phoning around and we are going to reward you with a medal presented by the prime minister herself.”

“A medal?” It confused me. “Why should you award me a medal?”

“For your brave actions in the dark forest. A place where many dare not tread.”

“Why do I feel you want something from me?”

“It’s fine, James, I want nothing from you! Just your continued success on The Liberty!”

“It’s a wonderful opportunity James! It really is a good idea.” Caroline said.

“Okay… So when will I get this award?”

“Tonight! The sooner the better.” The captain said. “Everything is still fresh in everyone’s mind. We’ll have a small ceremony where the prime minister will pin a medal to your chest in front of a crowd.”

“Okay! Sounds good.” I replied, still uncertain whether it was necessary and not wanting any more attention than I already had.

The captain seemed distracted as she stared into thin air. She then told us she had to leave but may be back later. She allowed us to stay so we could eat what we ordered and then rushed out. It wasn’t long after when Ave arrived.

“Oh, hey, it’s great to see you both again!” she said as she entered.

“It’s great to see you too Ave!” Caroline replied

 “Where’s the captain?” she asked as she took the seat next to Caroline.

“You just missed her. She had something to attend to.”

“Oh. She invited me here for breakfast.”

“Us too.” Caroline continued. “But we haven’t even had breakfast yet!”

Ave came to sit at the seat next to Caroline. “Ahh good, so I haven’t missed it! I miss home cooked food” The chef soon came out to take our orders.

I ordered an egg sandwich which I was really craving and Caroline got some type of sausage, bacon and egg sandwiches. Ave had some type of alien stew, I didn’t want to ask what was in it.

It was lovely to catch up with Ave and asked how her mother was doing. She was telling us that no one knows about her, so it would be best to keep it that way. She obviously mean’t her animals and the psychic ability.

After some talk, the captain soon came back. 

“Sorry about that!” the captain said as she entered the room. “Ahh, Ave, good to see you. Did you two fill her in with our plan?”

“What plan?” Ave asked.

“We are going to present James with a medal for rescuing you!”

“You’re joking, right?”

“No, it was a very brave thing he had to face!”

“What about Caroline? She also had to face it!” 

“Well… she.” The captain stuttered.

“She is a Companion. We know. But Companions also deserve credit. They made her of the same stuff James is made of!”

“Well… she is also…”

“Shouldn’t we care for all living things?”

“Ave, it’s okay!” Caroline announced. “Let the captain finish her sentence.”

“Thankyou Caroline!” The captain took a breath. “James is a citizen of The Liberty and unfortunately Caroline isn’t. She would have to become a citizen to get an award.”

“That is absolute nonsense!” Ave responded.

“Excuse me!?”

“You think of Caroline less than us! You think of her as a designed servant you can use for your needs!”

“Ave, it’s okay. I understand the captain’s perspective. We are servants, serving the greater good of The Galactic Union. I also accept that they designed me!”

The captain smiled a Tuhingan smile towards Caroline before turning and looking directly at Ave. “I tell you what! We will also award Caroline with a medal. We will show how much we will treat Companions equally to ourselves!”

“You’re just saying that to shut me up!” Ave responded.

“Will you shut up?” The captain asked bluntly.

Ave became wide eyed as she looked at the captain. Then went into herself. “I will!”

“I’m not blind Ave, I know what happened in the forest! I know what you are doing!”

“I’m sorry!?” 

Me and Caroline just looked at each other for a moment, confused. “What just happened?” I asked.

“The captain knows about me and threatened something she shouldn’t have threatened!”

“I showed her how I would announce her secret publicly at the event if she doesn’t quieten down.” 

The chef came to give us food and the captain ordered fish with some type of alien chips. I felt so hungry at that moment and but it felt like an awkward moment to eat.

“Thanks!” The captain said to the chef as he left. “You all need to understand something! There is nothing more important than the safety of this ship! That includes your friends in the forest Ave!” 

“Then why threaten to announce my secret?” Ave asked.

“Because you were doing it, anyway! I am friends with Oculis and I know the full story. You know how important it is to keep the forest secret and yet you practically announced that you were reading my mind!”

Ave looked timid and embarrassed. “Sorry!” 

“I like your energy, Ave, but you have to direct it in the right direction. Pick the right fights, otherwise all these small fights will bring you down!”

“I understand. But you are still biased against Companions!”

“That may be so. But that’s just because I don’t know them well enough to not be! Maybe in time my biases will change to be better. But for now, it is what it is!”

“Eh, what other biases do you have, captain?” Caroline said.

“Caroline!” I said under bated breath. She just flashed a look at me then continued to stare at the Captain.

“Oh, I care for you all like I take care of all my guests.”

“But we are not guests! We are now a part of The Liberty, just as much as it’s crew!”

“Is this you talking or The Core?” The captain asked.

“The Core captain. I’m sorry!”

“Then me and The Core will have to have some private time to talk about this later!”

“Can we talk about your knowledge of the forest?” Caroline continued.

“We cannot! You tell your Core that I will talk to it personally! I will not allow it to use you as some sort of conduit!”

“Captain, everyone here already knows about the forest. You have in this room a representative from all the different parts that make up The Liberty.” Caroline replied.

“Caroline, please!” Caroline just looked at her with an innocent look. The Captain took a deep breath and then continued. “They are not elected representatives and the public must not know the full truth!”

“Why would you keep such a large part of The Liberty a secret?”

“What do you think would happen if the citizens of The Liberty would know that The Liberty could break apart and split into pieces at any moment?”

“They would leave and make a life in a safer place!”

It stumped the Captain for a moment. It was as if someone had presented this scenario for the first time. In reality, it’s because no one with any bit of power wanted people to evacuate The Liberty. It was not considered because they felt it would mean losing the ship.

“Why did Oculis tell you about the forest?” The Captain said, sadly.

“He was partly hoping that The Core could help prevent a disaster and also knew that if they killed Caroline, there was no coming back for her. Have you also seen Caroline and James? You can’t separate them!” Ave responded.

The Captain looked up as if Ave said something ingenious and then turned to Caroline. “Could you help us repair that hole in The Liberty?”

“Not without evacuating The Liberty and stopping The Centrifuge. The magnetic forces in the damaged section are too strong for any drone.” Caroline said.

“Figured.”

“Captain, you will have to do this!”

“I cannot. The Liberty is home to too many species!”

“The public must know that they are in danger!”

“You must not talk about this to the public!”

“We have sworn secrecy to Oculis. We no longer have the power to do anything about the issue. Only we suggest that you take action before it’s too late!”

“We have had fifty years with nothing going wrong as that lava pool drained. None of the previous captain’s or prime minister’s took that action and neither will I!”

“So be it.” Caroline was really not talking like herself. It was a little creepy to see and offputting. She spoke with such assurance during the conversation.

There was a silence in the room after the exchange and it wasn’t long before the chef came out to give Captain Sagax her food. She began eating just as I broke the silence. “The ceremony should be nice!” 

“Ah, yes, the ceremony. You will also be there, Ave. You don’t have to say anything, just stand with your mother on the stage!”

“Oh, my mother would love that! Eh!” Ave responded apathetically. 

The rest of the meal had that awkward tone to it. I was looking at the captain and for the first time felt like I could really see her. The stress of the job showing on her face and the nonsense she has to put up with. Everyone, especially Ave, couldn’t wait for the breakfast to end. She left and disappeared, leaving me and Caroline behind as we said goodbye to the captain. 

“I’m sorry Captain, I understand your job can be stressful!” Caroline said.

“Thanks Caroline, I appreciate that.” The captain responded. “I hope you two have a peaceful life here on The Liberty, I really do.”

“Thanks Captain and thankyou for a lovely meal!”

“No problem, James, anytime!”

After that, we left. While we walked back to the pod station, Caroline found it important to make sure I understood why the captain was friendly with me. She sees me being able to increase tourism to The Liberty. Personally I cared little, I just thought about Periclum and how pleasant it was to have breakfast with the captain last time when he was around.

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