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16


The Yellow Rose’s medical bay was packed with casualties from their recent and ill-fated encounter with the Nyberrite Alliance and Lif was forced to push himself passed dozens of wounded crewmembers who had not yet been allocated a bed or simply hadn’t been seen yet by the clearly overtaxed medical staff in order to find the person he had come down here looking for.

Garla was lucky enough to have been assigned a bed even if she apparently didn’t seem to appreciate the gesture, judging by the way she was arguing with a frustrated Krellonian nurse.

“In the long list of injures I have sustained over the years, this ranks as a flesh wound at best, so there is little need to keep me here any longer. I will be much more valuable in assisting with repairs than taking up space better put to use to treat those with actual injuries.”

Lif couldn’t help but smirk at hearing Garla’s vocal objections to her being remanded to the medical bay, her attitude immediately evoking those commonly found by people in authority roles he had come across over the years, be that starship captains or senior intelligence officials such as his aunt.

But the veteran nurse was not intimidated by her background, keeping his back to the unwilling patient as he reviewed a data padd presumably containing her medical chart. “Doctor’s orders, I’m afraid. You are to remain in the medical bay until you have been cleared by your attending physician.”

Garla just shook her head and then spotted Lif approach. “Perhaps you have better luck talking sense into these people,” she said but then quickly moved on to the next subject on her mind. “What’s our status?”

“We’re out of immediate danger,” he said but unable to keep himself from sadly shaking his head. “But we’ve taken serious damage and heavy casualties. Half the crew of Razor’s Edge has either been killed or injured and Spirit of Flame hasn’t fared much better.”

“That explains the crowded conditions,” she said, looking past her bed and the many wounded crewmembers still waiting for treatment. To the medical staff’s credit, most of those who had been seriously injured had already been seen to. “And more reason to let me get out of here quickly.”

“From what I’ve gathered there are no immediate plans for another assault on the planet. At present we are heading back towards Star Alliance territory to carry out repairs,” Lif said in hopes to convince Garla to look after herself first.

As expected, the plan didn’t quite work. “They’ll need all the help they can get after the beating they took.”

Lif noticed Tenn, the Kridrip Chief Justicar, emerge from the throng of patients around them. “Ah, there you are. The Sentinel has asked me to make sure that you are on your way to recovery and all your needs are being taken care of.”

“My current need is to get out of this place,” she said. “Unfortunately, your overbearing medical staff seems to have other ideas,” she added, shooting the nurse a dark look he barely even acknowledged.

“I’m certain they are simply ensuring your well-being,” Tenn said and then considered the nurse who quickly handed over the medical chart.

“Which is admirable but unnecessary considering my minor injuries,” she shot back. “As you can plainly see--“ Garla had to stop herself due to a sudden coughing fit.

Tenn raised a thin eyebrow as he glanced over the chart. “According to this, you suffered a collapsed tertiary lung and internal bleeding. These are hardly minor injuries.”

Garla tried to wave it off and Lif was convinced that she had likely suffered much worse in her long career as a sentinel where she clearly had made it a habit of leading from the front. And yet even with her hand raised, she seemed to be unable to stop from coughing.

The nurse finally showed pity on her and handed her a glass of water which Garla took eagerly.

“I’m afraid I will need to insist that you stay here and fully recover,” Tenn said as he watched her empty the glass. “It would be unthinkable that you should aggravate your injury because you were released prematurely.”

Garla was ready to protest again, most likely not appreciating being told what to do by a man who was nothing more than her assistant in her universe, not to mention an Outlander.

Lif spoke up before she had the chance. “I fully agree. In the meantime, I would be more than happy to assist with any repairs or any other needs you may have.”

Tenn nodded. “That would be greatly appreciated.”

Lif offered him a smile. “It’s settled then,” he said and shot Garla another look. It was clear she wasn’t nearly as happy with this arrangement but it was equally obvious that she was not going to win this argument.

A couple of minutes later Lif and Tenn had left the begrudged sentinel behind in the medical bay and headed down the corridor together.

“Where can I be most useful with repairs?” Lif asked the chief justicar walking at his side.

“We’ve taken serious damage to our main engines and the navigational array. I understand that your specialty is in piloting, so it seems to me that would be a good place for you to put your skills to use.”

Lif quickly nodded. “Glad to,” he said, and then after a moment. “I’m still astonished that we were so terribly blindsided by the Nyberrites. My counterpart--Sentinel Culsten--he appeared convinced that our intelligence was solid.”

When the other man didn’t respond to this, Lif cast a sidelong glance his way. “What do you think went wrong?”

Tenn seemed to consider that for a moment and then, apparently having made up his mind, beckoned Lif to follow him into an empty room just off the corridor they had been on. Tenn only spoke up again once the doors had closed behind them. “There is a good reason why he was so convinced of the validity of the intelligence.”

He offered the Kridrip a puzzled look.

“He is a sentinel.”

Lif suddenly understood. “It was his intelligence.”

Tenn nodded.

“And it was bad,” Lif said, now recalling his counterparts astonishment when the Nyberrites had opened fire with their devastating weapon, very nearly destroying his small fleet.

“And not for the first time.”

That caught Lif’s attention and he glanced back at the justicar. “What?”

He quickly shook his head, heading back towards the doors. “It’s not my place to speak of this.”

“Wait, are you saying that my counterpart is not a good sentinel?”

Tenn stopped and uttered a sigh. “He has great ambitions, that is a certainty. But he has run into difficulties with the Eye leadership on numerous occasions over the quality of the intelligence he has produced since he took over for Sentinel Garla. Some even suspect that he was somehow involved in the circumstances of her death.”

This caused Lif’s eyes to open wide with surprise. “You think he killed her,” he said. “I thought she was his mentor. That he looked up to her.”

“She was and they certainly were close when she was alive. But I know for a fact that Garla didn’t agree with his more aggressive aspirations and that they argued often about his vision to greatly expand Star Alliance influence beyond our current borders.”

“Enough to plot her death?”

Tenn took a few steps closer towards Lif, lowering his voice as he spoke again. “I am not saying that Sentinel Culsten was responsible for Garla’s death. In fact, the Eye of Krellon conducted a thorough investigation afterward and found no indication of foul play.”

Lif stared right back into Tenn’s eyes. “But what do you believe?”

He didn’t respond. Then he turned back towards the door. “I believe that we have wasted enough time discussing this subject and that there is much work for us to do to address urgently needed repairs.”

He watched as the justicar headed back out onto the corridor, waiting to see if perhaps he would turn back and elaborate further on the suspicions around his counterpart in this universe. Tenn never did but his refusal to address the question seemed answer enough.

Lif wasn’t sure what was worse, a version of him that had been outright hostile towards him and everything he stood for, or one that was cunning enough to scheme and plot his way to power, willing to do anything to achieve his goals.

A cold shudder ran up his spine before he eventually followed Tenn out of the room and towards whatever repairs awaited his attention.


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