Marshii worked with the Fae Doctors in tending to the intruder’s injuries. “Damn, Arsha really went to town on them,” she muttered.
“Scans just revealed it’s a woman,” reported a yellow-skinned Fairy Doctor, Yellemar.
“Insert ‘girl-on-girl action’ joke here,” muttered Marshii.
“I would,” replied Yellemar, “but what’s the point?”
“I guess you heard them all,” chuckled Marshii. “Can we get that suit off?”
“Might want to hold off on that,” countered Yellemar. “The suit’s external plating is laced with an artificial form of Malmaho Disease.”
“How bad are we talking?” quizzed Marshii.
“Looks like mere contact with the disease will cause a rash as stage 1,” reported Yellemar. Marshii then made a call.
“Arsha and Melandra, report to Sick Bay,” she commanded.
“But we’re…!” protested Melandra.
“NOW!” snapped Marshii.
“Malmaho disease?” quizzed Arsha as Marshii prepared the necessary potion.
“Yep,” confirmed Marshii. “An artificial version. Thankfully, unlike the virus Laverda was infected with, I’ve got all the ingriedients needed to cure what you have.” She handed Arsha and Melandra the phials of the potion. “Drink up,” she directed. Arsha and Melandra gulped it down, then gagged at the taste.
“That tasted like my lower exoskeleton after I molted!” spluttered Melandra.
“How would you know?” coughed Arsha as she wiped her mouth.
“When I was little,” explained Melandra, “I bit into my first molt. That was the last time I tried to eat an exoskeleton.”
“I need the crew to get immunized,” called Marshii.
“I’ll warn them about the taste,” replied Arsha as she and Melandra started leaving Sick Bay. “Maybe you should release the potion in a gaseous state.”
“You Realmfleet Captains,” griped Marshii. “You could stare into the face of the most violent storms and make it blink, yet you look for the easy way out when it comes to your medicine.” Arsha stopped a bit before going to her quarters. Melandra noticed what happened and moved towards a wall.
“Computer, locate Thengo,” he directed.
“Counselor Thengo Lortora is in her quarters with Queen Hanako Royana,” reported the computer.
“Thank you,” bid Melandra as he scuttled off to Thengo’s quarters.
“Concerned for Arsha?” quizzed Thengo as she set the tea down. Hanako took a cup.
“She’s still dwelling on what happened with Reb,” she answered. Just then, the door rang.
“Hello?” called Thengo, not expecting anyone else.
“It’s Melandra,” replied the person in the hall. “I need to speak with you and Hanako.”
“Both of us?” muttered Hanako.
“Come in,” called Thengo. Melandra scuttled in.
“I need advice,” he explained. “Specifically, Hanako’s.”
“A first,” smirked Hanako.
“Look, I know we’re not the best of friends,” interjected Melandra. “Since we first came onto this ship during the Rooka/Gamfinar incident, we kept each other at arm’s length. However, you ARE my Captain’s mom and I could use some Kitsune clarity.”
“…Go ahead,” directed Hanako.
“It’s about Arsha,” explained Melandra. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, which would be surprising, but she’s isolated herself from the crew. Whatever meals she has, they’re taken alone. Whatever recreation she’s engaged in, she’s always alone. Whatever paperwork is done, it’s done alone.”
“She believes she’s made an error in judgement in bringing Melgem aboard,” answered Hanako. “She thinks she’s responsible for those that died on that island.”
“She told you?” asked Melandra.
“No,” replied Hanako. “In the few days I’ve been here, I’ve been observing her behavior. Guilt is her current and constant companion.”
“You’ve known her longer than anyone here,” mused Thengo. “Have you ever seen her like this?”
“Once,” answered Hanako. “It was during her training on the Watchful. I believe it was your uncle’s ship at the time, Thengo.”
“It was,” confirmed Thengo. “Was she the 9-tailed upstart he griped about?”
“Considering she was the only one with 9 tails during that time, and he flat-out called her that while I was within earshot,” confirmed Hanako, “I’d say yes. In any case, she was assigned a group and was told to survey the Galdredan Lava Kingdom’s famous Brokshak volcano.”
“That’s the most active volcano there!” yelped Melandra. “Not even Calandra would go there and she can safely swim in lava!”
“The survey shuttle was damaged by a magma eruption,” continued Hanako, “and, despite her attempt to bring them back to the safety of the ship, two crew-members were severely injured. For the next several days, she was scared of commanding and, briefly, didn’t want to claim her birthright. After only one counseling session, she took the repaired survey shuttle alone to complete the survey. She wanted to prove to the injured crew members that they didn’t suffer in vain.” She drew in a breath before continuing. “I almost buried my daughter.”
“She was seeking redemption,” realized Thengo.
“Exactly,” replied Hanako. “Arsha’s methods are…unorthodox. It’s her strength, but in times like this, it’s her weakness.”
“Stubborn as a Troll,” muttered Melandra.
“To put it mildly,” remarked Hanako.
Arsha was right outside the room, listening to the entire conversation. She sighed before going back to her ready room. When she arrived, she looked out the window to see the interior of the tree’s shipyards. She drummed her fingers, contemplating her move. Her mother’s words from the resort echoed in her head. “‘What kind of Captain will you be in the face of that?’ I can’t seem to figure it out,” Arsha sighed to herself. “No matter how much I try, I can’t seem to get my crewmates to avoid some form of pain. Is it all worth it? They die and are barely talked about.” She sighed again before sliding into her chair. “All I wanted to do was protect them and their families. What kind of Captain lets them…?” She then trailed off in thought. “Wait…why would they join Realmfleet if it were all safe? Do they…?” She then gasped as she realized why. “I AM THE BIGGEST IDIOT ALIVE!” she shouted to herself. Shalvey then glided into the room at top speed.
“Captain?!” she called. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Commander,” assured Arsha. “Just had an epiphany about those who died.”
“Captain?” quizzed Shalvey.
“Shalvey, why did you join Realmfleet?” asked Arsha. Shalvey was taken aback by the question.
“I, er, I…well, it was to ensure my family’s protection, like anyone else who joined,” she finally answered.
“So, you would say that those who died were only concerned about their families’ lives and not theirs?” inquired Arsha.
“I’m sure their own lives were considered,” replied Shalvey, “but if giving up my life means my family can live on, so be it. That’s what most Realmfleet officers have on their minds. When one is gone, the rest try to dedicate other victories in their name.”
“And only now did I just realize that,” explained Arsha. “I’d do the same as those who died. The only way I can honor their sacrifices is to dedicate future victories to them. I can’t believe I just realized that now!”
“So, are you…?” asked Shalvey.
“I’m not fully out of my funk yet,” answered Arsha, “but I think I’m taking a step in the right direction.”
“Good to know, Captain,” praised Shalvey. Just then, the ship’s comms buzzed.
“Marshii to Arsha,” announced the Caller.
“Go ahead, Doctor,” called Arsha.
“Captain, you and your mother need to come to the tree’s medical ward now!” explained Marshii.
“On my way,” answered Arsha. The call ended as she headed to the ramp. Hanako met with her as she came down.
“What do you supposed Marshii wants?” quizzed Hanako.
“We’re gonna find out,” replied Arsha. They arrived at the medical ward and met Marshii. “What’s the situation?” asked Arsha.
“We’ve managed to identify the intruder under that armor,” explained Marshii. “DNA matching has revealed that it’s Midiriki Rotano.”
“…My young sister?!” yelped Hanako.
“Why would she…?!” quizzed Arsha.
“She didn’t attack the tree of her own free will,” replied Marshii. “We’ve found various mind-control potions in her bloodstream and the suit was producing a hypnotic sound, keeping her obedient to whoever’s controlling it.”
“Whoever did this will pay!” snarled Hanako as she punched her hand.
“I trust Rellmeer will know about this?” quizzed Arsha.
“She was here when we found out,” replied Marshii.
“Then, if you’ll excuse me,” bid Arsha, “I need to solve this mystery with her so our families are protected.” Hanako grinned.
“So, that’s the kind of Captain you’re going to be,” she thought to herself.