Alright, I was calmed down. I packed the weapons back up, got my shaving kit out (the old straight razors, not that disposable junk) and cleaned up. De was right, the last thing the girls needed was a scraggly(er), scruffy(er) version of their dad greeting them. I put on my Mk23 and the kerambit and headed back to cryo.Judging by the number of empty coffins (I have to stop thinking of them like that) it looked like about half the colonists had been woken up so far. An older couple was greeting a beautiful girl of about Jaisa’s age that looked a little shaken up. The cryo must not have gone well for her. I didn’t see De around, so I settled for getting the attention of a gorgeous blond who appeared to know what she was doing around the cryo tubes.
“’Scuse me, miss? I’m looking to find out when Jaisa, Aya and Arra Benjamin are going to be woken up.” She looked up.
“Hmm…” she glanced at her pad, “they’ve already been disconnected and are in process. Jaisa should be up in five minutes and the other two a little after that. Sally, by the way.” She held out her hand.
“Where are my manners? Connor.” I said shaking her hand. She was wearing a wedding ring. “The girls are my daughters.”
“Well, it’s good to meet you. You’ll probably want to go get your wife before they wake up.” She had obviously noticed the ring I still wore as well.
“Oh, no, I’m sorry, we’re here alone…She passed on a while back. Probably wouldn’t be here if she were still alive.”
“I’m so sorry. I just thought…I’m sorry. I didn’t, I mean…” she trailed off. The poor girl looked horrified.
“No, please, don’t be. It was a long time ago and I’ve accepted it now.” And how many bodies did I leave behind me in my path to that acceptance? “Heck, it’s my fault for still wearing the ring. So, why are you here?” I asked, trying to change the topic. “For the grand adventure or just for the perks?”
“Oh the perks, definitely the perks,” she laughed, if a bit uneasily. So that had lightened the tone of the conversation. Good. “Although sometimes I think my husband came just so he could be the most important person around. Which hasn’t worked out so well for him. But that’s his problem. Enough about that though. So, who are you?”
“Used to be a veterinarian, although that seems like a lifetime ago. I’ve also dabbled a little in this and that.” I shrugged, “Mostly I’m just trying to be a good father, but it can be tough.”
“You seem like you must know how to handle yourself though. I mean, you’re carrying, which I’d say less than a third of us are.”
“This thing?” I asked, brushing my hand against the HK. “It used to be my brother’s; he wanted me to take it, so I did. Given all we’ve been through I figured it might not be a bad idea to keep it handy.” Yes, that’s right, I’m just a country boy. I’ve spent so much time hiding and pretending to be something I wasn’t it was hard to stop. Maybe I would learn to trust these people, but secrets are damn near impossible to get back in once they’re out. “Well, I should go see to Jaisa. It was good meeting you.”
“You too hun. Oh, before I forget, you should go see Mariana about getting in on the Bio Lab, being a vet and all. I’m sure she could use you. And maybe we could continue this over drinks in the lounge tonight. Kurt will probably be busy doing doctor things until later and I’m sure you could always use another friend.” She smiled.
“Ain’t that the truth? Sure. Sounds like a good time. I’ll be there as long as the girls are alright.”
I wandered over to where the girls were sleeping. It was so eerie seeing them under glass like this. Way too much like an open coffin for my taste. A tall man who I assumed must have been Sally’s Dr. Kurt entered the room and started monitoring the equipment.
“You the father?” he asked curtly.
“Good. This one will be awake in about a minute and the other two a minute or so after that. That Garronde woman thought you would want them to wake up together.” With that he was off. Something about how he referred to the girls almost as things really rubbed me the wrong way. Weren’t doctors supposed to care about their patients? But there was no time for those thoughts to fester, as the green light on Jaisa’s machine started blinking and the cover came open.
And there was my beautiful, tough as nails daughter blinking groggily like she was just getting up from a long nap. She was the spitting image of her mother: long black hair, olive skin, a swimmer’s build. My wife used to joke that her Hawaiian genes beat down my Irish ones when they were fighting over what to make her like. Sometimes when I looked at her I really felt like I was looking at the young woman I met nearly twenty-five years ago. It made me heartsick each and every time it happened.
“Dad? Are we there yet?” she yawned, grinning at the memories of endless car trips and happier times. “The twins up yet?”
“You,” I said, embracing her as she got up, “always trying to be laid back about everything. I love you so much.” I was almost crying now. “We’re going to have a good life now, ya hear? No more running, no more killing.”
“I know Dad, I know. I’m glad I came. We’re going to have quite the time here, I just know it,” she said, stepping back. “Now, what’s first?” She always acted the tough girl. She was damn good at it too. Just wish she didn’t have to be.
I smiled and wiped away a tear. “Oh, the girls are waking up!” And sure enough, the lids of their cryo tubes had just started to open.
“Rise and shine girls!” I exclaimed, putting away the tears and painting a broad grin on my face. “We’re almost home!”
“Dad!” they yelled in unison. I kneeled down and hugged them both. “Was that really four years?” That was Aya. Then Arra, “There’s no way!”
They did understand how huge what we just did was, I was sure of it (they’re both very bright), but they weren’t half bad at the tough girl, I’m doing just fine act either. Only for them it really was an act. For Jaisa it was becoming less and less and act and more and more really her, which scared me. She had killed three people on this very ship, back at the greenhouse. Lord only knows how many before that.
“Yuppers, it most certainly was!” Jaisa responded. She loved the girls as much as I did. After Luana died she had become like a mother to them as well as their cool older sister. She thrived in the role. I had never heard her use “yuppers,” “sweetness,” or any of her other silly little expressions with anyone else. The twins always roll their eyes (like they were doing now) and pretend to just tolerate her goofiness, but I think they secretly appreciate it. They haven’t really been able to be kids with anyone but her since they were too young to remember.
“Come on, let’s go see the room.” I said, waving them to follow me. “We’ll be on the planet soon, but might as well get settled in a bit here. I’ve already set it up.”