Meiki awoke on board the skipper. A different skipper, perhaps. Phel was sitting beside her. In another seat in front of them with her back toward them sat Amara.
“What happened.” she said dryly.
“You blew up the crazy lady," said Phel.
“I think the ghosts let us go after they saw no way to release that virus thing. I was knocked unconscious by the blast, but that scary agent lady, she was ok. She dragged us out and that white woman too.” he said, nodding toward the Captain.
“What about Rashmi?”
Phel looked down.
“No!” cried Meiki.
“She was a bad person," said Phel, “She used you and didn’t care if she hurt you in the process of getting her way.”
“Rashmi thought her way was the right thing to do. She was my friend. And I killed her”
“You did it to save the universe, Meiki. You’re a hero.”
They sat in awkward silence for several minutes.
“Where are we going?” Meiki finally asked.
“Back to Gates. Back to where we belong. I need to finish up with Charlie. I learned things, Meiki. Life is never going to be the same. One thing is for sure. I’m not afraid of ghosts anymore.”
“I don’t want to go back there. Leaving there was the only thing that kept me going this whole time.” Meiki said.
“You don’t have to go back.” came Amara’s voice from the doorway. “As a matter of fact, after we drop Phelliam off I’d like to take you with us to Earth. We could use your testimony in Kapoor’s trial.”
“Trial?” said Phel and Meiki in unison.
“Of course,” Amara said. “She can’t be allowed to get away with deciding the fates of billions of people. Maybe there are questionable ethics to immortality, but it’s not for her to decide. One person should never decide the destiny of another.”
“But she’s dead,” Meiki implored.
“Not for long," said Amara, “Not for long.”
So I failed, thought Meiki. They’re going to put Rashmi in chains after all.
The skipper flew for what felt like hours. No one spoke. Meiki was still shaken up by it all. The suit protected her from the explosion and while she slept must have healed any damage done to her body. Nothing could heal her heart right now. Being made immortal, forced to live, was exactly what Rashmi had been fighting against. Meiki didn’t know if Rashmi Kapoor was right or wrong, but cloning her or whatever the process entailed didn’t seem ethical. Would this woman they put on trial even really be Rashmi? Would she have all of the same memories? Would she even know Meiki? Amara had said before that Rashmi and people like her had boycotted the Catena and refused to be catalogued. So would that mean that whatever version of Rashmi they had on file would not even carry the memory of the crime she had committed? The thought of it all made Meiki’s head swim.
Lost inside her head Meiki almost didn’t notice something moving just outside her vision. She glanced down and saw a bulging shape snaking around Phel’s wrist beneath his sleeve. She caught his gaze and nodded silently at the shape. Phel had a guilty look in his eye like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He looked over at Amara for a second. Her head was turned away from the kids. Phel lifted the cuff of his sleeve to reveal a piece of ghost tech. It wrapped around his wrist like a watch. It was thin and black and had two glowing blue eyes. It winked at Meiki and she almost cried out.
(What are you doing?) she mouthed the words but did not speak out loud.
(What?) mouthed Phel, clearly not understanding her.
Meiki reached into her pack and pulled out her book. She typed:
Phel. You are an idiot. What the hell do you think you are doing with that thing?
Phel grabbed the book from her and typed back:
It clinged onto my hand when we escaped, like a lost kid. It wants to come with me back
Meiki swiped the book from him and continued:
Like I said. YOU ARE AN IDIOT. Those things are dangerous. It could spread or multiply
or whatever. This isn’t some kitten you can raise. It could destroy the colony.
Phel couldn’t pry the book out of her hands so he just typed on it while Meiki held on:
Look. It’s safe, I swear. This little guy is not a threat. He speaks to me. He speaks to me
Before he could finish typing Junko’s voice broke through the silent air as if on an intercom.
“Ladies and gentleman, we will be landing in just thirty seconds. Make sure you are strapped in. I am not responsible for nor do I care if you get your neck broken.”
Meiki quickly deleted the conversation she and Phel had shared.