David's Star II: Journey's End - Chapter 1
And a couple weeks later . . .
"Excuse me." Dr. Katryn Casse spoke up as she passed the First Officer, David `Davey' Ratzlov in the hallway. "I believe we have the right-of-way."
Davey wrinkled his nose and stepped out of the way. "You certainly do." He replied in his Romanian accent, turning his head away from the smell.
Amongst the rules on board the ship, David's Star was the rule that the person carrying the heaviest or the smelliest load had the right-of-way in the hallways and corridors of the ship.
Katryn and her new 24 year old Med Student, Allyssa Marsden, walked on by; each carrying one very dirty litter box.
The pair carted the boxes to the back end of the ship, where they were dumped over the rail.
"Is this stuff biodegradable?" Allyssa asked, making a face at the smell.
"More this way then it would be if we dumped them into plastic bags." Katryn informed her. "It sinks to the bottom. No worries."
Allyssa, a shortish, spirited young woman with blue eyes and jet black hair, had been added to the crew only weeks before. Due to the sudden loss of the Registered Nurse, from New Mexico, Jesus Martinez, in an explosion that had injured Katryn's fiancée and Assistant, Dr. Jesse Davidson and two others, in addition to the three men who died, the crew was in need of new members, particularly to the Medical Team.
Amongst the new members there was also a Registered Nurse, 22 year old Hannah White Eagle, from an Apache Reservation in Arizona.
Allyssa and Hannah, of course, were Katryn's new room-mates. It was nice to finally have some more women on board. They looked to Katryn for direction and as far as Katryn herself was concerned, they were doing much better than originally expected.
As the two women headed back down below decks, Katryn, noticing Captain Richards flagging her down, slowed.
"Here, take them both." Katryn said, handing her empty box to Allyssa. "I think Russ needs me for something."
Allyssa nodded and disappeared below decks, headed for the orlop, where the ship's cats were usually kept. There, she would re-fill the boxes with clean kitty litter.
"Russ." Katryn spoke up in greeting.
"Captain Richards nodded, watching Allyssa's departing. "How are they doing?"
"The girls or Jesse, Jose, and Dave?" Katryn asked, frowning.
"All of the above." Richards responded.
"The girls are doing very well." Katryn told him, with a smile. "I really like Hannah. She is one funny lady to live with, which explains why we get along so well." She paused. "Allyssa is okay. She needs to loosen up bit, but that's normal for a Med Student. They always try too hard to impress the doctors."
Richards nodded. "Good ta know."
Katryn went on. "Jesse could be better. He's not happy about the scarring on his face, but it doesn't bother me. He's still the same old Jesse I fell in love with. Chavez is a Marine. He's bound and determined to get through this, no matter what. No way is a 3rd degree burn to the leg stopping him for long.
"Dave is slightly depressed about losing the use of his eye." Katryn replied, sighing. "I don't think it's going to impair him for long though; and unless the infected part becomes a big problem, I suspect he'll be back out with the weapons before we know it. After all, he only uses one eye to look through the view finder of a sniper rifle."
"And what of yerself?" Richards asked, with a knowing look.
Katryn chewed her lip. "I miss Jesus a lot." She admitted. "He was a really good friend. However, Hannah reminds me a lot of him. Not sure if that's good or bad, but I do like her very much."
The Captain grinned. "Well, then it must be good." He put in, shaking his head. "Have ye thought of our other plans lately?"
Katryn looked up at him, catching his knowing look. "Yeah." She replied, knowing exactly what he was referring to. "What I still can't get is just how we're going to pull it off."
The Captain shrugged. "If God wills it, we'll pull it off." He pointed out. "If not, we won't. We'll just have to leave it to Him to point out how it's going to happen, won't we?"
Katryn nodded, thinking. "I think I can take care of the gunshot, with little problems if I can get an antibiotic into him early enough." She explained. "It's the problem of getting him out of a Kingston jail without anyone, including his best friend knowing about it, that's concerning me."
"We can always just figure it out as we go." Richards suggested.
"Well, yeah, I know God can pull off the impossible, but I think we should at least have some kind of plan." Katryn went on.
"I'm still thinkin' it over, KC." The Captain remarked, looking out at the horizon with a faraway gleam in his eye. "Don't worry about it. We'll get it in time."
"I better get back down." Katryn interjected, with a sigh. "I was only supposed to be doing the litter-boxes. Jesse has been wanting to get up and around, and I have to take a look at him before I allow it."
"Are ye plannin' to allow it?"
Katryn shrugged. "Possibly." She replied, headed below decks. "If I see he has no problems working around his injury."
Behind her, Richards shook his head, smiling. Somehow, he knew Jesse would be up and around, come sunset.
Jesse stood in front of the mirror in his quarters. He had grown his hair out over the three years of their mission, but the explosion had singed off a good portion of the hair on the right side of his head. The burn marks started just behind his eye and continued back a full four inches. Katryn had then shaved the hair around the injury in order to get a bandage on.
Sighing, Jesse picked up a battery powered razor. Carefully, he began shaving off the rest of the hair on that side of his head. He would simply go back to the mohawk. With scissors, he had already shortened the top to about two and a half inches, not an easy task with the burns he still carried on his bandaged right hand, but he had managed. The back of his hair would stay long, and he would shave off the left side, to match the right.
In the mirror, behind him, Jesse's eyes caught a movement and he realized Katryn had entered his room.
"Somehow I figured this was the first thing you'd do when you got up." She spoke up, with a grin.
Not turning away from the mirror, Jesse shrugged. "Well, since I lost part of it anyway, I may as well get rid of the rest. Besides, I always did like the mohawk better."
Katryn's grin widened. "Honestly, I think the mohawk is more suited to you." She remarked, slyly, as she took the razor from him and helped him with the back section where he couldn't see what he was doing, then moved to the other side where he was having trouble with the bandaged hand. "Make sure you avoid coloring it until that burn completely heals up."
"I can't really color it anymore anyway. Remember?" Jesse reminded her. "We're under orders from what happened last time. They said no more hair extremes. I can probably get away with this because there really was no other choice, but if I get caught with green or blue hair by any of the sponsors on one of their air drop offs, they'll pull me off the ship."
Katryn nodded, remembering. She had been told the same thing about her purple hair. Her hair had gone back to its original light auburn color, with several blonde streaks from being out in the sun. When she was above decks, she wore her period men's clothing, as did Jesse.
Letting Katryn finish his hair, Jesse caught her eye in the mirror. "What have you been planning on Archie?" He asked, after a moment.
Katryn shrugged. "We're still working on that."
"Kat, there is something you need to consider."
Jesse's eyes strayed from hers to the floor. "It has to be his own choice."
Katryn pulled the razor away.
Before she could reply, Jesse went on. "I know you like him, and I know you want him to be there for the wedding, but you have to consider one thing. If he goes with us, he can never come back. That means he has to let go of all his friends and family and everything else he's ever known."
Katryn sighed. Somehow she knew Jesse was right. It was not fair to Archie to save his life and then expect him to just join them and leave Horatio and all the others he'd come to care about behind. She owed it to Archie as a friend to tell him before they took him away.
"I know you don't want to think about what would happen if he said no, but you have to at least give him the choice. As it is, you can't tell Horatio and he can't tell Horatio." Jesse continued. "We all know if Horatio knew about it, he would insist on Archie taking the chance, but no one would believe Archie actually died if Horatio didn't. He's not that good of an actor."
Katryn chewed her lip. "In order to do that, we'd have to find the ship and flag them down before they reach Kingston." She answered. "But the hard part is going to be telling Horatio there's nothing I can do."
"So talk to Archie, let him make the choice, get the antibiotics into him, and then tell Horatio you've done all you can do for the moment." Jesse suggested. "That would at least be the truth."
"I'll think about that." Katryn replied, nodding. "I'll have to discuss it with Russ."
The two of them froze for a moment, feeling a change in the flow of the ship.
"We're dropping anchor." Jesse spoke up, frowning. "I wonder what's going on."
"I'll go find out." Katryn told him, as she finished Jesse's hair. "I'll let you take care of the styling part."
"Thanks." Jesse replied, watching her leave his room.
Jesse watched the door a few minutes after she left. What he had told Katryn had not been easy to say, but, in his heart, he knew it was right. He couldn't let her take Archie away from all he knew without first asking Archie what he wanted. Once it was over and if he survived, Archie would have to return with the crew to Florida and then start his life anew . . . but without the best friend he had come he had come to love as his brother. It would not be easy for him.
As Katryn reached the upper deck, she was greeted with a familiar face. It was Sir Edward Pellew, now a Commodore.
Noticing her, Pellew smiled, bowing to her. "Dr. Casse." He greeted. "And how have you fared in the years since I saw you last?"
Katryn couldn't hide her grimace at the question. "Up until last month, it was pretty good." She replied, looking away.
Pellew nodded. "Captain Richards has told me of the explosion." He commented. "I must express my condolences at the loss of Mr. Martinez. I know your medical team was very close to one another."
Katryn nodded. "Have you heard of anything from Mr. Hornblower and Mr. Kennedy?"
The Commodore's eyes clouded. "News of their ship is not good, I'm afraid." He replied, with a sigh. "I've only heard rumors but they are ominous."
"I know." Katryn replied, honestly. "And it's only going to get worse."
Pellew closed his eyes, briefly and sighed. "So I had been suspecting."
"Do you know where their ship is, by any chance?" Captain Richards cut in. "We're desperately needing to catch up with them and KC I know is concerned with Mr. Kennedy's health."
"Last I'd heard, Mr. Kennedy was in good health." Pellew assured her.
"But that's not going to last." Katryn answered, softly, looking away.
Pellew frowned, staring at her. He knew well that this crew would know more than he of the news from the Renown, and somehow, this did not sound good, coming from someone who was normally as spirited as Dr. Casse usually was. Perhaps the rumors he'd heard were more serious than he'd thought.
"KC, you'd best get back to the injured men." Richards told her, pointedly.
Katryn nodded, and walked away quickly, so that neither of the men would see the tears that had formed in her eyes. As she walked back down the steps, they spilled over.
Before she reentered the Sick Berth, she wiped the tears away. She went straight to her quarters and stripped down to her exercise outfit. She went straight to her chin-up bar.
Hannah was seated in her hammock, with a pen and paper, writing in her journal when Katryn entered the room. Watching the surgeon doing chin-ups, Hannah knew something was wrong with her. Setting her journal aside, Hannah got up from her hammock and exited the room. In the days since she'd joined the crew, she knew that Katryn was one who sometimes needed to be alone with her thoughts, and this was one of those times.
As she passed through the Sick Berth, she caught Allyssa's eye and motioned for her to stay out of the room for a bit.
Allyssa nodded. She too had seen Katryn's face when she'd come through.
Captain Richards looked up as he saw Hannah come up from below. He caught her eye and she came over.
Commodore Pellew turned, surprised. Though she was dressed as a man, Hannah had not known there was a visitor on the ship, and had made no move to disguise her gender.
"This is Hannah White Eagle." Richards informed Pellew. "She's a Registered Nurse, sent in when Mr. Martinez passed on."
Pellew bowed. "Pleased to meet you, Miss White Eagle."
Hannah gave a shy smile.
"Hannah, this is Commodore Sir Edward Pellew." Richards told her.
"Oh, Katryn mentioned you." Hannah answered, recognizing the name. "It's nice to finally put a face to the name, but I believe she mentioned you as a Captain."
"I was promoted to Commodore a year ago." Pellew informed her.
"By the way, did ye see how Jesse was, by any chance?" Richards inquired.
Hannah frowned. "Didn't Katryn tell you?"
"Katryn was rather preoccupied when she was up here." The Captain told her.
Remembering the way she had come into their quarters, Hannah nodded. "Oh. Well Jesse is up and around." She answered. "I believe he was shaving half his head, last I saw. The burns kind of took care of part of his hair so he decided he was going to go back to the mohawk."
Richards nodded. "I see." He replied. "As long as he leaves the color out."
"He knows that." Hannah assured him.
"Our people in charge have decided the multi-colored hair was not appropriate and forbade them from dying their hair anything that would not look normal." Richards explained to Pellew.
Remembering the first sight he'd ever had of the Doctors, the Commodore gave a sly grin. "A shame." He commented, in mock disappointment. "I rather thought it becoming on them both."
Richards grinned and shook his head. "Honestly, so did I." He agreed. "But the sponsors threatened to remove them both from the ship if they did not get rid of the color and they are now required to keep their normal clothing below decks. If they are on deck, they are required to be in the clothing of the realm."
Pellew nodded, understandingly. He himself knew the secret of David's Star, but he knew others were not as accepting as he was.
When he and his men had been aboard this ship last, he'd all but figured things out then. When he'd returned with the supplies they'd promised Captain Richards they would get for him, he had been told outright. Hornblower had returned to Indefatigable at that time, as did the men under his division. Mr. Kennedy had remained in the care of the doctors for a full eight months while his broken leg was healing up before he had returned to Pellew's command.
After Hannah was dismissed, the two had retired to Captain Richards' cabin to talk.
Once there, Captain Richards had filled the Commodore in on what was going on, aboard the Renown. He told him of the battle that would take place and of Kennedy's coming death. He left out all parts of the Inquiry and all parts of the mutiny. He had planned to let Pellew learn these things as they came to him.
The Commodore agreed with Richards about saving Kennedy's life. "I always felt that boy deserved more than what he had." Pellew confessed. "Now what is it that you're not telling me?"
"We're not permitted to reveal one's own future."
"Don't give me that." Pellew argued. "You and I have come far and I need to know what it is you're not telling me of those two men."
Sighing, Richards knew what he had to do. He broke the most important rule the sponsors had given. He told Sir Edward everything. The parts about the mutiny, of the officials using Horatio as a scapegoat to spare Captain Sawyer's reputation, and of Kennedy's taking the blame for the entire mutiny in Horatio's place, even mortally wounded. He told of the Captain's madness, the torture of the young Mr. Wellard, and the mistakes of incompetent Lt. Buckland, who only managed to mess things up all the more, before he completely denied all association with the mutiny at all, insisting everything was Hornblower's fault.
After Richards finished, Pellew sat in silence, taking it all in. "Captain Richards, you have my full support to do whatever you have to do to save that boy's life." He finally replied evenly. "I'll keep your silence and I will do nothing to prevent your taking him. In fact, I will assist in any way that I can, if I have to switch the bodies, myself."
Captain Richards nodded. "We'll need to get aboard the Renown before they reach Kingston. Katryn must be able to get the antibiotics into him before the infection turns deadly."
Pellew nodded and pointed at the charts on Richards' desk. "You will find their ship within this area." He informed the Captain. "As long as Sawyer is dead before you meet, you will have no trouble getting on board. Use my name for reference, if you must."
"We cannot let Horatio know until it is over."
Pellew nodded. "That will not be easy."
"Nothing ever is." Richards pointed out.
After the Commodore had departed back to his own ship, Captain Richards summoned Katryn to his office.
"You rang?" She responded, poking her head around the door.
"The Commodore has told us where to find their ship." He informed her.
"I have to tell him first." Katryn told him.
"Jesse says it should be his own choice." She explained. "And I think he's right. We can't ask him to leave behind everything without asking him first what he chooses to do."
Richards nodded. "I see." He stated. "Assuming he agrees,
Commodore Pellew has agreed to help us switch the bodies without Horatio noticing. I've told him the whole story. He will keep our confidence and with our permission, he will even let Horatio know when the time is right."
Katryn considered this. "Get me aboard that ship." She replied, seriously. "And I'll have the discussion with Archie."
"Sir Edward has also said to use his name as a reference to get on board if we need it." Richards informed her. "I believe if Archie agrees, we can actually pull this off."
"That's a big `If'." Katryn answered, looking down. She knew in her heart that Archie, under any other circumstances, would have agreed wholeheartedly, to join them. However, the fact that he might not ever see Horatio or the dear friends he had come to know and love again was going to make this a very hard choice for the young man to make.
Despite the fact that Katryn loved Archie like the brother she had never had and desperately wanted him to be there when she and Jesse were married at the end of their voyage, she knew that taking Archie without his consent would only make things worse. She owed it to him as a friend to respect his wishes.
As soon as she had returned to the sick berth; instead of heading to her own quarters, she walked over to Jesse's room and closed the door behind her.
Jesse looked up from his mirror as his fiancée seated herself on the bed behind him. After having finished his hair, he had then taken the razor back out to shave the two weeks' worth of growth on his face. His face had been so sore from the burns that Katryn had not allowed him to shave, and he had agreed, not wanting to deal with the pain of agitating the burns. He was just over halfway finished when Katryn returned.
She quietly waited for him to finish shaving.
Jesse was watching her from the mirror in front of him. Noting the thoughtful look on her face, he had no doubts she was thinking about Archie.
Completing the task at hand Jesse brushed the remnants of the beard he had shaved off into the wastebasket in front of the dresser and stepped over to sit beside Katryn.
"Afraid he's going to say no?" Jesse spoke up after a bit.
"I don't know." She responded, distantly. "Given his choices, it's not as if there's a lot to consider. It's either go with us or die a traitor, and either way he's going to lose all his friends and family."
"So what's the problem?"
"I want him there for the wedding." Katryn answered, chewing her lip. After a moment, she continued. "But it's going to be hard enough on him to think of letting go of Horatio and all the other friends he's made." Katryn murmured. "I want him to make his choice of his own free will, not based on my wishes."
Jesse remained quiet, thinking. "In that case;" he replied, choosing his words carefully, "I don't think it's a good idea to tell him about the wedding until after he's made his choice."
"But do I tell him on the Renown or wait until later?"
Jesse frowned. "We know he's supposed to survive until Kingston, but as for surviving the injury itself, Kat, you know as well as I do the complications that come up from letting an injury that severe go without surgery right away. If you want him to know about the wedding, you should probably tell him as soon as he's made his choice." He told her, intently. "Just on the possibility that we do actually lose him in the surgery."
Katryn closed her eyes.
"Kat, I'm not trying to be pessimistic, because we don't know for sure until you get a look at that injury, but we also have to consider the possibility that he may not live through the surgery."
Katryn nodded. "I know that." She replied, meeting his gaze. "I don't like to think about it, but I know."
Jesse put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her against him, resting his chin on her head. "Whatever happens we'll get through it, Kat." He assured her.