8.8

“He blinked a few times and moved his head, otherwise still unresponsive.”

“Well it’s progress.” Sam scratched his chin. Jessie was playing her game on a smaller screen in the kitchen, leaving just him and Hedgy to talk, “How about the others?”

“Mr. Yikikik is currently still trying to get a puzzle box back together, Mr. Levins is keeping to himself. He did ask to send out a message though, did that last night.”

“A message?”

“Yes, and no, I didn’t ask. How are your occupants?”

“Jessie’s playing a puzzle game in the other room, Vortran is still snoring away.”

“So same as before. Just a couple days now, I have the local med unit warned about Mr. Sutro’s condition and we’ll inform the proper authorities once he’s stable. You’ll have about as much paperwork as me to fill out so get plenty of rest.”

“So much to look forward to.” Sam said flatly, “Talk to you tomorrow.”

“Sure thing.” Hedgy hung up and Sam got up, joining Jessie in the kitchen.

***

“I sent them our estimated arrival time, there’ll be two consecutive ports open and a med team waiting.” Hedgy looked moderately annoyed as Sam sat down.

“Something up?”

“That little robot managed to get off the bed last night and hide under a dresser. The others are attempting to retrieve it. In the meantime Mr. Sutro’s lapsed back to being unresponsive.”

“Dammit, he was making progress too. We’ll have to make sure it stays with him while he’s being treated. It’s the only living bit of tech attached to him that we have.” Sam leaned back in his chair to stare at the ceiling.

“If I didn’t know better I’d think you’re concerned for his well being.”

“I just want him to stand trial, that’s all. Coma patients don’t get punished.”

Hedgy frowned at him but dropped the topic, “Guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, tomorrow.” Sam hung up first as Jessie came into the room and headbutted his arm. He patted her head and she smiled.

“We get to the station tomorrow right? Can we have lunch with Kevin and Mr. Julian?”

“I don’t know sweetie, it’s going to be really busy. It might be better to wait until the next day when we’re all rested up.”

Jessie looked down at her feet, “I’m tired of resting, I want to do stuff.”

“I know. We’ll be home before you know it though, and you can run around all you want.”

She seemed a bit happier and wandered off again. He pressed his thumb to the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. It was an old trick his mother had taught him to quiet his mind when there were too many thoughts. They would have to stay home longer this time, even if it chafed him to be in one place too long. She deserved that at least.

***

Vortran was the last one out of the ship and lagged behind drowsily as they checked in with the station and were cleared to leave the port area. They met Yik and Mark waiting in the arrival area.

“There’s a nice hotel by the port so I reserved some rooms for everyone. Yik, you’re cleared to walk around by yourself again but stick around till we’ve taken statements. Vortran your ship is being brought over, should be a few days though. Mark you’ve got statements to make then I can get you transport back to your old ship or you can make your own way, whatever you prefer.” Sam wasn’t really looking at them as he talked, leading the way through the checkpoint. Everyone held out their hands to get their chips scanned one by one, except for Vortran, who’s chip scanned automatically from her ear. They got a few odd looks from the rest of the largely human crowd but were soon through and into the main station plaza. Sam gestured to a single story faux-brick building about a block away to the right, “Jessie and I will go check in with Hedgy since he got in ahead of us. The hotel is a block that way next to the big tree, The Big One Hotel.”

The others looked towards the direction he gestured where a gigantic tree loomed over a few multi-story buildings. He turned back to look at them finally.

“Alright yer coming to help me find my room before I fall asleep again.” Vortran grabbed Yik’s arm and dragged him off before he could protest.

“I’m going to wander around a bit, I’ll check in later.” Mark took off in the opposite direction. Sam looked down at Jessie who was clinging to his hand and looking around with wide eyes.

“Alright, Jess, let’s go talk to Hedgy.”

“Do they still have the big pond by the hotel?”

“Yeah, we can go there tomorrow when we meet with Julian and his son.”

“Can I go fishing?” She clung to his side as he made his way through the moderately crowded street. There wasn’t much noise, just the occasional chatter from others, but people were walking around at a leisurely pace or sitting on the nearby grass talking and eating. As long as you didn’t look up at the fake sky it almost felt like being planet-side. The artificial breeze blew pleasant scents of flowers and fresh water at regular intervals as they made their way too the faux-brick building and entered a very well lit office dressed up to look like it wasn’t made of metal and plastic. Sam frowned at the faux-wood benches and bypassed them to approach the counter.

“Misa, you didn’t answer me. Can I go fishing?”

“We’ll see Jess.” Sam put his hand on her head and she quieted down, looking off to the side at some posters, “Is Howard here?” He asked the lady behind the counter.

“He just got in, let me buzz him for you.” She hit a button and Hedgy appeared quickly.

“Sam, excellent, I’ve got some presents.” He handed Sam a stack of papers in a plastic box.

“Happy birthday to me.” Sam grimaced, “Are you going to be available for lunch tomorrow? We’re going to meet up with Julian and Kevin, maybe the others if they’re up for it.”

“I may have to bring along some work but sure. I’ll call you, same room as usual?”

“Yeah.”

“What’s all this?” Jessie was peering over the edge of the box at the paperwork.

“Your dad has to fill this out to report everything that happened. They’ll use it to decide what happens to everyone involved.”

“I’m not gonna get arrested am I? I didn’t mean to be so much trouble.” She looked worried but Hedgy laughed and patted her on the head.

“No you’re not in trouble, Jessica, this wasn’t your fault. I’ll see you both tomorrow then, I have to catch up a bit here.”

“See you tomorrow, thanks.” Sam hefted the box up in one hand and held the other out for Jessie, who held it with one hand, trailing behind him a bit. They walked to the hotel in silence, Sam enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and Jessie lost in thought again.

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