"Did you know the Unreliable was here?" Vicar Max asked as he and Felix made the trek across the landing pad.
The younger man shook his head. "She must have docked recently. I'm sure someone would have told us if they saw the captain."
Max approached the door and it opened invitingly. A sense of dread crept across him. Turning back he glanced at Felix who followed.
"Vicar. Felix. Good. You're here. I have a bit of a...problem." ADA said her tones oddly sheepish.
"ADA, what is wrong? Where is your captain?" Max asked.
Looking around Felix called up the stairs "Hey boss! You home?"
Max shushed Felix who shrugged. Shifting uncomfortably Felix asked "What's the problem, ADA?"
Both of them went onto the bridge where ADA's red on black image frowned in concern, then became awash with relief at the sight of the two organic lifeforms. "I assume you've been watching the news."
"Yeah," Felix said sadly. "Dr. Welles." Was all he could bring himself to say. He idolized the scientist for rebelling against the Board and of course any friend of the Captain's was a friend of his.
If ADA could have sighed deeply she would. Instead she said "The Captain has been despondent since the memorial. She has not done that disgusting thing you organics do-shoving things into your face hole."
"She's not eating." Felix murmured.
"Eating, thank you, yes." ADA smiled, then her expression was of concern again. "If I recall correctly if a human does not do this for three weeks it will die."
Vicar Max asked "How long has it been since you last saw her eat?"
"Days ago. Does it matter? Don't worry, if she were deceased I would have told you that first thing."
Max clenched his jaw. "ADA-"
"This is not easy for me. I was not programmed to handle this. I don't even know how I got here, the Captain didn't order me to come here. It must have been encoded into Dr. Welles' last message."
"May I see the message?" Max glanced down at the controls but ADA's digital face screwed up with indignation.
"You certainly may not. It is private, for the Captain's eyes only."
Felix smirked. "You're lying."
"About what?" ADA asked, her avatar raising a brow.
"'The message was encoded', I don't believe you. You came here on your own."
ADA was silent. "Fine. I admit it. I came here because I thought the Captain should have the comfort of old friends, the counsel of a vicar. I learned a thing or two listening to you." She paused thoughtfully. "I don't want her to wither away, or become reckless. I've lost one captain already. I don't know if I can bear losing another."
Both men exchanged glances. "ADA, the empathy you are showing is touching." Max said.
"That's real sweet of you, ADA." Felix agreed. " But what can we do?"
The instrument panels began to light up. "She's in her quarters at present. Vicar, I will unlock the door for you."
Max covered his mouth with his hand briefly. "I can't intrude!"
"Please," ADA interrupted, and while her emotions were limited there was definitely a pleading tone in her voice. "If you can't help us, who can?"
Considering a moment Max nodded. "I'll do what I can, ADA." Turning he passed Felix and stood at the landing of the stairs for a long time.
Felix turned to ADA. "Something I can do."
"I've been lonely since the Captain gave SAM to Parvati as a housewarming gift. The ship is getting dirty."
"You want me to clean?" Felix grumbled.
"Not necessarily. I...would like some company, too."
Both human and AI were silent for a time. "Did you know Dr. Welles?" Felix ventured at last.
"Yes." She smiled. "He worked with Alex Hawthorne who programmed me. Sometimes...sometimes he'd tell me stories about Alex. It made me…" she paused trying to find the right words. "Happy, but sad at the same time. If that makes sense."
"It makes perfect sense."
Felix made his way to the kitchen and tidied up, listening to ADA as he worked.
Max took a deep breath and debated with what capacity he should console the Captain- as a dignified vicar or as one consoling a bereaved friend. He decided he would let his heart guide him.
"Captain." He called softly. No answer.
The room smelled of dirty linen and unwashed body. She was there in her bed, back to him. Max kept a respectful distance."Dr. Welles has become one with the universe. He had a remarkable life and laid the groundwork for the future of this colony."
She was still silent. Leaning on the edge of the desk Max laced his fingers together.
"Do you know," The Captain said "How many FUCKING platitudes I've had to hear from people? Every single sad face I see, every 'I'm sorry for your loss' is like losing him all over again. It's like a fucking knife to the heart." her voice, for a while raspy from sheer weariness and lack of use became hard as iron. "So save your proverbs and your 'greater universe plan' shit. Get out."
Max took this vitriol in silence but did not budge. Turning over she sat up immediately and glared at him. "Did you not hear me, I said get out! How'd you get in here anyway? ADA!" She called, then roared "ADA! Did you let people in here?"
The AI didn't answer. The Captain pounded her pillow and stood up, squaring up to the vicar as though she were ready to physically fight him.
Max, on the other hand was calm as a mountain lake even as he stood straight. She was breathing hard, nostrils flared.
"I'll have ADA run you a hot shower." He said evenly.
Her fist came up but Max caught it. Not hard, just enough to stop her. Even if she had a weapon Max could never bring himself to hurt her. He was grimly pleased she almost caught him off guard- after all he was the one who taught her such dirty tricks.
"Don't you know what it's like to want to be left alone?!" She growled.
She was too close to kick him, thank the Architect, but Max tensed for any possibility. "Do you know you're not the only one who has ever grieved the loss of a loved one?"
That set her off. But Max was ready. Eyes flashing he threw both arms around her at once, all but crushing her to him. She sobbed, screamed and thrashed against him.
"FUCKING LET GO. GET OUT. GET THE FUCK OUT, MAX. "
He held fast. "Black fucking hole, Kenna, STOP IT. Stop this nonsense, why are you really angry?"
She wailed in reply when he still didn't heed her wishes.
'"WHY are you really angry?"
"He's GONE! It wasn't long enough IT'S NOT FAIR!"
"It's never long enough- listen to me. Listen!" Max roared back gripping her shoulders with bruising force." You have to stop this nonsense, what would Phineas think if he saw you in here moping about when the colony needs you? Sitting around feeling sorry for yourself- we're mourning too! ADA brought us here as a last resort- your damn computer has more sense than you!"
Taking a moment to regain his composure he looked to the door where Felix was watching hands balled into fists.
"Don't talk to her like that, Max!" Felix warned.
"Stay back. It's called tough love." Max snapped and took the Captain's face in his hands. "We came here to help you and don't you DARE start blubbering that we can't help and you're broken. You are not broken. You are NOT. Broken. Do you hear me?"
She gave him a tiny nod. Max's expression softened "Where's that steel spined captain I used to run with, hm? The one that stood up to the Board. " He paused and added softly "That Phineas fell in love with?"
He felt her go limp. All instinct told him it wasn't a trick, either so Max hugged her gently this time.
"You're right." She said dully. "You're absolutely right. Phineas would be ashamed of me. I have to keep going. For us. I'm sorry, Max. For my...disrespect."
Max let out a sigh of relief. "There's nothing to forgive."
Lifting her head from Max's shoulder the Captain smiled at Felix, saying his name with such warmth and gratitude it gave him courage to come closer. Felix sniffed and casually tried to hide his own tears. She beckoned to him and she and Max wrapped an arm around him.
Holding fast to her friends, as she always did.
"Everything's going to be alright, isn't it."