CHAPTER NINE

"Firstly, I'd like to congratulate you on your recovery of the Time Crystal." General Nadeen said as he leaned back in his leather office chair, "You've certainly made those hard-noses at the B.A.T. much happier."

Steven and Jamie stood at the opposite end of the General's square-shaped office not far from Serenity's main bridge, their hands clasped behind their backs in a rest position. "Thank you, sir." Steven said.

"Now, I understand that during the mission, you discovered a TimeSplitter device. Any ideas as to what it was and what their intentions for it were?" Nadeen inquired.

"Our first thoughts were that it was a crude Portal generator," Jamie replied, casting a casual glance at Steven, "but it seemed far too big for just that. I think that he TimeSplitters were experimenting with the Crystal's power output, using the human energy from the townspeople to boost the total yield. Such an upgrade could possibly be capable of increasing a Portal's capacity."

Nadeen's face took on a troubled frown, "Enough to be able to transport one of their warships?"

"Theoretically, yes." Jamie confirmed.

Sounds like the Medium's doomsday prophecy had some truth in it after all." Steven stated.

"Indeed." Nadeen said, "Our scientists are working on using the Time Portal's energy to reverse the damage that the TimeSplitter had done to that area of France, but there's still a chance that its friends managed to obtain the research necessary to continue the experiments. Based on the Medium's warning, it sounds as if the TimeSplitters are planning and attack that would hammer the final nail in to humanity's coffin. We must ensure that will never see the light of day. As for you two," he gestured to them, "I believe that you've earned yourselves some downtime until the B.A.T. needs your services again. Dismissed."

Steven and Jamie came to attention and snapped off a salute before exiting the General's office and into the busy hallways of the space station. "So, what now?" Jamie asked.

"We should probably head down to the infirmary and check on Aili. The medics should have finished all the tests that they needed by now." Steven replied as they entered a turbolift and the door hissed shut.

Jamie frowned, "I hope there's nothing seriously wrong with her."

Steven shrugged, "I'm sure she'll be fine."

"How can you stay so optimistic about stuff like this?" Jamie wondered.

The lift halted with a dull jerk and the doors slid open. "If there's one thing I've learned about command all these years, it's that if you don't maintain a positive outlook on life, you're guaranteed to give yourself an ulcer. I've had one once…not fun at all."

Jamie grinned, "I'll try and remember that."

The two of them made their way down the corridor and eventually stepped through the main entrance of Serenity's infirmary. A brown-haired man dressed in a white doctor's uniform immediately met them. "Doctor." Steven greeted the man. He then nodded towards the medical bed where Aili rested, "How's she doing?"

The doctor eyed his sleeping patient with concern; "She's stable…for now. However, there's something that I believe you should be made aware of." He motioned towards a 3D holographic scan of Aili's brain, "During our initial tests, we found a sizable anomaly in the rear portion of her brain. We weren't able to detect it during her first health evaluation because it was too small, which means that it's more that doubled in size over the past few weeks."

Jamie gazed at the highlighted section of the hologram, "Is it still growing?"

The doctor shook his head, "Hasn't moved a millimeter since she returned from the mission."

"Is it dangerous?" Steven questioned.

"No." the doctor replied, "It seems to be completely harmless for the time being. I'll have to keep her here for awhile, just to be sure."

"Alright." Steven said, "Is she well enough for visitors yet?"

"Oh, yes. Give me a call if you need anything." The doctor said, then strode away and continued on with his business.

As Steven and Jamie approached her bed, Aili's eyes slowly opened and she smiled when she saw her friends. "Hey," Steven said, "look who finally decided to wake up. I told the nurses not to use so much anesthesia, but apparently they didn't listen to me."

Aili laughed quietly, "Nice to see you too, Steven."

"How are you feeling?" Jamie asked, taking a seat on the chair next to the bed.

Aili rubbed her forehead with her hand and grimaced. "Well, aside from the splitting headache, not too bad." She answered, "What happened? The last thing I remember is when the Medium was threatening to kill you, everything else after that is all foggy."

"That's what the doctors are trying to find out." Steven said, "The only bad part is that you'll have to stay here for a bit so they can prod you with more needles. Think you can handle it without giving someone a black eye?"

"I'll do my best." Aili promised.

"Good." Steven stated with a friendly pat on Aili's shoulder. He glanced at his wristwatch and his eyes grew wide, "Wow, it's late! Totally missed my lunch not to mention my dinner. Hey Jamie, want to head over to the mess hall? I heard they're serving real food tonight."

Jamie shrugged and smiled again, "Sure, but you're buying. You still owe me that."

"Deal." Steven replied, "Mind if we step out for a little bit, Aili?"

"No, not at all." Aili said, "Just be sure to save some of that food for me, alright?"

"Can do." Jamie said as she and Steven walked out of the infirmary, "See you later!"

Aili looked after her comrades for a few more seconds before laying her head back and slid into a deep sleep, her dreams filled with vivid images of her long-lost childhood.

In the vast emptiness of space outside the hulking mass of the space station, a small, cylindrical object zipped quietly along the outer hull. Its black-colored armor plating blended perfectly with the surrounding darkness and shielded it from any and all potential security fields. Once the object had reached its assigned waypoint, a tiny section of the armor slid open and a laser the size of a needle shot out. "Scan commencing." It said in a robotic voice. After a few moments, the object's laser grew in intensity. "Target located." It proclaimed, "Designation: Jamie Banes. Marking for future operations." With that, the laser vanished and the robotic probe slithered away into the eternal darkness.