Disclaimer: I do not claim to own anything that Anne McCaffrey has written. I own my own ideas and my own characters.
By: Ethril Dragon
Angie was slow to wake up the next morning. "Now I know why the academy kept strict lights out rules." Angie said to herself as she rubbed her head. Even though she hadn't had anything to drink, she had a horrible head ache. She sighed and continued to rub her head as she sat up.
"There is a message for you." The computer voice chirped after she had taken care of her morning routine.
"Play the message please." Angie replied as she pulled on her shirt. She'd purchased a couple more outfits from the base store. Most of the things she'd owned after all had been back on the ship. Angie winced as she thought about her books. The one saving grace was that she'd only packed a few of her books for the trip. The rest of her things were being shipped from the academy on a cargo ship. She'd need to send a message to her father to make sure her belongings arrived alright. Some of her books were worth quite a bit.
"Hey Angelique, its Reggie," the message started off. It was only a voice recording so the screen was black. "Last night was fun, thanks for putting up with me long enough for me to drag you along." Angie smiled at that. As much as she hadn't wanted to be social in the beginning, Angie had ended up really liking Reggie's company. "I'm sorry we couldn't hang out longer, but my class is getting processed today." Angie looked at the screen in surprise. Now she wished it wasn't just an audio recording. "We'll be planet side in a few hours. Maybe we'll meet again one day."
"End message." Angie sat down on her bed and sighed. Well there went her first friend since leaving the academy.
"Playback last message." Angie said softly. She listened to Reggie's words one last time before telling the computer to delete the message. It was useless to simply dwell on what could have been. Angie stood and swept her hair back in a ponytail and left her room. She might as well do some exploring since she had nothing else to do.
Eventually she found herself in what she could only guess was a show room. There were other people milling around, looking into glass cases, so Angie's appearance went unnoticed. Angie was in a half daze as she ventured around the show room, looking into each case at the various crystals. She didn't notice what forms they took or if they were art pieces or examples for industry, she was distracted by the sounds.
There were still a fairly large amount of people milling around, so Angie found a bench and sat down. There was no way for her to describe the sounds that she was hearing. The closest she could come too was that humming she'd listened to in her dreams. The crystals were picking up every tiny sound in the room and were singing the sounds back. There was something else though, something Angie couldn't put her finger on. She tilted her head slightly, turning her stronger ear towards the louder of the crystals. If she focused hard, she could almost discern what sounded like words.
"Excuse me miss, but the gallery is closed." A soft spoken attendant said right next to Angie. Angie jumped and looked up guiltily at the uniformed woman.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize the time!" Angie looked down at her watch and her eyes went wide. "I'll go." Angie hurried out of the room and when she was far enough away, she leaned against the wall. She'd been sitting in the gallery for over 7 hours.
Angie panted hard and held her face in one hand. How the heck had she just spent 7 hours listening to crystal? No one else seemed to have been hypnotized like she had been. Was it because of her music training? Angie really didn't think that was it; so what happened?
Her stomach distracted her from her thoughts long enough to remind her that she hadn't even had breakfast today. With a sigh, Angie headed for the commons to grab some food to take back to her room. She really didn't feel like being around people at the moment.
"There is a message for you." The computer chimed as Angie closed the door to her room and flipped on the privacy light.
Angie ignored the computer and its message. She was still thinking about what had happened earlier. She thought about the crystals and the music that they were making; she thought about the words she could have sworn she had heard. Near the end Angie thought she could make out a couple of those words, but now that she thought about it she couldn't remember what those words were.
"Was that hit to my head worse than it should have been?" She wondered softly.
"There is a message for you." The computer chimed again.
"Delay message. I'm going to bed." Angie mumbled as she finished her light meal and went to the bed. She dropped her clothes as she walked and simply fell onto the bed. She was out within minutes.
Angie was back in the forest and the humming was a lot louder than last time. She tried to say something, but her voice was gone. Angie grabbed her throat and tried to talk again, but not even a squeak came out; she couldn't even whimper. The humming rose and fell trying to get her attention, but Angie was more concerned with her lack of voice.
This was a dream; she knew it was a dream, so why couldn't she make herself talk?
The sound of something shattering broke Angie's train of thought and she moved towards the spot where she had heard the noise. The trees thinned and Angie stepped through a veil of vines. Angie felt something fall next to her and she heard the shattering sound again.
Angie looked down and saw a puddle of what looked like liquid crystal. There was a twinkling above her head and she looked up just in time to see a raindrop. When it hit the ground it didn't splash, it shattered. Angie tilted her head at that and reached out to catch the next one. The drop didn't shatter when it hit her hand and she found it interesting that instead of holding water, she held a teardrop shaped crystal.
Angie turned the crystal around in her fingers and then dropped it. Just as she suspected, it shattered when it hit the ground. She looked up and took note that the clouds were a variety of colors from pink to green to blue and white. Angie stood there watching the clouds as the crystal rain drops fell and shattered against the ground.
"There are five messages for you." Angie jolted up, instantly awake. She quickly checked the clock and groaned when she found that she'd been asleep for over 12 hours. The computer chimed a bit more urgently and Angie sighed.
"Play the messages." The first three were audio and visual from her father. Angie only half listened as they played. All she heard from her father's long winded hello was that he hoped she was doing alright and that he wanted to speak with her as soon as she got the chance.
The fourth message was from a medical personal asking her to stop by for a physical. The fifth message caught and held Angie's attention. The message was only a few minutes old, and was probably the reason that the computer had woken her up. Her presence was being requested at the front desk.
With a sigh, Angie got dressed and left. She wondered why anyone would need to see her, let alone request her presence. Her walk from the sleeping chambers back to the front desk was quiet and uneventful, allowing Angie time to think.
So focused on her own thoughts, Angie failed to notice the growing crowd the closer she got.
"I can't believe he's here!" Angie heard someone say as she walked past. She tilted her head their way in curiosity. "Someone of his status doesn't usually come this far out!"
Angie continued on. She wondered who they were talking about, but it was really none of her business. Maybe the visitor was a stellar or something from Earth? Angie shrugged to herself. The chatter was growing the closer she got to the desk. "Why is the president of FSP here anyway?" Those words were the only warning she got when she was grabbed by the arm and hurried forward by a man in a black suit.
President. FSP. Her father was here? Angie was in shock as she looked up at the man that she knew as her father. He looked exactly like she remembered him, since he often sent her pictures or visual messages while she was at the academy. The shock though of seeing him in person left her momentarily speechless.
With a nod of her father's head, the security team led the way to a large empty room. There was an oval table in the center of the room with a dozen or so chairs surrounding it. Angie could easily guess that this was a meeting room.
"It is good to see you again Angelique." Her father's words rang in her ears and the shock finally faded away.
"Dad, what are you doing here?" Angie asked hesitantly.
Edmund McRune smiled thinly. Angie winced as she thought about how her dad never seemed to smile naturally; always with his political smile. "I can't come and spend some time with my daughter?"
"That's not what I mean dad. You're the president of the FSP, aren't you busy?"
"Even the president deserves a vacation now and then." Edmund told his daughter seriously.
Angie sighed. She knew her father; he wouldn't be here if he didn't have a reason. During her 7 years at the academy her father had only visited her once and that had been for a duet with a stellar she'd won back when she'd been 14; her brothers and mother had visited her more often.
"So how long are you going to be here?" She also knew that her father wouldn't be there for long. His work was his life. She knew he loved his family, but his work had always been first.
"A few days; plenty of time for us to spend some time together." Angie could tell that his smile was a little more forced then usual.
As much as Angie wanted to argue with her father, she hadn't seen him physically in years. She'd set aside her questions and doubts for the time being, if it meant enjoying time with her father.
For the rest of the day, she and her father caught up on things. They had lunch and then dinner in his guest quarters, which were slightly larger then her own. Her father was even willing to watch some vids with her, like they used to do when she was really little.
As the night grew longer Angie excused herself to go to bed. Her father was agreeable to that and she left his suite to go to her own. Once there she flipped on the privacy light once more and went over to the bed.
She sat there for some time, thinking over the day's events. Once more she couldn't help but wonder if she were dying. Angie remembered what she'd been told by Lars Dahl, but there were too many inconsistencies. If she really were fine, her father wouldn't have come out this far just to see her.
Angie sighed and ran her hand through her hair before picking up her brush and letting her hair out of the ponytail. While she brushed her hair, she started humming softly. What started out as random notes worked themselves into the melody she'd heard while in the crystal gallery.
She didn't know when it happened, but Angie fell asleep while she'd been brushing her hair.
"There is a message for you." Angie yelped and fell out of her bed when the sudden computerized voice woke her. She groaned and laid there, spread eagle on the floor for a minute. She shifted and tucked her hand under her only to pull it back to find that she'd fallen onto her hairbrush.
"You're worse than my roommate back at the academy." Angie said with a rather deadpan voice as she stared up at her ceiling.
"There is a message for you." The computer repeated unaware that Angie had insulted it.
"Play the stupid message!" Angie said with an exasperated sigh. She sat up as the computer complied and began playing the message.
"Good morning Angelique," Angie tilted her head as she recognized the voice as the medical lady that had spoken to her the day she'd woken up. "I would like to request that you come to the medical ward for a quick check up. Thank you."
Angie rolled her eyes and slowly stood up. She rubbed at her lower back where she'd fallen onto her hair brush. "Evil brush." She cursed at it and threw it onto her bed. It happily bounced off the bed and fell back onto the floor. Angie stared at it for several very long minutes, just glaring at it while it sat there innocently unaware of the crimes it had committed against her person.
She huffed and picked it back up and began brushing her hair as she went over to her clothes to get dressed. Angie was ready within minutes and was about to leave when she realized she was hungry. She quickly got some portable food out of her catering unit and left.
The checkup was quick and painless to be honest. The doctor flashed a light in her eyes and used a scanner thing to check to make sure Angie's head wound was healing fine, and then proceeded to ask a few questions.
Most of the questions Angie didn't really care about, one though caught her attention. The doctor asked her if she'd had any increase or decrease with her senses recently. Angie tilted her head and frowned at that one. The doctor assured her it was a typical question asked to evaluate any trauma the brain may have suffered. She answered, but on the way back to her suite she mulled over that last question several times.
To be honest Angie hadn't noticed any change in her senses. Other than thinking she'd heard voices in the crystal, nothing strange had happened.
"Excuse me miss?" Angie turned mid thought as one of the personnel approached her. "The president of the FSP would like to see you." Angie nodded and changed her direction to go visit with her father.
Time passed like that for another week. Angie would spend most of her time catching up with her father and visiting the medics every other day. She had to admit, it was nice seeing a different side of her father like this. She asked several times why he was spending so much time with her, but each time he simply told her he had missed her.
Even with the distractions her father provided, in the back of her mind Angie couldn't help but wonder if she was dying. No one ever brought it up, but it was hard not to wonder.
It had been nearly two weeks since the crash onto Ballybran when something strange happened. Angie was enjoying lunch with her father when she suddenly had a headache. She was laughing one moment and the next she was holding the side of her head in pain. The headache only lasted a few seconds, nothing really serious. Angie forgot about it fairly quickly and assured her father it was nothing.
"Alright Angelique, if you say so." Edmund McRune said with a sigh as he and his daughter finished their lunch.
"Now, let's discuss your plans for when we return home." He said as the two of them stood and went out into the passageway.
Angie blinked in surprise. Her father had avoided bringing up future plans for nearly a week, what had changed? "Well, I thought I would start sending out my audition recordings to different music groups and begin working to join the stellars." It wasn't an easy goal, but Angie was positive with her training and skills she'd be able to make it within a decade. Then she could work on starting her nonprofit music school.
"I can pull a few strings and-" her father began saying but was cut off by a rather angry look from Angie.
"Dad please, I want to do this on my own. I want to prove to everyone that I was able to become a stellar without your influence." She'd already had enough grief in school because she was the daughter of the president of FSP, she didn't need that much hatred directed at her while she worked on her career.
Her father sighed, but nodded. "You are so very stubborn some days." The man let out a chuckle and shook his head. Angie was in fact his daughter through and through.
Angie laughed and nodded. She was only stubborn when she had to be. Music was her passion, and she would not let anyone get in her way.
Angie stopped mid step and her hand went to her stomach suddenly. A wave of nausea had gone through her, strong enough to make her freeze.
"Angelique?" Angie barely heard her father as the wave of nausea made her head spin. The world blurred around her and she couldn't tell where the floor was compared to the walls or the ceiling. Her knees wobbled and within seconds her father had his arms around her, supporting her as she went limp.
The last thing she heard before her spinning world went dark was her father's voice yelling for help.
Angie was unconscious by the time the medics arrived with the guild master. The medics lifted her up onto a floating stretcher and began moving her to the medical wing of the moon base.
"What is going on?" President McRune demanded of the Heptite guild leader.
"Your daughter is being tested for the symbiont now." Lars Dahl informed the FSP president. "She's showing signs of transition. Depending on the results, she'll either be released or sent immediately to Ballybran for medical care."
Edmund's eyes narrowed and he reached out to grab hold of Lars' collar. "I'm not letting you take my only daughter just like that."
Lars looked down at the hand grasping his collar and sighed. He reached up and pinched the president's wrist with just two fingers. The other man winced and immediately let go. "You have every right to prevent us from taking your daughter to the only medical facility able to take care of her." Lars' eyes were hard as he stared at the President of FSP. "Just so you know, it will be her life on your hands if you refuse to let us give her full discloser so we can get her down to the planet's surface."
Edmund McRune fell into a tense silence as he stared at the man that held his daughters life in his hands. He looked away after a minute. "Do what you must." He turned then and stormed off. He would wait on his personal ship until he could hear news about his daughter.
Lars let out the breath he'd been holding. He knew the truth of the matter; the truth was they'd known Angie had been infected by the spore on Ballybran. It hadn't been obvious at first, but after the last few tests the numbers didn't lie. They'd just been waiting for her to begin her transition. Now that she was, several FSP officials would be waiting on standby for when she gained consciousness so she could place her print on the necessary forms. All they had needed was her legal guardian's permission for her to join the guild. She was underage after all.
The officials didn't have to wait too long; Angie was able to wake up a few minutes after being taken into the discloser area. "Wh-wha…" Angie was confused; her eyes were blurred as she looked at the faces around her. The lights swirled around her and she could tell they were moving rapidly.
"Angelique McRune, you are currently going through disclosure to become a member of the Heptite Guild." Angie looked at the closest face where the voice was coming from. "You were exposed to a spore when you crashed on Ballybran. The only medical facility able to help you is on the surface of Ballybran."
Angie squinted in confusion. What did all this mean? So what if she'd been exposed, why did she have to go to Ballybran? Why were they being so serious about this?
The person talking cleared his throat. "In order to take you to Ballybran, you must be a member of the guild." He held out a tablet for her to look at, not that it was any use really since her eyes were so blurred. He began talking quickly then, detailing things that Angie couldn't follow at the moment. His words started slurring together in her mind and it was hard for her to focus. She could feel herself losing consciousness again.
As if sensing that she was falling asleep again, the man held out the tablet for her. "If you agree to become a member of the Heptite Guild and go to Ballybran, place your print here." Angie looked at the tablet and then at the man. "If you refuse, the chances of your recovery are nearly impossible."
If she were to die, Angie would never be able to start her nonprofit music school. Any chances of her making a difference in young musician's lives would be gone. By joining the guild she would at least be alive. Her hand shook as she lifted it up to press against the tablet.
After that she closed her eyes and fell asleep again. She felt light headed enough that if she had kept her eyes open any longer, Angie would have thrown up.
"Everything's done. Get her to the surface." The FSP official said sadly. The medics nodded and hurried the stretcher forward to the waiting shuttle. The official shook his head and turned, wearily heading for the presidents ship to inform him of the events that had taken place. The man's 17 year old daughter was now in the hands of the Heptite Guild and may never be able to leave the planet's surface ever again.
A/N: I know it took me awhile to write this chapter, but I tell you it was hard. Very hard.