Kells: What happened to the Mercury, for one. Where my old senior staff went, too: Bale, Wulfantine, Velana, Richards. I -- really, anything you can tell me would be helpful.
DeVeau: Well...okay, but keep in mind I wasn't really on the Mercury for very long before it was decommissioned. I don't know anything about Wulfantine or Velana, I never met them...but, I do know Bale if you mean Lieutenant Commander Isaac Bale. As for Richards, that's actually a pretty common human name so I don't know if I know the one you knew.
:: He'd met her eye, so certain that her exuberance would mean that she held all of the answers he sought. That wasn't fair to her, he knew, but there it was. ::
Kells: No -- no, maybe not. Well, what can you tell me about Isaac?
DeVeau: Unfortunately, I can't really say what happened to Bale. When the Mercury was towed out of here and we transferred to the Garuda, I didn't see him come along and to be honest, I haven't really checked his file to see if it's been updated with a new station.
Kells: I understand. I've checked the records myself, but, well, what can they tell me? I don't want to know about dates of transfer or summaries of duty positions, I want to know about my old crew.
:: And, he thought, what had happened to them once he'd gone, once he'd been replaced by that -- doppelganger. ::
Kells: The towing of the Mercury. Tell me more. What exactly happened to her?
DeVeau: Oh, the Mercury. Well, we basically had to dump...well, I tell you what, let me get you the report and you can read up about it. It's...well, it's probably more than I can really tell you in one sitting and I'm likely to forget something.
:: He nodded. The official records were much more mysterious on the subject, especially since he possessed none of his old clearances. ::
DeVeau: I did get a chance to interact with Captain Kells...well, the other Kells...for a bit.
Kells: I knew you would have. I mean, I suspected you must have. How was he?
DeVeau: He was...how do I put this...well, he was troubled. Worried about what people thought about him. I think the choices he made in his position, the outcomes, good or bad, affected him more deeply that he might have wanted to admit.
:: He had? This other Kells, this experiment who wasn't him? Aron hadn't expected that. In fact, despite what the records said, he had expected some imperfect simulacrum, a note in someone's log -- even if just one person! -- that said "I knew all along." But if it was there, it was buried deeply in a confidential report or personal log that he would never see. ::
Kells: I didn't expect that.
DeVeau: He also killed my babies.
Kells: He what?
DeVeau: Yeah. I mean, I thought maybe if he had to take care of something, it might help. But...he killed them. Well, actually, he killed one of them. I managed to somehow get the other to not die.
Kells: Yes-- yes, but-- your children--
DeVeau: Oh. No. I mean...they were plants. African violets. I gave them a couple cause I'm constantly growing them so I constantly have tons of them around. They're _really_ easy to propagate.
:: He breathed a sigh of relief. The fake Kells' abandonment of his scuppered ship was enough to lay a blight on his name-- the reactions of Egan Manno, of Ross, of Reynolds were enough to show him that -- but suppose he actually had committed homicide? Aron shook his head; if that were true, he probably would have been arrested on sight, deaged or not. ::
DeVeau: I'd offer you one, but I'd have to have a solemn vow that you'd take care of it and not let it die.
:: The offer piqued his interest at once. If he interpreted it correctly, and he thought he did, then it wasn't simply the offer of a plant. She was testing him: How much of you was in him, and how much of him is now in you? Aron was happy to put some distance between himself and the old man who hadn't been. ::
Kells: I'll take it if you offer it. I'm a scientist, too, you know. A geneticist primarily, but I worked with plants for many years during my training. Afterward, I moved on to some more, hm, exotic specimens, but I can take care of an African violet, have no fear.
DeVeau: That's fine. Do you...have any more specific questions for me? I'm sorry I've not been very helpful thus far.
Kells: No, no, you've been very helpful. I have just one more question for you.
:: It was, he hesitated to mention, the single question he really wanted answered. ::
Kells: How will people react if I come back for good? To this ship, say, or to the station, or even to the region?
Kells: Yes, there are enough new faces that I suppose that's true. But surely plenty of them will have heard the name 'Kells,' too. I don't want to be disruptive to any mission out here, even if that disruption is solely my presence.
:: He nodded, not exactly satisfied, but sure that he'd gotten more of an answer than he would have gotten from someone with a red collar. ::
DeVeau: Um, anyway...do you mind if I ask some questions of my own?
Kells: Not at all. I've monopolized enough of your time. Ask away.
DeVeau: Well, this 'Ring' entity you spoke of. I'd really like to hear more about it - if you're willing to talk about it.
Kells: Of what it was -- or is, I suppose -- and of where I encountered it, and how, and what little history I gleaned, yes. I'd be happy to tell you.
Kells: What it did to me, during those nine months I was aboard. I don't-- I've talked about it with counselors and the like, and I have those experiences buried deep down now, and there I'd like them to stay. For now.