Friday, January 1

Infirmary, Echidna's Daughter: 1.1.112 - Seeing Things

The infirmary was quiet, eerily so; aside from the gentle humming of the equipment attached to the young Khanid woman laying on the medical table next to her, the only sounds in the room were the steady rhythm of her own breathing and the periodic flipping of a page of the book in her lap, a leatherbound volume with a faded but intricate gold-colored inlay on the spine.

The Intaki's eyes were red and tired, her posture slouched as she sat with her legs crossed on a table next to the first woman. She turned the page again, then let out a small yawn as she reached up and rubbed her eyes gently. Letting her gaze drop back towards the pages of her book, she sighed softly before gently closing the book and casting a somewhat empty look off towards the entrance to the infirmary, away from the woman on the table next to her.

The monotonous droning of the equipment was interrupted by a sudden, familiar giggle from behind her, and a cheerful voice:

"'My god, Morwen, you look like crap."

She froze. She couldn't believe her ears; she couldn't possibly be hearing that voice. The doctors had been still as far away from a solution a few hours ago as they had been when her companion had first fallen into her coma. They couldn't have found a way to remove the virus infesting her friend's implants in that time, could they? Or even if they had found a solution, why would they have applied it without being in the infirmary? Could they even do that? She took a breath, then replied cautiously.

"... I know. Thanks, I think?"

There was a hint of amusement in the voice now. "No, seriously. When was the last time you got some proper rest?"

The Intaki -- Morwen -- sighed. "Don't know," she stated tiredly. "Probably several weeks ago."

The voice's response was almost incredulous. "Oh, come on. That's just silly."

"You'd have trouble sleeping too," came Morwen's blunt reply. She turned the book over in her lap, then shifted uncomfortably where she sat on the medical table. "I didn't think things could get worse," she said. "But... yeah, shows what I know, I guess."

The voice was a little exhasperated now, with a hint of expectancy. "Oh come on. Aren't you even going to look around?"

Morwen's response was quiet and subdued. "Do I want to? Should I?"

The voice scoffed. "Hallucinations have feelings too, you know." A pause, then: "All right, no, I suppose I don't, but c'mon, your brain put in a lot of effort here."

Morwen opened her mouth to make what, knowing her, probably would have been a snarky response, but she closed it again and turned her head slowly. Her eyes were dull and hollow, any semblance of the light that usually shone there long gone as she turned to face what was supposedly the source of the voice she is speaking to.

Staring back at her was Reppy -- the woman who should have been lying on the cot next to her -- or at least some illusion of her. She was perched backwards on a chair, presumably not wearing much, if anything at all; the back of the chair hid all but suggestion. The impish grin on her face was as familiar as ever, if slightly blurry.

"Maybe Suzie was right, and I should stay away from Burn," Morwen commented, more than a little surprised by the sight.

'Reppy' grinned. "Or maybe you're overworked, tired beyond belief, and kinda horny. Seriously, when was the last time you got any?"

Morwen almost glared at her. "No comment," she stated forcefully.

"I'm your own brain," the hallucination replied with a smirk. "I can't exactly tell anyone."

Morwen's response came with little more than a blank stare. "I'm not sure if I can even trust my own head anymore, thanks."

The illusion tilted its head a little, almost as if disappointed. "Honestly," it said, wriggling around a bit on the chair, as if trying to get comfortable. "So come on, what's wrong?"

Morwen sighed, then turned herself the rest of the way around, looking into her lap. "Everything, it seems like," she mumbled sadly.

Her hallucinatory companion smiled kindly, then spoke. "Well, let's see," it started, counting things off on its fingers. "I'm in a coma, Inara's giving you the cold shoulder, Lilly's not working out, and you're having second thoughts about your career. That about cover it?"

There was a long pause.

"Something like that," Morwen said, nodding a little.

'Reppy' looked to be deep in thought for a moment, then grinned. "At this point, an interesting question occurs," she began. "I mean, I'm not real, we've established this. But if I start giving you advice, does that make me a personification of your subconscious, your own personal devil's advocate, or just demonstration of the fact that you're horny as fuck?" She brought her hands up to her ears and made a gargoyle-like face. "Or maybe I'm some trace of the Masque, fucking with your braaaaaaaaaaaain," she added in a silly, overdramatic voice.

Morwen arched an eyebrow at the gesture. "Or maybe you're actually awake, being just as much of a pain in the ass as usual," she replied, her voice level, with a slight hint of amusement -- or possibly irritation -- bleeding through. "And the lump on the table next to me is actually the hallucination."

The apparition grinned widely. "Ooh, good one!" it giggled. "Didn't think of that. Or did I? Or should I say we?" It waved a hand dismissively. "Never mind the metaphysics. Why'd you come to be a Ghost?"

Morwen gave 'Reppy' a look that read "haven't we already discussed this?" before sighing and responding quietly. "Lilly really wanted me to, and I didn't have anywhere else to go. I didn't know anyone else I could work with or trust."

"You knew what you were getting into," came the reply. "So why's it suddenly bothering you, what your day job is? Being a capsuleer is hardly a job for the completely sane."

Morwen looked back at the hallucination, her expression a little pained. "I sent a pilot six days out of training to the cloning vats just because I was in a bad mood... I don't want to be like that." She glanced away, continuing. "I don't want to be a monster."

The mirage scoffed. "What, you're worried about one sod who has the luxury of getting up and walking around again a few minutes later, but not all those poor Serpentis you keep killing who won't?"

"Sometimes I wonder if I should just stick to wormhole work," Morwen mused. "I'm not hurting anyone that way."

"No," was the hallucination's reply. "You just think you aren't. We know so little about the Sleepers that you can comfortably tell yourself that they might as well be asteroids, it doesn't matter how many you kill."

"We've never found any signs of life," Morwen protested.

"And our definition of life is the only one?" The hallucination waved a hand vaguely, blurring in the air slightly. For a split second, Morwen thought the apparition had taken the image of something else, but by the time that it registered in her mind, it was back to what it had always been. "You're a capsuleer. You're a combat pilot. You're death incarnate. Why's it less objectionable to kill a few thousand ordinary people than to inconvenience some punk who shouldn't have been out here? If you want a full-blown moral crisis, I suggest a convent."

Morwen frowned. "It was a complete mismatch. He didn't even get a chance to shoot back," she commented, pausing for a moment. "I enjoy the rush of combat... but how can I live with myself if I enjoy just... slaughtering someone like that?"

"Cos you're feeling guilty now?" The hallucination smiled kindly, though it appeared to be struggling to suppress a laugh. "You want a monster, go chat with Mortis a bit. You think he's felt a scrap of guilt over a single kill he's ever made, capsuleer or non?"

Morwen grimaced at the mention of Mortis, unpleasant memories resurfacing from the last time she had spoken to Reppy's brother. "After last time, I don't really want to talk to him unless I have to, no."

"Can't say I blame you," her non-corporeal 'friend' replied, smiling lazily. "You talked with anyone else about this in the Ghosts?"

Morwen shook her head. "Don't know who to go to," she started. "Inara would be entirely unhelpful even if she weren't being so blind right now, and Age is busy dealing with her, and..." Morwen trailed off, a couple names still on the tip of her tongue; even though she was really just talking to herself, the names she would have said felt so obvious to her that it felt silly to mention them.

The hallucination looked at her, head tilted slightly, as if trying to guess the names that hadn't been given. "I'm not exactly chatty at the moment, am I?"

Depends on your point of view, Morwen thought to herself silently as 'Reppy' continued speaking.

"What about Kimochi?" it suggested. "Or hell, Myrhial might spare you some time if she knew you were having trouble."

Morwen sighed a little, looking down into her lap. "Aldrith yelled at me when I tried to talk to him."

The hallucination just looked at her. "He's a fucking loyalist," it stated. "What did you expect? He's not gonna be able to have a rational discussion about piracy with you."

"He's never yelled at me about it before," Morwen mumbled in protest.

'Reppy' shrugged. "My point stands, sweetie. A non-pirate isn't going to be helpful. You need someone who's been through this to give some advice. Or at least someone neutral."

Morwen looked away uneasily, still mumbling. "Normally I'd go to you or Lilly."

The apparition just looked at her, a smirk on its face. "The girl who got petrified of even locking a target for ages and the woman who probably doesn't even remember her first kill?" It grinned a bit. "Nice choices," it added, with a hint of playful sarcasm.

"I don't know who I am anymore," Morwen said, looking into her lap again. "Or even what... other than just a mess."

'Reppy' looked at her, smiling gently. "Well... I could say all sorts of things," the hallucination started. "But you wouldn't believe most of them."

Morwen sniffed a little, glancing quickly at her 'companion.' "Of course I wouldn't," she said, her voice sounding as if she were holding back tears. "Why should I believe myself about anything?"

"Exactly," came the response. "Telling you things like when I'm going to wake up you'll just dismiss as wishful thinking. So I won't bother."

Morwen looked away, her gaze subdued, almost sad. "It'd give me something to look forward to," she said quietly. "Especially after that last talk with Lilly."

"Second week of February," the hallucination responded quickly, almost eagerly. 'Reppy' winked at Morwen when she cast a brief glance towards her. "Trust me. By then the virus will have decayed enough to be shut down by the native security systems."

A moment passed, then Morwen spoke cautiously, the smallest hint of humor in her voice. "Why am I so tempted to start a betting pool on this and try and see if I can make money from it? And how would I even know that about the virus?" she added, her expression now confused.

"Doubt Inara would approve," her illusionary friend said, grinning. "And don't bother asking the doctors about it, they don't even know that the virus can decay."

"Still doesn't explain how I'd even know this," Morwen pressed. "Or have reason to guess."

The hallucination simply shrugged. "Doesn't, does it? Second week of February. You'll see."

Morwen looked up. "You'll make my life miserable if I do start a betting pool, won't you," she said, an accusing look in her eyes. 'Reppy' only smiled at this.

"I don't think I need to," she said. "Everyone else is doing a good job already."

"No kidding," Morwen sighed.

"Now come on. You should sleep." The hallucination smiled again, gesturing to the medical table that Morwen was sitting on as well as its neighbor. "Talking to yourself will drive you mad, y'know," it added with a wink before fading from view.

"That assumes I'm not already mad, doesn't it," Morwen commented out loud to herself after the hallucination had disappeared. She looked around the infirmary a little, noting that as before, the room was entirely silent, except for the sounds of breathing and the soft humming of the equipment nearby. She rubbed her forehead gently with one hand for a moment, then set the book aside. She lay down on her side on the cot, staring tiredly at her friend on the table next to her as she carefully took her near hand into her own.

It only took a few minutes for sleep to overcome her; despite being plagued with nightmares, it was still a very deep and restful sleep, something that she'd needed very much for a long while.

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