Chapter 6

Cawdor was still fully dressed and still on the couch the following morning when Natasha arrived.

"Good Lord! Cawdor what's the matter?" Natasha said in alarm.

"I look like crap. Sorry. I'll go and take a shower." Cawdor muttered, trying to walk upright through the pain.

"You'll sit down and let me send for Dr. Murphy. Hell you look horrible. Did you get checked out yesterday?" Natasha moved a tangled dreadlock away from Cawdor's clammy, pale forehead.

"I'm not sick, believe it or not." Cawdor tried to smile.

"I'll go with the 'not'. I'll get the Doctor."

"He won't can do anything, Natasha. I'm not sick and I'm not human. I wasn't injured in the incident yesterday. It's because I'm here and not on Bedlam." Cawdor struggled to the bathroom and Natasha took up position right outside the door.

"So it's environmental? You can't tolerate it up here? Cawdor you look awful." Natasha said in concern.

"Not all the time, no. I mistimed ... things. Vanley's configuring our crud to get me home. I'm not sick, Natasha." Cawdor repeated.

"Is there anything I can do? You're obviously in a lot of discomfort." Natasha asked.

"I'll be fine." Cawdor emerged from the bathroom wearing a floor length cotton robe, zipped up the front. "Would you help me tie all this up, please?" They ruffled the straggled looking dreadlocks.

"Do you want me to undo them?" Natasha steered Cawdor back into the room and sat on the couch, while Cawdor flopped onto the floor in front of her. "You're as white as a sheet, especially without the make up."

"I'll plaster it back on later." Cawdor exhaled wearily and tried to ignore their pounding head. "Have you been to see Dale?"

"That's why I came round. He's sore and on pain medication but he's going to be fine. You can go later when you're up to it."

"That wouldn't be a good idea, Natasha." Cawdor said sadly.

"You're right. He'd panic himself into a fit if he saw you. You're hair is beautiful, Cawdor." Natasha complimented.

"Thank you. I've only had it cut once, years ago, and that was only to my rib cage. Vanley wasn't impressed and taught me how to braid and knot it. Hypocrite. Their's is only collar length! Natasha, when I said I couldn't go and see Dale, I meant I won't see him at all now. I have to leave." Cawdor ran her fingers through her de-braided hair. "Needs washed again. It's gone fluffy."

"You have to leave without saying goodbye?" Natasha asked in dismay and Cawdor nodded.

"Once I'm gone, will you tell him your atmosphere was affecting me? Don't tell him I looked like I'd been exhumed, just tell him I had no choice but to go back." Cawdor hung their head.

"Yes of course. I think he'd want to hear it from you though." Natasha said seriously.

"I can't. If I could, I would." Cawdor felt exhausted all over again.

"Cawdor! For shit's sake the communicators are all to soddery!" Vanley's swearing crackled into the room via the communicator.

"Vanley!" Cawdor stumbled towards the hailer, ignoring the fact that this was an illegal communication and the Captain was right there in the room. "Vanley? Vanley! Oh get back here you steaming great queen!"

"Cawdor. We have a problem." Vanley's voice was distorted and almost obscured by static. "Whatever technology Foley has on that cruiser is playing havoc with the shield."

"So get the Boffins onto it!" Cawdor shrieked.

"Oh I never thought of that!" Vanley's sarcasm was evident, even through the crackles. "We can't get you down, Cawdor."

"What?" Cawdor sobbed. "Vanley, you have to! I'll be in full phase by tomorrow and it's not compatible to all these fixed genders!"

"I can't do anything about it Cawdor. Kendrew and the Boffs are working flat out to stabilise it. Just hang in there. I'm sorry Cawdor, be strong." The communicator hissed horribly and spluttered into silence.

"Damn blast and buggery!" Cawdor ranted hysterically. "Er ... sorry, Natasha, I forgot you were there." They sat down and held their head in two shaking hands.

"Our research cruiser is affecting Bedlam's magnetic shield?" Natasha said in shock. "I have to tell Foley. He'll have to pull out until it's stabilised. Is this disruption dangerous to Bedlam?"

"Not directly, no." Cawdor went to the wash basin and splashed water on their face. "We manipulate the shield to control the Fifeogen. If the shield's buggered, then Vanley can't open corridors through the poxy stuff. I can't get back."

"I'll speak to the Admiral." Natasha went for the door.

"Natasha. Don't let anyone else in here. No Brass, no doctors, not even Dale. Just you. Please Natasha. It's important that I have your company only." Cawdor pleaded.

"I'll see to it." Natasha said firmly. "Go and rest Cawdor." She hurried out to find Admiral Foley.

The Admiral was far from impressed with being pulled out of a meeting with his Commodores. He was even less impressed to discover that this issue was only affecting one Bedlite while the rest were probably totally oblivious.

"Sir, Ambassador Cawdor is the most important person we've ever had on this Station. We can't let them suffer needlessly, sir. All it would take is for you to remove the cruiser long enough for Cawdor to get home. I've no doubt that the Bedlites will adapt the shield in time but Cawdor needs to be back home now." Natasha tried to stay calm.

"I'm sure a while longer as our guest won't endanger his ... her ... life. The generators and equipment on board the cruiser will be checked thoroughly. If any of them aren't up to Commonwealth standards, then we'll pull out until they're renovated." Foley stated flatly.

"Sir, our levels of hospitality are not in question!" Natasha exclaimed. "Cawdor is struggling to cope in our atmosphere. They're in extreme distress. Admiral Foley it would be cruel to knowingly strand them here."

"You should be careful with those sorts of insinuations, Captain Crown. I have every faith in the Bedlites to fix their shield in a timely manner while we do our part and check the cruiser's equipment. I'm sure you'll see to it that Murphy and his medics are completely at Cawdor's disposal. I must resume my meeting, Captain. I've put several members of the high Admiralty on hold." Foley grabbed his notes and marched out of Natasha's office.

"Unbelievable." Natasha spoke out loud to herself. "I wonder how he'd fare if he was stranded on Bedlam." She went to inform Cawdor of Admiral Foley's decision. She found the Ambassador pacing the floor in a state of agitation.

"I didn't think he'd move." Cawdor wiped their palms on their robe then sat down. "I've upchucked down the toilet."

"There has to be something I can do, Cawdor." Natasha said desperately. "Surely some of our medicines would work? Even if it's just to make you more comfortable."

"You make me more comfortable." Cawdor smiled weakly.

"I'll do all I can. Dale ..."

"No." Cawdor shook her head. "I miss him and think about him all the time but he can't be here. Just you."

"As you wish but what about when he asks why he hasn't seen you? What about when I have to tell him he can't come here? Cawdor he won't stay away just because I say so. Wouldn't you want to know why if you were him?" Natasha brought Cawdor some tea and they were shaking so much that they had to grab the cup with two hands.

"You think I'm bottling out." Cawdor spilled tea down herself and put the cup down.

"I don't think you're the bottling out type." Natasha smiled. "If my being here helps, then that's fine by me. I'd be here anyway, no matter what your condition."

"I've said before how beautiful you are. Don't ever lose that, Natasha. You're beautiful on every level." Cawdor stood up again. "So when do you see your husband again?"

"Next week." Natasha smiled happily. "Hopefully he'll be here for two weeks. I had planned a trip to Ferogon but that's a no go if Admiral Foley's still here."

"Well the location isn't important providing you're with the right person. Some people carry the whole cosmos right there inside of them." Cawdor smiled. "I think your Greg is one such person."

"You're right. He's one in a million and I'm lucky to have him. I'm off to see Dale. I'll tell him you're in communication with Vanley."

"I'll see if I can reach him. Thanks Natasha, for everything."

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