Clara had never been so comfortable. She blinked open her eyes to brightly lit, white, clean surroundings. And most importantly, it was quiet.

When she, Ezra, and Benjamin had arrived at the hospital ship, Ezra had basically been unconscious. An army of doctors and nurses greeted the trio at the transport dock and immediately whisked him away. Clara had tried to follow, but one of the remaining nurses held her back.

"I need to check you out first, miss," he said.

Clara shook her head. "No, I'm fine. I just want to go with him."

"He is in good hands," the nurse reassured her. "Let us help you."

"Clara, you look dead on your feet," Benjamin advised her. "At the very least, you need rest."

The adrenalin of the confrontation was wearing off, and the fight leaving Clara's body. She nodded, giving in, and slumped in a wheelchair.

The nurse had brought her into a private room. After a thorough examination, he told her that she just needed rest.

Clara asked to clean herself up first. She hated feeling this filthy.

Clara nearly cried when the nurse brought her to a bathtub full of warm water. She usually cleaned herself from a bowl. Rarely had she taken a full bath.

Clara had sat in the bath for so long she almost fell asleep right then and there, but she managed to keep her eyes open long enough to clean off all the grime of the past hours and wash her hair. The nurse had given her soft, clean, white pants and a shirt, and after she changed, he led her back to the private room. The moment her head touched the hospital bed pillow, Clara felt sleep overtake her.

Now, Clara slipped on a pair of slippers that sat next to her bed and cautiously opened the door. She looked up and down the hallway, but then straightened up. She wasn't a prisoner, here. She didn't have to ask permission to leave.

And no one questioned her as she walked down the hall. Nurses and doctors hurried past her, but everything was still relatively calm. Still, Clara didn't want to ask anyone who passed her where Ezra was; they all seemed so busy.

Clara approached a desk that sat at an intersection of two main hallways. "Excuse me?" she asked the nurse who sat behind it.

The nurse looked up. "Can I help you?" she asked.

"I'm looking for my friend," Clara told her. "His name is Ezra. We came in…" Clara trailed off. She had no idea how long she had been asleep. "We came in together," she amended.

But the nurse was already nodding. "Ezra, yes," she said. "We're all aware. And you must be Clara" She got up. "Follow me."

Apparently, she and Ezra had caused a stir when they came in to the hospital. Clara couldn't think of another reason why a random nurse would know exactly where Ezra was and know who Clara was.

"He's probably still asleep," the nurse said as they walked. "The doctors didn't find any physical issues with him, just severe malnutrition, dehydration, and exhaustion."

"Only that?" Clara asked drily.

"Fortunately, those are issues that we can handle," the nurse assured her. "The doctors put him on fluids and nutrients and gave him a sedative." She stopped and gently knocked on a door. When there was no response, she opened the door. "Go on in. You can sit with him."

"Thank you." The nurse shut the door behind Clara as she slowly approached Ezra's bed.

The doctors had cleaned him up. Tubes filled with liquid ran from a machine Clara didn't recognize into Ezra's arms. What looked like a simplified version of an oxygen filter sat on his face.

Clara sank into a chair next to his bed and took one of his hands. She stared at his face. He looked more peaceful than she had seen him in years. "Thank you, Ezra," she whispered. "I think everything is going to be alright."

She sat in silence with him for a while. There was nothing else to do, but Clara didn't mind the peace. She could actually relax here.

After maybe an hour, there was a knock on the door. Clara called for whoever it was to come in, and a smile lit up her face.

Her three siblings came tentatively in the room, but when Emme saw her, she ran up to her and jumped in Clara's lap.

"Emme, be careful," Amyeliana warned.

"It's alright." Clara stroked Emme's hair and looked up at the twins. She caught sight of Cadence behind the group. She winked at Clara and then left the room to give her some privacy.

Archibald went up to Ezra's side opposite of Clara. "Is he going to be alright?" he asked.

Clara nodded. "Yes, Archi, I think he's going to be just fine." Her three younger siblings all physically relaxed at her words. "He needs rest and some medicine, but he'll be alright."
"What happened, Clara?" Amyeliana asked.

"I'll tell you all about it," Clara promised. "But not right now."

Clara unwrapped Emme's arms from around her waist. Emme had attached herself to Clara, curled up in her lap, but now Clara lifted her up so she could stand, and then put Emme back down in the chair.

"You three should take some time with him," Clara said. "I need to find something to eat. Will you be alright by yourself?"

The twins both nodded. "We'll be fine," Archibald assured her.

"Will you come back soon?" Emme asked quietly.

Clara kissed the top of her head. "Yes, of course," she said. "I'm just hungry. And I need to talk to Cadence."
She left them settling in around Ezra's bed and was pleased to find Cadence waiting in the hallway just outside of the door.

"Any idea where to find food in this place?" Clara asked.

Cadence gave a knowing smile. "Absolutely. There's a dining hall on the top floor."
"Brilliant. Let's go there."
The hall was mostly empty. There were stations set up around the edge of the room, each with a different option.

"Do we have to pay?" Clara asked.

Cadence shook her head. "No, just go up and ask for what you want."

"Er, any suggestions?"
Cadence laughed. "Here, just sit." She pointed at a table. "I'll get something that you'll like."
When it came to food, Clara trusted Cadence's judgement, so Clara did as she said and watched her friend go up to one counter and talk to the staff member behind it. A few minutes later, Cadence came back with a tray piled with steaming rice, vegetables, and chicken. She set it down in front of Clara, went away again, and came back with two glasses filled with light blue liquid and a bowl of soup for herself.

"It's blue," Clara said, staring at the glass.

"Drink it," Cadence said. "It's good."
Clara took a small sip. It was light and sweet, unlike anything she had ever tasted. She took a larger gulp.

"I would go slowly," Cadence advised her. "You haven't had sufficient solid food in days. You don't want to shock your body by inhaling all of that all at once."
Clara had been fully prepared to start shoveling her meal in her mouth as fast as possible, but heeded Cadence's advice and took a small bite of chicken, chewing it slowly.

"It might be a bit bland," Cadence said sympathetically. "But until you get stronger, keeping spices to a minimum is probably be best."
"Still better than rations."
Cadence smiled and then pulled out a newsletter out of her pocket. "I figure this is what you want to know about," she said.

Clara took the paper from her. Thaddeus London and Harrison's parents were pictured in the center. The headline read: Slavery Scandal Shuts Down Revered Factories.

"Revered?" Clara grumbled. "Revered by whom?"

Cadence shrugged. "The elite community, apparently," she said.

Clara skimmed the article, but there wasn't anything new. "Thanks to Benjamin?" she asked.

Cadence nodded.

"He works fast." Clara put the paper down and continued to eat her meal in small bites. "How are things back at the manor?"

"The manor? A bit chaotic, I suppose. Although, once I got all the wedding guests out, things calmed down." Cadence rolled their eyes. "I've never had so many people complain to me. It was as if they thought I had been the one to personally cancel the wedding."


"But once we got everyone out, the staff was just confused. No one knew what was happening, except for me, of course, but I really didn't want to get into all of that at the moment."
"So what did you do?"
Cadence smirked. "Ate all the wedding food. I figured Harrison wouldn't mind."
Clara laughed. "Well, at least it didn't go to waste."
"But, since I suspect you didn't actually want to know about the manor, I can tell you Harrison did make a reappearance," Cadence said with a sly smile.

"How did he seem?"
"All things considered, not horrible." Cadence gave a small shrug. "I mean, his entire world did just fall apart. I know he wanted the truth to get out, but that can't be easy. When he came back, he had a brief word with the staff, basically assuring us that we would still have a job, and then shut himself in his room."
"If his parents are found guilty and charged, what happens to the airship? And all their money?" Clara hadn't even thought about that.

"It goes to Harrison," Cadence said simply.

"And he's just been shut up in his chambers?" Clara asked.

"Honestly, I'm not sure what he's doing," Cadence said. "But I don't think he's up there moping. I bring food up and take down empty dishes. I wouldn't worry about him, Clara. He's strong."

Clara appreciated her reassurances, but she still wished she could see him.

"And how's Ezra?" Cadence asked.

Clara shrugged. "He hasn't woken up yet," she said. "But the doctors say he'll be fine."
"You should get back to him." Cadence eyed Clara's empty plate. "I'll see you soon."
On her way back to Ezra's room, Clara bumped into the nurse who treated her when she first came in.

"Oh, good, you're up," he said.

"Right, uh, hello," Clara said, startled by his genuine cheeriness. "Actually, I have a question for you."

"Go ahead."

"My youngest sister has a respiratory illness that comes back a few times a year," she said. "Can we get someone to look at her?"
He nodded immediately. "From what I understand, we're to do whatever you need from us," he said. "I'd love to meet her."

They stayed in the hospital for about a week. The twins came and went, but Clara, Ezra, and Emme stayed the entire time.

Ezra woke up not long after Clara introduced Emme to the nurse. He seemed disoriented at first, but got better every day. He was still weakened at the end of the week, but was able to walk on his own and get down solid foods. His doctor put him on a strict diet and warned him against overeating.

Clara had rolled her eyes when the doctor said that, and Ezra had to suppress his laughter. There was never a risk of overeating with the rations they got.

Emme was given several tests to determine the cause of her illness, and what the doctors found was Clara's current source of worry.

"There is damage to her lungs," the doctor had told her. "Not irreparable, but it's important to make sure no more damage occurs."
"How do we make sure of that?" Clara asked.

"Keep her away from toxins she might be breathing in," the doctor said. "Try to keep her active."

Clara stared at her. "We live on earth," she said flatly.

The doctor pressed her lips together. "Here." She opened a drawer and pulled out a box. "This will help with keeping her breathing air fresh." Inside the box lay one of the most complicated oxygen filters Clara had ever seen.
"What about when she's inside?" Clara asked.

"Does your dwelling have filters?"
Clara nodded.

"Then honestly, I would recommend that she still wear her normal filter inside," the doctor said. "This one is only necessary when she's outside."
Clara nodded, but she knew that Emme wouldn't be happy with having to wear the filter all the time. But that was a battle to fight later.

Now, Clara, Ezra, and Emme stood in the transport dock, waiting for a ship to bring them back down to earth. The hospital had given them all clean clothing. It was basic, but it was the first new clothing items any of them had received in years.

Emme turned her new filter over in her hands. "And this will help me not get sick?" she asked for the hundredth time.

Clara nodded. "If you wear it," she said. "You have to listen to the doctors, Emme. And they'll know if you've been following their directions." They had scheduled an appointment in two weeks' time for Emme to come back and see if there had been any improvements to her lungs.

"Well, I'm just glad to get out of here," Ezra commented. "I want to have solid ground under my feet."
"I want to go home, too," Clara admitted. "It will be nice for all of us to live under one roof again."
No one could argue with that.