In Which: Raman wakes up.
Raman Çelik was well-known as a pragmatic man. He always saw the reality of what was before him, with all of its attendant possibility and detail, and had a knack for choosing the most efficient solution to any problem. He could fix a generator or defuse a bar fight, and he always knew when it was time to cut his losses and move on. For years people had said that Captain Çelik could turn straw into gold–or bullshit into steak. He found those descriptions tiresome. People who said such things about him tended to have slow minds and no imagination, and he almost always ignored them.
His own imagination was failing him at the moment. He supposed it was medication-induced grogginess. He had known when he woke, even with his eyes closed, that he was not on Exeter. The room smelled wrong. Even in the antiseptic confines of her infirmary–and his nose told him he was in someone’s infirmary–he knew the odors of his ship.
The infirmary was on her starboard side, opposite the engine room. It would still be intact.
The engine room.
What had they been doing? His gunners were in the engine room. They had fired, and they had missed, but why? Something was wrong. They were all dead, of course, but there was something else. His own survival, perhaps. With his ship gut-shot, he should not be here. Duty dictated that he should go down with her. Perhaps he had, and this sterile, odd-smelling infirmary was some sort of near-death hallucination.
He opened his eyes and squinted into the bright light of the ceiling. “Fucking hell,” he croaked, forcing his voice through his dry throat, “turn down the fucking lights.”
A man’s deep voice said something unintelligible, and the light dimmed, but not enough. A moment later, a head and shoulders appeared in his line of sight, silhouetted by the illuminated ceiling. “How are you feeling, Captain Çelik?”
Should he know the voice? “That’s a stupid fucking question,” he said. He had been drugged. He had passed out from pain and blood loss. He was supposed to be dead. Who was this idiot?
“Mentally fit, I see,” the voice said, and Raman relaxed. “How much do you remember?”
Something had happened. What had that PSI doctor said…? “I lost my leg.”
“You did,” confirmed the voice. “Doctor Xiao did a nice job of cauterizing the wound. We shouldn’t have any trouble growing you a graft. But in the meantime, it’s going to hurt like a son of a bitch.”
And just like that, Raman’s brain registered the pain: white-hot, nearly numbing, all the nerve endings screaming with nothing attached. He could feel his toes, the toes he did not have anymore. He had always thought that was a myth. “What about the rest of me?”
“Concussion, contusions, small femoral fracture, one deep cut on your back under a left rib. About what you’d expect for a firefight.”
He liked this doctor and his dry practicality. “Who are you?”
“Commander Robert Hastings, chief medical officer, CCSS Galileo,” the man said smoothly.
Raman frowned. The name was familiar. “We’ve met.”
“Three years ago, on Aleph Six.”
“Did we get on?”
“Not even a little bit.”
That made sense. Raman preferred people who were not so easy to charm. “When can I get up?”
Of all things, that question made the doctor hedge. “The drug Doctor Xiao gave you is going to be in your system for a few more hours,” he began.
Raman interrupted him with a snort. “Cut the shit, Doctor-Commander Hastings. If you don’t know, say so.”
“I don’t know.”
Another pause. Raman was becoming annoyed, and it was clearing his head. “In cases such as this,” the doctor said cautiously, “the psychological aftereffects of the incident are less predictable than the physical.”
“The ‘incident’ being the crippling of my ship. The deaths of my crew.”
“Did we talk long, on Aleph Six?”
“No, Captain Çelik.”
“Then I forgive you for talking like a mealymouthed, muddleheaded psychiatrist. Please don’t call it ‘the incident.’ It was an attack, a battle, and Exeter lost. That we will remedy that situation is not in question. Are we clear here?”
“Yes, sir.” Hastings sounded unhappy, but he was, as Raman had guessed, a practical man.
“Good. Now when can I get up?”
“I’ll need a temporary prosthetic.”
“I can’t recommend that, sir.”
Good Lord, he had forgotten how aggravating doctors could be. “Why would that be?”
“A prosthetic that is not specifically grown for your physiology will be uncomfortable, and by its nature not properly functional.”
“That’s acceptable for a temporary.”
“Exactly, Captain. But if it stays on too long, or if it’s damaged while it’s grafted to you, we’d be looking at an above-the-knee amputation and a much more complicated growth for a permanent fix. Recovery time will be months instead of weeks, and you may never see full mobility out of the device.”
“What’s too long?”
Hastings shook his head, defeated. “Three days. Possibly four, if you don’t damage it. But I can’t give you painkillers while you’re wearing it, sir. They’ll interfere with the electrical impulses and you won’t be able to control it.”
Raman took a moment to let the heat of his missing leg wash over him, and his head swam. “Will it hurt more or less than it does now?”
“Less,” Hastings said. “Probably.”
“How long will it take you to attach it?”
“An hour, maybe a little more.”
Raman nodded. “Proceed then, Doctor,” he said, letting his eyes close again. “And when you’re finished, and you can see your way clear to letting me get the fuck out of here, I will speak to my crew standing on my own two feet. So to speak.”
He heard nothing for a moment, and then he heard the shuffle of feet as Hastings turned and walked away. Definitely practical, Raman thought. Practical people were so much more useful than empathic ones.
Copyright ©2016 by Elizabeth Bonesteel. All rights reserved.