Year 2598 – Junelle Station
“Uh— More tests? We just got back from Ethos, and I’m behind—” Nash frowned as he was cut off. Fuck. He listened as Doctor Kruvic’s chief assistant, Doctor Blake Huri, outlined the following day’s schedule. Bastard. You’re just doing this because Vivienne isn’t here. “Yes, sir. Zero-seven hundred. I’ll be there.” Nash closed the connection and put his digipad away. I should just start sleeping in the lab; I’m never at work anymore.
He stretched and was promptly reminded as to why it was a bad idea; every joint in his body hurt. Unforeseen side-effects of the aversion therapy. He grunted as he remembered how quick the experts at Ethos had been to dismiss his discomfort. Here, have some pills and stop doing anything physical. Nash caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror over the sink. His clothes hung loosely, emphasizing how much muscle mass he’d lost in the last two years. Who knew so much of me was powered by aggression? Nash pulled a bottle of beer out from the desk drawer and snorted, remembering he wasn’t allowed to drink before tests. Fuck. He put it back and slammed the drawer shut. All he wanted to do was relax and lie down, but now he was too angry to sleep. He felt his stomach churn as his brief bout of temper triggered a reaction.
Calm down, or you’ll make yourself sick again, the Kind voice whispered.
Nash fell into his chair and fumbled in his breast pocket for his cigarettes. He needed to vent to someone who cared. Doctor Kruvic had stayed at Ethos and wasn’t due back for another week. Nash lit up and inhaled deeply, enjoying the rush of nicotine as it hit his system. He took another drag, then powered up his old hard-link system and waited for it to boot.
Evan, please be online. Nash’s fingers blurred as he typed the password sequence that let him enter his secret online haven, the BBS. A single line of text appeared on the screen.
C01: Welcome back, N01. You have been gone for 2 weeks, 4 hours and 17 minutes.
N01: Good evening, Control. Is E01 online?
Nash scrolled through the new posts on the forum while he waited for a response. The only thing new was in requests, and he quickly checked the files that had been left for him to sort and repair. Four new directories, two encrypted. All of them in a dead language.
An alert flashed at the bottom of the screen.
C01: E01 has been offline for 4 days, 19 hours and 47 minutes. E02 is online now. Would you like me to query his availability?
Damn. Nash frowned as he considered bothering Ed with his problems. He decided against it. His real bond was with Evan. They were kindred spirits despite the twenty-year difference in their ages. No one used their real names on the BBS, it was a matter of security given the tensions between Korlune and Ankoresh. Nash had broken the unspoken rule and traced everyone, to prove that he could and to feel more connected to the group. He’d discovered that E01 and E02 were Chief Field Tech Evan Stannic and his partner, Chief Weapons Mech Ed Olivier. Both men were famous in Ankoresh. Too bad the borders are still closed, I’d love to meet you two in person. Nash knew it was impossible at this point. He stared at the screen, lost in a thousand what-ifs. The message flashed once to remind him that it was still on the screen. Even though it was an AI, Nash didn’t like not answering it.
N01: No, that won’t be necessary. Thank you, Control. Goodnight.
C01: Goodnight, N01.
Nash flagged himself as busy and attempted to lose himself in work, but nothing he found could draw his full attention. His body ached relentlessly. He finished his cigarette and lit a new one.
Something scurried across the floor in his peripheral vision. Reflex made him kick the sonic emitter under his desk, and he watched the tiny silver-colored rodent dart back the way it came. Silverii. Where there’s one, there’s ten. He shuddered as it squeezed its way under the door and disappeared. Not only were they thieves, stealing shiny things for their nests, but they were omnivores. He vividly remembered the stories his sister used to tell him about what the tiny creatures could do to a person in the dark. Nash stood, crossed the room, and came to a halt in front of the bank of lockers that served as his closet. He opened the one closest to the door. Traps, traps, traps… Aha! He found the box they were supposed to be in and sighed when it proved to be empty.
Another silverii darted from behind the lockers and under the door.
Time to start sleeping with the lights on. Nash returned to his desk, to find a message waiting for him from Ed.
E02: I was wondering if you’d started with the files yet?”
N01: Just. I’m not very far along. They’re in Tyr, and I’m still figuring out some of the intricacies of the language.
Nash hit enter and went to get himself a coffee. He returned and found another text. He took a sip, then began to read.
E02: We have a security problem. E01 was picked up by security forces 4 days ago. C01 has confirmed that there have been no new entries using his permissions. There haven’t been any new people join in that time either, so we’re ok right now, but the BBS may be compromised. If so, we’ll have to shutdown for a while.
Nash coughed as the liquid went down the wrong pipe. He almost dropped the mug as he set it down. His fingers found the keyboard, and his first concern poured through them onto the screen.
N01: Why did they take Evan? Were there specific charges? As he typed the last question mark, he realized what he’d divulged. Crap! I’m not supposed to know who they are. Nash waited, each second growing longer than the last. He broke.
N01: Are you going to ban me? He was spared any further torture.
E02: Ha! I knew it. No. We won’t ban you; you just won me a bet, Nash. As far as charges go, I have no idea – nothing’s been announced. The last time Ankoresh Internal Security pulled him in was 10 years ago – Gods know what they’ve stuck in their files since then.
N01: Is there anything I can do?
E02: Yes. I have just the project for you. I should warn you, though, it poses some personal risk.
Nash leaned forward and watched as a new folder was added to his short list. He checked the contents quickly then downloaded them to his personal hard-link system. He opened the folder marked with the number one. First assignment: create data evidence for a series of massive solar flares and then for the electromagnetic storm that follows it. Nash opened the files marked solar phenomenon and scanned the contents.
N01: I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to do. How do massive plasma ejections and solar prominences help Evan?
E02: You’re probably too young to remember, but the files I sent you relate to a storm we had about 15 years ago. The electromagnetic radiation they generated played havoc with hardware on both sides of the border. I need a plausible explanation for why digi-link systems will be interrupted, and why some will fry. I can get what I need in place to disrupt the necessary networks across Ankoresh, but a rogue EMP is a suspicious thing – I don’t want them to automatically think to look for me and my flat-deck. Any hard evidence against Evan should be in the Ankoresh Internal Security Archives. I need you to go in and make sure his file is destroyed. Once you’re done, the EMP will cover your tracks.
N01: Ankoresh still uses hard-link technology in their observatories – someone there is going to note the lack of storm, regardless of the data stream prior to the event.
E02: Unlikely. Professor Runic has had all our telescopes trained on Hybor and the asteroid belt for the last two years. He’s close to proving that Hybor was once Tamyrh’s second moon. Trust me; no one in Ankoresh is looking at the sun. The EMP damage will be convincing enough. Korlune has more observatories – are they all digi-link now?
N01: I think so, but I’d have to check to be sure. I know they’re all connected to the master observatory just outside Merrow Cluster so I can access them through the hub. Hopefully, I can find a way to take them all off-line during this event and simulate the effect of the EM radiation.
E02: Are you okay with this?
N01: Yes. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’ll do my best.
E02: I know you will. The fact that you’re willing to even try means a lot, Nash. Thanks.
N01: Would you like me to damage a few other things while I’m in? It would look less suspicious if more files were corrupted or entirely wiped.
E02: You’re right. Hit the Mount Solomon Observatory archives – old Amsel keeps hard-copy backups so he won’t be hurt by it. You could also wipe the Korsari Engineers file; I downloaded it to our central network last week.
N01: Does AIS keep a backup off-site?
E02: They upgraded everything to digi-link about ten years ago, backup included.
Nash sat back and opened the next file. No, this can’t be right.
N01: Per your info, all their field offices tie directly into this one hub, and their backups can be found on the same network? That’s insane. They’ve got to keep hard-link records or hard-copies somewhere.
E02: They do. I’ve already got someone dealing with that part of the problem.
N01: How much time do we have?
E02: Three days. I’ll be in position in two. Can you, do it?
N01: You’ll have your storm in three days.
Nash logged off, butted out his cigarette and went straight to work.
Silence. Nash stared off into space, admiring the stars before he turned his attention to the task at hand. Floating… Adjust the mass, it’s off. Nash reached out into the expanse and the equations transformed from thought into matter. Plumes of flame erupted from the surface of the sun, dancing around him before arcing out into the black. There was no hot, no cold, and the lack of sound was profoundly peaceful. He directed the flow like a conductor and watched as the waves of energy rippled out into the universe. Nash calculated the disturbance the solar wind shock wave would generate in the magnetosphere when it hit and added the number into his digipad. Perfect. He stared at the small screen as the symbols faded into nothingness. What the hell? A high-pitched beeping sound grew louder, shattering the stillness. Nash felt himself falling backward, and terror gripped him. I’m going to die. His eyes snapped open, and he found himself staring at the ceiling. When did I go to bed? Damn dream. Who the hell would page me this early? He grabbed his digipad and turned off the alert, then looked at the message.
“Dr. Blake Huri – RE: Your appointment at 07:30.”
Nash looked at the time-stamp. That can’t be right. Zero-nine hundred – Shit! He rolled out of bed, grabbed his glasses and pulled on a pair of jeans. The black t-shirt draped across the back of his chair was next, followed by his lab coat. Where the hell are my shoes? Nash remembered putting them under his desk. He hopped across the room as he pulled them on. Damn. Forgot the socks. Nash spotted a pair under his cot and knelt to retrieve them. The second one twitched and suddenly sprouted a tail. Silverii. He pulled his hand back before the tiny rodent could bite him. He dug a pair out of his laundry bag and sat at his desk while he put them on.
They believe you’ve been sick. Take a deep breath. They’re not going to care if you’re late, the Kind voice assured him.
Nash chuckled at its naiveté. Ha! I’ve held them up for three days. I’m willing to bet that Blake is going to be a complete prick about it. He locked his door and sprinted down the corridor in the direction of the Rec-Gen labs, remembering to duck under a low archway as he rounded the corner. Bless you, endorphins. He tuned out the pain and rode the high for as long as he could. The kilometer of corridor went by quickly. Can’t keep this pace up. Nash slowed to a jog as adrenaline-induced nausea threatened to make him sick. Evan’s home. The BBS is safe. Relax. He smiled, reflecting on how well things had gone.
It’s over, and no one’s the wiser, the Kind voice congratulated him.
I hope so. Nash answered as he pressed the call button for the elevator. He jumped as someone tapped him on the shoulder and spun to see who it was.
“Sorry, Nash, I thought you heard me,” the short, black-haired man moved to stand next to him.
“Hey, Kalish. When did you get back?”
“Yesterday. I hate topside recoveries; it takes a week in the shower for your skin to stop itching,” Kalish paused. “Something’s different. Wait, you’re growing a goatee?” He winked mischievously. “Sexy. It suits you.”
Nash ran his hand over his chin and realized he hadn’t shaved for close to five days. “I wish I could say it was a deliberate attempt at style,” he peered into the polished metal doors trying to see himself. “You think I should let it go?”
“Yes. If Ebo could grow facial hair, I would cultivate one.” Kalish rubbed his hand over his smooth, dark skin. “I’ll have to live vicariously through you.”
The elevator doors opened, and they stepped inside.
“Are we ever going to see you in the Mech-Bay again? I miss having decent stuff to build, and I miss you too.”
“Thanks, I miss it all as well.” Nash leaned back against the wall as the doors closed. “Press sixty-one for me, will you?”
“Sixty-one? Wow, they’re calling you up to the Gods these days.” Kalish punched the buttons for their respective floors.
“Not quite, but I’ve got a God’s view. The area I report to is on the East side of the tower, and you can see over the top of the hydroponics dome. The plains North of us are in full bloom right now; it’s a sea of red, orange and green out there. Spring’s a month early, and the transports are kicking up a ton of pollen as they come in on final approach— Well, you were just out there; you know the situation.”
“It was gross; I’m still itchy.” Kalish paused then whispered, “Can you see the Seep from up there?”
“It’s a long way off. Most days you can see the mountains around the Evora basin, but it takes a clear day to see anything of the jungle. It’s like a thin, green ribbon at the base of the blue.” Nash shuddered, as he remembered his time at Farlen Station. I could see the trees from the Mech-Bay.
They both looked up as the electronic voice announced the floor level.
The elevator doors slid open, and Nash peered across the hall into the facing office. “No bio-hazard symbols, no Med-Techs in scrubs. I’d almost forgotten what normal looks like.”
“Take care, Nash. Next time you’re in the Mech-Bay, find me, and I’ll buy you a beer.” Kalish stepped out into the hall, and the doors slid closed behind him.
Nash settled back against the wall, looked up at the camera and waved. “Hello.”
The elevator stopped. “Sixty-one. Recombinant Genetics Labs. Please have your ID ready.” The doors slid open.
Nash stepped out into the reception area and held up his ID. “Korpes, Nash X., ID W-D-T Nine-Four-Two.”
The receptionist looked up at him. “You’re wanted in exam room four, Tech Korpes.”
“Ma’am.” Room four? Damn. Nash shuddered as he remembered his last session there.
Fifty-foot needles, the Sarcastic voice, teased him.
Shut up, Nash pushed the voice aside. He knocked twice on the door and then entered.
“Ah, Tech Korpes. I’ll be with you in a minute. Feeling better, I trust?” Doctor Blake Huri didn’t look up from his digipad. Something on the small screen flashed, and Blake set the device down on the table in front of him. He scrutinized Nash quietly for a moment. “You look awful.”
“Yes, sir. I apologize for not taking the time to shave. I was running—”
Blake waved his hand. “It’s not important. Sit down.”
Nash sat on the nearest stool and waited to find out why Doctor Kruvic’s chief assistant was so cordial. His eyes flicked to the digipad in front of Blake.
“What I have to tell you is going to come as a massive shock, but I think you need to know.”
The corner of Nash’s mouth curled up into a half-smile. “You’ve discovered I’m a Tyran throwback?” It was out of his mouth before he could stop himself. “Sorry, that was disrespectful. Forgive me.”
Blake pursed his lips. “I don’t like you either, Korpes. Let’s just put that aside for now. Doctor Kruvic gets back in three days, and it doesn’t leave much time.” He faltered as he looked for a way to explain himself.
“Time for what?”
“You’ve been lied to. There is something that can be done about your pain. It appears that the last year and a half has been a test of some sort.”
Nash’s eyebrows shot up. “A test? Explain.” His stomach began to knot.
“I couldn’t find much associated with it. All I had to go on was what was mentioned in a memo I accidentally read.”
“Accidentally?” Nash’s gaze flitted to each of the cameras in the room, but none were active. He turned his attention back to the Med-Tech. “How?”
Blake glared at him. “I’ve almost finished my internship, and they’ll be transferring me somewhere else to complete my doctorate. I knew KMR and D would send Vivienne a notification, and I wanted to know where.”
“So, you hacked into the hub and read her mail?” Nash started to laugh.
Blake flushed. “You really are a jerk, Korpes.”
“I’m not laughing at you. I’ve misjudged you, sir. You stated earlier that you couldn’t find any files associated with this memo? That tells me that you went hunting.”
“I like to be thorough.”
“A question if I may: if there were no files, how do you know something can be done for me?”
Blake grinned in a smug way. “Simple. I came up with the ‘something’. It wasn’t particularly difficult once I looked at all the data we’ve collected on you. Initially, I thought the joint pain and reaction to adrenaline was a psychosomatic aspect of the aversion therapy. I was wrong, it’s not. I’m sorry for not having believed your pain was genuine.”
Nash frowned. “Thanks. So, what’s this all about?”
“It appears to be some sort of test of Tyran regenerative abilities.”
“Not that I don’t trust you, but may I see this memo?”
Blake pointed at a laptop behind him. “I assumed you’d ask.”
Nash stood, then crossed the room. He scanned it, committing the entire piece to memory. Blah, blah, formalities. References extending the study, based on current information, cites genetic markers, referencing the sixth, seeing if regen will be consistent through repeated injury, as it… has in the past? What? When? ‘Continue to withhold treatments for discomfort, may further stimulate— Who the fuck sent this? Nash’s eyes flicked to the bottom, looking for the transit numbers. Special Projects; sent from Nekkaro Station. Classified. This is addressed to Vivienne, but those aren’t her ID tags. I can’t believe she knows about this. His eyes darted to the top of the memo. Dated five days ago. He filed away the numbers for future reference and looked up at Blake.
“You don’t like me. Why help me?”
“Two reasons. First, according to the file, you were put through aversion therapy to make you more manageable. There are drugs that would have accomplished the same results without torturing you. Second, you’re not an ‘Official Subject’. What’s been done to you falls under the heading of egregious medical malpractice. By being associated with this project, I’m complicit. Liking you is irrelevant. This is about giving a patient the best care I can and upholding the oath I swore when I became a doctor.”
Silence settled between them as Nash pondered the facts. Life without pain. “When can we start?”
“Today, but I need to resolve a couple of issues first.”
Nash frowned. “I suppose these ‘issues’ include things you need me to do?”
“Yes. You being kept like this is part of a much larger project and, if I’m discovered to have overtly interfered with you, I risk my future in the Special Projects Division.” Blake held up his hand indicating that Nash should wait. “Don’t worry, I didn’t tell you this to wind you up. I’ll treat you, but you must help me cover my tracks. I know you have the skills for it. I’d like you to erase any traces that I was in the hub, or that I read any of Doctor Kruvic’s mail.”
Are you really going to trust him? The Sarcastic voice asked.
I don’t want to be like this for the rest of my life.
Fool. The Darkness laughed.
Fuck off. Nash tuned them out.
“There’s something more.”
Of course there is, the Darkness hissed.
“And what would that be?” Nash raised an eyebrow.
“Never tell anyone that I had a hand in your recovery.” Blake pointed at a laptop. “Start now and I’ll prep stage one.”
“I’ve moved what I need to the old Med-Bay in hydroponics. We won’t be disturbed there. Do you require more time?” Blake checked his watch noting that it was afternoon.
“I’m done. You were never in Doctor Kruvic’s personal files, nor were you in the hub.” Nash grinned broadly as he extracted himself from the network. He stood and stretched. “What now?”
“I have a few details I need to recheck. There’s no need for you to wait. Meet me there in an hour.”
Nash paused and then decided not to comment. “An hour then.” He left the room and made his way back toward the elevator.
“Tech Korpes? This came for you.” The receptionist handed him a data stick, emblazoned with the Pairing Protocol seal.
Oh, great. Another interview. “Thank you, ma’am. When is, it scheduled for?”
Now you have something to read while you’re waiting for Blake.
Shut up. Nash tuned the Sarcastic voice out and waited for her to look it up.
“Monday, eighteen-hundred. They’ve booked you into an interview room on… Oh! You’re in the room on level three. Isn’t that near the hangar?” She looked up at him sympathetically. “That isn’t very romantic.”
“It never is. Thank you, ma’am,” he turned and entered the elevator as the doors slid open. His hand ran over his face and encountered the stubble.
Shower, shave, then meet Blake.
Keep the goatee, it suits you, the Kind voice commented.
Nash smiled at his reflection. It’s not against regs.
What if Blake’s lying? What if he makes you worse?
Nash tried to tune the voice out, but they’d touched on a genuine fear. What if he isn’t? What if he can help me?
He hates you.
What about the memo? I confirmed the tags and I—
Forgery… He’s being transferred to Nekkaro. This is his last chance to fuck with you, the Sarcastic voice laughed.
No, this isn’t his style. He can help me. I checked his notes. His concept is sound. He—
He came up with a treatment in three days. How good can it be?
Nash could feel his stomach begin to churn as his anxiety rose.
What is your evidence? The Darkness demanded.
Nash exited the elevator. My gut. I want to believe.
Then you’re a fool.
“Mind if I smoke?” Nash asked as he reached for his cigarettes.
“Yes. Take off your coat.” Blake moved the IV stand closer to the exam table Nash was sitting on and began to unwind the hose line.
Nash eyed the opaque supply bag that hung from it. There was no label. “What’s in the bag, Doctor Huri?”
“Zelat, cut with a basic saline solution. I’ll introduce Vecuronium to the feed when it’s time to put you under.” Blake checked the pump then turned to face his patient.
“It’s the only option. Your metabolism will be working against me during this procedure. I needed something that would hit you hard and keep you under for at least six hours. Stage two is where I sever a small number of neurons running to your colys gland—”
Nash balked. “Wait a minute. That wasn’t in your notes. You only mentioned a non-invasive treatment on my amygdala,” his eyes strayed to the door, as he considered his options.
“The colys gland is responsible for your healing ability, if I don’t deal with it, you won’t be pain-free while you heal.” He followed Nash’s gaze to the door and understood. “I spent the last hour confirming my findings. I have the results right here if you want to check them.” He handed his digipad over. “It sounds worse than it is.” Blake adjusted the settings on the overhead neural scanner. “Stage three involves me working on your amygdala; I can’t undo the psychological aspects of the aversion therapy, but I know I can undo the physical modifications they made and make it look natural. You’ll still have to avoid things that cause a large adrenal response, but routine exercise and your usual fits of temper shouldn’t trigger you anymore.”
Nash scanned all the files and committed them to memory.
“Have you changed your mind?”
Yes. After a minute, Nash shook his head. He gave Blake the digipad back.
“Lie down and give me your arm.”
Nash complied but looked away. Fifty-foot needles— Think of something else. “So, are you happy with where they’re sending you?”
“Nekkaro Station is one of KMR and D’s finest genetic research facilities. It’s actually better than I’d hoped for. Hold still.”
Nash inhaled sharply as the needle slid beneath his skin. “You need to work on your technique.”
“I didn’t train for ten years to become a phlebotomist.” Blake taped the hose down and then turned the nozzle on. “Let me know when you feel an effect.”
Blake checked the levels on the bag and frowned. “Are you sure you’re not feeling anything yet?”
“No, but you know a lot of things don’t work on me. Maybe Zelat is one of those things?”
Blake turned the drip up. “It works on everyone. No exceptions. I’ll come back in five minutes.”
Nash closed his eyes. Please let this day be over. He let his attention drift and remembered his dream. I wonder if that’s what space is like? He allowed himself to re-experience what he could recall, focusing on the last part to take the fear out of it. Falling or re-entry. It’s all a matter of perspective and control. He felt something move across him, wrapping him in a comforting embrace. A smug sense of achievement spread through him as he reflected on what he and Ed had accomplished. I wonder if it’ll make the newsfeed here?
“Tech Korpes? Can you hear me?”
A tingling sensation on his arm brought him back to the present. There was no pain, and warmth emanated from his chest. This. Is. Great. It had been so long since he’d felt good. Nash giggled out loud as the voices chimed in with gibberish. You’re all stoned too! Ha.
“I take it you’re feeling something?”
“Yep.” He attempted to sit up and found he couldn’t. “I seem to be paralyzed.”
Blake drew into view. “I’ve strapped you down. Try moving your left arm, it’s still free.”
Nash watched with amusement as his hand seemed to levitate, pulling his arm up off the bed like a string behind it. “While you’re up there, wave,” he called out to it. His hand twitched, and then his arm dropped to his side. Good enough. “I’m feeling— Yeah, stoned Doc. Feeling, I am.”
“I hope so; you’re burning through this a lot faster than I anticipated. We need to begin now.” Blake connected a second bag to the hose and turned the valve. “Start counting backward from one hundred.”
“One hundred, ninety-nine, ninety-eight, ninety-seven— Forty-Six, forty-five, veno-fores, veno-tanye,” Nash switched over to his native Diasporan slang and started to laugh.
Blake adjusted the valve for the Vecuronium, and Nash’s world went black.
“Tech Korpes, wake up. I need you to open your eyes for me.” Blake checked Nash’s vitals a second time. Damn you, now is not the time to catch up on your sleep. His digipad beeped, but he ignored it. Yes, I know you’re back. “Nash! Wake up.” Blake slapped him in frustration.
“Wake up. Vivienne— Doctor Kruvic’s back early, and she’s called an emergency meeting. I have to go.” His statement was punctuated by another beep from his digipad. “She’s been paging me for the last twenty minutes. C’mon, I need you to open your eyes so I can verify you’re okay.”
Nash opened his eyes and squinted at him. “My glasses handy?”
Blake handed them to him. “You’ll still be groggy from the Vecuronium, but it’ll pass.” He leaned in and shone a light into Nash’s right eye. “Good pupil response.” He moved it over to the left. “Good. Everything checks out. The procedure was successful. You’ll start to feel the effects in a couple weeks. Remain prone for another two hours and give the drugs a chance to clear your system before you go anywhere. I’d move you back to your room—” The digipad beeped again, but this time Blake took the call. “Doctor Kruvic? I wasn’t expecting you back until Friday. Is every— Yes, ma’am. Sorry, I didn’t hear my digipad, I was in the shower. I’m on my way now.” Blake disconnected and stuffed the device into his coat pocket. He made his way over to the sink on the far wall and turned the water on. “Best keep up appearances, eh Korpes?” Blake bent over, wet his hair down, then ran his fingers through it. “I’ll tell them you’re indisposed.”
“Thank you, for everything.” Nash shut his eyes again.
“You’re welcome.” Blake closed the door behind him.
Something furry caressed his cheek. Nash’s eyes snapped open. Dark. Where the hell am I? Another something skittered across his chest and landed on his hand. He jerked it away, and the motion triggered the Med-Bay lights to activate. He was not alone. “Gah!” Nash flung himself off the gurney and crashed onto the floor. A dozen silverii went with him and scurried for cover. He didn’t wait to see if there were more; he leaped to his feet and ran for the door. Nash had made it halfway through the hydroponic garden before he was sick.
Fear, significant adrenal response… crap. Nash leaned heavily against a support strut as he composed himself. I should check to see if they bit me, I don’t want to get an infection. He stripped off his t-shirt and was half-way out of his jeans before it occurred to him that he was in a public area. Maybe not an ideal location… Gods, I’m still stoned! He checked his watch, Twenty-two hundred. Only maintenance crews on now… Should be safe.
He turned at the sound of his name, his jeans caught around his knees, and he sprawled backward into the garden. “Hi.” Nash couldn’t think of anything else to say. A familiar face came into view.
“What the hell?” Kalish looked from his semi-clad friend to the patch of vomit. “Let me call a Med-Tech.” He grabbed the t-shirt off the ground and pulled Nash out of the plants.
“No. I’m okay. Help me back to my room. I just need to sleep this off.”
“Sleep it off?” As Kalish handed him his shirt then leaned in close to get a good look at his eyes. “Drunk, or stoned?”
“Neither, technically,” Nash scrambled for a non-lie. “I’m reacting to some meds. It’ll pass.” He felt itchy and wasn’t sure if it was a reaction to the plants, bites, or his imagination. “I’m glad you’re here, I need to ask a favor.”
“Would you check me over? I might miss something, and that would be bad.” Nash pulled his jeans up and did up the belt. He dropped the t-shirt and stooped to retrieve it, resisting the urge to vomit again as the motion triggered his vertigo.
“Check? What am I looking for?”
“Bites. I passed out in the Med-Bay down here, not knowing the lights are on timers. I may have acquired some Silverii bites.” Nash donned his shirt.
“Your room or mine?” Kalish grinned wickedly.
“Mine. Less chance of gossip” Nash chuckled. “Sorry, I know I’m no fun. Would you settle for a flat of beer as payment for your time?” Nash took a step, and everything wobbled. He clutched at a support strut to steady himself. “I better sit down.” He slid to the ground and leaned against the cold metal.
Kalish reached over and put his hand on Nash’s forehead. “You’re on fire. Are you sure you don’t want me to call someone?”
Nash shook his head. “It’ll pass, thanks. I just need to rest for a few minutes.” Nash looked up at his friend. “I’ll understand if you can’t wait.”
Kalish sat down on the walkway with him. “For you, my friend, I’ve got all night.”