Friday, April 23, 2010

Chapter 13 - THE HORROR OF MAGIC

After we landed, I was waiting around while my parents claimed our luggage. While watching the wide assortment of crates, boxes and bags coming off the ship, I noticed a large box that took two men to handle even in this light gravity. I turned to a crewman who was also waiting for his bags. “What’s in that big box? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a box that big before.”

The man turned to me; I think he was a cook. “Oh, didn’t anyone ever tell you; I suppose not. There was a murder on board. It happened about four days into our trip. The doctor found him dead right beside your bed. I hear it was a real ugly deal, but no one knows for sure. The whole crew has been interviewed at least twice; it’s very hard to do something and keep it a secret from everyone else on a ship this small, but they didn’t turn up anything. They grounded us for a full investigation though. The body is in that box. I hear they’re going to do a full autopsy since they can’t seem to figure out what killed him. They won’t let anyone see the body either and the doc isn’t talking.”

I barely heard everything he said. In fact, if I hadn’t had four limbs firmly propping me up, I’d have had to sit down somewhere. A memory came back to me; it was a pain-filled memory of when I first woke up. I was so incredibly hungry and some idiot had refused to get me anything to eat. I remember getting a hold on him. What did I do? What did I do to him? I killed him. I did something to him and he died. Of course, my condition had removed me from suspicion.


My parents took me to the infirmary first thing after we checked into our hotel. The ship’s doctor had referred me to a doctor for the duration of my stay here.

After that, there was little for me to do except eat and sleep, which was great to a point, but soon even that got boring so I went for a walk. I was still thinking about the things I had learned on the ship and about the things that Durmas had told me. It was all very, very frightening.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Chapter 12 - WHAT WENT WRONG

The doctor kept his word; two days later I was on crutches. My rib cage was securely strapped, much to my dismay. My eyes were still sensitive too, so he gave me a pair of eye shades. I thought they were rather cool. They were all black and wrapped most of the way around my head, fitting close to my face and blocking out stray light from around the edges. The lenses were black too and extended almost as far as my ears as well as across my nose. The doctor told me that the pilots used them all the time so they don’t have to keep opening and closing the port shades whenever they swing around to land. There was always a chance that a bright reflection or glare might flash across the cabin during maneuvers, and with these glasses, it didn’t leave them blinded at a critical moment.

The casts on my feet were a little strange. Incorporated into the cast that extended up to my knees was a bracket that wrapped around my ankles and lower calves. This bracket extended about six inches below my foot. I couldn’t walk on them, but they helped me balance while I used my crutches. It was far better than a wheelchair.

After I was safely settled in our stateroom, I went for a walk. I had been lying down for days and I was restless. The ship was very small. There was only one other passenger and a dozen or so crew members, so it didn’t take me long to find my way to the cryo-chamber. I wanted to see it for myself.

The mechanic was sitting on the floor with his back to me amidst a large assortment of pieces and parts that had to have come from the underbelly of a pod I could only assume was mine. I wasn’t sure what he was doing, but he seemed to be going over each piece with meticulous care.

I moved on into the room and he turned to see who had entered. “Hey, miracle boy. You’re up. How’re you doing?” he asked.

“I’m getting better every day. Find anything?”

He shook his head and turned back to his work. “I don’t know what happened, son. Everything seems to be functioning just fine. The whole bay was inspected just two planet-falls ago. It’s a mystery to me what went wrong. I’ve been testing wires and relays for a week now, and now I’m down to testing every single part that has power going through it. I’m even testing the parts that don’t have anything to do with the freezing. If I can’t find anything here, I’ll move up the line, but things get generalized real quick, and only the one pod malfunctioned.” He shook his head and looked at me again. “I’m real sorry about what happened to you, and real glad you weren’t killed, though that might have been a blessing all things considered.” I’m sure he was looking at my cracked and scabbed lips and the black and blue raccoon mask easily visible under my eye shades.

I sidled up to the pod my mother had ridden in for a closer look. “Yeah, it was rough. I guess most of my ribs were broken and my feet were messed up pretty bad. Everything else is just bruises, but that’s bad enough.” I poked at the padding in the pod. It was designed to be firm enough to support its frozen occupant and still allow it to sink down well into the padding for even better support under boost. That was all very fine for a frozen body. I suppose it helped me too, a little, though I think I might have been in better shape if it had been softer. Then again, it probably wouldn’t have mattered; not much would have made a difference under full boost.

The mechanic grimaced and shuddered at my words. “Like I said, it was a miracle you survived.”

“Yeah, well, hey, I hope you find something,” I said as I left - and I did hope so, fervently.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chapter 11 - CRUTCHES

A touch on my tender face woke me next, but everything was tender, I just wasn’t prepared. A gentle finger lifted my eyelid and a bright light flashed into my eye. I threw my face away from the light and almost succeeded in getting my arm over my face as well.

“Well, at least we know you’re not blind,” said the man with the light. “Relax, the lights are out. Open your eyes. Tell me what you can see.”

I considered my condition. I felt a lot better, not great by any means, but better enough to appreciate it. I slowly opened my eyes. There was a small amount of light coming from the door, but I could see all right. He brought the light in the room up slowly, but my eyes were still very tender and I had to stop him before he got much further. I closed my eyes anyway; they felt like balls of granite in my head.

“You’ve done a lot of healing in the last few days,” the man said, as he continued with his examination. “You are a very lucky young man. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone who survived a PTS boost without being frozen. I think we’ll have you on your feet in a couple more days, though it’ll be about three months before you can get rid of the crutches.” He pulled my blankets down and started prodding me in the belly.

“Crutches?” I grunted. My stomach still felt much abused, but perhaps that Clydesdale was really only a crotchety old billy goat after all.

“The gravitational forces have dislocated several bones in your feet, and there are some pulled and torn tendons in there too. We’ve reconstructed them, but you shouldn’t be putting any weight on them for quite a while; the hands and the feet are both very delicate mechanisms.” He pulled my blankets up and checked my IV bottle. “This is almost empty. How would you like to try some solid food? I bet you’re pretty tired of a liquid diet.”

“Yes, please.” I found myself gushing at the idea. I was starving, again.

“All right, I’ll go on down to the mess hall and see what I can rustle up for you. By the time I get back, that should be finished and we’ll take it away.”

The food he brought me was a good start; it took the edge off my ravenous hunger, but it was far from satisfying.

A couple hours later, having heard that I was awake and my bandages were off and that I wasn’t blind, my mom came in with a couple magazines she thought I might be interested in.

“Mom,” I greeted. I couldn’t sit up or give her a hug yet, but I touched her cheek when she bent down to kiss me on mine. I glanced at the magazines while she cranked my bed up a bit, though focusing on them brought tears to my eyes. “Thanks mom. Say mom, could you do me a favor? Would you get me something to eat? I’m starved.”

Mom beamed at me and dabbed at my tears. It was the first time I had actually seen it. A big grin came across her face and she actually lit up. Her boy was hungry. Everything was right in her world. She couldn’t be happier.

What she came back with wasn’t up to her usual standards, but it went a long way toward taking another edge off my hunger. If I could con a couple more people into getting me something to eat, I might actually get full.

Dad came in a little while after mom left, and sure enough, he went and got me some cold meats and some chunks of cheese. Dad didn’t cook; it’s probably why he married mom. She wouldn’t let him cook and he was perfectly happy to let her do it for him.

He was also willing to tell me what little he had learned about what had happened. “Apparently something went wrong with your cryo-pod. The ship’s mechanic has it all broke down; he’s trying to find out what exactly went wrong. They can’t have that happening very often, its bad for business. The captain assured me that they’d had a clean record until now. He’s even comping me the cost of this trip because of it.”

“Did you get your report sent?” I asked. I wiped at more tears with the corner of my sheet. The granite balls in my head gouged out whole waterfalls every time I moved them.

“No, I haven’t yet. I’ve been too worried about you. I need to get it out, though. I’m not too sure how good the communications are in the asteroid belt.”

An orderly came in a few minutes after dad left to check the various instruments still attached to me, and so, what the heck, I tried again. Bless this crew - if I could convince every person who came in here to bring me something to eat, I might survive after all. Then I remembered what Durmas had said to me. ‘It will tax you to the limit and the best way to replace that burned up energy is sleep, food and sleep.’ That was a very sobering thought. I had been using my magic - a lot of it. All the pieces suddenly fell into place and goosebumps washed over my entire body. There was nothing wrong with the cryo-pod. Durmas had also said that I had a very good instinct. I hadn’t understood what he meant at the time, but now I thought I did.

I was dressed in the heavy leathers at the time, and I should have been hot, hotter than the others, but I wasn’t. I had instinctively managed to cool my body down.

Faced with freezing, I had managed to heat my body up. I thought a little deeper into the subject while I ate my third lunch. I had used Fire Magic to do that. Durmas had told me that changing the temperature of something drew on Fire Magic. Air Magic: I must have used Air Magic to satisfy my need for air when I couldn’t breathe - maybe that was too simple, but I never felt as though I was suffocating. I just couldn’t get a satisfying expansion in my cramped and sore lungs. That left Earth and Water Magic. Durmas said that making food drew primarily on Earth Magic. The food had included meat, and if you get right down to it, my body is made out of meat, meat and bones, so I must have drawn on Earth Magic to keep me from being flattened, and the instinct was to preserve my core, hence my feet being neglected. Water Magic: my strongest according to Durmas. Maybe I used that to keep my blood flowing, who knows. No wonder I’ve been so hungry. I’ve been burning up a lot of magic, and sleeping a lot too. In fact, I’m still burning a lot of magic. The doctor said that I was doing a lot of healing.

I looked at one of the magazines mom had brought me. I was tempted to turn them into something else I could eat, since I couldn’t stand to read them, but I resisted the urge. If what I suspected was true, I was burning enough magic at the moment. I had a lot to think about, and a crewman was just walking through the door with supper.

"No, I haven't yet. I've been too worried about you. I need to get it out, though. I'm not too sure how good the communications are in the asteroid belt."

An orderly came in a few minutes after dad left to check the various instruments that were still attached to me, and so, what the heck, I tried again. Bless this crew - if I could convince every person who came in here to bring me something to eat, I might survive after all. Then I remembered what Durmas had said to me. 'It will tax you to the limit and the best way to replace that burned up energy is sleep, food and sleep.' That was a very sobering thought. I had been using my magic - a lot of it. All the pieces suddenly fell into place and goosebumps washed over my entire body. There was nothing wrong with the cryo-pod. Durmas had also said that I had a very good instinct. I hadn't understood what he had meant at the time, but now I thought I did.

I was dressed in heavy leathers at the time, and I should have been hot, hotter than the others were, but I wasn't. I had instinctively managed to cool my body down.

Faced with freezing, I had managed to heat my body up. I thought a little deeper into the subject while I ate my third lunch. I had used Fire Magic to do that. Durmas had told me that changing temperature of something drew on Fire Magic. Air Magic: I must have used Air Magic to satisfy my need for air when I couldn't breathe - maybe that was too simple, but I never felt as though I was suffocating. I just couldn't get a satisfying expansion in my cramped and sore lungs. That left Earth and Water Magic. Durmas said that making food drew primarily on Earth Magic. The food had included meat, and if you get right down to it, my body is made out of meat, meat and bones, so I must have drawn on Earth Magic to keep me from being flattened, and the instinct was to preserve my core, hence my feet being neglected. Water Magic: my strongest according to Durmas. Maybe I used that to keep my blood flowing, who knows. No wonder I've been so hungry. I've been burning up a lot of magic, and sleeping a lot too. In fact, I'm still burning a lot of magic. The doctor said that I was doing a lot of healing.

I looked at one of the magazines mom had brought me. I was tempted to turn them into something else I could eat, since I couldn't stand to read them, but I resisted the urge. If what I suspected was true, I was burning enough magic at the moment. I had a lot to think about, and a crewman was just walking through the door with supper.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Chapter 10 - THE MIRICALE OF MAGIC

The amount of pain I felt, when I felt anything again, told me that I hadn’t died. It hurt to breathe; my chest was on fire and my throat felt as if I had swallowed a handful of cockleburs. My belly - my whole belly - felt like a Clydesdale had danced a jig in my navel. Everything else hurt too, but under that assault, it was all I was concerned about.

The first thing I tried to do was satisfy my need for air. I gasped, which hurt so much that I moaned, which hurt so much more that I wanted to crawl out of my skin. Someone must have done something because a few moments later, the pain subsided substantially. Everything still hurt, but the pain was thankfully a little further away and somehow, oddly smoother.

“Can you hear me?” said a voice in my ear.

I turned my head toward the sound and realized that there was a bandage over my eyes; they hurt too. I had to try three or four times before I could draw enough air into my lungs to utter one horse whisper. “Yeah,” I finally got out.

“Do you remember what happened to you?” he asked.

I tried nodding this time, but that hurt just as much as trying to breathe. I tried to lift my right hand but something was holding it down to the bed so I switched my effort to my left hand. It hurt to move anything, but not as much as trying to breathe, so with a little determination I pushed the blanket away a little and reached toward my face. Feeling the heavy padding over my swollen nose and across the rest of my face, I struggled to get out a few more words. “Am . . . I . . . blind?”

“We don’t know yet. You are only just becoming stable. We’ll know more tomorrow.”

One more thing. “I’m . . . hungry.”

Curse him; he misunderstood. “Well that’s a good sign” was all he said.

“Please.” My word was a little stronger and the effort made me cough. I reached out my one free arm and found him. I pulled him as close as my pain would allow. “I . . . need . . . food . . . now.” I thought the words were going to be the death of me. I started to cough, and god that hurt.

“Calm down now,” said the man, trying to placate me. I held him. I was shaking with the pain in my chest from trying not to cough, the pain in my throat that had uttered too many words and the gnawing hunger in my belly that was eating my bruised and abused insides out.

I vaguely remember him pulling at my hand, but I don’t remember letting go.