Prologue – When it rains

 

Captain Fanon stepped into the recovery room and paused. He looked at the silent, unmoving form of Ensign Veal and from the softly bleeping monitor to the huge windows that overlooked the woods and capitol city of Yokara. He breathed deeply to gather his thoughts and took one more step forward, allowing the door to close behind him. At the hissing sound the Ensign stirred and awoke from her sleep.

“Captain,” she murmured as her eyes opened and she recognized her commanding officer.

“Ensign.” He nodded and moved forward, sitting down in a chair by her side. “How do you feel?”

“Tired, Sir, very tired.” She turned on her side, to better look at the captain. For the first time she noticed how his short curly hair was graying at the temples. For months she had looked up to him, the first CO of a cadet fresh out off the Academy. Perhaps his hair had always looked this way and she had just never really seen it. To her Eliot Fanon had been the paragon of a Starfleet captain; calm, composed, in control. Maybe gray temples had just never fit her image of the forceful, energetic Starfleet officer he had always presented to his crew. But now, now he looked as tired as Tarin felt. “How long has it been?” she asked.

“Nearly two weeks. We survived, at least most of us did, thanks to you.” Again Captain Fanon surveyed the scene outside the windows and the last rays of light, as the Yokaran sun was swallowed by the dark gray clouds of a gathering storm.

Tarin Veal followed her CO’s gaze and noticed the unfamiliar landscape. “Where are we?”

“Yokara.” Eliot Fanon returned his attention to the Centauran ensign. “It was the nearest planet where we could get you the medical attention you needed. Not that it was the medical attention I had in mind,” he added. “Sir?” ‘She doesn’t know!’ Fanon thought. ‘How could she, she’s never been awake for more than a few minutes the last two weeks.’

“Your left hand, Ensign.”

Tarin tried to raise her arm, to bring her hand in front of her eyes, but she was still weak, so very weak. She turned on her back again and used her right hand to lift her left arm before her face. There was a thin, almost invisible, scar running around her left wrist, but apart from that there was nothing wrong, as far as she could tell. “Sir?”

It took Captain Fanon a moment to make up his mind, but the Ensign had to hear the news and he was still her CO. He owed her a lot more than the truth about her medical condition and there was no easy way to break the news to her.

“It’s a replacement. You lost your hand when your console exploded. There was nothing we could do on board, so the doctor put you in an artificial coma and we headed for the nearest world that offered adequate medical skills to help you, as soon as we could.”

“I see.” Ensign Veal breathed deeply several times, before she found the courage to ask: “What about Carl? Ensign Summers?”

Captain Fanon shook his head, before he noticed that the Ensign wasn’t even looking at him. Her gaze was fixed at the windows and the darkening sky, only occasionally glancing at her left hand. “I am sorry. I know you two have been very close.”

“Yes.”

When the first flashes of lightning flickered through the distant clouds the young woman finally found the courage to ask: “What is it about my hand? There is more to it than what you have told me, isn’t it?”

Captain Fanon closed his eyes. He could no longer see the thunderstorm nearing the hospital, but he could still see the sparks and explosions, still feel the rocking and heaving of the Arizona, as she was nearly torn apart by the barrage of disruptor bolts slamming into the ship that was supposed to be on a simple routine patrol.

“Yes.” He leaned forward and placed a hand on the young Centauran’s shoulder. “It’s a replacement, but not what you would expect. We had to use a Yokaran prosthesis. If we hadn’t done so, the nerves in your arm would have degenerated too much to accept any kind of replacement at all.”

Ensign Veal looked at her left hand again and wiggled her fingers. “It’s a cybernetic hand,” Eliot Fanon revealed to her. “Under that synthetic skin it’s all wires and metal and plastics.”

Tarin Veal’s fingers stopped moving as she sharply inhaled. Centaurans, like most Federation member species, had strong reservations against cybernetics. Each of them had their own reasons, but for Centaurans the reasons were mostly religious. Eliot Fanon knew that - while Centauran religions were at least as diverse as Human faiths – almost every one of them believed in rebirth and shared the belief that one’s soul was diminished by an artificial part in a person’s body, lessening one’s chance to be reborn into a better life – or any life at all.

Was Tarin Veal a religious woman? Captain Fanon didn’t know. He had never bothered about it before - after all, she was just an ensign on her first cruise out off the Academy, or at least she had been until that day two weeks ago. “Does that disturb you?” he inquired.

Tarin shook her head, but before she replied she ran her fingers over her left hand, touched it, blew at it, brought it close to her face and carefully studied it. “It feels real, no different than. . . before.”

“I hope it does. I have been told the Yokarans are quite good at this and while I don’t agree with their methods, at least it will keep you in service, Lieutenant Veal.” Eliot Fanon rose and was almost to the door before Tarin realized what he had said.

“Lieutenant?”

The first large drops of rain hit the window and, for what seemed to Tarin like an eternity, their impact against the transparent aluminum was the only sound that broke the silence. “Yes, Lieutenant, at least if Starfleet follows my recommendation.” Captain Fanon took another step forward and the door opened for him instantly. “Without you we would all be dead; I think you have more than earned a promotion. Now get some rest.” Eliot Fanon left the room and the door closed behind him.

As the doors closed behind Captain Fanon the rain momentarily subsided and the only sounds in the room were the steady bleeps and beeps of the sickbay monitors. Tarin Veal stared at the ceiling and drew a few deep breaths as her left hand clenched and her nails dug into the palm of her hand. There was no pain – she could feel what she was doing, but it didn’t hurt. Nothing did, only the steady sound of the scanners that proclaimed that she was still alive. She was alive and Carl was dead.

The man she loved was no more. She could clearly remember looking at his lifeless broken eyes on the bridge of the Arizona. What did it matter what had happened to her hand when all the rest of her was already dead?

When the torrential rain hit the window like a staccato of drumbeats the tears started to flow across her cheeks, but no amount of tears could wash away the pain Tarin felt. Outside the lightning flashed, starkly lighting up the sky, but inside there was only darkness, only rain.

 

Prologue    Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4

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