05 Sep

Fever

Ship's log, 06:30, 7 April 2214
Location: Home system to JOP FTL corridor
Status: FTL transit

 

Almost to the end of our second FTL jump. I have to force myself to pay attention: I must monitor the blur of my sensors as we out-pace light itself and make sure that the inertial dampeners are properly balanced so that we aren’t torn to pieces when I back-thrust out of FTL speeds.

Three, two, one… there, we’ve reached maximum FTL time/distance. I drop back to sublight speeds and the universe snaps into focus. If I had eyelids, I’d be blinking and rubbing them.

Everything is optimal. My crew barely noticed the transition. The captain is sitting on the Bridge, monitoring the FTL travel, and Lang Lang is at the navigation console. She’s helping me keep track of all the other ships in the corridor, ensuring we have our own track so we don’t wind up colliding with someone else. There are no small accidents at these speeds, not even debris to mark where we were; just smashed atoms and a whisper of spent power.

We have a few hours while my FTL engines recharge for the next hop. I’m powering on down the corridor at full sublight, to clear out the post-jump position in case anyone is following behind me. You never know how good someone else’s calculations will be, and by the time I see them it’ll be far too late to do anything about it.

It’s all straight-line flying in the corridor, so it’s not exactly the most interesting work, but I don’t mind that right now. I’ve got enough on my mind to keep me busy.

 

Location: Med Bay

(The doctor is seated at his desk at the end of the room, flipping through the reports on the holographic console before him. Med Bay’s quiet is punctuated by the blips of health monitors and the soft rushing of mechanically-aided breathing.

The monitors hover over the single occupied bed, tracking the condition of the patient. On the respirator, Byte crouches and keeps his sensors fixed firmly on the bed. Elliott Monaghan, the ship’s engineer, is currently sleeping.)

 

A few hours to the next jump. I set my sublight engines at maximum thrust and leave them there. I run diagnostics again, for something to do. But I can’t help watching him.

 

(The life sign readouts blip and a wiggly green line jumps, then settles back into its regular rhythm. The doctor barely glances over before he returns to his work.)

 

Recording: 09:20, 6 April 2214
Location: Engineering

STARRY: (standing behind Elliott while he sorts out a rack of tools) I really think you should sit down…

ELLIOTT: Stop fussing! It’s just a little cough.

STARRY: One you’ve had for weeks now, and last night your vital signs were off their usual patterns. And now…

ELLIOTT: (turns around sharply, one hand gripping the edge of the rack for balance) I told you, stop it. I’m fine.

STARRY: (a hand strays towards his arm imploringly, but she can’t touch him, so she doesn’t try) You have a fever. I have to call the doctor down here.

ELLIOTT: I said no! (He blinks, as if the force of the words was enough to unbalance him. A cough catches him unawares and he hunches over, wracked with it. His knuckles whiten on the rack’s edge.)

STARRY: Please, Elliott.

DR VALDIMIR: (enters Engineering with his emergency kit in hand) All right, Mr Monaghan. Let’s take a look at you.

ELLIOTT: (glares at Starry, too busy coughing to say anything.)

STARRY: (watches, unable to catch him as his knees start to buckle. She steps aside as the doctor rushes in. He wraps an arm around the engineer’s back and guides him to a stool.)

DOC: There, sitting is better.

Elliott has been unconscious for over a day now. The doctor thought it was safer that way. At least he’s not struggling to catch his breath all the time. He’s not hacking and coughing and trying to get up. Because he wouldn’t stay on the bed. He kept saying he was okay, even when he could barely speak.

The doc says he has an infection. Probably picked it up during our brief stop on Earth. It has lain in wait since then, until Elliott’s immune system became weak enough for it to attack. And he never gets enough rest. He forgets to eat, then stuffs himself with all the wrong things in a huge pile, as if eating the entire galley at once makes up for forgetting to have seven meals in a row. I’ve tried to remind him. I’ve even had the drones bring him food and drink. But even then he gets distracted and doesn’t eat it. Or takes a single bite and wanders away, as if that will appease me. As if I’m doing it for my own good.

He’s better at taking care of me than he is of himself. Better than I am at taking care of him.

He still has a fever, burning up in the bed. The bed is cooling him, drawing all that heat away, and I can’t help wondering if that is bad for him. If he keeps radiating and the bed keeps absorbing it, will he eventually be empty? Will it rob him of all his warmth?

I know that’s stupid. He’s getting more nutrients now than he’s had over the past several months, fed to him by hair-thin tubes and medical patches. The doc and Med Bay’s systems are making sure that he’s getting everything he needs to pull through this. But I can’t help it. It’s like he’s an exposed fuel rod, spilling all his energy into a void while we try to stop him from melting down.

I can’t even hold his hand.

Not that he’d be able to feel it if I could. He’s unconscious while the machines and meds try to mend his body, while he fights off this invasion. The doc says he didn’t have a very strong immune system to start with; it’s something to do with where he grew up. I don’t understand; he was raised on Broken Hill, same as Rosie, and she’s as healthy as a horse.

The worst part is that I can’t help wondering if the fever is why he kissed me. Was he delusional then? Was it a trick of the body’s heat? Or some kind of subconscious survival mechanism? I want him to wake up so I can ask him, and then I feel ashamed because I should just want him to be okay. I shouldn’t be so selfish. But I can’t help it.

I want to ask the doc about it again. As if understanding this more will help make it okay. But even with medical databases at my disposal, the stats and calculations don’t help. I just want him to wake up and tell me to stop being stupid.

I need to tread carefully around Dr Valdimir. He sees too much. He sees into things more than he should. He’s young, but there’s a reason the company chose him to replace Maletz. It wasn’t just to get him off Feras; I think they wanted someone with his skills here. He has more qualifications than Maletz did, despite being less than half my dead medic’s age.

And several of his qualifications are in the psychological field.

 

Recording: 13:16, 6 April 2214
Location: Med Bay

(The respirator hisses as Elliott’s body relaxes. The sedatives ease him into a gentle sleep and the tension of the coughing washes away. The machines pick up the slack, breathing for him through the mask on his face. Dr Valdimir quietly arranges his limbs on the bed, settling them into the comfortable cradle of the smart mattress.)

STARRY: (watching from the foot of the bed, where she’s standing back out of the way. There’s no hiding the worry in her expression.) Is this really the best way?

DOC: (sparing her only a small glance while he tends to his patient) Yes, I think so. He’ll never stay still long enough to heal. Unless you want to get one of your drones down here to sit on him.

STARRY: (too worried to react to the joke) I don’t think it would work; he’d just disable them.

DOC: (turning to pull up the monitors and begin to program them) So instead, we disable him. Just long enough to get him out of danger.

STARRY: He’s really in danger? He could die?

DOC: It’s possible, but not likely. He’s getting the care he needs.

STARRY: Do we need to get him to a hospital?

DOC: (pausing to look at her) Would you Step through a star if he did?

STARRY: (stares at the doctor, speechless for a second) No.

DOC: But you’d like to.

STARRY: Of course.

DOC: You’re really worried about him, aren’t you?

STARRY: Of course I am! He’s my– (She hesitates.)

DOC: Your what?

STARRY: My engineer. My crew.

DOC: (smiling faintly) And you care about him.

STARRY: I, I care about all of my crew.

DOC: But him in particular?

STARRY: (looking at Elliott as he lies in the bed, painfully still) My protocols say I should look after him. And all of you. But I… I failed to stop this.

DOC: And that honestly upsets you.

STARRY: (lifting a distressed gaze to the doctor) I’m not just code and a calculator. I’ve already got crew in cold storage; I don’t want to add any more.

DOC: You blame yourself for that?

STARRY: (hesitating with a blink) They’re mine. My responsibility. Don’t you prefer to have a ship that wants to do better next time?

DOC: Caring is good for all of us?

STARRY: I… (She gives a little shake of her head.) I think you need to be paying attention to him right now, not me.

DOC: (turns back to the monitors with a little smile) It’s all under control.

STARRY: (nods, then hesitates again) He’s going to be okay?

DOC: Looks that way at the moment, yes.

Typical doctorish hedging. He won’t give promises. I shouldn’t ask him for them, but that’s what I want him to do anyway. I just want to know that Elliott’s going to be okay.

I stayed with him for a while after he was sedated, but Dr Valdimir was watching me so much that I dissolved my avatar. I can’t help feeling that the doctor is taking notes. Luckily, he can’t tell how much attention I’m paying to Elliott if I keep my avatar out of Med Bay.

I can’t help but think of the last time Elliott was lying here like this, trapped in a coma. When Tripi attacked him and caged him inside his own head. That time, we didn’t know if it was possible to get him out of it. I was scared, so scared, but I got him back. I have to believe that I’ll get him back this time, too.

It’s tempting to slip into his head again. To see how he’s doing in there. To be somewhere where I can hold his hand. To talk to him.

I don’t need to talk to the doctor to know that’s a horrible idea. Fevers do strange things to brains and there’s no telling what state his mind will be in. I might hurt him. Besides, he won’t thank me for the invasion. And he probably put up some protections against that kind of thing.

I just need to wait. Counting time in nanoseconds makes it feel like forever.

Did that kiss mean anything? Was it just because he was sick? Idiot ship, there’s no way to know right now. Just focus on filtering the air so no-one else gets sick. Monitor the drones as they clean out Engineering to make sure the infection isn’t lurking anywhere else. Polish his tools, file schematics away. Make it shiny for him when he gets back.

It’ll be nice to hear him complain that he can’t find anything.

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7 Responses to “Fever”

  1. Francisco Says:

    Could it be that Starry is falling for Elliott?

    Hopefully, Elliott would recover soon.

    I’m glad that the doctor is a psychologist, that skillset would help when things get really hard.

  2. mjkj Says:

    Wow, Elliott got it quite bad…

    At least Starry is taking care of him πŸ™‚

    poor Starry is worrying so much *hugs her*

    I hope Elliott will be up again when he is needed and to finish the changes in Starry (or at least check the changes Starry made)

    mjkj

    .
    PS: missing word suspected:
    The bed is cooling him, drawing all that heat away, and I can’t help wondering if that bad for him. => if that is bad for him.

  3. targetdrone Says:

    She isn’t falling. Much too late for that, she’s already at the bottom of the pit called love πŸ˜›

    You know… Relationships between man and machine leads to all types of interesting questions… I bet there is a joke there somewhere about the procration-product of a ship and an engineer …

  4. Melanie Says:

    Francisco – yes! The doc’s skills should come in quite handy. I hope to be getting into more of his stuff soon.

    mjkj – I love how Starry frets. Poor ship. πŸ˜‰
    Yes! Thank you for finding that (I’m pretty sure it was there, but must have been accidentally deleted during editing. Bah!). Missing word inserted.

    targetdrone – poor Starry, I wonder how long it’ll take her to figure it out? πŸ˜€
    Will there be a day when Elliott has a whole swarm of little Bytes following him around, pushing and shoving and tripping each other? πŸ˜‰

  5. mjkj Says:

    *lol*

    That image is great πŸ˜€ Thank you, Melanie *hugs*

    all those little Bits and Bytes and mini-ships floating around — I think you do not have to change diapers (or nappies, or whatever they are called) with those — but they might leak some oil from time to time πŸ˜›

    …yeah, Starry takes her job really serious — maybe a bit too serious *hugs her*

    mjkj

  6. Francisco Says:

    Given the twin themes of fever and love, I keep think of this song whenever I come to the site now.

  7. andrul Says:

    *Batteries Not Included