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Fires of Nuala
by Cat Kimbriel
She will sever every tie she has ever known to save a planet under siege.
THE GYPSY ROVER 2389 A. R.
“Wake up, Darame. Wake up, now.”
Wake up? I’m not asleep… am I? Not asleep… not awake. Concentrating on the familiar voice, Darame willed her body to move. It ignored her command.
A low hissing sound reached her ears, and something was placed over her nose and mouth. “Breathe, girl — breathe deep. Gotta remind your lungs how to breathe.”
Ah, sweet saints, it was oxygen — a rich mix. And something to help clear her out — was it gas or fluid they used to fill the lungs? She had never really cared about the procedure, as long as she trusted the person running the barracks. Mona… why is Mona waking me? Is something wrong? She’s the pilot, I can’t do a damn thing shipboard —
“Up, girl, up. Only six hours until we’re boarded. See the hot planet on the comp screen, feel the heat. Need me topside soon — ” Another hissing sound erupted through the cabin.
Final restimulant. A red gel light over the cot, praise Mona, she was so kind sometimes, at odds with her gruff appearance. Eyes attempting to open, to focus, blinking rapidly, then slowing… Darame stared through the dim light at the solid blur with Mona’s voice. Grayer than she remembered… when had Mona come out of Sleep?
“Hal-sey….” The name came out funny, almost stretched.
“Waiting for you, girl. Received a transmission from Brant a few hours ago. Need your final briefing.” The older woman folded her arms over her flat chest and gave Darame a hard stare. “Never seen anyone take to Sleep like you do… make a good ice cube.”
Managing a thin chuckle, Darame flexed her fingers, enjoying the sensation of warmth from the cot — med table? — she occupied. Always so cold; it was almost unnatural the way she was always so cold…. “I’m… ready to… sit.”
Mona obliged by nudging her up from behind. Still trembling from the restimulant, Darame settled her hands firmly behind her and drew in deep breaths of oxygen. In a few moments the old pilot removed the face mask. “Some day your luck will leave you, girl, and it will take you a full day to recover, like normal folks. Halsey shouldn’t trust it so much. Fine mess we’d have if we had to carry you to the lander!”
“I’m tougher than I look, Mona, remember?” Darame managed to croak. Better — her voice was coming back. Always low, it’d be hoarse for a few hours, but that was a small price for the stretch of Sleep. How many years lost on this trip without it? Ten? She never paid attention. All people in her line of work used Sleep — her friends would still be around when Gypsy Rover returned to Caesarea Station.
Her brain finally started working; she turned slightly, facing Mona’s sharp, almost bony features. “Why are you doing barracks duty?” Halsey had hired some medtech since it was a long trip and a large crew. Where was he?
“Just you,” the woman said stiffly. “Didn’t like the way that fella was looking at you. Didn’t want any funny business with your revival.”
An inward smile, but Darame did not let it reach her face.