Thursday, July 7, 2011

Spare Parts

Alex floated to the surface of a pleasant haze. It was good to be... wherever he was. Whatever he was doing. It was good to be, right now. He smiled and the dry skin of his lips cracked, but he didn’t really feel it.

Once he figured out how to open his eyes again the world materialized around him. Sort-of familiar colors drew into focus on the ceiling, a wide ring of soft indirect light still a little too bright to look at. He cast his eyes around the room, taking in the bank of monitors next to him that seemed to be medical equipment. Old, though. He’d only seen stuff like that in movies.

He scanned further, the small room not ever coming into sharp focus beyond the bed that was just large enough to hold him. There were indistinct shapes that were equally likely to be a table or a strangely shaped plant. There was one blob that was different, sort of a stack of colors that looked, in his opinion, Tslao-like.

Alex focused on the Tslao shaped and willed it into focus. Nothing happened for a moment, but it did shift a bit. Then, almost miraculously, it started to clarify. More correctly, she walked over to the bed and stood next to it, watching him inquisitively. He was disappointed to find that it wasn’t Carbon, but he should have known that even from far away. She was a pale lavender color and looked different in some way he couldn’t put his finger on. Her black jacket and personal AI reminded him of Tashen.

His mind shifted gears as he remembered being stabbed in the back, if only distantly. He hoped Tashen was alright. When he asked about what happened, nothing remotely like words came out of his mouth, just the hoarse murmer of his breath escaping him. He licked his lips and tried again, getting the question out this time, even if it was hardly more than a whisper.

“You were attacked, my lord. Stabbed with a short sword. Your assailant has been caught, as has one of his accomplices.” She watched him with cautious violet eyes.

The difference clicked in his head. She looked more fluffy than all the other Tslao he’d seen. The rest of them had a thin layer of slick fur, but she appeared to have an undercoat. He decided staring was probably not appreciated and shook his head. “Just Alex. Is Tashen OK? Where’s Carbon?”

She seemed a bit nervous as she considered his questions, possibly because he had spent the better part of a minute scrutinizing her. “Of course, Prince Sorenson. Tashen was beaten badly before your assailant fled, but he is recovering well. Princess Tshalan is currently on a diplomatic mission.”

He shook his head again, lips drawn tight. The cracks stretched and actually hurt as his voice returned and breathing was starting to make his chest ache. Made sense, he had been run through. “Just Alex, please. Do you know when she’s going to be back? Is she still upset?”

“She was very upset, Sir. The first responders did the best that they could, but they did not adapt methods to your biology. She should be back before the end of the day.” She nodded and seemed very earnest about their performance.

Alex rolled his eyes and let her call him sir. It felt far less awkward than lord or prince. “I meant about the marriage and her argument with Eleya. She was upset about that. Didn’t seem to want to see me.”

She looked quizzical for a moment and then understanding dawned upon her face. “Oh, that. I believe she is still upset at the Empress, but not with you. but she only left your side so that she could oversee the acquisition of the appropriate medical supplies.”

“Medical supplies?”

“Yes, you were severely injured and the responding team used a tissue regenerator designed for Tslao biology. Your body rejected the new tissue almost immediately.” She seemed to be getting more comfortable talking to him, becoming a little more animated as she spoke.

His surroundings suddenly started to make more sense. Tissue regenerators were something you’d keep in a bathroom drawer in case you scraped your knee. At least, that was Alex’s exposure to them. “You guys don’t have medi-boards? What was the damage?”

“No, our medical technology is not that advanced yet. The blade punctured your lung and scored your... ah, I am sorry, sir, I have never done well with internal anatomy.” She looked up for a moment as she tried to recall something, her eyes returning to him a moment later. “It scored your lung artery. The blade was lodged in your ribcage and you collapsed onto it. It shattered, puncturing your heart.”

Alex wasn’t familiar with a lung artery, but there were a bunch in there. Could just be a bad translation. “And what happened to the tissue?”

“As we have no human-safe anti-rejection drugs on board, they removed the dying organs once you were stabilized.” She said it like it wasn’t that big a deal, though she seemed more cautious again.

He let that sink in, rolled it around in his brain for a moment and sussed it out carefully. Despite this, he could feel a spike of adrenaline hit his body, but no corresponding change in his heart rate. He couldn’t even feel his heart beat, now that he was thinking about it. “You removed my lung and heart?”

“The doctors did, yes sir.” She hesitated and quickly added, “you were given an artificial heart, of course.”

That explained that. “And Carbon is getting something to patch me up, right?”

“Yes, sir. As I said, she should return soon.”

“Good.” He was out of danger, as far as he knew and knowing that Carbon was working on getting him new organs was at once weird and comforting. Alex exhaled and relaxed a little. That seemed to put her at ease again. “I didn’t catch your name?”

Her eyebrows went up at his request. “Oh, yes, of course. I am Neya Khensha.”

“Well, good to meet you, Neya.” He looked around the room again and drummed his fingers on his legs. The haze of the drugs was mostly gone now, replaced with a bracing ache in his chest. “So, what is there to do around here?”

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