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Gray and Red
Posted on April 10th, 2022 by Emilaina Acacia, Hannah Ziredac and Jack Leirone

USS Atlantis
Sickbay
March 30, 2401

Emily wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but Atlantis’s vibe was decidedly off. Whatever it was, it was worth a red alert, so she was already wary. She’d felt the floor shake from some sort of explosion, her newest patient was semi-coherently trying to warn her about an intruder, and she was pretty sure she had felt…

No, surely that part was her imagination, or just her anxiety. It had to be.

A medical team had set out running down the hall when the explosion happened, Doctor Acacia hanging behind to help one of the nurses wheel Leirone out of the surgical ward and into Sickbay proper so they could keep an eye on him. Still hopped up on heavy pain meds, he wasn’t making much sense and frankly that was going to have to be alright for now.

Emily stopped by the door as the team was returning with the first hover-stretcher. When she saw Zoë, her blood ran cold. For a long moment her legs refused to move. The stretcher moved past her, and she slowly turned to follow it with lead feet. She blinked, and she was suddenly by Zoë’s bedside. She looked up at the scanner screens pleadingly, but it was evident what all of the results would be. With her sixth sense she knew—there was nothing left. No one in there.

So she had felt someone dying.

Fuck.

“T—… time of death,” Emily said shakily, watching as a nurse unfurled a sheet to cover Zoë’s body before quietly continuing, “1405 hours.”

Emily wiped tears on her sleeve and deeply inhaled, taking a moment to steel herself for the rest of what was to come. A nurse took Zoë’s covered body out on a hoverbed, heading for the morgue. Two more patients were languishing in biobeds with relatively minor wounds from the explosion. Emily went for the worse-off of the two, Hannah Ziredac, and began with an extensive scan to catalogue her injuries.

The Doctor took a dermal regenerator and started working on the worst of Hannah’s scrapes, ordering a mix of medicines which one of the nurses quickly prepared and administered. Included for good measure, the strongest anxiety medicine known to man.

A weak, raspy hum came from Hannah’s throat. There was a bump in her vitals as her heart kicked back up to a waking rate. Her eyelids fluttered, drooped; her eyes made bids for focus that they could not afford. The lights here, the tug of hands on her extremities, the healing singe of the regenerators on her skin… Hannah knew where she was. She knew what had happened. Chemicals kept her calm and swooning. Good thing. There was no telling—now or later—what Hannah would have done if the terrible burning in her heart could spread.

She stared upward, her eyes making progress on focus. The physical pain drained from her body square inch by square inch as the doctor ran that regenerator over her. 

Just leave me alone, she thought. Just let the wounds stay there. It doesn’t matter anymore.

All was heavy. Dark. Fuzzy. Hannah couldn’t think of any one thing, not even the unimaginable things she saw in the minute before she lost consciousness. She couldn’t think of what it meant, and she couldn’t remember what it was like before. Nothing would come to her mind, because everything wanted to come to her mind. She knew she wanted two things: she wanted to lie here, immobile, comatose, forever—and she wanted a drink.

Emily’s eyes flitted from the scrape she was working on, to the scanner readout with Hannah’s vitals, to her face. She could sense the dark cloud in Hannah’s heart, and she wished she knew what to say. She was still reeling from what she’d just seen, and she had a feeling from context clues that Hannah had seen it happen, which was undeniably worse.

She focused on the wounds, exchanging a sad look with the nurse working on Hannah’s other side. She wanted to say something but she wasn’t sure exactly what. Her voice came out strained and raspy, “Hannah?” She coughed, then continued softly as convincingly as she could muster, “You’re in Sickbay. You’re going to be alright.” 

The words crawled through the space from Emily’s mouth to Hannah’s ear. Translation to thought and understanding was achieved, but meaning could not be found. This simple sentiment was swallowed by the upper atmosphere of the gas giant, sinking into the uniform gray of infinite particulates, to be crushed in the gravity well until it was nothing. Until it became part of the gray. 

There was no rebuttal, not even in the deepest crevice of Hannah’s consciousness—nothing like, It’s not going to be alright, or, It’s never going to be alright, or, Fuck you for even suggesting that it’ll be alright. Rage could not be conjured in the bestial part of her brain, for to lash out with threats of making herself or others not alright in retaliation for a not alright world. 

There was only the gray. 

Hannah only stared, her body limp as the blueshirts worked. 

Emily bit the inside of her cheek as she felt the emotions—or lack thereof—that her attempt at comfort had evoked in Hannah. It was hard to decipher, but it certainly wasn’t the positive feedback she had been hoping for. She finished working on the last visible scrape before turning her attention fully to Hannah’s face. She waved a finger in front of Hannah’s eyes to look for a reaction. She second-guessed her attempt at comfort so hard that she couldn’t conjure up a second one, instead meeting Hannah’s distant gaze with a look that betrayed that, despite all her best poker-facing Emily was shaken, sad, and helpless. 

“Hannah?”

Hannah’s eyes did not move, but her mouth did. Barely above a whisper she said, “Keep me here.”

That was probably a good idea. Emily took Hannah’s chart and marked the check-box that she was to be kept in Sickbay even if she tried to escape. Out of an abundance of caution, she also checked the box for a risk of self harm, meaning at all times at least one blueshirt would have eyes on her. There was no telling what anyone would do immediately following such a serious trauma, let alone someone as chaotic as Hannah. 

Emily wanted to offer something more substantial, more comforting, but she could tell that wasn’t going to get her far right now anyway. So she stuck to the facts, simply continuing, “You have a concussion. You’ll be here at least a few days. We have you stabilized, so it’s safe to sleep if you need to.”

Hannah blinked slowly. She didn’t know what this blink was supposed to mean. Thank you? That’s enough? I’m done communicating? Whatever it was, it was the last thing she did for a long while. 

Jack Leirone had watched the exchange from the next biobed over. Poor kid. He knew how she felt: the massacre on the Meridian was not the first time he had to watch someone die, let alone someone he loved. 

God. D’bryn Zoë. He hadn’t known her well when she served in his department; they were divided by rank, subordination, about thirteen years. But she was one of the rare ones he wished he could have known. Sweet kid, thoughtful, good engineer. Ariel had gotten to know her somewhat, through her little weekly tea tasting, and had sung the young woman’s praises on more than one occasion. 

Shit, Jack thought. Ariel. Ariel’s gone. And Deria, Dester, Olivia Martin, the captain, and… Emari. 

He closed his eyes. Emari’s face smiled at him from within that envelope of darkness. If only they’d had time to repair what had long been broken between them. 

But the Emissary. Sarreon. That wicked fucking bastard. 

Jack lay trying with limping success to clear his mind and focus on how his body felt, and a plan for moving forward. He did not measure this time. In his periphery he noticed the doctor finishing up on Hannah Ziredac, so he cleared his throat, and with an even voice said, “Excuse me.”

Emily had reassembled her poker face, and was walking past when Jack spoke to her. She hurried to his bedside, ready to listen, “Yes?”

“First I wanted to apologize if I scared you when I first woke up. I was in a panic, and I wasn’t thinking.”

“That is to be expected,” Emily said calmly, gesturing ‘all good’ with her hand palm forward, “But now, anything you can tell us about the intruder we’re facing could be very helpful.”

Jack inhaled long and slow. “Don’t lift security lockdown. Look for signs of sabotage, explosives, anything like that. But if he’s already shown his face and no one’s dying, that means he got what he came for and he’s long gone. Can’t say for sure, though. Son of a bitch is unpredictable. Now, I’d like to speak with Commodore Harper as soon as possible.” He turned his head to the woman on the neighboring biobed, added, “There’s more to discuss.”


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1 Comment

  • Kathryn Harper Kathryn Harper says:

    Heavy. You can’t envy Emily’s job here, and I liked the detail about her second-guessing her attempt at comfort. Hannah’s reaction is realistic and haunting, and what Jack’s been through is unfathomable. Excellent writing to both of you!




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