Where there should have been nothing, there was pain.
There came a sensation like panic, then despair. A sense of flight aborted and the wailing of the mothers of stillborn. He made a noise that brought to mind the wordskittering, as though he possessed too many legs, as though he was a spider. Except the sound didn’t come from outside of him, but inside.
The pain showed itself to him. Not his head. He thought he might be hungover, though he didn’t remember drinking. It was his back. His goddamned spine ached. Felt like he’d slept on a pair of scissors.
He wasn’t supposed to be sleeping at all. He didn’t remember sleeping. The afternoon was too full for anything like a nap. He’d promised Ashburn they would run over the disaster protocols. He had to log his weekly contact with mission comm HQ. After he got off the round, he still had to meet Djen for the shift reports and tomorrow’s duty roster. And maybe coffee later, after the business was done.
His heart shuddered in his chest just thinking about it. He was such an idiot.
Brett opened his eyes. He looked up at the pale brightness of the ceiling that wasn’t his private quarters. He frowned, then remembered. He cursed.
“Doc, I think I just fucked up my image. I fell asleep. I didn’t realize I was so tired. Is that going to be a problem?” He sat up grinning. “Please don’t tell me we’re going to have to do it again.”
But Liston wasn’t there. No one was there. The med bay was empty.
The cart with the imaging unit had been wheeled away, he saw. Maybe the image took after all. Liston must have decided to let him sleep. The wily old bastard probably decided the pressure of command was getting to him and justified the nap as a recuperative measure.
Brett rubbed at the sore spot on his back. He’d have to talk to Liston later, give him a good natured undressing for promoting dereliction of duty.
He noticed that Liston wasn’t the only one to receive an undressing. He was naked. The tile floor sent a chill up through his feet that made his calves ache.
What the hell?
He found a clean shipsuit, underwear and socks, all neatly folded on the table beside the bed. There was a pair of boots on the floor. Brett put the clothing on quickly. It occurred to him that he might have been ill. That would explain a number of things. Maybe he’d been delirious.
Brett went to the door, but the sensors didn’t seem to read him. It didn’t open. He keyed the comm pad on the wall, but it didn’t respond when he ordered it to break the seal. He punched the code three times with no results. Annoyed, he toggled the comm port to order Cassandra to release the latch, but when he called to her, she didn’t answer. He gave his order and his passcode anyway.
Cassandra wasn’t answering. He didn’t have to know exactly what had happened to understand that something was wrong. If Cassandra wasn’t on line, it must be critically wrong.
He was going to have to force the door. That was fantastic. It could take hours if the seals were all intact.
Brett made his way toward the storage cabinets and searched them for something stout enough to wedge into cracks of the door. He found sheets and pillows, bottles of isopropyl alcohol, boxes of bandages, but nothing that resembled a … Read more