“Oh, man, that sucks,” Gary commiserated, reaching over to pat Vic awkwardly on the shoulder. “Anything that we can do to make you feel better?”
Vic considered. “Take my mind off it, maybe. Brett, what did you find in this star system?”
I looked around for a moment before speaking up, and I dropped my voice, just because – well, there were officers who’d probably take a dim view of my gossipping about such things, but I couldn’t deny Vic what news I could offer him, in this situation. “Pretty weird, I’ve identified a whole lot of orbiting space colony habitats, and some domed lunar cities… but no space vessels moving between them.”
“What about the Earthlike planet?” Gary asked. “Found any evidence of intelligent life there?”
“Not myself,” I said. “The Lieutenant started poring over the long-range scans himself as soon as we’d identified it.”
“Okay, let’s leave that for now,” Vic said, nodding calmly. “For all of these habitats, does it make sense that they could be viable without space vessels? Space habitats back home in the solar system aren’t that self-sufficient.”
“I think that they could be, it’s just that the space economy we have doesn’t make it pay off,” Gary suggested.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “If these Achernarians have a very different, insular society, then maybe it just makes sense to them to do for themselves and not go anywhere.”
We chatted about the possibilities for a while longer, and then one of the doctors called over. “Is Ensign Gary Peterson still in here?”
“Yes, sir!” Gary yelled back, standing up to attention.
“Report to the Captain’s office, on the double!”
“Ooh, you’re in trouble, Gary,” Vic sing-songed.
Gary shot one look at him. “What makes you think it’s just me?” he whispered, and then took off at a jog. I looked at Vic and shrugged.
Only a moment after Gary had left the Infirmary, Nat Lyon came over to Vic’s bed. “While you’re here, Ensign Walker, I need to do a few quick medical tests on you.”
I blinked. “Why me?”
“Well, we’re trying to get data from as many crew as we we can, in between dealing with acute cases. To see if they’ll help us put together a picture of what happened to everybody as we left hyperspace.”
“Okay, what about…”
“Gary got his done before you showed up,” Vic put in. I nodded, but still had to wonder if Nat had done the tests on Gary herself, and if she’d chosen her moment to come over and tell me once he’d left. Gary – well, he really likes Nat, and rarely misses an opportunity to let her know, or give her a come-on line. Nat usually doesn’t seem to mind, though she hardly ever flirts back, but maybe she wasn’t interested in giving him a chance today.
“Alright, what do you need?”
It was a little while before Nat was through with me – she took two different incisions out of me with a big needle – not bloodwork so I’m not sure what exactly, one from my calf and another from my forearm. And I went into three different medical imaging scanners – the MRI, CT scanner, and something else that I can’t remember the name of.
When I got back to Vic’s bed, Melissa Dempsey was sitting and talking with him, and I fought to keep a giddy grin off my face as she looked up at me – and something that she was giggling about faded as her mouth went all straight and serious.
If you have a choice in the matter, never fall in love with a good friend – that’s my advice anyway. And for the first few months that we knew each other at the Star Patrol Academy, Melissa was just that, a friend. I was too busy keeping up with the classes and surviving the hazing to really be thinking about romance in those days. I could go on a ramble about people who ‘make friends’ with people who they’re strongly attracted to in the hopes of getting an inside track, but… well, that’s not what I was doing, at least, not on anything like a conscious level.
And by the time I woke up and realized that I was head over heels in love, Melissa already had a boyfriend. In fact, she started dating Colin Archer, who was a senior officer and part of the Academy staff, but I can’t really hold that againt her for liking him. As much as I might want to. Well, I hold it against her a little for liking a guy who’s such a prick, but that’s another deal.
To Be Continued…