She didn’t quite say it out loud, but I got the notion that she finally realized how hung up I was on Melissa and didn’t want to stick around as second-best. I can’t really blame her, but it breaks my heart when she looks at me like this, as if I lied to her. Maybe I did, but if so I was lying to myself too.
“So, umm… I guess Vic rates a visit from all the prettiest girls on the ship, just for fainting?” I said. “Is something more wrong than we knew, bud? I thought you’d be discharged by now.”
“We’re keeping him around for observation,” Nat said. “And for your information, we’re not just here in our capacity as beautiful women.”
“I see… as good friends, then?”
“Try competent professionals,” Carla informed me archly. “I’ve been assigned as hyperspacial sciences’ liaison to medical for investiagting the causes of… of Kane syndrome and attempting to devise a practical program of treatment.”
“And I’m medical’s liaison with hyperspacial,” Jody shot back. “So of course I’ve been assigned to keep Carla busy so that she doesn’t get in the way. But that’s okay – we’ll lick the problem together.”
“Along with your guinea pig, don’t forget,” Vic said with a itred smile.
“Well, good luck to all three of you,” I said, shaking my head slightly. “It makes me feel a little better that there’s another line of defence other than our crazy landing party mission. Vic – you’re hanging in okay, right?”
“As best I can, Brett, thanks,” Vic answered. “At least they’ve got the painkiller dose worked out pretty well for now.”
“I wish that we could use something a bit stronger,” Nat said with a sad shake of her head. “But from what we’ve worked out so far, having a test subject without impairment in his… his sensitivity thresholds, might be important during some further diagnostic tests.”
“I’m happy to do my part,” Vic insisted. “And I think that you probably should be doing yours, Brett. It isn’t long until Gaia’s Hope is scheduled to launch, is it? Your teammates have already been through, paying their respects.”
I smiled. “I knew that Melissa, Gary, and Jody wouldn’t have forgotten to say goodbye.”
“Yeah. Colin came along with Melissa to say goodbye, and even the Captain and Exec visited us poor souls.” Vic coughed uncomfortably. “I may have to start asking that people stop popping in and let me get some rest – aside from the two of you competent professionals, of course.”
“Or maybe not aside from us,” Nat said, nodding. “How about twenty minutes more awkward tests, and then we’ll have enough data to spend several hours refining the computer model, and you can try to get some sleep.”
“Sounds good enough to me,” Vic said. “Good luck, Brett – and take a minute to remember. The six of you will be the first human beings ever to land on that planet, Achernar Four. If there’s anybody there who can help us, it won’t be easy to talk to them – we may not make it back home alive, but nobody can take this bit away from you, once you step off the yacht.”
I grinned at Vic. “Sometimes you just know the perfect thing to say, buddy. It should have been you coming along too.”
Vic shook his head, and winced slightly. “Sick or healthy, I’m a computer tech. When are they ever going to let me down on a first landing party?”
I tried to think of something else to say to reassure Vic, but nothing really came and time was ticking away, so I waved at him and hurried out of Medical Bay.
I was the last down to the shuttle bay to get on board the pinnace, and the exec and Lieutenant Archer had a matching set of glares on, so I didn’t say a word, just got myself on board, added my duffel to the nearly full luggage compartment, and headed towards one of the free acceleration couches in the passenger compartment.
“No, duty station, Ensign Walker!” Gary called from the cockpit. “Up here.”
I looked around for a minute, and hurried forward to take the seat next to him. “I’m co-piloting?” He made a face, and I spared him from having to admit out loud in front of Archer and the Exec that he’d forgotten to mention that detail. It made some sense. I’d gotten certified as a pilot back in the Academy – it fit in well with my navigation specialty.
To be continued…