WIP excerpt from Blue Heron

First draft caveats, but I liked this bit. Aboard the Vagrant, approaching a dead Earth.

Sacha sputtered as she came to, gagging again on the tube down her throat. She had not got the hang of it, even eight trips in. Her first thought was: Shit, not even remotely helpful.

“Calm down, just a second,” came Dr. Sten’s voice, low and comforting enough to convince Sacha to stop sputtering. She felt the tube slide out, taking phlegm with it, and she gagged a few times, seeing spots.

The lights were dimmed in the room, but she could still see the screen blinking to her right, the images of the two women in her memory like burn marks behind the eyes. She never knew just how much they could see.

“Lay back down.” Nurse Kenid.

Sacha felt pressure on her shoulder, the cold, hermetic tackiness of the nurse’s gloves helping her ease down, to relax. Relax, right.

Then, a giddy thought. If I’m thinking about herons, does that mean I’m going to bite it, too? She was still tied up to the scanner, and watched screen flickering on and off, trying to make sense of her impulses. Nurse Kenid removed the sticky receptors from her temples and head. She’d had to go bald for this whole deal, but her hair grew back fast. Sacha felt the tape pull at her stubble.

“You’re still taxing yourself,” Dr. Sten said. His voice was always so even, unsurprised. He checked her eyes with a little red light, then looked into her mouth. She knew the drill by now. “How’s your throat?”

“Hurts,” Sacha said. She had enough movement now to rub her neck, but she was still on a medicine drip. Anti-anxiety drugs. They had gone through half a pharmacy to find a match for her, one that didn’t knock her unconscious completely, and let her drift in those dreamories.

Nurse Kenid gave her something to drink out of a little cup, and she took it without question. She always wondered if Canie had bothered to be as inquisitive; had she wondered what the drinks were? If they recorded everything? Who the men sitting behind the glass were? Canie hadn’t spoken to Sacha about any of this, not until she got sick. And then, her mind was a little too scrambled to really get anything through.

“You can sit up now, if you want,” said Dr. Sten. “You think you’re up for that?”

Sacha nodded, and Nurse Kenid helped her to a sitting position on the soft cot. It really was a comfortable bed, even by the standards of the rest of the ship. Not even her bed was anywhere near as plush. The lining was somewhere between a liquid and a gel, and when she sunk into it for her sessions, it was always with a little gratitude.

Finally vertical, Sacha took a deep breath. “Not exactly enlightening,” she said in the direction of the men behind the window.

There were usually three of them. Today there were four; an older man with a beard she had never seen before had joined ranks with Blond Ugly Guy, Mole-face Guy, and Cute But Married Guy. “Sorry to disappoint you.”

“You can stay in here until you feel rested enough,” Dr. Sten said, glancing a little nervously at the paned section of the room.

“We don’t have any more appointments today, so you can…”

“Thanks,” Sacha said, sliding down off the bed, and planting her feet comfortably on the soft, foam tiles. She flexed her feet, stretching her arches. Her feet always hurt after the sessions, as if she’d walked thirty miles. “But I think I’d prefer a place to relax where I can smoke. You know.”

“Terrible habit,” said Dr. Sten. “Especially for a—”

“Yeah, you know. I hear that a lot,” Sacha said with a wink. “I’ll see you in a few days, if they let me back. I’m guessing my abilities are kinda clownish compared to what Canie could do, but I’m not the expert.”

“Don’t forget your session with Vayaer later this afternoon. She will want to speak to you after she sees the tape, of course,” said Dr. Sten.

“Right, right, of course. In the mean time, I have a bit of work I’ve got to catch up on, if you don’t mind.” Sacha pulled on her jacket, and zipped it, then felt for the metal package of smokes. Yes, there they were.

Dr. Sten smiled a little, his mustache lifting on the sides. “Of course, Captain Pars.” He gave her a salute.

“At ease, Doc,” she joked, and headed out the sliding doors.

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