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April 15, 2024

Anachronocity v9p4

By Josh Brown

Mama's Pride - Part Four

Katlyn awoke with a head full of water and a manageable throbbing in her wounded thigh. The bright lights of the medical bay caused her to squint as the grogginess caused by the drug injected into her neck wore off. Somewhere nearby the soft murmur of voices drifted on; too soft to comprehend.

"How you feeling?"

Startled, Katlyn blinked in the direction of the question, realizing someone was standing very close to her. She didn't like that feeling. Not knowing her surroundings, not aware someone was close enough to do anything and she wouldn't have seen it coming. She liked being drugged against her will even less.

"Why was I drugged?" The woman in the white coat shook her head. Katlyn focused on her and suddenly remembered who she was. Katlyn tried to slide off the bed and said, "Is he--"

"He's alive," the doctor replied, holding out a hand to block Katlyn's attempts at standing. "For now," she added gently.

Relaxing a little, Katlyn read the doctor's nametag: Dr. Cindy Laroque. Here was the doctor that saved Alex's life, and perhaps saved Katlyn from having to live the rest of her life in the future. Katlyn felt an instant bond with the woman.

Cindy glanced up from reading the console at the end of Katlyn's bed. "Your thigh should heal up just fine. Stay off of it for the next day or so, though, and let that dermpatch do its job."

An almost translucent patch stretched over the wound in Katlyn's thigh like a nicotine patch. Katlyn ran her thumb across the rough surface of the patch. "Thanks," she said.

"Barney Fife isn't in very good shape."

Katlyn almost said, "Who?" But who else would use that particular name in this future landscape except Alex? "His name is really Alex," she said instead. "Barney Fife is his... secret identity to throw Interpol off."

Cindy nodded knowingly. "Well--Alex suffered a great deal of damage. After initial scans, I agreed with the young men you had the privilege of meeting. Had I come over five minutes earlier, I probably would have let him die when his heart stopped. It all happened so quickly though, before I had a chance to thoroughly check him out, so I did what came natural and I tried to save him. Somehow, and I'm still not sure how, he pulled through. We nearly lost him several more times after that, but by then, well... I won't lie. I was curious if he'd keep on living or not."

Katlyn listened as Doctor Laroque explained all the damage Alex had sustained, and the reconstruction and replacement parts he had to receive. The more the doctor spoke, the more Katlyn realized just how close she came to losing him. It was then she also realized he meant more to her than just a way back to her own time.

"How're the others?" Katlyn asked after the doctor finished talking about Alex. "Bethany? I understand she was injured before the incident as well?"

"Bethany had some cranial trauma. We're not entirely sure how that came about, but you're right. It appeared to have been treated already--shoddy work, I might add. Whoever treated her wasn't expecting her to live much longer."

That didn't make sense to Katlyn. When they got back to the ship, there were several messages waiting for them from before Alex and the others were captured that explained what happened with Bethany and how Alex had to kill a man to save her. If all those messages were true, that all happened before anyone on the planet knew they were members of the Pure League. Unless it was for another reason, or just plain carelessness.

"Are you saying the doctor that treated her didn't know what he was doing?"

Cindy shrugged. "It's possible. It's also possible he didn't care or he was drunk or he was told to just stabilize her. There's no reason etched on her skull. It's all just conjecture. Only way to know for sure is to find the doctor that worked on her."

The doctor returned to the console at the foot of the bed and accessed it with a slender finger. "Everyone else should be all right. Some muscle damage, a few broken bones--what you'd expect from the treatment they received on the planet. We're a bit concerned with the older man, though. I believe his name was Anthony. His age makes things a bit more difficult for him. He should pull through, but his recovery will be much more difficult."

Cindy frowned at the readouts scrolling across the screen and said, "Excuse me," and then walked over to a bed with a man Katlyn had never seen before.

The surrounding beds held those she knew, most asleep. To her right, Horus looked halfway civil in his sleep. She noted his right hand; it was whole again yet slightly off, the skin looking too new, too fresh to match with his wrist and forearm. She mused over that for a while, wondering if they grew him a new hand.

Then she spotted Mama a few beds down--awake and smiling. Next to her bed stood a man Katlyn didn't recognize. His long hair and beard hung from his face in an unkempt mess like a dead cat. The state of his clothes didn't fair much better as it hung around his thin body like a layer of loose skin. Dark black glasses peaked out from the hair framing his face.

Mama's mountainous bosom heaved up and down with each breath she took. From Katlyn's vantage point, she couldn't hear the conversation but the smiles on both faces was enough to tell her it was a pleasant little chat despite the circumstances that brought Mama aboard.

After a few moments of talk, the man at Mama's bedside turned awkwardly and limped around in the bed in hesitant shuffles. His left foot barely lifted off the ground, slid forward, and then his right foot repeated the process. His fingers remained close to the bed, lightly skimming over the plastic surface. Katlyn watched as the man reached the other side of the bed, carefully picked up a glass of water, and then held it out to Mama with an unsteady hand. The liquid trembled inside the glass and it been more than half-full, Mama would have been wearing some of it.

"Who's that with Mama?" Katlyn asked Cindy as she passed by.

Cindy glanced from the SoftPAD in her hand to Mama's bed, then turned to Katlyn. "That's the mighty Greegan. Captain of this vessel, leader of this community. Mama's protege."

That's the mighty Greegan? The entire mental picture Katlyn had formed in her head shattered into a million tiny shards of unreality to be replaced by this new never imagined image of reality. The man stood there by Mama's side, average height, too thin build, faint tremors running all throughout his body. And the only thing Katlyn could think was... how rude. Did these people mock him behind his back with such a title as "the mighty?"

Ever observant of the look that crossed Katlyn's face, or perhaps used to newcomers and their eye-opening first encounter of Greegan, Cindy said, "He gave himself that title: the mighty. And he insists it's used. Why? You'd have to ask him that. It's one of his favorite pastimes explaining to new people why he's called the mighty."

"What's wrong with him?"

As if it explained everything, she said, "Botolph syndrome."

"I'm not familiar with that."

Cindy lifted her brows in surprise. "You're not... all right. Nobody knows what causes it. In early childhood, the symptoms first show up. Blindness is the leading indicator. The children usually die three or four years after the onset of Botolph's but those that survive end up in an institute somewhere, unable to do anything. Their muscles don't develop properly and for the most part they have enormous medical conditions that require constant care.

"Only in the past twenty years or so have we been able to counter the effects somewhat. There are cases of people living fully normal lives now, like Greegan. Physically he's still a mess, but the Elders technology has helped us to create a kind of muscle substitute--devices we can surgically insert into the deformed muscles that respond to movement much like normal muscles would."

"Even the Elders can't cure it?"

"They've tried. It's just one of those things, I suppose. Seems like whenever we find a cure for some devastating medical condition, a new one creeps up, worse than ever, to take its place. This one even has the Elders baffled, though. They've never heard of it."

That shook Katlyn. She gazed down to Mama and Greegan, frowning. If the Elders truly did come from the future, then how could they not know about something like that? If they'd never heard of it in their time, then a cure must have been found, so they should be able to easily fix the problem. That left two options. Either the Elders were not from the future as they claim. Or their meddling in the past had created something new. Katlyn hoped for the former, but felt a tinge of regret that it was probably the latter.

"So he's blind, too?" Katlyn asked, trying to keep her thoughts away from the Elders.

"He can't see and he has a hard time moving, but I assure you, Katlyn, he deserves the title mighty more than anyone I've ever known."

Katlyn didn't doubt it.

To be continued...
Article © Josh Brown. All rights reserved.
Published on 2005-03-13
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