By Rada Dengar and Lair Kellyn
Concurrent with Any Such Small, Comforting Thoughts
Concurrent with Any Such Small, Comforting Thoughts
Looking out across the chaos that had overtaken the Alchemy’s medical bay Rada couldn’t help but consider how a truly unique angle on his own suffering was so clearly found from this position.
The Alchemy’s entire medical staff, save one, seemed to be shouting back and forth with something almost mistakable as panic. It was an intricately organized and perfectly orchestrated chaos; expertly performed by the skilled hands of each player and governed by the overriding experience of their conductor's genius.
Every word spoken was answered in harmony, each motion accompanied in perfect time and complimented by a confidence that spoke of having fought the same furious battle to pull someone back by the thread from which their lives now dangled far too many times before.
It could most kindly have been called a juggling act for Doctor Hartcort, by which his attention could be focused entirely on the lowest falling ball which he could deal with in time to move on. The reality was however closer to four plates now spinning at different speeds, one already having crashed, where the doctor must move quickly back and forth to keep them going and should he ever choose the wrong order or two should begin to slow at once then the unchosen one would surely begin to fall and to smash shattered on the ground just in time for him to see.
Life was truly that fragile that it left no doubt that few were more extraordinary than those who could save it and none were less remarkable than those whose greatest achievement was to take it.
Rada had no delusion in believing anything other than that whatever it was he had done-- whatever horrible thing had been so despicable as to need to be hidden from even the mind that conceived it-- was no achievement and no sign of power. It could be no more constructive and carry no more greater meaning that breaking plates upon the ground.
As Rada walked through around these people and though their world so foreign of saving lives he made the usual hollow gestures of greetings to those that he passed by. For the moment he felt no desire to engage with them and chose instead to live with the horror of wonder about whether he had perhaps taken from them someone they loved. The only worse way to live would have been to look and to realise he didn’t care if he had.
Being in a place like this made him realise just how much he really did care. As his eyes found their way to Kellyn’s still form, far too familiar a sight to him over the relatively short time that he’d known her, it stung for him simply to see. Yet while such a feeling amplified in strength felt like it could destroy him it was only through its cleansing possession that he could feel like he was whole.
Perhaps it was because he’d known her the longest of any injured party or because at a time when there were parts of him he was only now discovering she knew parts of him it seemed no one else did. Whatever the reasons were behind it, though, it was not too hard a decision to know which person he wished to see first.
Still one could almost have thought he was uncertain given how slowly his steps seemed to become the closer he became. It wasn’t indecision, however, he was merely being as gentle as possible in his approach as he could lest through any sudden movement that deadly part of him were to be brought out at a time when Kellyn was unable to fight back against it.
He swore he’d never let himself hurt her, but then he’d once said the same thing about taking a life.
He stopped short of walking up beside her and sat in a chair placed by the end of her bed, most likely by Salvek before he’d been called away. It was one spot out of the way of medical personnel where the Vulcan could simply have sat as alone as could be with the woman he loved. It was undoubtedly not an easy thing for Salvek to do but somehow Rada felt he understood its value.
It was a truly sinful crime of fate when one found oneself ranking a friend’s close dances with death in ordinal fashion; trying to decide just how much worse this one was.
Each always felt worse than the last.
Her complexion was currently a pale shade close to the frozen world on which they’d been though little worse than how pale she’d been before. Her position in the bed was the awkward kind of a woman not quite as comfortable as usual to be sleeping but rather one of a woman trying to move out of the range of her pain.
Thinking back over the past times all Rada could determine now was that it was not the worst he’d seen as far as injury or by machines taking on tasks supposedly so natural to the body, but still even since the last she seemed to have aged. These experiences always seemed to age those involved. Perhaps to experience a large part of death must take from you with it a future part of your life. It did make him wonder, even knowing things had been worse, if as weak as she looked she was still strong enough to come back.
Her face seemed sad, not angry like she would be had she known she was sleeping through the truly rare experience of having a silent Jamie Halliday in the bed next to hers. It was the face of a woman once hurt; not one still in the fight.
It was Jelca that had hurt her without ever giving her a chance to fight back. Like myths of the Terran gods Rada had always regarded with a sad curiosity, she’d decided who she’d save then tucked safely away before she unleashed her wrath on an entire world; leaving all those behind to be wiped away to leave only what she wanted to remain. It was actions like that which could lead a man to think of revenge.
Yet, wasn't it the desire for revenge the very thing that turned Jelca into the nightmare that she'd become?
Rada wondered for a moment what kind of person she might once have been instead.
Could giving in to that destructive, burning need for revenge have been the path that led him here? Could hurting someone in an attempt to strike back against his own pain been how he’d justified doing whatever he'd done? If someone had hurt his friend like this, could that have brought him to take finally a life?
Looking at her now he realised the answer was all too clear. Not even for her, his best friend on this ship, could he have been driven to kill.
There must have been something else. Something more that he still didn’t understand, however he couldn’t really think further about it now as this moment seemed to matter more.
He sadly sighed as he looked over her with concern before he spoke softly to himself more than her.
“You on your way back from another brush with death, me utterly confused about my place in life...we have got to find a way to stop ending up here.” He closed his eyes and sighed, bringing his hand to the bridge of his nose.
He was woken from his thoughts by the sound of a weak voice. His eyes snapped back open and he saw she had stirred and was, with great effort, attempting to shift position. "Where do we end up then?" she asked, with eyes barely open and a softened voice that sounded still half trapped in her dreams.
*Anywhere would be better than this,* Rada thought, greatly relieved that she was talking but still needing to focus to make his tone sound at all light. "I'd prefer somewhere that you don't get yourself nearly drowned the second I turn my back."
"Noted." She grimaced, groaning involuntarily in pain though she couldn't have said if asked specifically what part of her was causing it. Her eyelids were heavy and barely slit open and giving up on trying to move, she began to take in her surroundings. Bits of conversations that had been partially processed by her sluggish mind as it fought varying stages of unconsciousness began to clarify, and she realized that what happened on the planet had ended very badly.
She bolted up, at least as far as she could in this withered state and not realizing how close she was to the edge of the bed she nearly went over the side of it. "Reece..."
Rada sprang up and managed to catch her before she fell. The sound of her cry and of the shuffling as Rada hoisted her back toward the center of the biobed drew the attention of Lance Hartcort. He had his hands full with Reece at the moment though and so a nod from Rada that everything was all right was enough to satisfy his curiosity for now and he returned to his work.
"Reece will be fine." Rada assured her gently, intentionally concealing for now how close their friend the Trill had come to dying. "He will live to steal your Kava Sticks another day."
"He better." Kellyn choked out the words between coughs, the spasms of which seized hold of her and didn't appear to want to let go. Propping herself up in the bed as well as she could she looked toward the bedside table, where the dispenser of medication sat. She grasped hold of it and held it to her mouth, inhaling two puffs of the substance. Within seconds, her coughing fit subsided. Finally she allowed herself to fall back down in the bed. Hearing the sound of her breathing, now rattling and troubled as she moved around in the bed even just slightly, erased the relief he'd felt and replaced it with a new set of worries.
Awkwardly he reached one hand around to rub the back of his neck, unsure just what to do with the other. No matter how many times it happened it was still always just as hard seeing her like this and even harder to know just what to say or do or more importantly just how much of his concern he should let shine through. It quickly became clear that she didn’t intend on making this any easier, either.
"What happened down there?" she asked, her eyes slipping shut again.
*You had to ask, didn't you?* Rada thought, thinking in this moment how he both appreciated and loathed the inescapable workings of her mind. *Of all questions, that is the one you ask.*
He opened his mouth as if to speak but quickly closed it again upon finding no meaningful words forthcoming. Only deciding to avoid words of such meaning allowed him to speak again. "Kellyn, its best if we talk about this later,” he said hurriedly. “You need your rest. I should go."
She appeared disappointed by his answer, though not surprised. She slightly nodded, far too tired to argue. She then let herself sink further back into the pillow, tugging her blanket up more tightly under her chin.
"No," she clutched the top of the blanket as tightly as her still numb fingertips would allow. "I don't know if I'll ever feel warm again."
Worried by the tone of her words Rada disappeared for a moment, and he returned with two more blankets. He unfolded them and handed them to her one at a time, helping her straighten them out as he saw her arms were still to weak to complete the task on her own. "Better?"
She nodded and looked almost content to settle back in. Then suddenly in her partially conscious state another thought occurred to her and though it was a struggle she let her head fall to the side. She looked over at the bed beside hers, forcing her eyes to stay open. "Jamie was the only one with me when I," she stopped, as the look on Rada's face confirmed her fears; she owed Jamie Halliday her life. "Damn.” She said, her eyes closing again. “Is he okay?"
"Hypothermia, but he's going to be alright too." Rada assured her as he looked over to Jamie with a new found, silent respect and gratitude for this man he felt he’d so underestimated.
"Thank the Proph…” Kellyn replied, sinking back into the bed once again and finally letting herself fall back into unconsciousness .
Rada didn't like the look of this, not one bit. His brow furrowed with concern. "Kellyn, are you okay?"
"Hmmm." Kellyn mumbled quietly though it was clear she wasn’t really hearing him.
“Kellyn?” He asked again, standing from his chair and leaning over her.
He turned to look for someone who could help and found one of the medical staff already coming up behind him.
“I think.” Rada started trying to explain, but the nurse stopped him before he could. For some reason she seemed unconcerned with rushing to Kellyn and Rada looked about to object.
“Nothing’s wrong with her,” she assured him, putting a hand on his arm as if to tell him she knew what he was thinking but that there was nothing to worry about. “It’s just the medication, it makes her tired. She’s going to be okay.”
Looking back over at Kellyn again, Rada could see that now. She had just fallen back asleep and it was only his imagination making things seem wrong.
“Thank you,” he said, a little embarrassed. The nurse just smiled at him before moving off again to treat others where she was needed.
Again Rada returned to the seat, wondering if he should go now that he’d seen her but somehow feeling like he should stay a little longer. Moments passed in silence but as close as they were he still found them to be awkward. Besides, there were so any things in his mind that usually he’d have spoken to her about and this state shouldn’t change that.
“So, what was drowning like then?” he asked, trying to sound cheerful but failing miserably so deciding instead to give up the facade. “I wonder if it was painful.”
He then proceeded to quietly sit as if waiting for her to respond. He had no idea that inside her thoughts, she was clearly remembering just how it had been. She considered just how easy it would have been to give into the sensation of the water's thorny, frozen tendrils pulling her under; choking her breath away and finally claiming her as its own. She shifted slightly in her sleep and Rada waited a moment in concern until it passed before going on,
"I’m sure it was,” Rada concluded then continued on sadly, “but was it calm and quiet too? How much did you really want to fight?"
Rada stopped, again sighing as he waited for an answer that wouldn’t come from the friend who could so often offer him insights at times like these into the workings of his own mind.
“Kellyn, I…” he started but no possible end to the sentence was forthcoming to his mind let alone to his mouth.
Though when he’d first entered the room he’d have given almost anything for her to wake he now greatly regretted that it had been him and not Salvek with whom she had woken to have this talk. Rada felt like anyone else on this ship would have had a better idea of just what to say to her now. There was too much going on in his mind right now to even properly hold up half a conversation.
Though Rada understood that no one would know the difference, likely not even Kellyn now, it didn’t make the prospect of saying nothing any easier. What was he supposed to do? Should he wait in silence a little longer and then just leave her here? Or should he stay and stick to light banter which she’d never have accepted if she was awake?
No, Rada resolutely decided, he could do neither. To treat a stranger in this position like they weren’t quite there was harsh but forgivable, but Kellyn was his friend and that made it just unconscionable.
“I wasn’t afraid,” he reluctantly confessed, in a voice so quiet that had Kellyn been awake only she would have understood him, and with courage he wasn’t sure he would have had then. “When I was down on the planet I wasn’t afraid of dying. This wasn’t an adrenaline rush, I was thinking clearly and I began to ask myself with my mind in such a mess and knowing I’d done so many horrible things it’d really be so bad not to fight.”
He began to reflect back on that moment where he’d turned his weapon on Reece, knowing that Jelca’s men could have chosen to take him out any second.
“I wonder if you can now understand that feeling. I wasn’t sure I ever would.”
Kellyn again murmured as she turned over away from him, and if she’d been awake he’d likely have made a joke about him not thinking he was quite that boring. Instead though he continued in all seriousness.
He realised that he was about to tell her something she wouldn’t know about him. It was true she didn’t know every detail of his life but they were close friends and Rada had never mentioned this experience before. He’d never really thought about it before recently.
“Someone very dear to me once told me about that feeling.” Rada shifted his chair around to still be in the opposite direction to which she was facing but at least to be closer to the head of the bed should she turn. “She was a girl I’d known at school and she had an experience not completely unlike mine, and maybe yours. She was only young but she’d had a hard life so far. Her father was never around. Her mother was but their relationship was far more tense than it was loving. Then one day after a particularly bad argument, in tears and not really paying attention to where she was going, she stormed out and ended up unintentionally walking straight onto the path of an oncoming ground transport vehicle. She wasn’t killed but she was injured and thrown into a nearby ditch where she started to lose blood and eventually consciousness, unsure as she closed her eyes if she’d ever be found.”
Rada paused trying to remember what eventually happened to that girl through to his frustration he found now he couldn’t even recall her name and any more of her appearance than that she had the most beautiful black hair. Thinking back he may just have been fonder of this girl than he let himself think these days.
“Eventually though the transport operator called for help and she was found and she was treated. In the end she was fine. However that didn’t stop her telling me years later…” Rada stopped again, finding frustration in the fact that he couldn’t remember this girl if it’d been years later and they were still in contact, eventually accepting this small defeat he continued again. “She told me that there were moments she wished she was back in that ditch and that no one ever understood that fact. I think now I do.”
Rada stopped, actually feeling the hints of strange tears finding their way to his eyes. He quickly blinked them away but they weren’t completely ready to go. Feeling so unafraid was truly terrifying. Thinking about that girl though he wondered now if it really was maybe not a symptom of who he was; rather it was of what had happened to him. A long pause passed as he considered that fact before he was finally brought back to reality as Kellyn rolled over onto her back almost as if to better hear him.
She mumbled something hurriedly in this state in a tone that seemed to say that she really needed this answer, staring still at the thoughts in her mind though she seemed to be looking now at the ceiling.
“She said the ditch was simpler.” Rada softly explained, taking his best guess as to her question, as he mentally searched for a picture to match with the remembered words he was saying. “In the brief time she spent in pain before she lost consciousness she found herself running over all the other most painful things in her life. She came to see how this ditch either would or already had taken them all away. Then later when confronted again with pain she said she remembered that feeling which made it hard for her to be glad to be back to all the problems of her everyday life.”
Rada paused again as he silently wondered while Kellyn still lay with closed eyes before him whether any of this was getting though or even if he wanted it to. “She said that on the good days though she was always glad she’d gotten out.”
Rada reached down and pulled up the blanket that seemed to have slipped down Kellyn’s body slightly, leaving her shivering even more as he considered this simple thing that at night Kellyn would have someone there to do for her, whereas he would not. “I just hope that there will be more good days going forward.”
His thought left to hang on the air, Rada suddenly felt he’d said enough so he made to stand up; already almost completely back in his own mind as he asked a hundred questions about the future and as many of the past.
However Kellyn it seemed would not accept this and she groaned pitifully, putting her hand out towards him in as close a gesture to 'come here' she could manage and snapping him back from his internal considerations. Then as Rada leant in over her, she whispered four simple words that truly shocked him before she again surrendered to the overpowering pull of unconsciousness.
"There have to be..."
Lt. Commander Rada Dengar
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012
Commander Lair Kellyn
Engineering Research and Development
The Alchemy Project
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012
Commander Lair Kellyn
Engineering Research and Development
The Alchemy Project