Freed: Chapter Three

Chapter Three: Ronan

I set the unconscious woman down on the bunk of the room I had claimed as mine. The other, with the huge green eyes that sucked me in, hurried to her side, smoothing the tangled hair back, checking her pulse.

She bit her lip, shoulders slumped, then straightened.

“Thank you. No matter what, we’re better off here than in that cage, waiting for them to take us.”  She held her hand out. “I’m Nadira. This is Loree. She’d thank you too, if she could.”

“Ronan.”

I watched her turn, take in the room, the surprise on her face a mirror of mine when I’d found this section of the ship.

A state room of some kind, wide, plush bunk, small desk, storage for clothing and personal items. Trinkets still scattered about behind plexi covered shelves.

She wandered over to the desk, tapped an old holoplate mounted to the wall and smiled at the portrait that emerged. A man and woman, two kids between them.

“Is this your family?”

“No.”  I stretched my shoulder gingerly, trying to feel how much damage I’d taken in the last fight with the Hunter.

“Likely that’s the poor bastard who had this berth when it blew.”

“Blew?”

“Yeah,” I tore open the sealant, twisted to try to reach the wound on my back.

“Here, let me.” She reached for the tube, expectantly.

I stepped back. “You’ve already got one patient. I can take care of myself.”

Nadira puffed her lips in exasperation. “All I can do right now is make her comfortable. You on the other hand.” She stepped forward, only pausing for a moment at my growl. She continued her advance, green eyes narrowed with determination.

“Turn around. I’m sure you’re perfectly capable. But I’m a doctor and it would be foolish of you not to let me assist you.”

Something that looked like pain crossed her face and her step faltered. “Besides, it would be nice to feel useful after…” her voice trailed off

But I could fill in the blanks. The people in the lab. The experiments.

I handed her the tube and turned around.

Instead of the expected gasp or fussing her voice was professional, her hands cool as she examined my back, gently testing for swelling, injury.

“What happened?”

“Fights. Lots of them.”

“Tell her,” Erich urged from the corner where he stood, but for once I ignored him.

“You’re going to need more than just sealant,” she muttered, but the cool sting of it slid across the worst of the cuts anyway.

“Let me see what supplies you have. I doubt there will be anything that can do more than basic care for Loree, but I’ll take anything I can find.”

“I’ve checked for meds, trust me. There’s nothing I recognize.” I turned back to meet her flat stare.

“Are you a doctor?”

“Nope.”

“Medic training?”

“Basic.” I shifted my weight from side to side. For a little thing, she didn’t seem too worried about pissing off someone twice her size.

“Then maybe I’ll recognize something you didn’t.”

“She’s got a point,” Erich called out from the corner.

I wasn’t arguing with both of them.

There wasn’t any point in replacing my shirt, the man who had this room hadn’t been my size, and it would just get destroyed in the next fight anyway. I headed to the corridor, pausing when I realized Nadira wasn’t behind me. She stood by the bunk with the unconscious woman, lightly touching her wrist.

“Will she be safe alone?”

“No one else’s here,” I shrugged. “No one living, at least.”

Nadira glanced at the holoplate, the frozen mementos of a life long-gone, and followed me.

I wanted to get this errand over quickly, but my steps were sluggish. It was time to rest. Soon the Hunters would return to the decks I had access to and with them came the time to fight.

Maybe she could be useful, if she was anything like Doc. I snorted.

The blonde looked up. “What’s funny?”

“Just thinking about a friend.”  I fell silent. With us captured, Doc’s defenses would have been swept away. But she’d never allow herself to be taken. The Wolves might have pieces of what the Hunters and their handlers were looking for, but Doc’s clever brain held the entire puzzle.

When I didn’t explain further, Nadira forged ahead on a different path. “When you said blew… Was there actually a hull breach on the ship?”

“Yeah. Most of the damage was further down.”

The result had been the perfect refuge. The Hunters avoided the section, lacking the imagination to double check what their readouts told them.

“When did the breach happen?”

I shrugged. “Don’t know. A while back, looking at the tech.”

She ran her hand over the faded fabric covering the walls, frowning. “I know I recognize this. I just can’t pull it to mind.”

But she didn’t follow up on the thought. We’d arrived at the storage room.

It wasn’t much. Couldn’t have been a supply area for the entire ship, more likely just an auxiliary location. Emergency supplies for this section, something like that.

Nadira rifled through the shelves, mumbling to herself as she went.

“Bed linens, bed linens, who needs so many bed linens? I guess they’ll be bandages if necessary. Rations, that’s good.”

She picked one up and glanced at the date code stamped on it and raised her eyebrows. “Well, maybe good.”

I couldn’t lie to her. “I wouldn’t say good, but they’re edible.”

She glanced at me and cocked an eyebrow. “I’ll take your word for it for now.”

Nadira continued sorting through all the random junk that someone had thought was important enough to store. None of it had been of any use to save the people in this section.

I’d stacked the bodies as I found them in a cold locker at the far aft of the ship. All suffocated in their living quarters, none of them near emergency breathers. Whatever had caused the breach had been quick, unexpected.

“Wait a minute…”

Curious to see what she’d found, I peered around the corner of one of the shelving units to find her glaring at a wall.

“This panel is cold. Colder than the rest of the walls around it. I think there’s a door that slides, but it’s stuck. Can you help me open it?”

I moved to stand behind her. Her head only reached the midpoint of my chest, so it wasn’t like there was any danger she’d block my view of the wall.

Darkness. I’d never noticed it, but she was right. An inset panel, faintly outlined between two of the shelving units.

I studied the door and then reached around her with both hands, jamming the tips of my fingers into the thin crack at the top of the panel.

“I can move, you know,” she muttered, but I focused on finding a weakness to the door.

Tugging down I could feel the resistance in the seal. Probably automated at some point, hadn’t moved in years, stuck solid now.

Nothing a little brute force couldn’t solve.

With a groan of metal the panel slid down, revealing shelves full of vials.

“That’s what I need,” she breathed, as she grabbed the closest one, my arms enclosing her apparently forgotten.

I looked down at what she held.  “Yeah, it’s that code again. Can’t read it.”

“I know this, I know this pattern.”  She put the vial down, picked up another one. Tapped a nail against the label.   “Venarian categorization numbering.  Why in all the Void would the ship’s stores use that?  No one uses it, too much of a hassle.”

“Will you tell me when you start saying things I need to know about?”

But she didn’t hear me, just put down the second vial, picked up a third to study. “But we learned it in that horrible history of ‘Nomenclatures throughout the Empire’ lecture in second year.” She closed her eyes and leaned back, almost into my chest. “How did it go? The first string is the class, the second string is the…”

I stopped listening, just watched her sort through them, pick up another vial, examine it.

“Got it.” Bewilderment stole the look of victory from her eyes. “But it doesn’t make any sense. Nobody’s used this classification system for decades.”

“Sense or not, will they still be effective?”

She picked up a few vials, rolled them in her hand.  “Should be, they’ve been kept cold enough. A few things may need an increased dosage. A couple things I might not use just because I’m not sure how they would degrade. But this,” she tapped one of the vials, “this should go a long way towards bringing Loree’s fever down.”

“Any painkillers in that lot?” I hated to ask, but it would be time to go back out soon.

She looked up at me, jumping a little at our closeness. “Yes, but what you need more than meds is rest.”

Stepping back, I choked off the bitter laugh that fought through my throat. “Let’s assume that’s not on the table. At least, not as long as I need.”

I hated asking for help. But it wasn’t just for me. “Whatever you can find to help patch me up, I’d appreciate it.”

Nadira made a bag out of a pillowcase and started putting supplies in, vials, injectors, a sheet. “Is there running water back at the room?”

“No. Couldn’t pull that off without making it clear the area was inhabited.” I thumped one of the liquid storage cubes. “I promise it’s kept better than the rations did.”

Lifting one of the large cubes, I counted the water containers left on the rack. With three of us now I’d need to come back and restock more frequently. And I’d have to find another storage compartment soon.

Or else… I shook my head. Not going there. Not now.

“Ready to go?” Nadira tied the pillow case top together to make handles, and slung it over her shoulder. “I know you said there’s no one else here, but I’m a little nervous leaving Loree for so long.”

Back in the room she immediately checked Loree’s condition. Nothing had changed to my eyes, but she seemed worried as she prepped a vial for the injector. With a hiss it released the medicine into the woman’s upper arm.

“Will that take care of her?” I slid the water cube onto the desk.

“It’ll bring the fever down, make her more comfortable. That’s all for now.”

I watched her sort through the vials she’d brought, load another into the injector.  “Let’s get started on you. Any reactions to medication?”

Her voice sounded sad, resigned, but her hands were sure as she moved so she could see my back and then injected me with the painkiller.

The knife edge of pain I’d been riding dulled, just a bit. Just enough.

“Some of these older wounds look infected.” My own system should have caught it, should have kept me in shape. But without sustained down time, it was doing a crappy job.

The click and hiss of another vial. Her touch was a world away from any kind of caress, but I couldn’t help but lean into it, crave hearing another voice. She’d fallen silent while she worked, but there was an easy way to fix that.

“What else does she need?”

“A geneticist.”

“What?” That wasn’t what I expected.

“Loree has Karda’s Syndrome. Even on Orem, the black market couldn’t always get the drug she needed to stay stable. Since we were caught, put in the cage…”  Her sure fingers stopped, shook on my back.

I turned, enfolded her hands between mine. She’d lost color, her glassy eyes didn’t see me anymore.

“But you’re not there now, right? Nadira?”

She took a deep breath, then another. “Right.”

I stretched, rotated my shoulder. Still a mess, but better. It would do.

“Get some rest, I’ll be back.”

“Where are you going?”

“Hunting.”

***
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One Response to Freed: Chapter Three

  • Andrea Brooke says:

    More more please. I want to know what happened for Ronan to be on the ship, Orem is mentioned and does this mean more meeting up of the Wolves?

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