Tyr felt like he had stepped into one of the video games he suddenly remembered playing, including the name he used in games: Taku Skan. That wasn’t his real name either, but at least he was making some progress.
The room was fairly dark. Walls of roughly hewn stone with alcoves displaying all kinds of antique torture equipment, artfully lit with recessed lighting. In regular intervals between the alcoves, real fire torches bathed the room into an eerie flickering light. Chains were suspended from large hooks in the domed ceiling as were rustic chandeliers supporting massive lit candles. Standing racks contained swords and staffs, knives and daggers, shuriken, sai and nanchaku, sovnya, halberds and naginata, maces and morning stars, he could name them all. Interesting he thought and put that realization away to analyze at a later point in time. In one of the alcoves he noticed what looked like a statue of a huge erect penis—now that was somewhat out of place with the rest of the collection.
On the opposite wall several steps led up to a platform on which an ornately carved chair stood, draped in furs and shiny purple fabrics. More stage light effects bringing out the opulence of the set-up. The chair dwarfed the woman that sat in it. She had a disproportionately large head, her long blond hair held in a thick braid that fell over one shoulder. She was dressed in what looked like a long shimmering white gown, the color glowing unnaturally in the dimness of the room. Right next to the chair was a T-shaped stand on which a large white bird with a strongly hooked beak was perched.
“Welcome Tyr.” She misshapen woman spoke with a surprisingly low and sensual tone of voice.
The three men stopped in front of the steps. Tyr in the middle still held up by Rag on his left while Baldr flanked his armless right side without touching him.
Tyr decided it was best to stay silent for the moment until circumstances demanded otherwise.
“Rag, Baldr, step back.” Again the slow, deliberate pronunciation. Her voice had an almost hypnotic quality to it.
“He will fall down, Mistress.” Rag intervened on his behalf.
“Is that so?” The woman arched one sculpted eyebrow. “Well, in that case he can kneel on the floor. Baldr bring a mat.”
Baldr stepped away to retrieve a padded mat and placed it in front of Tyr. Then Rag’s hand on his shoulder forced him onto his knees. When they walked away, Tyr turned and saw that they took up an At-Ease stance a few feet behind and on either side of him.
“Do you like my bird?” She reached a stubby-fingered hand for the bird’s head and stroked it. The bird seemed to like the attention. Funny—it reminded him of the bird he had seen in his mind earlier. Tyr looked at the bird, but still didn’t say anything. She didn’t seem to mind.
She removed her hand again and the … whatever the things on a bird where called … rose up creating a crest on its head. The beak moved, but the bird didn’t make a sound.
“I am your Mistress now, Tyr. I have brought you here to show you what I had in mind for the other.” Tyr turned his attention back to the woman in front of him who waved a hand around indicating the various torture implements. Who was the other?
“What happened is not your fault. You don’t bear the same responsibility he did. That’s why you will not be subjected to the same punishment.” She paused. When she continued her voice was even lower with a syrupy quality that reminded him of a venus fly trap. “I rescued you, I had your wounds treated, but alas …” she sighed heavily, “I ran out of patience with your broken arm, so I rather had the doctor amputate it.”
And that wasn’t punishment? Tyr failed to suppress a groan as the disembodied pain in his non-existent elbow spiked to near blinding intensity. Involuntarily he reached for his elbow, but redirected the movement until his hand cupped the end of the arm, pressing it against the side of his body. The pain started to subside. This woman was dangerous. She obviously had control over life and death here, as well as body parts that offended her sense of timing. Who was she and why was he here? His very survival might depend on figuring that out. He felt something tugging at his memory, but it was just out of reach.
“If you prove yourself worthy, I may give you a prosthetic to fight with. If you please me, I might even consider giving you a new arm.” She swayed her head from side to side and Tyr had a vision of her thin neck snapping if she tilted her head any more sideways than she did.
“The nano-machines we use to heal skin and muscle will have completed their work by tomorrow. Then you start training. Expect me tomorrow afternoon to watch your first sparring match. If you are in pain, tell the doctor. I don’t want you to be incapacitated, well, not more than necessary. Dismissed!” She giggled and Tyr couldn’t suppress the shiver that raced up his spine.
He had just turned his wheelchair into the corridor outside the medical bay when he heard footsteps behind him—Aurra by the sounds of it. Had she been stalking the corridor, waiting for him to appear?
Spot on. Unfortunately she was the last person he felt like talking to right now. Still, he slowed the wheels until the chair came to a halt, but he didn’t turn around. Maybe she sensed his hesitation because she didn’t come closer.
He could hear the concern in her voice, but he couldn’t go there. Not right now.
His voiced was horse when he answered. “Ask Doc.”
Then he pumped his wheels, putting as much speed and distance between them as he could.
The feeling of Aurra’s kiss on his lips, the feeling of her body against his had branded him and had left an indelible impression. It had kept him connected to reality throughout the batteries of tests Doc had run and then rerun; both times with the same soul-destroying result. Thinking of Aurra and feeling her need for him had kept him sane. He really hadn’t had the time to contemplate where to take this; except now he did—now he had the whole fucking rest of his life to contemplate that this would go exactly nowhere.
He was screwed. They had screwed him up so bad that even Doc, the best neuro-orthopedic surgeon there was, couldn’t fix him. He’d be stuck in this fucking wheelchair for the rest of his life; or if not a wheelchair then a lower body actuator that would move his legs for him. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! He pushed even harder, punctuating each stroke with the expletive.
Hadn’t he wondered only yesterday what the poor souls of the past must have felt like when confronted with the diagnosis of permanent paralysis? Well now he knew. It felt like shit! Like someone had pronounced a fucking life sentence over him for a crime he hadn’t even committed—life without the possibility of parole.
A few short days ago when he could still walk—on one leg at least—he had had made peace with the prospect of his imminent death, but this? He wasn’t sure where he would find the courage to make peace with the fact that he would never be able to walk on his own again.
When all was said and done, all that Doc had had to offer was a consolation prize—a new lower left leg. A fucking useless lower left leg. He had politely declined. He didn’t want the leg if he couldn’t walk. No, let the galaxy see exactly what they had done to him—made him a one-legged, paralyzed cripple. He’d stick his stump right into their faces, for everyone to see.
He entered his cabin and slammed the door. He threw himself onto the bed, dragging his useless one and a half legs onto the mattress behind him.
As he pulled himself up against the bulkhead, staring in frustration and disgust at his nerveless legs, he remembered again the feeling of Aurra straddling him, the pressure of her pubic bone against his dick. So close, so fucking close!
She had surprised the hell out of him, but then again they had both been under the assumption that his paralysis was only temporary. That over the next couple of months he would gradually regain sensation and movement. Now there was no such prospect. Every day he woke up now would be the same as the day before. His whole life still ahead of him and until the end of days he would be sitting in this fucking chair. He pushed the offending object so hard, it crashed against the wall across from his bed.
No other women would have even considered touching him except for Aurra, but would she still feel the same once Doc had explained to her what he had told him? How could she? Where before he had had little to offer, now he had absolutely nothing. Not even hope.
A new thought invaded his mind; one that made him even more dejected than before. He no longer had a reason to stay. His eyes were starting to sting. Hell no, he was so not going there. He was not going to cry. With all his willpower he shut down the emotion, but still, Garran had never felt so adrift.
Aurra leaned back in her chair and regarded Doc across the desk. On the tablet lying on top of the desk Doc had sketched out some of the medical terms and details he had explained to her: epineurium, perineurium and endoneurium. She squeezed the bridge of her nose then let her hand drop back down, stabbing a finger at the drawing.
“So let me see if I got this right. They didn’t just sever his nerves, they killed the nerve cells inside the severed nerves so they can’t grow back. And then, just to make doubly sure, they filled up those little hollow nerve tubes so that even if you brought in new cells there is no way they can reach where they would need to go?”
“That about sums it up.” Doc nodded. “Ingenious if it wasn’t so cruel.”
“So his paralysis is permanent and there is no way to reverse what they did?”
“Not easily. See—there are special cells genetically programmed to line the endoneurium and form the hollow tube for a nerve to grow back into. If they had altered their genetic structure I could have developed a way to target the modified cells to kill them so that unmodified cells could have replaced them and rebuilt the tubes. But instead they used nano-machines to trick the cells into thinking that they were building a tube when in fact they were building struts across the tube. They can’t be distinguished from normal cells.”
“So what about a nano device that sort of drills out the tubes again?” Aurra asked with a frown.
A quick smile passed across Doc’s face. “Yes, that’s about the only option I can see, too. But it’s something that I will have to develop and test extensively before treating Garran with it. Can’t let some microscopic robot lose in his body that drills indiscriminately through anything in its way, can I?” He chuckled.
“No, I suppose that would kill him.”
“So how long do you think would it take to develop something like that?”
“I suppose you want an honest answer?” Aurra nodded. “Well, the development of nano-machines is highly regulated. I can’t just go out and buy the assemblers, incubators, raw materials and nano-machine blueprints. I would have to find it on the black market.” He held up a hand and started to tick off items on his fingers. “Once I have what I need I would have to experiment with designs to ensure they do their job without fail, plus develop a kill switch that would inactivate them immediately if something went wrong, plus a way to remove them from his body either through extraction or metabolic elimination, and at the same time they must be resilient enough to resist the immune response until they have finished the job. So…” Doc took a deep breath then held up both hands palms facing up. “You can see there is no easy answer, but my best guess is—it would keep me busy for a few years at least.”
Aurra gasped. “A few years?”
“Yes, but the odds are not good that it will work at all.”
Aurra was quiet for a moment. No wonder Garran wouldn’t look at her when she had turned into the corridor and seen him leave the medical bay earlier. She herself had been shocked when Doc had first said that he didn’t have the means to reverse Garran’s paralysis. Hadn’t Garran said that Doc was an authority in this field?
“So how did he take the prospect of spending a few years in a wheelchair instead of a few months?”
Doc held his breath for a moment then he let out a long sigh. “I didn’t tell him.”
“You didn’t tell him what?” Aurra frowned.
“I didn’t tell him that there is a theoretical chance of a treatment. If I did that he would latch on to the idea and be stuck in limbo waiting for a cure that may never arrive. No.” He shook his head. “I told him the paralysis is irreversible. He needs to accept that and move on.”
“But…” Aurra started to protest.
Doc held up a hand. “Aurra, I know you care for him and you mean well, but believe me I have known Garran for a long time and I know how he ticks. It’s better this way.”
Aurra chewed her lower lip for a while. Finally she said. “Doc, you know I respect your opinion, so I won’t mention it, but I won’t lie to him if he asks. Fair?”
Doc nodded. “Fair.”
After another silence Doc asked. “So are you going to ask him to stay?”
Aurora - Part 17
Aurora - Part 17