Aurora—Aurra—MacCowan walked into her cockpit after a long, exhausting inspection round, walking every corridor, checking every seal, every air scrubber, every mechanical unit and running self-tests on every electronic one. It was a necessary procedure to be performed once every third shift; at least in a ship as old as hers. But better safe than sorry. One malfunctioning unit, one malfunctioning sensor and a delay in realizing there was a problem could allow a chain reaction that could doom the ship and the entire crew.
She dragged her boot-clad feet the last few steps, if only she weren’t so exhausted, then collapsed into her pilot’s chair. Her gaze swept over the panels and consoles, making sure that everything was in order, the auto-pilot was working correctly and they were still on the right course towards Horlus I. Her gaze finally landed on the empty co-pilot chair and as always she had to choke back the sob when in her mind’s eye saw Bryn sitting there, a broad grin on his handsome face and teasing her about something silly.
She forced the picture away before it overwhelmed her. The bone-deep fatigue was getting the better of her and though she desperately tried to keep her eyes open, it wasn’t long and she drifted off into a deep and thankfully dreamless sleep.
At some point in time Garran realized that he wasn’t dead. Or death was nothing like he had expected it to be. He was cold. Semi-awake he opened his eyes and turned his head from side to side, but it was too dark to make out anything other than a few LEDs in some control panel or other on the far wall. He heard the rasping breath of another person and some electronic humming, but other than that—nothing.
He realized that he was lying flat on his back, his arms on top of some type of rough material that was apparently some type of blanket. He stuck his arms under the blanket and pulled it higher against his neck. Trying to turn himself onto his side, he realized that something felt wrong. Instantly he was fully awake. His legs were not responding. He moved one hand down to his hip and below onto his right thigh. He felt his leg under his hand, but the corresponding sensation of touch in his leg was gone. He tried to move his leg, to even just contract his quad, but there was no response. No movement, no feeling, absolutely nothing. He moved his hand to his groin and was relieved to find that sensation there was completely normal. He pushed himself up into a sitting position and moved his hands back to his right leg. The second inspection only revealed one additional fact. His right leg was intact. He steeled himself for the inspection of the left. More of the same, except, as he had expected, his left leg still ended in a round nub six inches below his left knee. And he was still uncomfortable with touching the stump. He moved his hands behind his back and felt his backside and lower back. His glutes were sort of half-numb, but had not volitional movement either. Higher up he felt two small sutured surgical incisions one on either side of his spine in the area of the lumbar-sacral plexus. Bastards. They had blocked or cut the nerves to his legs. Garran was shivering violently now. Not from the cold, but from the adrenalin that was cursing through him at the realization of what had been done. Bastards. Bastards. Bastards. Then his anger and frustration broke through to the surface and he screamed at the top of his voice. “You fucking bastards!” before dropping back onto his pillow.
Instantly the lights in the room came on and another angry voice spoke. “Fuck yourself.”
Garran’s head whipped around into the direction of the speaker, a scrawny man maybe a few years older than Garran, who had sat up on his cot and was angrily stabbing a finger in Garran’s direction as he carried on. “Can’t a man get a decent night’s sleep in here? I knew you were a screamer from the moment they brought you in yesterday afternoon. All I want is to mind my own business, but you, you want to make your business every ones elses, too. It won’t get you anywhere other than that they’ll cut our already meager food rations. So shut the fuck up.”
Garran had pushed himself up on his elbow. “Are you finished?”
“Yes. I’m finished with you.” Then man threw himself back onto his cot, his back turned to Garran and switched off the light.
Garran was unperturbed by the man's outburst, but his voice was laced with sarcasm. “I am sorry, but you must cut a man some slack here. It’s not every day that you wake up and find out you’re paralyzed.” He heard the man rustle, obviously turning back in his direction. The light however stayed off.
“You are what?”
“Pa-ra-lyzed. Are you deaf or what? I can’t move my legs unlike the last time I was awake.”
“My sentiments exactly.”
“What did you do to piss them off so badly? I saw you missing a leg when they brought you in here and that wheelchair or yours, but that’s not unusual.”
“What do you mean?”
“Amputating a lower leg is the normal punishment for slaves who try to escape.”
“Slaves who try … you mean we … you and me?” Garran was swallowing hard, trying to wrap his mind around what he had just learned.
“Yup, except I still have all my limbs because I worked really hard to earn my promotion to come here for an opportunity to see and do something new, whereas you my friend seem to have outlived your usefulness.”
“I wouldn’t know. I don’t even know where here is.”
“Here, my friend, is the slave trading center on Horlus I.”
Aurora - Part 3
Aurora - Part 3