Aurra had shown Garran his cabin and then excused herself. The cabin was surprisingly spacious with a double bed and not just a standard narrow bunk—if you even had the luxury of a private space. He had asked Aurra about it and she had said that all of their cabins were doubles. It had been designed that way and she had never seen a reason to change the configuration.
Not that he minded the extra space, particularly with the wheelchair. He inspected the bathroom. It too had enough space to accommodate his wheels. Judging by the state of repair of the ship they most likely had their own machine shop He would find some tools later and make some handholds to make using the facilities less arduous for himself.
He had read somewhere that for centuries the ability to fix brain and spinal damage had eluded medical science. And apparently there were still some rare conditions today where repair was more a matter of luck than science. Since his paralysis was limited entirely to his legs, Garran was confident that his injury was pretty straightforward and easily fixed. He just couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for people to find out that they would spend the rest of their lives like this.
Aurra had shown him some drawers full of good if used clothes and he was glad to get out of that white institutional garb. He had raised a questioning eyebrow at her, but she had just shaken her head with a grim expression on her face; clearly not willing to share whose cloths these were. So he had left it alone and she had left him to get changed.
The clothes were mostly military style fatigues, black, khaki, tan and white T-shirts and some sweatshirts, shorts, socks and in the bottom of a closet he even found a pair of well-worn boots his size. Not that he needed boots—with only one foot and stuck in the wheelchair as he was, but it would make him feel more like himself again. He was sitting on his bed now, leaning against the headboard, dressed in shorts and a black T-Shirt. Next to him a pair of fatigues, sweatshirt, a sock and boot. He regarded his legs for a moment.
They had been powerful legs that had carried him for thirty six years through many dangerous situations and while he had been injured in action before his legs had never let him down. Now nearly half his left leg was gone. The short stump below his knee still wrapped tightly in gauze and adhesive bandages. Shit. Now he would probably have to change the dressing himself instead of the robot medic that had done it for him daily the last two weeks. A procedure he had avoided to observe except for that first time when the shock of finding his leg missing had turned into morbid curiosity; and the sight of his naked, newly amputated leg had been thoroughly disturbing. The thought of actually having to undo those wraps now, to hold this remnant of his lower leg in his hands and really look at the shape and the scars before he hid it from sight once more made him queasy. Stop being such a sissy, he reprimanded himself, it’s still your leg. He would ask Aurra for some medical supplies later.
He grabbed the fatigues and lifting his right knee he brought his foot close and threaded it through. The shortened left leg was actually a lot easier to dress he noticed with dismay. He shifted himself left to right and back to work the pants up his legs and over his hips.
He was still in the middle of it when a knock sounded on his door. Expecting Aurra he called, “give me a minute.” Unfortunately a second would no longer do. The door opened and he was about to insist on his privacy when a familiar face peeked around the door jamb.
“Can I come in?” Doc asked and did so without waiting for a further response. He was carrying a medical case and a bringing an armful of supplies with him.
Despite the fact that he only had the pants halfway up his hips, Garran stopped what he was doing and reached out his hand. “Doc Morris? I don’t believe it. What are you doing here?” Maybe he wouldn’t have to wait until Horlus III to start treatment after all. Morris was an authority in neuro-orthopedic surgery.
“I’ve been with this crew for three years. Good to see you, Commander.” Doc put the case and supplies on a sideboard and sat down on the end of the bed. “How are you, Garran?”
Garran waved at his legs. “Well, as you can see I’ve been better. I’m up for some running repairs so to speak.”
“Do you know what they did?” Doc asked.
“Not exactly. Do you want me to take the pants off again?”
Doc waved him off. “Later.”
Garran carried on getting dressed. “I was shot through the ankle. The next thing I remember, I woke up in a prison cell with my left leg gone. Then after the trial, I think they staged my execution. Next time I woke up my legs were useless. That must have been about 12 hours ago, but I don’t know for how long I was knocked out.”
“Just your legs?”
“Yes, everything in between seems to be working properly.” He pushed away from the headboard and sat on the edge of the bed to put on the sock and boot.
“Interesting—so they didn’t just whack your spinal cord. I didn’t think they did.”
“How would you know?” Garran asked frowning.
“The skills you were advertised with.” Doc chuckled. “You were listed as a sex slave. Hardly a selling point if you couldn’t perform,” he smirked.
Garran froze, boot in hand. He turned the point toward himself. “A sex slave?” Then he pointed the boot in the general direction of the cockpit. “Does she…”
“No, don’t worry, Aurra doesn’t know. That’s why I picked this other guy, too. Was he really as bad as Aurra said? I wanted this entire transaction to be as inconspicuous as possible.”
“I think you succeeded. And yes—verbal diarrhea of note.” He leaned down and manhandled the boot onto his foot.
Doc watched him for a while then he check the time. “Aurra will call the crew together in ten minutes. Let me just take a look at that left leg of yours quickly.”
Garran finished tying the laces on the boot, releasing a silent breath of relief. Then he let himself drop back on the bed, arms above his head, but since he couldn’t feel what Doc was doing, curiosity won out after all and he pushed himself up on his elbows to watch Doc treat his leg.
Doc rolled up the fabric to above the knee then pulled on some gloves. He cut off the bandages, exposing the stump. The skin was still discolored, the scar in particular, but completely closed. Doc felt and pushed, then extended and flexed the knee joint fully.
Garran cleared his throat. “Before I couldn’t move it at all, it moved pretty well.”
Doc nodded. “They did a good job. Other than a wrong diagnosis, I can’t fault them—you’ll get a straightforward transplant at knee level.” He put the leg down carefully and got something else out of his case while Garran pushed himself up into a sitting position again. Doc handed him this something resembling a short, tight white sock. “Here put this on”
Garran took it and held it between two fingers away from him as if it smelled bad. “What’s that?”
“A shrinker. It will bring the swelling down. I know you can’t feel your leg, but you still need to treat it properly. It’s going to be a while before you’re ready for a transplant.”
Garran sighed, tangles of unease starting to pull on his stomach. He reached forward stretching the tight sock, but struggled to put it on until he figured out how to pin down his knee with his forearms while using both hands to pull the shrinker over the end of his stump. He shot an accusing look at Doc. “You could just give me a hand you know?” He growled.
Doc just shrugged. “Nope; your leg, your problem. Come—let’s go.”
In the past Flavia had had other people do research for her, but over time she had found that they never provided the degree of insight she wanted into the matter at hand. So she herself had become proficient in discovering information through the depth of computer networks and data stores—even the ones not intended for public scrutiny. There were ways and means around the security features, most often through skill, occasionally through monetary incentives and sometimes through brute force, but she had yet to fail at finding what she needed to know.
She was perched over a keyboard hacking her way into the Slave Trading Centre’s central database, Baldr standing behind her, continuing to massage her neck and shoulders. With him she didn’t have to worry about giving away any secrets. To him the screen in front of her was just a dark square against the brightness of the window beyond her desk.
“Hmm, thank Horlus for your divine hands. What would I do without you?” Flavia purred. In his reflection on the monitor she could see the smile spread over his features at the praise.
Finally the recent sales data appeared in front of her. Flavia’s brows drew together reading the information on the screen. A woman had bought Garran Raulsten—Aurora MacCowan. She was even more dismayed to see that instead of an address the contact details listed HIII-FC3792B Dark Goshawk—a freight carrier whose home base was Horlus III. She pushed back from her desk so abruptly; she toppled the surprised Baldr to the floor. “Go Baldr.”
Apparently unperturbed he got up and bowed slightly. “As you wish, Mistress.” Then he turned and left the room. Flavia watched him until the door had closed behind him. She started pacing. Was it possible that someone had been sent to rescue Garran? But then how did they know about the staged execution? She had made sure that the switch had been watertight, the execution real, the body cremated. The diplomatic channels between Horlus I and III had been open and both the governments on Horlus I and III had authorized the execution. It had to be a coincidence.
She went back to her desk and initiated a background search on the freighter and Aurora MacCowan. She tapped her foot while she waited impatiently for the special screening algorithms she had developed to sift and collate information across millions of systems and databases. She went back to the sales info from the STC and noticed that two slaves had been ordered for inspection, both male sex slaves. One had been accepted, the other rejected. Flavia relaxed slightly, her gut-feeling growing stronger that it was unlikely that this was a rescue attempt. And if you compared the pictures, Garran won hands-down, wheelchair and missing leg or not.
Background information started to come in. The freighter had made trips all over the solar system; no steady routes, but also no long stops in any one place. They were constantly on the move; typical of small, independent freight operators. The ship was registered in the name of Bryn MacCowan, deceased as of six month ago. The application for transfer into the name of the widow, Aurora MacCowan, twenty nine, had been approved and would become active a few days from now, after a mandatory waiting period had elapsed.
Aah, a lonely widow looking for some solace most likely—and who better than handsome and tragic Garran Raulston? What to do? An idea came to Flavia. She would send her double and one of her own prime-male slaves and offer a trade to Aurora MacCowan. An unfortunate clerical error, he was not supposed to be sold, he is scheduled for surgery to repair the damage to his legs…
She logged into the Port Control System to delay their departure clearance indefinitely. But then her plans came to a crashing halt—the Dark Goshawk had been cleared for take-off an hour before. Garran Raulsten had left the planet!
Aurora - Part 9
Aurora - Part 9