Philia, Part 1

“Terminate the embryo now before it implants.”

Mary locked on Paul’s eyes and enunciated, “No.”

“If you bring the embryo to term, it will die before we reach port.” Paul didn’t back down from the captain’s intense eyes. “No child ever born in space has lived. You’d be condemning it to a short life of pain.”

Each of Mary’s words came measured and weighed. “Doctor, this is the end of the discussion. I have more important things to do. Am I fit to return to duty?”

Paul paused before responding. “No. Physically, you’re fine. But you need to talk to James. If he gives you a pass, then you can come back on duty. Until then, Grayven’s in charge.”

“She was hurt in the attack, too.”

“Not like you.” Paul looked down and away. “I’m sorry. Go back to your cabin. I’ll let James know you need to speak with him, though I’m sure he’s already planning on grabbing you the second I’m done.”

Mary slid off the table gingerly, forcing her jaw to unclench. Her ankle gave out as she put weight on it. Paul reached out a steadying hand, but Mary slapped it away and leapt back from him. She raised her other arm in defense. She shivered.

“Captain. Mary.” Paul held out his hand.

Mary closed her eyes and shook her head. “Thank you, doctor.” She limped to the door, punching the button next to it. The panels hissed open, allowing egress.

She limped down the empty corridor to her cabin. The bright light hurt her eyes. She had to get used to the ship again. I wasn’t gone that long, she reminded herself. Only a few hours. Not even under medical treatment for more than a few days. She reached out to one of the off-white walls. It was stained a slight pink. They’d never lift the bloodstains off the walls. Not completely. They’d have to paint over this. Once they got back to port. In over a year.

A few moments later the door to her own cabin allowed her entry. The chairs around her little table were knocked over, one shattered. Her potted parsley plant was smashed on the ground. Clothes scattered everywhere. No one had thought to clean her room. Of course, it didn’t matter. There were more important things.

She caught sight of herself in the mirror and yelped. It all rushed back at her.

She rushed to her bathroom and flicked the shower on. Hot. Hot water. Steam filled the tiled room. She stepped in. The water soaked her clothing. Though the water burned, she shivered. Clothes. Off. Soap. Soap. Not clean. The shivering made it hard to hold the bar of soap. She kept dropping it. Over and over.

No. She was clean. There was nothing wrong. She had done nothing wrong.

With a trembling hand she turned down the temperature of the water. She should not be this weak. A tremor wracked her body and she collapsed on the floor of the shower, the water running over her.

At last she sobbed.

Two hours later she stumbled out of the bathroom, her eyes still bleary. She found a brown, shapeless sweater and baggy pants near the one upright chair. That would do. That would do. She needed to be busy. She needed something to do. As she dressed, she saw the black panel on her wall blink a small green light. A message.

She pressed her hand against the light and a sterile female voice intoned, “Doctor James Thaddeus, 1405.” Mary glanced at the clock. That was over an hour ago. A male voice filled the speakers and she flinched in spite of herself. “Mary. Paul just told me he released you. Tell me when you want me there. You know how to get a hold of me, day or night. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll come to you. Soon.”

Mary nodded. James would understand.

She did her best to straighten her cabin to some semblance of normalcy. Chairs upright. Clothes put away. Her side and her abdomen ached, but she worked slowly and carefully. As she considered the dirt from her parsley plant, a chime sounded.

“Who is it?”

The voice filtered through a speaker, “James”

Mary swallowed. “Come in.”

The door hissed open and a tall man stood silhouetted in the hall. He made no move to enter.

Mary squared her shoulders to the door. She told her hands to stop shaking. This was a friend. She was safe. She repeated it to herself. She was safe.

James spoke quietly, “Paul told me he wasn’t allowing you back on duty until I said you were capable.” He paused, keeping his blue eyes on her face. “We don’t have to talk now, but I’m here for you. You’ve been hurt. You need time to heal. You have as much as you need.”

“Get out of the hallway,” Mary answered with irritation.

“Do you want to be alone with a man?” His answer was just above a whisper.

Her hands needed to stop trembling. “We don’t have time for games. I need to be there for my crew.”

“Right now, your crew is here for you. Did Paul tell you what we did?”

Mary nodded. “After they,” she breathed in and out, slowly. “After they undocked, Trent chased them down. You all came after me.”

“You are important to us. And the entire crew wants you to take the time you need to heal. And Mary…” James let the words drop as he searched for the right words to express what he wanted to say. “Mary, when we are weak, He is strong. You still have a white robe in His eyes. It is all right to be broken. Even in brokenness, He loves.”

Mary nodded, her eyes shut tight. “Psalm twenty-seven.”

James exhaled. “I’m going to sit on the floor, right out here. Whenever you want, close the door. I will stay with you until you wish to be alone. I will stay out here, so you know you are safe.”

After a long silence, Mary asked, “What do I do about the baby?”

James’ voice filled her ears, “Love him. Or her.”

“It’s going to die.”

“We all die, Mary. That doesn’t mean we can’t share love before then. And you know what love you can show that child even before he dies.”

Mary nodded. “I need to be alone.”

James stood and pressed the panel on his side. The door hissed shut.

Mary stood alone in her quarters. Again the sobbing came. Again she ran to the shower.

She longed to be clean again.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 3 here.

Read Part 4 here.

Read Part 5 here.

Read Part 6 here.

Read Part 7 here.

Read Part 8 here.

14 thoughts on “Philia, Part 1

  1. Thank you for your compliment — I hope, as the story continues, I stay true to that tone! I’ll be posting a part a day until we reach the end. (The story is already complete, so I’ll be able to keep up with the schedule!)

  2. Um…Must I say that it sounds a lot like a part of Shards Book Two? It almost seems to be an afterstory to it though. You should write a prequel to the story.

  3. There’ll be a postscript — I have to admit, Prellwitz did influence me strongly for this part of the story in particular. I’ll be mentioning some of those influences in the postscript at that time. (Good catch, though.)

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