Companions In the Dark
Characters: Miina Awenata
Miina watched in wonder as the stars faded, one by one, just like the final notes in Grandfather’s Nightsong. Then quietly, gently, he lifted her from his shoulders, and sat her on her feet on the dew-laden grass just as the first shimmering rays of light filtered through the great trees. She watched in silence as he unrolled a blanket that he had brought with him. It had been bound with a strap, and slung it over his shoulder, and now he rolled it out on the grass.
A protest welled up from deep within her, but she tried to keep it from escaping. Every moment she got to spend with him was precious, and she didn’t want to waste a single moment, but she was sure she wouldn’t like what he had in mind for her now. She didn’t want the night to end, or the day to begin. She wanted to stay right here, right now, in the soft glow of twilight, where day and night touched, where past and present were one.
“But Grandfather,” she said softly, hearing the faintest hint of a childish protest in her own voice, “I don’t want to go to sleep now.”
But he only smiled his patient, loving smile as he patted the blanket again, and said, “but you have been wide awake this long night, my granddaughter, and you shall need all of your strength for the journey back.” He held out his other hand and beckoned her to lie down.
She smiled back, nodded obediently, and laid down. The old red, white and black patterned blanket felt familiar and welcome to her fingers, and she smiled again, and pulled it around her. She never wanted to let go of it. “Remember,” Grandfather whispered, as he rested his hand on her forehead, “All that you have seen this night shall sustain you…until the darkness has vanished.”
“Miina?” The voice was softly calling her name. It couldn’t be her cousin, Tadewi. Tadewi was far on the other side of the forest. She listened more closely, and heard moans and voices in the background. But foremost was a man’s voice, and it was not Grandfather. She started to call out for him, but changed her mind, as the name repeated her own urgently. “Miina? It’s Tass. Are you all right?”
Tass. She drew in a deep breath, the nightful of memories fresh in her mind, and tried to gather her thoughts. She was on the Phoenix again. “Tass? Where are you?” she asked. What was this? Some kind of dream? She shook her head and tried to will herself to wake up. But she could not. Tass still called her from somewhere far away. And she could see nothing. Nothing but blackness. She sat up, and suddenly remembered the brilliant flash before she had ….gone back.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Explosion,” he replied. “Nearly ripped the ship apart.” His voice dropped to a hushed tone. “And we’ve lost a lot of our people….”
Miina shook her head and still wondered why her eyes wouldn’t clear. Perhaps if she stood… “Give me a hand,” she told him.
“Sorry,” he said quietly, “I don’t have one that would do you any good.” Only then did she notice the pain in his voice.
“You’re hurt,” she told him. “What happened?”
“I don’t know. I was trying to replace a power coupling, and then the explosion happened, and I was lying on the deck with my hands underneath me. They don’t hurt too badly, but I can’t move my fingers…”
“Get yourself down to sickbay then, Tass, on the double,” she told him softly, but the clear order shone through the gentle tone and she smiled to herself. Sometimes it was helpful to have Lt. Commander Gina Winters around after all. Besides, it was easier to think about someone else’s injuries than her own.
“No,” he said firmly. “There’s too much to do here. Just look around. I’ve got to be able to help somehow…” Miina nodded, but she declined his invitation to scan engineering. Instead, she raised her hands to her face and felt about gingerly. Everything was still there. And no burn marks that she could feel. And her eyes were definitely open. Now Grandfather’s words had a deeper meaning for her. All that you have seen this night shall sustain you …until the darkness has vanished…” She drew in a breath, squared her shoulders, and answered Grandfather’s voice in her mind. And until then, there is work to be done.
“What is there to be done?” she asked Tass aloud.
“The Chief says Life Support has been lost on several decks, and the self-repairing systems aren’t…” he stopped. “Miina? What are you doing?”
“I have a slight problem that can be attended to later as well,” she said calmly, as she got to her feet. “If you can point me in the direction of a vacant workstation, or whatever looks the worst, we’ll take a look.”
“You can’t see?”
“No, but my hands work fine…so between us, I’d say we’ve got one damn good engineer.”
A few minutes later found Tass and Miina slowly, but steadily working on the self-repair systems in one of the blown relays.
“A little bit to the left…” Tass was coaching Miina, “a little more. Exactly. Right there. Uh-oh…”
“Oh, sorry. No, you’re right on it. There.” He paused. “Miina? Pakor is looking over here. He’s logging the injured for sickbay.”
“You want to go?”
“Me? What about you?”
“Later. I’m busy now.” She smiled. “Just keep telling me what I’m doing.”
Copyright (c) 1998 Judy Caswell. All rights reserved.