The Airlock Dreams

Characters: Dunstan Kordieh

Tarenn leaned back, shifting uneasily against the neckrest of the small bed that had been brought into the hospital room. Nelier had tried to convince her to return to Tuzanor to rest and heal, but Tarenn refused as politely as she could.

“Master, the mission you gave me was to watch over Kordieh and see him safely back to Tuzanor. I will come back when he does. Or when he passes beyond the Veil. But not before.” At last, Nelier left it at that and had the bed brought in.

It had been three days since the disastrous explosion in the Yedor transit tunnels. The healers had come and gone, their quiet voices growing in tones of surprise as the hours went by and Kordieh survived, clinging to life like a limpet.

Others had come and gone as well — other Rangers, from trainees in Tarenn’s own class all the way to high ranking members of the order’s governing council. She heard all of them, making note of the often amazed, sometimes cynical tones of the junior Rangers, and the anxious, puzzled manner of many of the elders.

Although she wasn’t truly privy to the words, it was not her fault that she could hear, she told herself. So she waited, listening.

A debate was brewing among the elders, that much was clear. It was well known that Kordieh wanted to return to the Rangers, that he sought redemption and atonement for the crimes he had committed while on the Phoenix. Some believed this was merely a ploy; others were firmly convinced that Kordieh’s sacrifice had come from the heart and proved he was worthy of the Rangers.

The room was quiet and still as Tarenn shifted once more, trying to find a comfortable place on the bed. She idly wondered if a warrior caste had designed it. She’d heard stories that the warrior caste were always ill tempered because they slept so badly, but she’d thought it was a joke until now.

A sound from the bed next to her brought her away from the edge of sleep. She stood up, limping the short distance to where Kordieh lay. His eyes had opened, and he turned a weary look on her as she approached.

“Valeria be praised!” Tarenn murmured. “Dunstan Kordieh, you’re alive!”

“I guess I am,” was the faint, slow reply. “Where are we?”

Tarenn told him, and explained everything that had happened since the disaster.

“Sounds like I’m making trouble for the elders again,” he said when she’d finished.

“Dunstan, you are a Ranger,” she said. “You’ve proven it now. The council must allow you to come back!”

“I hope you’re right,” he said. “I’ve been dreaming about the airlock.”

“The airlock?” Following a gesture, Tarenn poured a glass of water, and supported Kordieh’s head as he drank.

After leaning back and taking several deep, ragged breaths, he answered the question. “Ever since … my crime, I’ve dreamed of being in an airlock. There’s always someone on the other side to push the button and blow me out into space.”

Tarenn looked horrified. “Why?”

“That’s how humans in space execute traitors,” Kordieh answered. “Traitors and killers.” He took another deep, ragged breath, trying to summon the strength to continue. “It’s usually Captain Hale. Sometimes others — Chief Darquin, Anla’shok Morgan … sometimes even my brother. But now … now it’s been Katia.”

He blinked hard, looking up at Tarenn with an expression of confusion and pain. “I can’t seem to cry.”

“Your eyes are still damaged from the gas,” Tarenn said. “You’d better close them now.”

He nodded and complied. “What does it mean?” he asked, sounding like a lost child.

“I don’t know,” Tarenn said, trying to hold back tears of her own. “Rest. You must rest so you can heal. I will keep the dreams at bay.”

“All right,” he murmured as he slipped back into unconsciousness.

Tarenn limped back to her bed and settled herself for meditation, clearing her mind of everything, then refilling it with images of peace. She had always done well at meditation. Still, this time it was hard to avoid thinking of airlocks.

Copyright (c) 2002 Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.

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