The Third Shift
Characters: Robert Evers
The graveyard rounds. Scientists say that there is no day and night in space, but merely a fixed set of seconds, minutes, and hours. They also say a lot of other things, most of which Bobby learned to ignore a long time ago. It was midnight on the Phoenix, and it felt like it. The sun hadn’t set to tell him just how late it was, or anything like that, but he knew it. He could feel the night etching it’s way across the universe. To be honest, he actually enjoyed it.
Things appeared still and quiet. Monitors beeped lightly in the background. A few sounds were heard as the aides moved about, adjusting substance feeds to the patients and performing other minor tasks. The medlab was extremely empty, as Doctor Trassano had ordered. Most of the patients had been discharged with instructions to immediately return or contact medlab if their condition deteriorated.
Bobby was sprawled out on an empty bed just inside the main entrance, staring blankly at the ceiling. He had decided to start working his shift today, but had forgotten how little rest he had received the night before. Now, he was vainly fighting off the sandman as he prayed that the captain would not need to call on his services. He hoped that whatever the engineers had been attempting to do, they had reconsidered it after their project cost them the life of a crewmember. The last thing he wanted was a string of wounded coming in from a failed experiment. Death was hard enough to face when someone else caused it, but when one of your own fell because of something you did… Bobby did not envy the position the chief engineer was currently in.
Patiently, time moved on. Thoughts of his past and future once again dominated Bobby’s consciousness. Five years ago, he could never have imagined that he would be where he was now. Five years ago he was an EA cutter, and not a very good one at that. Just another surgeon at the academy, almost through with his courses and waiting for graduation and his first posting. That was when his life took its first step in the right direction.
A message was waiting for Bobby one evening after classes. It instructed him to go to a cafe, just off the academy grounds in Chicago. He followed the orders, assuming that this was another secret party his friends had setup. When he arrived at “Jay’s Java Joint” he told the host a short phrase that would gain him access to the back room, and where he had assumed the party was being held. Instead, he was greeted by a mysterious man wearing a thick and layered robe, no rank or symbols affixed to it except for a single blue-green amulet.
The man assured Bobby that he meant no harm and simply wanted to talk. He began with what seemed an impossible tale, of Rangers, Minbari, Valen, Vorlons, and countless other legends, all of which Bobby now knew to be true. The man told of opportunities that waited out in the universe for someone like Bobby. He told of more of an existence than being a simple EF medic. He entrapped Bobby with promises of adventure and excitement, and before he fully understood the importance of the promise he was making, Bobby agreed to leave Earth and become a Ranger.
He still did not hold an explanation as to why, out of all the officers enrolled at the academy, he was chosen, but Bobby really didn’t care. He was thankful every day the war with Earth raged on that he was here and not back home. No matter what he had given up, here he was free and fighting for what he believed in, a privilege few men realize during their lifetime.
Bobby raised his head from the stack of reports it was resting on and glanced around the medlab. Everything still appeared to be in order. He’d be surprised if anything occurred that would require his attention during the last few hours of his patrol. Just another lazy night working the third shift.