Characters: Dr. Mira Trassano

The figure sat in the shuttle bay of the dead ship. Motionless, the EVA suit could have held yet another dead body. As it was, the body only wished itself dead. At least the dead do not remember, Mira thought to herself as she waited. The ship had been swept by her staff and all the bodies found and processed. The data recorded. The extra hands sent by Captain Hale and MedLab had made the gruesome ordeal go faster. Now, the shuttle had just left, filled to capacity with her nurses, and Mira sat wide-eyed and staring with only the company of the dead.

There hadn’t been room for herself and the three bodies she was bringing back for autopsies. If she had insisted, Mira could have been on that shuttle. But, the others on the shuttle would have been distressed by the bodies and four of her nurses would have had to wait here for the next shuttle. Never ask of your staff something you would not do yourself, Daughter. Remember that. When your staff realizes this, they will work themselves into the grave for you. Her Father’s advice, from so long ago, dictated her decision. So, Mira waited.

The three blue-tagged bodies bobbed and waved gently like twigs in a stream. She waited and breathed raggedly through her mouth. She did not blink. Etched into the back of her eyelids were the images of floating bodies. Burned into her nerves was the feel of crawling through lift tubes dragging a body behind her. Echoing through her mind was the silence. She wondered vaguely if she were going mad. The silence sometimes seemed to be filled with sound, but of course that couldn’t be true.

It will be good … to be surrounded … by life again. I have been among the dead too long. Mira had a new respect for the abilities of morgue attendants and coroners. She now knew that she would never be able to remain sane in such a position. It was much easier to deal with the living, even if, sometimes, they died. Where is the shuttle? It seems to have kept me waiting forever. One of the bodies bumped into her arm. Mira gasped and pushed it away.

“Stop it,” she said harshly. “You will behave or I will pick another body to take back with me. The other two are behaving! Why can’t you? THEY didn’t give me nearly as much trouble as you did! THEY didn’t try to slow me down by catching hold of ever stray wire or try to startle me by bumping! You are a most undisciplined dead person!” Mira suddenly stopped her tirade. She was standing there alone, hands on hips, wagging a finger … at the body of Captain Narsh. Sweet Gods, did I just call him an undisciplined dead person? Her eyes opened wider, if that were possible. Then, she laughed.

If perhaps her laughter began with an edge of hysteria, it quickly eased away. In the end, there was only relief. Take joy in your duties, Daughter, for there is joy in even the most tiresome, horrible tasks. Even death has a kernel of joy for it leads to a heaven or a rebirth. It is your duty to enjoy your duties. When joy has left you, you are dead. Her Father’s voice drifted through her mind like a healing balm. The doctor’s laughter was soon distracted by the arrival of her shuttle. The waiting was over.

Copyright (c) 1998 Mona Hinds. All rights reserved.

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