Wake Up Dead Man
“Boooom CHA! Booooom CHA!” Darquin had been chanting that with gusto for the last five minutes.
Technicians and pilots heard Darquin over the serene resonance vibrating throughout the ship and the clanking and beeps of fighter maintenance checks. And when he crawled over the top of his Starfury and slid down the side of its long nose, landing upright on the deck with a satisfying _clack_ from his boots, everyone slowly poked their heads around their Starfuries and Zen’Thases to stare at him.
From the sea of heads came, “What the hell was that about?”
Darquin squinted as if trying to focus on some distant truth. “Oh, the boom-cha bit. Irish rock band from the 20th Century. One of my aunt’s favorites. I used to hear it all the time. Hey!” The human fighter crews threw their greasy rags at him and disappeared behind their Starfuries. “What, nobody likes the classics anymore?”
A shrill chirping startled him until he realized it was the new link on the back of his hand. “Darquin. Go.”
“This is Doctor Trassano, Chief Medical Officer. I sent everyone a message regarding physical examinations.”
“Yeah, I saw it. I just got done checking out my fighter, so I guess we can get it over it now.”
“Good, I thought this would be a good time.”
He smiled. This lady must’ve done her homework. “Okay. So will it take long?”
“Only a few standard hours. Medlab One is on Deck Eight. I’ll be waiting for you.”
Mira Trassano patted the edge of the examination table. “Sit here and we can start.”
Darquin did so carefully, taking his time, using the stolen moments to relax. He’d always thought Centauri women had a monopoly on making baldness look attractive, but that was before he’d been to Minbar. After a while, he decided that he was just romanticizing as usual, projecting one of those exotic fantasy he had lurking somewhere in his unconscious.
Doctor Trassano went straight to work with only a hint of small talk. She asked whether he’d ever been to Centauri Prime or any of the colonies as she checked his eyes, and he mentioned his patrol assignment near Batain.
“Now then.” The doctor selected a scanner wand from her instrument tray and slowly moved it over his frame. “Exhale and hold, please. Good. The medical file I could find for you referred to an old injury to your left side.”
“The, uh, knife wound, yeah. Not one of my brighter moves.”
“I thought you were a pilot. How did you get that?”
Darquin bit his lip. “That’s the…funny part of it. Off-duty, in a bar fight.”
Mira consulted a monitor. “Well, you can laugh now. Latissmus dorsi muscles are fully healed.”
“Hoo hoo, ha ha, hee hee.”
She smirked on her way back to the instrument tray. “Neurological scan now. So how was this bar fight begun?”
“Some jerks were mouthing off about Minbari, and I said at least the Minbari–Uh, what are you doing back there?”
Doctor Trassano was waving something just out of his peripheral vision. “Verifying the initial endorphin count. I take it this never came up before?”
“Not when I was in earshot. Is it serious?”
“Can’t say. But I’ve never seen a reading that spiked quite like this.” She stepped over to another monitor. “Have you had any trouble remembering things?”
“I can’t re–I mean, I don’t think so. But I thought endorphins were pain inhibiters.”
“Some of them regulate pain responses. Others, memory retention and mood. It’s more of a category than any one kind of neurotransmitter. This might be a good time for the running pad.”
Mira gave him a smock to put on before leading him to the treadmill. He stepped onto the running pad and gradually sped himself into a full run as she went to the nearest monitor.
“There might be some excess endorphin production or some other chemical binding of a group of nerve receptors,” she said. “But I don’t understand why it would be so recent if you haven’t noticed any changes.”
Raindrops shot across Darquin’s vision, lit by the obscured memory of moonlight.
“Have you ever had a prescription for anti-depressants?”
He felt concrete under his feet, the concrete of a lonely desert road, and the violent rain pounding into him like rocket-powered sleet. His parents were on the opposite side of the road in front of an electric Jeep, wrestling themselves into the seats. Mama was screaming that he was just a baby. He might as well have been nailed to the road. Running faster didn’t get him any closer.
“Ensign? Mr. Darquin?”
The doctor’s voice suddenly made him feel dry and warm, filling his eyes with the Medlab.
“No, I didn’t.” Darquin was gripping the rails of the treadmill hard enough to turn his knuckles white. “Does the medical file have anything about nightmares.”
Mira scrolled through the file on her monitor. “Yes, the one about–“
“I just had it.”
He felt her eyes on him, but couldn’t respond beyond glaring at the Medlab floor. “It sounds like remnants of a drug-induced hallucination,” she said.
He nodded slowly in agreement. “Never touched a narcotic in my life. What the hell’s happening,” he mumbled to himself.
“S’ran-to…! Let me take a few samples. I’ll see what I find in a few hours.”
Too impatient to wait for it to slow down, Darquin jumped off the treadmill and marched behind the curtain next to it. “I’ll be five flights up, in the gym.”
He heard her gasp from her side of the curtain as he tore through the smock like an animal.