I stared at the screen. I shook my head a few times, stood up and began pacing. The information kept scrolling by. I felt dizzy with all those thoughts swirling inside my mind. I sat back down on my task chair in front of the display. I inhaled deeply and tapped on the log icon. It began recording immediately.
“We reached the Raven and found the crew alive in stasis. Two people were revived and brought aboard the LD: a man named Skyler and a woman named Willow. If I had to guess their ages, I’d say early twenties for the man, and late twenties, or early thirties for the woman. Willow revived much faster than her male counterpart. My working hypothesis is that the frequent revival periods she experienced, due to the Raven’s constant technical issues, actually saved her from the effects of long term stasis.”
I tapped another part of the screen and brought up the stats I had on Skyler. “Skyler has not been so lucky. He is exhibiting signs of extended cryosleep damage. After five hours, he has only regained partial hearing. His sense of touch still seems inhibited, and his eyes are unresponsive to light. He shows signs of agitation and slowed critical reasoning. Heart rate and blood pressure are good. No signs of infection, and no noteable diseases. Aside from issues with the cryosleep, he seems in perfect health and in time should make a full recovery.”
I stopped talking, and returned to my information about Willow. My mouth felt dry and my eyes prickled with the threat of tears. “I am concerned for the health of Willow. As I stated before, she revived well from the stasis. Her vitals appeared wonderful. Her hearing, sight, and touch all fully returned within five hours of waking. Other tests have revealed issues with her health. It appears she has BCD, better known as Brinkerhoff–Chernobog disease. It’s such a rare degenerative neurological disease that my initial medical scans weren’t even set to look for it. If it wasn’t for my detailed analysis, due to my curiosity regarding long-term stasis, I don’t know how I would have found it.”
As I spoke it was almost as if my brain was detached from my mouth. I heard myself and recognized the detachment I had been trained to have with my patients. But almost as soon as I was aware of it, my resolve broke. “Man,” I sighed. “It just doesn’t seem right. If we were home, this wouldn’t even be an issue. In a few short rounds of treatments, she would be cured and able to live a long healthy life. But out here that’s not an option. I don’t know how she survived the journey out here. Why was she picked? The people back on Earth had to know, right?”
I paused the recording and began pacing my room. Absentmindedly, my hands twisted my wavy red hair into a messy french braid. My room was still a mess from when I woke up. There were clothes everywhere. I thought about tidying up. I wanted to do anything but continue to think about what I had to do. The blinking pause icon constantly reminded me. I tapped it again to continue.
“In med school we were often taught about how to deliver bad news. I have always known that although it feels like modern medicine has all the answers, sometimes even with the best we have we can’t fix things and we have to tell our patients, or their families that despite our best efforts, there’s nothing we can do. I’ve had this talk before. It sucks. But I think this time sucks even more. I have to tell her that she has CJD. Do I tell her there’s a cure on Earth even though I have no way of getting it to her in time?”
I paused and considered my words carefully. “Well, no way unless I put her in stasis now and don’t wake her until the end of our eight year journey home. But judging by how Skyler’s doing.” I grimaced at the thought. “Ya know, I was really liking the idea of having another girl around to talk to. But this isn’t about me. It’s about her and the best chance for her to have a quality life. I have to give her the choice.”
With that, I ended my log.
Dinner was always one of my favourite times on Lalonde’s Dream. It was a short time where we weren’t serving the ship, or sleeping our lives away in cryo. We came together as a team, as a crew, and spent time together. Sometimes it felt a bit forced, but the Captain wanted us to make time to socialize. I’m sure he had gotten the same medical reports that I had about mental stability over long term space travel.
“So how are our new crew members?” Emeric asked as he sat next to me at the table.
“Don’t talk about the Raven popsicles without me,” Asher said. He impatiently waited for his glass to fill with water.
I noticed that the extra two folding chairs in the storage locker behind us weren’t set-up at the table. “Did anyone ask Willow to join us?” I asked.
Emeric raised his right eyebrow. “I assumed you had.”
“I can go ask her now.” I felt slightly embarrassed. Not only had I promised to bring Willow food the next time I saw her, but I was still building myself up, and readying my mind for the emotional turmoil of delivering the bad news.
“No need,” Asher said pointing towards the front of the ship. “It, uh, looks like she heard us.” His cheeks turned a definite shade of pink as he spoke and his head lowered. I got the impression that he suddenly regretted his popsicle statement.
I turned around in my chair, and there was Willow, standing with one arm on the edge of the wall that divided the mess compartment from the cryo pods.
She looked unsteady on her feet, as she shook slightly. She seemed so frail, standing there, hunched, thin – almost a skeleton, her skin hanging without meat to plump it up. I could see light reflecting off the sweat on her forehead and her shoulders were drooping as though they were just too heavy to lift. “Were you going to let me starve?” She said shuffling forward slowly. Her eyes were wide and scanning the room.
Asher laughed as he approached the table, but I didn’t feel like her question was meant to be humourous.
“Of course not. Please join us.” Emeric said standing up and aside, offering his chair.
As Willow approached, Emeric pulled out the two chairs from storage and pushed them to the table. They were both red, and primarily metal with a square of black foam on the seats themselves. They looked similar to the chairs that we used, but without the cracks in the foam, or the chips in the paint.
“I’ll get a plate ready for you.” Asher said and busied himself with that. “What’ll you have, protein supplement twelve or fat supplement three?”
“Whatever it is, make sure you throw in a popsicle.” Willow said, the corner of her mouth turned into an unmistakable smirk.
“Oh, I, uh.” Asher mumbled and dropped a fork on the floor. “Sorry, about that.” he said, looking directly at Willow as he spoke, his sincerity obvious. He then picked up the fork and put it in the washer and grabbed another.
“How are you feeling?” I asked, turning my attention to Willow.
“I’ve been better.” She smiled at me. “Really looking forward to a real meal.”
“You’re going to be disappointed!” Emeric said with a laugh.
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