The starship Fermi had been sent to the planet Esto located in the Crazta Quadrant in the Lucia star system in deep space, where a distress signal had been spotted coming from the planet.
The Fermi, a military vessel, sent an Extraction Team to the area where the distress signal was emanating from. When they arrived, they found a village whose inhabitants, an indigenous tribe, had been slaughtered.
As they checked for survivors, they came upon one lone female, possibly in her early 20's. She'd been seriously injured, but was still alive. Turning her over onto her back, they noticed she had ridges on her nose from the bridge most of the way down that lay flat against her nose. She had swirl-shaped markings, 3 rows across, framing her face that went down her neck.
The markings went down the outside of her arms, all the way to the tip of the outside of her smallest finger. They also went down the outside of her legs. She had purple eyes and medium-length brown hair.
On her right ear, she wore an ear cuff with a chain that was connected to a dangly gold earring in her right ear lobe.
She was wearing a long flowing, very colorful, sleeveless dress with slits on both sides up to mid-thigh. The dress had been ripped in several places, presumably by her attackers.
Lieutenant Melanie Thorpe, the leader of the team, spoke to her as she groaned in pain. “Miss, we're here to help you. Who did this to your village?”
“Your kind, human woman.”, the young woman said weakly. She was having trouble breathing. Grabbing her arm, she said, gasping for breath, “Human woman, please put out of misery. Let spirit fly free, be with family, people. PLEASE, human woman! PLEASE!” The young woman's eyes pleaded with her. “Let spirit fly free. PLEASE, human woman! PLEASE, I beg you!"
A medic quickly checked her over. After giving her oxygen for a collapsed lung, he immediately started an intravenous line. After collecting some vials of her blood for analysis, he then gave her some fluids and a painkiller in her line.
Knowing she'd most likely need blood, especially after seeing how much blood she'd already lost, he immediately classified her as being in critical condition.
Melanie held the woman's hand and said, ”We're taking you to the starship Fermi to treat your injuries. Where are your belongings so we can bring them with you?“
”In hut by cave. Put with me on funeral pyre. I beg you, human woman! Kill now. End suffering! Let spirit fly free!“, she begged.
”What's your name, Miss?“, Melanie asked.
”Am Thora. Please, human woman! Kill me! End suffering now!“, she replied.
”Thora, it's nice to meet you! I'm Colonel Melanie Thorpe, but you can call me Mel. I'm going to follow you every step of the way back to the Fermi. I'll be right by you during surgery. We're going to give you some medicine now to help you sleep. I'll see you soon.“, Mel said.
”Nooooo...“, Thora said, drifting off into unconsciousness.
Once aboard the Fermi, Thora was taken straight into surgery. In addition to her collapsed lung, she had stab wounds in her abdomen, arm and leg, and a compound fracture in her wrist. Dr. Timburl, the ship's doctor, repaired her lung, then went on to repair her abdominal wound.
During that procedure, she woke up. Despite having a ventilator tube down her throat, she was screaming in pain. Mel, wearing a surgical mask, talked to her in order to calm her down while Dr. Timburl gave her more anesthesia. She pulled her mask down so Thora would recognize her.
”I'm right here, Thora, just like I told you I'd be. We just gave you some more anesthesia. I know you're frightened by all this equipment, but it's all here to help you. You're going to be alright.“, she said, lovingly stroking Thora's hair to calm her.
”It's alright, Thora. It's alright.“, Mel said comfortingly.
Thora's eyes pleaded with her. She was frightened out of her wits, unable to speak due to the tube down her throat, and in severe pain. Eventually, she drifted back into unconsciousness.
When she awoke next, the tube down her throat had been removed, and the pain was not nearly as severe as when she'd last awoke. She slowly moved her head and looked around her. Strange metal objects surrounded her.
A needle was in one hand. Her other hand had an air-cast on it. There were round sticky things on her chest, and a plastic hose with two small plastic stick ends was in her nose. Air was coming through them into her nose. She was too terrified to even scream.
Eventually, she saw a human come to her bedside and look at the machines. Holding something in her hand, the human said, ”Good evening. How are you feeling?“
Thora looked at her, but said nothing. ”I'm Nurse Givens. Your vitals are looking very good. Are you hungry? Would you like something to drink?“, Nurse Givens asked. Thora looked at her once again, and said nothing.
The nurse poured a glass of water and, holding Thora's head up, held it for her to drink. She didn't know how to drink from the straw, so she refused to drink.
Nurse Givens then put the straw in Thora's mouth and told her to drink. Thora refused. Taking the straw out, the nurse tried once more. This time, Thora had a few sips.
Nurse Givens then said, ”Would you like something to eat?“ She just looked at her. ”Thora, can you understand me? Blink once if you understand what I'm saying.“ She blinked once, but said nothing. Melanie Thorpe came in at that moment.
”You're awake, Thora. Wonderful! How do you feel?“, Mel asked, smiling. She just looked at her, saying nothing. ”Do you remember me?“, she asked her. Once again, Thora looked but said nothing.
”You're being transferred to the Endeavor, an exploration vessel, in a few days. You're not military, so we can't keep you here. You'll continue your recuperation there.“, Mel said.
Thora pulled her covers down abit, looked at the round discs on her chest, then looked at Mel. ”Those are heart monitor discs. They're recording your heart rate. That way we can tell if you're having any heart problems.“, Mel said.
Looking under the covers, Thora looked between her legs, then back to Mel. ”That's a catheter. It's for when you're urinating, just until you're well enough to walk to the bathroom.“
Thora tried pulling out the needle in her hand. ”Leave that alone, Thora. We give you medicine through that. We don't want to put you in wrist restraints, so please leave that alone.“, Mel said.
Thora then looked at the cast on her wrist. ”Your wrist is badly broken. You'll be wearing that air cast for a few weeks.“, Mel explained to her.
Nurse Givens said, ”She hasn't spoken one word since I got here. She doesn't seem to know how to use a straw, but I did manage to get her to drink a few sips of water.“
”She's probably terrified. Hopefully she'll relax after awhile on the Endeavor.“, Mel replied.
”Thora, I'd like you to try to eat something. Do you like fruit?“, Mel asked, showing her a bowl of grapes and cherries. Thora looked at the bowl. ”Eat whatever you'd like.“, Mel said.
Thora looked at the bowl again, then back at Mel. ”Go ahead. It's okay.“, Mal said. Thora ate a grape; then tried a cherry. Mel then offered her some crackers, cheese, ham, roast beef, sliced chicken, sliced turkey, and salami.
”My sister sent me this very fancy charcuterie tray, and I thought I'd share it with you.“, she said to Thora. ”Do you like it?“
Thora nodded, but said nothing. She and Mel enjoyed the charcuterie tray. ”When did you last eat, Thora?“ Thora looked at her and shrugged.
”That's what I thought. You eat all you want of this. I've got four more trays in my cabin, plus two large boxes of fruit and chocolates. They were birthday presents.“, Mel said, smiling. Finally, Thora smiled back at her ever-so-slightly, then ate another piece of cheese.
Dr. Timburl came by to check on his patient. He found Thora and Mel finishing up the charcuterie tray. ”Hello there. I'm Dr. Timburl. How are you tonight, Miss Thora?“, he asked. She looked at him as she put a piece of salami in her mouth, saying nothing, then burped very quietly.
Mel said, ”She hasn't spoken yet, but she's thoroughly enjoying her meal.“ Dr. Timburl replied, ”That's good.“
Checking her catheter bag, he said, ”Miss Thora, I need you to drink more. Once I see you're able to urinate a good amount, we'll get this hose out of you.“
Checking her heart monitor, he said, ”As long as things stay stable like they are now, I'll remove these electrodes first thing in the morning. Hopefully, we can get you off oxygen by tomorrow night.
“You had a collapsed lung, so we're taking our time weaning you off the oxygen. We want to give your lung a chance to rest and heal.“, he said, smiling at her.
He then said, ”I'd like to check your eyes for a minute, Miss Thora. Blink once if you understand me.“ She blinked once.
”Alright. Now I'd like you to follow this light with your eyes, but don't move your head. Blink once if you understand me.“ She blinked once.
”Great. Now follow this light with your eyes please.“ He moved the light left, right, up, down, then right and left again.
”Perfect! Now, I'd like you to open your mouth, stick your tongue out and say 'Aah'. This stick might make you gag but you'll be okay.“ She did as he asked, saying "Aah" softly, and gagging slightly.
”Now, Miss Thora, I'm going to look in your ears. It might tickle. Don't move though.“ She did exactly as he said.
”Alright. Now I'd like you to put both your arms out like this. Okay...now, I'd like you to touch your nose with your index finger, just like this.“
She did exactly as he said. ”Perfect! Very good, Miss Thora! I'd say that, other than your injuries, some dehydration and malnutrition, you're in very good health.
“Your cognitive abilities are excellent, better than some of the crew here onboard the ship.“, he said, smiling. Thora smiled ever-so-slightly.
”Do you have any questions for me, Miss Thora?“, he asked. She shook her head. ”Does your throat hurt?“, he asked. She shook her head.
”Okay Miss Thora. I just need you to say my name or Mel's name so I can make sure we didn't nick your windpipe. Can you do that for me, please? I'm Dr. Timburl, in case you didn't remember my name.“, he said.
She looked at him, saying nothing. ”What's this lady's name?“, he asked, holding her hand to reassure her. ”What's her name, Miss Thora?“, he asked again. She mouthed the word "Mel."
”Now can you say it so that I can hear you please?“, he asked. She shook her head. ”Are you afraid to speak, Miss Thora? Do all these machines frighten you?“
She nodded, tears forming in her eyes. ”It's okay. I'll accept you saying 'Aah' earlier as proof your windpipe wasn't nicked. Tomorrow morning though, I'll need you to say her name or mine just once, okay?“, he said, squeezing her hand gently. Thora nodded.
”Now, Miss Thora, if you need to use the bathroom, you just press this button and, when a nurse comes here, say 'pan', and they'll help you. Now, what are you going to say when the nurse comes in?“, he asked.
She shook her head, having figured out he was trying to trick her into speaking. He smiled. ”There's no tricking you, is there Miss Thora?“, he said, smiling broadly. She smiled shyly.
”Yep, can't pull a fast one on her, Dr. Timburl! She's got your number!“, Mel said, laughing uproariously.
Mel stayed with her most of the evening, having been given permission by the Admiral to do so. About an hour before Mel left, Thora seemed uncomfortable.
She looked around the room, then pressed the button. When Nurse Givens came in, she said, ”What can I get for you, Thora?“
Thora mouthed a word, but neither Nurse Givens nor Mel understood. Thora whispered what they thought was the word ”pan“, but they weren't sure. She was getting more uncomfortable with every passing second. Finally, she screamed, ”PAN!“ Nurse Givens put her on it immediately.
”Don't strain, Thora. You don't want to pop your stitches.“, Nurse Givens said, writing, ”NO NICKED WINDPIPE!“ in Thora's chart in all caps.
After a few minutes, Thora was done. Nurse Givens gave her a washcloth so she could wash herself up abit, then helped her change into a fresh hospital gown.
She then relaxed and started feeling tired, falling asleep within 10 minutes. She slept straight through the night.
The next morning, Dr. Timburl came in to check on Thora. “Good morning, Miss Thora. How are you today?“, he said, looking over her chart. Reading the entry about her windpipe, he smiled and burst out laughing.
”So that's the racket I heard last evening!“, he said, laughing uproariously.
He checked her heart monitor readings and said, ”Looking good, Miss Thora. It's time to remove these electrodes.“ He turned the monitor off, then removed the electrodes. Next he checked her catheter.
”You need to drink alot more, Miss Thora.“ He poured her some water. She wouldn't drink it. ”Do you know how to use a straw?“, he asked. She shook her head.
”Okay. He then handed her the cup, removing the straw first. She drank 4 glasses of water in a row.
“Good! You're being given fluids in your intravenous line, but I still need you to drink alot so we can take the needle out of your hand, okay?”, he said. She nodded.
“I'm going to keep you on oxygen for today, then take you off of it tomorrow. Do you have any questions for me?”, he asked.
She nodded. “What would you like to ask me, Miss Thora?”
She very quietly, almost in a whisper, asked, “Who else lived?”
“I'm sorry, Miss Thora, but you were the only survivor.” She looked at him, tears forming in her eyes. Heaving sobs racked her body, as she screamed and sobbed harder and harder.
He held her tightly to comfort her, but she couldn't be comforted.
She screamed and sobbed like that for an hour. He considered having Nurse Porter, the nurse on duty, give her a sedative, but decided to let Thora get her grief all out of her system.
Eventually her sobs turned to soft crying. This was Dr. Timburl's first-ever experience hugging a nonhuman. He simply kept holding her, speaking softly to her, in order to reassure her.
When she finally stopped crying, Dr. Timburl wiped her tears then, while she was drinking a glass of water, quietly gave her a mild sedative. She slept the next two hours, awakening around lunchtime.
Mel stopped by to check on her. The ship's dietitian brought Thora a plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, along with sherbet for dessert. Mel cut the meatloaf up for her, telling her what each item on the plate was.
As Thora ate, Mel made sure she also drank plenty of juice and tea.
“This time tomorrow you'll be transferred to the Endeavor, Thora. I bet you're excited. We're enjoying having you here, but with this being a military ship, you can't stay here.
”You need to go on a science and exploration vessel for your recuperation. The people on the Endeavor are wonderful, very kind people. They're looking forward to helping you continue your recovery.”, Mel said.
“Before you leave tomorrow, Doctor Timburl, Nurse Givens and I are going to give you our stream links. That way you can send us messages or streams, and we can see how you're doing.
”We're your friends no matter what ship you live on!”, she said. Thora nodded, then smiled. She still wasn't talking, but her eyes let Mel know she appreciated her friendship.
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