An excerpt from Dream Called Time
the final StarDoc novel
by S.L. Viehl
to be released August 2010To set up the scene: Senior Healer Squilyp and Dr. Cherijo Torin are in Medical Bay on the Jorenian ship The Sunlace. Cherijo, who woke up in Medical several days ago believing that she'd only been unconscious for a few hours, has since learned that an alien persona named Jarn has been occupying her body and living her life for the last five years.
“The ship will be landing on Joren within the hour. You are not leaving Medical until it does.” The Omorr handed me a stack of ceremonial garments. “If you feel well enough to get up, you can get dressed.”
“I’m not wearing this. I look ridiculous in Jorenian robes.” As I realized why he’d given them to me, I dropped them on the berth. “Oh, no. You didn’t tell them I woke up.”
“The captain signaled the planet before we transitioned. The entire HouseClan has assembled to celebrate your return. You are supposed to be surprised by this.” He didn’t smirk or even sound amused. “There are others waiting on planet who also wish to meet with you.”
Uh-oh. “What others?”
“A diplomatic party from Vtaga. That is all Xonea told me,” he added, before I could ask. “I will send a nurse to obtain some garments from your, ah, from Reever’s quarters.” He gave me a sympathetic look before he hopped out.
I thought about using the isolation room terminal to signal Command and tell Xonea what I thought of his surprise party, but I was too busy trying to understand why an entourage of Hsktskt had been allowed on planet.
The last time the Faction had sent its representatives to Joren, it had been strictly for the purposes of invading it, stripping it of its resources, and enslaving the populace. I’d traded Shropana and an entire fleet of League ships to stop that from happening. Thanks to Reever’s own devious machinations, I’d also been enslaved myself, although eventually I’d freed myself and the League prisoners, and destroyed the Hsktskt slave depot on Catopsa in the process.
But that was no longer the status quo, as I knew from accessing Xonea’s secured files. Jarn had helped end the war between the League and the Faction, and then she’d cured a devastating plague on the Hsktskt homeworld. She’d even convinced the lizards to revoke the blood bounty they’d put on my head after I’d destroyed their flesh-peddling prison outpost.
“If I’m supposed to feel grateful for what she did,” I muttered, “everyone is going to be very disappointed.”
The nurse showed up with fresh garments, none of which I recognized. “Do you need assistance, Healer?”
“No, thanks.” I shook out the tunic and trousers, both of which were in a shade of ivory that I never wore. The material smelled of unfamiliar organics: transfer from a musky plant or herb. Maybe it was some sort of perfume the slave girl had worn to make herself smell nice.
Had she done it for Reever? What else had she done for him? Was that how she had stolen him from me? With some weird alien sex?
A complicated, strapped contraption fell to the floor, and I picked it up. It didn’t belong to me. “What’s this?”
“It was left folded atop your undergarments,” the nurse said. “I assumed it belonged to you.”
“Why would I need all these straps?” It must have been Jarn’s, but what kind of woman-hating culture had she come from, to have to bind herself up in something like this?
At second glance it didn’t look like a body rig; it was more like a harness to be strapped across the shoulders and chest. Odd pockets and flaps had been sewn in the straps, and when I opened one, I discovered it was a sheath for a small, smooth-hilted blade.
I took out the dagger and examined it. “This looks like a weapon.” I checked the other pockets, which held a variety of other knives—twenty in all. “Jesus Christ. What is this thing?”
The nurse smiled uneasily. “I would say it is a blade harness, Healer.”
“I’m a physician,” I pointed out. “We don’t use weapons. We clean up the mess they make.”
“The harness belonged to Jarn,” Reever said as he came into the room. He turned to the nurse. “Would you excuse us, please?”
“As you wish, Linguist. Healer.” The nurse practically ran out of the room.
“Hello, Duncan.” I took out one of the slave girl’s longer daggers and held it up to the light. “Omorr-forged, perfectly balanced.” I didn’t have to test the edge, which bore marks indicating it had been honed down to a lethal sharpness that would cut like a lascalpel. “This looks like one of yours.”
“I gave it to Jarn when peace was declared.” He seemed more interested in me now than he had in the environome. “She attended the injured and dying on battlefields. She was trained to carry weapons to defend herself.”
“Considering what a lethal threat injured, dying rebels can be, that’s completely understandable.” I sheathed the dagger and dropped the contraption like the trash it was. “What do you want? Your knives back?” I kicked the harness across the deck to him. “There you go.”
He bent over to retrieve the harness and slung it over his shoulder. “I did not come here to provoke you.”
“Too late.” I showed him some teeth. “And I’m sorry to disappoint you, but Jarn’s still dead, and I’m not.” I turned my back on him. “You know your way out.”
He didn’t go. “We should talk.”
we should talk,” I said to the berth. “Not
when I woke up out of a five-year walking coma. Not
when I found out how long I’d been gone. Not
when I went looking for my husband and he treated me like a Tingalean leper in active contagion-molt. Certainly not
at any time over the past thirty-six hours that I spent alone in my new quarters waiting for him to drop by and reassure me that despite his behavior he was happy I’d come back. I can see how those would have been totally inappropriate moments to have a conversation.”
“I needed time to accept Jarn’s loss.” He moved a little closer. “But now I see that it was wrong of me to make you wait and suffer in solitude as I have. I apologize for my actions.”Jarn’s
loss. Not mine. Had he ever grieved like that for me? Why did he care now if I suffered or not?
Silently I counted to ten, thinking the entire time that it was a damn good thing he was holding that knife harness and not me.
Labels: Dream Called Time, StarDoc series